Matt felt like he was coming out of a tide when he felt Stuart pull him towards the car. He didn’t need to be told what was happening. He could feel the presence of the other Buck before he could see it and right up until he had, he’d been ready for it. He’d felt the tremor of the fight pulsing in his veins and he was so close to giving in. If not for Danny, he might have. Danny kept his focus on all those ugly things he’d known all his life. All those fears that he would become the same kind of person as all those people who hated him for nothing. Danny reminded him of what it looked like when someone sank into their own miseries. How it felt to take everything life had handed him and spat it back at people. In that moment, Matt knew that he might hate Danny but at least he hated him enough not to want to be him.
When he felt Stuart move him, he knew that the Buck meant to kill him. There was no malice in it. Just blind fury and he felt the same scorching need in his own veins. It felt like he was moving in slow motion as he switched from passively being pulled by Stuart to grabbing both him and the girl who had been calling his name and moving them towards the waiting car. The girl squeaked and Stuart resisted only for a second before the Buck emerged from the brush and began to charge them. Matt didn’t think twice as he shoved Stuart out of the path and lifted Lydia off the ground and took shelter behind the car. The Buck was still running but was agile enough to narrowly miss hitting the car with his antlers but still managed to push it with his hip. The car swerved towards Matt and Lydia and the two were barely able to scramble out of the way fast enough to avoid getting shoved under it by the impact. The Buck breezed past and came to a halt before throwing back its head. Before he could bellow out a call there was a small noise that broke the silence. The sound of Stuart stammering in the face of danger as he stood up and stared at the Buck, his face white with terror.
The Buck prepared to charge but didn’t move as it eyed Stuart, looking through him. For a very brief moment, Stuart saw its eyes flicker a different color. They initially looked black but in that one second, they seemed to fade to a strange gold color. It only lasted a second before it began to move again but stopped dead in its tracks, this time not of its own accord but because it could not. Matt was holding to the base of the horn, his knuckles blanched as his grip tightened. The Buck snarled at him as it turned to face Matt but the sound slowly died in his throat when their eyes met. Matt knew that it was looking through him in a way that Danny never could but it seemed to understand that he was fed up. He didn’t want to fight this thing. He wanted this creature to back down now and, to both their amazement, the burning within both of them cooled. The Buck slowly pulled away as Matt released his grip on the horn and carefully backed away.
“Draw,” it said, tentatively. Matt shook his head.
“Stop,” he said. He didn’t have to raise his voice but his intention was clear.
The Buck slowly lowered its head and Matt prepared for the worst. Instead, the creature darted away from them, the force of its legs making it look like it could almost fly as it moved around the car and back toward the brush that it had come from.
In the sudden silence of the still night, all three of them stood waiting for any noise or anything to come out of the brush. It didn’t take them long before they rushed to pile into the car and Stuart quickly pulled out of there. For the first minute or two, everyone in the car was silent. Matt sighed as he tried to gather his thoughts to figure out what to say. It dawned on him that he was sitting in the presence of at least one person he’d helped torment recently and the other one would have made a prime target for the Kingz. He was disappointed to discover that one could feel still feel sheepish while recovering from a deadly threat. The girl broke the silence between them first.
“Did he hurt you?” she asked, quietly.
“No I managed to miss the horns,” he replied dismissively.
“No, the other boy,” the girl said. “He was threatening you.”
“He just does that,” Matt said, uncomfortably. “Danny always was a pretty big jerk when he was upset about anything. I can’t really blame him for being upset tonight though, I guess.”
“Y-you s-s-st-stop-” Stuart began before he couldn’t continue. He looked flustered.
“Is he okay?”
“He has a hard time talking in front of new people,” the girl frowned. “The monster probably didn’t help either. But I think he was trying to comment on that.”
After a brief silence, they came to an intersection just as the light turned red. Stuart pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. He unfurled it to reveal it was a receipt and smoothed it on the dashboard in front of him. He looked at the light intermittently between scribbles and managed to finish just as it went green. He handed the note to Matt and continued to drive.
“What does it say?” the girl asked.
“He wrote ‘how did you stop the Buck by looking at it’,” Matt read out loud. He shook his head. “It spoke to me. You heard it. You had to. You both were standing right there.”
“All I heard were weird snarling noises,” the girl said, shaking her head. “Stuart? Did you hear any words? Did I miss it? We were pretty scared.”
Stuart sighed and shook his head but it was clear that there was more to what he wanted to say. The girl frowned again and looked at Matt.
“We don’t have much time,” she said. “We better find a way to get back to Dolly and Will. They will be waiting for us.”
“I th-think th-the-they f-found us,” Stuart said as the car came to a halt.
In the middle of the road was the entrance way to a large market, lit by strange floating lamps. The closer they pulled up to it, the stranger it looked. Instead of metal poles to mark the arch of the entrance, the frame was formed of two trees twisted together, one with bark so dark it might have been black and the other looked greyish white. The three of them drove forward and entered slowly, the glow of the entrance bathing them in warm light. As the tail lights crossed the threshold, three cats appeared out of nowhere and stood where the car once sat. The stalked back and forth at the entrance as the light began to fade, their tails lashing the ground as they prepared to fight. When none materialized, they quickly made their way into the entrance before it disappeared. Within a second, the whole image was gone, much to the great displeasure of the hooded figure who had been watching them greedily from the shadows.