Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 1

Three thousand and fifty years ago, an empire of equine anthropomorphs (human-like equines) flourished. They were called the Delphin. The race included of those with horns, those with wings, those with none, and those with both. They came into power almost two thousand years prior to their fall with little struggle. The Delphin shared their Empire with a race of wolf humainoid, the Lupino, a feline race known as the Feln, and other, less populous races. This world was also home to humans and animals of the non-anthropomorphic kind.

For a thousand years, the Delphin Empire charged into the future, unaware (or at least uncaring) of the danger lurking ahead. Groups of slavers started to appear, and began picking off Delphin and other morphics of the lower classes. The groups were comprised of humans and morphics alike; even some Delphin turned on their own kind. No species was safe from them, except those in the upper classes.

Two thousand and twenty years before the dawn of the modern age, the Empire finally enacted antislavery laws. Many slaves were freed, but the practice still continued underground. Despite the Empire’s efforts, the slavers gained more and more power. The trade was very lucrative, yet they hungered for more, especially those of rare stock. It would not be long before they moved up the class ladder.

Then nearly two thousand years ago, the Heiress to the Delphin Empire was accidentally killed by an overly ambitious slaver. The slavers gained even greater power and more drive to take the upper classes. The Empire fell, unable to sustain itself after the massive losses in the government.

As the years passed, more slavers emerged from the underground. With no Empire to enforce the laws, there was no need to hide any further. The longer a slaver could live, the more power they could ultimately attain. The long-lived morphs were the most powerful, as they could shift their form to those who were taken most seriously in the trade: humans.

Within two decades of the Empire’s fall, one family of Lupino established itself and took lead of the country. Disputably so, but they did rule. A shaky peace soon followed, broken only occasionally by attempts on the lives of those in of the family.

Twenty-two years ago, the youngest of the two direct descendants of the Lupino in command welcomed a son to his family, followed two years later by another son. Peace was the rule of the day for the four following years, until the descendant and his mate were killed, orphaning the young brothers. The boys were sent to live with their uncle, the Lupino that was in command.

The eight following years saw an increased number of battles for power. Then five years ago, the number of skirmishes fell. The older of the brothers, who was commander of his uncle’s army, had a secret weapon: a very special Delphin slave. She had been trained to not only gather information on a target, but to dispose of any loose ends left from her work.

It is here the story really begins, when this Delphin’s life is almost ended as her identity is discovered by her prey.

One life can only live in the shadows so long. And a mask must be removed before lies become truth. But what happens when the lights come on and the show is over? When the time comes to remove the mask? The shock of a hidden past can be dangerous.

At times, it can even be deadly.

*********

A black limousine screeched to a halt in front of a small crowd. A man with long, blue-white hair ran to the vehicle before it completely stopped and nearly tore the door off trying to get in. Two human figures lie on the floor of the vehicle: an almost unclothed man and a fully unclothed female. The man had a gaping slit in his throat and was, for all intents and purposes, dead. The female had a long gash on her neck and was in somewhat better condition than the man, though not by much. She was barely breathing. The long haired man pulled off his coat and wrapped it around her body, cradling her in his arms and holding one hand on her neck while he awaited the paramedics.

Two hours later, the man nervously paced in a hospital waiting room. He would never forgive himself if she did not survive. He finally sat down to wait. A doctor walked into the waiting room, a clipboard in her hand, but he didn’t notice her until she spoke to him.

“Mr. Sininensusi?”

He shot straight up at the sound of his name. “Yes, that’s me.”

“Good. Ms. Alyandra will be fine. She lost a lot of blood, but resting for a few days will help her recover. Her species type doesn’t take well to transfusions. She was very lucky the blade didn’t do major damage. We’ll prescribe some medication for you to take home to help keep the scarring down.”

Janus nodded. “Is she resting somewhat peacefully now?”

The doctor echoed his nod. “She’s resting in room four fifty-nine. You may visit, but please try not to disturb her too much.”

“Thank you, Doctor. You have no clue what Snowhawk means to me.”

*********

Five days passed before she was allowed to leave the hospital. Janus helped her into the small sports car he used as his personal vehicle. He sighed quietly as he closed the door. She’d hardly looked at him the past few days, let alone spoken to him. He walked around the vehicle, sank into the driver’s seat, then started the car and drove off.

She curled up as best she could several miles down the road, burying her face in her knees. “Snow…” he quietly began. She flinched and leaned away. He sighed and pulled the car to the side of the road. “You can’t stay quiet forever, dear. Tell me, what’s wrong?” She simply stared out the window. After several minutes, Janus pulled back onto the road and continued to his estate. After reaching home, Snowhawk quickly ran from the car to her room.

“I failed,” her quiet voice answered as Janus entered the room several moments later.

He knew this was coming. He had made her go on this mission, despite what his instincts told him. “You did nothing of the sort.”

“I didn’t get any information to you.”

“Yes, you did, Snowhawk.”

“What?” she asked, looking at him. “But, how? He found me out.”

“We found out who the leak is. Or was.”

“But, how?!” she reiterated, growing more stressed.

He looked down, sighing. “We bugged the passenger compartment.”

“Why did– Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why do I need to explain myself to a mere slave?” As soon as the words left his mouth, he wished he hadn’t said them, or had at least phrased them differently. The pained look of betrayal burned itself into his mind, even though he only saw it for a moment.

“Because you promised you’d always be honest with me,” She quickly looked away, trying to hide the tears forming in her eyes, then ran even faster from the room.

He tracked her down easily enough. She was standing alone in the estate’s garden, her back to any that might pass by her. Janus walked to her, stopping a couple feet behind her.

“Is that all I really am? A lure for your games? I have destroyed more lives than I care to remember. All for you.” Janus offered no answer. “Of course,” she said bitterly, turning around and looking up at him. “You don’t have to explain yourself to a mere slave.

“Love…”

She glared at him, then quickly lunged at him and pushed him against the hedge behind him. “Don’t you dare call me that unless you fucking mean it.”

Janus was stunned. Not at her language, as his bird didn’t have the cleanest of vocabularies, but only once before had she sounded so hurt, so angry. “Snowhawk– ”

She snorted at him, as he pulled her hands from his shoulders. “You promised that you’d be done with all these missions. Then this last one came up. And you had to accept it because, God knows, we don’t want to anger your uncle. Only after accepting it do you find out that I would have to be sent on it before I was recovered from that fiasco that was my last mission. You know, Janus, I’m sure you’re smart enough to think of a better way to get rid of me.”

“What!? I never wanted to get rid of you.”

“I bet,” she snorted, folding her ears back.

“I didn’t want to send you on this. I knew it wouldn’t end well. But I couldn’t have just passed him up on this. I would have nothing without him, and that includes you.”

Snowhawk looked at him for a moment, then looked away. “Shouldn’t be this easy for me…” she whispered, then walked to the door, opened it, and ran off.

Janus causally followed her. He was almost certain of where she was going. He figured it would be her favorite spot on the estate’s grounds: a small pond in the woods on the back of the property. However, he didn’t find her there. Nor was she at any of the other places she enjoyed.

Two hours passed, then one of the house slaves discovered Janus’ uncle dead. The simplicity of a single clean slash to the neck and no sign of a struggle, other than a faint trail of blood leading out of the room, left little doubt as to who had killed the slaver.

Two more hours would pass and Snowhawk was still nowhere to be found. Soon Janus was informed that her cousin, Nytehawk, had vanished as well. “Losing Nytehawk doesn’t hurt nearly as much as losing Snowhawk,” Janus quietly mused as he stood on his balcony and looked at the stars that night. “I’ll get her back. And I’ll make sure not to say the same stupid things again. Give her some time, though…”

*********

Elsewhere, a pale blue furred Delphin stood on the doorstep of an apartment complex. She brushed her light aqua mane from her icy blue eyes as she waited for her cousin. “I hope she didn’t have any problems,” she said, nervously looking around. She had good reason to be nervous: they had just escaped from their owner.

“Here ya go, Nyte,” a voice called out, snapping her out of her thoughts. She looked up in time to see, then catch, a set of keys flying toward her. “There’s plenty of money in the account I set up. You won’t have to worry about anything for several months, at the least…” her cousin explained.

“Why are you just referring to me?” she questioned. “Snow, I thought you…”

“Thought I’d what? Stay and do nothing?” the lavender-hued female replied. “Nyte, I have some things I need to take care of. I can’t just sit around.”

“Will you stay for just a little while? Until I get settled?”

The other female sighed. “Fine, just for a little while. Give myself some time to rest.”

“Thank you,” Nytehawk smiled.

Snowhawk responded with a slow nod, then wandered inside.

Nytehawk was concerned for her cousin. They had only been free for a few hours, but she already seemed to be fighting with herself. The lavender Delphin hid so much from everyone. She kept all her problems to herself, intent on solving them herself without “burdening” anyone else. She sighed softly as they climbed the three flights of stairs to the apartment. “So,” she began as they turned into the third floor hallway, “where’d you get all the money in the account from?”

“A good portion of it is the rewards I would get for completing missions.”

“And the rest?”

“I found it,” she simply stated as she looked for the apartment.

“Is there anything that can be tracked?”

“Yes. But Janus won’t come looking for you,” she stated as they stopped at the apartment door. “You didn’t kill his uncle. He knows it was me.”

Nytehawk froze as her cousin stepped inside. “You’re not… You’re not thinking of going back, are you?”

“If there’s something out here for me, then no. But if I can’t find any reason to be…”

“Then we’ll find us both a reason.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 2

“What was I thinking?” Snowhawk asked herself as she walked through the city. “Nyte’s free and happy, and has been for four months now. There’s no point in me interfering anymore.” She stopped and leaned against a stone wall, lowering her head. After several moments of silence, she finally realized where her wandering had brought her. “The estate… Near the back of the property.” She wandered further, reaching a point where the stone wall became divided by sections of iron fence. “I could jump the fence and go back. Easy.”

“Excuse me–,” a male voice interrupted.

Snowhawk spun around, giving a sharp, startled cry as she had not heard anyone approach her. She tripped over her own hooves as she turned and fell against the stone fence, hitting her head and knocking herself unconscious.

The stranger, another Delphin, reacted as soon as he realized what happened. He checked her over quickly, then picked her up and carried her away. Her short cry would have been loud enough to attract the unwanted attention of the estate’s guards.

The Delphin male took her into the city and back to his small apartment. Once there, he carefully placed her on the bed, stomach down, and removed her now bloodied cloak. Luckily, the damage done to her head was not as bad as he feared it would be, but she would still need attention. He went to his closet and removed a medical kit, then returned to the bed and began to tend to her.

She was unconscious for a day. He was surprised that she was out for so long. He knew a lot about her as he had been following her for the past two months. It would have been longer if he could have found her earlier. Maybe, he thought as he watched her, I could have kept her from going back if I had acted sooner. He had once tried to write off his feelings as a crush from his teenage years, but they continued to follow him.

So, with that loyalty he had for her from their first meeting, he remained near her. This loyalty was rewarded late in the evening.

“Hello?” she groggily asked, pushing herself up and looking around.

“Good evening,” he smiled, standing from the chair he’d been resting in next to the bed.

“Where am I?” she groggily asked.

“My apartment. I hope you don’t mind. I was afraid someone would come looking around, so I brought you here and tended to your injuries.”

“Janus never took our safety lightly,” she said, blinking the sleepiness from her eyes.”

He moved to the edge of the bed. “I do apologize for startling you like that. I thought you had heard me.”

She regarded him for a moment, trying to remember where she had seen him before. He was average height for a male Delphin, somewhere around seven feet tall, with dark tan fur, a silvery brown mane, and a dark amethyst horn with a silver spiral, like her own. His eyes, however, were an unforgettable orange-gold. “I’ve met you before. Years ago,” she began, canting her head to the side. “My owner was visiting yours.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “My name is Legacy, and you’re Snowhawk.” He moved a little closer to her and helped her sit up. “You seemed very close to him. What brought you outside the fence?”

Snowhawk sighed and pointed to the scar on her neck. “This. He promised me the missions were over… then another one came up. My target fought back.” She lowered her head and half closed her eyes. “I was a pawn to Janus, a lure for his games. He proved that to me when I was released from the hospital, so I left him. I took my cousin with me, and killed his uncle on the way out.”

“So you’re the one who did that,” Legacy grinned. She replied with a small nod. “You did a great service to many slaves that night. Many of us escaped soon after while our owners fought for power. A few, like myself, followed your lead and rid the world of a few more slavers.”

“I never intended to start a revolution…” she said quietly.

“But you did. And you gave us something to look to: hope. This country needs a change. The humans need to learn they’re no longer the dominant species they were a few thousand years ago. The Delphin need to rise to power again, to prove that we aren’t as weak as they think we are.” He lowered his head to try and look into her eyes. “Don’t you agree?”

“Perhaps,” she replied, meeting his gaze. “But what would it accomplish? The slavery would still be there, just wouldn’t have so many humans in command. It’s not like they’re the real threat anyway. We are our own worst enemy. There are many Delphin that are slavers as well; slavers of their own kind.”

“What? But why?” he said, leaning back in mild shock.

“Where’s the money at? No species can avoid the greed. If one has money, they have power. If they have power, they can control.” She folded her ears back, then dropped her head again. “If you have power, you can get anything you want. And everyone has something they want, even if they aren’t certain of it yet.”

“What do you want?” he asked her, leaning toward her again.

“To be free and happy with Janus. But that’ll never happen in this lifetime.” She gave a bitter smirk and closed her green eyes to hold back her tears.

He leaned further toward her. “What about freedom and happiness elsewhere?”

“Like where?” she replied quietly. “I have nothing now. My cousin probably thinks I’m back with Janus.”

“Like here,” Legacy quietly responded.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” she stated. “I’m sure you probably already have a mate and she wouldn’t appreciate a new female fumbling around here. It’d be wrong for someone like you to be alone.”

“Wrong, perhaps, but not untrue. I have waited for you.” He smiled softly, and took one of her hands in his.

The skin under the fur on her cheeks took on a pink tint as she blushed. “I will admit, I liked you those years ago. Not that I could have done anything about it.”

“How long were you a slave?” he asked after a moment of silence.

“All my life,” she stated.

Legacy again inched closer to her, still holding one of her hands. “Then this is all new to you. Being free, that is.”

She nodded and pulled one of her legs to her chest. “I kinda experienced it, but never anything to say I was free.”

He reached toward her and gently took her chin in his hand. “Would you stay with me?”

“Legacy, I couldn’t.”

“I was trained as a Guardian. I chose you all those years ago, but circumstances kept me from doing my job. I think I could have kept you from getting hurt if I had acted when I found you again. Please, let me protect you.”

“But why me?” she asked, folding her ears back again.

“Snowhawk, you know who you are. You can’t hide it, and you can’t fight it. You can help the Society return. That’s why I want to protect you. And, I know we only met for a short time all those years ago, but I feel very strongly connected to you. I want to be with you.” He smiled at her and gently rubbed her jaw line, then he wrapped his arms around her and held her close.

She dropped her head, smiling a bit. “For a day or so.”

*********

Little more than two years later, Nytehawk’s mate, Hunter, was busy preparing for her upcoming birthday, having thought a little celebration was in order. They hadn’t been in this house at her last birthday. He walked onto their balcony where he found Nytehawk sitting in her usual spot on the railing. “Love, would you prefer choc– What’s wrong?” he inquired, noting her serious expression.

“The wind carries a familiar scent close. Something is about to change,” she replied calmly, her eyes fixed in the forest behind her home.

He tried to follow her gaze, but saw nothing. “What is it?”

“’Who’, dear. ‘Who’ is a better question,” she said with a sigh. “My owner,” she stated as calmly as before.

“But, you’ve been free from him for more than two years! Why now?” Hunter asked, growing agitated.

Her eyes hadn’t moved from whatever she was looking at. “Don’t know. But I’ll go and find out just what he wants tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“No,” she said, finally looking at him. “He may have someone with him. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“But, what about you?” he questioned, taking a hold of one of her hands.

“I can take care of myself.”

His expression grew more worried. “That’s not an answer, love.”

She smiled at him reassuringly. “Don’t come after me. If something happens, I can escape on my own.”

Hunter could only sigh and wrap his arms around her. “You’re too stubborn for your own good.”

“But would you want me any other way?” she grinned.

“Of course not,” he smiled. He nuzzled her and picked her up, carrying her back inside. “Just be careful tomorrow.”

Nytehawk returned his nuzzle as he laid her on their bed. “Of course, love.” She cuddled up to him as he crawled in himself.

Several hours later, Hunter awoke alone. He stood and walked to the window, looking outside. “Please return to me, love.”

*********

An early morning fog covered the city and made the strangely quiet streets all the more eerie. The sound of hooves on pavement pierced the quiet and caught the attention of the lone man leaning against a building. “How good of you to come,” he grinned, brushing his long, blue-white bangs from his ice blue eyes.

Nytehawk stopped only a couple yards from the man, scowling at him. “I can’t believe you’d dare to show your face again. What the hell do you want, anyway? You’ve already taken Snowhawk from us.”

“Says who?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.

“Don’t play stupid, Janus,” she growled. “I should kill you now for taking her freedom away again!”

“You’ve got it all wrong, dear bird,” Janus began, slowly moving toward her. “I’ve not touched your lovely cousin in two years. In fact, that’s why I need you.”

She flattened her ears back, glaring at him. “What the hell are you talking about, slaver?”

“I assume you told that pesky mate of yours to stay put, right?” he asked, still advancing on her.

“What does Hunter have to do with this?” she replied, backing away from him.

“He’ll look for help to get you back. Your cousin and her idiot mate will come out of hiding and find him. Then I’ll be able to get my dear Snowhawk back.” He grinned and continued his advance. “Play nice, won’t you?”

Nytehawk snorted at him. “You’re deluded, or just an idiot. I can’t decide which.”

She finally backed into a wall, and Janus placed one hand on either side of her. “No one has to get hurt, Nytehawk. I would prefer it that way.”

“And you think taking her away from her mate won’t hurt?” she questioned, narrowing her eyes.

“Not for long,” he grinned. “Her little fantasy world is already crumbling. She’s seeing this, and I don’t want her to hit bottom with no one around.”

If a glare could kill, Janus would be long dead. “And that one is you.”

His grin never lessened. “You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

“What did you expect, slaver?” She tried to duck away from him and escape to her right, but he grabbed her arm and held her in place.

“I keep no more slaves, Nytehawk,” he said, his grin finally fading. “Once I have Snowhawk, you will be free to go. However, until such time…”

“I am not going with you,” she growled.

His grin returned. “Willingly anyway.” His right hand left her arm and went to his pocket, then quickly returned. She felt a small pin prick when he touched her again and then remembered nothing but darkness.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 3

“Where are you, Nytehawk?” Hunter quietly asked the clouding sky as he stood on the balcony of their home. He had grown increasingly concerned that his mate had vanished some three days ago. He sighed and leaned on the railing, still looking to the sky.

The sound of a creaking door caught his attention and he quickly straightened and spun around. He had hoped to see his love’s pale furred form, but instead saw a female with grey-blue fur, a long, wavy blonde mane and tail, and deep blue eyes. Hunter blinked and stepped back. “Who are you?” he demanded.

The female smiled reassuringly at him. “Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt you.”

“Who are you?” Hunter repeated, a little less stern this time.

“My name’s Sophie,” she began, then paused to think. “I’m here because I felt that Nytehawk may be in trouble.”

“I haven’t seen her in three days,” Hunter admitted.

“Then he probably has her,” she sighed. “Did she tell you anything before she left?”

Hunter nodded. “Yes. She didn’t want me to come after her.”

“Typical,” Sophie replied, shaking her head.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asked, trying not to sound desperate.

“About the only thing we can do is wait. I can try to find out some information, but the way this city is, I don’t know what I’ll be able to discover.”

“Anything would help,” Hunter replied. “Thank you.”

Sophie bowed slightly. “I owe it to her. It’s no trouble.”

*********

“Legacy,” Snowhawk softly said as she nuzzled her sleeping mate. He grumbled quietly and curled up a little in response. “Don’t you ‘mmrph’ me,” she responded in turn, lightly pushing him.

“Sleep… Need…” he sleepily replied.

The lavender Delphin was not amused. “You have slept for twelve hours. Get up.”

“No,” he protested.

A mischievous grin crossed her face and she got up from the bed, then walked to the kitchen. Moments later, she returned with a large, ice water filled pot. She sat the pot down, then stuck her fingers into it and flicked some of the water onto him. “Get up or you get the whole pot of that dumped on you.”

“Don’t want to…” he grumbled.

She sighed in aggravation, stomping a hoof. “The longer you lay there, the lazier you will get.”

“Why can’t I sleep?” he replied.

At least he’s awake enough to form coherent sentences, she thought. “Why?”

“Yes, why?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Because Janus has my cousin.”

Legacy sat straight up in bed. “He what!?”

“He’s captured Nytehawk. I overheard some other Del asking about her while I was out this morning.”

“Did you hear how long he’s had her?” he asked, rubbing his forehead just below his horn.

“I believe I heard five days,” she again sighed. “We need to find Jerome.”

The male nodded. “We do, but how are we going to find him? He’s been missing for two years. We can’t even be certain he’s still alive.”

“If we can’t find Jerome, then I’ll go get Nytehawk. Or I’ll go when I get the first chance. I’m not letting him keep her.”

Legacy sat in silence for a moment his head lowered, then looked up at his mate. “But, what if that’s his plan? What if he’s trying to draw you out by using her as bait? It wouldn’t be out of character for him.”

Snowhawk shook her head. “It wouldn’t be, but it seems a little too risky for him to take.”

“I don’t want him to take you away. You’re too important,” he sighed, pulling her into the bed. He gently nuzzled her, then after giving her a concerned look, brushed her forelock back and felt a few spots on her face with his right hand. “I don’t think you should be doing much of anything today anyway. It feels like you have a fever.

“Not too surprising,” she said, looking to the side.

“Why not? Are you okay, love?” he asked, more concerned than before.

“I’m fine,” she replied unconvincingly.

“You don’t lie that well, Snow,” he stated, turning her head toward him. “And you seem to have had something else on your mind the past few weeks.”

“I am fine, Legacy,” She firmly said, pulling her head away. “Just have a lot on my mind right now.”

*********

Nytehawk sighed as she paced the room she’d been placed in. She knew it would only be a matter of time before Snowhawk found out what had happened and came looking for her. “Which is exactly what he wants. Dammit.” She again introduced her hoof to her door, adding another dent to the numerous ones she had already put in it, then stalked across the room. “I wish I could warn her.”

Janus’ voice came, slightly muffled, from the other side of the door. “Why don’t you rest, Nytehawk?”

“Because I don’t trust you,” she growled, turning toward said door.

“Accept it, Nytehawk,” he continued. “There is nothing you can do.” He unlocked and opened the door, then walked into her room. “I only want the best for her and if she stays where she is now, she’ll be crushed when she realizes that her little world of lies is crumbling. Her Guardian, unlike yours, doesn’t know when to step back and leave her alone.”

“From what I have heard, and know of the Guardians, Legacy is there, and continues to be there, because he loves her. He’s not there for his duty alone,” she stated.

“Loves her? Then why does he leave her alone at night?” he replied, slightly tilting his head to his right.

“What?” she asked, likewise canting her head and folding her ears back.

“In more than two months, he has not stayed with her more than eight nights. There have been several occasions where he never returned during the day, or for several following days.”

“And what does that have to do with anything?” she snorted.

“Do you remember what would happen when she was alone for more than a few hours?” he replied. “We’re talking about a creature that before she left here was never alone for more than half a day.”

Nytehawk shrugged. “She felt bad. She got depressed. Though there were many times when she would go off by herself to be alone. She left one night and never returned.”

“And your first reaction was that she would come here. Why do you think she would have?”

Nytehawk didn’t like Janus trying to be a psychologist. Again she snorted at him. “The hell if I know.”

Janus grinned. “There is a familiarity here she can’t get anywhere else. There is stability. There is never having to wonder where the hell her mate has gone off to. She could go off on her own to be alone, then come back and not have to look for anyone. Do you understand where I’m going?”

“Your thought process is so screwed up, no one can understand it,” she returned, glaring at him. “You are not convincing me in the least.”

“In due time, dear Nytehawk,” he grinned again.

“Not a chance,” she stated, still glaring at him.

Never having dropped his grin, he turned and left the room. She’d been here for little more than a month and seemed to be just as stubborn as the day she came.

*********

Janus fell asleep that night at his desk, and his dreams again reminded him how he lost Snowhawk.

~~~~~~~~~

“Do you remember what it was like before you came into my life?” a younger Janus asked a human-formed Snowhawk as he held her.

“A nightmare,” she replied, lowering her head.

“Indeed,” he said, gently stroking her hair.

“And for you?” she asked curiously.

“Dull, boring… Nothing I would like to have again. You are more wonderful than I could have ever imagined,” he smiled.

She blushed and smiled in return, then he saw the two of them several months later. And once again, I watch myself ruin what I had, he thought. Why did I have to say it like that? he asked as he watched her leave the room. I was such an idiot.

~~~~~~~~~

He awoke and sat up, looking out his window at the night sky. “I’ll redeem myself soon… Very soon.” He nodded, then stood and went to his bed.

*********

The protectors known as Guardians were trained to protect the nobility of the Delphin Society and most were nobles themselves. When the Society fell to the slavers, the Guardians remained to protect the ones they could. They trained new Guardians in secrecy. Soon, not many of the old Guardians were left alive, and almost none of the new line were fully trained. They all held the duty to protect their charges when circumstances allowed it. Some would stay near their charges, others would leave and wait for the call to duty.

Far outside the city, one Guardian heard his call. In the dark shadows of the forest, a flash of gold came to life in the pale light of the moon. He had been waiting for this call.

Emerald green eyes opened as a male Delphin appearing to be made of gold stepped onto a rocky ledge, and looked toward the city. He folded back his golden wings and looked toward the glowing city for a moment. Then he turned, his golden horn glinting in the light, and trotted toward a path out of the forest.

*********

Nytehawk paced anxiously in her room. Janus was determined to get Snowhawk back, and every day was one more day closer to her cousin getting caught, one way or another. “That idiot,” she growled as she stopped at her door, then, once again, kicked it. “Maybe I’ll have the damn thing broken by the time she gets here.” It had been another week since Janus had taken her, making a total of five. “At least Hunter listened to me this time.”

Just out of her view, the golden furred Delphin clung to the side of the estate. “Now I know for certain where you are,” he quietly said, then dropped from the wall. He spread his golden wings and glided over the fence. He had not been able to protect her in the years past, but now he would.

He silently made his way through the streets, grateful for the cloudy night. The one that had contacted him said Nytehawk and her mate owned a large house about a half hour’s walk from the Slaver’s estate. He found the house easily and stopped out front. The front yard of the old, two-story home had several large trees, like the rest of the area. The original planners of this part of the city had removed only the trees they needed to, leaving almost all the trees and underbrush. The property was surrounded by an ivy-covered brick and iron fence.

The golden Delphin made his way through the open iron gate and slowly walked the concrete path to the home. He stopped as he stepped onto the front porch, and turned to look at the yard again. He felt as if he was being watched. He saw no one, and paying no attention to it now, he turned and knocked on the front door.

*********

Sophie’s ears flicked at the sound of someone knocking. She stood and went to look out the window, but the roof of the porch hid the caller. She looked at Hunter to find him still asleep in a chair, then walked out of the room and downstairs to the front door. The sight of gold fur through the frosted glass in the front door gave her a twisting feeling in her gut. She knew the Delphin standing outside. They had been lovers, and had parted on foul terms. She had once tried to kill Nytehawk on orders from her former owner. He had stopped her, then she left when he asked her why. “Should have known I’d see him. He’s her Guardian, after all,” she quietly said to herself as she opened the door.

The golden Delphin was not pleased to see her. “Sophie.”

“Long time no see, Jerome,” she half smiled. He gave her no reply. “Not long enough apparently,” she added, looking down.

“What brought you out of hiding?” he asked, glaring at her.

“Same thing as you, I’d imagine,” she responded.

He snorted and flicked his tail. “Go back to whatever rock you were under. You’ve already caused enough trouble for Nytehawk.”

“Get over it, Jerome!” she yelled. “I was doing what I had been ordered to do. I wouldn’t have done anything if it had been my choice.”

“Oh, really?” he sarcastically replied.

“Yes, Jerome. Really.” She looked up at him. “I’m sorry for what happened. I’m sorry for what I did to Nytehawk and to you.”

“You just left,” he began. “You just up and left and never answered my question.” She made no attempt to reply. “Why didn’t you at least come back and tell me why after your owner was killed? You were free.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll never be free. I’m sick. I was used for testing of some chemical he was making. I’m dying. I don’t have more than a couple years to live at the most and I want to at least try to help.”

Jerome was silent for several minutes, then finally asked, “Do you have a plan?”

“No. I was waiting on you to show up.” She looked to her left, then stepped back, holding the door for him. “Come on inside. You can meet her mate, Hunter, and we can figure out what to do now.”

Sophie turned and walked into one of the front rooms. As Jerome stepped inside to follow her, the rustling of some bushes caught his attention. He again turned to look and this time he thought he saw a flash of amethyst vanish in the shadows. He blinked his green eyes, then walked inside.

*********

On the street in front of the house, a lavender furred Delphin dropped from a tree limb overhanging the fence. She stretched her bat-like wings and grinned “Almost…” she whispered, then trotted down the dark street.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 4

Alone in her apartment, Snowhawk sighed and flopped onto her couch. She lightly placed a hand on her stomach and closed her eyes. “At least not everything is lost.” She rested for a few moments, then thought to herself, I shouldn’t be so tired this early. She pulled a blanket off the back of the couch and curled up; within the next five minutes, she had drifted to sleep.

Several hours later, a hand gently stroked her equine face as a male’s voice quietly spoke. “Wake up, Snowhawk.” Her eyes shot open as she immediately awoke and tried to get away from whoever else was in her apartment. The male grabbed her arm and kept her from running off. “Calm down, love,” Legacy’s voice said.

Snowhawk panted for a moment, then she kicked at him once she’d somewhat recovered. “Don’t do that, dammit!”

“Sorry, dear,” he smiled. “You need to relax a bit, though.”

“You know I can’t afford to,” she responded, smirking at him.

“Where were you?” he asked as he sat down next to her.

“I went to make sure Jerome found the right house.” She yawned quietly. “He did. On his first try too, surprisingly.”

“Good,” Legacy nodded, then paused to look at his mate. “Are you ok, love? You look… paler than usual.”

“I’m fine,” she stated.

It had been little more than a month since they last had this conversation. Rather than try to get her to tell him what was wrong, Legacy again felt her face. “You have another fever. Or did you ever get rid of that last one?” he questioned, leaning toward her.

The lavender female just pulled her ears back and looked away. She looked back at him after a couple minutes. Her nervousness was apparent, then more so as she began to speak. “Legacy, I’m…”

“What, love?” he asked tilting his head to the side, curious as to what was making her so uncomfortable.

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and decided the best way to tell him would be the most direct way. “Legacy, I’m pregnant.”

Legacy stuttered for a moment, shocked, surprised, and even a little confused, then asked, “Since when?”

“Four months ago,” Snowhawk quietly stated.

He blinked, now more confused. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you worry about me enough as it is,” she replied. “I know you know this is dangerous for me. But I’ve been through it before. I’ll be careful.”

“Will you change any of your plans?” he questioned, concerned.

“No. I can’t afford to at this point. As I said, I’ll be careful. But I’ll do what I have to do to get Nytehawk back.”

Legacy sighed and shook his head. “I’m not even going to try and talk you into changing your mind, but can I at least carry you to bed?” She nodded, smiling a little as he stood, and picked her up.

*********

“So, how long have you been here, Sophie?” Jerome asked the blonde maned female sitting across from him.

“I found Hunter three days after Nyte vanished,” she responded, trying not to make eye contact with him.

The golden Guardian leaned back in his chair, watching her. “Does he know about your past?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “And I’d prefer he didn’t know. Hunter wouldn’t let me help if he knew.”

“I can’t say I blame him. Your track record makes you a little hard to believe, Sophie.”

She flinched at his words. “That hurts, Jerome. I’m not here to cause any more trouble for her. I’m here to make up for what I did. I didn’t have any choice other than a very slow, very painful death back then.”

“So I guess you’re better off now,” he said, looking off.

“As I’ve said, I have at the very most two years to live. I have wasted my life trying to do what I was told to do. Then when I finally stopped doing that, I was sentenced to death. I want to at least do one thing right.” She dropped her head, then placed her hands on the back of her neck.

“Whatever your plan turns out to be, just don’t get us killed,” he stated, then stood and walked out of the room.

*********

Nytehawk could do little more than twitch as yet another vehicle pulled in front of Janus’ estate. “Pretty freaking brave of him to throw a party. Especially here.” She then turned to see a pale yellow, Asian-styled dress hanging on a hook next to a full length mirror. “And especially wanting me to join him. I guess he really has lost his mind.”

The knock on her door caught her attention. “Are you coming down?” Janus’ muffled voice asked.

“Not on your life,” she growled.

“Come now, Nytehawk. Don’t be so stubborn,” Janus said, partially opening the door.

“No,” she restated.

“Nytehawk–” he began, but was promptly cut off.

“What are you gonna do, Janus?” she asked, stomping her hoof. “Do you even think it’s a good idea to ‘show me off’?”

“Wouldn’t you enjoy getting out of your room?” he asked, avoiding her question.

She thought for a moment, then gave her silent reply by raising her middle finger at him and scowling.

“Not very tactful, are you?” he commented, unaffected by this display.

“What do you expect from this little party?” she asked. “That Snow’s gonna show up?”

“It would be a nice end to the night,” ne nodded. “And should she appear, I have no intention of making her stay.”

“Right,” Nytehawk scoffed.

“You may not get a chance to see her for a while, Nytehawk,” Janus noted.

She turned away from him. “My answer still stands.”

“Suit yourself,” he replied, then closed her door and locked it.

“Bastard,” she growled.

*********

“Why are you doing this, Snow” a worried Legacy asked as his almost naked mate walked from their bathroom to her large closet.

“Because I think I can get Nytehawk back,” she calmly replied, browsing through her clothes.

“At least let me come with you,” he pleaded.

“No. I need you to go meet Jerome and Hunter to let them know what’s going on.” She pulled a long, dark violet dress off a hanger and slipped it on.

“I think you’re seriously underestimating him, love,” he told her as she walked past him and kneeled down to look under their bed.

“I’d be amazed if he accomplished anything, Legacy,” she returned.

“I’m worried about you, Snowhawk. You’re already getting exhausted really easily,” he mentioned, leaning against the wall.

She pulled out a pair of black velvet anklets and buckled them on, then stood. “I’ll be fine. We will be fine,” she repeated.

“It just seems convenient,” he pointed out.

“Convenient or not, I will be fine.” She picked up a knee length, light amethyst velvet cloak from the bed and draped it across her shoulders. “We don’t have much time, Legacy,” she began, her voice deathly serious. “I don’t foresee another chance if we pass this up.” Legacy reluctantly nodded in agreement. She pulled the cloak’s hood onto her head and gave him one last kiss. “Take care, Legacy,” she quietly said, then quickly left their apartment.

*********

Legacy left their apartment some twenty minutes after Snowhawk. “What are you planning, love?” he asked the evening haze as he walked down the quiet street to Hunter and Nytehawk’s home. He looked to the clouding sky and at the few stars peeking out. “What indeed?” He traveled for more than an hour after leaving the apartment, finally reaching the gate of Nytehawk’s home. Slowly, he walked to the front door and knocked.

“Long time no see, Legacy,” Jerome smiled as he opened the door for the younger Guardian.

“It has been, Jerome,” he replied, stepping inside.

“So, what brought you here?” Jerome asked, closing the door.

“Snowhawk sent me.”

The golden Guardian looked confused. “Snowhawk? But, we thought she’d gone back to Janus.”

Legacy shook his head. “She’s been with me the past two years. She went to retrieve Nytehawk tonight and sent me here to let you and Hunter know.”

Jerome blinked, again confused at what Legacy had told him. “She went to Janus’ estate. Alone.” Legacy confirmed this with a small nod. “That’s what his plan was,” the golden one said quietly, having finally put the pieces together.

“She insisted I not go. But, I’m sure you know how stubborn her and Nytehawk are.” Legacy sighed. “There’s too much at stake now. I didn’t want to her to go.”

“What do you mean ‘too much at stake’?” he questioned as they walked into the living room.

“Snowhawk is four months pregnant. She refused to change her plans. Now I fear she won’t come back,” he admitted as he sank onto the couch.

Jerome sat in a chair next to the couch. “Did she tell you not to come after her?”

“No, but I don’t think Janus is exactly the sharing type,” he dryly replied.

The older Guardian nodded. “We’ll just have to wait and see what she does.”

*********

Snowhawk was not surprised that that she was allowed into the estate without question. She was not surprised that no one followed her when she left the main hall to look for her cousin. She was, however, surprised that Janus did not immediately track her down the moment she walked in the door. In fact, she had not seen him all night. Maybe he’s losing his touch, she thought to herself as she checked behind another door with no success. “I should have asked Jerome where she was,” she whispered as she opened another door and stepped into the room. She found herself in one of the estate’s large studies.

Sitting on a couch directly across the room from her was Janus. He grinned when he saw her. “I knew you’d come tonight.”

“Where’s my cousin?” she immediately questioned, trying not to be distracted by him.

“You always were so direct,” he grinned. “Wouldn’t you like to talk?”

“No. Where is she?” Snowhawk sharply returned.

“On the other side of the estate,” he casually replied. “Don’t worry dear,” he began as he pressed one of the buttons on a remote on the table next to him, closing and locking the door. “No harm will come to her. I intended on bringing you here tonight to talk. That’s all.” He stood up from the couch and walked toward her.

Snowhawk dropped her head slightly and quietly asked, “What’s there to talk about?”

“Plenty, love,” he smoothly replied, placing his right hand on her right shoulder, then walking behind her and doing the same with his left. “We never did talk after your– accident.”

“It’s been almost two and a half years, Janus,” she noted. “There’s nothing to talk about anymore.”

He grinned as he reached for the closure of her cloak. “I think there is, dear bird. I think there is much we haven’t discussed.” He pulled the cloak off her shoulders, then almost whispered to her, “Might as well get comfortable, love.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 5

Janus casually tossed Snowhawk’s cloak aside, then led her to the couch. “Please sit,” he instructed.

She did, but seemed reluctant to do so. “You don’t have to make this complicated, Janus,” she quietly stated.

“Oh?” he asked as he sat next to her.

“I just want to get Nytehawk and get her home,” Snowhawk replied, glancing at him from the corners of her eyes.

“Then what?” Janus began. “What will you go back to?”

“My mate, of course.”

Janus grinned ever so slightly. “Ah, yes, the Guardian. You know why he stays, don’t you?”

She looked away from her former owner at this. “Leave Legacy out of this and take me to my cousin.”

“You know the truth, Snowhawk,” he began, placing his arm around her. “The Guardian is staying for duty alone.”

She shook her head at him. “He stays for love, Janus.”

Janus sighed quietly, turning toward her and pulling one leg onto the couch. “Then why does he leave you at night? Or go days without seeing you? Why are you left alone?” Snowhawk looked down as he spoke, saying nothing in return. “Legacy may love you, dear, but it is for his duty he stays.”

“No,” she whispered, “that’s not true.”

Janus leaned closer to her. “Snowhawk, you’re lonely and you’re tired. I know you too well not to see this.”

“There is nothing to see, Janus,” she replied, leaning forward and holding her face in her hands.

“Look at me, dear,” he requested, reaching for her chin with his free hand. She turned her head away at first, but he caught her and turned her face toward him. “Why are you trying to convince yourself?”

“What?” she asked in a confused whisper.

“You’re trying to convince yourself he feels the same for you as you feel for him.”

She tried to blink back a few tears that appeared in her eyes. “No–”

“Yes, love,” he interrupted, “you are. That’s your nature.”

She was silent for a moment, then jerked her head away. “How would you know?”

“Because, I know you.” She turned away from him, again staring at the far wall. “You can’t deny that, Snowhawk.”

“That was a long time ago, Janus,” she responded.

“Not that long ago, dearest, it’s only been two years,” he noted as he carefully pulled her toward him, then wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair. “I should have said things differently, and I still kick myself for saying what I did.”

“But that wouldn’t have changed how you felt, Janus,” she commented.

“No, but I hope you realize that wasn’t the full extent of my feelings.” One of his hands moved up and gently scratched at the base of her skull. “I knew what I felt, but I had to lose you to fully realize it.”

“And that took two years?” she queried.

“No, love,” he replied, “I knew very quickly. But I never made a move because I wanted to see if you were happier out there. And for a time after you met Legacy, you were. But now Legacy seems to be more loyal to something else than to you. He’s making you unhappy, which I cannot allow.” He looked down at her to find she’d fallen asleep. “That always did put you to sleep,” he smiled.

*********

Snowhawk awoke several hours later, finding herself on a bed and in Janus’ arms. She thought at first that the events of the past two years had been one long, vivid dream, but she then remembered she’d fallen asleep while talking to him. She moaned softly and tried to sit up. “I need to get Nytehawk,” she mumbled and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

Janus woke up when she moved, sitting up himself. “Stay here and rest, Snowhawk,” he began, “I’ll release your cousin.”

“No, I need to get back,” she quietly said, trying to stand. Her legs refused to bear her weight, though, and she fell back onto the bed. “Why now…” she whispered.

“What is it, Snowhawk?” Janus asked curiously.

“Doesn’t concern you,” she replied.

“Of course it does. If something is wrong with you, it concerns me greatly,” he explained.

She sighed and again tried to stand, Janus following her this time. She succeeded in standing and managed a few steps before her legs gave out. Janus caught her and stopped the fall.

“Snowhawk, you can’t hide from me. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t think you want to know,” she commented.

“Yes, I do,” he replied, getting her to sit back down. “Please, tell me what’s wrong?”

She looked down, almost certain if she said anything it could jeopardize the chance she had left of getting Nytehawk free. However, she also knew Janus had no intention of letting either of them go until she told him. She took a deep breath, then plainly stated, “I’m pregnant, Janus.”

Janus blinked and was left speechless for a moment. He looked off, as if in thought, then back to her. “Were you trying to hold onto him, love?” he quietly asked.

She glanced at him after hearing the concern in his voice and noted it his eyes. “Maybe…”

“And you were worried that if I knew, I might not set your cousin free.” She nodded, noting to herself he still knew her too well. “Don’t worry, Snowhawk,” he said, smiling softly, “I’ll set her free. But I want you to rest for now. You can’t help her like this.” He coaxed her into lying back down, then kissed her on the forehead. “Go back to sleep, dearest. You will need your rest.”

*********

“Did she give you any idea of when she’d be back, Legacy?” Jerome asked the younger Guardian.

“No,” he replied, shaking his head and leaning back in his chair.

“Well,” Jerome began, “considering it’s been three days, I’d guess something’s wrong.”

Legacy nodded slowly in agreement. “I’d been hoping that she was just waiting for the right time to get Nytehawk free.”

Jerome was amazed at Legacy’s attitude. Outwardly, he didn’t seem that concerned, considering the situation. “Legacy, you need to know what’s going on. You have got to know when she’s going to return.”

“I know, Jerome. But, I just keep thinking ‘What if she’s still waiting?’ I don’t want to put her or Nytehawk or my child in any kind of danger. I have faith in her and her decisions.”

Jerome couldn’t help but growl at him. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust her. I’m saying you shouldn’t trust him. You and I both know how their relationship was.”

“What should I do?” he quietly asked.

“My suggestion is to go find out what’s going on. It’s not like we don’t know where he is.”

“It seems too easy, Jerome. And I don’t want him to hurt them,” Legacy responded.

“Look at it this way, Legacy: it’s a hell of a lot easier than what you’re doing right now.”

“Do you think it’ll work?” he questioned, looking at the older Guardian.

“If you’re asking if I think he’ll hurt her, no. Janus isn’t that type,” Jerome replied. He paused, then continued with, “I don’t know if this will get her back, but you can’t just sit around and wait and worry yourself sick.”

Legacy thought for a moment, then stood and picked up his sword, tying it to his belt, and walked to the door. “I’ll return soon,” he said as he left.

Jerome nodded slowly as the door closed. “I can’t help feeling like I should go with him,” he said to himself. “But she is his mate and he should go after her on his own.”

*********

Legacy trotted down the darkened street. He thought to himself as he passed only a couple other beings. His destination was all too familiar. It was the place he’d visited two or three times while he was a slave, and it was also the place where he found Snowhawk two years ago. After a half hour walking, he stopped at the gate and looked through the iron bars. “This whole place is a cage,” he whispered. “His bird cage. What was she thinking?”

“What is your business here?” a male voice barked, snapping Legacy from his thoughts.

The Delphin quickly turned to see a dark, chocolate brown furred wolf morph with white markings, a little shorter than his own height of seven feet, standing roughly a yard from his left side. The wolf species were called Lupino. Not intimidated by the lupine, Legacy stated, “I’m here to see Janus about a personal matter.”

“He has asked not to be disturbed,” the guard quickly replied.

“And I am demanding to see him, Lupino,” an undeterred Legacy responded.

“Listen, Delphin,” he growled, “he has said that no one is to disturb him. That includes you.”

Legacy narrowed his eyes and flattened his ears back. “No, asshole, you listen. That son-of-a-bitch has my mate and I want her back.”

The Lupino thought for a moment, “So you’re the ‘idiot mate.’ In that case, you can enter. Janus mentioned he wanted to have a few words with you.” The Lupino grinned and moved to open the gate. “He’s in the gardens. They’re around the–”

“I know where the damn gardens are,” the Guardian interrupted, walking inside. “I’ve been here before.”

“I figured as much,” he smirked, then closed the gates and continued his rounds.

Legacy walked around the estate and back to the gardens, then followed the scent of honeysuckle, his mate’s favorite flower. He found the slaver and the human-formed Snowhawk in the far end of the gardens under a canopy of honeysuckle vines. Janus was cradling the sleeping female, gently stroking her cheek. “Little late in the season for honeysuckle,” Legacy stated, walking toward them and stopping some two and a half yards away.

Janus looked up, unconcerned. “Well, if it isn’t the absentee mate.”

The Delphin male narrowed his eyes at him. “Let her go, Janus.”

“You were warned not to get involved,” Janus replied, reminding him.

“I don’t have time for this, slaver,” Legacy growled.

“’Slaver’, you say?” Janus chuckled, “I keep no slaves.”

“Then what are you doing with her and Nytehawk?”

“My bird is my companion. Her dear cousin was brought here to make sure that this one,” he explained, nodding to Snowhawk, “had not been killed. Though, finding out her… situation was a bit of a shock. She was very hesitant to tell me.” He remained silent for a moment as he thought and watched her, his hand still stroking her cheek.

“Let her go, Janus,” Legacy repeated, quieter this time.

“Why?” Janus asked, looking up and glaring at the Guardian. “So she can continue to be hurt by you? So she can continue to wonder and worry about you not being there? Snowhawk does not like to be left alone, unless she wants it that way. Even then, especially then, she needs to be certain that she’ll have something to go back to.”

Legacy snorted at him. “And what makes you an expert on that?”

“I know her, Legacy,” Janus replied, narrowing his eyes at the younger male. “I know her better than you ever would. She would never allow you to know as much about her as I do. She feels like she has to protect you, or that if you knew everything about her, you’d be gone.”

“You’re wrong,” Legacy said, stepping toward them.

“And you’re acting on your emotions again. You need to learn keep them in check, Legacy, or you’re going to make some fatal mistake.”

“I don’t have time for your games, Janus,” Legacy responded as he continued to advance toward them.

Snowhawk gently moaned and moved a bit in Janus’ arms, then quietly yawned. “Good evening, dear,” Janus quietly said to her.

“Good,” Legacy began. “Now she can give us her thoughts.”

“Don’t cause her anymore trouble, Guardian,” Janus warned. “I’m sure you don’t want to harm her or her child.”

The still groggy female slowly opened her green eyes. She looked at Janus, then turned her head and looked to Legacy. “What are you doing here?” she questioned.

“Snowhawk,” Legacy began, walking toward her and kneeling, “you’ve been gone for three days. What was I supposed to do?” He sighed and paused, then began speaking to her in the Delphin language.

Janus closed his eyes as they spoke, listening in and mulling over the differences in their personalities. Snowhawk remained calm and spoke very clearly while Legacy was agitated and kept repeating that she should come with him. Janus wasn’t completely fluent in the language, but he knew more than enough to understand. He understood that Snowhawk was still protecting the Guardian and that all she needed was rest. After some ten minutes of this, Janus slowly began “Perhaps you should leave, Legacy. You’re not helping her situation any.”

“And just what do you think you’re doing for her?” the Guardian snapped.

Snowhawk sighed and sat up. “Break it up, boys,” she quietly told them. She then stood slowly, with a little help from both of them, and wandered to the house, mumbling, in Delphin, that she was hungry and going to find food.

Once she was out of sight and earshot, Janus stood, then looked at Legacy and stated, “There is less stress on her here since she doesn’t have to worry if I’m going to be around or not. Leave, Guardian. Nytehawk may go with you, but Snowhawk should stay here, for her safety and for her child’s.”

“I’m not leaving without her,” he firmly replied.

“You will, Legacy. And once you return Nytehawk to her mate, perhaps you should ask yourself just why you deserve Snowhawk. I knew about you and her from the beginning but I left you alone until I saw her become unhappy. I won’t stop her from being happy with another, but I will step in if she becomes unhappy. You have not learned what makes her happy or what makes her feel safe. That much is obvious as much as you leave her alone.” Janus gave a quick nod of dismissal, then walked around the Guardian and toward his home.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 6

Legacy stood slowly, glaring at Janus and nowhere near satisfied with that conclusion. He ran after the man, then lunged at him. Janus sidestepped the attack, having heard the noisy Guardian’s hooves. “Give her back, you son of a bitch!” he yelled as he regained his footing and turned back toward Janus.

“I am getting very irritated with you, boy,” Janus growled.

“I want her back,” he repeated.

“You can ‘have’ her if she chooses to be with you. Truth be told, if you would have waited a few more hours, she would have contacted you to explain. She came here by her own free will and she can leave with such, as long as her health isn’t at risk,” Janus again explained.

“And it won’t be at risk if she comes with me.”

Janus sighed, aggravated. “Legacy, we just went through this. She’s what, four, five months pregnant? Do you have any idea just how critical is it for her not to have to worry where the hell her mate is?”

“She won’t worry.”

“Can you honestly say that, Legacy?” Janus began to walk away from the Guardian again. “Now, I suggest you leave before I have you removed.”

“That bastard,” Legacy growled as the door closed behind Janus. “I’ll get her back. She’s too important to us to just– lose her to some damn slaver.” He turned and quickly left the grounds. He passed the same guard as he had encountered earlier.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” the guard called out.

Legacy stopped and turned around. “What?”

The guard point to the from of the estate. Nytehawk was carefully, yet quickly, making her way down the stairs. “Unless you don’t want her,” he grinned, licking his lupine lips.

“I don’t think so, Adian,” the Delphin female said as she trotted toward them. “So, you’re my cousin’s mate.” Legacy nodded in reply. “Tell Hunter that I would have come back, but I want to stay here and help Snowhawk.”

Legacy was surprised. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Snowhawk is sicker than she’ll let on.”

Legacy bowed to her. “Please, take care of her.”

“I will,” she replied, bowing her head in return. “And you take care of yourself, Guardian.”

Legacy nodded, then turned as Nytehawk walked back to house. He caught sight of the Lupino guard following her, then heard a loud yelp of pain. Legacy smirked slightly, then walked back to Nytehawk and Hunter’s home.

*********

Back inside the estate, Janus found Snowhawk asleep on a couch in a den. He shook his head and chuckled, then walked to her and kneeled next to the couch. “I guess you never made it to the kitchen,” he said as he stroked her face.

He sat in silence with her for several minutes, watching her sleep, until Adian limped into the room. “The Guardian has left, Janus,” he stated, then winced painfully.

“Good,” Janus began, seemingly ignoring the other’s discomfort. “Maybe he’ll wise up and stay away until she’s better.”

“What are you planning on doing with her cousin?” he grinned.

“I still plan on letting her go and you will do the same.”

Adian pouted. “You never let me have any fun.”

“You need to learn to grow up, brother,” Janus replied, shooting a glance to the other. “You’ll have more fun when you do.”

“I’d rather play with her while she’s here,” he said, another devious grin forming on his face. “She’s feisty.”

“Based on the fact you were limping, I figured you had already learned your lesson. Apparently, I was wrong.” Janus sighed as his brother’s face revealed he was thinking something over. “Adian, go distract yourself with some other female.”

“But I like that one. None of the other girls left around here are as interesting.”

“Adian,” Janus began, irritated, “don’t bother her. And go, now.”

“I am, brother,” he smirked. “I’ll leave you to have ‘fun’ with your little pet.”

“Watch what you say, Adian,” Janus growled as his brother left the room.

“Your brother,” Snowhawk quietly began as the door shut, “is a lot of talk.”

Janus nodded. “He is, but he’s still dangerous.” He smiled at her and gently stroked her arm. “I assume you never made it to the kitchen.”

She shook her head, then stretched a bit. “No, I didn’t.”

He was quiet for a moment, still rubbing her arm, then said, “You know I understood what you and Legacy were saying, don’t you?”

“I know. Legacy didn’t.”

“You can’t keep protecting him, Snowhawk,” Janus stated. “And he can’t keep hurting you.”

Snowhawk nodded slowly. “He never means to, Janus. He just–”

“He doesn’t think,” Janus finished. “Not with his head anyway.”

“I’m sure you’re hoping I’ll leave him for you,” she mentioned.

“While that would make me very happy,” he began, “I want you happy first. And I can’t see you happy forever with him. This is the very reason that Guardians and their charges are not supposed to get involved. He has a duty to protect you, and while you may be weak now, you really didn’t need to be protected before this,” he said, gently stroking her slightly rounded belly. “I think it’s now that he’s realizing he neglected his duty. I know the Guardian may love you, but–”

“But there are many kinds of love,” she finished.

Janus nodded. “Yes. You know, I watched you for all those months you were gone. I didn’t watch as closely after he came into the picture, but I was still there. And when I realized you weren’t happy because he kept leaving you alone, I decided to step in. I wouldn’t have done anything if he hadn’t done that.”

“It’s difficult to do anything now. The ties I have to you both are very strong,” she stated quietly.

“I know, dear,” he replied.

“It shouldn’t be like this,” she stated a moment later. “I’m going to hurt one of you no matter what I do.”

“But you have to chose, Snowhawk. Not now, not while you’re like this, but you will. Like I said, I just want you happy, whether that’s with Legacy or me or even some completely different being. I just want you to go with what you know is right.”

She smiled softly at him. “You were always too kind to me.”

“Never too kind, dear,” he replied, returning her smile.

*********

“She stayed?!” Hunter exclaimed when he heard the news from Legacy. He couldn’t believe that his mate would do something like his. He left the room, continuing to voice his disbelief.

“Why?” Jerome queried as the two Guardians sat down on a couch.

“She wanted to take care of Snowhawk,” Legacy replied.

“What’s wrong with Snowhawk?”

“Apparently, her pregnancy is affecting her health pretty severely,” he replied, sighing and leaning back.

Jerome blinked, a little confused as to how Snowhawk’s condition could have deteriorated so quickly. “How was her condition when she left the other night?”

“She was a little tired,” Legacy began. “It didn’t seem too bad. Granted, she had been sleeping a lot.”

“But is that normal?” Jerome questioned.

Legacy nodded. “Yes, that’s fairly normal for her.”

“Were there any changes in her mood?” Jerome asked.

“Jerome, she’s pregnant. Of course her mood changed.”

“What about your activities?”

Legacy paused at this. He thought for a moment, then seemed to hesitate as he answered. “No changes.”

Jerome nodded a little, unbelieving of his answer. “Right.” The younger Guardian sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “We’ll get her back, Legacy.”

“That won’t keep me from worrying, Jerome,” he quietly responded.

“Why don’t you stay here for a while?” Jerome suggested. “It might help you and Hunter both if you can discuss your feelings.”

Legacy looked at Jerome, then gave a silent nod in reply.

*********

Nytehawk slowly trotted down the hall toward her cousin’s room, intent on visiting her as she usually did. She sighed as she walked, worried about Snowhawk. “Five months in,” she began, talking only to herself, “and she should not be this bad off.” She stopped at the door of her cousin’s room to listen for anyone else that may be inside. She didn’t hear anyone and opened the door slowly.

She found the human Snowhawk inside, asleep, being cuddled by Janus. The man was gently stroking her hair, trying to help her sleep peacefully. He looked up at her, then bowed his head in greeting. “You’re almost late…”

“No later than usual,” she replied, then paused for a moment. “You look like shit.”

Janus smirked at the comment. “Worry as much as I do and it happens.”

“You shouldn’t,” she began. “She’s been through this before.”

“Not exactly,” he countered. “She hasn’t had to deal with an absentee, idiot mate.”

“So, I assume that’s why you made sure she was here. To take Legacy out of the picture for the last five months. That’s a pretty convoluted plan, even for you,” she commented, crossing her arms.

“Convoluted or not, though it wasn’t my plan to find her pregnant, even you have to admit she’s safe here,” he calmly replied.

“She may be safe,” Nytehawk began, “but she needs to be with her mate.”

Janus raised an eyebrow at this. “So he can hurt her again? So he can leave her alone at night? Sorry, Nytehawk, I don’t agree. The stress that would be added to her by worrying about him is many times worse than anything that might come from being here. You know that as well as I do.”

Nytehawk looked away, aggravated but unable to argue the point. “You make it so damn justified. Every time.”

“I won’t leave anything to chance. If I knew she would be happier out there with him, I wouldn’t have done this and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I just want her happy, and if that means she’s with me, then that’s all the better.”

Nytehawk glared at him for a moment. “I want to speak with my cousin. Alone.”

“When she wakes up,” Janus evenly replied.

“Then I’ll wait here,” she stated, flicking her tail and walking to a chair next to the bed. “I can watch her for a few hours while you rest.”

Janus was a little startled as she was unusually hospitable. “That’s a little out of character for you.”

“I want her happy as much as you,” she snipped. “If you keeled over from exhaustion, then she won’t be very happy, will she?”

“Point taken.” Janus eased his way out of the bed, taking care not to wake Snowhawk. “Thank you, Nytehawk.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” she said, glaring. “I’ll have someone come get you if she needs you.”

Janus nodded and bowed to her, then walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 7

Within the three hours of her arrival, Nytehawk noticed her cousin would half awake, then fall back to sleep every fifteen minutes or so. “I guess he does help her sleep,” she mused. Snowhawk never seemed to notice her cousin in the room. Another two hours of restless sleep passed before Snowhawk finally gave up with a disgusted sigh.

“Nytehawk,” Snowhawk quietly stated when she saw her cousin.

“Cousin,” Nytehawk smiled. “Good to see you awake.”

“Yes, now if I could only stay that way,” she half chuckled.

“Don’t force yourself. I’m sure you’re better off if you’re resting.”

Snowhawk nodded in agreement, “Better off, but I’m bored out of my damn mind.”

Nytehawk was silent for a moment, then looked down. “Why did you stay? Why did you even come in the first place? I would have gotten free.”

“Your mate missed you greatly,” Snowhawk softly replied.

“That didn’t mean you had to come after me, though.”

“I wanted to,” she shrugged.

“To what, Snowhawk?” Nytehawk asked, confused. “To put yourself in Janus’ hands?”

“That was just something I risked.”

“Is it true about Legacy leaving you alone some nights? And days?”

Snowhawk gave a slow nod in reply. “He does. I wish he wouldn’t. I mean, I don’t even know where he goes.” She propped herself upon her arms. “Nytehawk, the next five months will decide what I do. But, regardless, I want you to take my child away from this.”

“Snowhawk, are you–”

“I can’t live with uncertainty and with constant wondering and worrying.” She paused for a moment, looking down, then back to her cousin. “Go back to your mate, and let mine know what the story is. I’ll call for you when I need you.”

“Why do you stay?” Nytehawk asked, more confused than before.

“I need to rest,” she replied. “And to try and remember why I left in the first place. If I can’t, then I’ll not drag this out any longer.”

“Legacy will come after you,” Nytehawk pointed out.

“I know,” she nodded. “Legacy can’t understand. He doesn’t want to understand and will try to say I’ve been brainwashed or something.”

“Truth be told, you do sound like it.” Nytehawk shook her head and looked down. “You’re being manipulated again, Snowhawk. Janus has already hurt you once and he’s gonna do it again.”

“Did he?” she questioned, looking back down. “Or did I just overreact?”

“He did, so you got away. You made the right choice,” Nytehawk responded.

“Nytehawk, Janus never hit me. He’s never raped me. He’s never forced me into doing anything, except that last mission,” she explained.

The other responded with, “The one that nearly took your life.”

“That was not intentional. Besides, it’s not like I hadn’t been that close before,” she stated, “No one ever knew, though.” She adjusted herself in the bed, sitting up fully and hanging her legs over the edge. “Nyte, I don’t want to hurt either of them. I know it’s inevitable, but I can’t make my decision in this state. I’ll more than likely go off on my own for a little while to decide. I mean… the only being around here that can give an ‘unbiased’ opinion would be Adian. He dislikes Janus and Legacy.”

“That stupid wolf would probably say you should drop them both for him,” she commented dryly.

Snowhawk grinned a little at this. “Probably, though he seems more interested in you right now.” She paused shortly, then sighed and warned, “Be careful around him.”

“I know,” she nodded. “You know, you’re too damn confusing.”

“I get that a lot. Now, go on back to your mate. As I said, I’ll send for you when I need you.”

*********

Another four hours of discussion passed before Nytehawk left her cousin’s room. She was more aggravated than before about how Janus was acting. She walked down the hall, her head somewhat lowered, and encountered Janus when she turned a corner. Her ears flattened back as she glared at him. “Does your offer to let me leave still stand?” she growled.

“Of course” he replied with a small nod.

“And would you allow me to return and help her should she need it?”

He again gave her an affirmative nod. “Of course. I won’t deny her help.”

Nytehawk found his emotionless responses more than frustrating. She stepped toward him, almost as if to emphasize her Delphin form’s height over him. “You realize I would rather see you dead than see her further manipulated by you?”

“I know,” he replied, looking up at her, not intimidated. “Just remember that I am not keeping her against her will, and I am not manipulating her. I have allowed her to make her own decisions. She can leave when she wishes.”

Nytehawk’s eye twitched. This last bit had sent her over the edge. For her to lose her temper and react with violence was very unusual, but she was still capable of doing so. She grabbed him by his throat, knocking him off his feet, and slammed him into the floor. She ended up straddling him. “Not manipulating her, my ass! You just want her for yourself!” As she spoke, her mane and tail darkened to black and an onyx horn spiraled in silver grew from her forehead. “You want to keep her from her family… From her own child!” she yelled as a pair of black, feathered wings with white tips grew from her back.

“Believe what you want,” Janus managed to choke out.

She glared at him for a moment as tears formed in her eyes, then closed her eyes, blinking those tears away. “You aren’t worth my time,” she growled, picking him up slightly then dropping him. She opened her eyes and stood, glaring at him. “You will regret it if you take her away from us, slaver.” She stalked off, leaving him where he was.

Once she had vanished from sight, Adian’s lupine form appeared from the shadows. “You should have fought back, Janus.”

“And like you were a big help,” he mentioned, sitting up and rubbing his neck. “How long were you hiding there?”

“Long enough,” he replied, grinning. “I was waiting for her to come this way.”

“I told you to leave that one alone,” Janus glared.

“How often do I listen to you, though?” he smirked, offering his hand to Janus.

“Never,” he replied, taking his brother’s offered hand and standing. “I’m sure you’ll regret it if you do go after her.”

“Regret it or not,” he responded, “I’m definitely going after her now. Those feathers are kinky.” His grin, impossibly, seemed to grow.

Janus sighed and held his forehead. “Go away, Adian…”

“With pleasure,” he replied, turning and walking in the direction Nytehawk had gone.

“Idiot,” Janus mumbled, shaking his head then continuing to Snowhawk’s room. He paused for a second at her door, then slowly opened it. He was surprised to find her not only awake, but sitting on the window sill. She looked over and smiled at him when the door creaked slightly. “Good to see you up, dear,” he said, returning her smile and walking into the room.

She turned toward him as he closed and locked the door. “It’s nice to be up,” she replied.

“I was worried about you,” he stated, walking toward her. “I still am. It doesn’t seem like you should be this tired so early.”

“I shouldn’t be,” she admitted. “But, I was also unprepared for this.”

He pulled a chair next to the window, then sat down. “Were you hoping to hold onto him, Snowhawk?” he asked again, looking up at her.

“Perhaps…” she again replied, looking away from him and out the window. “Though, I don’t know if he even realized what he was doing.”

“I know he left you by yourself some days and nights,” he began, reaching out and taking one of her hands, “but was there any reason why?”

“Nothing I ever knew, other than him talking about the Empire returning,” she mentioned, looking back at him.

“As in the Delphin Empire?” he asked, confused.

She nodded an affirmative. “He despises slavers. Blames them for the fall of the Empire, which is true to an extent. But he never realizes that we, in the sense of Delphin in general, contributed to it as well. The Guardians were created to protect the nobility with some overlooking groups of ‘higher’ commoners.” She paused and sighed, looking toward the floor, then continued. “What good is a monarchy without subjects?” she asked, looking back up. “The slavers effectively removed the commoners, then began to pick at the nobility.”

“And that’s gone on for nearly three thousand years.”

Again, Snowhawk nodded to this. “When the Heiress was killed, the Guardian Counsel was established. It was also about that time that the mateship between a royal and a non-royal was accepted. It had to be since so many Guardians and their charges developed relationships. On that note, all Guardians had to at least have a mother or father of noble birth.”

Janus thought over this information for a moment. “Your Empire was a little odd.”

“The Empire was in no way mine,” she smirked.

“And I’m guessing your mate wanted to change that.”

“Yes,” she responded, nodding once.

“And, I’ll assume he wanted you at the head, taking into account your lineage and all.”

Snowhawk looked at Janus in surprise. “How did you–”

“You can’t hide where you’re from, love,” he smiled.

*********

Nytehawk quickly made her way down the quiet street, her new wings folded back and her ears pinned flat. “That brazen son of a bitch…” she growled. “Who the hell does he think he is?”

Her grumbling thoughts were interrupted when a man, little less than six feet in height, stepped from the shadows in front of her, a wide grin on his face. “Hello, dear,” his familiar voice said.

“Who…” she asked, her ears flicking forward as she tried to recall the voice. “Adian?”

“Yes, of course,” he chuckled, stepping toward her and shifting back to his lupine form.

“Go away,” she commanded, holding her ground. “I have better things to do than deal with you.”

“I can’t imagine what. Besides, I just want,” he paused, grinning and stepping toward her, “to talk with you.”

Nytehawk was in no mood to deal with a suggestive wolf. She glared down at him for a moment, then kicked at his head. Unfortunately, Adian caught her leg just before it connected. “Dammit, you are starting to piss me off, wolf!”

“Really now? Good,” he chuckled, “I like when my prey fights back.” Instead of moving toward her, he now pulled her toward him. Once she was close enough, he wrapped his arm around her waist, keeping the other on her leg. He leaned in toward her, still grinning and chuckling softly.

“You do not scare me in the least, Adian,” she growled.

“Good,” he chuckled. His hand left her leg and went the the back of her neck. He was about to discover how much of a mistake this was. Nytehawk swiftly brought her knee up and into his crotch, sending him a half step back. The wolf yelped in pain at the contact, then fell to the ground. Once he had gone down, Nytehawk tried to run away, only to find she had not injured him as much as she would have hoped. He grabbed her leg and pulled her down, then slowly moved over her and pinned her to the ground. “Cute move, dear,” he coughed as she struggled to get away, “but you’ll have to do better than that.”

The rustling of leaves was Adian’s only warning that he and Nytehawk were not alone on this street. He only had time to glance back before a pair of black furred hands pulled him off Nytehawk, then a pair of kicks, one to his stomach, the other to his chest, incapacitated him. His assailant, who appeared to be another Delphin, then turned and trotted away.

Nytehawk stood and called out to the other’s retreating form. “I don’t know who you are but thank you!”

The figure stopped and turned around. A male voice replied, “It’s no problem. My name is Onyx and I’ll be seeing you around.” He bowed, his ruby horn glinting in the light, then vanished back into the shadows.

Nytehawk watched the shadows for a moment, then took another glance at Adian. She snorted at him, kicked him once in the side for good measure, and ran toward her home.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 8

Nytehawk’s hooves slipped on the concrete when she turned the corner to enter through her front gate. “Hunter!” she excitedly yelled as she ran up the walkway.

Inside, Hunter’s ears perked at the sound of his name. “Nytehawk?” he questioned as he looked at Jerome. The golden Delphin nodded and Hunter jumped up. He reached the front door about the time Nytehawk forced it open. They looked at each other for half moment, Hunter taking the first five seconds or so to realize who she was, then he embraced her. “Thank God you’re back,” he whispered. Another full minute passed before he pulled back slightly and looked at her, smiling. “I love those wings.”

She smiled at him as Jerome entered the front room. “Good to see you home, Nytehawk,” the Guardian bowed. “But, where is Snowhawk? I figured she would get you free.”

Nytehawk pulled a little further away from Hunter. “She did, in a way. She just didn’t free herself.”

“How is she?” Legacy quietly asked as he entered the room.

“In all truths, not good,” Nytehawk replied. “She was no where near prepared for a child, and worrying about why you weren’t around didn’t help any.”

The younger Guardian dropped his head in defeat. “I’ve lost her…”

“I didn’t say that,” she snapped back.

“I’d figured she needed some time alone, but I guess I was wrong,” he continued.

“Legacy,” Nytehawk began, stepping toward him, “If Snowhawk wanted some time alone, she would take care of that herself. She was trained to hide. But in any case, days alone are not what she would have needed. Don’t forget that she’d lived most of her life with someone always nearby.” She received a slow nod of reply from Legacy.

*********

Some three weeks later, on a sunny, unseasonably warm afternoon, Snowhawk half-dozed in the gardens of the estate. Her Delphinic form rested on one of the garden’s benches, shaded by a large willow tree. During the periods between short naps, she would listen to the sounds of the gardens, never opening her eyes. She turned onto her side, then almost missed Adian’s silent padding as he passed, and he seemed to not notice her. “Good day, Adian,” she quietly said.

The younger brother jumped slightly at the sound of her voice. “Good day, Snowhawk. I thought you were asleep.”

“Not quite,” she replied, eyes still closed. “You’re not usually in the gardens at this time. Something wrong?”

He shook his head, then began to walk towards her. “No, I just needed to check something out.”

“Aah.”

Once he reached the bench, he sat down on the end nearest her head. “You know, you’ve got the idiot brother of mine quite worried. That idiot mate of yours as well.”

“They’re hardly idiots, Adian. You know that as well as me,” she smirked. “But yes, I know they’re worried.”

“And you?” the wolf asked, looking at her.

“Not at this time,” she responded, eyes still shut. “But possibly in the future, if my health declines too much.”

“Hopefully that won’t happen,” he almost whispered.

Snowhawk flicked an ear at his tone. She could also feel the warmth of his hand near her shoulder. Is it just my imagination or is Adian acting strange? she thought. She made a mental note of this, something to figure out later.

“Well, I shall let you rest now, Snowhawk,” he stated, somewhat clumsily, then stood and walked away.

Snowhawk was a little more than confused at this display. “Lupino are odd,” she mumbled, rolling onto her back again, then watching the sky. She had drifted to sleep by the time Adian returned. Again, he stopped, then sat down on the bench near her head. This time, he watched her sleep.

“Something wrong, brother?” Janus’ voice asked, bringing the younger Lupino’s head up from his gaze.

“Nothing at all,” Adian replied as his brother walked toward him.

“Really?” the older responded, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t get any ideas about my bird, Adian.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Janus,” he replied sarcastically.

Janus glared at him. “Pray that you don’t.”

Adian rolled his eyes and stood. “You’re paranoid, Janus.”

“And I have every right to be, especially with you around.”

“Right.” Adian just shook his head and walked away.

Once his brother was gone, Janus sat down where Adian had been a moment earlier to wait for Snowhawk to awake.

*********

As much as she would have liked to, Snowhawk couldn’t sleep. Her mind kept nagging at her and making her wonder why Adian was acting so oddly. After all, he was not supposed to be the nice one. Adian, she thought, is supposed to be the horny bastard that doesn’t care about his “toys.”

When Janus saw Snowhawk partially open her eyes, he reached down and gently stroked her jaw line. “Something on your mind, love?”

“Not really,” she quietly replied. “Just thinking about everything and nothing, as usual.”

“Of course,” he smiled. “How are you feeling?”

“I’ve been better, but I could be a hell of a lot worse. Back is hurting from laying around, but I’m too exhausted to move much.”

“Need anything?” he asked, moving his hand to gently stroke her hair.

“I probably need to go inside and lay down on a nice, soft bed or couch. But I like being out here.”

“I could have one of those brought out to you, if you wished.”

“No,” she began, lightly shaking her head, “it’s ok. I’m probably just going to go back to sleep.”

“Alright, love,” he said, still stroking her hair. “I’ll stick around for a bit and check on you as much as I can, but please, call if you need me.” She gave him a small nod, then drifted back to sleep.

Several hours later, she awoke to Janus again sitting near her, a pillow under her head, and a blanket covering her. She smiled softly at him, her eyes still half closed. “How late is it?”

“About the time when most are going to bed,” he replied with a small smile.

“Hmm, baby is taking more and more out of me. But it shouldn’t be much longer until he’s due.”

“‘He?’”

“At this point, a guess, but I should know for certain in a couple weeks.” She paused, her expression subtly changing. “Like the other two.”

Janus returned to stroking her face and mane at that point. Her previous owner had used her as a brood mare. She had been through many pregnancies, but none quite like this, he thought. To his knowledge, she had only carried two foals to term before, both of them male, but after a few hours, they had been taken from her and she never saw them again. Within a few days, she would have been tossed back into the breeding program. Part of the reason this is such a problem for her now. He gave a quiet sigh, then asked after a few moments, “Would you ever want to know them?”

“Someday, perhaps.” She paused for another moment of silence, then looked up at Janus. “The older is named Jesse, the younger is Cody. I was allowed that much, so I gave them the names of a couple of the males of the compound. House slaves, to be exact. They helped me through all my pregnancies.”

“We both lived lives without any real love for a long time. To live like that is… unpleasant at best. Never knowing or remembering your parents.” He sighed, then looked into her eyes. “When you’re ready to find your boys, I’ll help you.”

“Thank you,” she smiled. There were several more minutes of silence between them before Snowhawk finally asked, “So, just what was Adian doing out here earlier?”

Janus shrugged. “Not a clue. Though it’d be safe to bet to say he was planning something.”

“Do you think he would try anything?” she questioned.

“Catching the prey while it’s weak?” Janus nodded. “Be careful around him. He gets enough ideas on his own. Though if he values his life and his ability to even have sex, he’ll not touch you.”

*********

Adian sighed as he watched his brother and Snowhawk over the monitor. He had seen someone sneaking around the estate over the past couple of months, apparently stalking Snowhawk. Security cameras made keeping up with her easier, and they proved useful at other times as well. At first, the watcher was not a concern, then Adian caught him sitting near her one night as she slept. He could not catch a good glimpse of the man, other than long, dark silvery-gray hair, but did succeed in chasing him away. After that incident, he installed the cameras. Neither Janus or Snowhawk knew about the watcher.

The younger brother again sighed and leaned back in his chair. He had no rational explanation for wanting to keep her safe, especially considering she was unattainable. He finally decided that it was to keep Janus happy, for if Janus was happy, then he kept his nose out of his fur. “Actually,” he said aloud, “that doesn’t explain a damn thing. Why should I protect her for his sake?” He paused, then continued to talk to no one but himself. “At almost seven months pregnant, she’s very vulnerable. Maybe I’m trying to change her view of me, but to what since she doesn’t have a bad view of me? I wish I could figure this out.”

He sighed a third time, then leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk and his chin in his hands, to watch her sleeping form. “Who knows? Maybe things will change in the future.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 9

Nytehawk sighed as she looked at the calendar. “Em’bar, three months to go.”

“I wish she would come back,” Legacy pouted as he flopped down onto a couch.

“You aren’t the only one, Legacy,” Nytehawk pointed out. “Everyone wants her here, but I guess she doesn’t feel safe.”

“I couldn’t protect her,” he again stated, curling forward in defeat. “I failed my mission.”

Nytehawk put a hand to her forehead, aggravated at the young Guardian. “No, Legacy, you did what you were supposed to do. You kept her safe when she needed it. Now, I guess it’s a case of– ”

“Of what?” he asked, looking up.

“She lived her life without a Guardian,” Sophie began as she walked back into the room from the balcony, sitting in a chair across from Legacy. “She can, has, and will survive without one. No offense.”

“That was a little harsh, Sophie,” Jerome commented as he entered from the hallway.

“Harsh, but true. Snowhawk is simply one of those that doesn’t need a Guardian.”

“How many times has she nearly lost her life?” Jerome inquired.

“Just one I know of,” the gray female replied, referring to Snowhawk’s last mission.

“I’m sure there were others she never told us about,” Jerome replied, making his case for her need of protection. “And that’s not including the number of times she was pregnant.”

Legacy shook his head, again sighing, then he stood from the couch. “I can’t listen to this,” he mumbled as he left the room.

Jerome glared at Sophie. “I seriously hope you don’t think you’re helping, Sophie.”

“I didn’t figure you’d want to hear my part on this,” she responded, returning his glare.

“Not really,” the golden Guardian replied.

Sophie shook her head at him. “You’ve not changed a bit, Jerome.”

“Oh?” he voiced, quirking an eyebrow.

“Yes,” she snapped. “You still think everything is so clean cut. Black and white, good and bad. Sorry, dear, it’s not. Don’t I wish it was, though. If it were, then Snowhawk wouldn’t be so damn confused about her feelings. I’m sure she loves Legacy and the rest of you dearly, self obviously excluded, but she does love Janus as well. She wants all of you happy, but it can’t be that way, so she stays where she feels safest. Janus was there for her more than any of you. So, that’s why she’s still there. She had tried to convince herself that he was ‘bad’ but she never could. Hell, she probably can’t even remember the real reason she left him anyway, outside of the little tiff they supposedly had.”

Jerome could only blink. Sophie had never been so vocal about her opinions before. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“Where did what come from?” she half growled, her defenses still raised.

“You would have never bitched me or anyone else like that before.”

“Dying changes beings. I don’t have to be afraid of anything now.”

“Dying?!” Nytehawk exclaimed. “Sophie, I–”

“There’s nothing that can be done, Nyte,” Sophie explained, cutting her off. “My owner didn’t appreciate the fact I couldn’t kill you.”

Nytehawk was shocked. “Kill me?”

“Yes,” Sophie sighed, “I was supposed to kill you, but Legacy opened his damn mouth at the wrong time.”

“Legacy was in on it?!” Nytehawk asked, still surprised.

“Not exactly, but he was supposed to be my cover,” she grumbled.

Nytehawk looked faint. “Why me?”

“Because my owner knew you were basically the number two slave, just behind Snow. He wasn’t stupid enough to target her. Seriously anyway,” she added. “He knew Legacy could never kill her.”

“Jerome, did you know?” Nytehawk half gasped.

“Yes,” he nodded, “and I did my part to protect you then, as I do now.”

“Regardless of where the threat came from.” Sophie sighed, dropping her head, then stood a moment later. “I guess I’ll be leaving now. I’m sure you find me too much of a threat to stay.”

Nytehawk looked to Jerome, then to Sophie after her Guardian answered her glance with a shrug. “Sophie, wait. You don’t have to leave.”

Sophie stopped for a moment, then replied, “I’ll think about it. I may return in a few hours.” She walked out the door, leaving the other two Delphin in silence.

“Do you think she’s still dangerous?” Nytehawk finally asked.

“It would depend on if she’s here on her own accord, or if she’s working for someone again,” he replied.

“That’s not an answer, Jerome,” she noted.

Jerome nodded. “Personally, I don’t think she ever was a real threat. She always was very kind.”

“Just had the wrong influences,” Nytehawk finished. Jerome nodded in agreement as she continued. “Like my cousin.”

“How did you know about that?” he asked, canting his head to the side curiously.

“We were barely apart from the time I was five,” she smirked. “I’m not so blind that I didn’t know about her and Janus.”

“She never intended for you to know what she was doing when she’d leave, you know,” the Guardian mentioned.

“I know,” Nytehawk replied, “but it’s not like I couldn’t figure it out.”

Jerome just smirked and shook his head. “Never could fool you for long.”

*********

Sophie walked through the city streets, alone as usual. She thought about her past and the things she had done. And she remembered how most of it was triggered by accidentally meeting Janus.

~~~~~~~~~

“Sophie, could you show Janus and his companion to the guest house?” her owner, a man named Bryce, commanded.

“Yes, sir,” she quietly bowed.

“Legacy, accompany them,” he added, receiving a bow of acknowledgment from the soon-to-be Guardian. Bryce turned to Janus, then gave a small, respectful bow. “I apologize for not showing you myself. I’ll come check on you in a couple of hours. I figured this little– problem I’m having would have sorted itself out by now.”

The other slaver waved his hand in dismissal. “It’s no problem, Bryce. I understand as well as any, better than some.” Another small bow followed, then Bryce turned and hurried off.

“This way, please,” Sophie quietly said. She led them around the main house. Legacy followed the little group, almost too obviously staring at the rear of Janus’ Delphin companion. The lavender female walked just behind and to the right of Janus. Her head was lowered and her eyes remained closed as they walked, yet only once did her hoof catch on a stone of the pathway. As quiet as she was, she seemed to be studying the area.

Janus happened to glance back and noted Legacy’s gaze fixated on his female’s amethyst tail. He smirked, then plainly stated, “You could be a little more discreet about staring at her ass.”

Legacy immediately stopped, only managing a blink as the others kept walking.

“You’ll have to forgive Legacy, sir. He doesn’t see many new females and already seems to be tired of staring at all of our tails,” Sophie dryly replied, stopping the little group.

“It’s alright. Snowhawk’s tail seems to attract many gazes,” he replied, standing next to his companion. The lavender Delphin’s expression had not changed and she still had not opened her eyes. Her ears moved about slowly, but other than her breathing, she made no other movement.

“… If I may ask,” Sophie began, “what is she doing?”

“Listening,” he grinned. “Forming a picture in her head with sound rather than images.”

“Oh,” she replied, a little more than confused, then continued on to the guest house. She opened the door for them, motioning inside. “Your quarters, sir. Shall I show you around?”

“No, but thank you. I would like to speak with Legacy, though,” Janus replied nodding toward the male Delphin.

Sophie nodded. “Very well. Legacy, I’ll inform Bryce where you are.” She gave another small bow, then quickly left.

The next day, as Sophie returned to the guest house to check on Janus and his companion, she found the slaver standing near the compound’s lake, intently staring across it. “Good morning, sir,” she stated as she approached him.

He nodded his head to her. “Good morning, Sophie.”

“If you don’t mind that I ask, what are you looking at?” she queried.

“Snowhawk is swimming,” he replied. “I’m waiting for her to surface. This is training for her.”

“’Training,’ sir?” she asked tilting her head to the side.

“My dear Snowhawk gathers information for me from my enemies,” he explained. “She prefers to train as much as she can.”

“Oh…” she replied, filing the information away in her head to tell Bryce later.

~~~~~~~~~

“And with that one meeting, I made an enemy out of someone I could have called a friend.” Sophie sighed, then stopped to look where her hooves had carried her. She found herself in front the the estate of her old owner. The place had fallen into disrepair since he had died. “But who would I be now if he wasn’t dead?” she asked, thinking no one was around.

“What does it matter, Sophie?” Legacy asked as he neared her.

Sophie jumped at the sound of his voice. “Dammit, Legacy, I wish you wouldn’t do that!”

“So,” he began, standing in front of her, “why did you accept that mission anyway? You knew you’d never succeed.”

“If you had kept your damn mouth shut I would have. But no, you had to talk and you let it slip what I was there for. I was almost killed then and I’m dying now.” She was near to losing her temper again.

“Sophie– ”

“You stupid Guardian!” she yelled, shaking with anger. “Because of you I will die within two years. Because of you I had the shit beaten out of me. Do you have any idea of what happened to me?”

“No,” he honestly answered.

“You wouldn’t,” she growled. “Why do you think I never show my wings anymore? And why do you think I stayed locked in my room for weeks after that? Why was there a perpetual red stain on my back until all the new fur grew in?

“They took your wings?” he asked, surprised.

“Yes, Legacy, they took my wings. They ripped them from my back, hoping it would kill me,” she replied in a bitter tone. “When that didn’t work, he decided a slow, painful death would be better punishment. I’m being eaten away, one cell at a time. And no, no one can save me. It’s a modified Vampiric toxin.”

The Guardian took a step back. He didn’t know what to say.

“And you…” she continued in that same tone, stepping toward him. “You failed as well, but they didn’t do a thing to you. They couldn’t since you were their power play. The one that would kill Janus’ little pet and weaken him so they could deliver the final strike.”

“Sophie, I never meant for any of this to happen to y–”

Again, she interrupted him. “Bullshit! You did. You should have killed her then and you wouldn’t be feeling like you’ve ‘failed’ now.”

“… I am not using my final option,” he quietly replied.

She gave him a bitter smirk. “Oh, but you’ll think about it. Give her three more months and you’ll be very seriously thinking about it. Every day with him is less of a chance she’ll come back to you.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 10

Winter proved harsh that year, but this only made Snowhawk wish to be outside more. Janus watched his love as she rested in front of the window, looking at the falling snow. She was well into her eighth month now, and the month and a half following would be the hardest yet. For some reason, this baby was taking much more out of her than anyone originally thought. She was now almost completely unable to get up on her own, adding to her frustration at not being able to get outside.

“This boy had better not be a hellion to raise,” she mumbled. “He’s causing enough trouble as it is.”

Janus could not help but smile. Even through all this, she could still joke about it. That was one of the many things he loved about her. She seemed lost in thought and was currently as peaceful as the snow falling outside, but he knew her mind was a storm of emotions. She did not claim to know what to do, but he knew, deep in her heart, the answer was clear. However, the sheer consequences of that answer brought him the most worry.

*********

Legacy, also lost in thought, walked along the snow-covered sidewalks of the city. His mate was little more than two months from the end of her pregnancy, and he couldn’t help her through the end. He didn’t even know if the child would be his son or his daughter.

In addition to everything, Sophie had vanished some six weeks ago. She never said where she was going, or why. No one had seen her, and it was unknown if she was still alive.

“This month has been pointless,” he commented to no one.

“You’re such a damn pessimist,” a male voice commented. Legacy jumped and spun around to see a black-furred Delphin with silver markings, a ruby horn, and a silver mane and tail. “Skittish too.”

“Who are you?” Legacy nervously asked, taking a step backwards.

“Just call me Onyx,” the dark Delphin smirked. “No need to fill me in about your story, I know what’s going on.”

Legacy took another step backwards and cautiously eyed the other male. “What’s it to you?”

Onyx sighed and grinned. “Can we just say that I knew Snowhawk many years ago and leave it that that?”

“Knew her?” Legacy questioned. “How so?”

The black male smirked again. “Aren’t you the jealous one?”

“I think I have right to be,” Legacy replied, glaring.

“Try getting your mind out of the gutter. I knew Snow, and Nyte, strictly as friends.” He seemed to think about this for a moment, then nodded to himself. “Close friends.”

The borderline innuendo had begun to aggravate Legacy. “You are not gaining my trust…”

“Legacy,” Onyx sighed, “loosen up a little. I have a need to keep what I know secret for now. Just relax and play along and all will be revealed soon.”

The Guardian frowned. “Can’t you tell me anything?”

Onyx’s smirk returned. “Fine, if you must know, I am a Royal Guard. One of the very last.” Legacy’s eyes widened in surprise as Onyx continued. “My duty was to protect that family line. However, I am well over a thousand years old and will not be around forever. I was training another as a Guard for that family when we lost track of them.” Legacy opened his mouth, as if to ask a question, but Onyx cut him off. “No, I don’t know where my student is. Our owner was very cruel and she attempted an escape. Her mate was killed during the attempt, and I never found out what happened to her.”

Legacy just nodded slowly. “So, do you have a plan?”

“Would you follow it if I did?” Onyx returned, sternly looking at the younger Delphin. Legacy just dropped his head at that. “Remember Sophie’s words, Legacy: Snowhawk may not need a Guardian, but your son will need a father. Until I contact you again, I suggest you not interfere. You have not lost her yet, but you still easily could.” Onyx bowed to him, then turned and trotted off into the city.

Legacy stood silent for a moment. “He said ‘son’… Could he really know, or was it a guess?” He looked as the red-tinted, clouded sky sent more flurries to the city. “I guess I should get back to the house,” he sighed, then slowly plodded through the snow back to Nytehawk’s home.

*********

“Leaving the party so soon, Sophie?” Onyx asked as he appeared near the female. “Pity you won’t get to see the outcome, then– Or keep your promise to them.”

Sophie stopped walking and glanced toward him. “They don’t want me around, Onyx. No one ever has. You should be able to see that.”

“Indeed,” he replied, canting his head to the side. “Of is it that you just don’t want yourself around? Nytehawk doesn’t care about your past. She feels that if you want to make up for it, then you should be there.”

“I’m sure,” she returned dryly.

“Don’t doubt me, Sophie. I make it a point to know all this,” the black Delphin smirked.

“So, Onyx,” Sophie began, sounding a little more than annoyed, “what are you doing here?”

“My job,” he replied, inclining his head slightly. “Making sure Nytehawk is safe and that Snowhawk is not being kept against her will.”

“And is she?” Sophie inquired.

Onyx shook his head. “No, she’s not. Now, at this point, if we can just get Legacy to understand that, we’ll have made some progress.”

“Hell will freeze over before he understands that she doesn’t need him.”

“We both know that Janus is perhaps the only being that can understand Snowhawk. Legacy doesn’t really even try, and that is the last thing she needs.”

Sophie nodded slowly, then looked off blankly. “I’m not going back,” she replied after several minutes of silence.

Onyx folded his ears back and took a step towards her. “Sophie–”

“Don’t start, Onyx. You’re far more useful than I’ll ever be to them.” She dropped her head and closed her eyes. “History doesn’t prove to anyone I’m reliable or trustworthy.”

“So change it,” he simply stated. “Prove them all wrong.”

She looked up at him. “How?”

“You’ll have to figure that much out on your own, Sophie,” he said with a half smile. I can’t help you there.”

“I don’t know if I should thank you or not…”

Onyx shook his head lightly and turned. “Just go back to them. You’ll figure something out.”

“I don’t even know where to start,” she said as she watched him disappear.