Past Secrets, v0.5

(Chapters 1-15: These are the originals, minus the side story between chapters 6 and 7. Everything past chapter 15 was the same, but these were the rewritten ones. I’m adding them here, in a single post, as they are each short on their own. These chapters are why the CW of the novel is what it is, and they are very much “view at your own risk.”)

Chapter 1

When one finds their soul mate, their lover’s past is, usually, not an issue. Yet secrecy can often harm more than help. It can even be deadly at times…

*********

Under a full moon, a lone, female, vaguely equine-like creature sat on the railing of a balcony, her long legs gently kicking back and forth while a soft breeze teased her mane and tail. With a quiet sigh, her head dropped, chin to her chest. Her silver – blue mane fell across her shoulders, shadowing her gentle aqua eyes further from the night. She was deep in thought when a pair of strong arms slipped around her, startling her back to reality. “Hunter…” she whispered, leaning back towards him. He simply held her tighter and nuzzled her neck.

Hunter whispered quietly to her, “Nytehawk…my beautiful bird…”

She smirked at a running joke between them. “Bird only by name, love.”

He was another of her kind, a delphin, equine creatures resembling a cross between a horse and a human. Nothing is known of their origins, but the sad fact is that most of them have been, at some point in their lives, slaves. Hunter was lucky, he was born outside of slavery, to free parents and in a place where slavery was not taken lightly. Nytehawk, however, was just the opposite. She was born into slavery and the only reason she is free is because her master was killed and the slaves set free. This is all Hunter knew of her past.

He gently nipped at her neck, drawing out a quiet whicker from her. “What’s wrong, my bird?”

“Something is coming…The winds carry a familiar scent.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Something that can only bring trouble.”

“What is it?”

“My past has come back to haunt me, I’m afraid.”

“What needs to be done?”

“I’ll go and take care of it in the morning. Shouldn’t take long.”

“Want me to come with you?”

“No. No sense in putting you in danger.”

“Danger?” he asked, concern quite noticeable in his voice. “How much of your past haven’t you told me?”

“It’s nothing important. I’ll be fine going alone…and it’ll be easier that way.”

He sighed in resignation and hugged her tightly. “Whatever you say, Nyte…”

As they slept that night, Hunter gently rubbed the sleeping Nytehawk’s firm, fur – covered stomach, thinking to himself. “What are you hiding that’s so dangerous?” He nuzzled her neck again and sighed quietly. “So mysterious…Yet I wouldn’t have you any other way…” he whispered to the sleeping female, receiving her quiet, ragged sigh in response.

*********

At dawn the next day, Nytehawk quietly slipped away from Hunter and headed out to confront a piece of her past she thought long dead. Her slender form walked down the silent street, the sound of her hooves piercing the foggy morning.

A lone figure appeared in the fog. Human, male, and long blue – white hair, the same color as her fur. She stopped a few feet away from him, her figure still partially cloaked in the slowly rolling fog.

“Angel?” he asked quietly and unsure.

She gave him a small, almost predatory smile. “Nytehawk now…” She shifted into her human form, aqua eyes gleaming and her silver – blue hair blowing in a slight wind. She flicked her long bangs out of her eyes and grinned at him again. “Why have you come back? After all you did, you came back.” Her normally gentle eyes burned with anger at him.

“I wanted to see you…”

“Don’t give me that crap, Janus.”

“Fine. I came back for you.”

“Oh?” she smirked.

He walked toward her quickly, backing her into a wall. “Yes, you,” he restated, grabbing her upper arms and kissing her a bit roughly. Breaking the kiss, he pulled away from her, his grip on her arms loosening his grip on her arms.

She slowly opened her eyes and began to chuckle. “You never were a good kisser…”

“Oh?” he said quirking an eyebrow.

“Yeah…” she grinned, leaning towards him, then in one smooth movement, had him forced against the wall.

“What the hell?!”

“You can’t have me, Gate Keeper. I’m already taken. But one last thing before I go.” Now it was him pinned against the wall and she was in charge, returning the favor. She pulled away slowly, giving him a bit of advice. “Remember what you lost, Janus. What could have been…”

She turned to leave when he realized what had just happened. “No…You aren’t going.”

She looked over her shoulder at him. “The hell I’m not.”

He grabbed her left arm roughly. “I am not letting you walk away. I came back for you.”

“And you were too late.” She struggled to break free, but only succeeded in making him tighten his grip.

“You are mine, Nytehawk. You will always be mine.”
The last thing she remembered after he turned her back towards him, grabbing her other arm, were his piercing gray eyes, then darkness.


Chapter 2

Hunter was worried. Nytehawk had left at dawn and it was now dusk and she was still no where to be found. “Where are you, my bird? What’s keeping you?” he thought as he stood on their balcony. He hoped for the best, but feared for the worst.

The door to the balcony creaked open and he turned around quickly, hoping to see her pale form in the door. The figure in the doorway was female and a delphin, but she wasn’t Nytehawk. This female was taller than Nyte and her fur was gray, same as his. Her long platinum blond mane and tail hung in loose waves behind her. Icy – blue eyes burned with an untamed ferocity. She was fiery spirited, almost wild. Hunter blinked his violet eyes and stepped back. This female made him nervous.

“Don’t be scared, big boy. I’m not going to hurt you,” she said reassuringly. Her voice was surprisingly gentle and carried the slightest of Southern accents.

“Who are you?” he asked nervously.

She gave him a slight smile. “My name’s Sophie. I figured with the change in the wind, Nytehawk might end up in trouble.”

“How do you know Nytehawk?”

“We… went through the same hell with the slavers. I think I might know where she is, or at least who has her.”

“Where?”

“Our master…” She hesitated, trying to think of a way to phrase her words. “Nyte was never really his, but she was more like the property of the general than our true owner.”

“General?”

“Our former owner basically ruled a country, and had a fairly large army.”

“And what does this general want with Nytehawk?”

“I can only imagine.” Sophie said with disgust turning her head slightly away.

Hunter’s eyes widened and filled with anger, “What can we do?”

“We have to find Janus, no easy task there. He has more hiding places than I can remember. I suggest letting him contact you.”

“How long could that take?”

“However long it takes for him to find out about you.” Hunter frowned slightly. “Don’t worry. He probably already knows about you… depending on how loud Nytehawk is…”

*********

Nytehawk awoke slowly in strange surroundings, her head pounding incessantly. A few moments later, she began to piece together her location. She first felt the weight of a leather halter on her head and heard the light chain attached to it rattle as she moved. The bed she was on was Queen sized with a wrought iron head and foot board and surrounded by mosquito netting, preventing her from seeing past the edge of the bed.

Janus sat on a window sill, watching, waiting for Nytehawk to awaken. he heard the chain attached to her halter rattle and tightened his grip on the other end. He would make sure she didn’t get away from him this time. He stood from his perch on the sill and walked to the bed. Pulling back the netting, he saw her laying on the middle of the bed, her back to him, mane draped across her shoulders and spread out behind her. Her knees were pulled almost to her chest, one arm was under her head and the opposite hand lay across her face. She didn’t turn to acknowledge his presence. No need as she already knew who it was. Her tail flicked once, covering most of her legs. Janus grinned and gave a small throaty chuckle. He reached toward her, gently taking hold of her mane sliding it off her shoulders and neck. He ran his forefinger along her cheekbone, resulting in her moving her head away and looking at the headboard. The black leather halter she now wore contrasted starkly with her pale complexion. It’s polished silver locks and small silver studs sparkled in the dim light. He gathered up her mane, feeling the soft texture. “It’s more like a human’s hair than a horses…” he thought as he ran his fingers through it, combing it out a bit.

She drew her head back towards her chest. She didn’t mind him combing her mane out. In a way, she liked it. But his touch… it made her shiver. Not like when Hunter touched her. Hunters touch was warm and caring. Janus’s touch though was ice cold. To him, she was only an object. She gave a barely audible cry of pain as he raked his sharp fingernails across the small of her back. Where her shirt and jeans did not meet, she now trickled the slightest bit of blood, her pale fur staining red.

Janus gave another throaty chuckle and went back to playing with her mane, beginning to braid it now. “Mine…” he whispered.

Nytehawk closed her aqua eyes and looked away from him as much as she could. She was going to escape from him. Go back to Hunter and his caring touch. She would get back to him… or die fighting.


Chapter 3

Delphin are, in general, very tolerant creatures… However they have their limits. Nytehawk was streatched to her’s. It had been months since he captured her again. Between Janus showing her off at all the parties he held and attended, she rarely slept. When she did sleep, it was never fully. The constant wondering of where he was kept her slightly awake. Then there were also the nights in his cold embrace… The sleep deprivation was beginning to affect her. She rarely ate anymore and her already slim figure became even slimmer. Once bright aqua eyes no longer glimmered with life and her once boundless energy was nearly gone. Still, she tried to keep herself occupied, mostly through dance. A now half-hearted attempt to keep her fading strength up.

She began her streatching early one morning when the thought Janus was asleep. Unfortunaetly, he wasn’t. He had been watching her human figure for the past half hour. He crept up behind her slipping his arms around her waist. She inhaled sharply and froze at his touch.

“Calm…” he whispered, pulling her closer to him. “Breathe…” he added, noticing she had been holding her breath. He turned her around so she was now facing him. An attempt by her to pull away from him only resulted in him pulling her closer. She leaned away from him, but he refused to let go of her. “Don’t fight me, Nytehawk.” To weak to fight him any longer, she dropped her head in defeat, allowing him to embrace her. A single tear roled down her cheek, going unoticed by him as it evaporated on her jaw.

*********

“When a delphin spends their as a life as a slave, they can never truly be free. Especially slaves like Nytehawk.”

Hunter listened intently to the grey-furred female sitting across from him. “Why?”

“She was born into slavery. She’s a ‘trophy’ to them. A status symbol. I wasn’t born into that life. I was captured as a child. Sadly, slavery is really the earliest memory she has. Janus has probally been treating her as if she’s never been gone. And she won’t be able to fight him forever. A rebuilt spirit is fragile. She may appear strong, but she’ll only be able to take so much.”

“And what if she’s given up?”

“Then Janus has won. He’s accomplished what he set out to do. He’s reclaimed her and probally never had to use any sort of force. As I said she’s a prize slave. If he was to use something like that thrice-damned halter they often used me, it would decrease her value. Scars on the face are a real quick way to decrease a slave’s value.” She looked away, disgusted at her memories.

Hunter leaned back and looked toward the window, watching as a light rain fell and small rivulets of rain water streaked the outside of the glass. They had been waiting for Janus to come to them, or at least let his presence be known, but it now appeared that wasn’t to be. Sophie had been checkingaround, listening for any clues as to Janus’s whereabouts. No one was talking. She could find out nothing more than he was frequenting many parties, accompained by his prize. None of her sources would reveal any of the locations though.

He stood an walked to the window and loked down at Nyte’s balcony, her ‘perch.’ This would have been perfect weather for her to sit and think. He rested his head against the cool glass, sighing quietly.

Sophie watched him. She could see the pain in him. She realised there was only one option left for them. “There is one card we haven’t played…” she began.

“What?” he replied, confused.

“Jerome. Her guardian.”

“Guardian?”

“Yeah. Appointed to her at birth, but unable to do much to help her as he was a slave himself. His attempts to protect her usually ended up with him being beaten. He did help her escape, but she hasn’t seen him since.”

“Any idea where he is?”

“No. And it could be months before we found him.”

Hunter frowned. “So unless we get a break and find something out, he’s her last chance, right?”

Sophie nodded. “And I know you’d like to know how he’d be able to find her. As a guardian, he was trained to be more sensive to her. He’s like a bloodhound.”

Hunter inwardly smiled. They might just have a chance if they can find this guy. ‘…If…’ he thought to himself, ‘that’s the operative word there…’

“It’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack without him,” Sophie comented.

Hunter nodded in agreement. “But we’ll need a bloodhound of our own to find him.”

“Maybe…but if he’s kept his training up, he’ll be able to sense that she needs him,” the blond-maned female responded, thinking over the options.

Elsewhere, miles from the nearest sign of civilization, a glimmer of gold comes to life, forming great, feathered wings. He has been called for and duty says that he reply. With a flash of silver moonlight on his long, golden horn and his gold hooves sparking against rocks in the ground the guardian took off toward the call.


Chapter 4

Nytehawk stared absently at the ceiling. He had done it again. She mentally kicked herself for not fighting him off longer. She had never wanted this life and never intended to return to it. But what was it about the best laid plans oft going awry? She turned onto her side and now stared at the cold, stone wall.

The weight of another on the bed was soon followed by an arm slipping across her waist and attempting to pull her equine form closer. She gave no resistance, but offered him no help either.

“Stubborn…” Janus whispered, snaking his other arm around her at the point where her neck and shoulder met.

A hundred terms describing him raced through her mind, many quite explicit. But she remained silent as always.

Janus moved the hand at her waist and began to rub her back, stopping high enough to avoid the four scars he himself had caused. Within a few moments, Nyte was asleep, the faint trails her tears had left in her fur going unnoticed. He grinned to himself, thinking it amusing that she could still be put to sleep that way. He slid his arm back across her waist and gently scratched her stomach, soon falling asleep himself.

*********

Outside, watching through the window, a golden-furred delphin clung to the side of the fortress. After a few more moments of watching Janus basically treat her like some giant, life-sized plushie, the watcher left his perch. Gliding to the ground on his golden wings, he looked back to the window to make sure the golden feather he had left was still there. A glint was all he needed to see, then turned and began to walk away. He had failed to protect her before and he’d be damned if he failed her again.

That was several years ago. She was taken from her mother at a year of age. He ws three at the time and in trying to protect her, managed only to get himself beaten. Then six years ago, there was a repeat of his beating when he attempted to free her. That had been the last he had seen of her as she had been bought by another slaver. Then he wound up near her again for a short time, and managed to save her a final time before he was moved.

He walked along the outskirts of the city when, in passing a substantial, four-story stone mansion, he sensed others of his kind He trotted up to a tall, elegant iron gate. As he drew closer to the house, he recognized at least one of the delphins he sensed. An all too familiar female, one he didn’t particularity want to see again.

Sophie awoke suddenly from the light sleep she had fallen in to. Had she actually sensed who she thought she had? She cursed and wished her minimal skills were better honed. She glanced at Hunter. He had fallen asleep studying possible leads. She smiled softly at him, then walked toward the window. The golden fur of another delphin caught her attention. She had sensed him. It hadn’t taken a rocket scientist to figure that the guardian would appear soon. Her emotions tugged her in different directions. On one hand, she wanted to run out to him; on the other she wanted to put as much distance between them as possible. Realizing, though, that she’d eventually have to confront him, she sighed and walked toward the door.

The golden one stood outside, waiting. A massive wooden door on black iron hinges slowly creaked open and he watched as Sophie stepped through it. She slowly blinked her icy blue eyes and looked at him. “Been a long time, Jerome…”

“What are you doing here, Sophie?”

“Trying to find the very delphin you were supposed to be guarding.”

Jerome glared at her.

“Oh don’t give me that death-glare. You know damn well that Nyte is like a sister to me.”

“And you know that, had I been able to find her, I would have stopped Janus from getting anywhere near her.”

“You would have tried to stop him…”

“What?”

“You think I didn’t try?”

He looked at her questioningly. “Oh?”

“I’ll spare you the gory details, but yeah…” She looked away for a moment then looked back at him. “We need your help on this, J. Everything that was between us aside.”

Jerome slowly shook his head in agreement. “Very well. But once we get her back…me and you are gonna have a long talk.”

She nodded her head like a scolded child, then lead the golden guardian inside. Just before entering the house, Jerome stopped and looked in the shadows of the trees behind him. He caught a glimpse of deep purple hair vanish into the shadows. He felt it best not to pursue and followed Sophie into the house.

Outside, hidden in the shadows, a small female delphin grinned. She stretched her large, bat-like wings and trotted away. The darkening sky became her cloak ad she vanished from view of anyone watching from the house. She knew more than any of those three and it was almost time to pass along some of her information. “Almost…” she smirked, fully vanishing into the darkness.

 

Chapter 5

The sound of hooves on asphalt piercing the foggy night air was the only indication that anyone was about. The lone delphin that quickly made her way down the street kept a nervous watch around her, hiding her bat – like wings as many of her kind do. She ducked into her apartment building and silently made her way up the stairs.

Once in her apartment, she wandered over to her couch and flopped down onto it. Her amethyst mane hung behind the couch, shimmering in the low lights. She sighed heavily and soon drifted off to sleep.

Her piece was not to last though as she woke up upon sensing another within “grab-‘n’-throw” distance. She managed to grab an arm before the other pulled her to her hooves. A gentle hand touched her face, finally calming her down. “Wha… Legacy?” she said, still half asleep.

“You need to relax, Snowhawk,” the other, a tall, golden – eyed, silvery – brown maned male replied.

“You worry too much…”

“I’m your guardian, that’s my job.” She smirked and sat back down. He soon sat down next to her. “What’d you find out?”

She sighed and frowned. “Nothing much we didn’t already know. Janus has Nyte… has for a while. Jerome’s confused over something, though… He might not be much help.”

“And Hunter?”

“It’s too personal. They way he’s thinking of going about this, he’ll end up getting himself killed.”

“What about Sophie?”

“I don’t know what the hell her involvement in this is. As far as I know, she could be working for Janus.”

“She could be J’s problem… After all they were…”

“Yeah. Then she pulled that stunt. I don’t think we can trust her. I don’t want her to screw this up. I was almost killed because of her once… so was Nyte.” Snow paused and dropped her head.

“We’ll free her, Snow. And get rid of Janus as well.” Legacy put his arms around her. “I’ll go and let you sleep, then come back in a few hours so we can work.” He touched her scarred face, then whispered, “We’ll make it through this.”

As he stood to go, Snow grabbed his arm. “Please… stay here… I’ll sleep better…”

Unable to resist her “please-I’m-completly-incapable-of-defending-myself” look, he simply sighed, took his jacket off, tossing it across the back of the couch, and sat back down. Snow smiled and cuddled up to him, soon falling asleep. Moments later, Legacy had fallen asleep as well.

*********

As a general, unwritten rule, Guardians and the ones they protect do not get romantically involved. The reason is the simple fact that should the Guardian be killed while protecting, or worse yet fail to protect, the blame the survivor placed on themselves is reduced.

However, Snowhawk, being Snowhawk, she had no regard for such unwritten rules. She felt the benefits greatly outweighed the risks.

On the other hoof, Jerome decided six years ago that a relationship with Nytehawk would never be.

He stared at the gray – furred female across the room. He had loved her, trusted her, and she had betrayed him. Not to mention nearly getting Nyte and her cousin killed.

Sophie could feel Jerome glaring at her. She knew he’d be angry still. The mistakes of her past, especially this one, would haunt her until the day she died. She had been young, stupid, and too confused to realize what she was doing. “I’m sorry…” she whispered.

“What?” a slightly confused Jerome replied.

“I’m sorry…” she repeated. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I didn’t know that…”

“No. You knew, all right,” he snapped, cutting her off. “You just don’t want to admit it. Let me ask you this; do you think ‘sorry’ is gonna make everything all right?”

“No…”

“No, it’s not.”

“That’s why I’m here. Damnit, I want to at least TRY and help. Plus,” she began, “I have nothing, now. Except my friends… at least those who were…”

“Are you asking to be forgiven?” Jerome asked, looking at her, then looking away. “Asking us to just forget everything?”

“No. I’m asking you to let me help. And don’t mention this to Hunter… I’ll tell him on my own time…”

“You got a plan?”

“Kinda. But you’ll have to trust me enough to work in my own way.”

“Just don’t get us killed,” he said as he stood then walked out the door.

*********

Nytehawk sat, unmoving, at the long table in Janus’s dining hall. The multitude of guests was becoming overwhelming. As if it hadn’t been before… she thought. Her head ached. She wanted away from them all, away from the noise, the lights. Mostly away from Janus who was currently standing behind her, one hand on her shoulder, the other absently toying with a lock of her equine mane.

“You’re going to starve unless you eat, Nyte,” Janus whispered to her.

“I don’t feel good…” she replied.

Janus sighed and stood her up. He excused the two of them and led her into the hallway. “What the hell do you think you’re accomplishing?” he demanded as he backed her into the wall.

She wouldn’t look at or answer him.

Janus dropped his head and sighed. “I see…” He paused for a moment, then grabbed her upper arm and took her to her room. He sat her on the bed, then left to return to his guests and make sure she had food sent up to her. Nytehawk soon fell asleep in the darkness of the room as quiet music played to keep out the noise of party below.

*********

Janus sighed as he walked back down to the party. He felt like he was losing his hold on her, but he didn’t know why. He also felt his emotions toward her growing. If he had the ability to love another, one could say that was what he felt for Nytehawk. His methods of showing his affection left a little to be desired, though.

He didn’t know how to express his emotions properly. Both his parents had died before he was five years old and the slaver he had worked for was also his distant uncle. His uncle had spoiled him, given him everything he wanted and so Janus associated material gifts with love. There was no other affection shown to him by his uncle. At 14, Nytehawk had basically been one of Janus’s gifts. Around the same time, Janus began to show great skill in the art and tactics of warfare. His uncle made him the general of his army at 15 and gave him another delphin. This slave was three months older than Nytehawk and had pale purple fur, a deep amethyst horn spiraled in silver and a deep purple mane and tail. She also had the marks of a spiked halter on her face.

“She may be scarred, but her true strength lies in her intelligence,” his uncle had told him. “She has a work ethic of complete a job as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible. She’s also a perfect match for your tactical skills.” Janus remembered her icy glare most.

Unfortunately, his uncle hadn’t warned him about her temper. When Janus attempted to apply medication to her scars the night he received her, she had attacked him. Had Nytehawk not been nearby to pull her away, he might have been killed. The younger whispered to the older one something he didn’t understand, but the older delphin calmed down and allowed him to apply the medication to her face.

He did find that her quick temper was useful in gathering information. She had won wars for him. Her status as tactician and reconnaissance gave her more freedom of movement than the other slaves, but her punishment for attempting to escape was much harsher.

*********

Janus never returned to the party, instead returning to Nytehawk’s room. He sat down on her bed and gently combed out her long, silver – blue mane with his fingers. As he sat in the darkness, he began to remember more about the lavender – furred delphin. She was Nytehawk’s cousin… He hadn’t thought of her for years and found it strange that she should appear in his thoughts so suddenly. He also found it strange that her name, which he hadn’t thought of in the same time, was suddenly remembered; his violet tactician, Snowhawk.


Chapter 6

Snowhawk awoke in Legacy’s arms several hours after she had drifted off to sleep. She looked up at him and smiled, nuzzling him. “So sweet…” she whispered, gently scratching his cheek. She then attempted to slip away, only to discover her left leg, from the hip down, was asleep. She fell off the couch and landed, fairly hard, on her left hip. Regardless, she still tried to stand.

Legacy chuckled. “Having problems?”

“Uhm… Yeah,” she said, feeling her face flush. She smiled and looked away. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s all right, Snow, ” he said as he stood. He leaned over her and easily picked her up, setting her on her hooves. “Can you walk?”

“I think I can manage,” she replied, limping into her bedroom.

Legacy followed as she vanished through the doorway. He caught sight of her as she turned into her large closet. “So what’s the game plan?” he inquired, sitting down on her bed.

“I need to talk with Jerome and Sophie,” she began, her words muffled as she searched for a change of clothes. “Find out what they’re up to.” She paused in her searching. “I know Sophie’ll be up to something…” She vanished behind a row of long dresses.

“You sure about that?” Legacy asked as he walked to and leaned on the door frame.

“Yep…” she replied as she pulled off her pale green shirt and threw it playfully at Legacy.

“Tease…” he mumbled.

“Oh, I can be much worse,” she grinned.

He walked to the bar the dresses hung on and attempted to look over. Snowhawk, in mock surprise, exclaimed “Peeping Tom!” and held the crimson dress she had chosen up, covering herself.

Legacy could not help but to laugh. “Very well, ma’am,” he sighed. “I shall let ye change.” He walked out of the closet in mock dejection and sat back down on the bed.

Snowhawk grinned and flipped her hair over her shoulder. Most guys would not have left. She lightly shook her head and slipped into the sleeveless, Asian – styled dress she had chosen. Wandering out of the closet, she walked over to Legacy and sat down on the bed next to him.

“Almost ready?” he asked.

“Almost,” she replied, leaving over to tie the deep amethyst ribbon anklets she was rarely with out. They matched the trim of her crimson dress.

She had chosen her “signature color” as crimson long ago. The red was vibrant and alive. It was also a reminder of her past. As much as she hated it, she refused to forget it.

*********

Janus grinned. He had heard that Snowhawk was around. He ran his fingers across the sleeping Nytehawk’s cheek. “Might as well make it a pair.” But before anything else, he needed to move. That damn guardian was getting too close. The game wasn’t any fun now. His location had been discovered too soon.

He had another mansion across town. Not too far from where Snowhawk’s apartment was, as he had been told. The last place they would think to look would be there and it would aid him in capturing Snow.

I’ll have my two birds back… he thought with a grin. He brushed Nytehawk’s forelock off her face and gently scratched above her brow ridge. “Well,” he whispered, “time to find that cousin of yours.”

*********

Snowhawk and Legacy walked to the mansion she knew to me Nytehawk’s home. Along the way, a limousine slowly cruised past them. Snow could sense another delphin… a familiar one. She blinked once, then shook away the nagging feeling to follow the vehicle.

Legacy touched her shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she replied, then walked on to the mansion.

She stopped at the door. “They already know we’re here.” She lifted her hand to knock on the great oak door when it swung silently open, a golden delphin standing behind it. “Hello, J.”

“Sn – Snowhawk…” Jerome stuttered. “I thought I sensed you last night.”

“Smart boy.” She paused for a moment. “Hello, Sophie,” she directed at a grey female coming down the stairs.

Sophie stopped and waved.

“Please, come in,” Jerome requested.

“Thank you,” Snow responded, stepping inside. “J, I’m sure you know Legacy.”

“Only slightly,” Jerome smirked. “How you doin’, Leg?”

“As well as possible,” Legacy replied.

Jerome motioned them into the living room. The sat down to discuss what was going on and what plans were being made.

“Any idea of Janus’s next move?” Jerome asked.

“Actually, yeah,” Snow began. “He has Nyte. He knows I’m around. That son of a bitch called us a ‘set’. My guess is, he’s coming after me next.”

“How long do you think you have?” Jerome inquired.

“Dunno. Couple days. Couple months.” She glanced at Legacy, who sat in shocked silence as he had just heard this for the first time.

“What about his location?”

“My guess is he’s already moving. If I know him, he thinks this is just a game. You found his hiding place, so he’s changing. He can’t have his fun if you know his hideout.”

Legacy’s shock numbed mind idly noted she was maddeningly calm.

“So,” Jerome began, “what are you going to do?”

“Only thing I can do. Wait.”

“You sure he’ll come?” Sophie asked.

“If he wants his other bird badly enough he will,” Snow replied.

They discussed what they knew for a couple hours more, then deftly changed subjects when Hunter appeared. He couldn’t know they had found her. He’d overreact and go off to get her and end up dead.

Another couple hours passed before Snow and Legacy left to return to her apartment.

“I don’t want him to capture you,” Legacy whispered, wrapping his arms around Snow.

“Neither do I. Because I know damn well what he’ll do.”

“Then let’s leave. Go somewhere else. Away from him.”

I can’t, Leg. I can’t leave Nyte in his grasp.”

“But,” he began, possessively grabbing her mane, “But there has to be another wa—”

“Janus won’t let anyone that doesn’t work for him onto his property,” she stated, cutting him off. “Not even a damn delivery person.”

Legacy sighed then lightly touched her shoulder. “Well…” he whispered, “he’s not getting you tonight.” His hands slipped around to the frog closures on her dress as he gently nipped at her neck.

*********

Three weeks later, as Snow slept in Legacy’s embrace, a call came in over his phone. “Yes?” he said upon answering. “Really? Yeah… Yeah… Ok, be right over.”

“Mmm… what is it?” Snow asked sleepily.

“Don’t worry, I can take care of it. You need your rest.” He nuzzled her, then left.

Snow stretched slightly and turned onto her other side. She thought to herself in her half – sleeping daze, Need to find that idiot Janus… get Nyte back… after sleep..,then drifted off to sleep again.

*********

Janus watched Legacy leave. “Perfect,” he whispered. “Now I can retrieve my bird.”

Over the past two weeks, Janus had been working on a way to mask his scent and mimic that of another. He had accomplished this and successfully mimicked Legacy’s scent. Fifteen minutes after Legacy left, Janus walked inside.

*********

Legacy knocked on the door of Nyte’s home. Hunter answered. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Jerome appeared behind him.

“Something happen?” Hunter asked.

“No,” Jerome replied, “go back to bed. I called Legacy over to ask his opinion on another matter.”

“What?”

“Unrelated matter,” Legacy added.

“Oh..,” Hunter yawned, then wandered away.

After he was gone, Legacy looked at Jerome. “So, what’s this about two new dels?”

“Come on back and I’ll show you.”

They walked back to the small library and Jerome showed Legacy several photographs he had just received. “Two females. Neither Sophie or I know either one.”

Legacy looked at the pictures. One female was grey green furred with sea foam green, bat like wings, similar to Snow’s, and she had ram like horns. Her mane and tail were bright green, and her eyes were bright blue. A small patch of white fur could be seen on her right forearm. She wore a necklace with a blue stone that matched her eyes.

The other female appeared younger and had a coat of yellow cream with red orange appaloosa spots all over. Her muzzle and and right hand were grey, her left hand was white, the white continuing half way up her forearm. Her hooves were white with raspberry colored stripes. She had a coronet on her right leg, her left had a stocking. Her mane was lilac in color and her tail was white with orange red stripes. In two braids and hanging on either side of her head, her forelock was similarly colored.

“Think they’re connected?” Legacy asked?

“Possibly,” the golden guardian replied.

*********

Janus crept into Snow’s room. She stirred when she sensed him but never fully awoke. Her sleep – fuzzed mind told her, from scent, this was Legacy. It appeared to Janus that his scent mask had worked. He paused for a moment to look at her slight figure. She had changed forms in her sleep and now dozed as a human. He walked to the bed and climbed across to her. Janus placed one hand low on her exposed hip and turned her head toward him with the other. He leaned down to kiss her, the hand on her waist moved to coax her into turing onto her back as he did. She complied, not realizing who he was.

Janus pulled the sheets off her and straddled her. “Mine,” he whispered in a low growl, then leaned down to kiss her again.

*********

“By the way, Leg,” Jerome began as they looked through various documents, “how’s Snow? I haven’t seen her out much lately.”

“She’s doing quite well,” the younger guardian replied.

“So what’s keeping her in?”

Legacy looked at him questioningly. “You haven’t heard yet?”

“Heard what?”

Legacy looked down and paused for a moment. “Snow’s almost a month pregnant.”

“She’s what?!”

“Yeah,” Legacy nodded. “It was that night that we came over to to speak to you and Sophie.”

Jerome sighed. This had just become more complicated than he’d ever feared. “I just hope she doesn’t have the same problems her mother did.”


Chapter 7

 

The moon in the sky above was an ominous rust red. The color of blood. Legacy pulled his ears back, sensing something to be amiss. Jerome felt it too, but no where near as strongly as Legacy. “Snow…” the younger guardian whispered, then ran out of the house and towards Snowhawk’s apartment. Jerome ran after him, feeling that this might be more than either of them could handle alone.

*********

Snowhawk lay motionless as Janus ran his hands down her exposed back. He clutched her hair in one hand, turning her head towards him with the other. “You will always be mine…” he whispered to her.

Her hazel eyes closed. The child growing with in her said differently, but he couldn’t know that just yet. She kicked herself mentally, though. She had let her guard down, wasn’t expecting him. Not like this anyway.

She sensed Legacy and Jerome outside the apartment. Based on Janus’s reaction a few moments later, he heard them. Janus glared at the door, then stood, pulling on his pants as he rose. He grabbed Snowhawk, pulling her from the bed and yanked the sheet off, wrapping it around her bare figure.

A half second later, the door to the room shot open and she saw a very angry Legacy, followed by Jerome before Janus pulled her protectively toward him. It was at that moment that something in her snapped and she lost her sense of freedom, returning, mentally, to her time as a slave.

Janus looked down at her, an evil grin forming on his face. He knew what had happened. “You’re too late, Legacy. She’s mine for good now.”

Legacy refused to believe it, but Snow’s half closed, dull eyes told him otherwise. “You son of a bitch!” he yelled as he lunged at Janus, who looked at him coldly and side-stepped the lunge.

“You won’t get her back like that, boy. Why don’t you ask your golden friend there what to do?” Janus taunted. He picked up Snow’s slight frame and draped her over his shoulder. Spying Legacy’s sword within arm’s reach, he picked it up with his free hand. “Now, neither of you are going to give me any trouble for the next two hours,” he stated as he moved toward the door. “Break this rule and I’ll break her neck.”

Legacy’s ears flattened and he looked away. Jerome glared at Janus. “You’re making a huge mistake, Janus,” the golden guardian stated.

“Am I?” Janus returned, then sprinted out the door way, dropping Legacy’s sword on the steps. ‘Damn those two…’ he thought to himself. He ran to his waiting vehicle. After situating Snow and himself inside, he gave a signal to the driver and the vehicle vanished into the dark.

*********

Legacy sank to his knees. She was gone. Part of him refused to believe, but he had to. Jerome walked to the younger guardian, resting his hand on his shoulder. “This is why…” Legacy began, “why we’re not supposed to get involved…”

“Yes, it is,” Jerome responded. “But Leg, you have done more for her than anyone else. Hell, most guys, after hearing her past, wouldn’t even look at her. But you did. I didn’t approve at first, but now I realize that your relationship is right. Don’t you give up on her, Legacy.”

Legacy nodded. “But how are we going to get her back?”

“I’ll think of something,” Jerome responded, then image of those two delphins in the photographs popping into his head.

*********

Janus stroked the hair of the listless Snowhawk, speaking quietly to her. “I’ve waited two years for this, Snow… You’re mine again.” He pulled the blanket off her shoulders slowly. “You certainly haven’t changed much.” He leaned down and kissed her neck. “You were so much easier to catch.”

“Why…” she whispered.

“Because,” he began, stroking her cheek, “I want what’s mine.”

“…But I’m not…” she replied quietly, almost sounding like she didn’t believe herself.

“Yes, you are, Snow.”

She flinched and looked away.

“Or have you forgotten?”

The look of pain on her face was obvious. “No…”

“You will always be mine, Snowhawk.”

“Are you going to make me kill again? Destroy more lives for your little games?”

“Not planning to, but should the need arise…”

Snowhawk pulled her head to her chest. She had destroyed so many lives for him.

Janus grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to him. He gently stroked her hair and whispered to her. “I’ve missed this. To feel your form. Your strong legs and arms… your beautiful back. Everything.”

She could still smell the fake scent of Legacy on Janus. She closed eyes tightly and cried quietly. Then her pain turned to anger and her normally gentle voice was suddenly filled with sheer hatred as she pushed Janus across the room. “Get away from me, you bastard!”

He blinked at her in surprise. She had only done that one other time, when he first received her. But she didn’t move towards him this time, instead collapsing to the bed, curling up, and crying. He idly wondered what had brought that on, then realized he probably still wore some of Legacy’s scent on him. He quietly slipped out of the room.

********

Sophie walked down the deserted street, her arms full of various bags from her shopping trip. She turned toward Nytehawk’s house, not sensing Jerome. She was about to open the front door when she sensed another, unfamiliar delphin.

She turned to look behind her. The delphin she saw was young. Her yellow-cream coat was spotted with red-orange. Her muzzle was gray, as were her hands Her hooves held a few vertical raspberry stripes. Her tail and braided forelock were streaked with red-orange and her mane was a bright lilac. Her left arm was white half way up her forearm, her left leg bearing a white stocking and her right a coronet. She remembered this del’s picture from earlier. “Hello…” she began.

“Hi!” the younger del replied smiling. “They went that way.” She pointed down the street.

“Who?”

“The two males. They ran off about half an hour ago. The one with the silver-gray mane seemed very concerned.”

Sophie blinked.

The young one continued. “Then I saw a limo drive down that way.” She pointed the opposite direction. “It was going kinda fast.”

Sophie blinked again, putting two and two together. “Oh hell…” She put a hand to her muzzle, dropping her bags. “He got her…”

A slight look of confusion crossed the young one’s face as she looked up at Sophie. “What happened? Was it that slaver?”

“How’d you know?”

“Word gets around… They warned all the kids about him. Though, I don’t feel that he’d be looking for kids. I think he wanted specific dels. Older ones.”

“You’re right. He only wanted two in fact, both former slaves of his.”

“Know where they are?”

“No. He moved. And he has some way of keeping us from sensing them.”

“Hmm… Well, how about I keep my ears open for you?”

“Ok…” Sophie blinked.

“By the way, my name’s D’iema.” She held out her hand.

Sophie took her hand and gently shook. “Pleasure to meet you, D’iema. I’m Sophie.”

The younger del smiled. “I’m going to go ask some of my friends if they know anything, ok?”

“Sure.”

She smiled again, then turned and ran off.

*********

Nytehawk had sensed Snow as soon as they brought her in. She snuck through the halls towards Snow’s room. If she was caught, she’d be in fairly serious trouble. She spotted Janus leaving the room and ducked out of sight until he was gone, no easy feat for her delphin form. She finally emerged and walked to the room. Opening the door slowly, she peered inside to see the human form of Snowhawk laying on the bed, sobbing quietly.

Folding her ears back, Nytehawk quietly closed the door and made her way back to her room. What ever Janus had done was serious. Snow rarely cried. Her cousin was strong, but Nyte knew more then she let on. She had learned long ago what would happen to Snow on her missions, the things she did. And what would happen should she fail. She also suspected the deeper meaning of why Janus acted the way he did towards Snow. And the real reason Snow surrendered so easily to him.

Years ago, it had been Snow who freed her. This time, Nyte wanted to be the one to rescue her, to repay her debt.

*********

An hour after leaving, Janus quietly re-entered the room. His long hair was still damp from his recent shower. He looked at Snow’s small form on the bed through his wet bangs. She had covered most of her lower body with a sheet and was now curled up asleep. Janus walked to the bed and sat down on it, leaning to her. His hair fell from his shoulders and lightly brushed her exposed back. Her eyes snapped open at the touch, but the bolt away that would normally follow was stopped by Janus’s hand on her shoulder. “You’re as jumpy as that cousin of yours…”

“Let her go, Janus.”

“Why should I?”

“Because I know that she’s nothing more than a trophy to you.”

“Partly true. And it’s true that you are the only slave I never grew bored with. But you have to realize that I’d hate to break up a pair.”

“Are you trying to make me hate you?”

“You don’t?” Janus asked, sounding surprised.

“No. I have every reason to hate you. But I don’t. I’ve tried.”

Janus was stunned to hear this. After everything he did to her, to her cousin, to her kind, she couldn’t bring herself to hate him. “Why?”

“How the hell should I know?” she hissed. “You actually seemed to have feelings for me once.” She paused. “And I had feelings for you too.”

“And now?”

She placed a hand over her stomach. “I’ve changed a hell of a lot more than you know…”

Janus picked her up, his hands on her shoulders. “What?”

She looked away from him. “You ruined me, Janus. No one would have me. Save one.” She paused for, what seemed to Janus, an impossibly long time. “Save one… and I carry his child.”

Janus paled and his grip on her shoulders tightened. “What?”

“I will never be yours again, Janus.”

“Do you think that changes how I feel about you?” He pulled her to him. “I want you, regardless of what you’ve done.”

She closed her eyes and sighed sadly. “That’s the way it’s always been. Hasn’t it.”

He leaned her back slightly and took her chin into his hands. “Yes,” he whispered, then pulled her to him for a kiss.


Chapter 8

 

The full moon lit the thick fog covering the ground and made the world seem alien. The fog glowed and rolled slowly along, uncaring of the world. It had no need to care, what was happening inside the large mansion it rolled past was not its doing. In a moderate sized bedroom of said mansion, laying on the bed, a young woman half-slept in the embrace of the man who owned her. The man was awake and would occasionally kiss her neck. His long, blue-white hair hung loose and drifted off his bare, well-formed shoulders and gently touched the woman’s exposed back with feather-light softness.

Janus truly enjoyed her. More than her cousin. He took Snowhawk’s long, mahogany hair into his hands and idly played with it. Then one hand left her hair and slipped to her bare hip under the blanket that covered to her slender waist. The upper half of her body was either exposed or covered by her slender arms.

She pulled herself into a small ball, but Janus’s hand remained on her hip. At least until it slid across her waist and stopped on her smooth stomach. He gently scratched her belly, giving her reason to become nervous. But she forced herself to remain calm for the sake of the child growing within her.

“What is going to become of my baby?” she quietly asked.

Janus arched one slender eyebrow. “You sound as if you aren’t going to try and escape.”

“Trying to escape killed my mother…” She paused. “…Rather I did…”

“Yes… I heard… but it wasn’t your fault…”

Snowhawk drew her head in further to her chest. She was silent.

“Well,” Janus began, returning to her question, “just have to see when the time comes.” He grinned, then pulled her mouth to his.

She closed her eyes, a silent tear rolling down her cheek. Unlike with Nytehawk, Snow’s tears did not go unnoticed by Janus. “No need to cry, dearest.” He gathered her into his arms and whispered to her, “No need to cry.”

Regardless of what he said, Snow’s tears continued to flow until she finally fell asleep in his arms. With her still cradled in his embrace, he carefully lay back down onto the bed. He kissed her again, then closed his own grey eyes and drifted off to sleep.

*********

Outside the room, a pale-furred figure listened to what was going on inside. Not only could her equine ears pick up quite a bit, but she could also sense the emotions. Her mind raced with many thoughts, but mostly on how they would get away from the slaver. Her gentle aqua eyes saddened as she thought. Her cousin had always been so strong, so why had she given in so easily this time? Surely it couldn’t be her baby. Could it?

If it was, then it meant that Snowhawk knew something more. She murred quietly, then turned and slowly walked back to her room. “Why the hell isn’t she fighting him?”

*********

Down the road, a pair of male delphins watched a clock closely. The phone was supposed to ring at 20 after midnight, a call from an informant on how to get to the slaver. The bell broke the maddening silence of the room at exactly 20 after. The voice on the other end was female.

“I’ll keep this short,” she said. “The slaver is around the corner and past Nytehawk’s home. I do not know exactly where.”

“Anything else?” Jerome asked.

“They are both well physically, but mentally are growing weaker. It comes in spades, the slave mind set. But those periods are growing longer each time. Especially Snowhawk’s.”

Legacy flinched. “How long do we have?”

“Couple months at the least, 10 at the most.”

“What about…” Legacy paused as the receiver on the other end picked up the sound of a scuffle. Then a pair of gunshots and some cursing. Then the line clicked and there was only a dial tone.

“Not much… but it’s something,” Jerome whispered.

“At least we know where to start looking now… unless Janus finds out that we’re onto him.”

“Then I guess that we’ll have to keep a low profile, won’t we?”

Legacy nodded. “That we shall.”

*********

A grey female del sat and listened to a young appaloosa spotted del. The young one has become an informant to Sophie and relayed messages to her. Things she has heard, seen, or been told. It had been that was, meeting every other day, since Snowhawk’s capture. D’iema, the young one, rattled off a list of updates while Sophie did her best to keep up.

“Wait… did you say something about another del?” Sophie queried, stopping D’iema’s rapid-fire relay of information.

“Yes. I’ve seen her around a couple times; grey-green furred, bright green hair, and bright blue eyes.”

“Can you try to find out information about her for me, please?”

“Sure. You think she’s connected?”

“Dunno… maybe not intentionally.”

The young one nodded, bade Sophie farewell, then she off for her gathering of information. She hoped she could bring Sophie back more information than what they already knew.

*********

Another month would pass before any new news was known. And that was simply that the slaver was planning yet another move. No word on where.

*********

Snowhawk was now 3 months pregnant… and finally beginning to show it. She stood at a high window, looking out and toward her apartment. She never sensed Janus come up behind her. She straightened as he wrapped his arms around her. He rested his hand on her shoulder and gently swayed back and forth with her. “What happened? Why’d you leave me?”

“Because I was a game piece to you, Janus.”

“I should never have said that…”

“But you did. Otherwise, I might have remained ignorant of your ways and never left.”

“Would you stay now?”

“Is it like I have a choice? You caught me, damnit. And I’m afraid that if I try to escape, something will happen and I’ll lose my baby.”

He pulled her back to him. “You didn’t have a choice before and you escaped.”

She simply stared ahead.

“Stay with me, Snowhawk. Forever.”

“No. I have a mate. I would never leave him for you.” She sounded almost as if she was trying to convince herself.

Janus sighed quietly, then thought to himself, Then I shall have to rid myself of this pest mate of yours.

*********

Miles away, in a seedy part of town, D’iema silently waited in an abandoned warehouse. She was supposed to be meeting someone here. An informant.

The sound of hoofbeats echoing in the dark recesses of the warehouse brought the young one’s ears to attention. Out of the shadows stepped a green-grey furred female delphin with bright blue eyes, bright green mane and tail, and a bright blue stone, matching her eyes, hung around her neck.

“H-hello,” D’iema stuttered with a slight bow. “I am D’iema, I believe you have some information for me?”

“That is correct, young one,” the female replied. “About the slaver Janus…” D’iema nodded. “My name is Aku. Shall we go somewhere… nicer to talk?”

D’iema gave a slight nod, then the two set off into the semi-darkness of the evening.


Chapter 9

“Rain… Same as the past week..,” Sophie mumbled as she looked out the window. “Damn this is depressing.” She sighed and lay her head down on her arms. She was alone in the large house, Hunter having gone off with Jerome and Legacy. Still searching. She half closed her icy-blue eyes and watched the rain stream down the glass. She has almost fallen asleep when a hand touched her shoulder. Eyes snapped open in an instant and she spun around, half falling out of her chair. “What the hell?” she growled.

“Calm down, now… Can’t have you panicking on me,” the hand’s owner spoke gently, soothingly. “I have a… proposition for you.”

“Damn your proposition, Janus.”

“So you don’t want Snow and Nyte back?”

She blinked. “What?”

“I’m willing to give them back… Just follow my instructions and tell no one where your information comes from.”

Sophie growled at him a bit. “You’ll turn on us.”

“Sophie… I can’t be happy with a pair of slaves that have mates… and one that’s further more pregnant. Just have a little trust…”

“What’s in it for you?”

“All will be revealed in due time, dear,” he grinned. “All in due time.”

Sophie thought for a few moments, then nodded a bit. “Fine. What do you need done?”

“Tell the boys to meet me here.” He handed her a sheet of paper with an address, a date, and a time on it. “I’ll send one of my cars for them.”

“This is in 6 months.”

“I know… Snow won’t travel while she’s pregnant.”

She blinked again. “… All right…”

“The birds will return then… once our discussions are over.” Janus grinned again. “You have no idea how much of a help this is, Sophie…”

“Yeah..,” she mumbled, “I’m sure…”

The slaver gently kissed Sophie’s equine head, bowed, then as silently as he entered, left the mansion.

*********

Janus entered his estate with little fanfare and made a near direct path to his bedroom. He opened the door quietly and peered inside. He saw human Snowhawk, now five months pregnant, asleep on his bed, just as she had been when he left. He crept into the room then into bed with her. She didn’t awaken and barely moved as he wrapped an arm around her. He thought it odd how quiet she’d been the past couple weeks. Quiet and tired. She slept almost constantly. When she was awake, she was groggy and fairly weak. Not to mention the fact her skin as a human and her fur as a del seemed to grow ever paler as her pregnancy progressed. he was beginning to worry and the thought of losing his bird kept crossing his mind.

He gently rubbed her stomach and ran his other hand through her long mahogany hair. “I can’t lose you again, Snow… It was hard enough the first time.” He leaned her head back a little and began to kiss her neck softly. She didn’t respond as she normally did by leaning her head back on her own more and Janus grew more worried than ever. He carefully climbed across her and lay down so he was facing her. Her pale skin glowed ghostly white in the near darkness of his room. He took her into his arms and held her close to him. Her body was cool to the touch and she shivered lightly in his embrace. Her breathing seemed very labored and her heartbeat didn’t feel right. He held her tightly and knew he had seen this coming. His bird was sick… very sick. A complication that ran through her family; pregnancy caused anemia. Snow had to rest now… and for the rest of her pregnancy or she could possibly lose her baby. Or her life. He held her a little tighter, “The thought of you dying is almost unbearable..,” he whispered. “Don’t you die on me, Snow.”

She was silent in her response, but she understood him… everything.

A cruel fate for a heart like hers. In there, her feelings, she loved him just as much as she did Legacy. Janus knew her in every sense of the word. Legacy didn’t know the cold, ruthless side of her. He didn’t know how many lives she had destroyed. Nor the story of the scar on her neck.

Hearing Janus speak to her in such a worried, gentle tone weakened her. She only held on to two thoughts of freedom. One was her child, the other Legacy. When this was over, she would tell him her full story. What she had done. Done for a nearly unreturned love for Janus. But, as she thought, she saw that his love was misplaced, misguided. Funny how a young mind can make things see so far from the truth. Damnit, she thought to herself, what the hell am I saying… thinking. Yeah, so Janus really loves me. So does Legacy. And this child connects us in a way that me and Janus could never. A silent tear rolled down her cheek. She was so confused now. A feather light kiss touched her cheek as Janus kissed her tear. Damn you… she thought, why are you doing this to me? She was too tired to move and resist him. She wouldn’t be able to for the rest of her pregnancy either. It would be too much of a risk to her and more importantly her child. She had already decided that she was going get Nyte free and have her take care of the baby. This child wouldn’t suffer her fate. Another tear escaped her closed eyes, then she felt another feather light kiss. She would rest fully for now, then figure out more later. Her labored breathing slowed as she drifted fully to sleep.

*********

Elsewhere, a silver-brown maned guardian also drifted to sleep clutching tightly to an orange and yellow plush dragon. The dragon belonged to his mate, she would hold it on nights when sleep evaded her. “Were you scared, Snow? Of him taking you back… or worse hurting you? Or was it a fear for me?” he asked to no one but the stuffed animal. He hugged it tighter and shut his eyes as a tear escaped them. He drifted to sleep, only to remember his past.

~~~~~~~~~

It was four years earlier. Legacy was waiting in a group of his fellow slaves. They were all crowded to try to see the visitor who came to see their master. The group collectively stared at the silvery-blue haired man and his companion, a lavender-furred female member of their kind. The man was about 5 inches shorter than her. His long hair was pulled back with a crimson ribbon. He wore a dark green-jacket with silver trim, white gloves, white breeches, black knee-high boots and a crimson cape draped over one shoulder. He appeared quite regal.

His companion tossed her long amethyst mane over her shoulder and snorted a bit, flicking her long amethyst tail. The light danced off the silver spiral that ascended her amethyst horn and she light stamped one lavender hoof. She seemed quite wild and they assumed that to be the explanation for the scars on her face. A symbolic collar hung around her neck, the end of the crimson ribbon lead in the man’s hand. A long violet dress clung to her and revealed near obscene amounts of leg as she moved through the hip-high slits on either side. The dress was lined in crimson. She yawned slightly, looking about, then studied the slaves. Legacy grew nervous as her gaze neared him. He knew who she was. He had never met or seen her, but he knew she was to be the one he protected. Her eyes darted over the crowd of slaved, then she stopped at him, canting her head to the side. She lowered her head and whispered to her owner. The man nodded to her then continued his conversation with the other slaver. A moment later, her owner reached up and unhooked her collar, slowly pulling it from her neck. Legacy raised an eyebrow as she leaned down and nuzzled him affectionately. And at the lingering hand on her neck.

She trotted toward his group. Almost none of the slaves around him were used to seeing such free movement allowed. They parted as she neared the group. The lavender furred female strode directly toward Legacy, grinning at him. She slowly circled around him, sizing him up, as it were. Legacy caught a look in her hazel eyes. Something he couldn’t place, then noticing also that this wasn’t her. She wasn’t cold, calculating toward them by her nature. He could imagine warm and caring, but her owner seemed to have her under a great deal of control. He jumped a bit as her hand brushed his with a touch no heavier than the fluffy down of a baby bird. She grinned at him again. “Strong… and gentle..,” she whispered. Then with a chuckle, she turned and walked back toward her owner, flicking her tail across the back of his legs as she walked away. He blinked a few times, then nickered lowly. When she returned to her owner’s side, he wrapped his arm around her waist, and Legacy’s owner gave a sly smile at the two and nodded toward the guest house. The silvery-blue haired owner nodded, then followed the other owner toward the building. The female lowered her head, her eyes half closing as they walked. Legacy realized, somewhat sadly, that she was not only under this man’s complete control, but seemed completely willing to remain so. Her eyes had held a tired look and he guessed she was simply unwilling to fight. He followed after them, hanging back a ways. He was essentially a guard of his owner’s complex and was allowed more freedom of movement. It wasn’t uncommon for him to follow a new guest. his owner glanced back and smirked as he noted Legacy following them.

The door of the guest house was opened and her owner led her inside, following their host. Legacy followed them inside. The female tripped slightly over her own hooves then appeared moments later to nearly fall asleep where she stood. Her owner led her to a reclining chair where she curled up, her shoulder to the back of the chair and her long legs hanging off the front. She drifted to sleep almost immediately.

Legacy’s owner arched an eyebrow and grinned at her owner. “Been keeping her up late, eh Janus?”

“Not really,” the other replied. “She just got picky about sleeping in a car. I think she was up for something like 30 hours…”

“Then we’ll leave you two alone to rest. Come on, Legacy.”

Legacy nodded and bowed, then turned to leave, following his owner.

“Legacy, is it?” Janus began. “Would you mind staying for a bit?”

Legacy looked to his owner, who nodded in approval, then looked back to Janus. “No, sir. Not in the least.”

“Good,” Janus stated as he sat down, watching Legacy’s owner leave. “Please, sit. You can loosen up a bit in my presence.” Legacy nodded a little, then sat down on a nearby chair. “Now, might I inquire as to your first impression of my dear bird, Snowhawk? I’m pretty sure of her’s.”

“Well… I think the first thing that struck me was how loose you held her lead. She appears quite valuable… Even with her scars.”

“Oh, she is, but her value to me is greater than any price one could place. It was her first owner that gave her those. He didn’t appreciate her high spirited nature like I do.”

Legacy nodded a little. “Anyway, her appearance is what really caught my attention. Not just how she looks, and I do find her to be very beautiful, but how she carried herself.”

Janus grinned a little. “You’re very observant, Legacy. Beauty attracts beauty… and I’m not speaking of myself.” He grinned a bit wider, then leaned over and brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, his grin softening to a smile. “She accompanies me everywhere. Mostly as a guard. She said once it was her duty to protect me. And she has on several occasions.”

“You implied her first owner was abusive. I assume you saved her from him?”

“Yes. She was in pretty bad shape when I got her. Underfed… but mostly she was just very, very hurt. Mentally and physically.”

Legacy nodded. “She feels she’s in your debt.”

“You know a good deal about your species. Not usual, especially for a slave.”

“I was trained as a guardian before I was captured, then some after.” Legacy stated, looking down.

“They allowed you to?” Janus asked, a little surprised.

“No. My training was secret.”

“So, who do you guard?”

Legacy paused for a moment to think. “N-no one.”

“How sad. Maybe you haven’t found her.” He looked to Snow, then to Legacy. “Or maybe you have and you just aren’t telling.” A grin crossed his face as Legacy looked away. “Learn something from this, young guardian. You can’t protect what you can’t reach. She’s a flirt, as you discovered earlier. Don’t try anything silly.” He stood and walked over to Snow, lightly touching her face. “Come on…” he whispered, then grinned as she shifted forms to human. Janus leaned down and picked her up gently, then turned and coldly remarked to Legacy, “You are highly intelligent, but very young. Don’t make a stupid mistake like getting involved with her and have to live with the consequences.” He turned to walk toward the bedroom. “You can leave or you can stay. But don’t get any ‘heroic’ ideas.” Janus walked off will the still sleeping Snowhawk in his arms.

~~~~~~~~~

Legacy awoke with a start. Janus was always so possessive of Snow. Nothing changed. He curled up, still clutching to the dragon. “Did you know, Snowhawk? That he’d be able to take you back so easily.” He shuddered as a thought crossed into his mind. “Did you… want him to take you back? But why… our child… at the least me? Why, Snow… Why?” He closed his eyes tightly, curling up a little more, then cried himself back to sleep.

 

Chapter 10

 

Snowhawk lay on her side, half asleep and listening to the rain blow against her window. She was seven and a half months pregnant now. The thought that her child would have grow up to live her life was almost too much to bear. A tear fell from her closed eyes as she thought. It was quickly wiped away by her owner’s gentle hand. He had been sitting in a wing-back chair next to her bed. The man almost never left her side. Her weakened state had him worried and one may suspect he was more worried than her. He gently stroked her cheek and brushed her long bangs from her face.

Every time he touched her like that, so gently, she grew weaker. Her hold on freedom was growing frail. She was forgetting what it was like to have Legacy caress her face at night when she was almost asleep. Forgetting how they’d go out in the evenings. Curling up on him and falling asleep on a rainy afternoon or a snowy evening. How he would hold her hands in his own to warm them after they’d played together after a heavy snow. Even how he’d patiently braid small locks of her mane and add small, silver jingle bells. All her memories were fading. She hated being so physically weak on top of of her mental weakness.

She flinched a little as her child kicked her. Strong… she thought, like his father.She then gave a quiet sig. At least he can help me remember. She then drifted fully to sleep, consciously remembering the child’s movement last.

*********

Else where in the mansion, a worried Nytehawk paced in her room. Snow was sick and there was nothing she could do to help. No one could help. “Too much stress…” she quietly growled. “That son of a bitch placed her under too much stress. And he knew! He knew she was pregnant! Why? Why risk two lives?” Her questions went unanswered, melting into the walls of the room. No. The prison cell. She had been caught out of her room so they now barred the door.

She gave an irritated growl and flopped, stomach down, onto her bed. “Ow,” she complained dryly as she landed on the point of her hip wrong. She crossed her hooves and pulled her pillow to her, then laid her head on it and slowly fell asleep.

Hours later, a hand drifted down her back. Her aqua eyes snapped open at the touch and she twisted around. She came face to face with Janus. “What do you want?” she scowled.

“Snow wants to speak with you,” he calmly replied.

She growled at him. “About what?”

“She won’t tell me. I suggest you go while she’s still awake enough to speak.”

She stood slowly, with another growl at him. “You’ve told your little guards to leave me be?”

“Yes.”

She gave a small nod, then quickly turned and trotted to see her cousin.

*********

Snowhawk, now in her delphin form, lay on her side in the bed. She gave a weak smile as she saw Nytehawk, then attempted to sit up somewhat. Nyte rushed to her cousin and helped her sit up, then sat down herself on the edge of the bed. A small grin of amusement crossed the lavender delphins face. “Someday, Nyte, you’ll be going through this with Hunter.”

Nyte’s eyes widened a little. “Maybe…”

Snow then began softly. “I’ve come to a decision. And I have… gotten Janus’s agreement on this.” She paused. “When I have my child, a few days later, Janus will release you and the baby. This is the only way I can assure his safety.”

“What about you?”

“That’s still to be determined. Be it when Janus has his meeting with the boys in a few months or I escape on my own.” She sighed tiredly. “It’s hard for me to fight. I need time to rest. To rebuild my strength. No, staying here isn’t the best option, but I’m going to be forced to.”

“Snow…”

“I’m so tired, Nyte. Tired of fighting. Tired of being confused. Of wondering about everything.”

Nytehawk nuzzled her cousin. “Legacy will understand. I know he will.”

Snowhawk nodded slightly, laying back down. “Thank you, Nyte. As soon as my mind is settled and clear, then I’ll escape from Janus’s grasp. For good.”

Nytehawk nodded a little. Snow wasn’t one to make idle promises, but Nyte had to wonder about her cousin’s resolve. Janus’s hold was fierce, she was under his control more than she realized. Simply giving up her baby so soon after birth alone could cause her to snap. If she forgot about her freedom, then she would forget Legacy. Nytehawk frowned slightly slight at a thought. Janus knew what would happen. And that is why he agreed to give her her freedom. To get the child away from Snow. To make her forget Legacy. She sighed, standing slowly and pulling a cover over the now sleeping Snow. Then she turned and walked out of the room, stopping just outside the doorway. Janus stood there, leaning against the wall. “I know what you’re trying, Gatekeeper,” she scowled, not bothering to turn and look to him. “You know exactly what will happen when she gives that child up. You have no intention of letting her escape.”

“Not in the slightest, Nyte. I can only be happy with her,” Janus replied. “In any case, I block no gate for you now. You may go if you wish. Should you chose to, I will contact you when the child is born. Should you stay, you’ll not be allowed to see Snow unless she asks for you. Can’t cause her anymore stress.”

Nytehawk was infuriated. “You… bastard…” She glared at him, her ears folded back. Then she snapped. She lunged, pinning him to the floor, one hand gripping his throat. Normally gentle aqua eyes narrowed as the change began. Two tri-colored wing appeared on her back and a black onyx horn spiraled in silver grew from her forehead. Her mane and tail deepened in color until they turned black. She lifted the slaver up by the neck a bit, then scowled again and roughly pushed him back to the floor. “You aren’t worth my damn time.” She stood, releasing him then stalked off, taking his offer to leave on her own. It was time to fight now. And she’d be sure to let Legacy know the real story.

As Nyte vanished from site, Janus stood, then turned to one of his guards that had been hiding in the shadows. “Silence her. Don’t kill her. Put her in the hospital for a couple weeks. Whatever you need to do. She can’t remember our conversation.”

The guard gave a silent, affirmative nod then stalked off after Nyte.

Janus shook his head slightly then walked into the room, locking the door behind him. He laid down on the bed next to Snow and wrapped an arm around her. He pulled her close and kissed her neck a little. She remained asleep, her labored breathing her only movement.

*********

On the road between her home and Janus’s prison mansion, a man only slightly smaller than Janus stepped in front of Nytehawk. She stopped suddenly, folding her ears back and snorting at him. “Move aside…” she coldly commanded.

“Afraid I can’t do that,” he replied back softly.

“Why? To stupid?”

The man reached out and took Nyte by the throat roughly. He was deceptively strong. “I have orders. Orders to silence you.”

Nytehawk kicked at the man, but he caught her leg before she touched him. “You… can’t be… human…” she choked out as he tightened his grip on her.

“I’m not,” he grinned, then shifted his form to a large anthropomorphic wolf.

She neighed loudly at him. “Lupino…” She struggled, but his paw’s grip only tightened. “Who… are you?”

“Janus’s younger brother, Adian.” His vice-like grip tightened still more on her neck. “I kinda like you…” His grin had not lessened and now grew in size.

Her eyes widened a bit and she struggled harder to escape now. The look in his wolf eyes told her his intentions. Nytehawk cried out again, hoping that some one would hear her.

Adian released her leg, then wrapped his free arm around her, pulling her to him. His grin widened as she gasped and froze. Predator and prey. And what beautiful prey she was. He smirked a bit, then the hand on her throat tightened a final time. She cried out silently, her eyes closing, then fell limp as she went unconscious. He removed his hand from her throat and picked her up into his arms, then carried her back to his brother’s estate. He had a separate house on the grounds. “I can’t imagine why that idiot brother of mine would let a lovely thing like you go.”

Just as he reached his front door, he was attacked. His prize was stolen from him. And all he saw were sea-foam green wings and a bright green tail.

*********

The unconscious female Aku carried with her was certainly light for her size. Almost too light, she thought to herself. She silently walked to where she knew this female’s mate lived, stopping at the door step, then wrapping her wings around the feather-winged one in her arms. She tapped on the door lightly with her hoof. Moments later, a grey-furred male answered the door. “I assume you’re Hunter?”

“Yes,” he replied.

She smiled a little. “I have something for you.” Pulling back one sea-foam green wing, she revealed the unconscious Nytehawk. “I don’t know what happened to her, but the Lupino that had her most likely cause her to forget the past half hour or so. If her change occurred during that time, she won’t remember.”

As the grey-green furred female in front of him talked to him, Hunter blinked a few times, almost not believing that Nyte was back, changed, but she was back. He gently took her into his arms as she was handed to him. “Thank you…” he whispered. Words did not seem to be enough.

She smirked. “Don’t thank me yet. There’s still work to be done.” Her smirk softening, she told him, “Just make sure you’re with her when she wakes up. Discovering her change alone could be fairly traumatic.”

Hunter nodded and nuzzled Nytehawk. Then he looked to the female. “How’d you know me?”

“I have my sources. My name’s Aku. Be seeing you around.” She bowed to him, then turned and disappeared into the dark.

Hunter watched her trot away until she could no longer be seen, then squeezed Nyte gently and carried her inside. He entered their room and carefully laid her on the bed, on her side as she preferred, then he laid down facing her. He put his arms around her and pulled her close, soon drifting to sleep.

A few hours later, aqua eyes fluttered open and a quiet moan escaped Nytehawk’s lightly bruised throat. “What…”

Hunter’s snapped awake, hearing her soft voice. “Welcome back,” he whispered.

“Hunter… how?” she groggily whispered.

“I don’t know, love. But you’re here. That’s what’s important.”

“I remember talking to Snow… Then walking out of her room. Then nothing.”

Hunter nuzzled her again. “Then rest. Maybe you’ll remember in you dreams.”

Nytehawk nodded and pulled herself closer to Hunter. “I’ve changed…”

“Doesn’t matter. Always be the same to me.”

“I don’t mean just physically. I’m… more aggressive now. Worries me. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”

“Don’t worry. You’re stronger now. I can sense it.” She nodded again, then drifted to sleep in his embrace. Hunter smiled and closed his eyes again. This time he drifted to sleep fully.


Chapter 11

 

Adian paced back and forth. Two months ago, he’d lost his prize. He scowled. “My brother set her free, then I lost her. Damn.” He’d felt the female’s small waist… her shapely legs. Her neck was so delicate. She was most definitely a prize. And why Janus had let her go instead of that lavender female was beyond him.

To the casual observer, Janus and the 2-year younger Adian were much the same. But when one looked closer, they were as different as night and day. Janus was interested in not just physical beauty, but in the beauty of the mind and soul as well. He kept so few slaves, only one now in fact, if she could really be called that anymore, because almost none met his high standards.

Adian, however, wanted only the most physically attractive slaves, though their intelligence ran a close second. What struck him about Nyte wasn’t that she was remarkably striking, which she wasn’t, but her exotic nature. Obviously, her blood-line was excellent. And to find her un-scarred was more icing on the cake. Adian grinned widely as he thought. Then the thought crossed his mind of just how exotic Nyte’s blood would taste.

The younger slaver’s view on his slaves was almost purely possessive, unlike Janus’s views. The older slaver cared about his slaves. A misplaced caring often, but still true. He wanted only the best for them, even if he thought keeping in his control was the best.

Back in the main building, Janus half sat, half lay in the bed next to a now nine and a half month pregnant Snowhawk. She was unnaturally still and calm, trying her best to save as much of her dwindling energy as she could. So unlike the bright, vivacious Snowhawk he knew. She moved ever so slightly in her sleep as he touched her shoulder. “What’s going on, Snow?” he whispered. “You know better than I.”

Snowhawk began to cough quietly in her sleep. Then, once her coughing fit had passed, she moved slightly, stretching out a bit. Janus frowned as he heard her breathing, even more labored than before. His bird was dying. Her body was giving up, and he had to silently wonder if her spirit was as well. “…What have I done?” he whispered, dropping his head into his hands. “My poor bird.” She had only turned 21 eight days ago. He wrapped an arm around her, and lay down on the bed fully. She whimpered quietly. An almost unnoticeable protest, as if even being touched hurt. He clinched his eyes closed at the sound of her soft voice. He didn’t want to think about not ever hearing her voice again. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to her. “Sorry for this happening to you. I never dreamed you’d wind up this sick.” Snow cried out softly again, then an image in his mind formed of Nytehawk, accompanied soon by what could only be called Snow’s voice. It was, but it wasn’t.

“Bring her here. I need her strength… Take my ring to prove to Hunter and Jerome.”

Janus nodded slowly. “Very well.” He then slid the silver, three crystal ring from the ring finger of her left hand. It had a been a gift to her by Legacy to symbolize their mate-ship, as delphin do not marry. A small, furless band remained where the ring had been. Janus gently kissed her hand while he held it. “I shall return soon…” He stood from the bed and quickly walked out of the room.

As he left his mansion, he spotted Adian, half running, ahead of him. Janus silently wondered what his brother was up to, especially heading towards Nytehawk’s residence. And in his lupino form. “Adian!” he called out.

The younger flinched a bit and stopped dead in his tracks. He slowly turned around. “What?”

“Going somewhere?”

“No. Not really.”

“I bet…”

“What about you?” Adian smirked.

“Snowhawk is… she’s dying,” Janus said looking down.

“Aww… Your poor little pet is sick.” That earned Adian a slap across the face. “Damn, Janus. What the hell?”

“You know damn well Snowhawk is no pet to me,” the older hissed. “She need Nytehawk. So I’m going to find her.”

“You know her mate will never let you near her.”

“Two things, Adian. One: that’s why I have this,” he said, displaying the ring from Snowhawk, “and two: how the hell would you know?”

The younger smirked. “I have my eye on her. You let her go so she’s fair game, brother. I like her. She’s cute.”

“Think she’d make a nice addition to your toy chest, Adian?” Janus smirked.

“More like a nice full time… companion,” he grinned.

Janus shook his head, “You only want one thing, Adian.”

“No different than you.”

“Worlds different, dear brother. Worlds different. I want an equal. You want a piece of ass.” He walked on slowly toward Nytehawk’s home. “I suggest you look for a toy elsewhere, Adian.”

The dark haired younger brother stood silent for a moment, then stalked back to his house. He would take Nytehawk for his own, however he needed to.

*********

Nytehawk was quietly sitting on her perch. She didn’t care about the rain. She worried only for her cousin. Hunter walked out of their bedroom and onto the balcony. He watched her for a moment, then walked up to her, slipping his arms around her. They remained in silence, no words needed. Then a few moments later, the door bell could be heard ringing. They both turned and looked back inside. Nytehawk stood from her perch, and walked inside with Hunter, then down to the foyer.

Nytehawk stopped dead in her tacks. Jerome had answered the door and outside, on their front porch, stood Janus. The long silence that hung in the air was unnerving. Then Janus slowly began. “Snow is dying…”

“Did you just come here to gloat, you son of a bitch?” Hunter snapped.

“No. She asked me to find Nytehawk and bring her back.”

The three delphins looked unamused and unbelieving. “How do we know you aren’t just feeding us a load of crap?” Jerome glared.

“She lent me this to prove that to you,” he evenly stated, displaying the ring.

“That’s her and Legacy’s… Snow’d never give that up unless…” Nytehawk put her hand to her muzzle. “Oh, God. She really is.”

“Will you please go see her, Nyte?”

“Yes…”

“Wait a minute,” Hunter began. “How are we to know you aren’t going to try and take Nyte back?

“You’ll just have to trust me, Hunter. I will not try to take her back.” He then looked to Nyte. “But I can’t promise anything about my brother.”

Nytehawk thought a moment. “I’ll take the risk. I can’t just sit back and let my cousin die.” She fluffed her wings.

“Nyte…” Hunter began quietly.

“Hunter… I can do this myself. I’m not letting her die.”

“You said you’d be okay last time.”

“Fine,” she half snapped. “How about this? Give me five hours. If you haven’t heard from me, then worry.” She then glanced over at Janus. “You realize if you screw us over on this, both you and your damn brother are dead, don’t you?”

Janus nodded. “I know.”

Nyte nodded, then wandered away for a moment. She knew, somehow, what her cousin would need.

The others in the group blinked collectively and slowly as the heard a loud crash, then Nyte’s voice cursing loudly. Hunter then glared at Janus. “You harm her and I will personally kill you. You touch her wrong and I’ll throttle you.”

Janus looked unintimidated and unamused. “I understand that, Hunter. And I have already told you I will not harm or or try to reclaim her.”

“What about the brother you mentioned?” Jerome inquired.

“Adian? He’s persistent, but I can flip a quarter in the other direction to distract him.”

“Didn’t think you could control him,” Jerome smirked.

“I can’t, but I can distract him. I’m not getting my ass kicked because of his stupidity.”

About that time, Nytehawk wandered out of where ever she had gone and walked up to Jerome, Hunter, and Janus. Her arms were full of various medical supplies. “Might not need all of this, but with her, it’s better to be over prepared than under.”

Janus bowed to both males, then turned to Nyte. “I guess we shall be on our way then.” The female nodded. “Then let’s.” Janus lightly rested his hand on her shoulder and escorted her outside and down the street.

Hunter glared at Janus even after he’d been lost from sight. He growled lowly. Jerome lightly touched Hunter’s arm. “She’ll be ok. And if she doesn’t return or contact you in five hours, you get to kick Janus’s ass.”

“I just don’t want her to be gone for good this time.”

“She won’t be. Nyte’s strong. More than she realizes. Her change was just her true spirit showing itself. She’s an alicorn spirit. She’ll make it through anything.”

Hunter nodded solemnly as he started off into the direction his mate and the slaver went.

*********

Adian, now back in his human form, paced angrily in his house. “Damn Janus, taking away all my fun.” A security system chirped at him. Someone was entering the grounds. He flipped on a monitor to see non other than his brother and Nytehawk. “Ah, there you are, my winged beauty. What the hell is she carrying?” He arched an elegant eyebrow at her. “No matter. But this should make things interesting.”

*********

Inside, Janus led Nytehawk into Snowhawk’s room. Or more accurately, his and Snowhawk’s room. She saw her violet-hued cousin stretched out on her side on the bed. She was nearly to term. Snow’s labored breathing told Nyte just how serious she was. Nytehawk folded her ears back. “If you’d waited much longer, Janus, she would have died. I’m not going to be able to help her much, but she should be able to get through the birth.” She walked to her cousin and kneeled next to her, placing the supplies she had brought next to her. Picking up a green sprig of some unidentifiable plant, she placed it on her cousin’s head, just beneath her horn, and held it there. Nytehawk’s onyx horn began to glow sapphire blue and she touched her horn to her cousin’s. Immediately, some of Snow’s color returned and she seemed to breathe easier. Nytehawk began to quietly, almost inaudibly, speak in the delphin tongue. Healing words. More and more of Snowhawk’s color returned and her breathing was less and less labored. Minutes ticked by slowly until Nytehawk fell back, exhausted. “That’s all… I can do for… her,” she panted.

The slaver nodded silently. “Thank you, Nytehawk.”

She arched an eyebrow, surprised by the true sincerity. “You’re welcome.”

*********

Outside of the room, Adian, in his Lupino form, listened to the occupants. “Thanking her? For saving that female? Janus has gone insane,” he scowled. “No, he’s gone soft.” He pondered for a moment. “That pet, his damn ‘bird,’ is making him weak.” A smirk crossed his face. “I wonder what he’d do if his pet’s medical kit went missing. I don’t see why he gets all the fun.” Adian grinned widely as he slowly opened the door.

Snowhawk lay asleep on the bed, Janus in a chair next to her and stroking her face gently. Nytehawk stood off to the side, leaning against the corner of the room, carefully watching her cousin.

“What do you want, Adian?” Janus queried, not looking at his brother.

“Her,” he replied calmly, pointing to Nytehawk.

Nytehawk looked at him from the tops of her eyes, then calmly raised the middle finger of her right hand at him. “No.”

“Get out, Adian. Nytehawk is here as a guest. She shall be treated as such.”

“Can’t I at least speak with her?” the younger slaver asked.

“Not alone, you can’t.”

“Aw… Take away my fun.”

Janus growled warningly. “Out.”

“Not with out her, brother.”

“Adian, I can’t let anything happen to her. Go find yourself another toy.”

“I’m hurt, Janus. Deeply. You wouldn’t even allow your own brother a bit of fun.”

Nytehawk, a little aggravated at the younger slaver, stepped toward him. She folder her ears back and stared at him for a moment He cracked a suggestive smirk at her and she slapped him across the face. “I can’t tell if you’re stubborn or just stupid,” she growled.

Adian narrowed his eyes. “I’ll give you that one, dear. But try it again and I’ll hit back. Then worse.”

“Right. Prove how strong you are by abusing a female.” Nyte grinned. “A real man,” she remarked sarcastically.

The younger glared at her for a moment, then quickly reached up and took her by the throat. “We have some unfinished business.”

This time, Nytehawk had unexpected, though not unwelcome help. Janus stepped in, taking his brother by the wrist. “You want to screw around, Adian? Do it on your own damn time. Not mine.” He forced the younger to release his grasp of her neck.

Laying on the bed, semi-asleep, Snowhawk had heard everything. She smiled ever so slightly, at Janus and at her cousin. Had she not wished to conserve her much needed strength, she would have spoken her approval. Instead, she drifted off to sleep, hoping that all would remain peaceful.

*********

Nytehawk contacted Hunter and informed him she would be staying until the baby came. He was obviously upset about her staying, but understood her reasons.

Three days passed, Nytehawk almost never left her cousin’s side. Then she felt something different in the air, not to overlook the slight twinge of pain in her abdomen. A quick glance at Snowhawk told her what she was already certain of. Eleven days early, her cousin was going into labor. And the downside was that she was in her delphin form.

“Shit…” she mumbled.

Janus, also in the room, looked up, curious. “What?”

“Snow’s gone into labor. And she’s past the point where she could change forms.” Nytehawk knelt by her cousin’s bed. “She can’t deliver here. If there were complications she’d almost certainly die. We need to get her to a hospital.”

Janus gave a slow nod. “I’ll ready a car.” He stood and quickly left the room.

After he left, Nytehawk gently stroked her cousin’s forehead. “That’s right… concentrate. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you.” She judged by the look on her cousin’s face that Snow wasn’t worried about a thing. She was peaceful and calm.

Moment’s later, Janus returned to the room. “The car is out front, waiting for her.”

Nyte gave an affirmative nod. “I’ll carry her down”

“She weighs more than you.”

“I’ll manage.” Nyte gave a few unsuccessful attempts. “Or not…”

Janus quickly moved toward the bed, shifting forms to a large, lightly colored lupino. He easily picked her up, then gently carried her out to the waiting car.

A small smirk crossed Nyte’s face. “So he does have that form…” She then followed him out to the car.

*********

Janus arranged Snow in the back seat of the car, then sat next to her. He glanced at Nyte as she approached the car. “Care to drive?”

“Not in the least,” she replied and climbed into the driver’s seat.

The car sped off and toward the hospital. Upon reaching their destination, Nyte pulled into the emergency vehicle driveway. She jumped out of the car no sooner than having put it in park and ran inside. “I need some help outside!”

*********

Janus waited patiently in the car, doing his best to comfort and reassure very uncomfortable and now awake Snowhawk. He silently prayed Nyte would return soon. Within moments, several emergency personnel were quickly being led out to the car by Nytehawk, they loaded her onto a stretcher and soon had her on the way to the emergency room. One of the doctors began asking questions about Snow.

“How old is she?”

“Just turned 21,” Nyte replied.

“Is this her first pregnancy?”

“No,” Janus responded. “She was a slave earlier in her life.”

“Ok… Has she ever had any complications before?”

“None we know of,” he responded again.

“And problems with anesthesia or allergies to medications?”

“No.”

“Ok. If you could please wait in our waiting room, we’ll contact you soon.”

Janus gave a small nod and stopped in the lobby area, Nytehawk stopping next to him. “She’s in good hands now, Janus.”

“I know.” He paused. “You could have spoken up back there and gotten me in a hell of a lot of trouble.”

“Even I have my morals and values, Janus. This is neither the time or place. It would have only caused more stress on her.”

He thought for a moment. “In any case, thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. This is neutral ground. I’m still going to do my best to get her away from you. But only after she’s well and the baby is somewhere safe.”

“Very well. A truce for now, then?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

They both turned and walked in the small waiting room. Nyte skimmed through a magazine after sitting down, while Janus just sat or paced nervously.

Hours slowly passed. Nyte read all the magazines, then dozed off. Janus nearly wore a path in the carpet from pacing. The doctor finally walked into the room.

“You came in with Snowhawk?”

“Yes!” he replied, jumping slightly. “How is she?”

“Both her and her son will be fine.”

Nytehawk slowly opened her eyes. “So what happened this time?” she asked, sitting up. “Why so much trouble?”

“The baby was simply too big. Her body wasn’t prepared. And any added stress she might have had during the pregnancy only added to her problems. She’ll need to stay here for a few days, just to rest and recover. She was very weak.”

“We did a transfer barely 3 days ago…” Nyte commented silently.

“You’re related to her how?”

“I’m her cousin.”

“And you?” she said, looking to Janus.

“He’s her mate. But not the father. The father was… lost,” Nyte responded quickly.

Janus glanced at her. She’d saved him again. “Car accident. While abroad on a business trip.”

The doctor nodded a bit. Then paused. “You look familiar.”

“I brought her in a few years ago.”

“That’s right… Knife wound to the neck. How’d that heal?”

“Quite well, actually. Can barely see it.”

“Good, good… Anyway, you can go in to see her. She still pretty much out of it, though. Take a left at the end of the hall, she’s all the way down on the end on the right.”

“Thank you,” Janus said with a slight bow.

The pair walked down the hallway toward Snowhawk’s room, then entered quietly and slowly. The lights were dimmed and the room was warm. Despite the temperature, she was still under several heavy blankets and a thermal blanket. Only her head and part of her left hand were visible. Janus knelt by her bed, gently stroking her face.

Nyte walked over to a small crib, she looked at the small delphin foal. his coat was lavender, like his mother, his mane and short little foal tail were deep silver-brown with hints of deep amethyst, a mix between his mother and father. Tiny hooves were deep grey and his horn nub was light amethyst, spiraled in silver. Nyte smiled softly and sat down next to him, silently wondered if he got his mom or dad’s eyes. And if he would be winged or not.

She looked up as Snow whimpered quietly. Janus again gently stroked her face as her hazel eyes opened slowly. “Ow…” she quietly complained.

Nyte smirked. “Just delivered a baby and all she can say is ‘ow.'”

“Just wait… ’til it’s your turn…”

“What’s his name?” Janus asked, standing and walking to the bassinet to look at the little colt.

She yawned slightly. “Mm.. Xelloss.”

Nyte giggled. “How’d you decide on that? Blaming the drugs they’ve got you on here?”

Snowhawk just grinned and winked, chuckling slightly.


Chapter 12

 

“I need some air. I’ve been cooped up in this hospital too long. I’ll be right back,” Nytehawk growled at Janus, the left the hospital room. Janus shrugged as she left and turned his attention back to Snowhawk. She whimpered in pain with almost every breath. He stroked her face softly for a few moments, then sat on the bed next to her. He continued to gently stroke her face. She yawned quietly and barely moved her human face more into his hand.

It was an odd feeling for him. To be able to hold her so closely. After the months of her being mostly bed-ridden, finally being able to see her up an about, moving. Dancing. Anything but having to see her lithe figure confined to a bed.

She gave a quiet cry of pain as she moved, then pulled her arms to her chest, shivering. Janus stood and walked to the door, closing it fully, then returned to the bed. He carefully climbed in next to her, laying down and wrapping his arms around her. He rubbed her back gently and spoke to her quietly, soothingly, quickly calming her down. She nuzzled him lightly in her sleep and, though he smiled, Janus idly wondered if it was just a reaction, or if she knew who he was. His mind began to think of many things. Was she still going to turn her child over to Nyte, would she try to escape while here in the hospital, or, and this he hoped for most, would she choose to stay with him.

The two lay in silence for a short while until the room of the door opened quickly and an agitated Nytehawk entered. She shot a glare at Janus, seeing him holding Snowhawk. “You are un-freaking-believable.”

“She needed to be calmed down and no one else was available,” Janus responded calmly. “Something wrong?”

“Your damn brother, that’s what’s wrong,” Nyte snapped back.

Janus gave an unamused sigh. “If it wasn’t for the fact he’d probably kill me as well, I’d let your mate have his way with him.”

“Hmm… right,” she said sarcastically… “Like you’d let Hunter anywhere near him.”

“Don’t think I’m that close to Adian.” He gently stroked Snow’s face. “She means more to me than Adian ever would.”

“Then why don’t you let her go?”

“Selfishness? No. Realize that there is a security with me that no one else could ever provide.”

“Security?”

“Out there, she can never be certain of any one’s intentions or feelings. With me, she should know that I could never wish her harm.”

“And you think Legacy can’t provide that?”

“In part. It’s his duty to protect her and nothing more. Things wouldn’t be so bloody complicated if he had just stuck to his duties and listened to Jerome.”

“What about Jerome?”

“Legacy was warned of what would possibly happen by none other than our golden friend.” Nytehawk blinked in astonishment as Janus continued. “See, Jerome knew the consequences of getting involved. He’d seen it before. Unfortunately, that damn Sophie stuck her muzzle into everything and wound up making Legacy even more determined to protect Snow.” Janus shook his head. “Had I known Sophie was going to turn out to be a traitor, I’d never have allowed her in the estate.”

“Traitor?”

“Sophie was a spy. Plain and simple. The slaver she was working for sent her onto my estate under the guise of a gift, along with a wonderfully clueless Legacy. On this mission though, she was sent not to observe, but destroy. To kill you, which she would have succeeded in if Snow hadn’t found out. It took her and Jerome to stop Sophie. They both nearly died, as did you, but I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that.”

“So what’d you do? Make up some b.s. story and send her back?”

“Basically. Though Legacy was awfully calm about returning and to this day I suspect he knew the plan and was sent as Sophie’s back up should she fail. Or he was sent to destroy Snow.”

“That’s some conspiracy theory, Janus…”

“Don’t believe me? Talk to Legacy yourself. I’d recommend having the baby with you though. I don’t see him as the type to harm his own offspring and this would be one hell of a touchy subject with him.”

Nytehawk nodded a bit. “Do you really think he could have killed her though?”

“After their little encounter a couple months before, more than likely not. But he’s capable of more than you’d think.” Janus paused for a moment, again stroking Snow’s soft skin. Then he looked off after leaning to kiss her gently. “More than you could ever think.”

“I get the feeling you know a hell of a lot more than you’re letting on.”

“More than you’d ever imagine, Nytehawk.”

“Then start talking, Janus. Because after this, I’ll not give you another chance.”

“Yes…” Snowhawk quietly said, surprising them both, “do talk…” She was unusually quiet and almost sounded hurt. She didn’t look at him.

“Snow…” he began, then was at a loss for words for several moments. “Very well. You want to know the story? Then I’ll tell you.”

~~~~~~~~~

Another four years into the past. A day after Snow and Legacy first met, Legacy’s owner, a man named Bryce, and Janus were in a meeting.

“I hope you’ve realized that young guardian hs found the one he’s to protect,” Janus stated.

“Guardian? What do you mean guardian?”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t realized about that male Legacy, Bryce. He’s been trained.”

“Who has he chosen?”

“My bird…”

The other slaver quirked an eyebrow. “I thought they only chose to protect nobility.”

“They do.”

“Are you implying that your ‘bird’ is nobility?”

“It’s not like she can hide the fact. That guardian knew the second he saw her. Don’t forget delphin are more perceptive than humans.”

“… Right. So what do you suggest about the guardian?”

“You have a few choices. One, you could kill him before he causes any trouble. Two, you can ignore him. Or three, you can use him.”

“Use him? In what way?”

“That’s up to you, Bryce. But it’d be a shame to have to destroy such a gorgeous slave.”

“It would be… Maybe I’ll find some use for him.”

~~~~~~~~~

“It wasn’t half a month later when he sent Legacy and Sophie to my estate,” Janus said quietly as he talked to Snow and Nyte. “What happened or what he told them only they know. What I am almost sure of is that they were sent to destroy the both of you.” Janus sighed and paused. “Legacy became your guardian and it was his duty to protect you,” he said to Snow quietly. “He may have been told that he could never truly protect you…”

“… And rather than let me stay, he would kill me. After which he would take his own life,” Snowhawk finished, her voice quiet and lifeless.

“Do you think he may try that again?” Nyte questioned.

“Quite possibly. And if he did, then there’s no telling what may come of it. This is why guardians and those they guard are not supposed to get involved,” answered Janus.

“Sophie openly betrayed us… and I can forgive her. But Legacy…” Snow clinched her eyes closed and seemed to sink into the bed. “He’s not one to leave something unfinished. And I would bet he is seriously considering using his final option soon.”

“What about the baby?” Nyte asked quietly.

“I don’t know… But I refuse to let him carry out anything. Especially taking my life.”

“Snow…”

“Nyte… Don’t try to change my mind. I won’t hold still while he tries to kill me. He knew what he was getting into years ago. And now, he’ll have to decide. And if he chooses his final option, then I’ll… I’ll destroy him first,” Snow stated, burying her face in the pillow, trying to hide her tears.

“You’re still to weak too fight him, Snow…” Janus pointed out.

“For now… I’ll heal soon.”

“But could you destroy him? Even fully healed?” her cousin asked.

“No one know anything for certain until they are faced with the task, Nyte.”

“You’re strong, Snowhawk. You’ll do what you have to,” Janus said to her quietly as he gently rubbed her arm.

“I guess I should have told him more… the truth,” Snow began quietly. “Then this might not hurt so much.”

Janus was silent for a moment, then he leaned near her and whispered quietly. “You did what you thought was right, Snowhawk. And no one should tell you different.” Snowhawk blinked a bit and looked at him. “Don’t look so surprised, dear. Believe it or not, I only want the best for you.”

“What you believe is best, anyway…” Nytehawk mumbled.

“I could know nothing else than my own thoughts, Nyte,” Janus stated. “Maybe I’m not right, but when I see what kind of happiness one provides her, then I decide.”

“If Legacy had not came into the picture, I would not have stayed away so long. Another veil of happiness. That’s all,” Snow said quietly.

“That’s not true, Snowhawk, and you know it. You know what you feel.”

“Unfortunately I do, Nyte. You know I can’t stay out there without an anchor. But how would you feel to know that anchor was only held onto by a silk thread? To always wonder if he was going to leave you because you weren’t enough.”

“Legacy would never have left you.”

“Just like all the others, huh? ‘No, I’ll never leave,’ then gone the next day. It hurts. And scars. Then hearing this… The only reason Legacy stayed around was because of who he was and what was his duty.” She again buried her face in her pillow, her cries barely audible.

“Do you really believe that, Snowhawk?” Janus asked her quietly.

“I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

“Then I’ll force you to choose nothing until you are ready.” He touched her neck gently, then lifted her head up and out of the pillow, look directly into her eyes, “Because the last thing I want is you unhappy.”

Snow sniffled a bit and blinked a couple times at him. She was at a loss for words. She turned her head off to the side, looking away from the both of them. The tears began to stream down her face again. She’d been hurt deeply and was more confused than ever. “There’s only so much one can do…” she began quietly. “Leave me. The both of you. Nyte, take Xelloss. I need to be completely alone.”

Nyte silently nodded and went to the baby’s bassinet. She picked him up and headed out, stopping at the door to look at her cousin.

Janus gave Snow a small kiss on her forehead before he moved from the bead, then followed Nyte outside. He stopped before leaving the room as well and told her softly, “choose whatever you wish, dear Snowhawk, but always remember I’m here for you.”

The door clicked closed behind them and Snow lay back down. She’d rest, then think. Or maybe she’d find an answer in her dreams.

*********

Down the road, in Snowhawk’s apartment, Legacy, in his human form, sat in near darkness and complete silence. He held his forehead and a silent tear rolled down his face. On the arm of the couch, a handwritten note had Snow’s location scrawled on it, along with the news that the baby had been born. He hadn’t been there. He hadn’t been around to protect her in the first place. He had failed. And now something must be done. He had a duty to carry out. And certainly not a pleasant resort. He heard a quiet knock on the door, then looked toward it. “It’s open…”

The apartment door swung open silently and Sophie quietly stepped in. “I know what you’re thinking, Legacy. You’re thinking of carrying out the mission you were given all those years ago.”

“It would be my duty, Sophie.”

“Extremist.” Sophie narrowed her eyes and walked over to him. She growled and moved to smack him, but her wrist was caught by him.

“Don’t try it, Sophie.”

“You idiot. You’re acting like you didn’t know. You should have known,” she hissed. “You should have realized she didn’t need a guardian. She was fine with him.”

“I won’t believe that,” he growled, tightening his grip.

“Then you’re making a mistake.”

Legacy growled again, then nearly threw Sophie across the room. “If Snow has given up, then I have failed. You know the Guardian Code as well as I.” He turned quickly then walked out of the apartment.

Sophie remained where she was for a moment, then stood and ran out after him. “Damn, idiot extremist.”

*********

Back in the hospital, Snow lay asleep in the darkened room. She never heard the door open, nor did she sense the one that entered. The intruder crept over to her bed then stood next to her for a few moments. He sighed, then moved over her carefully. “Forgive me, love…” Legacy’s soft voice whispered. He closed his eyes and reached for her neck, then slowly began to squeeze.

Snowhawk snapped awake at the pressure on her throat. One hand reached up to the hands on her neck, the other frantically searched for the nurse call remote. “What the fuck?!” she managed to choke out before the grip tightened more.

“Don’t struggle… please…” he said to her quietly.

“Legacy…” she gasped. “Why?”

“You know why, Snowhawk.”

She could only cry silently now, but her hand had managed to find the remote. She pushed the button and prayed someone would see the call light outside her room soon. Her body refused to move. She was unable to fight back.

*********

In the hall, Janus was returning from a quick errand when he was nearly knocked over by a running Sophie, he looked up and saw the call light on outside Snow’s room. A strange feeling of dread passed over him. He narrowed his eyes, shifting his form and stalked quickly into the room. He folded his ears back and growled at what he saw. He quickly ran to the bed, grabbing Legacy and throwing him off the bed. He shifted back to his human form. “Just what the hell are you doing!?”

“My job.”

“I don’t think so, boy,” he snarled, taking Snow protectively into his arms. “Take a step back and look at what you’re doing, you ass. And stop acting like you didn’t know you and her weren’t supposed to get involved.” Snowhawk did not need to say a word, she only looked at him for a moment, then turned away and hid her face in Janus’s shoulder. “What makes you think I would ever hurt her? The very idea…”

“You were never going to let her go. I couldn’t have protected her.”

“I was going to allow her to choose, you impatient fool. To give her time to think. Now you may have just forced a decision.”

Snowhawk flinched and cried quietly. She didn’t have the faintest idea what to do now. But something in her heart began to tell her what to choose. And it was saying to choose the one holding her now.


Chapter 13

 

Janus held onto Snowhawk protectively as he glared at the male across the room from him. “You were warned not to get involved with her Legacy. Yet you ignored that warning and look where we are now.”

“I’m doing my duty. I swore to protect her at all costs.”

“Protect her? From what? Me? Be serious, Legacy. You don’t really believe I would ever wish her harm, do you?”

“Never know anything with you, Janus.”

“You apparently never learned that your last resort was only to be used if you had failed and she was near death.”

“How would you know the Code?”

“I am a hell of a lot smarter than you think. I know more about delphin society than most of your own kind.” Janus picked Snowhawk up and started to carry her out of the room.

Sophie had, at some point, made it into the room, but made no move toward them. “What now, Janus?” she asked him.

“I’m taking Snowhawk some place safe where she can think. As for Legacy, he’s made his decisions up to now. No reason for that to change. It’s up to him what to do.”

She nodded slowly as Janus carried the still shocked Snowhawk out of the room. Sophie walked over to Legacy, still sitting where he’d been thrown. He looked up as she stood next to him. “That took a lot of balls, Leg. But one has to wonder just what the hell you were thinking.”

“I was… carrying out the Code. My duty…”

“Duty my ass, Legacy. If you hadn’t been taught that, you should have used some damn common sense.”

Legacy looked down in defeat. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Go talk to Jerome. Listen to your elders. And make sure that you listen when Snow makes her decision. She may not need a guardian, but your son will need a father. I’m almost certain she won’t keep the child near Janus out of a slight fear that he may lose interest in her. Janus losing interest could put her in a very dangerous situation. Of course, I know Janus as well. He wouldn’t lose interest in her. But her fears, however unfounded, are still there.”

“Do you think there’s a chance she would choose to leave him?”

“Little more than a snowball’s chance in Hell.”

“… Anything is better than nothing.”

*********

“You have a fever…” Janus said softly as he sat Snowhawk down in the back of his limousine.

“Does it matter?” she quietly responded.

“Of course it matters. You’re still weak. And what just happened didn’t help you any. I don’t want you to ever be as sick as you were again.”

She looked up at him sadly, then looked down and sighed as the car began to move.

Janus put his arms around her and held her close. So much had just happened to her. Any normal being would have most likely killed themselves by now. But not Snowhawk. She was most definitely a fighter. Yet right now, as he held her, she seemed so frail, and the feeling of a need to protect her grew ever stronger. She was so small now, so delicate. He knew, more than ever, that he had to protect her. He only hoped she would choose him and allow him to do so. Even after what had happened, the bond of family was strong. She could risk everything for her child. Her security, her happiness, even her life. She’d tried not to bond with the baby too much, but even a small bond would be a strong one. His mind was racing with many thoughts and things to say, but he simply held her close as the car rolled along.

Janus was right… Snow thought to herself. I do have a fever. He’d been right about many things. She closed her eyes as the tears began to well up in them again. She felt him hold her closer, and found it was so comforting that she allowed herself to relax, and the tears flowed silently. “Why, Legacy… Why did you have to destroy everything?” she whispered quietly, hoping she was silent enough for Janus not to hear her.

But he had. He didn’t respond, but he had heard her silent questions. She was so confused right now, he could hear it in her voice. She was quiet, unusually still. The shock of what happened was sinking further in. As he tears flowed faster, Janus held her tighter and stroked her sides gently. Within a few moments, Snowhawk had drifted to sleep in Janus’s arms.

She felt protected in his embrace. While this was not a new feeling for her, she felt safer with Janus than she ever had with Legacy. She felt safe from the nightmares that haunted her. Protected from the world.

She began to wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t found Legacy. In those months after leaving Janus, she had not been doing well. She was completely alone, having left Nyte soon after helping her escape. She milled around, doing odd jobs, but never able to settle down. She was wearing herself ragged constantly trying to keep busy. And trying to keep her mind occupied. But after many months of being alone, something she’d never known, she was beginning to slip, to contemplate going back. She was headed back to Janus when she encountered Legacy again. He convinced her to join him for a drink and they wound up back at her apartment. She ended up falling asleep on him. She had needed something to hold on to; an anchor. Legacy became that, but her doubts of how strong the chain to that anchor was began when he stopped staying with her every night, then there would be days that she wouldn’t see him. She felt like she was losing her stability. Her hopes dwindled, then the night she conceived Xelloss, they began to grow again. She had never expected Janus to return so soon. When she spent the next 9 months with Janus, feelings she had long locked away began to resurface. Then she began to again question just why Legacy was around. He was her Guardian, and so he was there. Dedication to his work. And he had certainly showed that dedication.

She felt Janus pull her legs onto the long seat of the limousine and he then rearranged himself, half laying down, with her pulled onto him. He held her sleeping form tightly, and again, she felt safe from the world.

*********

“Damnit!” Legacy cursed as he punched a brick wall in anger and frustration. “What the hell was I thinking!?” He had been walking alone on the outskirts of the city. “Shit… Regardless of what Sophie says, I think I’ve lost her…” He sighed and leaned against the wall. He’d been walking since late that morning and it was now dusk. “Should have listened. I think Snow knew the consequences, she’s just able to deal with them better…”

“You couldn’t be more right, you know…” began the voice of Jerome. “She can handle it better.” The golden Guardian stepped into view, wings hidden. “You should have talked with me first, Legacy. You used to talk. You used to ask so many questions, trying to learn as much as you could in those short visits.” He paused a moment and canted his head to the side. “What did Bryce tell you all those years ago? Was it you could never protect her and that you should fulfill your duty as a Guardian by taking her away from Janus forever?”

“Something like that.” A silence hung between them for a few moments. “Jerome, did you ever consider– no, never mind.”

“What? Did I ever consider using my final option? Once, when Nyte was very ill. One of the other slaves was jealous and poisoned her. I went to her room and, though she looked paler than normal, she refused to be beaten.” He looked to the still darkening sky. “Only Snow knows what she wants, whether she realizes it or not.”

Legacy dropped his head. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Why? Don’t think what happened automatically knocks you out of the running. Snowhawk will think this through.”

The younger Guardian nodded slowly. He was almost as afraid of her thinking this over as he was of her making a spur-of-the-moment decision.

He remembered a few months before she had been captured, she had been crying, alone. He found her, but she refused to tell him what was wrong. A few other occasions like that came to his mind. How, before the baby was conceived, her face was always shadowed with sadness, of despair. Did she feel that strong of a need to hide something from him? He had not really thought about that months before she was taken until now. What… What had it been? he asked himself. He searched his mind for anything he could remember that might have caused it.

Then he remembered. He had not been with her as much. Legacy cursed quietly and dropped his head. The older Guardian jumped slightly. “What?”

“Snow… I left her alone too much… Damnit.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Legacy?”

“A few months before she was captured, I stopped staying with her every night. Wouldn’t see her everyday. About that time, she seemed to always have this look of despair on her face. Like she had lost something important. I think I made her feel like she was losing me.”

“Why’d you stop staying with her? You should know, more than most, that one like her shouldn’t be alone.”

“I.. I can’t remember. I think at first, I had been quite sick and didn’t want her to catch whatever I had, than I just stopped going over.” Legacy fell back against the wall. “This is because of me. She felt she was going to lose me. She wanted to go back…”

“Maybe you’re right, Legacy. Maybe she did want to go back. Maybe by having you staying that last night, she was trying to hold on. You have to remember we’re talking about a being that, for the first 18 years of her life, was never alone for more than a few hours at a time. You realize all this now, as hindsight is 20/20, but what if she hadn’t been recaptured? Would you have ever realized it?” Jerome paused for a moment, then continued. “Two and a half more months and it will be a year. By now, she’s most likely remembered everything she tried to make herself forget to try and protect you. And yes, the protection went both ways. She has more secrets than most. Some, not even Nyte knows.”

“What about you?”

“I don’t know them all. I’m not sure if I want to. It’s a terrible weight on a heart to have to deal with so much. I know she felt like she had to protect you from her past. She felt like if you knew, you’d leave. She constantly doubts herself. Never sure of where she stands. That’s not your fault. That’s not Janus’s fault. If blame had to be placed, it would be on her original owner. He most certainly wasn’t supportive.”

“Why did she have to hide? Why did she feel like I was going to leave? … No point in answering. I already know. Damnit. I’ve lost her for good.”

Jerome sighed. “Come on back, Leg. You need some rest. We all do.”

*********

Hours after they had left, the limousine rolled to a halt far outside of the city in front of a large cabin in a heavily wooded area. A large, calm pond, fed by a mountain stream sat in front and to the side of the house.

Inside of the vehicle, Janus opened one grey eye to look outside. He sat up slowly, holding the still sleeping Snow in his arms. She gave a small yawn as he moved then snugged up to him. He smiled softly, almost hating to wake her. He gave her a gentle nuzzle. “Snowhawk, love, we’re here.”

She murred quietly and slowly opened her eyes, then sleepily looked out the window. She smiled softly when she saw the cabin. There were good memories of this place. “You know where I like to be…” she whispered.

“Of course,” he replied, softly smiling and lightly kissing the top of her head. A moment later, the driver opened the door of the vehicle. Janus again picked Snowhawk up carefully and carried her into the cabin. He could truly feel just how delicate and small she was now. A soft smile formed on her face, making her features seem much more youthful. “My beautiful, beautiful bird…” he whispered.

He carried her upstairs, to her old room, and carefully placed her on the bed. “Rest now…” he said to her quietly, then turned to walk out. Wordlessly, she caught his hand. The somewhat pleading look in her eyes was not a new one to him. He smiled at her, then sat down, his arms around her. “Very well, my bird.” Soon, she had again fallen asleep in his arms.


Chapter 14

 

Snowhawk awoke the next day, still in Janus’s arms. He’d fallen asleep with her. She didn’t want to move, didn’t have to move, so she remained as she was. And soon she’d almost drifted back to sleep. She was, for one of the few times in her life, happy. Damn what they think… she thought. She felt him move slightly, then she nuzzled him gently. He responded by hugging her gently and rubbing her sides. She inched, snugging against him, and rested her chin on his shoulder. He rubbed her arms and gently squeezed her.

“Something the matter, love?”

“No…” she replied quietly. “For once nothing.” She kissed him lightly on his jaw, then put her chin back on his shoulder.

Her affection somewhat surprised him. She’d never been this way, even before she’d escaped. He could only assume she was scared of being alone again. She was so fragile right now. That idiot Legacy most certainly had not helped her any. He felt her nuzzle him again and he smiled. Though he noted how… insistent she seemed to be. “What is it, Snow? You act like something’s on your mind.”

She nuzzled him yet again. “Not really…”

“Then there is something.”

She didn’t speak a response, but instead gracefully moved up and kissed him softly. Then kissed him again.

He knew what she wanted. But he also knew she was being heavily influenced be the recent events. Not exactly a proper mental state. “Snowhawk, no,” he said quietly, gently holding her arms. “You aren’t thinking straight.”

She blinked, and almost looked hurt at being refused. “What?”

“The last thing I want is you making a decision based on your emotions right now. You need time to rest. Time to decide.”

She nodded slowly, then moved down and snugged against him again. “Thank you…” she whispered, then began to drift back to sleep.

“It’s the least I can do, love. I only want you happy.”

She gave him a soft smile, then drifted to sleep. She had figured he wouldn’t try anything, but she had to be sure.

*********

“He did what?!” Hunter exclaimed, jumping to his hooves as Legacy flopped down in a chair across the room. Hunter quickly turned and glared daggers at the younger Guardian.

“That seems to be the common reaction,” Jerome dryly remarked.

Nyte stood in the doorway, cradling the baby. “Did she try to fight back?”

“No…”

Then she still trusts you. And your decision.” The room looked to Nytehawk. “She’s testing Legacy and Janus. I’d say Leg’s decision surprised her, but she has to know.”

“Do you think she’d come back?” Legacy asked the feather-winged female.

“With Snowhawk, you can never know. Especially with this little one around,” she said, gently nuzzling the baby. “If I was her, I wouldn’t. But you know Snow isn’t exactly that predictable.”

Legacy nodded slowly. “I really don’t have much hope for me though.”

“Don’t give up so soon, Leg. I’m sure she’ll take all factors into consideration. I’d give a month of time for her to think.”

“I just wish I knew where she was.”

“If she wants you to find her, then you will.”

*********

Five weeks later, Snow, in her human form, was standing up to her knees in the pond in front of the cabin. Her eyes were closed, her head was bowed, and her arms were slightly away from her sides, hands flat and palms toward the cool water. Her long hair was down and draped over her form.

Janus sat on the front stoop of the cabin, watching his bird. He was amazed at the level of calmness she was displaying. Amazed and impressed. He mused over her beauty as she slowly moved out until her palms touched the water. She stood like this for a few more moments, then lifted her head and gracefully dove under the water’s surface. Janus watched the ripples move toward the center of the pond. He then saw her head and most of her upper body pop out of the water. She floated for a few moments, staring at the opposite shore. As she slid back under the surface, Janus grabbed the heavy towel next to him and walked toward the edge of the lake. He carefully stepped to the water’s edge as she slowly emerged. He offered his hand to her and helped her to the shore. Once on dry ground, he opened the towel and wrapped it around her small shoulders. As they walked back to the cabin, she sighed and leaned against him. “Tired?” he asked.

“Not really,” she quietly replied.

“That’s surprising since you’ve been swimming almost non-stop for the past five hours.”

“I couldn’t reach the other shore… I’ve been trying for the past four weeks. Every way I could think of. I get halfway, and it’s like there’s a wall stopping me.”

“Is that the way you feel with one of us?”

“Yes…”

Janus nodded slowly. He stopped as they reached the front steps. “I know you must love Legacy, otherwise, you wouldn’t be so damned confused. And you must feel something for me. But is it love? I don’t want you unhappy and if you don’t love me, I know you will be.”

Snow looked down for a moment as she thought over what he had said. She looked up at him, then quickly wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.

Janus saw the towel begin to slip from her shoulders and immediately grabbed it, trying to keep it from falling. Her kiss had surprised him completely. A half second passed then he realized what was going on; he put his arms around her and pulled her close.

A moment later, she pulled away, then looked down. “That certainly was out of character for me,” she blushed.

Janus grinned and nuzzled her. “Doesn’t matter. I understood.”

She smiled softly, still blushing, then pulled the towel back around her, snugging against him. “I’m cold…”

“Wonder why…” he grinned then led her inside.

*********

A pair of bright blue eyes watched Snow and Janus from the underbrush. “This is amusing…” Aku remarked dryly. “The boys are gonna love to hear this.” She melted back into the shadows of the forest and began her trek back to the city. “Hope that boy’s prepared for the news.” She reached a clearing and, with a small hop, took flight. Though tiring, it was the fastest way out of the forest.

*********

Late that evening, a knock was heard on Nytehawk’s door. Hunter answered to find Aku on the front step.

“Y– you!”

“Yes. Me again. Figured I’d deliver some information to you personally this time.”

“Please, come in.”

“Thank you,” she said with a bow and stepped inside. “I have news of Snowhawk.”

“Do tell…”

“She’s in a cabin in a remote part of the forest with Janus. I think she’s fallen for him. Or refallen as the case may be.”

“We were afraid of that,” Hunter said, looking down. Any chance, you think, for Legacy to win her back?”

“Quite frankly, it would take a miracle.”

Legacy, who had been listening to them, slumped down in a doorway. “Gone… forever.”

Aku almost glared at the young, self-defeating Guardian. “I said it would take a miracle. Not that it was impossible.” She folded her arms across her chest. “It’s not like he’s a vampire and has bitten her or anything.”

“Please, don’t say that,” Legacy requested. “That’d probably be his next move.”

“… He’s still willing to let her go.”

“What?”

“If she’s not in love with him, then he said he would let her go. Janus doesn’t want her unhappy.”

“He’d what?” Legacy asked again.

Aku could have slapped him at this point. But she wasn’t in range, so she slowly repeated. “If she doesn’t love him, then he doesn’t want her to stay.”

Legacy leaned back against the door frame. He couldn’t believe what Aku was telling him. “He knows her better than I ever could.”

“Your worst enemy is yourself, Legacy.” The grey-green female walked over and crouched next to him. “You have to be strong. You can’t give up. Because if you do, then you don’t deserve her. She’s been strong through her weakest times. She’s only now starting to give in. There is always hope.”

“… Hope…”

“Yes, Legacy. Hope.”

*********

Hours later, drifting into the next day, back at the cabin Snowhawk lightly slept. She was on her stomach, covered only by a sheet and a lightweight comforter. The light of the moon slipped through the window and illuminated the bed where she slept. Her pale skin seemed to glow. Janus leaned on the doorway, watching her. He held in his hand a ring and a bracelet. The ring was a silver unicorn laying down, very small and delicate. The bracelet was a black leather band with a simple scroll design. A silver slide adorned with pink-purple gems graced the otherwise simple bracelet. He watched her for a few moments more, then silently moved to her bedside. He gently took her left hand in both of his. She awoke at his touch, gave a small yawn, and looked toward him. He smiled at her, then slowly slipped the ring onto her ring finger. “As in delphin tradition…” he began quietly. “And as in lupino,” he finished as he fastened the bracelet onto her wrist. The bracelet was quite loose on her.
“Even though this was made with the smallest of lupino females in mind, none of them can compare to how beautifully delicate you are.”

Snow felt her face flush. “M’ not that delicate…”

“Yes you are, dear. Beautiful, intelligent, graceful… Everything I would ever want. Everything I ever dreamed of. And that’s why I want you to be happy. That’s all. I know I haven’t gone about showing that the right way, but if you could ever find a way to forgive me… That, and knowing you’re happy, is all I could ever ask for.

She thought about his words for a few moments, then gracefully put her arms around him, lifting herself up, and softly kissed him. She gently, wordlessly, pulled him into the bed with her, then cuddled up to him and drifted back to sleep.


Chapter 15

 

“Tell me where she is, Aku,” a very annoyed Legacy growled.

“If you’re going to get an attitude with me you can forget it,” the equally annoyed female replied.

“How the hell am I supposed to save her if I can’t find her?”

“And since when did she need saving? Don’t make another stupid mistake, Leg. You never know which once might cost you your life.” The grey-green one paused. “Or her’s.” Aku wandered away from Legacy and toward the door leading to the balcony. “I’ll tell you this much, and I’ll only say it once. She’s in this direction and miles outside the city in the mountains. She’s near a lake. I overheard some thing about being able to reach the far shore of the lake… the one back in this direction. It’s almost as if she’s got something in her head preventing her from coming back.”

“Do you know what it might be?”

“Maybe something of a familiar security of someone that know her better than she knows herself. … Or some crap like that.”

Legacy nodded slowly. “Very well…” he said as he stood and began to walk to the door.

“And just where the hell do you think you’re going off to?”

“To think,” he replied curtly and left.

“Think… right. Idiot,” Aku mumbled. “Impatient… Can’t wait a few more weeks. Not like it hasn’t been three since I told them. Should give him credit for that much.”

*********

Legacy began his search miles outside the city, using his senses to try and locate Snow. He searched for two days. Then one cloudy day, he came upon a lake, water as calm as a mill pond. On the far side of the lake a large cabin had been built. He could see a figure sitting on the front steps; a male with long blue-white hair. Janus. A half second later, a female figure broke the surface of the water. He knew by sense it was Snowhawk. She floated still in the water for a moment, a unsure look on her face. Silently, she slipped back under the surface and soon after appeared at the edge of the lake. Janus was waiting for her with a large towel. Legacy watched as he helped her out of the water and wrapped the towel around her. She appeared to say something to him; then seemed to loose her balance. Janus caught her and scooped her up into his arms, then carried her inside. Legacy felt like a knife had been twisted into his heart as he watched. He slowly moved through the underbrush and toward the house.

*********

Snow slowly moved on the shore, head lowered. “Felt something…” she mumbled tiredly.

“What?” Janus replied.

“Someone, rather… Nearby.”

“Who?”

“… Felt like… Legacy.”

Janus froze for a moment, then quickly regained his composure, soon after nearly losing it again as Snow almost collapsed. He quickly caught her. “Snowhawk, love, what’s wrong?”

“Just tired…”

He scooped her up into his arms and carried her inside. “When was the last time you ate?”

“…Uhm…”

“That’s what I figured,” he smirked.

“Old habits die hard…”

“That’s one you need to break, though, love. It’s not healthy and you’re thin enough as it is.”

“I know…”

He smiled softly at her and carried her to the couch. He gently laid her down with a soft nuzzle. “You gonna sleep or eat first?”

“Sleep…”

“I thought as much… I’ll go get you a blanket.” Janus walked off for a blanket, and when he returned, found she had already dozed off. He gave another soft smile and covered her up. After moving a nearby reclining chair closer to the couch, he sat down to watch her sleep, as he usually would. He worried now, though. She had sensed Legacy, meaning he was near, but in her sleep she most likely would not be able to distinguish anyone near her. And with Legacy as impulsive as he was, there was a high chance of him showing up soon. He’d try to take her back. Janus wasn’t sure how, but he was certain he would try.

Outside, the clouds had opened up causing a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. The cabin’s tin roof and the open design of the building allowed the sound to filter throughout. Janus soon found himself yawning, then he’d dozed off as well.

After an hour, Janus awoke to the sound of the still falling rain. Snowhawk was asleep, and appeared to have been that way since he drifted off. However, he noted the temperature of the room had dropped sharply. His bird was shivering in her sleep. Her current state of undress and the still damp towel around her was most likely a contributing factor. Janus again wandered off, this time to his closet. Knowing Snow did not have any shirts she could sleep in and all of her actual sleep wear was, quite frankly, too thin, skimpy, or otherwise not suitable, he pulled out one of his long-sleeved, button up shirts, warm grey in color. Shirt in hand, he went back to her.

He coaxed her into sitting up enough to remove the towel, then slid the shirt on her and buttoned all but the top two buttons. He chuckled lightly at the over-sized shirt on her, just another reminder of how small she was. It was then he noted the ribbon on her neck was quite loose. He leaned in, not having actually looked at the scar under it. It was a fast, clean cut with an exceptionally sharp blade. It could have caused so much damage. Gently, he pulled the ribbon away. The last thing she needed was to get tangled up in that as she slept. He would return it when she awoke.

But, as she tends to do, Fate would not allow him that luxury.

Janus was again watching Snow sleep when an exceptionally loud clap of thunder set off his car’s alarm. Snow awoke with a quiet, curious, “mrr?” but Janus simply replied, “Go back to sleep, love.” She gave the slightest of nods and complied. He wandered out, wondering just why he had even turned it on, being out in the middle of nowhere and all.

When he returned, he found none other than Legacy carting a strangely calm, still sleeping Snowhawk away. “I would suggest putting her back where she was and leaving, Legacy.”

“I don’t have time for this, Janus. Nor does she. I’m the only one that can wake her up now. I’ve got enough time to get her home or she’ll die.”

“You won’t learn, will you? Just like a stubborn child whose parents have taken a favorite toy from him.”

“I need to speak with her, somewhat hard to do with you around.”

“She’ll never forgive you for taking her, Legacy.”

“We’ll see,” the delphin male smirked and vanished out the window. He sprinted through the forest and back toward town. It had been too long since he held her.

“Snowhawk… you’re home,” he whispered as he laid her on the bed in her apartment. He lightly touched her face near her left eye, then her neck, awakening her.

At first, she thought everything had been a dream, then she saw the ring and bracelet Janus had given her. She snapped awake and bolted to the door. Had it not been for Legacy catching her, she would have been well on her way. “What the hell are you doing!?” she snapped.

“We need to talk.”

“Talk. You should have thought of that before you tried to kill me.”

“Snowhawk, please–”

“Please, nothing!” she said as she jerked her arm away. “You can’t leave well enough alone.”

“I swore I would protect you and I will.”

“Protect me? Damnit, Legacy. Ever think maybe, just maybe, I don’t need protecting?”

He froze. “But I swore I would…”

“The Guardians serve no purpose now, Leg. The Society is gone. The royal family is gone. There is nothing left.”

“You’re a direct descendant. Nyte’s not too far off.”

“What good with that do? We can’t restore the Society. Not with the few left. Our Society is dead. We had our day in the sun. Deal. Have no aspiration to be a leader anyway.”

“Then let Nytehawk.”

“Then you present her with your little idea. I want no part in this,” she began, walking to the door.

“You aren’t going, Snow.”

“So you say…” she stated, pausing.

He roughly reached out and grabbed ahold of her arm. “You aren’t going.”

“Damnit, let go.”

“Not this time.”

“What are you going to do, Leg?” she almost laughed. “There isn’t much you can do that hasn’t happened to me before.”

“We’ll see,” he stated, pulling her back.

*********

“What in the hell…” Adian said as he saw Legacy sprinting back toward his apartment, carrying someone. Moments later, he saw his brother following. “That damn Guardian has lost his mind…” The younger Lupino stood and stretched. “Never liked him anyway…” he smirked, then stalked off, following the other three.

*********

“What the hell are you doing!?” Snowhawk yelled as Legacy pinned her to the bed.

“I’m not losing you again, Snowhawk. Ever.”

She attempted to kick him, but he had both of her legs pinned down with one of his. “Why are you doing this, Legacy? Why are you being so damn stubborn?”

Legacy never got the chance to answer, as the door to the room burst open and a half second later he found himself flung to the floor by a very angry, very irritated, pale-furred Lupino. “I’m growing ever tired of your meddling, Legacy. You can’t seen to understand that she needs time to make a decision as heavy as this one.”

“And how many months has it been?”

“Not enough, apparently,” he said taking Snowhawk into his arms and picking her up. “I warned you not to make a stupid mistake because of her.” He turned and calmly carried his bird out of the apartment. On his way out, he very nearly ran into Adian. “And just where are you headed, brother?”

“To pick a fight,” he replied very nonchalantly and continued up the steps.

Janus lightly shook his head. “I’d be surprised if Adian survives,” he quietly stated.

Snowhawk gently nuzzled him. “Take me back… to the cabin… please,” she quietly asked.

Janus nodded, “Would you mind if I stopped for a vehicle first, though?”

“No…”

He smiled and headed for his estate. He reached it quickly and soon had acquired a vehicle. After situating Snow inside, he walked around and sat down in the driver’s seat. “You’re being awfully quiet, love…”

“Just something on my mind… Can talk about it at the cabin…”

“If you insist…”

********

Snow spent most of the trip in silence, just gazing out the window. Something was weighing very heavily on her mind. They reached the cabin with in a few hours, under the now clear night sky. Janus exited the car and quickly moved to the passenger side. He opened the door before Snow could begin to hop out, unbuckled her seat belt, then carefully picked her up and carried her inside. He took her to her room and set her on the bed. She gently nuzzled him, then rested her head against him. He stroked her cheek and quietly asked, “What were you going to say, love?”

She wrapped her arms around him, snuggling against him. “I’ve made my decision… Can’t stop what was meant to be…”

“You’re giving everything up?” he asked, almost not believing.

“Once I tell them, yes”

“Oh… Snowhawk,” he almost whispered, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close.

“It was how he spoke… he was harsh… unkind… Too much like…”

“Like earlier in your life.”

“Yes.”

“How much had he changed?”

“More than I could realize. He’s still the same Legacy… Just driven by something else… He’s almost acting possessed.”

“He’s been driven insane…” Janus looked down. “That would be my fault. For taking you from him.”

“Don’t blame yourself. You saw it as well as me all those years ago. The hidden drive under everything. Just… needed a spark.” Snowhawk lay back on the bed a moment later, pulling him with her.

Again Janus knew what she wanted. And this time she would not be refused.

*********

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, Legacy pulled himself up from the floor. He growled and went for his sword, resolving that he would end this. As he walked to the door, he met with another, darker-furred Lupino. “What the hell is this, wolf day?” he said aggravatedly.

“Not quite, Guardian.”

“Then get out of my way.”

“I think not. I came to fight. And to give my dear brother time to get away.”

“Brother?”

“Of course. My brother, Janus. As much as I, Adian, disapprove of his choice of that lavender female, she makes him happy. And if he’s happy, he’s not paying attention to me which means I can do whatever the hell I please.”

“I don’t give a damn about your reasoning. That’s my mate he has!”

The younger Lupino shrugged. “Don’t care.”

Legacy growled and swung his sword at Adian. The Lupino dodged and ducked behind the delphin. He grabbed ahold of Legacy’s arms, then soon had the sword free from Leg’s hand. The delphin threw Adian over his back and across the room, but not remaining unscathed in doing so. Adian’s claws tore through his flesh, leaving deep gashes.

The Lupino gave a throaty chuckle and wiped away a small trickle of blood from the edge of his mouth. “Strong boy…” he grinned, then pounced Legacy. The force of the attack sent Legacy backwards into the wall. He narrowed his eyes at the wolf, kicking him back. Then he lowered his head and charged, relying on his horn as a weapon. It found its mark in Adian’s right shoulder, though this did little more than further anger the Lupino. He growled and pulled the delphin’s horn from his shoulder, then sharply flicked his wrist and broke the end quarter of the horn off. Legacy immediately pulled back. “Aww… you didn’t scream,” Adian taunted as he batted one sharply clawed paw across the delphin’s face, leaving long claw marks and sending him reeling back further. He dropped the end of the horn, then picked up the sword that had fallen earlier. He advanced upon the wounded delphin.

Legacy had lost a great deal of blood between the raised heart rate, gashes on his arms, and then his horn. The slap across the face stunned him and he back against the wall, then fell to his knees. He looked up to the advancing Lupino, then fell forward. He looked up again to see Adian over him with his sword. He faced out of consciousness just before the blade was thrust into his back.

The lupino growled, then grinned as he looked at his handi-work. The delphin had stopped moving. He pulled the blade from his back, then headed out the door, stopping to pick up the piece of horn on the way.

*********

In the afternoon of the following day, Snowhawk lightly dozed in Janus’s arms as they sat on the front porch. She nuzzled him lightly as he gently stroked her back. Janus squinted as he saw a figure appear from the forest, then was amazed to realize it was Adian. He appeared somewhat injured.

Snowhawk’s eyes fluttered open fully as she looked back. “Oh damn…” she whispered. “Him.”

“What do you want, Adian?”

“Only to bring these, dear brother.” he said as he tossed the sword onto the porch, followed by the piece of horn.

Snow sat up quickly as she realized what the objects were. “… What… What did you do?”

“Shall I just say you won’t have to worry about him anymore?”

She closed her eyes and looked down. Her reasons for choosing Janus over Legacy had very little to do with how much she loved them. And she did love Legacy. She gingerly took the sword into her her hands, then tightened her grip and stood. The blade was nearly as long as she was tall. Then she began advancing toward Adian.

The Lupino knew he was in trouble as soon as she reached for the sword. Further, he knew when she picked it up and started toward him, he was, for lack of a better term, screwed.

/You will die…/ Snowhawk stated very calmly, very clearly in her native delphin tongue.

Though he couldn’t speak or understand a word of the language, Adian did understand the general meaning of what she had said. His back met a tree, then sword sliced across his chest, almost from shoulder to waist.

/You will die,/ she repeated darkly, then thrust the sword into his gut, embedding the tip in the tree. She held it for a moment as Adian’s blood ran down the blade, then she released the hilt and took a couple steps back. /Finished,/ she near whispered, then collapsed.

Janus, who had been watching, yet not wanting to interfere, ran over to her. He picked her up and cradled her in his arms. His brother was gone, though he didn’t feel any real loss. But Snowhawk… his poor bird. He held her gently for a moment, then took her back into the cabin.

*********

Another three weeks passed. Nytehawk, Hunter, and Jerome stood near a grave as a now toddling Xelloss played under a tree nearby. The grave marker bore Legacy’s name. “Hard to believe he’s gone…” Nytehawk said quietly. Then she looked down. “They both are.” She kneeled and placed a few small roses near the marker.

Hunter put an arm around her as she stood. “Not completly.”

“I regret not being able to train him more,” Jerome said silently. “He would have been a wonderful Guardian.”

“He was. Just misinformed,” Nytehawk said.

Jerome nodded in agreement. “There’s only so much that can be done in such limited time.”

As the adults discussed, Xelloss had wandered behind a row of hedges. “…huh?” he went as he saw a tail vanish. He stood for a moment, then scampered back to Nytehawk and tugged on her tail.

“What is it, dear?” she asked him, turning around and kneeling again.

“I saw something… Over there,” he told her matter-of-factly and pointed behind the hedges.

“Did you see a bird?”

“Nope… saw a tail.”

“A tail?” Jerome asked, also kneeling. “What did it look like?”

“Like mine.”

Nytehawk looked over to Jerome. “Do you think…”

“I didn’t sense him, but he was always good at hiding.”

Little Xelloss looked at the two adults. He was utterly confused. “What’cha talking about?”

“Nothing, dear,” Nyte reassured him, though it was a lie. He didn’t remember his father, nor did he know how Legacy had been acting toward the end.

Nytehawk pondered over the possibilities. None of them had been with Legacy when he was pronounced dead. They hadn’t even known for several hours. Furthermore, the funeral had not been an open-casket service.

Hunter quietly wandered off and behind the hedges. He sniffed around until he found several long hairs tangled in the bushes. He freeed them from the hedge and walked back to the others. “Look,” he said as he held out the hair. “Smell familiar?”

She didn’t hesitate in guessing who the owner was. “Legacy.”

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.”