AS.com :: Past Secrets

Janus fumbled in the dark on his night stand, trying to catch his vibrating, loudly ringing phone. He knocked both it and his clock off the small table, then fell from the bed trying to catch the falling phone. He looked at the name of the caller, and saw not only his brother's name, but a picture as a caller notification. He didn't remember doing that, so he could only assume Adian took it upon himself to add it, as it was not a picture he would have chosen. He pressed the answer button and held the phone up to his ear. "Where is she?" he quickly asked.

"What, no 'Hi, Adian, how is your hunt going?' So rude." He could almost hear his brother's smart-assed grin.

"Adian, I am half lying in the floor because I fell trying to catch this damn phone. The only reason you would have to call me at," he paused as he pulled the phone away from his head to look at the display of time, then quickly returned it, "almost 4 am is because you found Snowhawk."

"Yeah, yeah, I found your mare," the other wolf said in a dismissive tone.

Janus gave a small growl when his brother didn't continue that sentence. "Well?"

"That male delphin, who I found out is named Legacy, took her back to his place."

Legacy? Janus thought, knowing exactly who the delphin stallion was. He was one of Bryce's slaves. But why do I remember him specifically? Then, a moment later, he remembered why that particular slave stood out in his mind. "Shit!" he cursed, slamming his other fist into the floor. "Ow, fuck!" he continued, having hit the floor harder than intended.

"What has you so worked up?"

"That's the damn Guardian, Adian."

"Oh, that's him. Explains the sword I saw." Adian's laugh then came over the phone's speaker. "Well, sucks for you. You know how those idiots get when they find someone to protect."

"That's not what I'm as concerned about. He's not fully trained. He could put her in danger."

"How? They'll die protecting their charges."

"And sometimes, they take their charges with them if they feel like they've failed! Now where is she?" Janus couldn't believe it. His brother must have been asleep when they learned about the previous rulers of the land, the Delphin Empire.

"You know where the Empress used to live? Before, you know, she was killed and everything went to shit for those horses?"

"Yes."

"His apartment is right near there. Not easy to get into, though. New security on the doors, and the ladders for the fire escapes sit up higher than usual. They're locked too."

Janus growled again, and rubbed his forehead. "This is incredibly inconvenient."

"I'll watch them for a while longer and let you know what I see."

Janus pulled his head back and looked at his phone. That was unusually generous of his brother. He returned the phone to his ear and began "I-- Thank you, Adian."

"Look, I can't have you moping around if something goes wrong and she dies. Getting you to where you can at the least talk to her is as much for me as it is for you."

*********

Adian shook his head as he put his phone back into his pocket. He then sighed as he turned back toward the apartment. The building across the street was minus a door, and would be good enough for a surveillance location for a few days. At least enough that he could figure out when Legacy would go out. Or maybe he'd get lucky and Snowhawk wouldn't stay.

No, he thought. I am not that lucky.

He reached the building a short time later, finding it in worse shape than he had anticipated. It was mostly a shell, burned out on the inside. There was enough shelter, though, so he called one of the other guards at the estate to have them bring him some supplies for a few days. He would meet them on the road behind this building, since vehicles were few and far between, especially now. Cars had always been near the top of the "luxury" chain, but once most of the slavers left town or were killed, there were even fewer.

Adian huddled up in the building, thankful for his winter coat having grown in early again. He always found it odd that he was the only one in the family to fluff up so early. He found it odd that his coat was so much darker than the rest of the family anyway. A bunch of literal blue wolves, and here he was, the color of a candy bar. He had asked his parents shortly before they were killed, and his mom said it was from a distant relative on her side.

He was alone with his thoughts for roughly an hour, when his phone vibrated with a message. He didn't bother to look at it, and just stood and stepped into the street then walked through the alley. He found the guard he had called in one of the estate's vehicles waiting. The guard rolled down the window and handed him a backpack of his requested items. Adian thanked him and walked away, returning to the burned out building.

Adian first opened the backpack and removed two laser tripwires. He set these up, aimed low on either side of the stoop, so he would have notification of anyone passing by. Granted it would also be tripped by a stray dog, cat, leaf or such, but a false alarm was better than no notice. He returned to his pack and dug out the blanket he had requested and wrapped it around him, draping the ends over his shoulders so there was a loop at the front which he could pull up both to cover his white muzzle and keep his nose warmer. It was near 6 am now, so he still had an hour or so until the sun started to peek over the horizon. He could nap off and on during the day, and the low buzz of the tripwires would alert him to traffic.

He pulled the blanket over his nose then sighed. It was going to be a long day. It was. It was also a long following three, as he watched the pattern of Legacy coming and going.

Adian sat up quickly, hearing the quiet buzz of the trip wire. Legacy was walking away from the apartment toward the Empress's former home. He pulled his phone from his pocket and looked at the time. Just after eight am. He had managed to lose an hour, but at least his alarm system still worked. He'd never tested the battery life this long. He looked out and at the window he had seen Snowhawk in last night. That curtain was still drawn closed, but the larger window to its left was open. There was a small window that had frosted glass on the bottom pane between the two, so he could only assume that was a bathroom. He watched the fourth floor windows closely for any sign of his brother's lavender mare. Moments later, the window from last night opened again, and Adian caught a glimpse of Snowhawk. He debated on calling Janus now, since the estate was only a fifteen or twenty minute drive away. He would wait though, as his brother arriving at the apartment as the Guardian came back would be awkward. One more check to be safe.

Adian was awoken again when Legacy returned around noon, as he had days before, and was at the apartment for a half hour before he left again, heading back toward the former home of the Delphin Empire. This time, however, Adian had been able to see the buttons Legacy pressed on the keypad. He hadn't heard a buzzer or alarm when the door was opened, though that wasn't to say there may not have been one sound in the apartment. He unwrapped himself from the blanket, and took another look at the fourth floor windows, making sure no one was up there. He then ran across the road and to the front door of the building to test out the door code. "4-8-3-4-star" he whispered as he pressed each button. The light on the keypad went green and he was able to open the door. He ducked inside the building and quietly walked through the hallway, looking for one of the side doors.

He first passed the rental office and a maintenance room, opposite a general gathering space for tenants. The hallway quickly sloped down as he neared the midpoint of the building, then it leveled out where two hallways connected into it. One hallway, the left one, had a door in the middle for a laundry facility, and the right had a door marked "Storage." Both terminated into doors that led out into the alleys on either side of the building, and neither were emergency exits, so alarms would not sound if they were opened.

He tested the door on the storage room, finding it unlocked and slipped inside. Chain-link panels and doors made up lockers for tenant storage, though many were empty, or only held broken-down boxes and blankets for protecting furniture being stored or moved. There either weren't many tenants in this building, or no one had anything to store. Once more, he dug into his pocket and removed his phone, but there wasn't any service in this room. He frowned and grabbed one of the broken down boxes, then slowly opened the door to the hallway. It was still empty so he went to the alley door and stepped out setting the box in the doorway to keep it from latching.

He searched for his brother's contact information, then pressed the dial button and waited for him to answer.

"Yes?" Janus answered.

"I'm in the building. Well, not in the building, there's no signal for the phone, but I can get in."

"And?"

"Legacy is out. I saw him put a code in when he came back. He was gone for about four hours each trip the last few times, so you should be able to get here and get to her before he gets back."

"I'm leaving now. What's the address?"

"I'll text it to you. And park on the next street over. Your car is really noticeable. Ask Tom where he stopped to bring me shit, he should still be near the garage by the time you get there. Oh, and when you get here, come to the right side of the building. I've got that door propped open."

There was a click as Janus hung up and cut the call off. Adian sighed as he repeatedly tapped buttons to input the address into a text message. He hated texting, but it was better to send addresses. He flipped the cover on his phone closed and stuffed it back into his pocket, then moved closer to the street, where he could watch both for Legacy's return, his brother's arrival, and the side door all at once. Now that he wasn't sitting in one place and waiting, he felt very awake.

*********

Janus stopped his small sports car in front of the building the guard, Tom, had described to him. It had been just over 20 minutes since his brother called him. He put the vehicle in park, turned the engine off, and stepped out. He went through the alley that had been described to him, and came out next to the burned out building Adian had hidden in. He saw his brother resting against the apartment building, looking down the street. He quickly ran across the street and to his sibling. "Did he go that way?" he asked of the Guardian.

Adian nodded. "Yep." He then pointed down the alleyway. "There's a door propped open with a box down there. She's up on the fourth floor. There are probably two apartments on the front of the building, so when you're looking at the street, it should be the left one."

"Thank you, again, Adi--"

"Just shut up and go find her. If the Guardian comes back, I'll distract him." His brother then slid around to the street side of the building, so he could watch from both directions.

Janus hurried down the alley, then went into the building. He left the box propping the door open, then went down the short hallway and turned the corner to the longer hall with the stairwell. "Fourth floor," he reminded himself, taking a deep breath, then rushed up the first flight of stairs.

The stairs were average flights of twelve, but Janus felt they were longer, despite being a standard size for humans to more easily use. He finally came out on the fourth floor, then turned back toward the street. He went to the left door of the two units on the front of this building. He paused at the door, unsure if he should just try to open it, or knock first.

He firmly knocked, then took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves, straightening his posture. Why am I nervous anyway? he thought.

"Did you forget something, Legacy?" Snowhawk's voice answered, becoming clearer as she grew closer to the door.

It had been almost two months since he had heard her voice. He lost some of his composure hearing it. A chain on the inside of the door rattled as she unlatched the door. He couldn't have opened it anyway. The door swung open, and he finally saw her again.

She was thinner than she had been. The last two months had been hard on her, and she was already prone to easily lose weight. Her mane was several inches shorter, now just below her shoulders when it had reached her mid-back before. Her tail was similarly shortened. Neither her hair or fur were in the best shape, appearing rough and dully textured. The scar on her neck was still bright pink and fresh skin had grown, though the fur had not returned yet. Her green eyes were both confused and concerned at seeing him. "Janus..." she softly gasped.

He grabbed her and pulled her to him in a tight embrace. He shook with quiet sobs as he held her, then he felt her arms tentatively wrap around him. "I've been so worried about you," he finally said, after several moments clutching her to him. "Why did you run?"

"Because I killed your uncle. I was afraid--" she whispered.

"Oh, love, you didn't have to run."

"But the others-- your brother, even. I was a slave, and I killed a master! There's no coming back from that."

"I wouldn't have let them near you. You mean more to me than that old wolf ever did."

"How did you find me?" she asked, pulling away from him slightly and looking up at him.

"When we finally had a moment to breathe, I sent Adian to find you."

He could see when the follower she'd had for the past week finally clicked in her head. "Oh, that was him. I thought there was something familiar about it."

Janus chuckled and kissed her head. "He told me you were outside the fence a few nights ago."

She nodded slightly. "Yeah, I was about to step back in. I just found myself back there."

"Please come back? Nothing has felt right since you left. And I worry about you being with an untrained Guardian."

"Janus," she hesitantly began, "I can't go back to being-"

"You won't be," he firmly stated. "You will never be a slave again, love. You will never have to go gather intel or kill for me again. I let all the others go as well. It was the day after you left."

She sighed and rested heavily against him. "I needed to know." She looked back up at him and smiled. "I'll be right back."

Janus waited in the doorway as she vanished into the apartment, then returned a moment later with her bag. He looked at the size of the bag, figuring it was close to a third of her weight, then offered his hand. "May I take that?"

She smiled and unshouldered the bag, handing it to him. The wolf wrapped his arm around her now free shoulders and they walked back toward the stairwell. As they reached the third floor, Janus's phone rang. He again saw his brother's name and the picture as identification of the caller. "Yes?"

"If you aren't on the way out, move faster. And go out the other alley door."

"I take it the Guardian is coming back?"

"Yeah. Super early. I'll stall him."

Snow looked at him, concerned. "Your admirer is on his way back," Janus conveyed.

"Oh, shit," she responded. "Awkward."

"Very. Let's go."

The two hurried down the stairs, and Janus directed her to the exit opposite the one he had entered through. Once in the alley, they turned toward the street, and could hear Adian's snarky voice taunting the increasingly irritated Guardian. They paused just before the street, and Janus moved to the opposite side of the alley to try and better watch for an opening.

"Ya shuuurrrrre I don'ts knows ya?" Adian's voice asked. He was slurring his words, almost as if he was drunk. He hadn't sounded like that a few minutes ago, so he had to assume it was a ruse. Janus stuck his head out a bit further to see his brother with his arm draped across the Guardian, and trying to turn him to face away.

"No, you don't. Now get your damn hands off me, wolf!" Legacy snapped, sounding quite irritated as he tried to detach Adian from him.

"Ya shure? Man, I n'ver ferget a fasche!"

"What is your problem?!" the stallion shouted. "It's not even two in the afternoon!"

"Hey hey hey, 'ook 'ere," he grinned, pulling the other male's face right to his.

Legacy now actually looked at the chocolate wolf, and Janus could see when the switch of recognition flipped in his brain. "You," he mouthed.

Adian whispered something to Legacy, licked the Guardian's nose, then released him, and ran down the alley.

"You son of a bitch!" Legacy yelled, then ran after the wolf.

"Well, whatever he said really pissed that stallion off," Janus commented. "Come on," he said, offering his hand to Snowhawk.

She took his hand and they sprinted across the street, into the opposite alley and to Janus's car. He opened the passenger door for her, then squished her bag into the car's small trunk. He opened his door and quickly slid in to the car, and glanced at Snow. She had a soft smile on her face. He started the vehicle and drove off, reaching over to take her hand in his as he pulled away.

*********

Adian grinned as he ran down the street. The Guardian had taken the bait. He didn't even have to look behind him to be sure; he could hear the stallion's hooves on the pavement. The screams of "Come back here, dammit!" were another tell.

Once he felt he was sufficiently away from his brother and Snowhawk, he quickly stopped and turned toward Legacy. He backed out of his direct line of movement, then waited.

The equine's hooves slipped slightly on the concrete and he almost fell as he slid to a stop, but caught himself by turning and landing on his hands. "What the hell do you mean 'We've got your girl?'" he growled, his ears pinned back and stalking toward the wolf.

Adian shrugged. "Oh, I don't know," he began mockingly, "Just that you're not going to find her in that apartment of yours."

"You're lying!"

"If I'm lying, why didn't you go look? Or was that little kiss that special to you that you had to chase after me."

Legacy lunged at the other male, but Adian saw him preparing to jump just before he launched himself and stepped out of the way. Legacy landed and slid on the asphalt of the street, scraping the side of his face and the back of his hand. He lifted himself up, glaring daggers at the wolf. "Why would you capture her?! She was finally free!"

"Who said anything about capturing? Did you honestly think that mare would stay? Don't you remember where you found her? Where she was about to go?" Adian watched as he clenched and unclenched his fists several times.

"I've had enough of you fucking wolves ruining everything," Legacy lowly said, then grabbed the hilt of his sword. He pulled the weapon from its sheath, then advanced toward the other.

Adian raised his eyebrows at sword-wielding equine advancing toward him. "Killing me won't get you anything."

"Sure it does. If you're dead, that's one less wolf in the world!" He again lunged at him, and managed to catch Adian's jacket with the tip of his sword.

Adian sighed and kicked the stallion away from him. "You're too dangerous to have that. I'm sure it was from your mentor or whoever, and you just got it back, or some such, but you're just going to get yourself killed."

"As long as I know that Snowhawk is free, I can die fulfilled," he said as he stood.

Adian canted his head to the side in confusion. "Wow, there is so much wrong with that statement." He then jumped out of the way as Legacy lunged at him once again. Once more, he kicked the equine away. "If you're dead set on fighting me, and 'saving' her, and trying to kill my brother, you're more than welcome to. Especially that last part, because he's a pest. But at least train yourself to be a better opponent first." He turned away from the equine and began to walk away.

"You bastard!" the other yelled. Adian turned to look behind him, and saw Legacy sailing toward him, sword in outstretched arm, but couldn't dodge fast enough this time to avoid him completely. The blade pierced his clothing, and dug into the flesh on his side, slicing through him, just below his rib cage. As Adian pulled away and Legacy flew past, the sword ripped further through his clothes, but also wrenched itself from Legacy's hand and clattered to the ground.

"You fuck!" Adian yelled, grasping his side. He quickly felt as best he could to try and gauge the damage done. The wound seemed mostly superficial, though he wasn't about to take any chances. The stallion tried to scramble to his sword, but Adian kicked him in the jaw and away from him. He then picked up the sword. He looked at the writhing equine on the ground in front of him. "Be glad I don't kill you right here. If you want this back, learn to fight. You got a lucky hit today."

He limped away, clutching his side and trying to remember where the hospital was in relation to his current location.

*********

Adian hobbled down the street toward the hospital. It had been a half hour since the Guardian sliced his side open. He should have called for a car, but then the guards at the estate would panic and he didn't want or need to be around panicking people. Staying calm and maintaining an even pace would be the best for him right now. His wound was not as bad as he had assumed, but it still hurt like he didn't know what. He dug around in his pocket again and found his brother's name on his speed dial, then pressed the button. Might as well let him know, he thought as he held the phone up to his ear. The phone rang three times, and he wondered if his brother even had his phone on him, or if he was otherwise busy. On the sixth ring, Janus's voicemail picked up, so he spoke to it. "Hey, I'm headed to the hospital. Almost there. Idiot Guardian got me with his damn sword. Call you in a bit." He looked at his phone with slight frustration and grumbled, "It's cool though. Not gonna die."

He grumbled a few more curses as he walked down the street, gathering a few strange looks from the few other people he passed. He wasn't far from the hospital, another fifteen minutes or so, when he had an uneasy feeling, like someone was following him. He stopped and looked around, but couldn't see anyone. The street had cleared out again. He started back toward the hospital once more, ears perked to listen for any one approaching him.

He reached the building and walked in, still clutching his side. The eyes of the receptionist at the emergency room widened as he entered. "Little help?" he said, now starting to feel light-headed. He guessed he had lost a significant amount of blood at this point. He began to lose his balance as the feln behind the counter jumped up and ran to him, shouting for a doctor. He slid into a chair, dropping Legacy's sword, and saw his world go fuzzy, then black.

*********

At the estate, Janus had been ignoring the incessant small "bzz"es and flashes of light on his phone, indicating he had a new voicemail. He was still trying to help Snowhawk settle back in, though the two stopping for cuddles and kisses slowed the process significantly. He grumbled at the phone buzzing once more in his pocket.

"Just listen to it. I'm not going anywhere this time," she smiled.

He nodded and pulled the phone from his pocket, then unlocked it and pressed on the icon for the voicemail application. He then felt the blood drain from his face as he heard his brother's message. "Shit!" he cursed, looking at the time of the message and the time it currently was.

"What is it?" she replied, walking to him.

"Adian got hurt. Legacy apparently sliced him up."

Snowhawk gasped and her hands shot to her mouth. "Oh no! Where is he?"

He shook his head and shrugged. "I don't know exactly. He said he was on his way to the hospital." He signed and scratched the back of his neck. "I need to go find him."

"I'll go with you," she volunteered.

Janus began to say something, but hesitated. "Love," he began, "maybe you should stay here. Just for now, until we're sure we know where Legacy is. I'll make sure the guards who would be in the area stay closer to the house for now."

Snow snorted softly and delicately stamped her hoof, giving her tail a flick. "Alright," she agreed, with much reluctance.

He wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her forehead, under her horn. "I'll be back as soon as I can be."

Janus heard her frustrated sigh as he closed the door to their room. "I'm sorry, love," he whispered as he walked away, "I can't risk something happening to you."

He quickly made his way to the garage, and left his instructions for the security guards, then jumped into his car and sped out and turned towards the city's hospital.

*********

Snowhawk sighed as the door closed, and stamped her hoof once more. She wanted to help. She felt this was partially her fault. Maybe more than partially, she thought. She sat on the edge of the bed, and her hooves didn't quite touch the floor, so she swung them back and forth lightly, feeling the railing of the boxspring under the mattress thump into the backs of her legs, just above her hocks.

A moment later, she fell backwards onto the bed, sighing in frustration again. "If only I wasn't useless when it came to healing," she said aloud, frowning. Most unicorn delphin could heal at least themselves, and a rare few could heal others. Some could heal even major injuries. Her mother had been one of those latter types, as she had learned. So why couldn't she? Was it because she had taken lives?

She curled up on her side, tapping her hooves together. That would be silly, her mind said to her. She couldn't heal when she was with Mather Arey, her previous owner. The man responsible for her mother's death. If she hadn't been a slave, she wouldn't have needed to escape when she was so heavily pregnant, and especially in that weather.

"Maybe that was it. Maybe because my mother died for me, I lost my ability to heal. Can you even completely use up your healing abilities?" she pondered, wondering if that was what saved her from the snow storm that night. She continued to think as sleep overtook her.

She slept for some time, she wasn't sure for how long, when she awoke to the feeling of heavy pressure on her shoulder and arm, which was lying on her waist. It was a pair of hands, and she was being held down firmly. "What the f--" she started to cry out, but the hand on her shoulder shot to her muzzle and held it shut. She looked over since she couldn't move her head, and saw golden eyes locked onto her. They belonged to a blood red delphin with long brown hair and white, pinto markings. From his head grew a horn, spiraled in gold similar to her own, but the core was a deep red, like his fur. His ears curled towards each other at the tips, like some of the older delphin lines once had.

She didn't know him at all, but something about him was familiar.

"You weren't supposed to wake up just yet," he frowned. She tried to shake her head free of his hand, but he just gripped tighter. Her nostrils flared as she breathed heavily. "Don't struggle. I simply came here to check on you."

With his weight on her and pressing her into the bed, she couldn't free her other arm. She wiggled to try and slide onto her back and throw off his balance, after which she could maybe free herself. He squeezed tighter on her nose. "What did I just say?" he warned.

The piebald male studied her for a moment, then shook his head. "Not yet," he stated, then, keeping his one hand on her muzzle, rolled her onto her stomach and laid on her to hold her down. He brushed her hair away from her neck, and she could feel his muzzle brush against her coat. He didn't breathe, that she could feel anyway. She whimpered softly, unsure what he was planning, then felt pressure on her neck, followed by the distinct sensation of her skin being punctured. She whined and dared not shake her head out of fear of further damage being caused. A moment later, everything went dark.

Then she shot up, still in bed, still alone in the room. She looked about for signs of anyone having been in there. Nothing was changed. She felt her neck, feeling no punctures or scars, then ran to the bathroom to confirm in the mirror.

"What the hell was that?" she asked her reflection as she leaned on the bathroom sink's counter.

*********

Janus cursed that his family's estate was so far from the city's center. He knew why it was like that, but it was still some forty minutes to the hospital from the estate. A little less if he sped. Every extra mile felt like an eternity when rushing. He'd felt the same earlier when his brother told him where Snow was. "That idiot better not get himself killed."

He reached the hospital finally, passing his keys to the emergency room's valet and taking said valet's ticket in one smooth motion. He burst into the lobby, and the feln receptionist hopped up from her seat at the noise. "Oh, sir," she began, apparently recognizing him from little more than two months earlier. "Are you here for the other wolf? The red-haired one?"

He nearly dove to the desk. "Yes! He's my brother. Where is he?!"

"In surgery. Please, sit down, and we'll let you know when you can go see him."

Janus could only nod, and walked to the waiting area, dropping himself into the all too familiar cheap chairs, upholstered in fake leather. Every chair in the hospital seemed to have this covering, if they had any padding at all. Perhaps I should make a donation to the hospital, he thought. At least I can get them some better seating. He had to distract himself somehow while he waited. He looked around the waiting room to see if there were any other things he could suggest donations go to.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of hooves on the tile floor. He looked up to see the familiar red delphin doctor walking toward him, a clipboard tucked under her arm. He stood, and gave her a slight bow of respect. She paused for a moment before him, then smirked. "Not panicking as much this time, I see." He shook his head, confirming her observation. "Good. Won't have to chuck you out the doors."

"What happened to him?"

The doctor brought her clipboard out, and looked at the papers tucked under the clip. "We're not entirely sure. He passed out in the waiting room. We rushed him into surgery and found a substantial, but thankfully cleanly cut, wound on his left side. The blade that got him wasn't some simple kitchen knife. The wound started in his back, just under his ribs, and pierced the top of the muscle, then continued around, as if he was turning and trying to get away, to his front, but someone held onto the weapon for quite a while."

Janus could tell she was refraining from using the names of the muscle groups, though she really seemed to want to. Perhaps it was how she had gotten used to speaking to other patients.

"We found bits of his clothes inside the wound, which gave us an idea the blade was traveling. He did have a decent sized sword with him, which was covered in wolf blood."

Janus brought his hand to his chin as he crossed the other in front of him, and rested his arm on the opposite hand. "Adian doesn't carry something as unwieldy as a sword. He doesn't usually have much for weaponry on him at all. Is it still here?"

"Of course," she responded. "It will be in his room, though we've cleaned it to prevent it from being a biohazard."

He nodded, knowing there were no police left now to ask questions. Not that the police were ever very useful before, being in the pocket of one or two families. Families that weren't his. This was why most slavers just hired their own guards.

"Your brother is awake now, after we got the debris cleaned from the wound, stitched him up, and transfused some blood back into him. He's not very coherent, and may not be until we get the last couple units of blood in him. I'll take you up to him so you don't pitch another fit in my hospital."

Janus just side-eyed the small, sassy doctor as she walked off, then padded behind her. She walked to the elevator, and they rode up two floors, then stepped into the hallway and walked toward Adian's room.

*********

Legacy was infuriated. He had run back to his apartment, but found it empty. The wolf that had stolen his sword hadn't been lying. There was no sign of any kind of struggle or forced entry. "Those sons of bitches!" he cursed as he slammed his fist onto the dresser in his bedroom. Something fluttered over when the dresser was rattled and brushed against his hand. He looked down to see a crimson ribbon, one he didn't recognize. The color was far too bright to be something he would have ever purchased, and it was very wide, some two and a half or three inches in width. He picked it up and held it to his nose, sniffing it. He didn't have the same kind of depth of scent as a lupino, but he still picked up the scent of the ribbon's owner. It had been Snowhawk's. She must have left it. He thought for a moment, trying to figure out why she would have such a thing. He looked at it carefully noticing creases some eight or so inches from the ends, spaced like they had been tied in a bow. Her hair was too short to be tied back with a ribbon, and she hadn't worn it around her tail, plus there would have been additional creasing where it was wrapped around. He held the tie points, and realized what its purpose was.

She had been wearing a dark scarf bundled around her neck, but when they went to the bar, she loosened it, and he saw a flash of red on her throat, under the scarf. Later that night, as she sat and talked with him after her bath, he had seen the long scar crossing her throat.

"She covered the scar with it," he said to only himself. "Why would she pick something so bright, though, if it was meant to conceal?" She had told him the story of the scar, and why it still looked so fresh.

"Ahh, dammit!" he yelled, slamming his fist onto the top of the dresser again. He didn't know her well enough to figure it out. He dropped his head and shoulders, his horn tapping on the dresser, and shuddered, unable to determine if he wanted to cry or scream from rage again. "What business do I have being a Guardian?"

He raised his head after a moment, drawing in a deep breath, then slowly releasing it. "I need to find out if my mentor is still alive." That delphin had trained him as much as had been allowed. Bryce thought it was amusing, he guessed, to see someone start something, get to a crucial point, then have their only source of information ripped away. It wasn't the only time Legacy, or any of the slaves there, had it happen.

How am I going to find an old Guardian who might have been killed? he wondered. And I'll need my sword back.

He looked around his bedroom, then at the ribbon still clutched in his hand. "I have to succeed. There is no room for failures."

*********

It was the following morning when Adian regained enough blood to stay coherent and awake. Janus was waiting in the room for his brother to come around. "Welcome back," he smiled, standing and walking over to Adian. "You turned twenty like three weeks back, try not to die so soon."

Adian chuckled weakly and rolled his eyes. "Ass."

Janus planted himself in the chair next to his brother's bed, then leaned on the bed. "What happened? You don't usually wind up in the hospital."

His brother shrugged. "Not really sure. He caught me off guard and tried to skewer me. He had been incredibly noisy, but then it was like... I don't even know. Only reason I noticed him was he yelled before he lunged. Guess I pissed him off too much."

Janus paused and looked at his brother from the side of his eyes. "What did you do?"

"You mean, other than telling him that Snow went back with you?" Adian paused, looking at his brother, who gave a nod telling him to continue. "I told him that he couldn't fight for shit and he needed to get better before I would consider him worthy."

He dropped his head to the bed with an exasperated sigh. "Why do you do this? Every time, Adian!" he chided, his voice muffled from the bed.

"It's not fun to kick someone's ass if they aren't even a challenge."

The older wolf looked up and at his brother. "You are going to put yourself in a far too early grave if you don't stop."

Adian shrugged. "Worth it."

"I swear, when you're out of here and me punching the living shit out of you won't kill you, I am going to punch the ever-living shit out of you. I do actually care about you, you know."

His brother smirked and chuckled again. "I'm really touched."

Janus, straight-faced, did reach over and tap his brother's shoulder with the back of his hand.

"Don't beat up my patients!" the doctor called in. She had been walking by when he gave him the love tap.

*********

Helaine walked off from the group she had been with. They were a little too boisterous tonight for her spirits. It had been three days since Snow had left, and even though she had this group of feln and delphin, she still felt somewhat alone and lost. She wasn't the newest member anymore, though. The night after Snow left, a new delphin had found them. She had just traveled from Juv, so there were stories from her added to the group. She told one of being captured in Di'aru and her guide saved her. Helaine was left to wonder why they decided to travel so close to the slaver city, but she then realized they would have been on the last leg of their journey, just as autumn was kicking into high gear. They must have left late.

She sighed as she wandered away from the group, her distracted thoughts going over everything and nothing from the past few months. She wished Snow would contact her, somehow. It was at least getting colder and feeling more like the season, even the clouds hung heavy and low in the sky above. She leaned against a building, looking toward the group gathered around a fire, then looked up at the sky above.

A snowflake fluttered down in front of her and it was soon followed by others. She sighed once more, watching her breath rise to the sky, and took a moment to simply be.

She heard a soft hoofstep near her and quickly turned to look where she'd heard it. She had the safety of the group behind her, so she could at least make it back. Hopefully. She glimpsed a shimmer in the shadows, and the silhouette she saw was that of a tall, lean unicorn delphin, with a pair of feathered wings behind them. As the figure came closer to her, she saw more shimmers from the hooves and horn, and light glinting from their wings. Once they got close enough, she recognized who the delphin was. His bright green eyes and glinting golden fur and hair made him stand out in her mind. "Jerome!" she exclaimed, then ran to embrace the tall male.

He laughed and wrapped an arm around her, then reached up with his other hand and ruffled her forelock. "I'm so glad you're alive and free. I'm sorry I couldn't be here sooner."

"It's okay," she smiled. "I'm sure your Royal Guard duties have kept you extra busy lately. Especially now that you can do them again."

Jerome nodded to her. "They have. I've been trying to find some of my former students, but I haven't had much luck."

"I'm sure some of them will turn up."

He nodded in response. "Oh, I'm sure they will too. It's only a little more than two months out, there's still a lot of calming down to do."

"Are you going to hang around for a while?" she asked, knowing her uncertainty was showing in her voice.

"I think I can. Something up?"

"Well," she began, hesitating. "I've been with this group," she continued, gesturing to the delphin and feln gathered around the fire behind her, "for a little over three weeks. They're nice and all, but Snow left the group a few days ago. I don't really know anyone that well yet."

He canted his head to the side, curious. "Your cousin was here, but left?"

Helaine nodded. "Yeah."

"Why did she leave?"

"She said she was being followed. She didn't want to put everyone else in danger."

"Do you know where she went?"

"No, she didn't say. She took only a few supplies with her, but the bag was large so I guess she intended to find more. She left the rest, including our money, with me."

Jerome smiled again and once more ruffled her forelock. "Your cousin is tough. I'm sure she'll be fine."

"I know. It's just lonely without her."

"I'll look for her as I can. I'm a Royal Guard, that's in the job description. I'm here to protect your family as a whole, not just one part of it, like I once did. If I can find her, I'll make sure she's safe."

This put Helaine's mind more at rest. She hopped up to hug her Guard's neck, then started to lead him to the group around the campfire.

*********

Two days after waking up, Adian waited impatiently for a wheelchair to be brought to him so he could leave the hospital. He was leaving under severe restrictions to his activity, and before the doctor recommended he do so, but he was bored of the hospital, and wanted to at least sleep in his own bed. He also figured the estate had gone long enough without him, as some of his guards weren't completely capable of thinking on their own. Good at jobs given to them, yes, but not the best decision makers.

The red delphin doctor soon trotted into the room, and a delphin orderly with a wheelchair followed her. Adian immediately perked up. The doctor marched to him and handed him several sheets of paper. "These are your discharge and wound care instructions," she began, looking at him over the frames of her glasses. You can come back in two weeks to have the stitches removed, though I would guess you're the type to take them out yourself."

He glanced off to the side, away from the doctor, and pretended to not have heard her statement.

She huffed, shaking her head slightly, then extended her arm, handing him a small tub of cream. "This will reduce any scarring. Unless you want to be a 'bad ass' and have your scar. Up to you, though the latter might somewhat restrict your ability to twist, depending on how much scar tissue forms. You probably know well how your scars form so, again, your choice."

"Yeah, I've got a few," he admitted.

"Oh, I know your type. The 'scrappy' ones who ruin my good work by doing too much too soon when I've stitch them back together. Then I have to do it all over again." She sounded exasperated. And exhausted. He'd only ever seen her on shift, so she may be the last doctor in the city for now.

"If I can help it, you won't see me for a while."

"I will hold you to that," she dryly returned. She handed him her clipboard, then a pen. "Sign at the highlights. This is saying I've given you the discharge papers and your anti-scar cream, and I've gone over why I think this is a bad idea for you to leave early."

"But you didn--"

"The stitches talk," she tersely replied, cutting him off. "And if I had said more, would you have listened, or would you have started at that same spot on the wall that's so interesting?"

He had nothing to reply with, so he took the clipboard, then the pen, and signed at each highlighted area. He returned the items to the doctor.

She tucked the pen in her breast pocket, then looked over the papers to make sure everything was signed. She looked relieved to find it all in order, then gestured to the wheelchair. "Your chariot awaits."

The orderly brought the chair closer. Adian carefully slid off the bed, and dropped into the chair. He took a moment to call his brother as he was being pushed toward the elevator to let him know he would be at the door soon.

When the orderly wheeled him out the door, the freezing winter air hit Adian and he lost his breath for a second after being in the warm building for the past several days. His brother was waiting outside with a more sensible vehicle, an SUV, than his low-riding sports car. Once Adian was inside and secured, Janus drove away from the hospital.

"This feels strange. I just left here two months ago to the day," his brother commented.

Adian looked over at him, then replied, "Yeah, well, I'm not going to kill someone then run off and disappear for two months."

Janus frowned. "I should hope not. I don't really have anyone to track you down."

They drove in silence back to the estate. Janus drove to the front of their home so his brother would not have to walk from the garage. Once the vehicle stopped, he paused for a moment before he opened the door and carefully turned himself so he could just slide from his seat, instead of twisting more than he needed.

"Do you want a hand?" Janus asked.

Adian gripped the vehicle's frame and braced one foot on the running board, his other extended past the running board to catch himself, then pushed and pulled himself out. "No, I think I've got it." He patted his pockets and frowned. "I don't have my keys, though."

"They must be in your bag. You know they'll just let you in, right?" he asked, following with a quiet chuckle.

Adian could hear the smirk on his brother's face. "The key to the monitoring station is on that ring."

"You're not going back to work right now, you are going to rest."

"I'll need them later."

"Like I said," his brother replied, sounding very unconcerned about his head of security missing his keys, "they're probably in your bag. If not, they'll be at the hospital. I'll go back if they are."

Adian sighed and turned around, then leaned into the vehicle. "What if that Guardian found them? I don't remember if I had them when I was on my way to the hospital."

"Then we will change the locks. We have enough security in the mean time," Janus replied. "Please go on in and get some rest."

He opened his mouth to protest, but another look from his brother shut him down. "Fine, you win. You'll get the biggest 'I told you so!' ever if something happens, though."

"And I will accept it. Go rest. I'll bring your bag up."

Adian nodded and turned back toward the estate, then slowly made his way to the front doors.

*********

Snowhawk was reclined on a couch with a book in a reading room on the first floor of the estate when she heard the soft boom of the front doors closing echo down the hallway. She knew Janus was picking Adian up today, but she had expected to hear them come from the direction of the garage. She tucked a slip of paper into the book to mark her place, then sat up and placed the book on the coffee table near the couch. She listened again, and heard a male voice speaking in the hallway. That's Adian, so where's Janus? she thought. She stood and trotted to the door, then stuck her head out and looked down the wide hallway.

She saw Adian speaking to one of his staff, then he turned to continue up the hallway. He looked around the hall, then directly at her, and she shrank back. She hadn't caught his expression, so she wasn't sure how he was feeling towards her at this point. She peeked back out into the hallway, to find the darker furred wolf still making his way toward her. He was moving much slower than he normally did. She kept still for a half moment, then took in a deep breath and stepped out into the hallway.

He reached her not a minute later, then shook his head. "What's with that look? And you're not property, you don't have to stand like it."

She was at first confused, then quickly realized she had been standing at attention as she would have when Ulmer or Arey were around. She quickly shook her head to try and help clear her mind and relaxed. "Oh," she began, "old habits, I guess."

"If you're looking for Janus, he'll be along shortly."

"I was," she began in a soft voice, "but I also wanted to thank you. For distracting Legacy. You didn't have any real reason to put yourself in that situation."

"You're right," he returned, "I didn't. But, I know how much my brother cares about you."

"I also wanted to apologize. I don't know what happened to me that night, and Janus told me you were the one to find your uncle."

He nodded. "I was. And I should be angrier than I am, if we were to listen to everyone else talking. You were the one who started this uprising. You somehow managed to topple more than two thousand years of slaver rule by killing one man. It set off a chain reaction of slavers either getting killed themselves when their slaves found out even the most powerful wasn't safe, or them releasing everyone when they realized their death was closer than they realized." She could feel herself shrinking and she looked away as he talked. He sighed and continued. "I'm not really that angry though, because I was part of it too."

She looked up at him, confused.

"I never agreed with this, and I would later learn that neither did my brother. Before that came about, without him knowing at first, I may have spread the word that a slave was the one responsible for my uncle's death. We had released all the slaves here the day after he died, sending them off with money and supplies. Some stayed, so they're housed and fed as before, but receiving a paycheck for their work now. Some of the staff we had are still working through understanding that the former slaves here not property now, and anyone who refused to even begin that realization has been let go." Adian gave her a slight grin. "We started a revolution."

"If you didn't agree with it then why did you continue to work with him though?"

Adian gestured into the room she had been in. "Let's sit. I'm still a little weak."

"Oh, right! I'm sorry!" she replied, hopping out of the wolf's way. Adian smiled as he walked into the room, then sat on the couch she had been resting on earlier. She sat on the end opposite of him.

"We tried, at one point, to get Ulmer to release everyone. That did not go over well. The death of our parents and how he took us in after was thrown in our faces, like we had control over that. The man never raised a hand to us, but he was constantly reminding us how we should be grateful to him. He didn't know how to show affection beyond giving us things. I really pissed him off a few years ago when he tried to give me--" he trailed off.

"Tried to give you what?" she asked, turning then leaning toward him.

"Well, you."

"What?" she responded with almost a whisper, folding her ears back and leaning her head to the side.

"He thought that by giving me a 'pet' he could change my mind. He heard that you were going to be sold, so he was going to give me an 'early birthday' gift." Adian sighed and shook his head. "I not so politely told him to go fuck himself."

Snowhawk drew back. She was sure the confusion and even hurt at hearing of him rejecting her was written all over her face. "What?"

"Oh, Snow, please don't think of it as a rejection of you. It was refusing to participate in his bullshit." He sighed, then turned himself toward her, flinching as he tugged on his stitches. "I can't pretend to know the kind of conditioning that went through your head when you were one of Mather's slaves. I know what you went through, physically, from your records, but the things he did to condition his slaves were mostly spoken about in whispers."

He was right. She still struggled with trying to break out of the mindset that had been drilled into her from such an early age. She had found herself able to fight against it at some occasions, which earned her the reputation she had and landed her on the sales floor. Helaine had managed to remain calmer. "Wait, how did he find out about me? He didn't give me any sort of indication at the sale he knew of me before hand."

Adian gave her a small shrug. "I'm not sure, but I have to guess someone, possibly from the slave market, told him, since he'd bought your cousin there the year before."

She sat back in her seat and folded her hands in her lap. How different would her life have been had Adian owned her? She looked at her hands and crossed her legs at the hocks. She sat in quiet contemplation, her hands fidgeting at the thought.

"Snow?" he began, leaning toward her.

"Oh, sorry. That was just something I never expected to hear, you know? Kinda leads to all the usual 'What if' questions."

"Understandable."

"Oh, there you are, Adian," Janus's voice began. Snow looked up to see him stepping through the door. "Oh, Snow, you're here too." The angle would have kept him from seeing her until just then.

She stood, smiling, and trotted over to him, then wrapped her arms around him. "I was wondering where you were."

He wrapped his own arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. "I was looking for him to make sure he got to his room. So he can rest, like the doctor ordered." Janus's voice took on a somewhat scolding tone, and she looked up to see him glaring in his brother's direction.

"That's my fault. I distracted him."

"As long as he's not out working, I guess sitting on a couch here counts as resting, as much as him being in bed."

Adian waved them off. "I'll get to my room in a bit. You two go do whatever you're going to do."

Snow saw Janus grin, then he reached up and scratched the back of her head. She closed her eyes and smiled. "Don't push yourself too hard, Adian. I'll be by to check on you shortly," Janus told his brother. "Love, shall we?"

She gave him a small nod, then turned back to Adian. "Thank you again, Adian." He replied with a slight bow of his head, then waved them away. She then walked off with Janus.

*********

Adian leaned back on the couch. He held the book Snow had been reading and was now browsing through it. He had opened it to her bookmark, and read a few sentences, finding it to be a book that covered the history and lore of her kind. He started to read through it, figuring he was long overdue to actually pay attention to such things.

He reached the place she had stopped again, and found it was in the middle of the section of unicorn delphin, and the healing ability many of those have. Adian sat the open book in his lap, then leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling. Did Snow have some healing abilities? he thought. She'd never shown them. Even if he'd never heard of her doing so, why didn't she try to heal herself the night she wound up in the hospital? "No," he told himself, "she didn't have the ability."

He wondered why something that was almost common in her type of her species was not in her skill list. Maybe there was something in her history file. It wouldn't be a long walk down the hall to where they stored the remaining slave records. He carefully stood from the couch, replacing the book on the coffee table as he had found it, then walked out of the room.

Everyone who had been freed had the chance to take their files with them, though many of the ones who had stayed left them in the record room. Since the records held not only records of birth and those related to the now former slave, but all their medical history and any other related notes, it was safer to keep them in the record room. That room was not only secured, but had been built with the intention of being able to survive fire or natural disasters that would have leveled the rest of the home.

He stopped at the door to the record room, and typed in the code, thankful this door wasn't one that only used a key. The heavy door creaked on its hinges as he pushed it open, then slammed shut once he was inside. He felt on the wall for the light switch and his hand banged into the exposed box soon after he felt the metal pipe that protected the wires. He flipped the switch, temporarily blinded by the lights as they pushed away the darkness of the room, then turned to the filing cabinets once he had regained his vision. The cabinets were dusty, especially the ones on the end that were now empty. Some tiny slips of paper were thrown on the floor. Each had a range of letters on them, though the ranges were smaller than the ones on the first cabinets. He first went to the drawer marked for the "S" names, then stopped as he remembered she was one of the slaves who had come with a surname. "Alyandra," he reminded himself, then moved to the top drawer of the first cabinet, sliding the drawer lock to the right with his thumb, then pulling the drawer free. Luckily, these cabinets were not locked, since having them locked, but losing the key, could endanger a life if the information was inaccessible.

He flipped through the folders, and found her file. It was a thicker folder than some of the others, with information on her birth and past, including the incidents she had had with the guards at Mather's estate. "Let's see," he began, "mother died after childbirth while trying to escape from exposure to the snowy weather that night, Snow was found barely alive, but given her name as a reminder of what happens when slaves try to escape." Adian stopped and shook his head at this. "What an ass," he sighed, then continued. "Realized there was a 'serious issue' with her personality at age 7, not handle-able, placed into breeding program at age 8." Adian stopped again, sighing as he placed the file on top of the cabinet for a moment. "That's entirely too early." He raised his hand to his forehead, then rubbed his brows and groaned. He picked up the file again after another minute, and continued reading. "Bred 'multiple times' but only had two foals survive. Males. Both sent to Di'aru and sold there. No wonder she had 'serious issues.'" He continued to flip back and forth through the file, up to the point she was sent to the sales house. Nothing. There was no mention of even a hint of healing ability in the file. He frowned and placed the file back into the cabinet.

As he closed the cabinet door, he heard the sound of muffled yelling filtering in from the hallway. He turned too quick and felt a sharp pain as his stitches stretched the flesh they were holding together. He shook his head, trying to fight off the sudden feeling of nausea and lightheadedness that followed and moved toward the door. He had to limp again. He pressed his ear against the door, to see if he could make out what was going on. The sounds of arguing grew slowly louder as whoever was the cause moved down the hallway. He eventually heard someone yelling "Where is she?!" but he at first couldn't place the voice.

He was in no shape to fight, so he picked up the phone in the room, since there was no service in the reinforced room, and called his brother's phone.

"Yes?" his brother answered, sounding confused as to why he was receiving a call from within his own home.

"It's me. Someone is in the hallway, causing an argument. I'm in the record room, but I'm in no shape to start anything. Where ever you are you may want to lock the door until my guards handle it."

Janus was silent for a moment, then replied, "I can barely hear them, but I do hear it. I'll find out if I can see who it is. And yes, please stay put. I don't want to take you back to the hospital or have to redo your stitches myself."

"Eh, I'd do that if it came to it."

"Adian..." his brother warned.

"I'm staying. Just you be careful. I don't really recognize the voice with this door and wall in the way."

The phone clicked as his brother ended the call, so Adian placed it back on the receiver to wait behind the locked door.

*********

"What is it?" Snowhawk asked as Janus pressed the "End" button on his phone.

He looked at her as he tucked the phone back into his pocket. "Someone's in the house. Adian heard them in the hallway."

"Any idea who?" she asked as she stood from the bed she had been sitting on.

"No," he replied, shaking his head. "I'm going to go see, stay here for a little bit. Lock the door after I'm out."

"Like hell I'm staying put." She walked to a dresser and opened the top drawer and removed a dark blue scarf and a pair of hoof boots. They were formed from a semi-hard rubber and had a cable buckle system to secure them to her hooves without the use of any nails or glue.

"Snow," he began, but she cut him off as she wrapped the scarf over her head to cover her horn and any glints it may have made.

"For a wolf, you are awful at sneaking. Just wait back behind me and I'll find out what's going on, then we can go from there."

He opened his mouth to protest, but she was booted and out the door before he could say anything. She was right though, he wasn't stealthy at all.

Snow moved down the hallway, the sound of her hoof falls dulled by the boots. The halls in the upper floors were not as wide as on the first, and had thin running rugs down the middle, but they would not have well hidden the sounds of bare hooves from the slick, stone tiles of the floor. She crept along to the stairs, hoping that the intruder would be visible once she reached the railing that overlooked the main hallway. There were several of these cutouts in the larger areas of the upper halls, each placed where side hallways branched off or where a staircase connected the floors.

As she neared the railing, she signaled Janus to stop, then crouched lower and lower, finally crawling to the rail and looking below. She clearly heard the argument below her, then caught sight of a long silvery-brown mane and tail, and a dark cream coat. He was trying to free himself from several guards. "Shit," she softly swore and backed away from the railing. She removed the scarf from around her horn and head as she returned to Janus.

"Did you see who it was?"

"Unfortunately," she frowned. "Where's your brother?"

She saw the look of confusion on Janus's face as he cocked his head to the side. "He's holed up in the record room. Why?"

"Because it's Legacy down there, somehow, and I'm afraid Adian will do something stupid like try to fight him."

"How did he get in?!"

She shrugged. "We can find that out later. Right now, we need to decide on what to do. Belligerent Guardians aren't fun to deal with."

He nodded in agreement. "Do you think the guards can handle it?"

"If they stop being nice. Do they have earpieces still?"

"Yeah, I don't have a radio though."

Snow looked to the side and thought for a moment, resting a hand on a nearby table and alternately tapping her forefinger and thumb on it. She tried to remember where the nearest one would be.

"Oh!" Janus cried out. "There should be one three rooms down from here," he stated, pointing down the hallway, back toward her room.

The two hurried down the hall and ducked into the room Janus remembered the radio would be in. He picked it up from the charging dock and turned the dial on the top to the frequency the front door guards would be listening on. "Signal me if you are fighting with a pissed off delphin," he said into the receiver.

A quick beep came back to him. He had to assume this was enough of a signal.

"I have word that you're being too nice. Rough him up as much as you need to and get him back outside. Figure out how he got in while you're at it."

"Understood," one of the guards replied.

Janus replaced the radio on the charger, and the two returned to the hallway. "I'm going to watch and make sure they don't need any assistance," she almost whispered after standing in the hall with her ear directed toward the now intensified sounds of a scuffle.

"Are you sure?" Janus asked.

She nodded an affirmative to him, then walked down the hall to the railing once more, though she took no steps to hide herself this time. She placed both hands on the railing, and looked below, as a feeling of sadness swept over her. She didn't know Legacy that well, but had he responded more calmly to Adian a few days earlier, or had he at least not arrived as agitated as he currently was, perhaps he could have been her Guardian. But she suspected that he was interested in more than being just a Guardian. Why else would he have such anger? She thought briefly of calling down and asking him to stop resisting. If he was truly going to call himself her Guardian, he would be duty bound to follow this.

Legacy was fighting restraint by the three guards. She saw him stop for a moment as he looked up and spotted her. "Snowhawk!" he called out.

She didn't get a chance to say anything before one of the guards too advantage of his distraction and walloped him in the back of his head and either knocked him out or stunned him enough for them to do a quick pat down on him. One of them found a set of keys in his pocket and held them up for her to see. They quickly checked him again, then the three of them lifted the delphin and carried him off.

Snow looked back, then turned around and walked to Janus. He was still standing in the hallway. "I believe that's the end, for now at least."

"I'll call Adian."

"They found some keys on him," she told him, relaying what she had seen.

"Oh, so that's where his keys went," he responded. "I'll let him know."

*********

Legacy awoke, feeling like he was floating. No, not floating, being carried. He felt the pressure of hands on his arms, legs, and someone had a hold of his horn near the base so it would be less likely to break. His vision was blurred, and he was unable to see who had him. He soon felt himself dropped on the frosted grass. He sat up to see three lupino walking away from him, crossing the street to return to their guard positions. His vision still swam and he felt light-headed. "Wait," he weakly called out, then nearly passed out again. The gates swung closed, and he heard the sound of the iron settling into place.

He lifted himself from the ground and stood. His legs wobbled under him, and he worried he would fall. They held, so he glared at the fence and building before him, then stalked away. That clearly didn't work. Now what? he thought to himself. He gingerly touched the back of his head. He felt no blood. Why would she be there? he wondered. Why willingly go back? He gave a frustrated snort then grumbled at the night around him. Didn't she realize what she had started? Wasn't that something important? Something to continue to work for?

Too many questions. He had too many questions in his mind. He would have to find another way to make her see that being on this side of the fence was worth any sacrifices she would be making.

*********

Another week and a half passed. Thankfully, it was a quiet one. Adian had returned to his duties full time a couple of days ago. Security, especially near the back of the property had been increased, though no one had even attempted to breach the fence. He leaned back in his chair, watching the monitors in front of him. He was glad to be back at work, but felt distracted. He flinched as he moved and pulled his stitches. He only had a few more days of those to be left in his side. He thought he might remove them sooner, but the thought of something going wrong and the small, red delphin doctor yelling at him and possibly putting him back in the hospital was not an appealing thought. It made him shudder.

He stood and walked up the short ramp from the surveillance room then climbed the stairs to the upper part of the building. He stepped into the building's kitchen and opened the refrigerator to look for something to eat, when he heard a knock at the door. He was at first confused at the sound, then remembered he had still not repaired the doorbell. He sent the fridge door swinging closed and walked toward the knock. More rapping followed. It was heavy enough to sound through the door, but lighter than any of his guards or his brother would have made.

He looked at the small monitor next to the door, and saw a familiar delphin female outside the door. She had either a blanket or a heavy shawl wrapped around her shoulders. He couldn't tell from the lower quality, monochrome display. He unlatched and unlocked the door, and pulled it open. "Snow," he began, "what are you doing here?"

She smiled at him. "I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay."

Adian wasn't quite sure how to respond. Both days since he had been back to work, she had checked on him at least twice. This was her second visit today. "I'm doing fine. Watching monitors isn't the most physically demanding of jobs," he finally replied. "What about you, though? You usually haven't been so interested in how I'm doing."

She sighed and dropped her head, folding her ears back. "I'm sorry, Adian. It's my fault you got hurt."

Adian motioned for her to come into the building. Once the door was closed, he turned to her. "Well, I'm not sure what to say to that. I can't exactly argue against it."

She flinched at his words.

"Not like that, Snow. Yes, I got hurt. That's part of my job. It's not like you told me to fight with Legacy, in any case."

"I know, but," she paused, still not having looked back up at him. "It wouldn't have been an issue if I hadn't run away in the first place. Or if I had at least ignored him and walked back through the fence."

"You did what you thought you should do." He stepped toward her, then placed one hand on her right shoulder and she responded by looking up at him. "Don't apologize for that."

"I really fucked it up, though." She looked away from him again and sighed.

He brought his other hand to her chin and turned her face toward him. "We talked about this. It was a long time coming, and while it may not have been the best way for this to have played out, things have been getting done. There's going to be a lot more to do." He dropped his hand and smiled.

"That doesn't stop me from being worried about you getting injured." She tapped at the tile floor with the toe of one of her hooves.

He chuckled and shook his head. "Well, apology accepted. But don't worry too much, I'm a tough wolf."

She nodded in agreement. "You are. I saw that often before."

"In any case, if we're going to talk about wounds, how has your scar been?" he asked, pointing to her throat.

"Eh," she began, reaching up and rubbing the right side of her neck. "It's started hurting again. Rather, it has been for a couple weeks, on this side, where I think it was deeper. Or at least where the blade bit in more." She shrugged. "I kind of ignored the doctor's orders after I escaped. I left that scar cream behind, as it wasn't high on my list of things to grab."

"I have some here, if you need it, it's in the little kitchen. Shit keeps forever in the fridge, feels better when it's cold too."

"I'll have to remember that. But I have been using it since I got back, though I don't know what good it will do at this point." She winced as she rubbed a particular spot toward the end of the scar. "It feels like there are knots, and they're squishy. Almost like an old windpuff, but, you know, wrong place. They're not lined up with the scar either. I haven't been able to get a good look at them, and I keep forgetting to ask Janus. They only popped up a couple nights ago."

He nodded. The things she described occurred on the legs, and usually came with tendon injury in anthro and non-anthro equines. "Do you mind if I look?"

"No," she replied, shaking her head, then followed him into the kitchen, where the light was brighter.

Adian pulled a chair out from the small table for her to sit on, and she leaned her head to the side and brushed her hair out of the way. He leaned over to look, and saw, about a half inch from the end of the scar were two small nodules. The fur on the center of each was missing, and the skin was ever so slightly concave and shined like the scar tissue on her throat, but fresher. "These look like puncture wounds."

"Puncture wounds?" she repeated, then her hands shot to her mouth as she gasped. "Those haven't been dreams."

He crouched next to her. "What do you mean?"

"I thought I was dreaming about... I don't even know. A red and white unicorn delphin, piebald patterned coat, was perched on me. The first time it happened was the night you wound up in the hospital. Then it's been a couple or three times since. Or," she paused, confusion written on her face, "or more. I can't exactly remember." She held her head. "It's the oddest damn thing. The first time he said something about wanting to check on me, then he like, examined me, and told me 'not yet.' I felt a bite at the end of each encounter, then I would wake up. I just thought they were dreams."

Adian rested his chin in his hand. "Was my brother ever there when this happened?"

Snowhawk shook her head. "No, never. It was always when I was alone. One time, I was in the reading room." She gave a very short, sharp whinny, then shook her head. "At least once."

"Snow..." he began, concerned.

"Everything is so fuzzy. It's almost like when I killed Chris, then later your uncle."

He thought for a moment, then asked, "When were you in the reading room last? Or at least, the last time you remember it happening there. Maybe we can see something from the cameras."

She looked down for a moment, then back to him. "Four days ago, I think."

He nodded and cautiously stood, mindful of his still tender side. "Then let's go look."