(for my sister.)

This is what Caine remembers:

There is blood in his mouth when he wakes.

His arms are wrenched behind his back. Everything hurts. It's not until he tries to roll over that he can separate the bruises from the spears of pain in his wings.

If his wings were only disabled, he wouldn't feel them. They hurt and they are gone—someone has burned away his wings. Caine knows the depth of his punishment, and he can't remember the reason. He licks the residue from his fangs. No answers come to remind him, only the constant throb of a thorough stun and the aching loss of freedom he will never regain.

In time they come to drag him out of the cell. Not to death, though he expects it. "Your superior should have kept you on a shorter leash. We won't blame you for the flaws in your genetics," says the man who kicks him, bound, out a hatch. Three ticks of uncontrolled agonizing fall until Caine thuds down on the empty scorching desert of the Deadland, the Legion's secure prison planet.

Something in him snarls and cannot regret.

His wings are gone, but the blood on his tongue tastes good.

This is what Stinger remembers:

There's no warning when it happens. One moment Caine is beside him at formal funereal attention, and the next he is launching himself across the room at full speed-silent, deadly, wings hooded for the dive.

Blood fountains when he bites down, a piercing scream cuts off; if the guards were any slower the prince might be dead before they finally stun Caine.

Teeth, Stinger thinks in disgust. Only a wolf would think teeth were the best option here.

The prince can hardly speak even after the medical androids finish their emergency repair work, but he points at Caine and there is death in his eyes. The dog's an idiot, but Stinger can't see him die.

Stinger isn't blind. He knows too much, and he's not idiot enough to let anyone see it. If he isn't careful they'll kill Caine. Stinger is careful, careful, every word chosen honey-sweet to appease.

He has no choice. There are no allies here. If he pushes, if he forces anyone to ask why, they'll put down their rogue wolf and never think twice.

Idiot boy, idiot wolf instinct.

Stinger resents it all the more because he has some notion what set Caine off. He knows he can never, never hint at it. Not if either of them are going to live.

Exile beats death, he tells himself. But not by much. Not when they strap him down and tear away his wings. At least Caine is still unconscious; Stinger bites his tongue and fails not to scream.

The stupid dog better be grateful.

This is what Titus remembers:

The ceremony is dead boring. He amuses himself sneaking looks at Balem and Kalique, who have to be equally bored. Titus is pretty sure none of them would be here if not for the fine print that says the lawyers won't tell a word about their inheritance until after the funeral.

His dear sister manages to put on a show of grief—who knew wrinkles were so useful? Titus hasn't bothered. If anyone questions him, he can always claim to be in shock.

Balem has always been in love with the sound of his own voice. His eulogy threatens to go on forever if someone doesn't do something. Stifling a yawn, Titus makes an idle wish for some sort of excitement.

In rolling, resonant tones, Balem declares, "No one could grieve the passing of my mother more deeply than I do myself," and he raises both hands above his head in a dramatic invocation, as an artful wind sweeps past to flutter his sleeves.

Titus isn't paying attention to the honor guard, because who would? He doesn't see the moment of choice. He only knows that something enormous and heavy has brushed by him, sending him staggering back into the rail.

When he looks up, a Skyjumper with sharp canine teeth has buried them deep in Balem's throat. Kalique screams—Titus sits down hard and swallows the fear he will never admit to—but it's only a moment before the other guards have the rogue subdued, of course.

The medic says Balem will be fine, which is a pity.

On the bright side, watching Balem try to make his arguments with no voice at all is the funniest thing Titus has ever seen. He murmurs a few understanding, merciful words, enough to tilt the balance away from the death penalty. Titus doesn't see any need to destroy such a useful resource quite yet.

The poor wolf isn't to blame for his instincts. And if he can smell the evidence of Mother's murder from that far away, Titus might just have a job for him.

This is what Jupiter remembers:

Wrapped close in Caine's arms and wings, it's no hardship to wait out a sudden thunderstorm in the shelter of an overhanging ledge. The conversation drifts without aim or necessity except to learn each other.

"Did you ever meet her?" she asks in idle curiosity. "The Queen I'm supposed to be like, I mean."

His feathers ruffle all at once and smooth down again; Jupiter is still working on the proper interpretation of all Caine's reactions. After a moment he says, "At formal occasions. Graduation ceremonies. Skyjumpers are highly trained, though never socially acceptable."

Jupiter snorts softly and squeezes his wrist. "Her loss."

Caine's arms tighten around her. "I think you might have liked her better than her children, at least."

That doesn't set the bar very high, but Jupiter appreciates the intent.

"She was old when I saw her. Rumor claimed she waited whole decades before rejuvenating herself, and spoke of a need to make changes. There was something magnetic about her...I would have protected her, if I could, not just for duty's sake." He shakes his head, his beard rasping against her ear. "I was young and foolish then. Looking for someone to belong to."

It doesn't sound foolish to Jupiter. She's grateful for at least this much of what she seems to have inherited, but the Queen could have kept all the rest of the job with her blessing. "I'm sorry that she died."

He breathes out, a long silent sigh, and his wings ruffle themselves again. "Security called in everyone for the investigation, while it lasted. Even me."

Memory brings a grimace to her face. "Balem admitted to murdering her."

Caine goes still all at once. It's a predatory focus that has Jupiter searching the sky for enemies herself, after the journey they've survived. But there's nothing, despite the deep rumble of a growl that vibrates through Caine's chest.

After a long pause he manages words. "Well. It's good to know I wasn't wrong, after all I cost Stinger."

It's hard to forget what Stinger said about the crime that got Caine and his commanding officer both kicked out of their ranks. "Balem is the one you...bit?" she asks, feeling awkward.

"I hardly remember it." He sighs, a slow release of tension. "Stupid of me. Nearly got my whole unit killed, and it didn't even make any difference."

Jupiter thinks of her mother, of her father, and swallows hard. "If someone I cared about were murdered and I saw the murderer up close, getting away with it, I doubt I would be thinking clearly either."

Caine's laugh is like distant thunder. "Send me after them instead," he suggests. "We make a good team."

The rain is almost gone, but Jupiter doesn't care. She winds her fingers up the base of Caine's scalp and grins when he shivers. "A very good team," she agrees with all her heart.