Authors: Hilary Wagner
“Oh, I see,” replied Juniper, “and how do you feel about that?”
Julius looked at Juniper. “It’s all right with me.”
“Well, that’s nice to hear,” said Juniper. “I’m sure Billycan would be very pleased to know that.”
“Papa, where is he now?”
“I have a suspicion where he might have gone, but then again, who can be sure? I can tell you this, though. I know he thinks about you every day and dreams of you every night.”
“Will he ever come back here?”
“That’s something I wonder about, myself. I’ve a feeling that if your father ever does come back we may never know it. Either way, you will
be his son, no matter how near or far he may be, and you will always be part of him.”
Julius smiled at that. He suddenly sat up and looked at Juniper, worried. “Are you still my papa?”
Juniper settled back in his chair as Julius rested his head on his chest. “Yes, son, I will
be your papa.”
WARM BREEZE HIT
his whiskers as Billycan looked out over the open waters of Hellgate Sea. It was an unusually hot day, even for Tosca, but the heat felt good on his bones.
Taking in a deep breath of salty air, he closed his eyes. He thought of Julius, safe at home—his son, his entirely remarkable boy, who would have the life he never did. He thought of Juniper, the one who released him from the chains of hatred that had bound him for so long—his brother, his friend.
As the sun glinted off the gently rolling waves, Billycan wondered how much time he had left in this world. He supposed it didn’t really matter. He was alive for now, and when it was time to go, many years from now or perhaps only a single day, he was not afraid. Perhaps he’d be reunited with Dorf, no longer trapped inside their small, cramped cages, finally free. No more smell of bleach.
The soft wind blowing across the sand reminded Billycan of his mother, Lenore, and the night they’d escaped from the lab … that
same gentle breeze … the wind blowing through their coats … the feel of her soft fur something he had never forgotten, even in his darkest of hours. If she had left him in the lab, so much would have changed. Killdeer would still have defeated the High Ministry—Billycan was certain of that—using other rats to serve his purpose and taking many lives along the way.
If his mother had been caught that night, there would have been no Barcus, no Juniper, and because of that, no Nightshade City.
Billycan slowly exhaled and opened his eyes. He took in all the beauty before him, beauty he never would have noticed before.
Fish, he thought. Yes indeed, fish sounded good for lunch.
He smiled and dived into the sea.