Mal walked down the streets of the University District heading in the direction of Zu’s place. Mal had been surprised to learn that he still lived in near the University in fact he had a house just a few blocks for his old Fraternity. Mal had also heard rumors that Zu was the unspoken warden of the University District and any Mage wanting to live here or do business around the University made sure to check in with Zu before doing so. Not only did he hold a lot of respect around the area, but also held control of the large hallow located in the Science Lab Building, the same building that her, Zu and her cabal mates had come under fire from an ambush back in the 80’s Seattle. The fact was it was that hallow that had brought Mal here to see Zu, her cabal mates needed the use of that wellspring of mana before they undertook their next task, one that had been placed on them by the Vampire Madam Deja.
Even though Zu had told her where he lived a few days after returning from her time traveling mission, Mal had yet to come here. Mal hated to admit it, but ever since the Mage Ball she had been avoiding Zu had not even talked to him since that night. Mal didn’t know what she had expected would happen when she got back to her time and she met Zu of her time who was over thirty years older, but she had hoped to find something of the Zu she had fallen for back then in him now. In the few dates, they had before the Ball she had seen pieces of the Zu she loved and had started to quickly fall for him again, in truth she had loved him from the moment she had seen him but now she knew the truth that they just could not be.
The night of the Mage Ball had been magical, but even before that night Mal had the most fun she had had in a long time just going out with her friends and her sister to buy dresses and such. On the night Harmony had looked like a princess and so beautiful and Mal had been so grateful that Dani had gotten her picture one of which Mal now cared with her. Mal had meet Zu there with his companion, a friend named Sisie Rein who was nice and seemed to understand just what was happening between Mal and Zu on sight. Mal and Zu danced, entertained Harmony and just enjoyed the evening with friends and Mal loved every moment of it, well until Philip showed up. Mal could tell Philip was mad when he walked up to Zu, but she never guessed at what until he started yelling at Zu about putting Mal in danger and that Zu should know better and even went so far as to say that if Zu didn’t stop he would face a fight. Mal had been appalled, but more than that she had been surprised to learn that her dating Zu could put her and Zu in danger. She had been so shocked that before she could even react Dani had stepped up and taken control of the situation, and Tam saw fit to cause a distraction on the dance floor with his lovely date which seemed to defuse the boiling fight.
Before Mal could even question Zu about what Philip had been talking about her cabal had been asked to see the Hierarch where they were given the charge of being the Mage Council’s representatives to the Changeling Court’s Seasonal session. Later when Mal had told Zu he had become upset saying that the Council was just doing this to try an force him to accept their authority in the University District, but that didn’t upset Mal what did is when Zu told her she would not do as the Council asked and he would accept their demands. Well things got a little fuzzy after that as to who said what, but Mal knew she had told Zu that he would never to anything against his will just for her and that she was no little girl and would do what she must and that if this was how he was going to act then maybe they should not see each other. Well at least those are the pieces she remembered from the argument as she knew now that she had yelled a lot of things at him and he had answered back with a cold growl that made her flinch and want to cry.
After the fight Mal had taken Harmony home and hadn’t spoken to Zu since, in truth everyday afterwards she had hoped he would call and every night she had held the phone ready to do the same but she knew she just couldn’t, not if it meant that Zu would have to do anything against his will. Mal had tried to keep her heartache a secret, but she suspected that Harmony knew and that Dani had suspicions but thankfully either of them had said anything to her yet. In any case, Mal now found herself standing in front of Zu’s front door because she had opened her big mouth when Tam had stated they needed to get the use of another hallow. With a shaking hand Mal reached up and rang the door bell before taking a step back and started trying to control her breathing.
Zu answered the door wearing a house robe, black shorts and sandals, but the shock of his face was unmistakable as he looked down on Mal standing on his front porch. Mal couldn’t help notice that even at a little over fifty Zu still looked attractive with a well toned chest and a build of an athlete with wavy long hair and deep brown eyes. Mal forced herself to look over his shoulder so that she could bring herself to speak.
“Emazu, my cabal mates and I need the use of your hallow, we respectfully make this request out of eminent need.” Even as Mal spoke she couldn’t bring herself to look upon Zu’s face.
Zu’s voice sounded worn-out and drawn when he answered, “No, Mal don’t…”
Mal didn’t wait to hear the rest of his rejection she turn quickly on her heels as only a graceful fighter can and started forward at a fast pace near a run but she only got a few steps when she was stopped by the force of Zu’s grip on her right arm as he turned her around to face him once more. Before Mal could even react Zu kissed her with a gentleness that was at odds with the force of his grip.
When Zu finally released her from the kiss she looked upon his face to see sadness in his eyes but before he could do anything more to stop her Mal spoke.
“Zu we can’t, I will never allow you to do anything against your will just for me, and you know we can’t. Philip was right except for one thing, it is I who endanger you and I will not allow it.”
Zu answered her with the simple statement. “Mal I was wrong.” the statement hung in the air for several seconds as if it answered everything that had happened between them but then Zu continued. “You are anything but a helpless girl and I know now that no one could ever use you against me and with you at my side I could never be forced to do anything against my will. Please Mal I’ve missed you.”
Mal knew that she should just run because the longer she stood there the more she knew that she would do the one thing that she should not, fall for the man in front of her. As Zu’s words rang in her head Mal knew that she had to make a choice either leave or stay and staying meant putting Zu in danger in her eyes. But here he was saying that if she only stood by his side they could face anything that came their way. Mal knew that Zu was among the things she would spend her last breath defending and she had forced heartache upon herself in his name but the truth was she was hurting him as well and the only true way to defend him was to stand with him. Mal embraced Zu as if she was drowning and he was her savior and as she held him close she could feel tears running down her check as she whispered into his chest one find declaration. “Together.”