Seattle: My Corner of Darkness

Waiting

Pensively waiting for Dany’s return, tams hawk like eyes darted back and forth and much like a bird stalking its prey tams eyes lingered for a moment on the women crowded around the room. The tension in the room loomed like dark fog, seeming to cover everyone. Tam smiled glancing towards the room he had earlier seen Zu and Mallory head into, “well almost everyone was tense” he thought to himself. His eyes scanning back to the lithe female forms in front of him perhaps that is what he needed as well. His encounter with Francine had been not unexpected, rather it was the norm back in the 21st century for tam to tempt his prey with wide smiles and words that flowed like the Liqueur that often filled their cups. He thought back to the words of those that had sent him here “what you do will effect the present” the present that is now his future he thought to himself, Luke would understand this time traveling shit, and though he had tried to explain it to tam about Einsteins belief that time travel was possible, he had only half listened. What had stuck out in his mind was with one stone throne into a lake the ripples would continue to spread further. He looked around once more thinking perhaps Dani had sneaked back in without him noticing, perhaps he should have told her not to go , that it was to dangerous. To tam dani was like an animal not wishing to be caged, he tended to agree with the thought , not having ever wanted to be held down by anything himself. And yet here he was tied to a cause that just months before would have been merely bad TV. Tam slowly went through his gear piece by piece taking inventory of what he would need, the thought struck him that these were the steps his grandfather had taught him before setting foot in the wilderness, “always be prepared” his grandfather would have said. A tear ran down tams cheek, though he quickly wiped it away, he had not thought much of his grandfather since that night. To much had happened between then and now. Now he was stuck with his thoughts, there was no where to hide, no night club to indulge his appetites. He had studied for a time the craft of death, and those beginning in his tower focused on life and living it to the fullest, tam recognized the fact that all things fade in their time, and life was in fact the beginning of a long journey to the spirits. For a moment tam wondered if his grandfather could hear him if he called out in this time…

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From the Ashes

Dani quickly cast perfecting on her camera and fortune’s protection on herself. Then, she left her weapons, armor and the mage hold behind. She needed away and to be herself. This was not a good day to be a mage, not a good day to be alive. She might be exhausted and dead on her feet, but she had to replace the images in her mind. The volcano ash falling from the sky was safer than trying to sleep with the pictures of the people she killed haunting her, and it wasn’t like she hadn’t gone lava surfing before the ash settled before.

Zu hadn’t understood why she hadn’t wanted magical healing after the battle in the opera house, but had respected her wishes. Dani’s mind played through the battle at the opera house as she searched for images to cleanse her mind. Trying to cover the Seattle Guard as they were attacked from behind, spinning to shoot the mage that zapped Zu with lightning, running up the stairs to deal with the snipers, taking their place since they had repelled over the edge, spiraling down the rope while shooting and spinning her way down to land next to Mallory, shooting the Banisher after Lucien knocked Zu out with more lightning, and turning to follow Tam’s directions and taking out the last sniper. Today wasn’t the first day, well it timeline was, she had killed someone, but the sniper had been running away…leaving combat.

Dani clicked a photograph of the teenage boy helping the elderly woman out of the hot ash. She didn’t deserve to be healed, she didn’t deserve to be up and walking around. Allah help her she was no better than the Witch Hunters killing someone just because they were on opposite sides. Dani still didn’t know if they had succeeded or if she had lost everything she cared about. Her soul was troubled and her heart longed for someone that might not be waiting for her. She had known the risks when she had come back, but watching Zu and Mallory fall in love brought home exactly what she had to lose; what they all had to lose. She had lost a part of who she was by taking the last sniper’s life and had reacted irrationally when the possibility arose that she could lose everything that was important to her. She owed Lucien a thank you for not killing her on the spot when she had sworn the oath to hunt him and whoever hurt Zu down if Zu did not survive the council meeting. Hopefully, Lucien survived so she could tell him that.

Dani took a photograph of the police officers dealing with the small group of looters. Zu had turned the female sniper from the island over to the police, but the other two’s lives were in the hands of the Fates. The witch hunter stronghold had been easy to clear out, but seeing Mallory and Zu interacting after Sister Rosalyn’s words had torn a bigger whole in her own heart. Sister Rosalyn had healed the physical wounds from the opera battle, but even time in prayer and trying to warn the madam via Freya had not salved the stain on her soul. Sister Rosalyn had asked her if she had someone waiting for her, and Dani had been honest that it depended on time. A touch under a third of a century separated her from John, but even if they succeeded in their mission their time would change. Dani had no guarantee that keeping Zu alive would leave what was the most important to her unchanged. She had killed someone that could have been taken prisoner, what right did she have to expect her future to be the same. She truly understood on a personal level what the Marines she had been assigned with had wrestled with on a daily basis.

Dani was hot, exhausted and weary to her very soul. She turned at a familiar sound and took a more in depth look at her surroundings. Only true bikers would be on their bikes during a natural disaster. She snapped a couple of pictures of the bikes that were being moved into the garage before almost falling down when she realized where the Fates had led her steps. She snapped a couple pictures of the club before sitting down on the steps. The closest she could be to John was here, the club and garage where his parents were bound to be. Man was she screwed if he wasn’t waiting for her in her own time. The Fates had guided her footsteps to the Tribe of 1980 in spite of the fact her parents and family were in the same town. She had known she had loved John, but had not realized that it was the fiery love she had been running away from her entire life. That was the only kind of love that could draw her here instead of to her parents. She had sought death after losing her parents because she wanted to be with them and when given the once in a lifetime chance to see them again, she had been drawn to John’s family. She sat on the step with ash falling on her and tears streaming down her face. If they had changed the past too much, she had lost the only man she had ever loved without ever telling him the words. Words had power and if she had told him, she might have hope, but she had not realized how much he truly meant until it was possibly too late.

Dani turned at the sound of the door opening behind her. John’s mother looked exactly like she had in her wedding picture. Dani accepted her invitation to get out of the ash and have something to drink. Dani knew if she screwed up anything with the Tribe of 1980 her future was totally gone, so she did not linger long. She did ask for a picture of the leader of the Devil’s Own Tribe and the Angel that was his wife before she left. John’s parents had smiled at her wording, but had agreed. John’s mother had been reluctant to let her go back out into the ash storm, but Dani had simply said she needed to find her way back to the man who held her heart and let him know that she loved him. Her answer was solid truth, but was it possible? She hoped so because she realized that love was the only thing that could keep her going.

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Standing before the Fear

As Zu walked down the hallway carrying a tray of tea to Lorry’s room, he almost burst out in hysterical laughter at the heart stopping fear that was rising up within him. He had faced a ambush at the Science Lab two days ago, then had taken a team into another ambush at the Council meeting location at the Beacon Hill Theater House, and then he had lead an assault on a enemy held training camp, but it was now that he wanted to run in fear.

The day that Lorry and her friends Tam and Angel had shown up had been a confusing and weird day, which had ended in an attempted shooting at the Science Lab and him spending the night in a sorority house. Despite the shooting the scariest thing about that night had been when he had kissed Lorry and the look on her face afterwards. Zu had almost lost himself in that kiss, but then he had seen the shock in her face and fear had gripped his heart to the point that he had fled to his own bed, but their parting words had seemed to bridge the space between them before they slipped off to sleep.

Even though his world was in chaos and Zu was suppose to be leading the efforts to defend the Mages of the city, he had a hard time not letting his thoughts linger on Lorry. Zu knew he had been distracted when they had went into the Theater House and he blamed himself for not seeing the attack sooner, but when the ambush had sprung everyone had acted to the best of their ability. He and Lorry had fought their way deep into the Theater and were doing well until the flaming hand Banisher had shown up out of nowhere and attacked him. Being hit with flames from some guy’s hands had been scary enough but when he had tried to teleport himself and Zu out of the Theater Zu had known he was in trouble, but then Lorry had thrown her will at the Banisher stopping his spell cold. By the look on her face full of fear and concern, Zu knew just how close he had come and he realized as he looked upon Lorry that he didn’t fear the Banisher, but not seeing Lorry again. Then the lightening had come down with the words of “Sorry for this bud” in Lucian’s voice and then darkness.

When Zu awoke, he found that he was lying in Lorry’s arms just inside the woman’s bathroom where he had fallen as she stroked his hair with concern still bright in her eyes. A deep part of Zu had wanted to stay there on the woman’s bathroom floor forever, but he knew that the world he knew was falling down around him and he had to get up to face it head on and help his fellow Mages. After a quick regrouping and assessment, Zu contacted the Council who moved the meeting to the second closed location and with that they were headed to the Downtown Museum. The meeting was a long drawn out process with every member getting their say, but in the end decisions were finally made and Zu was tasked with taking out the group of Witch Hunters that was being manipulated by the Seer of the Thrown sect. The Council had recommend that he take the group of Arrows from Seattle and not the newcomers, but Zu had argued against this and won his argument mostly do to the fact that he was the only one going on this mission. Zu knew that he could trust Lorry, Tam, and Angel with his life even though he had only known them for a few days, but what he didn’t know was how much of that trust was based off of his feelings for Lorry or on how much he had come to know about the group as a whole.

Before leaving on the assault mission, Zu and the rest of the group needed to get patched up and were told by the Council to use the aid of Sister Rosalyn at St. Margret’s Hospital. Zu had only meet the Sister Rosalyn once before, she was much like Lucian, an outsider in the Mage community but still a part of it. When they had gotten to the Sister’s office Zu was surprised by her friendly demeanor which was opposite of the rumors he had heard about her, but she freely offered her aid and words of advice and encouragement. When Sister Rosalyn had been healing Zu’s hurts she had asked him if he was scared of what he was about to face or what stood in front of him. Zu had been confused by her question and asked her what she meant and the Sister had just smiled at him and answered, “Well child I know that giving your heart away to your true love can be scary and in your case when she will go where you can’t follow it is even more so, but have faith for true love is a special and rare thing that does not falter easily. Just as she is, child, and I wish you luck with her and pray for you safety.” and with that the Sister stood and moved on to care for Tam.

Two hours later they were staring at the island where the Witch Hunters camp was located which was a dark menacing thing that scared the bay waters as they sailed into the crudely made dock. Zu couldn’t stop thinking about what Sister Rosalyn that said to him as they made up the side of the hill and deeper into the island, and he almost tripped several times as he keep looking at Lorry. When the group got near the camp, Tam silently took care of the guard in a rudely built guard tower before they split into two groups on Tam’s guidance, Zu and Lorry in one group with Tam and Angel in the other. Zu and Lorry made their way around the edge of the camp trying to move around to cover the backside as Tam and Angel lead the assault, but they were stopped before getting into position when a shot rang out from the other guard tower which took Zu high in the left arm.

After that things started happening so fast, Tam fired his TNT loaded arrow into a truck then Lorry set it off blowing up the truck and causing a large distraction. He and Lorry moved around the back of the camp taking fire from the guard tower until they made it inside a house looking building. Inside they found a wounded woman who they tied up before moving to the other door; it was then that Lorry exchanged fire with a man near the other side of the camp. When Lorry cried out in pain from a shot she took to her side, Zu’s heart almost stopped as he ran to shoot at her attacker then pulling her back into the building. As he looked over her wound, she looked more concerned for him than for herself. Then Tam and Angel had called for the rest of the TNT, Zu had stood up getting ready to run to them as they backed up a tuck to the building before he left though Lorry reached out for his hand, “Stay safe for me please,” and with a nod Zu ran out and jumped into the back of the truck which Angel drove straight into the warehouse so Tam could through the TNT into it a the rest of the Witch Hunters. The ensuing explosion took the fight out of the survivors and ended the fight.

Their had been some discussion on how to handle the surviving Witch Hunters, but Lorry had voiced the most just option. They had left all but the woman there for the police to deal with taking the woman who had been apart of the University shooting back with them to turn her over personally to the police when they got back. Before leaving they gathered up as much of the Witch Hunters weapons and equipment as they could find, and it had been while they were loading this stuff onto the yacht when they felt the shockwaves of what felt like a earthquake then they saw the cloud erupt from the north and start to head in their direction. Afterward they had moved quickly to get back to Seattle and safety and they almost made it but before they reached the Downtown stronghold ash started falling like snow onto the city covering everything and making it hard to see much less drive, but they all made it to the stronghold safe and sound.

It was now here in the safety of the stronghold that Zu was starting to face his deepest fear as he walked into the room that had been assigned to Lorry for their stay here. Lorry had just stepped out of a shower and was wearing a thin grey shirt with her sorority’s crest on it and black shorts, but she had taken her pink ribbon that she had been wearing since she had arrived to the city out of her hair and it was now tied around her right wrist. Lorry was not wearing stylish clothes like she had during the sorority party and her hair was hanging unkempt down around her face, but Zu’s heart skipped a beat as heat rushed through his body just looking at her.

Zu set the tea down before turning to Lorry who was looking at him with a strange look on her face and not moving from her spot, and it was then that he realized that she scared too. For some reason that made Zu feel better and worse at the same moment and in a deep desire to soothe her fear he took several steps forward until he was at arms length in front on her. There was several moments of silence where both of them tried to say something, but only managing to move their mouths in wordless speak. Finally Zu closed his eyes and said, “Lorry you scare me, you scare me because I have never felt this way about anyone and even though I know you have to leave as you have said I can’t let you go, not without saying this. My heart had chosen you and now belongs to you as do I. I guess what I’m trying to say it that I have fallen in love with you.”

Zu opened his eyes after a few second when he didn’t get any kind of response to see Lorry’s face full of tears as she untied her pink ribbon from her wrist. She stepped closer to him breaking an unseen barrier with her body’s closeness as she reached down and took his left arm in her hands, and then looking into his eyes for the first time she answered him. “Zu, I never imagined to find you here or to feel the way I do, but I know now that I have finally found what my heart has always been searching for. I want you to have something from me, this ribbon was given to me by my sister Harmony for luck and with love and I want you to have it now.” With that she tied the pink ribbon onto his left wrist with a bow that all girls seem to know natural how to do and as she finished she spoke up once more, “I am yours as you are mine.”

Zu closed that final space between them in more ways than just physical as he embraced Lorry and looked deep into her eyes. Her eyes were still sparkling with the tears she had been shedding, but it was love behind those tears and Zu knew that his soul would never be the same as it now and would for ever belong to the beautiful woman that stood before him and with that thought he kissed her with tenderness and passion that he somehow knew would last for ages.

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Arrows for You Zu

It had been a roller coaster like no other than brought them back in time. Tam knew his woods and had found them a quicker way out than straight. DANI had been focusing on direction, not on pathways or trails. Gatewood had changed a lot in 32 years, but people were still polite enough. DANI was glad she had worn her good combat boots that were comfortable for walking. Being back in jeans made her more comfortable, but her two bullet wounds still hurt a bit when she had tugged them on after Zu’s latest magical healing just before they started towards the Council meeting place.

Zu hadn’t been that accepting of them straight up, but the Arrow badges had eased the way. Lucien of the Alki Woods was a master Arrow who knew Tam’s grandfather. Hopefully not well enough to ask him about Tam was the only concern. Talking geek again had been good and Chad’s 3D chess set was awesome. Zu was predictable like most of the guys in his frat and always did the same thing. It had been late when they went to the science lab and they’d been there four hours when they left. An ambush by four mage-hunters would have ended Zu then and there.

DANI had gotten directly in the line of fire from the sniper as the three others closed in. The sniper had shot her in the leg and the gent with the assault rifle had laid into Mal’s shoulder pretty good. DANI had waited until Zu moved into the building and had gotten shot by the gent with the assault rifle in her other leg for her trouble. She’d been in enough fights to know she was hit bad, really bad, and it was better to be in melee combat when you brought a knife to a gun fight. She had closed in the on the guy with the assault rifle who Tam had hit with an arrow. She had needed that rifle to get the sniper. She had seen Mal lay into one of the guys with her sword as she was positioning the rifle. Zu and Tam had taken down the third guy and she had gotten two shots off at the sniper. DANI didn’t know if both had hit, but at least one had. Zu had taken her multitude of scars in when he had patched her up, but she guessed it was because he was embarrassed by her lack of dress. Zu was definitely not a ladies’ man, and DANI had done her best to keep him on edge yesterday. Her train of thought was keeping him on edge might save his life and it fit with her role.

Hanging out at her sorority’s house had been the best place to hide Zu, but it had brought back a lot of memories for her. Zu had thought Tam’s suggestion to change locations meant going somewhere. And she had agreed with Tam that changing routine was a better disguise. Zu would never have gone to their sorority and so it was the best place to stay the night. DANI had played the role of security just like she had in her own time in New York. She had flirted and blended in as much as she could, but had kept an eye on Tam, Mal, and Zu. Tam had gone upstairs with Francine who looked very familiar, but she couldn’t place. Mal and Zu had gone to the room the sorority had extended to them. DANI had hung out on the couch by the door with the president of the local chapter. The couch was better for bullet wounds on the legs than a bed.

Flirting with “The Dez” made her a less memorable Angel than if she had taken offense to his attitude. Today was the day they were supposed to protect Zu and there were a couple of ways that his destiny could be destroyed. One was to take him out after the Council meeting to dishearten the Mages of Seattle and leave the Arrows in disorder. The option the terrorists she was familiar with would take was to take him out when he was preparing for the Council meeting. Including her, Tam, and Mal; there were nine Arrows in Seattle and only three of them knew the importance of protecting Zu. They had to keep Zu alive all day to keep their time line in order. DANI expected trouble at the Council meeting place and additional trouble after if they succeeded.

DANI hated it when she was right, but hopefully this would be the last attack on Zu today. Three on the balcony, one over to the side, and at least three circling around were all that she had detected. She wasn’t totally better from their last gunfight with these people, but it was her mission to make sure that Zu fulfilled his destiny of rallying the Arrows. Mallory was falling for Zu and he for her, so their emotions could get in the way. She had fourteen shots to get into melee range. And the Mage Council was on their way…

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Unexpected Sanctuary

The noise was loud, but in the corner that Mallory and Emazu, or ‘Zu’ as he was known here, sat in it was not so bad. They could even talk with one another without having to raise their voices if they sat close enough to each other, which they were sharing the bench they now sat on. The party was still the most unlikely place Mallory had thought they would have ended up tonight, and she had thought Tam had been crazy when he had suggested they hide here of all places. After the attempted ambush in front of the Science Lab Building, Tam had said they needed to find a new place to throw any other attackers of their trail, but then he had asked if they could get into Mallory’s and Dani’s Sorority. Despite her misgivings it seemed to have worked as no one had followed them here and it gave her an excuse to keep close to their charge Zu without raising his suspicions as he was so out of place here that she was like a godsend hanging out with him as she was.

Mallory could feel her face reddening as she realized that even if a threat had followed them here she wouldn’t even notice it because she just could not seem to keep her eyes off of Zu’s deep brown eyes as he smiled and talked to her. When had she started to notice Zu’s eyes and the softness of his smile and other such things? Had it been after Tam’s comment or maybe it had been before? When Tam had told her to take Zu under her care it had made sense due to her combat training and even Tam had said as much, but then he had added the comment about how he believed that Zu liked her. Mallory had been so surprised by the revelation, for one why hadn’t she noticed it she could usually tell when a guy wanted her and she hadn’t seen that in Zu the whole time they had been here. Mallory had been with her share of guys and could read them for the most part, many of them were much like the jocks that surround them now at the party, but Zu was so different he didn’t make passes or look at her in that hungry way all he did was stare at her eyes and smile in a cute shy way.

Mallory had spent the past hours just talking with Zu telling him about her parents, how she had to now take care of her sister Harmony and how she felt about Dani and Tam and he in return told her about his Teacher, his missing father and single mother and how the University was the only place he felt at home. Mallory was embarrassed when her eyes closed on her in weariness, most likely a combination of the soreness in her shoulder where she had gotten shot and the pain killers that were dulling the pain of that shoulder and when Zu saw this he spoke up. “Maybe we should go ahead and find a room for the night,” but then he realized what he just said and a look of shy horror came over his face and Mallory could feel her own face reddening.

Mallory didn’t understand why she was so embarrassed all of the sudden. It wasn’t like she had never heard such a line before or have fallen in line with such an invitation before either, but coming from Zu it seemed different. Zu finally broke the silence and he stood up, “I mean you need to get some sleep and so do I so maybe we should look into working out our sleeping arrangements for the night, Lorry.”

It took a second for Mallory to realize that he was calling from her to join him as he held out his hand, using her childhood nickname had seemed like a good idea when Dani had suggested they not use their real names, but for some reason Mallory all the sudden really wanted Zu to use her real name. Taking Zu’s hand, Mallory headed off to the room they had been told they could use for the night by the President of the Sorority. The room looked like a spare as it had no real furnishings other than two beds and dressers with lamps and a desk. Mallory moved over to the far bed and put down her bag and took her hidden sword out of her belt placing it on the dresser near the bed then she went about changing, trying her hardest to be modest in the process for Zu’s sake remembering how he had reacted to Dani’s previous immodesty.

Once finished, Mallory turned around to see Zu staring at her, but it was not hunger in his eyes but concern and she realized that her bandages where visible around her small night top. Zu reached into his bag that he had brought with him and moved towards her, “Sit and I’ll redo you bandages before bed.”

Mallory did as he asked looking down at her should to see that her old bandages where wet with a small amount of blood, but as Zu moved up next to her to change them out she also noticed that he was only wearing a shirt and briefs which showed his previously hidden muscle tone off very well. As he pulled her shirt back so that he could work she felt a flash of heat from his touch which stayed long afterwards even through the pain of her bandages being changed. Zu worked with quick skill to change her bandages and as he finished he looked up into Mallory’s face with those deep brown eyes and heart beats passed with them both not looking away from each other’s eyes. Mallory wanted to move, to look away as deep down she knew that she was making a mistake, but then again Zu was nothing like anyone she had ever met before and all she wanted was to do the one thing she knew was not for the best. Mallory’s thoughts fought a civil war of want and rightness for what felt like eternity, but then all those voice were put to silent death as Zu bent forward and kissed her with those soft cute lips of his.

The kiss was passionate but not rough, soft but not suffocating and it lasted so long but was over far too quick and as Zu moved away she knew that her face must have shown her shock at the kiss. As he looked at her, he looked scared and then looked away before standing and moving back towards the other bed. Mallory want to reach out for him, to say something, to stop him but then a voice told her that this could not be, but at the same time her heart screamed out in desire. Mallory starred in sadness as Zu laid down with his back to her before speaking up, “Good night Lorry and please take care of your shoulder for me.”

Mallory could hear his fear in his voice and she could feel herself starting to cry so she quickly responded while she still could without sobbing, “Sweet Dreams Zu, and I will for you.” and with that she crawled into bed as far away from Zu as she could get so as to stop herself form doing what her mind told her was a mistake and what her heart told her was the only right thing to do.

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Premission Jitters

Mallory finished putting the last of her clothes in her backpack a few nights worth of changes, the essentials for a few days away from home, some study material, one switch blade, and next to her bag on the bed was her leather armor and sword, everything she was going to need to do the job. Mallory couldn’t help the feeling of jitters that was sitting in her stomach this was their first assignment after all. If it wasn’t bad enough that Philip had made sure she felt responsible for bring back all of her friends back alive they were apparently responsible for saving a war hero from being killed by some unknown threat.

Mallory looked down at Philip’s bracelet hanged on her wrist a little large but she had managed to make it fit but it still seemed unlike Philip to give her something. At first Mallory had believed that Philip had not liked her and was being mean just out of spite or something, taking her to SoDo to scare and humiliate her just because he could. She had pushed herself so hard just to wipe that smug disproving look off his face she was determined to show him she was not just some little scared girl as he said she was. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago before the Council meeting and over two months of training that he had suddenly changed after she had knocked him to the ground in a sparring match, when he got up he was smiling and had simply stated she could watch his back from now on and all of his mean looks and comment had stopped and her training suddenly took a more leisure pace, but that night before she left he told her one last thing something she still wasn’t sure she was ready for. “Mal it’s your job you know to keep them alive, when things go bad its people like me and you who step up and defend those we call friends and that is why I’ve pushed you so hard, so that when you do step up you too will come back from the fight”.

Looking out for other was not something new to Mallory she had been looking out for and caring for her sister Harmony for the past two years, but Mallory just didn’t know just how she was too look after Dani and Tam. Mallory didn’t even feel like her two roommates really needed her. Dani had everything together and she seemed to thrive in this strange world of unbelievable things. The truth was that Dani had gotten Mallory through these past weeks. In reality, Mallory looked up to Dani and wished that she was as together as her older roommate was. Then there was Tam, who reminded Mallory of the star football player at the parties she was expected to support when she was still in school. Tam was the kind of guy she would have enjoyed having a fling with, but Mallory suspected that behind those sexy eyes was a determination and strength that was just waiting for a cause to stir them. Tam had the pull of personality that could make him a great leader if he had something to lead for and enough smarts to take care of himself if he wished.

Mallory picked up her bag after finishing putting on the armor and turned to head for her room door but as she did she noticed Harmony standing in the doorway staring at her. Harmony looked as if she was about to cry and that stopped Mallory in her tracks, her little sister rarely cried, “Sis what’s wrong?” Mallory asked almost instinctively as she walked up and took a knee to look Harmony in the eyes.

Harmony seemed to struggle to find her words for a few seconds before answering, “You are going to come back right? I mean, you’re taking your sword so this just is not some small job like you said.”

Mallory was taken aback by the fear in Harmony’s voice, “Of course I’m going to come back sis, but you’re right, I’m sorry I lied to you but my new work does have me doing to tough jobs.”

“What kind of jobs?” Harmony demanded, Mallory was always amazed at her sister’s determination and force of will when it came to getting answers to questions she wanted answered.

Mallory hated lying to her sister, but the truth was something that was far too dangerous for her sister to know and if there was anything Mallory was not willing to do in this world it was putting her sister in danger. “I told you, I’m doing security work on the side now and I have to go out of town for a few days to protect a guy from some people who might want to hurt him, but don’t worry it’s most likely nothing and we will just end up sitting around watching some guy’s house and bad TV and I’ll be back before you know it.”

At that Mallory gave her sister a hug kissing her gently on the check before standing to move towards the door once more and heading out to meet up with Dani and Tam who were waiting on her by now most likely. Mallory got about two steps before Harmony spoke up once more, “Mal will you wear this for luck and promise to bring it back to me.”

Mallory turned around to see Harmony take a pink ribbon out of her hair to hand it over, Mallory took it and started to tie her hair up with it as she answered, “Sure thing, and sis you better have a big meal ready for me when I get back okay, because I don’t know how I’m going to survive two whole days without your cooking.”

Harmony smiled as Mallory finished putting her hair up with the pink ribbon, which totally clashed with her dark colored attire, none of which mattered in the least to Mallory at that moment, just seeing a smile on her sister’s face was all she needed to make it through the next few days, no matter what was to came her way.

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Ready to fix the past?

DANI fiddled with her new medallion. It wasn’t a traditional tool and Keven had questioned her on her choice. She had chosen to spend three days out of her week working with Christopher at the smithy. The first day had been explaining the design and creating the molds. Pouring the medallion and its matching coins had been done late that night. It took two days to do all the inlay work. They had done the bronze fire first and the silver “angel” second. Christopher had polished them and coated them with something to seal them after adding his own edging. The coins were smaller than the medallion, but all had the star on the reverse side. She wasn’t sure why the design had called to her, but it had when she was doodling one day. The fire was probably tied with her magical name and her grandfather had always called her angel in Russian, so maybe there was something there. Today, Keven was showing her how to dedicate her medallion as a magical tool, a shield of sorts.

In two days, she was going back in time to when her parents got married. She knew where to avoid them because she had been taken along on their fifteenth anniversary trip and rededication of their vows. It had also been the last time she had been to the summit of Mt. St. Helens. It had been there where she had gotten the idea to go surfing or boarding on lava flows and she had just been nine at the time. Ten years later she had gone lava flow boarding. Her parents had often told the story that it was a sign that their love would always be the all consuming fire that had consumed their lives. It seemed like she would get to see how destructive that fire could be to others; she knew how destructive it had been to her life.

DANI smiled just a bit at that. Her love life wasn’t that fiery, but it was what she desired. John had accepted that she wanted to keep some overnight stuff at his house and had even gotten her her own helmet. They had been dating over nine months now and while there hadn’t been overt declarations of love, their actions showed their commitment to each other. She spent at least three nights a week at John’s it seemed like. And the guys at the club just accepted her flirtatiousness for what it was. That’s what probably helped when she’d had to let John know she was going to flirt with Keven to keep people from coming after John to get to her. There was more to her than most people knew and John definitely knew where her heart belonged even if the words hadn’t been said.

Mal and Tam were growing on her, but they hadn’t really connected. Hopefully the mission they were going on would bring them together as a cabal. Right now she was more connected to Eme, Cassie, Stewart and even Christopher than she was to Mal and Tam. Part of it was she didn’t know what role she was to play in this group. She had been the politician and social type with the watch, the observer with the marine unit, and the daredevil in college. She was the oldest of the three of them, but Tam was the elder as Awakened went. Her role wasn’t clear and she wouldn’t have the connections for their first mission that she had here.

The Mage Council meeting hadn’t clarified her role for her. Other than being bored enough to solidify Keven’s image as a playboy. It had showed her that Mallory was more caring than she let on. DANI wouldn’t have agreed to the carriage if it hadn’t been for Mal. DANI had just smiled when Mal told her the driver would take Harmony for a ride when they got home. Tam had taken Molly to his club in Georgetown and DANI had been dropped off in SoDo, so the sisters had gotten to share that time alone. Mal hadn’t been out as often as she would have expected since they moved. Mal had been curious as to how DANI had gotten to the point of two of her boxes being moved into John’s. They had just been clothes and some of her older cameras that she couldn’t get film for anymore.

DANI looked up as the bank manager approached. Her request had been a touch on the strange side, but she was DANI after all. She greeted him and smiled when he suggested they go back to his office. DANI had been in three days ago and had explained that she had been commissioned for a period photo shoot and she was being paid to make it as accurate as possible. So, what she had requested from the bank manager was pre-1980 cash and coins. Big bills were less circulated, so he had been able to find more of them than coins and small bills. DANI traded her $1000 in modern currency for $1000 in pre-1980 currency. She smiled as she headed out the door, “Now let me know when Susie gets out of that cast and I’ll set up an appointment to do her senior pictures. No charge for the session or the first 50 prints.” Some days it paid to be one of the few photography studios still open in Seattle.

DANI got into her jeep and checked the sun. It was late enough she could go see Keven. He definitely was not a morning person. DANI ran her mind through the list of stuff she was taking. Weapons, a couple of pairs of clothes, cash, and the old duster she had found in a thrift store during high school. Sara had loaned her the armor she was taking and she had her arrow badge. She ought to get her old Nikon from John’s. She could get film for it and play the role of tourist a bit better during her mission. No one paid attention to tourists with cameras.

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Moving Day

DANI carefully packed her framed photos that she wasn’t leaving in her studio. The picture of Ari and his sister went on top in case he came for it before she was totally unpacked at the old dockhouse. She had moved so often, but this time it was different. DANI had to choose what to leave here for a studio and what to take with her. The only thing that had separated her studio from her bedroom was a decorative screen. Her life had always been an open book for those who cared to read it, but now she had to learn to disguise who she was becoming.

She didn’t know what to think of Tam and Mal yet, but it had taken her time to trust Ari, Samuel, and Billie too. Billie had taken over the South Lost Pack not a week ago when Fallon brought things to a head with Cassie. Cassie had learned that she still had the protective streak in her, but still suffered the nightmares. At least, she was on her way back to being herself. DANI had warned Cassie that she would have to probably tell her cabal mates (Tam and Mal) about herself, but that she was still welcome to come sleep in her bed.

As John put it, DANI was working on becoming the poster child for the Accord which meant playing nice with Tam and Mal. It also meant putting up with Keven teaching her magic. The first day hadn’t been that good, but apparently no one’s first day as a mage was good. John had learned that he wasn’t losing her to the Accord part of her life anymore than she was losing him to the gun running part of his. She had even asked if he wanted to be more involved in it, but John wanted her to have something of her own. Apparently he had been afraid of losing her, but she was serious about her relationship with him. She had let him know that she loved him without actually saying the words, so who knew where their relationship would go now. He could be used against her, but he gave her a reason to hope and a reason to fight. Being a mage made her more of a threat to those she had run into and up against as a mortal, but it also meant she might live through it.

DANI had thought that she and Mal were being taken by the fae at the start of their awakening. The bear that changed into a man was straight out of a Russian fairytale, but he had given his oath and led them to her tower. The realm of Arcadia was so mystical and enchanted, while the higher realm was so crisp and militaristic. DANI was glad that it was Mal’s realm not hers, but talking with Joan of Arc while Mal went through her tower had been a once in a lifetime experience. The library with paintings of her realm had really called to DANI and she had wanted to spend time there, but had promised Mal she would be back. And DANI always kept her word as she had told Trucker when asking for his help in finding the changeling she had freed. Keven said that what happened in Arcadia was a metaphor for what happened on the mortal realm, but she hadn’t found that out before talking to Trucker. So, maybe the girl wasn’t a changeling, but DANI still hoped to find her.

DANI sealed and labeled the box and stacked it next to the others. John was going to help her load the jeep in an hour or so. She didn’t want to leave, but knew it was best if she did. Eme’s house was known by so many supernaturals. Part of that was DANI’s fault, but not all of it. Eme would be changing soon. The moon’s call was beckoning her and a territorial fight had broken out on her doorstep last week. Soon Eme would become what her father had tried to protect her from knowing and DANI figured her presence could endanger Eme. Werewolves were very territorial and DANI seemed to always find the weirdest of associates.

DANI looked over at the collection of weapons on display. Which ones should she take and which should she leave? The combat knife was already in her boot, but which were decorative and which were practical? The wrought iron knives and sword were going and the silver ones too. The Moorish bow was going; it had been a gift from the Bedouin prince. The katanas were going as she had gone shopping for them with Stewart. And her father’s father’s dress sword was going, but the others could stay. Oh, but she definitely wanted to get the chainmail. She had spent too many hours working on it with Christopher to leave it behind. She didn’t want to upset the changeling by leaving something they had both sweat many hours over to complete. The guns were going, no question there. The ammo was already packed.

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Unawaken after the Duel

DANI sparred with Cassie under Stewart’s watchful eye. Cassie was still fighting the demons left from being tortured by vampires, but she had agreed to help DANI learn to fight supernatural speed. Cassie probably knew it had been an empty threat with solid need behind it that led her to be here, but she came anyway. And a warm coyote was always welcome to curl up with DANI to keep nightmares away.

It had been two months since DANI saw her life as over. When Ari went down in the duel that DANI had baited an admission from a vampiress to start, DANI had known she was dead. And then the vampiress’ head had exploded with a shot from out of the building. DANI had gone to Ari and found no pulse, no signs that he was alive, but then he had willingly became of a vampire so why would he have been alive?

Ari had given himself to a life or unlife that repelled him to bring peace. DANI had gone along with his plan knowing that setting a vampiress up would mark her for death. Not that her own actions wouldn’t have been enough to do that. She expected death to come looking for her, but she would not go down without a fight. DANI might just be a lowly mortal, but she played politics with supernaturals. She was in over her head, but proud of who she was and determined to keep Georgetown safe even if it cost her life.

DANI tried to focus, but knew Cassie could tell her mind was wondering. The sun was setting; would tonight be the night Samuel or Ari ventured to return? She still had Ari’s stuff including a picture of his vampiress sister. Samuel had wanted his sister to think he was dead. Everyone thought he was dead, but undead was more like it. Fallon knew and Cassie probably did too. DANI had turned to Fallon for help because she knew she could not protect one of his blood without his help. When Eme changed into a werewolf like her father, she would probably know too.

DANI still did not know how to lie (convincingly or otherwise), but had learned how to veil the truth. She had been marked for death because of not knowing when to stop talking and yet had learned to be political in her answers. A fair trade of information was apparently not encouraged in supernatural politics. She wondered what price they would charge to tell Ari and Samuel about their sisters. She was glad she had gotten Cassandra settled into the university under the watchful eye of a fellow member of the Accord. Tom might be mortal, but he accepted that bad stuff would come to his neighborhood if Cassandra got involved in weird stuff.

DANI should have anticipated that one. She groaned as she took Cassie’s hand to get up from where she had hit the floor. “Good throw. I think we need to call it a night. My dog likes me in by dark.” And it’s safer that way for both of us. At least Fallon isn’t calling every night anymore to make sure Cassie’s at my place. I wonder how long she is going to sleep in coyote form in my bed before she decides to talk.

It was late spring and dusk was settling into night as DANI pulled up to Eme’s. Her new neighbors were home. How long would it take Mallory to realize that they had grown up in the same circles of society? DANI had sunk her inheritance into chasing the next deadly adrenaline high, but she had made a career and name for herself instead. Mallory might connect the dots at some point, but Harmony was too young to know of DANI. It didn’t matter; DANI had left high society behind her.

John, Cassie and Stewart had been her stabilizers these past couple of months. Routine and training had grounded her, but she couldn’t seem to keep expecting something supernatural to come her way. John, Cassie and Stewart had even surprised her for her birthday, but it hadn’t distracted her from the promises she had made the Fates if she lived beyond the duel. She had honored her word by learning her grandfather’s native tongue and to fight for Georgetown. She was even liaisoning with Gordman until Ari learned how to “control his baser instincts”. She wished there was someone she could talk to about how to protect people from the doom she had brought among herself.

DANI caught a glimpse of the guy she had seen a few times and wondered who he was working for. Was he going to be the one to bring her death? Her death was being planned on the supernatural scale. She was mortal and had thwarted plans and played politics well above her station. Summer Solstice was coming up and the change of seasons seemed to be a key political time for supernaturals. Someone would make a move soon and she wondered if the guy would be that person. An attempt on her was a given and knowing the politics of supernaturals, they would come at her through those she cared for and loved. Ari had been drawn into the center of the game because of his sister, but she had placed herself there. A plastic pawn amongst an elite game of political/dragon chess had no business falling in love, but she had…

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Bear Diplomacy

Indebted to a Changeling, befriended by a coyote, having given terms to a werewolf leader of when she would quit baiting him and planning to meet with a vampire…her grandfather would be proud of her. DANI was finally embracing her diplomatic heritage albeit not the way her grandfather wanted her to. Human politics had never really interested her, but the politics of the supernatural that was a different story. She got the impression that they were a life and death game for power instead of just the search for the upper hand. Since she’d given up her death wish, she’d have to learn quickly if she wanted to survive. She was woefully untrained and swimming in dangerous waters with killer reefs without proper equipment.

She could blame the guy sleeping in her bed for bringing politics back into her life, but it was her lack of action that was the true reason. She’d lived behind the camera detached from everyone for so long that she had let him get hurt. She wanted to make things right and to do that, she had to learn the politics. He kept everyone at a distance instead of detaching himself. Something had changed in him since the photograph she’d found in his room had been taken, but she had changed in just two days. DANI accepted that she needed to keep her heritage and childhood lessons beside her instead of her camera if she wanted to protect those she cared about.

And she did care; she had befriended people in Georgetown and SoDo. She would risk her life for those she could call friends and for their families. Her fierce loyalty to her family in spite of being disowned apparently transferred to friends. She would probably hear about it if people figured out that she would protect them like they were her cameras. She’d always been accused of being a mother bear about her “cubs”. Who would have thought she’d live up to her heritage tattoo?

DANI put the photograph standing up the way it should be displayed and left the room. Sleep was elusive tonight so there was no reason for her to be inside. She walked downstairs and went outside to sit on the porch and search for Ursa Major and Minor in the night sky. She saw the coyote laying on the porch and gently scratched Cassie behind the ears as DANI sat down on the edge of the porch.

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