Joel at the time of the story
I’ve never felt the same about any other woman as I did about Ali, and there have been plenty of women through the years. But there has never been anyone quite like her. She protected me even after I broke her heart by cheating on her while she was pregnant with Mary. I still can’t believe that I was capable of inspiring that kind of loyalty and protectiveness in someone who wasn’t blood. It’s been nearly twenty years, but I remember every second of that morning.
“Come on Joel, just do this one thing for me.” Joel Mackay shifted his position, changing his hold on the bat, as he glanced down on the prone form of his brother. The slender blond man, leaning against the wall, let some of his mask slip, his hand coming to brush against Joel’s shoulder. The touch allowed him to manipulate Joel’s wavering resolve, “You know that it’s the only way. He’s the reason that Ali left, the only thing keeping you two apart.”
“Tell me again how weak I am? How I deserved Ali walking out on me?” Gary couldn’t speak, his throat bruised after the intense fight, but he still tried to move, his every muscle screaming in protest.
A tanned hand grabbed the bat on it’s downward swing, and Joel was stunned to glance across at his ex wife Alicia Ross. “What the hell are you doing Jo?” she took advantage of his surprise to pull the bat fully out of his grasp.
“I have to.” One look in his glazed over eyes, let her know that he wasn’t free of the Kitsune’s influence. “He has to die, Ali. It’s the only way you’ll come back to me.” His hand came up, wrapping around hers, and she saw a little of the hurt seep out of his brown eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, meaning sorry for so much, and then stabbed him in the shoulder with the blessed knife that she had slipped out of her jacket. Her heart hurt when he looked at her in that way, so much confusion visible across his tanned features. She caught a flash of movement in the corner of her eye, and realised that the Kitsune was on the run. She wrenched the knife out of Joel’s shoulder. “God I hope that this works.” She muttered as she threw it hard as she could.
Somehow she managed to hit the Kitsune in the shoulder, as he rushed away. “No!!” She kept a firm grip on Joel’s jacket, both to staunch the blood and to prevent him from running to the Kitsune’s aid.
The kitsune fell forward, his palm slipping against the cool metal of the fire escape door, he could feel the life seeping out of him, and closed his eyes. Alicia stretched out one hand to Gary, helping the tall man to his feet. “Let’s get out of here before the police come,” He said as he heard footsteps heading in their direction.
“Good idea,” Joel said. The brothers avoided looking at each other, their spirits dampened by all that had been said, and their actions when under the Kitsune’s influence. Alicia stood between them, as the three of them made their way as speedily as they could to her car.
“Where did you leave your car?” Alicia glanced around at the nearby parked cars, but didn’t see Joel’s anywhere.
“Oh it’s not far.” Joel slipped into the passenger’s seat and then directed Alicia to the small lot where he had left his car. He didn’t want to get out though, letting Gary get out first. Silence fell between Alicia and him, the instant that the door clicked closed behind Gary.
“Are you going to be okay?” she asked, genuinely concerned that the bond between the two brothers wasn’t too fractured to be repaired.
“How did you know that we were here?” Joel asked at the same time. “We only told Mark where we were going,”
She laughed, “He phoned, because I know how tricky Kitsune can be.” she sighed, “I faced one four years ago, it caused a meltdown between Lucy and me, that’s still spoken about at Christmas time some times.” The thought that a Kitsune had caused tension between the two most emotionally secure members of the Swan clan made Joel feel a little better. “Don’t feel too bad that it got to you okay?”
Joel was unable to resist the impulse to hug her, “Thanks for the save.” He whispered against her hair, glad that his brother wasn’t in earshot.
“Hey it’s you. There’s no way I wouldn’t come.” The shrill ring of her phone broke through the moment, and she pulled back just as he was about to kiss her.
Mark Jackman’s slightly grumpy voice asked “Didya stop it?”
“Yeah thanks Mark. The intel was spot on as always.” Joel pushed open the passenger door while she was mid sentence. He knew that it was pointless putting off the conversation with his brother, and that things with Alicia weren’t likely to be fixed so easily. Alicia’s hand closed around his sleeve, halting his movement before he could get out. Mark hung up, and Alicia shoved her phone back into her pocket. “Jo. I know that things between us might be a little weird right now, but you need to know that I still care about you a lot. If you need to call me… I’m still your friend…”
“I know…” he reached out, taking hold of her hand, feeling the confidence to do so, because of the look in her eyes. “I just…sometimes I really wish that I hadn’t fucked up so badly. I miss you, so much.”
Before she could answer her phone rang four times, a signal that she and the other members of the Amour Federation had worked out a long time before, and she knew that she needed to take it. “You gotta go,” the words weren’t a question, as Joel saw the look on her face, a odd mix of happiness and regret.
“Yeah duty calls.” Joel climbed out of her car, and then watched her leave, heading north. He got into his own car, and turned south, a few minutes later.