Marcus shook his head, climbing into the air as he backed away from Noch. There’s no possible way that was true. They may be related, but not father and daughter. Ali would have told him something like that. She isn’t one to hide things. Not from Marcus at least. Then again, she is the one who came up with their treatise on familial silence…
Something in Noch’s eyes told Marcus that his brother wasn’t playing some cruel joke or trying to be funny. Marcus launched himself into flight, the air clapping behind him as he shot into the air. He discarded his uniform in the darkening clouds and within minutes he was walking up to Ali’s door in nothing but his boxers. He knocked and when she answered, he walked in without being invited.
She was alone. The bowl of salad in front of the TV said that he interrupted her dinner.
“Hello to you too, baby,” Ali said closing the door. “Want to explain what you’re doing here in your boxers? If you wanted some, you could have just called. I’m not gonna lie though, this is kinda hot.”
When Marcus was sure they were alone, he turned around to face her. Her entire demeanor changed. She went from a wry amusement to a cautious wariness. She could obviously see something was up.
“Who’s your father?” Marcus asked quietly.
Ali flinched at the question and tried to cover up the reaction by rubbing her arms. The flinch actually hurt worse than if she would’ve just lied. Whatever she had to say next almost didn’t matter. The truth was already plain and both of them knew that.
“I thought we didn’t talk about family?” Ali asked with a smoky smile forming on her thick lips.
Usually that smile would send Marcus skittering off whatever he was talking about. Tonight he just shook his head slowly.
“Who’s your father, Ali?” Marcus repeated.
Ali became visibly uncomfortable, scratching her elbow and walking past Marcus to sit down on the couch. Marcus wanted to follow and sit next to her, but he couldn’t move. He could only stare at her, waiting for the inevitable words.
“You know this means that-“
“Who is your father?!” Marcus demanded in a voice louder than he intended. Maybe he was a bit angrier than he thought.
Ali slumped on the couch, leaning back into the cushions and turning away from Marcus. “Spider Gidon,” she said quietly.
The words hit Marcus like a punch to his chest and he stumbled forward to collapse onto the couch next to Ali. She reached out to embrace him, but Marcus recoiled before she touched him. She withdrew, tears forming in her eyes.
“You mean you really didn’t know?” Ali’s asked emotion making her voice crack.
Marcus turned to look at the woman he loved and who he thought loved him. Every question he ignored about her was answered with this revelation and each answer cut his heart. Her nice apartment, her ability to traverse Damokles without a hint of worry, her familiarity with so many business owners, everything made sense now. But there was something nagging at his mind.
“Was I a mark?” Marcus asked. “When we met, was I supposed to be robbed by you and that man ‘raping’ you?”
Ali remained silent for a long while, sniffling as tears streamed down her cheeks. Marcus squeezed his eyes shut.
“Am I still a mark?” he asked trying to keep the misery he felt from entering his voice.
“No!” Ali shouted, reaching for Marcus once more but making sure not to touch him. “I love you, Marcus. I love you. Please believe me, Marcus. I love you, baby. I love my dad but he lets me live my own life.”
Marcus frowned. “Is that why you were so scared that night?” he asked as the dots continued to connect. “The night when you thought someone followed you home? Was it because you thought one of your father’s enemies found you?”
Ali once again didn’t respond and she covered her face, her shoulders shaking with each sob. Marcus felt lightheaded. His heart was hammering and he fought to keep himself from jumping into that void that got him ostracized at the University.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Marcus asked.
Ali wiped her eyes and looked up at him. “For the same reason I never asked about your eyes,” she said.
That made Marcus flinch. He caught himself halfway to turning to face her and instead got to his feet. Once standing, he looked down at this beautiful woman he loved. She looked up at him with those big hazel eyes, tears flowing down her cheeks. He took a step backwards and Ali cried out for Marcus to stay, but Marcus was already out of the door.
When Marcus arrived back home, he went to the only place he knew to go to in moments like this. He found Cato with Sly in the Billiards Room on the basement level of the Residential Wing. As soon as Sly and Cato saw the look on Marcus’ face, their jovial mood evaporated. Seeing his nephew in such pain, Cato’s entire demeanor changed. Sly looked at Cato’s stricken face and sighed before sliding past Marcus and closing the door behind him as he left.
Cato motioned Marcus to the back of the Billiards Room where the humidor had a few leather chairs in the middle of the room. He helped his nephew into one of the seats and sat down as close as he could, a look of pain etched into his face as he looked at his obviously wounded nephew.
“What happened, son?” Cato asked gently.
Marcus shuddered as he fought to keep himself from crying at the possibility of losing Ali.
“Ali is the daughter of Spider Gidon,” he said in a voice thick with pain.
“You mean you didn’t know?” Cato asked.
Marcus groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“Always sucks to be the last one to find out,” Cato asked patting Marcus on the back. “How did you find out?”
“Noch,” Marcus answered without raising his head.
Cato grimaced, his soothing massage pausing on Marcus’ back for a second. “Yikes,” he said. “He wasn’t very…gentle, was he?”
Marcus shrugged as he leaned back. “Noch actually wasn’t too mean,” he said sniffle. “He seemed just as surprised as you are that I didn’t know.”
Cato nodded. “Surprisingly mature of him,” he said.
“What do I do, Uncle?” Marcus asked.
Cato sighed heavily. “Well, what do you want, son?” he asked.
Marcus shrugged, feeling a lump forming in his throat as he thought about what he wanted and what he most definitely didn’t want.
“I don’t want to lose her,” Marcus said sniffling, just waiting for the moment his uncle told him that he knew he needed to break things off with Ali.
“What’s stopping you?” Cato asked.
Marcus’ head snapped up and he stared at his uncle. “I’m the Crusader, Uncle!” he said. “I can’t be involved with the daughter of a heavy in the underworld!”
Cato shrugged, waving away Marcus’ concern. “Why not?” he asked.
Marcus smacked his lips and sighed. “The hero has to be and stay clean,” he said. “The hero can’t be involved with the underworld in any form or fashion.”
Cato scoffed. “Says who?” he asked. “Look, son. You love that girl, right?”
“She’s never done you wrong, right?”
“Screw the rest of the world then!” Cato said, motioning like he was scattering something to the wind. “No one can help who they love. Life sucks enough. Love is one of the few bright points to our existence. Don’t forget your last name, son. Who are you to judge Ali by the actions of her family? ”
Cato delivered the question with that same look of a begging dog and Marcus found himself laughing as his uncle once again perfectly executed that infernal look. Marcus was glad he spoke with his uncle. Talking with his uncle was always the right move no matter the situation. He couldn’t imagine life without his Uncle Cato.