Joey, unlike many people in the world, didn't believe in magic, almost as much as she didn't believe in soulmates. The stories her Pa gave her of meeting fairies and monsters and witches were just that- stories. It didn't matter when he showed her the check he got for monster hunting, or the “trophies” of unidentifiable origin. If she could pretend he would come back after a few days on his longer hunting trips, she could pretend she didn't see the fairy he kept in a jar, or the strange fiery lizard he gave Jude to keep.
It was harder to ignore soulmates. Her father had a mark, an intricate design of guns and roses embroidered on a blue slipper. Her babysitter had a quote, a “So your the mother of my sons best pal? Your daughter is quite strong, you must be so proud.” You can see in pictures of your mother that she had a dark green mark, of guns crossed and lines leading to an X that marked the treasure spot. Even though Joey wasn't born with her mark, like all of her classmates, she knew she would get one. Maybe not a quote or timer, or a smaller mark like her parents, but she would get something. Maybe Jude would, as well, but Joey was never sure.
So on her thirteenth birthday, when she felt the heat on her arm and a need to itch it so badly? It didn't come so much as a surprise as an unwanted inevitability. When she removed the sheets and rolled up her pajama sleeves to look, both arms were covered shoulder to wrist in intricate marks of an unknown landscape with two moons in the sky. On the back of her hands there were diamonds. It wasn't in color, but she knew it would be eventually. Soulmates were an inevitability, it just depended on when you met them. And the more you avoided them, the sooner they come.
She didn't reject her marks so much as ignore them. It was as easy as convincing herself that her father didn't mean to miss her birthday, that work just got tough. It was as easy as learning how to swing an umbrella juuuust right, participating in the self defense training her father forced her to take part in after school. As easy as finally recognizing that he didn't really care so much as he was forced to pretend on a legal basis. The self defense was combat training, the babysitter was because he didn't want to be there, and he did forget her birthday.
She was fourteen, when she started to openly reject her father. When she chose the name Claire over Harley. When she refused to even so much as touch his guns to move it off the chair she liked to sit in. When she completely blocked out his stories, his fairies, and even Jude's pet. The soulmates was the last to go, another in the pile of discarded things she believed were just to trick her into thinking her father cared.
And the November after her fifteenth birthday, well. Her brothers mutterings of aliens was never totally disregarded.
It was any other fall day. Crisp and cool, her dog Tesseract played with her in the leaves as Jude watched the [witches] neighbors house through his binoculars. Tesseract let out a loud echoing bark, and some more leaves on the tree withered and fell as the large [three headed] canine wagged its tail.
Jude got knocked over, and Joey laughed, and then all hell broke loose.
Large inky black creatures towered over the wall, and an alarm range that quickly notified Joey of the apparently [magic] recently installed defense system, that formed a blue dome around the entire Manor. The monsters broke through it effortlessly, and Jude fled to his treehouse while Joey took the long path to her room, subconsciously grabbing the umbrella from next to the door before dashing up the stairs and to her room.
She turned on the lights in her room, not that she needed them [because the fairies produced quite a bit of light already,] and started to search for her walkie talkie. After a load of shenanigans where she obtained her dance shoes and her flashlight and a very disturbed [feathered dragon] pidgeon, she made her way to the attic. The door locked, and the key was dropped, and she was suddenly alone in a room filled with [old fairy carcasses in tiny jars, trophies of hydras and manticores killed, assorted magical memorabilia] junk.
It took only five minutes for all hell to break loose, again, as a large almost missile-like rocket crashed into the attic, and almost into her room, as the monsters broke through the door and an alien jumped out of the rocket, guns blazing. It took one more, and all the monsters to be dead, for the second one to jump out as well.
And then her marks burned, but with her jacket and her gloves on she could pretend not to notice.
She would never mention this in her retellings, but she was terrified and cowering when the alien with sunglasses approached her. She will never mention that the second one was the one to manage to get her to calm down and talk. She will mention, however, that the first thing they did was stick a gun in her face and demand answers in a language she didn't know. She will mention that, thanks to her father's self defense lessons, she had them on the ground tied up in almost half the time it took for them to get out a single syllable.
And then when her brother got there. Oh boy, it was so fun. He was so excited, jumping up and down over and over with his arms waving in the air. If the phone lines weren't down, he would be calling the mayor within seconds to report his discovery. It was Jude who disarmed the aliens, because Joey didn't want to touch their guns, but it was Joey who untied them and started making attempts at communication. They didn't make another attempt at threatening her, and didn't even reach for a weapon, and when they went to their spaceship somehow Joey believed that they weren't going to attempt to pull anything. Probably because it was the second one who went, but Joey would never say that.
They had a translator, though it wasn't the best. It had to analyze a looking conversation between Joey and Jude (plus some additional hours of analysis through TV) but for the most part, it worked. They could understand each other. It took a while longer to draw out the reason they were there (“rebellion gone south, had to take ship and shoot ourselves at alternian-free space”) and it took another while to learn that they were probably being tracked.
It took about a year, Joey would say, for them to go to the government with what they learned. Trolls learned languages easily, but it still took time, and they wanted to ensure for themselves that they wouldn't be dissected and studied. Needless to say, they were pretty famous for a while. Longer than a while. When the Alternian Empress reached out (turns out she had been on Earth for a while, too, and was kind of her grandma??? Whatever, too weird) and offered an alliance, the world happily agreed. And then they were even more famous.
For months they were in the news. “Joey Harley (“no, its CLAIRE”) alien diplomat has no Soulmark????” and “Joey Harley the alien whisperer a HOMOSEXUAL????” were the privacy invasions that finally got her Pa to give them the money to go wherever they wanted. It took a year, where Joey learned of a half-brother (who housed them for a while [he was twenty, and it was a miracle they hadn't known him sooner], and notably had a marking in hot pink that said “yea u know homie she's a real treat, heard your sons p cool too” and was generally a delight) and also found out that the press didn't stop just because you leave New York.
It was thanks to Xefros, and a burgeoning Moirallegiance, that she was able to get through the year. She lost track of her half-brother, and Roxy, but she knew they [individually] would have kids someday, and she considered herself an aunt in advance (and a godmother in advance.) She still didn't believe in magic, and she still didn't believe in soulmates, but she damn well believed in luck when the press died down and they were able to settle down in a small town in New Mexico. When Dammek first saw it, he called it nowhere, but Joey knew it was home.
The mayor was kind, and gave them land to set down on. He was the first to come when they opened up their diner, “Claire's” because they couldn't think up anything else and “Harleys” would get them recognized, and he was the last to leave the first night they closed. It surely helped that he was so engaged talking to Jude, who seemed to be one of the few people in this town that could use sign language without issue.
Dammek and Jude, of course, helped out at the diner, but their real place was always at the library. The woman who ran there, Circe, was always asking them to do something, and it wasn't until her eighteenth birthday that Joey learned why.
Up until then, Joey was openly blind. Purposefully so. She didn't believe in magic, though after 1983 she was one of the few who got to see it in person anymore. She didn't believe in soulmates, though he cuddled her and loved her in the palest way and in the way she always needed. She didn't believe in her Pa's fake career of hunting monsters, though the monsters he hunted broke into her house and almost killed her the night the aliens came.
When her brother, only fourteen at that point, with a black and white sleeve on his right arm that was slowly fading showed up at the diner bleeding from large scratch wounds, Dammek in even worse condition but still dragging him in, and a young fairy panicking trying to put leaves on the places bleeding the most… Joey couldn't ignore it. She knew what she was doing, the [neighbors] witches taught her some basic healing [skills] magics when she accidentally rode her Pa's [pony] Hippogriff into their yard one night.
She wasn't a witch, no, you had to be born into that. They explained to her, the one with vines for hair, said they were elemental. Joey simply had connections to one. (Probably her mother; she seemed to glow, in videos and pictures and though Joey had always thought that was just her brain focusing on her Pa always said he would never miss her Ma because her glow will always be there when he blinked.) The one with gears said she probably shouldn't use magic a lot. The one with shimmering neon said it would probably drain her too much. The one who never seemed to quite be there chuckled and said that it would be better if Joey hadn't known the magic at all.
Joey used the magic, and it wasn't so much instant as it was horrifyingly drawn out pain as she put her hands on the worst wounds. Jude, and Dammek because she wouldn't let the asshole just die, healed, and the sigh of relief he let out when the fairys magic started to work once more was so soothing for Joey that she continued until, quite literally, Xefros ripped her away.
It took her one day to regain her strength enough to walk on her own to the library, demand Circe to explain herself, and then promptly pass out on a beanbag chair.
When she came to, she had a job offer. She refused, at first, but at the promise that Jude would be moved to a more passive role led her to accept. So, in the evening she would fight alongside Dammek against horrifying inky creatures and during the day she would deal with the equally terrifying sixty year old men flirting with her, a lesbian eighteen year old, as she just tried run her diner. Soon enough, Xefros joined in, as he was lovely and helped her with everything, from flirty sixty year olds to fighting monsters with an umbrella and a flashlight.
And she lived like that, for a while. Dammek and Jude would help other witches like Circe in other states, and Joey and Xefros would stay at home fighting the battles like taxes and also their own monsters. It was fine, and it was routine, and Ivy (the fairy who had tried to help when Joey joined) was fine company when she missed Jude (Ivy was also quite fond of him, as he had saved her from being chomped on his first outing) which was often.
She no longer ignored magic. She embraced it, really. The healing magic was fun to learn and expand upon, especially when Circe encouraged her to try to improve her ability. She was fond of Jude's little dragons, and the fairies she had let out from jars when she was still in the Manor had found her again and now lived in the rooms above the diner, lighting up the place and making it feel warm even when it was cold. On occasion she would meet a cat sidhe or a hellhound that was injured, and she would help them and they would thank her.
She did embrace her small town life, however. She pretended to be normal, and she covered up her marks as the customers thought she looked untrustworthy otherwise. As if some of them didn't have full sleeves, but Joey wouldn't complain. She kept magic practice for her own time, and she kept the counters clean and free of magical creatures Jude liked to adopt. She served food, and embraced the concept that that was all she did. She didn't let on that she saw the magic world, even when the older folk started reminiscing about it and asking whether it was real or not.
When the boy with the sunglasses came in, freshly eighteen when she was now twenty nine, with his younger brother (who also wore sunglasses) she could feel magical energy on them. She doubted they knew. Heck, she didn't know Roxanna was a witch until she literally went invisible to avoid a scolding from Pa about being drunk on the job. She watched them and talked with them, and she found them quite lovely. When they left, she knew she needed to keep an eye on them. She knew Circe would, if they ever went into the library. She sure fucking hoped they didn't.