Brooke had a hard time falling asleep. She tossed and turned, asked Amos for another nightcap, drank it down, and tossed and turned some more. But eventually she settled into an uneasy sleep, and when she woke up the next morning, she felt like she’d been hit by a bus. The clock on the nightstand read 10:14.
The young woman laid there and stared at the ceiling for a while. “I should go home, shouldn’t I?” she whispered to herself. “I did my job… he doesn’t need me to be here anymore.”
The clock read 10:47 when she finally dragged herself out of bed to begin gathering up her things.
“Good morning, Miss Foster,” Amos said.
She shook her head and sighed. “I don’t think I’ll be having breakfast, Amos,” Brooke muttered in reply. “I’m not hungry this morning. Thanks, though.”
“Your preference is noted, Miss Foster. However, I wasn’t talking about breakfast.”
“Oh?” Was the robot going to try and give relationship advice now?
“There is something I believe that you would be interested to see.” The TV mounted to the far wall turned on just then, showing a video of… Jack. It was being played on MSNBC. He’d gone and made the video without her.
“Uh, hello. Um… I’m Jack Ilyin, founder of Orcasoft. As you probly know, two years ago I basically fell off the face of the Earth.”
He was drunk, she immediately noticed. Very drunk: swaying-and-slurring-his-words drunk.
“There were a lot of theories as t’what happened. Well, I’m here to clear up any lingering rumors,” he said, shaking his head to get the hair out of his face. “Fact of the matter is… I’m twenty f—in’ feet tall.” They’d bleeped out the f-bomb. “Twenty feet,” he reiterated. “Not even joking. See, look -” He reached off-camera and produced a patio chair, held it up to the viewfinder and set it down. Then he held up an empty bottle of vodka, too. “Now, I know what you’re thinking. Camera trick’ry. But I swear to f—ing god, I’m telling the truth.”
“My god… he made this last night, didn’t he?” Brooke asked, covering her mouth.
“Shortly after you went to bed, Miss Foster.” She swallowed, unable to look away from the TV. He’d gotten some water into his hand and was pouring it out now, pointing out the size of the droplets, which apparently would be difficult to fudge because of the physics of surface tension. “Your conversation seemed to upset him quite a great deal.”
She watched as he picked Amos up like a smartphone to video himself as he walked around the property to prove his size. He talked about the company, about AMOS, about Patel being a bastard. But his rambling soon changed its tone, and Brooke knew that she needed to stick around for whatever came next.
“And before I go, I wan’ get one thing straight,” he said, shaking his giant finger at the camera. “There’s a girl I know, and I’d probably be dead f’it weren’t for her. She’s a nicest, prettiest, most selfless young woman I ever f—ing met,” he drawled. “And I want her to know… no, I want the whole f—ing world to know, that there is not one goddamn thing I wouldn’t do for her.” He brought Amos close to his face. “Brooke, I drink ta you.”
The lump was in her throat again and she tore herself away just as they cut back to the newscasters. “TV off,” she said, and the idiot box promptly turned black. “Amos, where is he?”
“Asleep, I believe, near the smokehouse.”
Brooke was racing down the stairs faster than she could say ‘hangover’.
He wasn’t hard to find; in fact, he was exactly where Amos had told her he was. He was laying on the ground like he’d tripped on something and just never bothered to get up. The sheet had fallen off at some point in the night, and he was sprawled on top of it.
In her hands was a gallon jug of water and a bottle of asprin, which she knew he might appreciate.
“Jack?” she asked, kneeling down next to him and putting a hand on his massive shoulder. “You OK?”
The giant groaned and reached up with a sluggish hand to rub at his eyes. “Menya toshnit,” he mumbled.
“C’mon, Sputnik, you know I don’t know Russian,” she said, smiling and still trying to hide the lump in her throat.
He spied the provisions out of the corner of his bleary eye and gestured for her to open the bottle for him. She did, and dumped six white pills into his hand as he took the water. Jack threw the tiny things back and washed it all down.
“Brooke, I think I made that video last night.”
“You did. It was on the news just now,” she said quietly.
He looked much more awake suddenly, and sat up. But the headache hit him and he hissed, holding the sides of his head and cursing under his breath. Brooke’s hands were still in her lap, and she realized she was wringing them together as she looked up at him.
“Jack, do you really feel that way about me?”
He let his hands fall to his knees as his blue eyes fell on her. He blinked a few times as the memories of what he said came back to him. “So that all made the cut, huh,” Jack said quietly.
Brooke looked away, hands shaking a little. She really didn’t know what to say at all.
Suddenly, she was in his hands, her face at eye level with his own. “I can’t feel things that I don’t feel,” he said. “But what I do feel, I feel completely.”
Brooke felt a warm, fluttering feeling in her stomach, and suddenly his arms was the best place in the world to be. She leaned forward and kissed him. “Me too,” she said. They looked at each other for a few moments before breaking into laughter. “How’s that hangover?”
“Uzhasnyy,” he said. “Terrible.”
“C’mon, you should go lay down inside. When Michelle calls, she’s not going to be… ” Brooke trailed off when she became aware of the slap of approaching helicopter blades.
Brooke grabbed his stubbly, oversized cheeks, her eyes going wide. “The news!”
“Trakhat’sya!” he hissed, standing up with her still pressed to his chest, and groaning at the sudden gain in altitude. “Ugh… double trakhat’sya.”
“C’mon, don’t puke on me now, we gotta get away from those cameras.”
He scrunched up his face and headed toward the house. “Yeah. Trying.”
As soon as they got inside, Amos was quick to tell them that Michelle Douglas had been trying to reach Jack for several minutes. By now, a second helicopter had joined the first in circling the island. Brooke peeked outside to make sure there were only two, and recognized the logos of major broadcast news networks on their sides. She cursed under her breath.
“Michelle,” Jack groaned from where he laid down in the great room as his lawyer chewed him out on the other end of the line. “Michelle.” A pause as she continued talking. “Michelle! Talk slower! I have a giant fucking handover! And no, I don’t want to hear a goddamn thing about puns right now!”
“Well no shit, Sherlock,” she barked back. “You had to be shitfaced to post that three and a half-minute mistake! Every news station in the country wants this story, and they’re going to do anything to get it!”
“If I may interrupt, Master Ilyin,” Amos cut in, “I’m detecting vessels approaching the island.”
“Who!” Michelle shouted. “I want their vessel numbers, their names, their -”
“The coast guard and the San Juan County police department, Miss Douglas.” A pause. “On the bright side,” the computer continued, “It appears that the Good News is pulling anchor.”
Brooke shrugged. “Well that’s -”
But Jack’s hand shot up and he gave her a warning look. “What’d I say about puns?”
“What? It could’ve taken a stern for the worse.”
Jack tried hiding the painful well of laughter bubbling up in him, and succeeded in limiting it to a single snort. “I’ll deal with you later,” he said, wagging a finger at her.
“Would you stop flirting with your assistant!” Michelle bellowed. “Because there are bigger fish to fry, here! Alright. A few things: do not speak to the news media, do not let the news media see you. Do not let the police or anyone else bully you into letting them on the property until they have a warrant. Wait for me to get there, and wait for me to find you a goddamn PR manager before you say another single goddamn thing to anyone. You got it?”
“Ugh, yes, yes,” Jack relented. “I know the routine.”
She snorted. “Apparently, you’ve forgotten. Look, I’ll be there as soon as I can. And Foster? If anyone needs to leave the house for any reason, you’re going to have to do it.” A sigh. “Have fun watching TV. I’ll be there soon.”