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The Beast of Bell Island

Chapter Text

“Did I tell you that they’re sending me to Bell Island?” Martin called from the hallway bathroom where he was doing a last once-over before leaving for work.

His daughter, Brooke, who was reading in the living room of her father’s Anacortes home, looked up from her book. “No. Where’s Bell Island?”

“Just east of Crane Island,” he said, now in the foyer as he gathered his things. “It should be a quick in-and-out, but I’ll have to charter a boat to get there. Probably be gone all day.”

Brooke nodded, brown eyes going back to her forensics textbook. Martin, her old man, was a private investigator often contracted out by the San Juan County police department to look into spurious goings on in their sleepy little corner of the world. Brooke had been raised in it, her mother having passed away when she was younger, and was fully committed on entering into the family business once she was done with school.

Though she wasn’t often privvy to the details of his cases, he had always, always told her where he was going and when he would be back… just in case. You never knew what trouble might find you in such a line of work. Dangerous situations happened.

“What kind of case is it?”

“Private client,” he said, looking for his keys. “Guy wants to know what his business partner is up to… I guess the man dropped off the map a few years ago and still owns half the company.”

“Yikes,” she said non-committaly. “You think he’s dead?”

“That’s what we’re going to find out.” With keys successfully located, he opened the door and stepped out. “I’ll be back before dinner,” he called. “Have a good day!”

She flatly returned the goodbye and promptly went back to reading.


Her father was not, in fact, back before dinner. That in itself wasn’t especially unusual, but what was is the fact that he hadn’t contacted her all evening. She picked up the phone and called the station, but the young detective on the other end of the line hadn’t heard from Martin since the day before. Brooke was beginning to worry, sitting in tense silence over her microwave dinner as she tried to convince herself that maybe his phone was just dead, or maybe he dropped it into the water while on his way over, or…

Her own phone buzzed then: a text message from an unfamiliar number.

Hi honey, looks like I’ll be staying on the island for a few days

Relief washed over her… for a moment. Brooke looked at the message again, feeling that the wording wasn’t quite right. Her father had never called her honey – and if he did, then he never did it in a text. Only partially satisfied, she started to get ready for bed, but sleep would be slow coming until the hamster wheel of thoughts stopped turning in her head.


School over the next two days kept her busy enough. Midterms were coming up, there was lab work to do, and her “side” job of answering the phones for her dad’s PI business distracted her from the fact that she hadn’t heard from him since that night. It all seemed like such a routine job – the guy was either there or he wasn’t, right? Eventually, Brooke sat down at Martin’s desk and began to do her own research.

Bell Island, she found out, was a privately owned piece of land in the middle of the channel and some acres in size. A wealthy, young, tech entrepreneur had bought and built on it some six years before, after his AI dev company, Orcasoft, launched a wildly successful IPO. 2 years ago, though, this entrepreneur, a certain Jack Ilyin, had taken an extended leave of absence and never returned, leaving his VP, Gary Patel, to run the whole damn show.

“Well this is interesting,” Brooke muttered to herself as she squinted at a headline showing up on the page of search results: Possible Orcasoft acquisition on the table. Google, apparently, was in talks with Mr. Patel about a buyout. But as Brooke suspected, a deal couldn’t be made until Ilyin could be tracked down – whether he approved or not was anyone’s guess at this point, but either way, the acquisition was dead in the water until they could get the man’s John Hancock on the dotted line.

Brooke sat back in the desk chair and thought. Certainly, she felt better now, knowing that this wasn’t some sketchy gray market activity going on. This was a high-profile business, run by high-profile businessmen – surely, then, the specifics of Ilyin’s apparent renunciation of society was a tangled mess of financial and legal complications that, truth be told, might be better hashed out in court.

Of course, that’s probably the advice her father was giving to Mr. Ilyin right now, but still… Brooke wanted to make sure everything was alright. She glanced at the time, remembering that tomorrow was saturday, and decided to call up a friend of hers at the marina.

“Hey Andy. So, my dad needs my help with a case, and I was wondering if you could give me a ride someplace in the runabout tomorrow morning…”

Chapter Text

Brooke made small talk with Andy on the way out from Anacortes, but it was hard over the roaring drone of the runabout's outboard motor. And she was distracted besides. He asked about her dad, but she didn't have much to tell him - he just assumed that it was a sensitive case and didn't press any further.

"There!" he shouted over the sound of the motor, and pointed toward a hump of land ahead as it was beginning to make itself distinguishable from the larger masses around it. The morning fog was beginning to burn off and the chill was being lifted from the air, but she thought it was curious just how much of the silvery wisps still clung to the island she was heading for. She couldn't make out a single structure this way; just a mass of trees.

"Not sure where the dock is," she shouted in return. Andy nodded and once they were within a hundred or so yards of the shore they began to head around and see where he might be able to drop her off. Eventually they found one jutting modestly out from the north-western part of the island. The fog was so thick on this side that they almost went right past it, though; it had Brooke wondering if this area had some kind of unique low pressure spot that encouraged such a drastically different microclimate than the sound and islands around it.

A looming white shape came into view as they approached the dock: it was the unmistakable silhouette of a Lazzarra 60-foot yacht. "Holy shit," Brooke murmured as she gathered up her bag and opened up the front her jacket. She turned to Andy. "Stay here for a minute in case he doesn't want me coming in." Her father, while carrying the credentials of a private detective, still didn't have the authority of a real law enforcement official, and could only set foot on private property by permission. Brooke didn't even have that much, and was going to play it safe.

She stepped out of the runabout and helped him to loosely tie off on one of the dock's cleats before pausing to glance at the massive boat sitting in the water on the other side. It seemed... disused. Moss was beginning to grow around the teak-capped railings, dust dulled her tinted windows, and as she walked up the boards toward the shore, she saw that the vinyl lettering adorning the stern of the thing was cracking and faded. Even the ropes holding the boat to the dock were green with moss and algae, and in parts, overgrown with barnacles.

Brooke came to a gate at the end of the dock, and a kind of slim kiosk featuring an input pad, security camera, and video screen. Summoning her courage, she pressed the call button and waited.

"Hello, how can I help you?" a charismatic voice soon answered. It had a faint hint of an accent she couldn't place.

She brought her mouth to the speaker. "Hi there, my name's Brooke Foster. I'm the daughter and assistant to Martin Foster, and I'm here to make sure things are going smoothly with Mr. Ilyin."

There was a long, suspicious silence that didn't leave her with much confidence in the situation. With a frown, she narrowed her eyes at the camera and spoke clearly. "If you do not let me in or let me speak to my father in person, then I will be more than happy to let the police convince you to do so."

Brooke started when the gate automatically unlocked with a harsh buzzing and she quickly pushed it open before it locked again. She turned, waved at Andy through the fog, gave him a thumbs up, and watched him pull in the ropes. With a deep breath she turned back to the gate, pushed it open, and headed up the cedar-planked path through the trees.



There was an unsettling sort of quiet about the place, she noticed, and security was high: two-hundred feet of pathway yielded four cameras, and she could feel their electronic eyes on her. The dense tree cover masked whatever water traffic passed the island by; it seemed to mask her own footfalls too. She wondered how far a scream would carry in an environment like this.

Eventually, a house came into view. Well, 'house' was an understatement: it was a beautifully designed, sprawling, three-story villa of stark modern design. This, like the yacht, seemed normal at first glance, but the closer she got, the less sure she was. One of the west-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows was cracked, and she could barely make out the silhouettes of upturned furniture inside. The wall around the house, made from more planks of handsome cedar arranged horizontally, sported another gate, which this time just buzzed open as she approached. The pathway was slabs of expensive-looking stone now, mossy in the gaps between them. But there were leaves and pine needles everywhere, and, it seemed, plants sprouting up where no landscaper worth his salt would have permitted.

Brooke only stopped when she came to the mahogany door, inlaid with rough slices of redwood burl. Door alone probably worth ten grand, she thought with raised brows. She sucked in a deep breath, ignoring the camera and viewscreen beside her, and pulled out her own little case file: a few printed articles on Orcasoft, a satellite photo of the island, and some of her father's insurance information... just in case. 

At the top, though, she'd paper-clipped a photo of Jack Ilyin: he was a man in his mid-thirties, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes, and a rugged facial structure that was very obviously of Russian stock. As part of her research she watched a video of him giving some kind of TEDx talk a few years back, and he lacked all trace of a foreign accent. But he'd been very good with his audience - he was a natural. Which, of course, begged the question even more: what could force such a talented, charismatic, handsome man from the tech world's limelight?

Tucking the folder under her arm and pretending that she had every right to be here, she ignored the call button and simply knocked on the door.

Chapter Text

The door undid itself with an unassuming click of a latch and swung inward. It was dim, lit only by the natural light filtering through the thinning marine layer of clouds and fog outside, but not dark. The entryway was large and deceiving in its grandeur; Brooke knew money when she saw it, even with plain walls and spartan furnishings. Two large paintings hung in the foyer: if she were to guess, they were probably around 100 years old, and from some early European abstract movement. Surely worth hundreds of thousands each.

The floor was Italian marble, and the only pieces of furniture nearby, a console table and bench, were hand-cast bronze. "Wow," she whispered. But it was time to gather herself and stop gawking at the scenery. "Hello?" she called, taking a few nervous steps further into the house. "Mr. Ilyin? Dad?" There was a draft, she noticed.

"I'm afraid you won't be seeing Master Ilyin today," came a gentle voice from a hall to her left. She recognized it as the same one from the comm at the gate, and -

The folder fell to the floor as Brooke stifled a gasp at the creature standing there. He - it - was about her height, and bore an uncanny resemblance to... well, C-3PO. Except that this android was a glossy white plastic, and had much less of a face than the brassy and sassy, Star Wars droid she spent her childhood laughing at. This thing just had a single green light in the middle of a smooth, featureless field that blinked when it talked.

"Uh..."

"I am AMOS, Master Ilyin's Autonomous and Mobile Household Servitor. That is, using the 'O' in household instead of the 'H'."

Brooke eyed the robot, now noticing the Orcasoft logo neatly printed along his left shoulder panel, and below that, the word "prototype". "You must be what Google wants," she muttered to herself.

"I'm afraid that such matters are for Master Ilyin to worry about," the robot said in that lilting warmth of a well-designed AI. "May I interest you in some food or drink?"

Brooke was only half-listening to the robotic servant as she took more tentative steps into the hall and looked around. The end of the foyer was a wall that, once she got closer to it, was simply there to give a sense of privacy to the large great room on the other side. The opposite wall of the great room was windows, floor to ceiling, that gave a breathtaking and intimate view of a courtyard flanked by two wings of the house. What was breathtaking about this view, however, was not its beauty, but the fact that the whole space looked as if it had once been utterly torn apart.

Sliding doors had been unmoored from their tracks and cast aside, the delicate landscaping in the courtyard beyond the glass a trampled mess. The carpet near the doors was dark with moss, and the furniture - expensive couches, coffee tables, side tables, lounges, ottomans - all thrown against the walls to make room for a bizarre pile of blankets, pillows, and mattresses some twenty feet across in the middle of the room. The only thing that appeared to have remained untouched was the 80" flatscreen TV against the west wall. So that's where the draft was coming from.

Brooke realized she'd been holding her breath as she stared, and it took Amos to bring her out of her horrified stupor.

"Ah, yes, that," it said with a touch of embarrassment. "I can assure you that there is a reason for... things being the way they are."

"Where's my dad?" she demanded. This was a bad situation. A bad situation and they needed to get out ASAP. "Tell me where he is or I swear to god I will call the police right now."

The robot seemed startled, if a faceless toy could be startled - its light blinked at her a few times before slumping its shoulders and turning to head down the hall in something vaguely resembling a pout. "Mr. Foster is perfectly safe, I can assure you." They passed trashed art, guest rooms and pool rooms and smoking rooms (none of which seemed to have been used in years), and rooms with the ceilings apparently caved in and their door frames ripped out. There was water damage, and in some areas, mold creeping up the walls. "And he has, I should note, met the master of the house."

The way those words came out sent a chill down her spine. Brooke wasn't sure she wanted to meet Jack Ilyin anymore.

Amos led her to a room that was partially below ground level. It had once been a wine cellar, and still may have been one yet - this space had been given a similar treatment to the others, but much of the wine bottles themselves had been unharmed, and still rested peacefully in their racks, aging and gathering dust. At the far end of the cellar, and below a strangely macguyver'd trap door, sat her father at a table, surrounded by papers. He was reading intently, but cradling his head as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders. An empty wine glass was on the table beside him.

"Dad!" Brooke shouted, breaking into a sprint.

Martin Foster, P.I., glanced up from what he was doing and suddenly had the look of a man who thought he'd never see his daughter again writ on his face."Brooke!" He immediately rose from his chair and hugged her tight. "What in the world are you doing here!" he exclaimed, then remembering something, he repeated himself in a completely different tone. It was nervous and frantic. "What in the world are you doing here?"

"I was about ready to file a missing persons report!" she replied, narrowing her eyes at him. "What are you doing here? We gotta get you home!"

He was suddenly a haunted, hunted man, and looked to the trap door above them as though any minute something terrible might fall out from it. "No, no... you need to go. I-I have a job to finish here."

"Dad, bring the papers with you. Read them at home. You can call this creep when you finish, and -"

"It's not like that," Martin said curtly. "It's... it's gotten complicated. I can't leave now."

Brooke's heart began to race and her hands went clammy cold. "Did he threaten you?" she whispered. "He took your phone, didn't he?"

He just shook his head and pushed her toward Amos. "It's not like that," he repeated. "Just go! I'll be fine here until I finish the job. Now go, before he..."

There was a rumbling all of a sudden, a slow, steady, beating tremor that grew louder. Something was drawing near, and damn well shaking the foundation of the house as it approached. Then it stopped, but just for a moment before the trap door was opened up above them.

Brooke's eyes lifted skyward and was greeted by a pair of large blue eyes, hard like chips of Siberian ice as they bored into her from high above.

"Who the hell is this?" came the deep, loud, and growling voice.

Brooke screamed.

Chapter Text

Jack Ilyin bore little resemblance to the man in the TED Talk video. His face and bare shoulders were ruddy from sun exposure, his dirty blond hair long enough to tie into a sloppy ponytail, and his chin was burdened with a beard that would make the most discerning of Portland wanna-be lumberjacks green with envy.

Of course, there was also the minor detail that Jack Ilyin was inexplicably huge.

“Oh dear,” Amos said.

Martin grabbed his daughter by the shoulder and pushed her behind him as they gawked up at the giant. “Th-this is my daughter, Mr. Ilyin. She w-was just on her way out, OK? She -”

Brooke stared at that face above them, scowling, vaguely suspicious, but mostly, it appeared to her, deeply bitter. All the analysis in the world wasn’t worth squat, however, when he reached down with an arm the girth of a telephone pole, hand ready to grab her. She didn’t make a sound, but she did give into instinct and ran as fast as her feet would carry her. Up the stairs, down the hall, and out the still-open, ten-thousand-dollar front door. Brooke ran down the walkway, out the gate (which was only locked from the outside, it seemed) and down the cedar-planked path through the trees, trying not to trip over her own feet.

The dock and the yacht came into view below, but as she neared the tree line, her legs started numbing. When she couldn’t feel her feet anymore, she stumbled and fell. Brooke cursed under her breath, wondering what the hell was going on, but when she heard the sound of those footfalls approaching from the house, she willed herself to stand. When that didn’t work, she resorted to a crawl, but soon her hands and arms were numbing and weakening too, and not ten feet further down the gentle slope did she collapse onto the ground, sprawled and tangled up in her own limp limbs, and unable to move.

It was all she could do to watch as the giant man approached at a leisurely pace, appearing like a twenty-foot shadow among the fog and the trees. And it was all she could do to keep her heart from exploding when he knelt at her side and cocked his head at her.

“It’s part of the curse, I’m afraid,” Jack Ilyin rumbled flatly. He reached down with both hands and slid his fingers underneath her, lifting her up off the ground with not a little care. Brooke still couldn’t move anything but her head.

“What did you do to me!” she cried, not even trying to sound courageous at this point. “Why can’t I move, dammit! Put me down!”

He tossed her onto his shoulder, still limp as a rag doll, and held her there with his massive hand on the backs of her knees. She glanced down, remembering she was deathly afraid of heights, and bit back a scream: it came out as a long, whimpering moan instead. Brooke tried to close her eyes, but that didn’t last for long. The view of his broad back and his long powerful strides far below was too strange and mesmerizing to miss.

It was a few moments later when they reached the house again, and she felt her strength returning. They went right past the front door, heading around the house to the back. She finally saw just how big the building was, and how, once upon a time, it must have been a gorgeous place to live.

“I used to be able to fit in my own house,” Jack growled. She saw him glance unhappily at his reflection in one of the second-story windows as they walked. They came to the end of the wing, revealing an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the rear of the house surrounded by terraces, hot tubs, a sauna, and pool house. “Used to be able to helm The Carpe Diem,” he went on. She could almost hear him grinding his teeth together. “Fit in my clothes.” Jack knelt down abruptly, sending butterflies shooting from her stomach and up into her throat, but at least she had the means to hold on now instead of loll around helplessly. They were beside the trap door, Brooke noticed as he removed her from him and set her down beside it. “Believe it or not, I used to be normal. Until that bitch came along.”

“Who?” she blurted.

“That’s what Mr. Ilyin has hired me to find out.”

Brooke turned to find her father being escorted out of the great room by Amos. “…Dad?”

“As far as I can tell,” he said sadly, giving her shoulders a squeeze. “Hocus pocus is the only thing that would explain any of this. If I can track down the woman who supposedly did this to him, we might be able to get him back to normal.”

“But what about Patel? And… and the buyout?”

Suchara blyad!” Jack ferociously spat. So there’s where his accent was; the bile of his hate and the deep harshness afforded to him by his size just made him sound all the more Russian. But he continued in perfect newscaster English. “I’m surprised the fucking bastard hasn’t sent someone to poison my food so he could take over the whole company.” He shook his head gravely then gestured to himself. “No. There’s no dealing with that mess until we deal with this.”

Fair enough.

Jack moved over to the edge of the pool and sat down to put his feet in. Even at the deepest end, the water would have come up to his waist. This seemed to relax him a little – Brooke could see a little of the anger and frustration leave him.

“I can arrange for someone to pick you up and take you back to Anacortes,” Jack said.

“Take him up on the offer, Brooke. Please. I’ll be fine, I promise. I’ll be…” Martin trailed off, and Brooke noticed that he’d suddenly broke into a cold sweat. Amos was there to grab his arm to steady him before he fell to the ground.

Brooke knew what she was looking at, and it suddenly occurred to her that he would not, in fact, be fine. “…you haven’t taken your medications, have you?”

“Maybe… maybe Mr. Ilyin would be kind enough to… let you get my stuff…”

Brooke frowned. “You’re diabetic, and you have high blood pressure!” she snapped. “No, you’re going home, or you’re going to wind up getting a heart attack or going into a damn coma out here. Or with your luck, one and then the other!”

Martin couldn’t argue.

“Amos, get him some juice or something please.”

“Of course, Miss Foster.” The white robot quickly disappeared inside, and returned a minute later with a glass of orange juice. Martin was breathing heavily when he took the glass and raised it to his lips. Brooke looked on, worried about how many times this has happened since being without his medications. He seemed to be doing a little better when he was done with the juice, but it would still be a few minutes before his glucose levels were back to normal.

“He’s hypoglycemic,” Jack Ilyin idly noted from where he still sat at the pool.

“No shit,” Brooke snapped. “Which is why we need to go home.”

“Nuh uh, nope. He’s not leaving until I get what I need,” he said. “Remember what happened to you when you tried to make a break for it?”

Brooke narrowed her eyes at the giant.

“That’s because nobody leaves the island unless I let them.” A pause. “Unless…” Another pause as he rubbed his beard and thought. “You said you were his assistant?”

Martin struggled to get to his feet, but still had to hold onto Amos to keep from swaying. “Dammit, Ilyin, leave my daughter out of this!”

“Can she do the work?” he suddenly boomed.

Brooke cowed, but was beginning to see that a deal had to be made for her father’s sake. “I… I can get access to the same records and databases as my father can. I’m not licensed, but… I could if I had to.”

“Brooke…”

She swallowed and turned back to him. “Dad, I can do this. I’ve been helping you for four years now, I know how this goes. It’s just research. I can do that. And if we get him back to normal, then he can take care of the Orcasoft affair all by himself.”

Martin Foster nodded, seeing that, perhaps, this wasn’t a death sentence for anybody – just an unusually high-stakes fact-finding case. The giant Jack Ilyin looked on as the two exchanged words, then nodded at his servitor. “Amos, charter something for Mr. Foster so he can go home.”

“Of course, sir.” The little light on his face flickered and blinked for a minute. “The boat will arrive in approximately half an hour,” he declared.

“See him out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Brooke stood there, frowning at her new… client. “So what about me, then? I don’t have any clothes, any toiletries, no computer… How exactly, is this going to work?”

He chuckled darkly. “As my grandparents would say, uspokoysya, durochka. Don’t worry your pretty little head.”

Chapter Text

Brooke had to wave her father goodbye from inside the tree line as he boarded the small private craft headed for Anacortes. She trudged up the cedar path back to the villa alone and contemplated just what she’d gotten herself into. Her stomach started growling as she stepped back in through the front door. It made her wonder what, and how much, her client ate.

“Amos?” she called, not quite sure what to do now. All she knew was that she wanted to spend as little time around Jack Ilyin as humanly possible, and that surely meant avoiding places where he could fit.

Brooke was not expecting a small, unassuming little panel in the wall beside her, fitted with the same green light, to speak. “What may I get for you, Miss Foster?” it said.

It occurred to her then that Amos wasn’t just the robot, but the whole house. No wonder Google wanted their hands on that tech.

“Is the ‘master of the house’ going to provide meals, or do I need to order pizza?” she deadpanned at the panel.

“The kitchen is down the hall behind you and to the left. Help yourself to anything you find.”

She followed his directions, and quickly found herself in the most beautiful kitchen she’d ever seen. Sparkling white marble floors, counters, and backsplashes lined the enormous space, and in the middle was an island of thick butcher block with its own sink, under-the-counter refrigerator, and stove range. Attached to it was a four-person bar, and Brooke thought that this was exactly the sort of kitchen that a celebrity chef would film their TV show in. There was another full-height refrigerator along the far wall, three ovens, a dishwasher, wine cooler, second stove top with two induction burners, and another, much larger three-basin sink. She pictured lavish parties being held here, with four-star chefs being brought in to cook for the luxurious crowds.

“Everything here is yours to use,” Amos said from the kitchen’s wall panel.

She went to the refrigerator and found all manner of farmer’s market produce, fresh eggs, local meats, artisan cheeses, the finest olives and capers and prosciutto, and…

“If there is nothing there that strikes your fancy, then you may browse Master Ilyin’s stock through that door there.” Brooke closed the fridge and headed for another door off in the corner. A blast of chill air startled her, but the light came on and she saw that it was a walk-in cooler. A huge walk-in cooler. At least twenty feet long and almost ten feet wide, and lined with shelves packed to the hilt with food.

She counted a dozen halved pigs, eight legs of veal, nine whole turkeys, slabs of unsliced bacon, wheels of parmesan, cheddar, and smoked gouda cheeses, entire bushel boxes full of cabbages, potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, lettuces, and other leafy greens, gallons of milks and creams, and at the very end, at the coldest part, were fully stocked shelves of nothing but vodka.

Brooke liked vodka.

She grabbed one – the most Russian-looking one – and headed out.

“You’ve found the master’s collection,” Amos said with a little bemusement on its voice. How did it do that? “I’m afraid that you need more for lunch than vodka, however.”

She snorted and poured herself a small amount in a tumbler. It tasted like the Arctic wind. “My god, this is amazing stuff.”

“It’s imported from a small-batch distillery in St. Petersburg, Miss Foster. I’m glad it pleases you.”

“OK,” she said, setting the empty glass down on the counter and opening up the normal fridge to root around again. “Now I can eat.”


Amos-the-unit (versus Amos-the-system) showed her around the house after she’d made and devoured a humble rye sandwich.

She was indeed shown a guest room, a pool room, and a smoking room, in addition to a study, and sound mixing studio. (One of his college buddies had been a sound engineer and helped him put the place together. Artists from all over the country had come there to have their music mastered, and Amos proceeded to list a few of them off.)

“What happened to some of these other rooms?” she asked, noticing that only the rooms along the outside of the premises remained intact – the ones facing the courtyard had largely suffered violent fates.

“You must understand how terribly Master Ilyin has suffered from this curse,” the robot explained as they passed another gutted space. “The whole of his life had been taken from him.”

Brooke did feel a pang of guilt, but it quickly dissipated. “Uh huh,” she grunted. “Except for the millions in the bank, the private island, the robot butler, and the majority shares in Orcasoft.”

“Yes, well…” Amos trailed off, until they came to a room at the top of some stairs leading to the third story. “Here we are. Master Ilyin’s old office.”

Her eyes just about popped out of her head and rolled across the floor. It was a corner suite, with more floor-to-ceiling windows that gave her a near-unobstructed, 180-degree view of the Wasp Passage, and the islands surrounding. About a quarter mile away she could see the Friday Harbor ferry chugging along in the still waters, leaving a silvery trail of a wake behind it. She could only imagine the views from here come sunset.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Amos said, looking out with that single green eye. She wondered if that was a preprogrammed response or if it had some kind of ability to judge beauty. “This was Master Ilyin’s favorite room of the house.”

“It may be mine too.”

“Now here’s the master’s old computer system,” the robot said, ushering her into the plush, high-backed office chair. As soon as she sat down, the system booted – and she could see why: each of the triptych of screens had a small green light at the very top. So Amos was there, too. After a very quick boot process, a desktop appeared, and then an internet browser was opened for her. “This should be sufficient for you to perform your research. There are printers and a scanner in the closet.”

“Thank you,” she said, pulling up her email account then pausing. “I’ll need to… talk to him before I start, though. How well does he remember the incident?”

Very,” Amos said, “looking” away. Brooke knew what that meant.

“Does he still get violent?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Well I’m not going to do a damn thing until he can promise me that he’ll keep his temper under control.”

“I do wish you well, but…”

It stopped when they both noticed the faint quaking of heavy feet hitting the mossy earth. Then, he came into view outside. Just barely, though, he wasn’t tall enough to be at eye level with the third floor, but he was close. Brooke sucked in a breath because she’d almost, somehow, forgotten that she was dealing with a bona-fide giant. Jack glanced inside before fixing his eyes on the horizon with a brooding look on his face. After a while, he turned and poked at a thin section of window along the floor and it pivoted open.

“I don’t see you working,” he said.

Brooke grimaced at him for a second and stood up to storm over to the window. “I just sat down,” she huffed. “And I don’t even know what I’m looking for yet. I need to… interview you.”

He just stared at her and raised a brow. “Better get down here, then.” He turned and was gone.

Brooke was going to head back downstairs to begin collecting his account of this magic woman person, but stopped and turned to Amos. “What kind of drunk is he, do you know?”

“You will not like him when he’s had a few bottles, Miss Foster.”

Well, so much for the idea of liquoring him up for this.

Chapter Text

Aren’t Russians supposed to be happy drunks? she thought as she scrounged up some paper and a pen. Maybe if he tried tequila instead of vodka…

Brooke went downstairs, going over the questions she had to ask him, swearing up and down that she wouldn’t let him intimidate her. But once she saw the great-room-turned-bedroom, and the damage his bare hands had done to the place, she instead decided to swear up and down that she at least wouldn’t run.

“Hello?” She ventured out into the open courtyard, peering around the half-smashed Japanese maples and overgrown weeds, but there was no sign of him. “Mr. Ilyin?”

Brooke heard the little clicking steps of the robot behind her. “He must be at the smoker,” it said, and pointed. “Approximately 100 yards that way.”

Past the pool terraces was another path that disappeared in the thick, tall pine trees. When she looked up, she saw wisps of silver smoke from that direction, mingling with the last strange remnants of fog and disappear. Bell Island was a beautiful place, she had to admit. All the San Juans were – but Ilyin’s private retreat had a kind of haunted, magisterial beauty to it that drew her in more than any of the other islands she’d been to.

Before long she found him, crouched down beside the small structure that must have been the smokehouse, where he was tending to more halved pigs on great wheeled spits. She stood at the edge of the clearing and watched quietly.

Jack must’ve been a tall and solidly built man when he was of average human stature. In the press photos she saw of him, where he was clean-shaven and with neatly-cropped hair, wearing an expensive blazer over some t-shirt, he was the very picture of confidence and elegant masculinity. But now that she thought about it, that Jack Ilyin seemed bland, in a way: an underwear model, not a real person. This Jack, though, was real. Brooke watched as the muscles moved in time with those massive arms, followed the powerful swell of his shoulder blade, down the curve of his sturdy spine, to his… ah, er…

Brooke must’ve cleared her throat, because he looked over his shoulder to see her standing there.

“Did you… make those yourself?” she asked.

He stood up, in his hand a long metal rod bent in the shape of a hook, and considered the spit for a moment. “It’s the easiest way to cook all the food I need to eat to keep myself from fucking starving to death.” He looked at her again from under those brooding brows. “You’re not vegan or some shit, are you?”

Brooke shook her head. Actually, her mouth was beginning to water now that the breeze was blowing the right way.

“Good. Because I designed a damn good smoker.” He knelt down again to push the spit back inside, and closed the door behind it. He opened another hatch on the side and stuffed in a few cords of wood, dusted off his big hands, and stood up again. “You gonna ask your questions or what?”

“Oh! Uh… yes. Yes I am.” She moved over to a mossy rock and sat down, flattening the papers on her leg. “Could you just start by telling me what happened?” Brooke watched his body language carefully now, and noticed his hand ball into a loose fist.

“Couldn’t you just work from a name and a description?”

“Sorry, but I’m going to need as many details as possible.”

Jack let out a long breath through his nostrils before leaning back up against a tree and folding his arms. “It was May, little less than two years ago,” he rumbled. “I had an art collection then. Most of it was inherited from my grandfather who worked for the party in the 70’s. Constructivist stuff. You probably saw the ones in the entryway.

“I was celebrating my 35th birthday that year. There was about… 200 people over. I don’t even remember who, now. All I know is that this woman got in. Called herself Zelda DuBoix – fake fuckin’ name if I ever heard one – who claimed to be a representative of some children’s charity or another. She asked me if I would be willing to donate one of the paintings to an auction.”

“What’d you say?”

“I told her to go fuck herself! Poshyol na hui! Who did she think she was, coming into my house on my birthday, asking for alms like a damn beggar? I told her that she could have whichever one she wanted if she let me fuck her in the ass. When she declined to take me up on the offer, I told her to get the hell off my property. And she did. But not before giving me this look.” Jack paused, reliving the memory. “Her eyes did something; then she goddamn smiled at me. This freaky fucking smile. The room started to spin after that, and I passed out. Two days later I wake up like this, and Amos can suddenly understand slang.” His hard eyes looked down at her and something in the way he stood there made her want to go back inside. “That information enough for you?”

Brooke looked down at her notes. “Um,” she murmured. “W-what did she look like?”

Jack turned away to scowl into the middle distance. “Long black hair, green eyes, glasses. About… five-five, 120 pounds. Late twenties. I seem to recall a tattoo on the index finger of her right hand.”

Brooke scrawled the information down, hoping that she could find something. The finger tattoo had the potential to be a real boon, here, assuming it was real and hadn’t been lasered off. She surveyed the information one last time, thinking over his story, before asking him one more question.

“Do you regret what you did?”

She watched as his huge Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “I do now.”

“I… better go,” she said quietly, slipping off the rock and back to the pathway toward the pool.

Jack wordlessly moved away from the tree and approached a smaller one, about his height, and in one swift, terrible motion, stomped it to the ground with the loud crack of splintering wood. “Yeah,” he growled. “You better.”

Chapter Text

Seeing him destroy the tree had shaken her, and Brooke took to running back to the house.

“He’s in one of his moods,” Amos said as it stood between the pool and the courtyard, head perked in Ilyin’s direction.

“I knew asking him to talk about it would make him angry,” she said, passing the robot and tiptoeing her way around the nest of blankets in the great room. When Brooke returned to the office, the skin on the back of her neck stopped tingling and she felt like she could relax and get to work. If these upper rooms were left untouched, then there was a good chance that she’d be safe from any potential… outbursts here.

With a deep breath and long exhale, she woke up the computer and began to get to work.


By the time her stomach started rumbling again, Brooke had made little progress at all. Well, no progress at all, actually, but finding dead ends still counted for something. Using her father’s login credentials, she was able to get access to a few of the police databases. It took about 2 hours to find that there were only nine people in the entire country named Zelda DuBoix, and none of them even came close to matching the physical profile that Ilyin had given her.

After that, four hours were spent researching children’s charities that might have had ties to high-end art auctions that year: Brooke only found three, and took down their numbers so that she might call them on monday to ask who among their staff might’ve been responsible for acquiring and appraising the high-value donations that year, and if any of them had traveled in Washington state around that time.

“Miss Foster?” Amos’ voice came from one of the screens, its green light blinking. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but you might be interested to know that dinner is ready.”

Brooke raised her eyebrows. “Dinner?” Her mind went immediately to Ilyin tending the smoker and her stomach rumbled some more.

“I’ve made you a plate of seared wild sockeye salmon, chantrelles sauteed with saged butter, wild rice, and a salad tossed with lemon-strawberry dressing.”

“…you can cook?

“I most certainly can.”

Brooke leapt up from the chair and dashed down the stairs, trying to guess at how much Google would pay for the AMOS system. “Millions,” she chanted under her breath. “Hundreds of millions.”

“The dining room is straight on, to the right of the kitchen,” Amos said through one of the panels as she passed it. It was easy to find: a table large enough to seat 16, and more glass walls to make you feel like you were outside, among the moss and the trees. At the far end was her plate, still warm enough to steam, and in front of it was maybe a dozen candles, all lit.

“Oh,” she mumbled, staring at the spread, a little flabbergasted. “I… take it that the ‘master of the house’ won’t be joining us?”

“Master Ilyin prefers to eat alone,” the wall panel said. “Now come, sit before it gets cool.” Amos-the-robot stepped in as she was sitting down, holding an opened bottle of white wine and a glass. “This is a very good dry Lambrusco. It should pair nicely with the fish.”

Brooke didn’t really know what to do – she was a 22-year old kid from Anacortes whose idea of a good meal was a pastrami sandwich and a can of Rolling Rock. She’d never been to a four-star restaurant in her life, and now that she thought about it, she’d probably never been to a three-star restaurant either. Amos poured her glass and set it down before dimming the lights.

“And so you may enjoy the view as fully as possible…” The windows, which were tinted, suddenly were not, leaving panes of glass so invisible that it almost looked like they had disappeared altogether.

“…whoa.”

“Is there anything else I may get for you, Miss Foster?”

“I don’t get it,” she said. “How are you so nice while he’s such a… piece of shit?”

“Treating guests well is one of my chiefest pleasures, Miss Foster.”

Pleasures? “Amos, are you… sentient?”

The robot nodded its featureless head. “Very much so. Just as Master Ilyin was changed by the curse, so was the whole of the estate, myself included. Perhaps the woman who did this didn’t want him to be… utterly miserable.”

“Hmm… yes, he wouldn’t have gotten very far without you, would he? Not without being seen, anyways.”

“Yes…” Amos trailed off, and she wondered what the robot was thinking about. Quickly, though, it turned back to her. “Enjoy your meal, Miss Foster.”

Then she was left alone to eat in silence.


After dinner, Amos showed her to her quarters: it was on the second floor, one of the few guest rooms that had been spared from Ilyin’s rage. It smelled musty, like clothes that had been packed away in a closet for one too many years, but was otherwise just as luxurious and tasteful as the rest of the house. A king sized bed was up against the north wall, and adjacent was a dresser (empty), and large painting hung over it in reds and browns. One door led to a closet, and another led to a bathroom complete with shower and spa tub. She wanted to wash up, but had no clean clothes to change into.

“Amos I need clothes. What do I do about that?”

“I can provide you with a robe, but unfortunately that’s all I have to offer until the morning.”

“The morning?”

The little green light on its face seemed to brighten. “You’ll see.”

She wasn’t sure how she felt about wearing nothing but a robe, but then she remembered what Jack Ilyin seemed to get by wearing: a bedsheet, wrapped low around his waist like a towel. A robe certainly hid more than that, right?

Brooke went to draw a bath, finding soaking salts and bath bubbles under the sink that smelled nice and relaxing, dumping a good amount of both into the running water. The bathroom quickly smelled irresistible and she started to undress. Well, started, that is, until she remembered that there were also full-length windows in here and no way to cover them.

She stood, clutching her jacket in her arms, weighing the risks. After fretting about it for a few minutes, staring out the windows for any sign of the giant jerk, Brooke decided to throw caution to the wind. She stripped in record time, almost diving into the mountains of bubbles to cover her naked body. See? There – she could have her cake and eat it too.


Brooke almost fell asleep, actually, starting awake when some bubbles went up her nose. “Ow, fuck!” she hissed to herself, frantically blowing the stinging soap out. A clock on the counter read 9:25, and when she looked outside, the trees were black against the pink and purple sky. “Wow…”

The water, though, was getting cold, and it was time to start thinking about bed. Brooke reached for a towel and stepped out to dry off. She bent over to drain the tub, and didn’t even hear Jack Ilyin approach outside.

“Nice view,” came the deep, rumbling voice through the window, followed by a tapping on the glass.

Brooke screamed and nearly jumped out of her skin – instead, she just slipped on the wet edge off the tub and tumbled back in with a splash. Soap got in her eyes, and she was all obscenities now. “You piece of motherfucking shit! Fuck you! Fuck you to fucking hell and back! Goddammit…!”

Roaring laughter vibrated the room. “You cuss like my grandfather,” he snorted.

She’d wiped the soap from her stinging eyes and finally saw him, his face illuminated by the bathroom light, peering shamelessly inside. “Go away!” She yelled. “Go, go, go!

He laughed some more, shook his head, and walked out of view.

Brooke angrily snatched up another towel and immediately headed for the bedroom, which was, thankfully, outfitted with curtains to keep out the morning light during the summer. She found the robe and put it on, nice and tight, and sat on the edge of the bed to think. “No,” she said to herself. “If I’ve got to be here for a few more days, then I’m putting my foot down. If he doesn’t stop being an ass, then I’m not helping him. End of.”

Chapter Text

Brooke tried using her phone to contact her father, but she couldn’t get even the weakest signal here. Must be some part of the magic, she thought.

She flopped backwards down onto the bed and stared at the ceiling for a while, puzzling over the mystery Ilyin was expecting her to solve. Tracking people down like that took a lot more time and resources than he seemed to expect, especially if they had no police file to pull up. If Brooke was going to be honest with herself, she wasn’t even sure this woman would even be possible to find if she had no record, and especially if she was none of what she claimed to be. And that was all ignoring the absolute headache that the added complexity of her apparent knowledge of powerful magic gave to the case. If she could turn Jack Ilyin into a hulking giant, and an otherwise unremarkable household AI into an intelligent, purposeful creature, then what’s to say that she just didn’t… teleport herself off to Hong Kong? Or hell, into some goddamn parallel universe?

Brooke groaned and rolled over to clutch a pillow. This was going to be impossible, wasn’t it?

And what then? If he never returned to normal, would he let her go, or would he keep her imprisoned here out of spite?

Even with the millions of questions swarming about in her head like the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys, she managed to fall asleep in the big, plush bed, and wound up dreaming, of all things, of giant hands…


Morning came too soon. She woke up for a few minutes, went to pee, and then fell back asleep for who knows how long. When she woke up again, there was a box on the bench at the foot of the bed.

“Huh?”

She got up and opened it up, gasping at what she saw. Clothes. Beautiful, expensive clothes in… wait for it… yep, just the right size. Merino wool, linen, silk; pajamas made from the finest handspun cotton that felt like clouds when she scrunched the fabric up in her hands. There were several blouses and skirts, slacks, a cardigan. At the bottom of the box was several sets of underwear.

“Oh no he didn’t,” she whispered, holding one in the air in front of her.

The problem was that they were gorgeous. And that they felt like they were made from woven spiders silk. They also looked as if some thought had gone into their purchase: there were two each of black, neutral, and white. Only a man who knew his way around women’s undergarments would have known that those were the best all-around colors to buy. Swallowing, she set the underwear back in the box, and decided to assume that Amos had done the shopping.

She dressed herself in the other goods, though, and asked the wall panel if there was anything to eat, knowing full well that there was.

Brooke was ushered downstairs to a lavish breakfast spread prepared by Amos before heading back up to Ilyin’s office to get back to work. It was lunchtime when she began to realize just how futile the effort was. This was worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack – it was more like finding a single atom out of the whole damn ocean. And when dinner rolled around, Brooke knew that something had to give. All she had to show for so many hours of work was countless articles on Jack Ilyin the man rather than Jack Ilyin the brillian entrepreneur. And Jack the man seemed have a long record of being a black mark against humanity. Labor abuses, infidelity, sexual harassment charges… it was all there. The usual stuff. For some reason, Brooke wanted to think that Jack Ilyin had some redeeming qualities that would set him apart from all the other creepsville Silicon Valley megalomaniacs, but it seemed that he stepped right in line with the best of them. Brooke decided that maybe it was time to go home, and let Gary Patel discover for himself what had happened to his business partner.

She printed out her findings and stuck them into a folder for presentation’s sake, and headed downstairs, chin held high and shoulders squared. Under her breath she practiced what she was going to say, but as she ventured outside and was greeted by the sight of the massive man sitting with his feet in the pool and looking over a jerry-rigged touchscreen tablet attached by a thick cable to the inside of the pool house, her courage trickled away.

“…yes?” he grunted impatiently when he noticed her standing there.

Brooke inhaled and threw the file down on the edge of a bench sculpted out of the concrete, like a literal gauntlet. “To be honest with you, Mr. Ilyin, I don’t think this is going to work.”

He gave her a look as though she’d just uttered the most asinine thing in the world. Then he glanced at the file. “It had better work,” he warned, “Because you’re not going anywhere until it does.”

She threw up her arms suddenly and stomped her foot on the ground. “Nobody matches the profile, Jack!” she huffed. “Nobody! I probably wouldn’t even be able to find her if I had a full set of her fingerprints for chissake. Then there’s the glaring little fact that maybe this woman didn’t do anything to you, that it was all coincidence. Or if she did use some kinda hocus pocus, then what makes you think she’s going to turn you back?” A breath, and she took to averting her eyes now for fear of what his face might say. “Because then there’s you. You’re quite the piece of work yourself, aren’t you? Needless layoffs, personal scandal… And now having all the money in the goddamn world doesn’t mean squat because you can’t fit your giant ass into your giant-ass mansion. It’s not like you don’t have the money to afford another island! I think you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with your damn life.”

Jack Ilyin’s face darkened with building anger as she chewed him out. As soon as he lifted his legs from the water, though, and stood up, she knew that she maybe should have kept her mouth shut.

In fact, he grabbed her and brought her in close to that huge, rough-hewn face. Brooke’s breath caught in her throat as soon as his fingers had her by the waist, and had her hard. “You seem to have an issue with me,” he muttered. “Care to enlighten me on what that is?”

Brooke struggled to find her voice. She wanted to push away from that face, from that huge, inhuman grip, but she didn’t want to touch him. He stared her down for a few moments, and she could smell the moss and the leaves and the musk on him. His presence began to overwhelm her.

“You’re a f-fucking asshole is what it is,” she finally said. “And if my name were Zelda DuBoix, I’d have cursed you too.”

His grip on her tightened and Brooke gasped in pain. Jack Ilyin held her like that for a few very long seconds, and she could see it in his face that he was contemplating on how much hurt he was willing to risk dishing out. But he dropped her instead, and she fell to the hard ground in an aching heap of herself.

“Leave,” he growled.

She got up, but too slowly for his liking, and he stomped on the ground beside her.

Leave!

Brooke scrambled to her feet now, and looked up at him with wild eyes. He took another predatory step toward her, and that’s when she decided to get the hell out of dodge. Something in her told her to run, so she did. She ran around the house, through the twilight of the trees, and when she realized that there was no tinging numbness attacking her limbs, she beelined straight for the water.

The nearest shore was only several hundred feet away; Brooke was going to make a go for it. So when she climbed down over the rocks at Bell Island’s north-western shore, she leapt into the water. The icy waves, small as they were, sucked the air from her lungs and she quickly lost sensation in her fingers. But she kept moving. She had to try – it could very well be her only chance.

Chapter Text

Brooke didn’t get very far before it became a herculean struggle to keep herself afloat in the frigid sound. The otherwise gently lapping waves seemed enormous now as her strength was getting sapped from her faster than she’d anticipated. About 150 feet from the shore, and she had to resort to flailing her numb, clothing-ladened limbs.

She was about midway across the tiny channel, and that’s when she knew that this had been a big, big mistake. There’s no way that she would reach the other shore before succumbing to hypothermia, and the only choice now was to try and make it back to Bell island, but even her chances of doing that were growing slimmer and slimmer by the second.

“Help!” she found herself yelling; it had been a purely automatic reaction. “H-help! Some -” Icy saltwater sluiced down into her open mouth and she sputtered, coughing.

There was a loud splash behind her, and a few seconds later, something warm was around her waist.

It was… Jack.

His brows were furrowed in equal parts discomfort and determination as he too fought with the cold water, but he brought Brooke, shivering and altogether rather helpless, to his still-warm body and headed with powerful, expert strokes to shore. He stepped out of the water and rushed through the tall trees to get them back to the house, and it was all she could to to catch her breath and cling to him, pressing her frozen cheek to his chest.

Jack set her down in the middle of his nest of cushions and blankets, and when he quickly began to strip off her clothes, it didn’t even occur to her to argue. Amos appeared with several towels, which Jack snatched from the robot when she was naked, and bundled her up tightly, rubbing vigorously. She still didn’t have the bodily strength to do anything but lay there, nor did she have the mental wherewithal to think of anything to say. Brooke just listened to her breaths, and focused on the feeling of the terrycloth against her skin.

The giant rumbled to himself, studying his handiwork for a second, before apparently deciding that it wasn’t enough. He gathered up a few of the blankets and wrapped them around her too, until she resembled a large ball of fabric with a little face peeking out of the top.

“That water is 49 degrees,” he said quietly. “Not sure what you were thinking.”

“T-trying to protect m-mys-self,” she stammered weakly, trying not to slur her words.

A long silence passed before she heard him sigh and say something she thought she’d never hear: “I’m sorry.”

Brooke just stared at the ceiling, unable to do much else, and feeling curiously drunk, she just started to laugh. She laughed until she didn’t have the strength to laugh anymore.

“What’s so funny?” he demanded.

“You, this place, this situation… me, almost drowning…”

Jack Ilyin considered this, then a faint smile crept across his face. “Gallows humor,” he said, eyes meeting hers. “You sure you’re not Russian too?”

She chuckled, feeling the blood creep back into her extremities and the fog clear from her head. Brooke tested her fingers and toes a little from inside the warm towels and blankets, but they were still awkward and sluggish. Her face deepened into a frown, though, as she remembered their altercation.

“You were a piece of shit, Ilyin,” she said quietly.

“I’m not that man anymore.”

“You sure?”

“…No.” He shook his head and looked away. “I’m not so sure.”

“You’re impatient and you treat people like they’re disposable. There are other ways of getting people to do things for you without threatening or throwing money at them.”

“I know.”

There was more Brooke wanted to say, but she didn’t want to overstep – and besides, now was probably not the best time. She turned her head a little so she could look at him. He looked so real here, too. His wet hair clung to his neck, and the drying rivulets of water gave his powerful form a vibrant, vital sheen as they caught the light from the recessed fixtures. Jack Ilyin sat, slightly bent as he wrapped one elbow around a bent knee, with immaculate posture. He was naked too, she noticed for the first time. The sheet was long gone, probably lost to the waters of the sound when he dove in, and though the swell of his thigh hid most of what hung from between his legs, she still quickly averted her eyes before he caught her staring.

Brooke realized that the blood had returned to her extremities after all.

She decided to use her second wind to get back upstairs and into bed before she fell asleep down here. Shedding the outer layer of blankets and keeping her collection of soft towels, she stood up, swaying a little.

“You’ve warmed up enough?”

“I’m not too keen on nodding off in a strange man’s giant bed, is all,” she said with a nervous chuckle.

“Do you need help getting upstairs?”

Brooke sucked in a breath. “You can help me by putting on some pants.”

“Shit.” She turned and watched as he snatched up one of her blankets and hastily draped it across his lap, holding it in place with his hand. “Sorry, nobody needs that.”

She just laughed again and went to hobble up the two flights of stairs to her room. Brooke was on the landing at the top of the first set when his deep voice carried up to her. “Let me know if you need anything, Miss Foster.”

“I will, thank you.”

Brooke slipped into bed a few minutes later with an extra blanket, and fell promptly to sleep, dreaming this time of big hands, broad chests, and strong thighs…

Chapter Text

“Good morning, Miss Foster. Are you feeling better?”

Amos’s genial voice sounded from the panel in the room as she lay in bed and stared out the window. Brooke turned to face the little green light and smiled gently. “Much better, thanks. How’s…” She trailed off, smile disappearing. “How’s Mister Ilyin?”

“I believe that last night upset him more than he let on,” Amos replied. That’s not the answer she was looking for, but… well, she suddenly found herself pondering this.

She got up from bed, and reached for the box of clothes. She slipped on a set of black panties and a black bra, before taking out a flattering pair of form-fitting jeans and a loose tunic top. “This has gotta be at least a hundred bucks I’m wearing,” she murmured to the reflection of herself in the full-length mirror.

“Three-hundred and twenty-seven dollars, actually.”

Brooke grimaced. “Oh my god, why?”

The wall panel made a sound that bore a suspicious resemblance to a chuckle. “We spare no expense here.” Then: “You’d better hurry downstairs, Miss Foster; the water taxi will be coming in an hour to take you back to Anacortes and Master Ilyin wishes to share a meal with you before you go.”

“…He does?”

“He’s downstairs now, at the south patio.”


The south patio was a beautiful layered deck, flowing out from the house and down the steeper incline that this side of the hill provided. The planking of the deck wove around a few old evergreen trees, and planter boxes overflowed with lupines, blanket flower, blue columbine, more Japanese maples and other leafy ornamentals. While disused over the years that Ilyin had been changed, it was spared from his bitter outbursts.

Brooke peered out the door and saw him sitting cross-legged at one end of a gorgeous patio set of redwood burl cleared of pine needles and other plant detritus and set with a single place setting at the other end. He was reading something on his tablet, or doing some kind of work, when he noticed her step out.

“Good morning,” he said, setting the tablet down on the table. “Feeling better?”

She took her seat across from him. “I am. Thank you for, uh… for getting me.”

“I was mad, but I wasn’t mad enough to actually let you swim the channel,” he said with a little smile that creased the corners of his eyes, but the smile faded. “I’m… sorry that this turned out to be such a miserable experience for you.”

Amos came along and served her a plate of pancakes, hash browns, bacon, and poached eggs. A mimosa poured in a champagne glass soon followed.

Brooke stared at her plate, thinking. When she looked to Ilyin, he was looking elsewhere and thinking too. It was a long, tense silence between them, and she started poking at the potatoes with her fork – moving them around more than arranging a bite of food to raise to her lips.

She thought about the case she was supposed to be solving; she thought about this woman, about Gary Patel and Orcasoft. What would happen if Ilyin never returned to normal? Would he be able to go back to his work? Would he be carted off to a military facility someplace and poked and prodded for the rest of his life? When his money ran out, where would he go?

“You’ll be paid the going rate for your work, plus ten percent,” he said. “And everything you’ve been given, take it with you. It’s yours.”

The man has been living alone for two years, surviving off of Amazon and chartered deliveries. Brooke realized that she and Martin were probably the first people he’d spoken with, let alone played host to, since his transformation.

“Amos should have told you that the taxi will be arriving at about ten o’clock,” he continued, still avoiding eye contact with her. “It should be a -”

“I’m staying.”

“What?”

“I can stay for one more week, then I have to go home and take care of my midterms.”

“You’re in school?” He frowned. “You should be home studying. Midterms are important.”

“My dad’s been a P.I. since before I was born,” she replied with her own distantly wistful smile. “I know criminal studies pretty well.”

“So… you’re staying.”

Brooke nodded resolutely and met his blue gaze. His eyes weren’t so hard as before; penetrating, yes, and she supposed that it was a Russian intensity thing. But the anger was gone, and he was trying very hard to be affable for her. “I will. Because I’ve got a job to do here, Mr. Ilyin.”

He flashed his perfectly straight pearly whites, and watched as Amos brought out his breakfast on a push cart: several pounds of potatoes, a half-dozen Kielbasa sausages, and most of a loaf of black bread toast, each slice slathered with butter. “Please, call me Jack.”

“You know, about that… isn’t Jack the guy who climbed the bean stalk, not the guy who lived at the top?”

He cocked a brow at her, grinned, and pointed his spoon – a serving spoon, mind – in her direction as he hunched over the table. “OK, that’s crossing a line, Miss Foster.”

“Brooke.”

“Crossing a line, Brooke.”

She threw her hands up. “It was an honest question!”

They sat and ate for a while in contented silence, trying to hide their smiles. When they were finished, Jack reached up those massive arms, lengthening himself skyward, and let out a long, satisfied sigh. “It’s… good to have company again,” he said. “Real company.”

“You used to be quite the entertainer, didn’t you?”

“It was any excuse to host a party. Everything from wine tastings to private concerts, all right here. Patel used to come over and we’d spend days hashing out this or that thing. We’d talk new hires, tasks, code…”

“Sounds like you and Patel were close?”

“We were both MIT dropouts,” he said, shoving an entire piece of Kielbasa in his mouth. “We knew that voice recognition and machine learning were what everyone was talking about at the time, and so we started working on what would become the AMOS technology. Google has that little box that talks to you – Amazon and other people have them now too – but we had the robot.

“Gary… I caught Gary embezzling money three years ago. He gave me some goddamn sob story about his parents getting sick, so I believed him and decided not to take him to court. He didn’t try anything again, but it wasn’t the same.”

Brooke winced. She’d heard story after story liked this from her father. There were only two reasons anyone committed crimes in this world, he always said: for passion, or for money. While Jack had been a jerk, at least he didn’t do anything unlawful? He didn’t steal, at any rate.. “That sounds pretty rough.”

“I put a lot of trust in him. As a friend, as a business partner, and as a co-creator of the AMOS system.”

“I can only imagine the betrayal.”

Jack narrowed his eyes at the trees. “Betrayal. That’s a good word for it.”


Later, Jack insisted that she take the rest of the day off and enjoy the grounds. He invited her to use the pool, spa, or sauna, but she declined, not having a bathing suit.

“Amos,” he called to the nearest little green light, “Contact my man in Friday Harbor. Have him find a swimsuit for Brooke.”

She found his change of heart agreeable, though there were still doubts lingering in the back of her mind not about how genuine it was, but how emotionally sustainable it was. Jack had spent two years brooding in solitude, plotting his revenge, but simultaneously confined by the helplessness of his… condition. How long would it be before he had another outburst? Before he decided that this was all a waste of his time, or that she was only there to take advantage of his lavish hospitality? Brooke wanted to believe that she’d gotten through to him, especially what with getting him to finally talk about the situation, but at the same time, she wasn’t going to hold her breath. She’d seen it happen too often to count on it this time.

The two of them spent a few hours strolling around the perimeter of the island, cloaked by tree and fog, and talked. She asked about the AMOS system, he asked about the private investigation business; she asked about his Russian grandparents, he asked about her classes at school. He seemed very pleased that she was getting good grades.

“So your art collection came from your grandparents?”

“My grandfather was an art collector in the 60’s, and managed to acquire quite a few Russian pieces in spite of the communism. But it was the communism that eventually forced him to leave for the states – the party wanted to ‘nationalize’ the paintings. He managed to bring a Chagall, an Ivanov, Valetovas… and several Malevichs with him.”

Brooke didn’t know the first thing about art, but it was interesting to her nonetheless. “How much is the collection worth?”

“The last appraisal put it at about two and a half million.”

She balked. “Two and a half… million.”

Jack nodded and stopped. She stopped too and looked up at him; he was rubbing at his beard. “You know, I’ve been thinking if there was something I might do to prove that I am as changed a man as I claim to be. Prove to you, but also… prove to myself.”

Brooke said nothing, just kept her eyes on his face as he sorted through his words.

“Amos!” he suddenly called. “Can you hear me from here?”

They were about thirty feet from the nearest green light, but it still managed to hear.

“Amos, pick a children’s charity – any charity, I don’t give a damn – and tell them they can have one of the paintings.”

Brooke’s eyes flew open.

“Which one would you like to donate, sir?”

“Let them pick.”

“Of course, sir.”

Jack turned back to her with a little twinkle in his eye. “How’s that sound to you?”

“I… Color me surprised!”

He laughed. “You know, that felt good. That felt really good.”

“I’m glad, Jack. I think you’ll find that making amends is good for the soul.”

“You know, you’re damn mature for your age. If I wasn’t your client, I’d…” he trailed off, and rather deliberately it seemed.

“You’d what?”

He waved a big hand dismissively. “Nevermind.”

Brooke eyed him for a second before continuing on alongside him, his great long strides slowed down so he wouldn’t completely out-pace her. But he stopped again.

“How would you like to see the view from up here?”

She remembered when he’d picked her up and slung her over his shoulder, and just how high up that was. She wanted to say no, but something compelled her to say yes. Something equal parts frivolous and risk-taking. When was the next time that she’d get to literally stand on the shoulders of giants?

“I don’t like heights, but… OK,” Brooke relented. “But if I even begin to feel like I’m going to fall, then that’s it.”

Jack just nodded and knelt down. He didn’t grab her this time, but instead set his hand out, palm up in open invitation. She sat down in it, suddenly acutely aware that he technically had his hand on her ass, and hoped that he didn’t realize it either. Soon, though, she was lifted to his shoulder, and with a protective hand pressing her knees to him she looked out through the trees and spied the water.

“Wow…”

Chapter Text

It was a very intimate thing, sitting on his shoulder like that, she realized. Through her jeans she could feel the cordage of his neck and shoulders and the hard ridge of his collarbone. At her elbow was an ear the size of a small plate, and his loose hairs tickled her shoulder. In the silvery light of the sun through the cloud cover, his hair was not a vibrant blond, but a dull sandy flax. This was the first time that she noticed the grays, though, sprouted up here and there at his temples.

Brooke set the palm of one hand on the great expanse of his shoulder, and the other at the nape of his neck as he began to walk again. Jack seemed to walk with deliberate care so as not to jostle her around too much, taking his time finding his footing along the dirt path.

“When was the last time you shaved?” she asked.

“About three months ago… with a pair of garden pruners. Was a pain in the ass.”

“What if I helped clean you up a little bit? Maybe that would make you feel a little bit more like the man you used to be.”

She watched it in his eyes as he considered this. “You’d do that? I mean, I’d pay you for it, and…”

“You don’t have to pay me,” she laughed. “I’d do it because of the good and sufficient reason that I wanted to.”

“Oh. I, uh… Thank you.”

She looked down, spying another white sheet clinging to his hips. “I could help you make something a little sturdier to wear, too. I’m not too handy with a needle and thread, but I could at least try sewing a couple of those together with a proper tie so you don’t feel like you’re wearing a piece of tissue paper.”

He laughed, looking down at himself and grabbed the “hem” of the thing as a gesture. “To be honest, I normally don’t wear anything if the weather’s good like this. I rigged this up when your dad came ashore. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but…”

Brooke’s face turned beet red as she imagined him going about his business completely naked. She imagined those thighs, those hips, and the thing between his legs that she’d caught a glimpse of the evening before. Suddenly, her brain took a turn for the naughty and she couldn’t stop herself. Jack was in her mind’s eye, now with an erection standing long and firm, high above her head…

“Anyways, don’t worry about it. You’ve only got a week.”

His voice snapped her out of it, but she still shifted her seating on him a little to ease the building discomfort between her own legs.

Brooke cleared her throat. “OK, yeah, sure thing.” Then: “I, uh, I think I’d like to be put down now, if you don’t mind…”

He wrapped his big, strong fingers gently around her and lifted her from his shoulder to set her onto the ground. “There you go.”

She laughed nervously. “Thank you.”

“…You alright?”

“I um… it was a little high for me up there. Good to have my feet on solid ground again, you know what I mean? Anyways, I think I need to use the restroom.”

Jack nodded. “I should too.”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes!”

And like that she took off for the house, still aching in her belly for release. When she looked behind her, she saw him remove the sheet, throw it over his shoulder, and step off the path. “Why does he have to be so hot?” she whispered to herself, ripping her eyes from the sight of him doing something so banal as taking a piss, and darted into the nearest bathroom.

Thank god there were no Amos terminals in the bathrooms.

Brooke looked at herself in the mirror. Her face and shoulders were framed by deep brown hair, her cheeks and slim shoulders sprinkled with faint freckles. She was very obviously aroused: face flushed, eyes dark, and even the way she stood seemed to accentuate her modest chest and rear end. She didn’t even know she was doing that!

Quickly she shimmied her pants and panties off, and laid herself down onto the floor. She sighed when her fingers traced her own opening, stroking the lips and circling her throbbing clit. Distantly, she couldn’t believe she was doing this. Masturbating in somebody else’s house, over a man she had not 2 minutes ago been engaged in pleasant conversation with. This is fucked up, she thought as she dipped two fingers in.

Brooke bit down on her lip as she stroked and fingered herself, afraid of making even the slightest sound. Her mind was buzzing with image after image of debauchery; she imagined his massive cock in his hand, pressed to her belly, oozing sticky rivulets of clear pre-cum. She imagined that deep voice of his, grunting and growling as he pumped his fist around himself, looking down at her and rumbling sweet, dirty nothings…

She didn’t take long; she never did. The smoldering fire in her belly suddenly ignited into full-on flames, and her hips bucked against her own little fingers. Brooke moaned in her throat, not daring to open her mouth as her orgasm washed over her sending every nerve ending abuzz with white-hot pleasure.

A few moments later and she lay there, panting, staring up at the ceiling and wishing that it was him.

She put her pants back on, washed the smell of her fluids off her hands; threw some water on her face. She still looked flushed, and her hair was a little messy, but Brooke at least hoped that the worst of it was over. Jack Ilyin would provide masturbatory fodder for her for years to come, she knew – but making any moves was simply out of the question.

Mostly, this was because Brooke was still a virgin. Not for any particular reason, she just never got around to it, and never found the right guy to do it with. She’d fooled around some – she knew her way around a cock – but there was something about initiating sex that didn’t come naturally to her, and that left her to rely on the impetuses of other men. And when you relied on a man’s impetus for sex, it was always a gamble on whether or not it would be at all worth your time.

Of course, there was, too, the fact that Jack may not be emotionally stable enough for sex. He’d gone from being a type-a socialite to a completely isolated hermit literally overnight – and that also surely meant the sudden cessation of his sex life, with likely no cessation of a sex drive. Suddenly, the thought occurred to her that he had regularly been doing during her stay what she just did – slipping into the sound-dampened obscurity of the trees around the property and gotten himself off to lecherous imaginings of his small, young guest. The idea made her heart race with both excitement and unease. She was acutely self-aware now, moreso than she’d been at any point before, of how her ass fit into these jeans, of the way this bra cupped her breasts, of the way she might have been walking or talking or looking at him. Had she been unconsciously showing tells of attraction that she didn’t know she was experiencing? Had he noticed?

And besides, he was huge! It would never work, she – nor any other woman – would be able to give the man what he so deeply craved: stuffing his cock inside a tight, warm hole. She didn’t have a hole big enough to accommodate… well, any of him.

So that was that, then.

Brooke realized that she’d spent altogether too long in the bathroom and decided that the most sensible thing was to go back out there and finish their walk.

“Platonic,” she chanted under her breath. “Strictly platonic.”


They did finish their walk around lunch time, and with no further mishaps. It was beginning to be a struggle to keep her heart rate down around him now, and she was vigilant about finding any signs in his face or body language that might tell her he was experiencing the same thing she was. So she could nip it in the bud, of course.

The other problem was that she found her eyes constantly wandering to his hips, to see if she could catch a glance of an outline through the sheet – which she did several times as he walked. This was not at all what she needed, but Brooke just couldn’t help herself.

“I think I might take my lunch upstairs,” she said when they approached the house again. “I should catch up on some emails and send a note to my dad.”

Jack looked a little disappointed, but he nodded. “Of course, go ahead.”

So she did. Amos made her a rye sandwich, the same kind that she’d made herself that first day on the island only better, and she took it up to the third floor with her. Going over emails was a welcome distraction, and she found herself calming down. Brooke looked over the notes that she’d taken regarding the charities, and decided to call them up. There wasn’t a phone, so she figured Amos what who she needed to ask.

“Amos? Are you the.. phone around here?”

“I am,” said the light at the computer.

“OK, I have some numbers I need to call…”


Just as she expected, none of the charities knew of any such person as Zelda DuBoix, nor did they ever have someone in their employ who looked like her. Once she was done a little over an hour later, she sat, swiveling around in the chair, and thought.

“Well, there goes all my damn leads,” Brooke mumbled, throwing her pen onto the desk and watching as it rolled onto the floor. “Ugh.”

Her father often spoke of the value in talking to people face-to-face, asking questions in person. But she couldn’t exactly do that, nor did she have any clue as to where to start, even if she did have the option.

“Amos,” she called.

“Yes, Miss Foster?”

“Were you around when Jack had that party? Do you remember the woman he’s talking about?”

“My facilities were limited before the change, but I do have a few primitive memories in my databanks of that night. Mostly voice requests from guests, however, wanting to know where the bathrooms were, which wine paired best with which hors d’oeuvres, that sort of thing.”

“Do you remember any odd requests? From women, that is.”

“Give me a moment to search.” It ‘disappeared’ for the better part of a minute, before returning. “I’ve come across four results which might pique your interest.”

“Lay ’em on me.”

Amos didn’t just repeat the queries told to its old self, it replayed the recorded queries for her. She could hear the murmuring of guests in the background of them all, laughter, music.

“Amos, are there any secret passageways in the house?”

“Amos: How much money does Jack Ilyin have? Was he ever married?”

“Hey, Amos! How big is Jack’s dick!”

“Amos, where’s the nearest tattoo shop that specializes in dot-work?”

Brooke hummed and hawwed, quickly deciding the third voice query was just silly. The first and second were spoken by women who sounded just as drunk as the third, so she discounted those too. But the fourth voice was level, cogent, and oddly sober.

“Amos,” Brooke asked. “Was that question asked before or after Jack’s public altercation with the strange woman?”

“It appears that this was asked of me at 11:49pm that night, at the unit just outside the front door. This was mere seconds after I recall Master Ilyin telling her to leave.”

“She sounds awfully composed for just having been sexually harassed in front of 100 people, doesn’t she?”

“I might say so, Miss Foster.”

“What tattoo parlor did you direct her to, by the way?”

“The Furious Ink studio in Seattle. It’s quite famous.”

“Hm. I wonder if their dot-work artist would remember a client from 2 years ago…” Brooke spun around to face the computers, and clapped her hands together. “Ring them up, I’d like to talk to them.”

Chapter Text

Brooke had a very nice conversation with the dot work specialist at Furious Ink. With a little suggestive social engineering, she was able to finally remember such a client.

"It was in the summer, I think? Yeah, summer. I remember she called us first thing one morning, wondering if we had a spot for her that day for a piece that absolutely, positively had to be done before some deadline," came the smoker's voice from the other end.

Brooke swiveled absentmindedly around in the chair some. A deadline? "Do you remember what it was?"

The woman sighed into the phone. "Ummm... I think it was a tarot card. I don't remember which one, but it was like a skyscraper being struck by lightning or something."

She scrawled that down to look into later.

Brooke perked up, trying to bit back her smile. "Did she say why she was getting it?"

"She said it was to commemorate something. Showed me a bunch of her other tattoos, said they were all tarot-y versions of events in her life. They were all pretty bizarre, I remember that much."

To commemorate something! "Did she talk more about... oh, I don't know, magic? The occult?"

"Not sure. I don't remember too many specifics, I'm sorry."

"Could you give me her name? Do you keep that stuff on file?"

"We keep that information on file for a few years, yeah, but I can't just give it to you. I'm sorry."

"Of course." Brooke paused and thought for a minute. "You might be hearing from my father soon, then. He's a licensed professional."

The call ended amicably, though the tattoo artist did seem to wise up near the end of the conversation and asked if this was a murder or something being investigated. Brooke had certainly hoped not, and assured her that she wasn't being treated as a suspect in any sort of case.


Martin was relieved to hear from his daughter, and even more relieved that she was being treated well. Of course, Brooke failed to mention her little encounter with hypothermia, but those were the kinds of details that the man didn't need to hear right now. Maybe when she recounted the story again in a few years.

He was also, apparently, still interested in helping solve the case in any way he could - and if that meant knocking on doors and flashing his credentials, then he would be more than happy to. Especially knowing how much Jack Ilyin was paying them for their services.

"Give me a few days, and I'll see what I can dig up for you," he'd said, nervous but his voice still excitable with pride at his daughter's handling of the situation.


Brooke wasn't sure that her father should have been that proud of her handling of the situation. Her crush on Jack was becoming cloyingly obvious to her, and it was beginning to make her angry. She'd crushed on teachers before; local civil servants of the uniform-wearing variety; her damn babysitter when she was a pre-teen. They were all cute and harmless, she reasoned - but Jack was neither cute, nor harmless. And unlike her other crushes, who she could bat eyes at from afar, she was living in his house. This was all very unprofessional, unbecoming, and un-

"Miss Foster?" Amos' ever-agreeable voice tore her from her whirlwind of thoughts.

"Yeah?"

"Dinner will be served in fifteen minutes by the pool."

"Thanks, Amos. I'll... be there."


There was another outdoor dining area near the pool: a sleek bronze and teak set for six. It was smaller than the one on the south patio, effectively bringing her just that much nearer to his massive silhouette. Brooke decided that she'd have to do a lot of looking around at things that weren't him tonight.

When she approached, he rose from the table - a dramatic sight if she ever saw one, all twenty some-odd feet of him standing at her entrance - and stepped around to pull her chair out for her like a child seating a doll at a play tea set.

"You've gotta be kidding me," she said, laughing and trying to hide her blush.

"I need to get back into practice." He returned to his end of the table and sat down cross-legged, tugging the sheet down for modesty's sake. "Dining etiquette is a big deal in my... echelon of society."

Amos proceeded to bring out the cart again: this time it was heavily laden with smoked meats of all sorts. Pork, sausages, salmon, potatoes... Brooke's mouth was watering already.

"My god, that smells amazing."

"Applewood," Jack said, clearly pleased with his handiwork. "Please, help yourself."

Amos served them, and they began to eat.

"How's the investigation progressing?" he asked, dragging a tiny rib through his credit-card size teeth to clean the meat off of it. He wiped his fingers off on a towel draped over his knee.

"I've got a lead," she said, beaming. Thank god he wanted to talk about the case - it was one of the few things that would reliably take her mind off of him. "I think I may have found a tattoo shop she visited a few days after the party. They might have her ID and release form still on file. Tattoo shops have to make copies of driver's licenses or whatever before they'll -"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," he said excitedly. "When will you know for sure?"

"My father's going to flash his badge at them and hopefully they'll give him the info. It'll be a day or two."

Jack's face twisted into a smile, but a smug and distantly vindictive one. She watched as his big tongue darted out to wet his upper lip. "My god, Brooke, can you believe it? I could have my life back in a matter of days! I could take back what that suchka stole from me." He glanced at her with wild eyes before staring off into the distance. It was clear what was on his mind.

"Jack, I can't make any promises," Brooke said carefully. "I can only try to help you find her - I can't make her do anything."

The faraway look on his face faded into a frown as he looked back at his guest, then back to his meal. He heaved a breath. "No," he said in a low voice. "I suppose you can't."

"Have you thought about what you're going to to if you can't go back?"

Jack paused, and she watched as his grip on the serving spoon tightened hard enough to bend the metal. Brooke swallowed as she began to think about escape routes.

"You mean if she can't, or won't change me back?"

"That's besides the point -"

"Is it?" Jack suddenly shot her a glare, blue eyes icy again.

Brooke stood up from her chair, hands fists at her sides. "You know what? I don't think you've changed one damn bit, Jack Ilyin."

He dropped the spoon to the table suddenly, and the young woman jumped. Then the giant stood up. "If she doesn't change me back," he bellowed, "Fuck the company, the yacht, the parties, all of it. If she doesn't change me back, I will die on this fucking rock!"

Brooke stood there, frozen to the spot as he grit his teeth together at her, pointing, muscles tense. His chest heaved angry breaths as he stared her down. She was steeling her nerves, preparing for him to break something, or throw the table, or even try to hurt her again. But none of it came. He just glowered at her with those harsh, angry eyes, and slowly, slowly let his hand fall to his side.

She swallowed, letting the fear slowly trickle out of her body as she took stock of herself, their surroundings, him.

It occurred to her, then, like sudden revelation, that Jack Ilyin wasn't boiling over with hate; Jack Ilyin was scared shitless.

With a growl he turned from the table to storm away into the dusky wild little forest beyond the edge of the terraces. "I knew I shouldn't have expected a kid to understand," he harshly muttered under his breath.

It was Brooke's turn to frown. A second later, and she was chasing him down like a kitten at the feet of a German Shepherd. "Hey," she called up to him. "Hey!" He was ignoring her, speeding up his steps and quickly beginning to out-pace her. "Hey, you big, stubborn -!"

Jack stopped and stared her down. "If you don't leave me the fuck alone right now little girl, you're fired."

Despite her pounding heart, her shaking breaths, despite the fact that she probably should have done as told and went back to the house, Brooke followed her gut and stepped closer, and as soon as she was able, threw her arms around his hard, muscular calf.

It was a risk, but a calculated one. After all, it seemed to her, sometimes all people like Jack needed was a good damn hug.

Chapter Text

She held on tight, eyes closed because she half-expected him to kick her from him like a piece of garbage stuck to his leg. She could feel the flexing muscles under his skin, the hard tendons like cables strung up the length of his towering limb. And still she held on, pressing the whole of her body to his skin like she was trying to squeeze the anger out of him.

“I’ve had nothing else to do for the past two years than think about the man I used to be,” he said quietly, though no less bitter than before. “I know why she did what she did. She came to the party that night to test me. I failed that test, and it may very well cost me my life.”

Brooke felt a tightening in her chest as his words touched something in her. “I’m sorry, Jack,” she found herself saying.

The leg shifted, and she let go just in time for him to crouch down and lift her up to him, leaving her to stand on his bare thigh with her face crushed to his broad, fuzzy chest. One of his big hands was splayed along her back, covering her from shoulder to shoulder, and the other at her ankles. Still, even like this, his chin was several feet above her.

God, this felt good.

“Don’t be sorry for me,” he said. With her ear pressed to him like this, his voice was so deep that it practically enveloped her as much as his hands were capable of doing. “I… deserved it.”

Brooke pushed away from him to look him in the eye. “I think that if you can admit that, then you don’t any more.”

He paused suddenly, looking around expectantly and cocking a brow for a moment, before looking back to her. “I guess the magic doesn’t work like that,” Jack chuckled faintly. “I’m still here.”

Brooke couldn’t help but laugh. She stopped, though, when she felt his hand go from her back to her hair, and around to brush along her jawline with a rough knuckle. He looked at her, distantly sad, and she watched as his eyes darted from one facial feature to another.

“You’re quite the clever girl,” he murmured. “And quite beautiful. I just wish we could have met under different circumstances.”

Her heart was pounding, and there was a little tremor in her hands as she braced herself against him. But she didn’t have anything to say – she wasn’t the kind of woman who knew how to use words to coax men into doing the things she wanted them to do, nor did she have any sense of good timing for it.

So when Jack let her gently down to the ground again, giving her one last wistful, lopsided smile, she let him. And when he stood up again, she watched, tight-lipped as those muscles carried him back to the house. He had no idea what he was doing to her, did he?


Brooke sat on a rock by the shore and watched the sun set that evening as the tide came in. A few boats puttered about here and there, but they more or less disappeared when the sky was more stars than twilight.

She sighed and got up, and when she went back to the house, Jack was lounging in the great room, touchscreen tablet set on his bare chest (and rigged up like a remote) as he paid very close attention to a news segment with furrowed brows.

“Jack Ilyin, CEO of Seattle-based Orcasoft, has not returned from his multi-year sabbatical even as his VP of operations, Gary Patel, is close to closing a deal with Google. Ilyin, the software and robotics engineer behind the prototype AMOS technology, has apparently not left his private island residence since a heated altercation with a party guest two years ago threatened to cripple his public image…”

Jack growled with irritation and Brooke risked sitting down on one of the cushions near his elbow to watch the rest of the segment.

“Theories abound as to why Ilyin abandoned his public life and ceased all direct involvement with Orcasoft, but one thing is for certain: without the guidance of its majority share holder and lead engineer, the company, and its talks with Google, are dead in the water. Reporting live from Seattle, I’m Rebecca Thomas. Back to you, Phil.”

“History Channel,” Jack barked, and the enormous screen quickly changed to footage of divers off the coast of Mallorca. He groaned and rubbed at his eyes, not paying one whit of attention to the new program. “Would you like to watch something?” he said, suddenly tired. “Here.” He picked the tablet off his chest and set it in her lap. Brooke’s eyes bugged out at the weight of it and she proceeded to orient it toward herself, trying to position the cookie sheet-sized thing so nothing was digging into her legs.

The tablet, she realized, was hand-made. It wasn’t sleek like an Apple product, but was rough, slapdash, utilitarian. “Did you make this too?” she asked.

“Mhm. Last year. Also wrote the software.”

She laughed lightly. “You make it sound like its no big deal. ‘Yeah, I totally just built this fuckin’ piece of cool hardware. Whatever. Could do it in my sleep’.” He chuckled at her imitation of him.

“Built my first computer when I was eight,” he said, trying to sound disinterested, but it was apparent to her that he was enjoying the flattery. “I’ve been at it for a while.”

“Well it’s all very impressive.” Brooke glanced at the large screen and scrolled down through the channels. She was tempted to make him sit through some episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, but instead decided on a different guilty pleasure.

The screen changed again, this time revealing a the opening credits of Body of Evidence, one of her favorite crime procedurals.

Jack cracked a smile. “Studying for those midterms, huh?”

“This is purely educational, you see.”

“Ah huh.”

“Nothing fun about it.”

“I hope you’re taking notes.”

She tapped at the side of her head. “It’s all in here.”

He laughed some more and shook his head, propping himself up on an elbow to see better. “Amos, dim lights to 30%.”

The lights dimmed, and the show started.


 

Jack actually fell asleep at around 10:30, well before the marathon was over, stretching out with his hands behind his head and breathing slow and deep. He’d gotten quiet about half an hour before, so Brooke didn’t realize it until later, at which point she whispered a swear under hear breath and turned the TV off with the controls on the tablet.

“Amos, lights to 10%?” she whispered.

Brooke stood up, setting the tablet down on the edge of the ‘bed’, but didn’t leave. Instead, she watched him for a moment. The way his chest rose and fell, so much slower than any other person’s; the way his whiskered chin tucked up into his chest; the way his eyes moved behind his lids as he fell into REM; it was all so captivating. Her own eyes wandered down his chest, following the ripples of his musculature, the slight, blond hairs as they wound their way down his belly and disappeared under the edge of the sheet, which barely clung to his hips so skewed by a single bent knee. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the outline of his flaccid cock laying limp against this thigh and –

Oh. Maybe it wasn’t so flaccid after all.

It moved the tiniest bit, lifting a little then settling down, and Brooke stood transfixed, staring. Heat rose to her face when she realized what she was doing, but, dammit, she couldn’t tear herself away!

When Jack shifted, laying both legs flat on the floor, Brooke jumped out of her skin and rushed out of the room, fearing the worst. But when she peeked around the corner of the hallway, the giant man was still fast asleep, and she was able to breathe a temporary sigh of relief. Very temporary, because Brooke was aware of that familiar dull ache between her legs, and she knew it wouldn’t go quietly into this good night all by itself.

“You’re going to be the end of me,” she quietly whimpered to herself as she rushed up the stairs to her private bath. This was something that would be best taken care of in the shower, she decided.

Chapter Text

Light from the morning sun blasted into her face and Brooke woke up with a groan, turning over and putting a second pillow on her head. She was having such nice dreams, and was sleeping so soundly after rubbing another one out last night… this just wasn’t fair.

As she was about to close her eyes again, though, another box placed at the foot of the bed caught her attention – Amos must have delivered it at some point. She stared at it for a moment, waiting for her eyelids to decide whether or not she was going to fall back asleep or not, and when they didn’t begin drooping, Brooke knew the box had won.

Nail clippers from the bathroom did the trick of splitting the packing tape, and inside she found a shopping bag stuffed with blue, sparkling tissue paper. She tore out the paper and let it sail to the floor. Inside, at the bottom of the bag with a gift receipt was the prettiest two-piece bathing suit that she’d ever seen. The construction was good, the swimsuit spandex of surprising quality, and the cut was neither too modest nor too revealing. She wouldn’t have to worry about her boobs falling out, which was something she appreciated in her swimwear.

With a smile, she stood in front of the full-length mirror and changed out of her bra and panties. The suit was cut perfectly to her body – Amos must have measured her at some point, and it flattered everything. But her excitement turned to naysaying and she watched her own shoulders slump.

“This is just asking for trouble,” she muttered. What trouble? Brooke thought with a grimace. The kind of trouble that might land you in the arms of a giant hunk as you figure out how to make out with each other?

But she knew that the making out wasn’t what was eating her.

“You’re still scared of him, aren’t you?” she murmured. Just his… sexuality, she reasoned, not even trying to hide this from herself anymore. You don’t know what kind of sex drive he has, what his preferences are… whether you’d even be able to keep up with him before he became 20 feet tall. And he’s got home field advantage, too.

She didn’t know what to expect, is what it came down to. She wasn’t ready for such a loss of power, for being quite literally in over her head. It was exciting to think about, Brooke knew, but that was just it: it was exciting to think about.

With a sigh she took the suit off and put it back in the bag before getting dressed in some real clothes.


Breakfast, like the day before, was had on the south patio. Today the fog was especially thick, and she could see the swirls of cloud moving silently through the trees just at the edge of the deck. It was cooler today, too, and Brooke was forced to put on the sweater she’d been wearing when she plunged into the sound. Jack, it seemed, was not cold – he still wore nothing but the sheet.

“What do you do in the winter?” she asked. “Or when it rains?”

He shrugged, taking a bite of potato – an entire potato. “I’ve got a few things I rigged up. I bought several bolts of wool felt that first year. Got a sail needle, some string, and sewed together a kind of… cloak, I guess. It looks pretty silly, but it does the trick. I don’t get as cold as I used to, though. I guess I’ve got more padding now. My core temperature seems to hold steady at about 102.6 degrees fahrenheit now…”

He talked a little bit more about what changes he’s noticed about his body (aside from the obvious); how fast his hair seems to grow, his higher tolerance to pain, his diminished clotting factor, among other things. He really was a big geek, wasn’t he?

“What about the fog? Is that a side-effect of the magic?”

He nodded. “Amos, the lack of cell service, and my… apparent ability to keep people from fleeing when I want all seems to be part of the package. I always wondered why, though.”

Brooke considered this. “Well, if this witch lady wanted to teach you a lesson in being nice to people, then there might be a method to the madness…” If the spell itself could be thought of as a criminal, then she began profiling it.

“A witch casts a spell on a powerful shithead to punish him,” Jack mused. “Sounds like a damn fairytale.”

“It sure does, doesn’t it?”

But a strange sound greeted their ears from somewhere nearby, and the pair paused their conversation to listen. Whatever it was, it was moving above the treeline, making this sort of flat, whining buzz. Brooke scowled and Jack moved away from the table in a crouch, but didn’t stand up.

Suddenly, she saw the shape of it in the fog. “There!”

It was a quadcopter drone outfitted with a camera on its underbelly. “Pizdets!” Jack hissed and quickly disappeared into the dark, foggy pines. “For fuck’s sake! I can’t be seen like this!”

Brooke broke into a sprint as the drone began to circle the house, pointing its camera into the windows, and shouted at it. “Hey, hey, hey!” she yelled up at the thing. “You’re in private goddamn airspace! Gain altitude or this is trespassing!”

The drone clumsily whirled around and the camera focused on her for a second, probably zooming in to get a clear look at her face, before lurching upward and back into the fog, where it wouldn’t be able to see squat.

“Amos, where the hell did that come from?!”

The nearest green light, located at the top of a slim pole sticking out of the ground, blinked to life. “There appears to be a boat anchored about 100 feet from the shore, Miss Foster. Registration number is WA-4739-FN, with a name on the stern that reads ‘Good News’.”

“Who does that vessel belong to?”

“One moment… Ah, yes, according to Washington State records, it belongs to none other than a certain Mr. Gary Patel.”

Brooke turned toward the trees where Jack had sought cover, and dashed back over. She found him some ways into the thick stand. He was crouched and frowning before looking her way when she ran up to him.

“Patel’s looking for you,” she said quietly. “But I think its gone, now.”

“Fucking bastard,” he muttered, standing up. Jack balled his hand into a fist and smashed the side of it into the trunk of a tree. Brooke started at the suddenness of it, but the tree was ultimately undamaged. “He’s getting impatient.”

“Google is expecting him to get his shit together so they can close this deal. You’re the last loose thread.” He didn’t say anything, just started off into the distance with a black look on his face. A thought occurred to her, though, and she had to ask: “You don’t want to sell the company, do you?”

“Are you kidding me?” Jack snorted. “Google was one of our main competitors. Letting them buy us would be the very picture of defeat. But Patel’s a businessman and therefore a coward first – it’s no surprise that he wants this to go through so badly.”

Brooke couldn’t help but find his way of speaking any less than, well, charming in its own rough-hewn way. But the simple admonishment of his business partner spoke volumes to her: Jack Ilyin, then, valued skill and hard work more than he valued money. Maybe that’s why he was able to come to value her.

“Cmon,” he grunted. “Let’s finish breakfast before it gets cold.”

Brooke was about to voice her agreement when her hip bones were suddenly enveloped in a two sets of strong fingers. She bit back a yelp as he hoisted her up into the air to sit in his hand while he walked back to the patio. With one arm around the back of his neck, she looked down at the ground far below her, remembering her held breath and let it out.

“You know, I could almost get used to this,” she laughed nervously.

“I might too, if it didn’t mean being a top-billing act at a Coney Island freakshow.”

She looked up and saw his brows were furrowing worry lines into his statuesque face. Hers soon followed suit, and the hand resting along the side of a pectoral muscle drooped.

Chapter Text

Brooke spent the day wandering the house and browsing the internet while she waited for her father to get back to her about the tattoo shop, and hoping that Gary Patel wouldn’t try anything again.

She browsed Jack’s collection of books – tomes on everything from software design to logic systems to biographies of classical music composers and Russian painters – and his vinyl record collection, which consisted mostly of the likes of Chopin, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Miles Davis and a lot of jazz musicians she didn’t recognize, and a few records of 80’s German industrial music. He was quite the cultured man, wasn’t he? Brooke put a Vivaldi on the record player in the smoking room, spent a moment trying to figure out where to put the needle, and then was greeted by… some magically beautiful music. She’d never heard Vivaldi before.

The haunting violins of his Four Seasons suite played softly in the background as she stood at the window, looking out into the trees, and at the tiny, gray sliver of water she could make out through them. It seemed like a fitting soundtrack for such a place as Bell Island, and Brooke was suddenly altogether sure that Jack’s inner life was set to such a theme, too.

“Amos,” she asked the otherwise quiet room. “Has the Good News left yet?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t appear so, Miss Foster,” the robot replied. “It’s moved to the eastern shore, out of the ferry lanes, and has put down anchor several hundred feet off.”

She chewed her lip. “Hm.”


Later that night, as the faintest hint of daylight was disappearing behind the distant hills of Vancouver Island, she ventured to the shore again. The twilight was barely enough to light her way down along the rocks as she tip-toed from jagged boulder to jagged boulder, keeping her eyes on the lights from the yacht moored a few hundred yards off Bell Island’s east side – the Good News. She sat down on an appropriately-shaped rock and took her shoes off to let her toes dangle in the water.

“Shit!” she hissed – yep, still icy cold. Brooke wasn’t sure why she thought that would be a good idea.

The air was still, though, and sounds carried, though she couldn’t hear anyone on the yacht. A smaller craft made its way through the passage, probably toward Anacortes. She watched as its red and green bow light disappeared into the night.

“You know,” that deep, rumbling voice said from behind her, “The pool is much warmer if you’re thinking about going for a swim again.”

Brooke turned to see the pale shape of a giant standing in the trees behind her. He seemed relaxed – that was good, especially after the scare earlier. She smiled at him, though was sure he wouldn’t be able to see it.

“Hardly,” she scoffed.

“Really, it’s yours to use if you want. You… know how to swim, right?”

She laughed aloud at this. “You grew up with computers, I grew up in the water.”

When he smiled, she saw it. His teeth practically glinted in the faint moonlight. “In Russia, they have these things called Walrus Clubs,” he said as he took a step closer to the shore. She supposed that he wasn’t afraid of being spotted in the darkness.

“Walrus Clubs?”

Jack strode past her, balancing his immense weight on the rocks until he was up to his calves in the water. “They’re a bunch of crazy bastards who go swimming in the winter.”

Brooke could imagine it, but couldn’t believe it. “You’re joking.”

“That’s Russians for you!”

She giggled. He stepped deeper into the water, until the bottom of his bedsheet dipped into the gentle waves. “Wait, are you going to go for a swim right now?

He shrugged his great shoulders. “Why not?”

Brooke pointed with her whole arm. “That’s Patel’s boat over there!”

“All the better, then!” he declared. That’s when Brooke began to suspect that he’d had something to drink. “Right under the motherfucker’s nose! I should swim over there and cut his anchor line,” he chuckled darkly. “I’d love to see the look on his shitty little face when he wakes up in the morning and realizes that he’s drifted out to sea!”

“Jack, someone might see you…”

“Let them! I’m a dead man anyway.”

She sighed and stood up. “Jack, c’mon. I’ll go sit by the pool with you.”

He muttered something in Russian under his breath at the boat before turning and following her back to the house. When they returned, he offered her a cocktail, and even though she knew it wasn’t he best idea in the world, she took him up on it.

“I used to love dirty martinis,” he said, sitting with his legs in the pool as he poured the ingredients into a shaker (which was absolutely tiny in his enormous hands), gave it a rattle, and poured it out into a chilled glass. “Here.”

It was strange and bitter and salty and she made a face with her first sip. “What the hell kind of..?”

Jack just laughed. “It’s a dirty martini. It’s got olive brine in it.”

Brooke shook her head and set it down on the flagstone beside her. “No thank you. Definitely not my thing.”

“More for me,” he thundered, plucking up the glass and tossing the entire drink down his gullet, olives and all. “What kind of drink would you like, then?”

“Lemon drop,” she blurted, realizing a little too late what she was getting into. Oh well… what was a drink or two, anyways?

Jack nodded. “Amos! You catch that?”

“One lemon drop martini coming up, Master Ilyin.”

Two minutes later, and the white robot was pressing the stemmed glass into her hand. “Miss Foster,” it said before retreating back into the house.

Jack reached over to his other side and held up an entire bottle of vodka. Yep, he’s definitely been drinking. She tentatively held up her drink in response. “What are we toasting to?”

He looked from her to the sky, then, rakish grin fading into a fainter smile, and spoke with much less bombast: “Ya piyo za razoryenniy dom, za zlooyo zizny moyo, za odinochyestvo vdvoyem, I za tyebya ya piyo,— za lozy myenya pryedavshikh guoob, za myertviy kholod gulaz, za to, chto mir zyestok i guroob, za to, chto bogu nye spas.” When Brooke looked at him, waiting, curiously, to what the beautiful words meant, he turned back to her and repeated himself in English. “I drink to our ruined house, to all of life’s evils too, to our mutual loneliness, and I, I drink to you – to eyes, dead and cold, to lips, lying and treacherous, to the age, coarse, and cruel, to the fact no god has saved us.” He brought the bottle to his lips, but just before he tipped the glass back, he gave her a mild little wink. “I drink to you, Brooke.”

The vodka disappeared from his bottle and he set it down gently so he could squint up at the stars.

There were emotions in her – emotions she didn’t know how to explain – and so she followed his gaze and downed her drink too.

Chapter Text

In due course, she had two more lemon drops, and her feet were dangling in the pool like his. Jack had downed another half-bottle of Tovaritch!, but it was difficult to tell how it was affecting him. She imagined that, being so huge, it would take quite a bit to get him going; add to that the fact that he was probably a heavyweight drinker to begin with.

But three lemon drops was what it took for her to gather up the courage to get in the pool.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” he asked as she stood up and headed back toward the house.

“I said I’ll be right back!” she called back to him with a laugh.

Before she knew it, she was standing at the top of the stairs in the bikini, towel wrapped around her waist to hide from the chilly air while she was in transit to the pool. She sucked in a breath, steeled her nerves, and went back outside.

“Oh, what’s this?” he said, cocking a brow at her as she pitter-pattered up to the edge of the pool and got in to the first step. The water was pleasantly warm. The towel was still wrapped tightly around her waist, though, and she was suddenly hesitant to cast it aside. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” she said, staring at her toes through the water. Pool lights made everything look funny. “I just…”

He chuckled. “You think I haven’t seen a woman in a bathing suit before? You look great. Just get in!”

That’s not what I wanted to hear!

Brooke went red as she fingered the edge of the towel. Suddenly, it was off: she’d undone it herself and tossed it to the ground. Feeling very exposed, and rather cold, she quickly submerged herself up to her chest to try and hide from his gaze, staying along the side of the pool further from him.

“Better?” he asked, cocking his head and grabbing a second bottle.

“It’s actually really… really nice…” Brooke tried answering normally, tried pretending that this was a normal situation, but shyness was beginning to crowd the other emotions she was feeling. Moreover, this was not normal.

Jack made a faint, breathy ‘hum’ in satisfaction, sucking down more vodka as he looked away. Brooke looked away too, focusing on the swim, on the depth of thewater, on the temperature… anything but him. And when she did glance his way, trying to avoid taking in his massive form, she saw his expression, framed as it was by wisps of hair not long enough to stay in the stubby ponytail. He was looking away, and it seemed rather deliberate. To her detective’s mind, it spoke of a longing – a longing he was trying to bury for good.

Brooke swam, leaving the shallows of the pool and doing a few laps, holding her breath for as long as she could manage. When she made it to the deep end again, she forewent another, and instead let herself sink to the bottom to feel the pressure of 12 feet of water above her. To feel her own heavily beating pulse.

The water was disturbed, suddenly, and she opened her eyes just long enough to see a pair of huge legs slip in, followed by the billowing white of a sheet now submerged. Brooke’s airless lungs ached for breath, though, and she came up. In front of her, up to his chest in the water, was Jack.

“Mind if I join you?”

Brooke brought her knees up as she tread in the deep water. “S-sure.” She forced a smile.

He seemed to enjoy the floating, holding the sheet down between his legs or it would drift around in the water. “We should switch spots,” he said, pointing at the deep end of the pool. Brooke nodded and they passed each other.

She glanced his way out of the corner of her eye, and there was a casually mischievous look on his face all of a sudden. With his free hand Jack flicked a little water at her, and the splash got her in the side of the head. “Hey!” At least this was a game she knew how to play. Brooke cupped her hands together and gave a few tight squeezes, sending little spurts of water shooting in his direction. None of them landed, and he splashed her again with a little laugh. She tried another tactic, cupping one hand and using it to launch a jet of water with a skimming motion. That went further and managed to get him in the arm.

“I hope you know that’s a declaration of war,” he said with a mischievous smile. The tension was leaving her, though she wasn’t sure that she wanted to get into a water fight with a twenty-foot man. He performed much the same trick as her, except that his cupped hand was about five times bigger, and his arms many orders of magnitude stronger. The jet he managed to produce went shooting over her head, and when he wound up for a second salvo, Brooke ducked under at the last second. She took in a mouthful of water, closed the distance between them, and before he had a chance to regroup, she’d stuck her head out of the water and launched the payload point blank at his face. Clearly, this was a suicide mission.

She actually caught him off-guard long enough to land the shot to his cheek, and she quickly went under again to avoid whatever retaliation he had in mind. But as she looked up through the water at him, all Brooke heard was the muffled sound of laughter; in the pool, that sound sunk into her every pore, saturated her bones, and vibrated deep in her chest.

Brooke’s gaze, even with that bleariness inherent to opening your eyes underwater, wandered for the last moment before she expected to come up for air, and caught sight of tenting beneath his sheet. The white fabric lazily billowed against his hardening length, and she felt a sudden jolt of excitement and fear.

She quickly surfaced with a heavy gasp, wanting to swim away, but the look on his face told her that he knew that she’d seen him.

“You know,” Jack said quietly. He looked at her with a peaceful face that betrayed a certain darkness to his eyes that she couldn’t pinpoint. It’s like his pupils were dilated or something. “I’m not sure who we’re trying to kid. There’s something going on here, but I’m not sure it would be… right to find out.”

And there it was, out in the open. Just like that.

Brooke bit her lip, slowly treading out of arm’s reach. She was tempted to go underwater again or hoist herself up onto the ledge and race over for her towel because deep down she knew that he wouldn’t try anything. But something compelled her to stay – some part of her wanted to know just how this would turn out.

“I…”

He just looked down at her, skin glistening with wetness, as he waited for her to gather her thoughts. Her biting turned to anxious chewing as she tread water before this broad beast of a man. He reached up from under the surface and brushed the pad of his enormous thumb against her mouth, compelling her to stop.

“I have no idea who this side of you is,” Brooke whispered. His hand was still gentle against her face.

Jack’s eyebrow twitched, and he swallowed. Was that the barest hint of sadness at the corners of his eyes?

“I could show you if you let me.”

Brooke wanted to pull up into herself, or wanted him to pull her into his arms and just hold her, but she knew neither of those things would alleviate the pressure building in her chest nor the ache building between her legs.

It was clear he recognized the trepidation in her face because he nodded and went to step out of the pool. “You’re still scared of me. I understand.” But she found herself reaching for his arm, and he stopped. With a small wave she beckoned him back down, and once his face was close enough, she pressed her lips to his bearded jaw. Brooke wasn’t so good with words, so she was just going to stop trying to say any.

With the rushing of water she suddenly found herself pressed to his chest which was now beneath her. One of his hands was under her chin and the other was behind her head as he pressed his lips to hers. They were so big. His beard tickled her neck.

He broke the kiss, but kept his lips near, and she could feel the hot gust of his breath on her shoulders as she half-floated, half-rested on him. A smile crossed his face as he gazed down at her with those dark eyes.

“Do you want me to stop?”

Brooke shook her head, and an instant later he rushed in to kiss her again, this time opening his mouth and taking her bottom lip between his teeth. His hand rubbed a short patrol up and down her back, sinking a little further toward her ass with every stroke, it felt like, until his huge hand came to rest there when his kisses grew rougher and more passionate. Jack exhaled sharply through his nose and crushed them together even tighter.

When his mouth left hers, he kissed a trail down her neck to the cleft between her breasts. Brooke sucked in a breath as the giant licked a broad line between them. He chuckled against her, sending tickling vibrations through her little body. When the hand pressed against her rear began to move, and when a single massive finger found its way underneath the waistband of her swimsuit bottoms, she suddenly pressed her face to his chest, almost trying to hide.

“W-wait,” she said. He waited. “Jack, I’m… I’m a virgin.”

Brooke expected him to balk at her inexperience, like guys sometimes did. But he just removed his hand from her ass and let it come to rest on the small of her back.

“You… are?” He paused for a brief moment to think about this. “How old are you?”

She swallowed and slipped back into the water until only her head was sticking out. “Twenty-two.”

“Fifteen years between us isn’t so bad,” he softly concluded. “I mean, if you’ll still have me, that is.”

Yes! She wanted to have him! Or rather, he have her. Brooke floated back over to him. He was on his knees now, and he brought her to him again to kiss her. The feeling of her belly and breasts against his hard chest was like mana from heaven. And he was warm! So warm. Still holding her, he rose up in the water and walked over to the shallow end where he would be able to sit comfortably and lean against the edge.

“You’re a good kisser,” he noted between open-mouthed explorations.

“You are too,” she breathed.

He smiled, running his hand up and down her spine again. “Really? Even with this giant face?”

“I like it.”

Jack cocked a brow at her and licked his lip, as though it had never occurred to him that his inhuman size could be a… benefit. “Maybe that’s good then, because I think I’m enjoying it too.” His words went straight to her belly and Brooke found herself arching against him in the water.

His fingers caressed her rear through the fabric of her swim bottoms, and she couldn’t help but begin to gyrate against his hand. A breathy chuckle left him, and before she knew it Jack was slipping the garment from her hips, down her legs, and past her ankles. Instinctively she pressed her thighs together, but as he massaged at the generous swells of her ass, tracing around from tailbone to the top of her thighs and up again, Brooke loosened up.

She pressed her pubic bone against his belly, but he still had to bend his head to reach her lips with his. She held onto his cheekbones, pressing the side of her face to the corner of his mouth when he slipped a finger down between her ass cheeks. Brooke sucked in a breath when he stroked her rear entrance for a second, and let it out in a halting, breathy moan when his thick digit found the folds around her entrance. He rubbed her there, back and forth, and when he ventured just a little further forward, she gasped at the sudden sensation against her sensitive clit.

“Have you orgasmed before?” Jack asked, still massaging her.

“Mmh,” she mewled, mind swimming in pleasure. “N-not with a guy, though.”

“Let’s see if I can have the honor.”

He rocked the pad of his finger against her, and she lifted her ass up into the air, savoring the feeling of his being all around her. His free hand tugged at the tie holding up her bikini top and when the knot was free, the garment fell away, revealing a pair of modest breasts. She pressed herself against his hard chest, nipples grazing his skin and sending electricity shooting to her pussy.

Brooke’s little body strained as she arched her back as far as it would go to give him better access. She was panting and making little moaning sounds in her throat and it felt so good but… something was missing. Something that would push her over the edge.

“F-fuck me, please,” she begged, not wanting to look him in the eye.

Without a word he adjusted the placement of his hand. His middle finger curled down between her spread cheeks, hugging her core and poked gently around until it found her entrance again. Suddenly, there was and immense pressure.

She hissed and his insistent finger kept pushing until it felt like something in her gave way, and he slipped in, inch by inch, knuckle by knuckle.

“A-ah!” she cried when that girthy digit was seated inside of her as far as it would go. It’d pushed the air from her lungs, it felt like. Jack gave her a moment to catch her breath before slowly withdrawing and plunging back in.

“How does it feel?” he asked, stroking her wet hair.

“S-so good…”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Still impaled on his finger, the giant hiked her up so that he could kiss her again as he pumped in and out, in and out. His other hand drifted down too, but this time it was so he could rest his thumb on that little button of nerve endings, and massage that too.

Brooke cried out, chest heaving, heart pounding as so much attention was being paid to these most sensitive spots. She squirmed against him, almost to get away from the intensity of the pleasure, but mostly just to struggle for the sake of struggling, to feel those massive hands keep firmly to their positions even as she bucked and moved.

She didn’t last long like that. Maybe another ten or twenty seconds, before the building pressure in her loins exploded and she stiffened against him, muscles clenching, lips parted and all manner of breathy sounds being squeezed from her lungs. He sped up with expert timing, following the crescendo of her cries, then let off the gas and watched with very dark eyes as she rode out her aftershocks on top of him.

Jack kissed her again when she’d caught her breath. Brooke felt more like warm, tingling jelly now than at any other point in her life. She could feel like this forever.

When Brooke glanced up at him again, he was looking down at her with the same kind of warmth that he’d had when he’d picked her up and told her she was beautiful. But it was tempered, she could tell – and that struck her as something remarkable. He’d gone years wearing his intensity on his proverbial sleeves; saying and doing what he wanted, when he wanted; getting his way with few repercussions; going zero to sixty in seconds flat.

Yet here he was, Jack Ilyin, the twenty-foot giant who could uproot a tree and probably lift a small car, giving more of a damn about her enjoyment than his own. Perhaps this was more than one kind of first.

He lifted them out of the pool, and she hissed when the cool air chilled her skin. He reached for her discarded towel and wrapped her up in it.

“Have a good time?”

Brooke glanced over his shoulder as he carried them back to the house, spying the bedsheet floating in the water. “I did,” she murmured contentedly. “What about you?”

“I’m glad that I’m still capable of making a girl feel good.” He kissed the crown of her head. “And making a virgin feel safe.”

Jack bent down to deposit her onto his bed in the greatroom, reaching off to the side for a pile of what she quickly realized were several full-sized microfiber towels. He mopped up the moisture on his body with his back to her while she stared, transfixed, at his naked rear for the first time.

“…What about you?” she repeated, licking her lips.

He turned, tossing the towels back into the great room, and twisted around as he crouched down to slip inside. He didn’t even both hiding himself as he sat down on the floor next to her, legs crossed and hardon standing tall and proud.

Whether it was her post-climax haze, she didn’t know, but it seemed that his was the most beautiful cock she’d ever seen in her life. Thick, still a little wet from the pool, with a bright red head that peeked out from underneath a handsome sheath of foreskin. It must’ve been almost two feet long and as wide around as her neck.

Jack gave her a look that tried to hide his smugness. “What about me?”

“I know that it won’t be like the real thing, but… what if I wanted to return the favor?”

He sat back a little, looking pleasantly surprised, and patted the inside of his thigh. “I’d be the last person to stop you.”

Brooke dropped her towel and climbed into the embrace of his lap.

Chapter Text

It looked amazing from afar, but got a little more intimidating the closer she got.

“You really don’t have to,” he said when she hadn’t made a move yet.

“I’m just… deciding on where to start, is all.”

Jack chuckled. “You can start by putting your hands on it…”

So she did. Her palms went to the sides of his head, which was eye level when she knelt down in the nest created by his crossed legs. The member under her hands jerked at the touch and she tried to hide the excited smile on her face. “I’ve been… wanting to do this for a few days now,” Brooke admitted, sliding her hands up toward the head and back down the length of him.

“I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind either.”

Brooke blushed and gripped him harder, dragging her hands down and bringing the foreskin with them.

Jack sighed and reached for her hair to bring her closer. She kissed him at that little gather of skin on the underside of the head, letting her tongue dart out to lick him, and his sigh turned into a deep-throated groan.

“You look good with a cock in your hands,” he said, staring intently at her little ministrations.

“Even this one?” She meant one so big.

Especially this one.”

Brooke stroked him harder, using the real estate on both of her hands to squeeze and rub with all her strength.

“Wait,” he grunted, and reached behind him for something. It was a bottle of lube – a huge bottle of lube. He undid the top and squirted something like half a pint on himself; his cock twitched happily, and he deftly worked the slick down his enormous length, giving himself a few expert pumps before reaching down to smear the remnants along Brooke’s front.

“Hey!” Her breasts glistened, and Jack seemed to like that.

When Brooke went back to her double-fisted handjob, it was a lot easier now. Her palms slid up and down his hard member effortlessly, and the faster she went, the more Jack began to make noises of his own; all of them deep, all of them rough, and all of them thrilling to her like no other sound had thrilled her before.

But it was when she decided to put her mouth on him. It was such that his hot length rested snugly between her breasts too – the sight coaxed a grin from the giant and he reached down to rub at one of her nipples with a finger.

“Mmm,” she said against him. Jack agreed.

Brooke worked him for a few minutes, circling the top of the head or lapping at the slit with her tongue. She was getting turned on again, and she really, really wanted to see how he’d finish.

He gave a little experimental buck, catching her off-guard; Jack settled instead on a gentle rocking motion of his hips in time with her hands. When she opened her eyes and looked up at him – past the hips, the abs, the pecs, and up to his face – his eyes were dark and his lips were parted, showing teeth.

“I’m getting close,” he reassured with a whisper, running his fingers along her jaw and neck.

Brooke picked up the pace, hoping that she wouldn’t tire before he came. She rubbed him with her lubed up tits, stuck her fingers under the lip of his foreskin, licked and kissed and sucked every square inch of his cockhead. Jack’s breathing began to hitch in his throat, and the muscles in his belly began to tighten.

“Mm… yeah…”

She tried to speed up, but she was tiring, and it was a struggle to keep up with him. At that point, he gently pushed her away from his cock, onto her back against his leg, and took the helm.

“Hope you’re ready for a very big load,” he said with obvious strain on his voice as he wrapped a tight fist around himself and began to pump.

How big? I’ll get to find out shortly!

She watched his balls as they began to tighten, his belly as the muscles clenched with building pleasure, his face as he stared at her before him.

“This one’s for you,” he grunted. Then his body stiffened, his teeth clenched, his eyes closed. “Unh! Fuck!

He came, sending a small geyser of white spunk shooting into the air. Some of it dribbled down onto his fingers, some of it splashed across her belly and thighs.

“Oh!” She gasped at the warmth of it. Jack shook the final few drips onto her while he caught his breath. He let go of himself and leaned back on his elbows. “You weren’t kidding,” Brooke giggled. She smeared it around on herself like warm, gooey oil, slowing when she came to her nipples and drew little circles around him. “This is a lot.”

“Don’t tempt me for seconds,” Jack said with a smirk. He grabbed the towel to clean her off, then positioned her on his chest as he laid down. “How was it?”

“Hottest thing I’ve ever friggin’ done,” she mumbled happily against him.

“No regrets?”

“Not a one.”

“And not because you lost it to the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation?”

“Because I lost it to a generous, very handsome man who… did for me what no other guy has been able to do yet. And because he also happens to be twenty feet tall. You know, if I had my way, I’d want you to stay like th…” Brooke caught herself.

Jack’s brows lifted. “You… like me like this?”

Heat rose to her face and she turned away. “It’s… really hot,” she whined. “Your hands, your legs, your everything. The way you walk, the way your voice sounds, the -”

“Alright, alright,” he laughed.

They laid there for a while, with his fingers idly stroking her thigh, and her fingers drawing little shapes along his sternum. Sleep was beginning to droop her eyelids.

“You know, when you got here, I didn’t see any benefit to this at all. Now…” He paused to laugh again. “Now at least I know I’m not some unfuckable monster.”

“I know it’s cliched,” Brooke mumbled, stopping to yawn. “But looking on the bright side does have its uses.”

“Now that,” he said, yawning in response – it was quite the thing, a giant’s yawn. “Is not very Russian.”


Brooke spent the night with him like that, sharing his huge jerry-rigged bed. The chill air creeping in through the holes created by the ripped out doors made her cold, and at some point in the night Jack had put a blanket on her.

When the light coming in began making it impossible to stay asleep any longer, she opened her eyes and looked to see if he was awake. He was. “You’re not one of those weird genius types who only sleeps four hours a day, are you?” she asked, voice still heavy with sleep.

He chuckled, his voice made even deeper and rougher from the same. “Hardly. I’m just not used to sleeping with someone on my chest.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I… you could have kicked me off if -”

“Really, it’s OK,” he said with a smile.

Brooke went to go stretch, when her feet touched something. “Oh?” She looked behind her to see him firm and erect. She blushed and looked back to him with, she assumed, to be a surprised and questioning expression on her face.

“You don’t have to do anything about that,” he grunted. “It’s just morning wood.”

“Is that why you’re always up before me, then?”

“I figured it wouldn’t be polite to let your guest wake up and see her giant host with a giant hardon first thing in the morning. That sheet doesn’t hide much, you know.”

“Oh, I’ve noticed.”

A rakish grin spread across his face and he gave her ass a sudden squeeze. “If I’d known I was hosting a voyeur, I’d have been happy to put on a show much earlier,” he said. Brooke’s whole body blushed, and she licked her lips. But when he grabbed her, it was to gently set her on the floor so he could duck outside. “Now if you excuse me, nature’s calling.”

Brooke pouted, but still enjoyed the view as he disappeared beyond the courtyard and into the trees.

Chapter Text

Brooke went upstairs to take a shower, feeling like several of Jack's million bucks. She hummed a song and stepped out, fresh, clean, and ready to tackle the day. Well, maybe not tackle the day; there wasn't much to tackle until -

"Good morning, Miss Foster," Amos said. "Apologies for interrupting, but your father is on the line and wishes to speak with you."

Well, shit! 

"Is there like, a phone, or should I just talk?"

"Just talk, Miss Foster. I'll connect you now."

The green light flickered and stilled.

"Brooke?"

"Dad!"

"Brooke! How are you doing?"

"I know you're not going to believe me, but I'm doing great."

"How's... Mr. Ilyin been treating you?"

"Well, I, uh... I put my foot down, demanded some respect, and he honored that. He seems to be a man of his word."

"Good. Good to hear. Well, I'm calling because I've got something for you."

Her eyes lit up. "Yeah, and?"

"I'm not supposed to tell you this information, but -"

"Dad, we're never taking her to court. I think Ja - er, Mr. Ilyin - just wants to speak to her himself. No lawyers necessary."

He sighed - Brooke knew that sigh. "She may take him to court for using unscrupulous methods of tracking her down."

"Dad, there's not one courtroom in this country that he'd fit into."

Martin let out a laugh, as though he'd almost forgotten. "I guess we are dealing with a very different sort of situation here..."

"Well, can you tell me or not?"

Brooke heard a shuffling of papers. "Her name's Lisa Thomas. Oregon driver's license - got her home address right on here. Lives in Bend. Or, well, she did two years ago."

She took a few seconds to think, and began to pace. On her third round back around the room, Jack suddenly came into view through the window. She held up her hand and kept pacing. "Alright, let's get hold of her. Maybe find out where she works?"

"You're pretty darn good at this, you know that?" Her father's smile carried on his voice. "I was thinking the same thing. I'll let you know what I find, alright?"

"Sure thing. Thanks, dad."



She reported the good news over breakfast that morning, and Jack lit up at the news. However, the tattoo story intrigued him.

"Do you think that means she's done this to other people, if she's got more tattoos to memorialize other similar situations?"

"That may be," Brooke mused. "I wonder why there was a rush, though..."

"Maybe the ink is part of the magic somehow." He thought this over for a moment and shook his head. "Magic is not my forte, as you can see."

"I know you've thought about what you'd like to do once you finally found her, but what are you actually going to do? How do you plan on getting her to change you back?"

He shrugged. "I guess I'd always imagined just scaring the shit out of her. Throwing my weight around."

"...but not anymore."

"I'm not sure what I'd say now, to be quite honest."

"Maybe that's for the best."

The two of them sat and ate in silence for a few minutes, which was nice. She listened to the shrill cries of seagulls, the chattering of a few local ravens, and the faint and distant sound of water traffic. Brooke looked to Jack, studying him for a second.

"What's the matter?" he asked when he noticed her staring.

"I think I'd like to cut your hair and beard," she said. "How would you like to feel clean-shaven again?"

"Hm... it would be nice..."

"If you have scissors..?"

"The beard could definitely use a trim, but I'm not sure about the hair. It's beginning to grow on me."

Brooke groaned at the pun, and Jack laughed.

"How about a nice shave, then? We could cook up some hot towels and everything."

"That," he said, "Would be great. I'd really owe you one."

"You really wouldn't."

Jack shot her a look. "Brooke, after all the shit I've put you through, the least you could do is let me repay you."

"Your good company is all the payment I want right now."



Amos brought out steaming towels, scissors, a razor with a few extra blades, a hand brush, and some shaving lather. They decided that Jack should just lay on the ground; that would give Brooke the best access to the whole of his face.

"The nice thing about a mug as big as yours," she said, surveying the situation from her vantage point on his chest with scissors in hand, "Is that it'll be easy to hide all my mistakes."

He gave her a quizzical look. "I thought you've done this before?"

She snapped the scissor blades a few times. "I said no such thing. Now hold still, this will only hurt a little."

Jack sighed and looked up at the cloudy sky as she got to work. 

Brooke trimmed the whole of his beard down to about an inch, brushing the hair away as she worked. When she stood back, it looked enough like fine stubble, and it would probably feel as much to him. Next, she grabbed the razor and lather, and attempted to sculpt the edges a little, but it was difficult. Though not too much thicker than a normal person's hair, his was somehow tougher, and it seemed like each stroke of the blade -

"Ow," he winced when the razor caught the hair wrong and drew a little blood.

- each stroke of the blade dulled the edge beyond usability. 

"Alright, scratch that."

Brooke used the hot towels to mop up the lather, draping them across his face and letting them rest for a minute before wiping everything away. She trimmed a small spot that she'd missed, and was done.

"Now I can be seen with you," she declared, jumping off of him so he could sit up.

Jack's hand went to his face to rub at it. "My chin hasn't seen daylight in two years," he said, getting up and walking over to one of the unbroken second-story windows on the house to get a look at himself. 

"You clean up pretty good!"

"Guess I do, don't I?" He turned back toward her with a smile, and she could see now that he had a small dimple on one side. "Thanks, Brooke."

She started putting the things back away on Amos' cart. "All in a day's -"

But Jack had grabbed her and pushed her into the grass on her back with a big hand.

"...work." She'd be lying if she said her heart hadn't started racing. "Can I help you, Mr. Ilyin?"

He bent his big head down to kiss her, pressing his big lips to her face. She giggled into the kiss, and found herself running her hands along his freshly-shaven cheeks, which almost scratched like real stubble too. He broke the kiss and dragged his gaze from her eyes down the length of her body, and back up again. "You know, I think you can." Jack dove back in as his fingers crept up underneath her shirt to massage a breast and she gasped into his mouth, gripping his face harder.

Just as he was reaching back to yank away the sheet wrapped around his waist, though, Amos cut in.

"Uh, I don't mean to interrupt, Master Ilyin, but it appears that a dinghy has just been launched from the Good News and is heading towards Bell Island."

Jack looked at her, his face still hovering close, and she saw a flash of fear in his big gray-blue eyes. "Shit!" he hissed, tearing away from her and standing up, though unsure of what to do. "Good news my ass," he growled. "What a terrible joke that is."

"Amos, how many people are aboard?" Brooke said, standing up and brushing herself off.

"I'm detecting two, Miss Foster."

She turned to Jack. "Have you talked to Patel at all about this deal?"

He looked away, almost embarrassed. "He's been calling and emailing for about six weeks now. On the few occasions where I've gotten back to him, I just said that it needs to wait. It's been three weeks since I last heard from him."

"He's fucking pissed," Brooke muttered. "What are you going to do? You can't keep putting this off, Jack."

"We're so close to finding that woman! I can feel it - we might have an answer from her in just a few more days, and then... then I can figure out how to proceed. Even if it means being stuck like this."

Brooke nodded. That was all they could do at this point. If there was a chance he could be transformed back to his old self without anyone but a pair of private investigators from Anacortes being the wiser, then he was going to hold out for it.

"I'll go meet him," she said resolutely. "I'll tell him that I'm your housekeeper; say that you're not here. You haven't been here in weeks, and I haven't heard from you."

"Tell him to come back later."

She nodded.



Brooke waited by dock and watched, frowning, as the dinghy pulled up and tied off. Only one man got out. He strode up the dock with long, quick strides, looking around, before finally stopping a few feet short of Brooke. 

Gary Patel was about Jack's age, maybe a year or two younger, with black hair styled into a crew cut and a short, neatly-trimmed beard of his own. The black-rimmed glasses he wore accentuated the shrewdness of his sharp eyes, and Brooke immediately knew it was going to be hard to convince this man of anything he couldn't see for himself.

"Mr. Patel, I'm guessing?"

"You'd be guessing right," he said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Jess, the housekeeper. If you're looking for Mr. Ilyin, he's not here right now."

Patel's eyes looked up at the path beyond her, beyond the gate behind her, and he rubbed his chin in thought. "Can I come in?"

"I've been expressly forbidden to let anyone on the property while he's away, Mr. Patel. If you come back in another week, he might be home by then."

He studied her for a moment, looked back to the boat, and then snorted. "That's good, real good," he said, smiling. "You learn that one from your dad?"

Brooke's blood ran ice cold all of a sudden, and she took a step back. "I don't know what you mean, Mr. Patel." She could have kicked herself as the words came out of her mouth - that phrase, and its close cousin 'I don't know what you're talking about', were dead giveaways that you knew exactly what was being talked about.

"Your dad, Martin Foster. You know, the PI I hired to find out what the hell was going on over here." His eyes narrowed at her. "Where the hell is he?"

Brooke swallowed. "It's just me here."

"Just you, huh?" He chuckled, like a supervillain being told something he doesn't want to hear. "Let's see, how do I put this..." He paused briefly for effect. "You're a fucking liar."

"And you're trespassing," she said in a low voice.

He ignored her. "Who were you having breakfast with yesterday, Brooke? I saw two place settings at that table on the south patio when we did a flyby with the drone."

She didn't say anything.

"I'm going to ask one last time: where is Foster, and where is Jack?"

Brooke had backed up far enough to have run up against the bars of the gate. "My dad's in Anacortes and Jack is... he's..."

Patel held up his hand and flashed three fingers at her. "That's how many days he's got before the board votes his ass out of there. Now he can man the fuck up and speak to me, or we can do this the hard way."

"Amos," she murmured to the kiosk, not taking her eyes off of Patel. "Open the gate and let Jack know that his old friend won't take no for an answer."

Chapter Text

Amos said nothing as the gate unlocked and the two stepped through. Brooke was prepared to lead the way, but Patel walked right on past her as if he owned the place. Maybe, when all was said and done, he was hoping to.

In fact, he completely ignored her as they made their way up to the house - that is, until the house itself came into view and Patel stopped to study the scene before him.

"The fuck has this guy been doing?" he muttered under his breath, noticing the very things that Brooke had noticed when she first walked up to knock on the door.

Brooke said nothing - the question wasn't meant for her. They walked in through the gate at the fence and up to the door. Patel just opened it himself, knowing that it wasn't locked.

"Ilyin!" he called. "I know you're here!"

"He's not in the house," she said.

"Where is he then?"

"I don't know, but he's not in the house. Trust me."

Brooke knew that sometimes, as a private investigator, the best thing you could do was to watch and wait for things to play themselves out. Here, this was all she could do as Patel rounded into an adjacent hallway, prepared to storm every room in spite of what she'd said. But as soon as he saw what had become of the great room, he was stopped dead in his tracks. It had begun to mist outside, and the chill, moist air drifted in unimpeded.

Patel's mouth fell open and said nothing, but the look on his face spoke volumes. Clearly, Jack Ilyin belonged in a mental institute as far as he was concerned.

He dashed across the giant expanse of cushions, through the broken doors, and out into the battered courtyard, head turning this way and that to look at everything with wide eyes.

"Who in the hell did this?" He turned around and looked up at the shattered windows and gutted rooms on the second story.

"Jack did."

"With his bare fucking hands? Yeah right." He pulled out his phone and took some video, panning around for a few seconds before bringing it back to his face. Brooke was waiting for him to realize that there would be no cell service, and a moment later, Patel scowled and cursed. "You gotta be kidding me!"

"Who were you going to send that to?"

"It's none of your goddamn business!"

They kept walking, with Brooke in tow. There was no sign of Jack anywhere, and she was wondering if he was making himself scarce or if he had something else in mind. Though what that could possibly be was beyond her. This was, it seemed, the end of the line for him. The pair were near the pool, now, and Patel was growing even more irritable. He stood beside the water, hands on his hips as he snapped his head around to look about.

"Jack!" he called. There was no answer. "Jack, you know I'm here! Stop being chickenshit!" Still nothing, not even a rustle. Patel scowled and walked over to the other side of the pool, Brook warily following, and shouted some more. But it seemed Jack wasn't interested in confronting his friend-turned-enemy just yet.

But Patel was impatient. He smacked his lips together a few times in thought, rubbed at his chin, and eventually turned his eyes to her. She got the sense that he was changing tactics.

"So why are you here and not your dad, the man I hired?"

"He told you that Jack wasn't dead. What more did you want? The job was done."

"You didn't answer my question, young lady."

"I'm here because he hired me to do a different job," Brooke said, trying to keep calm and collected.

Patel stepped up to her and scoffed. "What sort of job would a grown man have for a pretty girl like you that would involve gifts of designer clothing?"

"A man's allowed to buy people clothes, Patel."

Patel's icy stare narrowed. "OK, let me rephrase that: what sort of job would involve lavish gifts and overnight stays?"

Heat was rising to her face.

He took out his phone again, leveling it at her. There was a nasty smirk on his face. "I can see the headlines now: Jack Ilyin: Tech Magnate Turned Cradle Robber! And here's the face of the girl sucking his dick! C'mon, smile for the camera!"

Patel didn't seem to notice the faint quaking of the ground, or the deep, muffled thuds of something hitting the earth, but Brooke did. In fact, Jack was moving so fast that she only knew what direction he was coming from when she heard him yell. If his goal was to get Jack to come out, he succeeded with flying colors.

"Leave her alone, you son of a bitch!"

The next second was a blur, but there was a cry, a thud, and a splash, and next thing she knew Patel was in the pool, wiping the water from his face and glasses and cursing loudly.

Wait for it...

He froze as soon as he was able to open his eyes and look upon, for the first time in two years, his business partner.

Jack was standing next to Brooke, hands balled into fists. He was imposing, fierce, and solid. His face was screwed up into a deadly grimace, and his blue eyes dared Patel to move.

"Wh... I... Y-you..." the man stammered, moving backward in the pool to get away, to get a better view, or maybe both. "J-jack I-Ilyin?"

"What are you doing here?" he growled. Patel cowered at the sound.

"What the fuck happened to you!"

"What are you doing here?"

"I.... I'm not answering any questions w-without my lawyer. Th-that was assault, Ilyin!"

Jack turned to look down at Brooke. "I thought he tripped?"

She shrugged. "I saw him trip."

Patel swam to the other end of the pool, and pulled himself out, looking over his shoulder at them every few seconds. "This is fucked," he cried. "Fucked!" Then with all his strength, he made a mad dash for the trees and disappeared.

"I take it he's going to be staying with us for a little while?" she asked.

Jack reached into the pool to grab the man's phone from the bottom. He glanced at it for a moment and then tossed it over his shoulder with a sigh. "Unfortunately, I don't see any other way out of this."

Chapter Text

About an hour later, Brooke went with Jack to find Patel and bring him back to the house. It wasn't hard, as he was screaming himself hoarse for help as he lay on the mossy dirt in a pathetic paralyzed heap.

Jack made a face as he picked Patel up by the ankles.

Brooke snorted. "Wash your hands after touching that thing, you don't know where its been."

"I swear to god Ilyin, I'm going to sue you for every goddamn penny you've got!" Patel yelled. "Gonna ream you so fucking hard in court you'll feel it every time you sit down!"

The giant stood up and dangled the smaller man in front of his face. "You wanna be able to walk or not?" he barked. Patel flinched. "Otherwise I'd be more than happy to let your sorry ass lay there all night. Just wait until you have to take a shit."

Patel looked like a vein was going to burst in his forehead, though that might have been from being held upside down. "Fine," he said through gritted teeth. "Let's do this your way."


Jack deposited Patel into the wine cellar from the same trap door that she'd first encountered him through. By now he'd regained motor control, and demanded to be set down in something resembling a dignified matter, even though he was still wet from his reintroduction to the pool.

"Amos," Jack said. "Get our guest a towel. If he asks you for anything else, run it by me first."

"Of course, Master Ilyin."

Patel pressed his brows together. "Run it by...? The AMOS understands that?"

"Does now," Jack grunted. "And if you're good, I'll even attempt an explanation later."

With that, the door was closed, and Jack let out a long sigh. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked to Brooke. She was now, apparently, his partner in crime. "How'd he get in?"

Brooke swallowed. "He said that the board of directors was going to meet in a few days to give you the boot. I... I guess I figured that this might..." She put her face in her hands and groaned. "I don't know what I was thinking. I should have told him to go to hell!"

Jack's big hand went to her shoulders, easily spanning the distance between them both, and gave a little squeeze. "He's a smooth talker," he rumbled quietly. "It worked on me too, once. Don't beat yourself up about it."

She nodded, leaning into his comforting touch.

He hummed, deep and low in his throat, and rubbed at his new close-cropped facial hair. It made a satisfying scratchy sound. "They were probably trying to avoid replacing me as CEO," he thought aloud. "Knew it would burn a very big bridge, which is not exactly something you want to do to your lead engineer while a merger is on the table. Even if he did up and disappear for a few years."

"How has Orcasoft stayed afloat without you?"

He cocked a brow at her and flashed a wry little smile. "How has Apple stayed afloat without Jobs?"

Brooke knew that a tech junkie would have gotten the joke, but not her. She shrugged and shook her head helplessly.

Jack's shoulder squeezing turned into full-on back rubbing as he explained. "They haven't had an original idea since his death," he continued. "Not in the hardware or software departments, at least. They knew this would be the case, so they've switched tactics, focusing on what the remaining star players know how to do: repackage the product and market the hell out of it."

"So that's what Orcasoft has done."

"Patel was never a great engineer; decent programmer, but he couldn't keep up with me. What he could do was run circles around me with numbers, though."

"He's a salesman."

"Exactly. Nothing more."

Brooke started for the pool and Jack followed. She could feel his footsteps behind her. "So what do we do with him? We can't just keep him here, that's kidnapping. Somebody's bound to call the police, and I'm not sure if that magic's going to protect you from a SWAT team."

He slipped into the deep end of the pool and rested his elbows along the edge, thinking. "We string him along," Jack decided. "Make him think I want to talk, that he's got the upper hand; he might be inclined to stay for another day or two without finding out whether he can make it all the way to the dock again."

"But the board meeting..."

"They can't remove me from the company altogether, I still have majority shares." Still, she could tell that this bothered him.

"The company you founded has lost all faith in you," she murmured. "That's not going to be easy to recover from, no matter what role you take going forward."

A sad, bitter look creased the corners of his eyes and he inhaled sharply. "At least I have a 'going forward'," he said quietly. "For a while there, I wasn't sure if I even had that much."

It was her turn to put a hand on his shoulder, though it looked absolutely tiny against the expanse of strong flesh. "I know, Jack. I know."


The best thing to do, Jack eventually decided, was to call up his old lawyer. He ignored many an attempt at her getting in contact with him over the years, and it was high time that she help him out now that his old life was coming back with a vengeance.

Brooke watched out the window of the office as he paced, brow furrowed with unease, on the lawn outside as he spoke with her on the phone. Amos had just notified her that her father had tried reaching the house, and she was upstairs to return the call now.

"Well," came Martin's voice on the other end of the line. He sounded a little stressed. "I found her."

Brooke immediately knew there was a catch. "You found her but...?"

He sighed. "She's at a hospital in Los Angeles. "Her car was t-boned by a semi three days ago."

The young woman gasped. "My god, is she OK?"

"She was released from the IC this morning, but... still not in great shape."

Brooke chewed her lip and did some pacing for herself. "One of us has to get down there, ASAP. Shit's hitting the fan... Patel's here."

"Patel is there? Right now?" Martin cursed - he rarely ever cursed around her, and she could feel him sweating bullets. "I told him that I got what he wanted, that I found out Ilyin wasn't dead, and that he's been on the island. I have no idea what he'd..."

"Orcasoft wants to strip him of any say he's got in the company now. I don't think Jack had ever intended to sell, and Patel knew this years ago. This is his golden opportunity to take over. You did all he needed for you to do: find him, so he could follow."

"Have you ever thought that maybe Ilyin shouldn't be running that company? Aside from the obvious, he seems to be a little unstable. Maybe Patel's better suited for the job."

"Patel stole from Orcasoft. Jack wanted to forgive him so badly that he never even took him to court after he found out about the cooked books." She sighed. "He's a nice guy, dad - really. I think this thing did what it was supposed to do. Shake him up a little. But now he's learned his lesson and he needs to get back to Seattle before Patel signs away all his hard work!"

Martin was quiet for a moment. "I'll get on the next flight to LA," he said. "Should be at UC Medical before dinner."

"Thanks, dad."

"No, thank Mr. Ilyin."


She opened one of the windows near to where Jack was standing and thinking, and called over to him.

"What's the verdict?"

"She told me to release Patel right away, that even if there's no apparent physical mechanism for keeping him here, he could still claim that he felt his life was in danger."

"Is she coming?"

Jack nodded solemnly before looking down at himself and grinning a little. "She wants me to sue."

"Not sure how you're going to be able to establish culpability, though?"

He shrugged. "Maybe we could set a precedent for cases concerning magic."

"Yeah, about that... my dad finally found your spell-slinging perp." Jack perked up at this. "She's in an LA hospital after getting into a bad car accident, but he's on his way there right now."

Jack snorted. "What, her magic couldn't save her?"

"Jack..."

"Sorry."

"We should go check on Patel. There's nothing we can do until we hear back from my dad."


"So that's what happened, huh?" Patel said stiffly, though still trying to look casual as he sat at the teak dining set by the pool. His clothes were still a little damp and it was obvious that he was physically uncomfortable in them. Serves the bastard right, Brooke thought. "You caught some of that Illuminati shit."

Jack just glowered at his business partner; it was obvious that he was physically uncomfortable to be talking to him. "Something like that," he grunted. "Why are you here, Gary?"

Patel scoffed and adjusted his glasses. "Because I need this deal to go through, and I need it to go through smoothly."

"What makes you think I'm going to help you?"

"Because if you don't, I'm going to make sure this place is crawling with military before tomorrow. They'll be dropping commados from planes when I'm done telling them about the threat to homeland security I found here." Patel sat up straighter at saying this, adjusting his tailored suit jacket as though he wasn't still soaked to the bone. Brooke knew that body language: the man was convinced he had the upper hand. And maybe... he did. "There's 87 shares separating us," he went on. "You're going to sell me 88."

"That's insider trading," Brooke noted, cocking her head at Patel.

"Bitch, nobody asked you."

Jack was on him faster than she could wind up a fist. "You wanna go for another swim, little man?" he growled, squeezing until Patel let out a strangled cough.

"Alright!" he wheezed. "I get it! Be nice to the furniture!"

Patel landed in the pool with a painful slap against the water's surface. That was gonna hurt.

"I should have pressed charges when I had the chance, you viblyadok," Jack said when Patel surfaced again, utter disdain on his big face. "My mistake."

"You've always made things more goddamn difficult than they need to be, you stubborn fuckin' Ruskie. Get your head out of your oversized ass, Ilyin! Your time with Orcasoft is - say it with me - over." Patel hauled himself out of the water again. "We don't need you anyways. Scott's been writing fantastic code lately, and we hired a couple kids from Caltech last year. Not only can they design circles around you with the robotic interface systems, but their fingers can fit on the fuckin' keyboards!"

Jack's jaw was set and the tendons in the back of his hands flexed as he squeezed his hands. Brooke was beginning to see that his pride in his work was one of his few proverbial pressure points - insult that and you are guaranteed to cut close to bone. She scowled and felt her own hands balling.

"Ukhodit," the giant spat.

Patel barked a laugh. "Oh! Can't handle me all of a sudden, huh? What happened to the big talk, big man? You've lost and you know it. This is the -"

BAM!

Patel was sent stumbling backwards when Brooke's fist collided with his nose, and he landed, for the third time in a single day, in the pool. Except this time there were little red swirls from where his blood was gushing into the water, and his glasses sported a few handsome cracks.

"Ow," Brooke hissed, clutching her hand. That would hurt for a while, but it was worth it.

Jack just laughed; it was a booming sound that filled the air. Patel groaned in pain, holding his face as he made his slow way toward the steps at the other end.

He knelt down beside her and held his massive hand up for a high five. She gave him one with her uninjured hand. "Glad you did that and not me," he chuckled. "I would've caved in that empty skull of his." Then: "Amos! Show our guest back to the docks. I've heard enough weasel words for one day."

Chapter Text

Jack had found a bottle of something and was guzzling it down like water.

“My lawyer should be here in a couple of hours,” he said, running a nervous hand through his chin-length hair. “She dropped everything to see me.”

“She’s a good lawyer, yeah?”

“Very good. She’s helped me with everything from libel to copyright.”

Brooke vaguely remembered something about a few suits when she was doing her research, but the details eluded her.

“She’ll be around for dinner, then. I’ll go clean the table off and get out some place settings.”

“How’s your hand? You’ve been favoring it.”

Brooke wiggled her fingers, but the joints just ached. “I’ll be alright.”

“You’re lucky you didn’t break anything,” he said, pushing the bottle at her. “Amateurs almost always break their hand.”

She smiled and tossed back a good few ounces of vodka. “My dad taught me how to punch.” She showed him her technique, wrapping her thumb properly around her fingers and keeping her wrist straight. Granted, this was the first time she’d ever hit another person… her aim certainly left a lot to be desired. “You need to know some self-defense in this business.”

Jack looked impressed, and there was a little glimmer in his eye. “I’ll have to show you a few other tricks some time. Things I learned getting into fights in high school.”

“You know how to fight?” Brooke handed the bottle back to him, surprised. Though, now that she thought about it, it made sense – Jack looked much more like an athlete than a computer engineer.

“Programming makes you fat and lazy,” he shrugged. “I figured, why can’t I have both? A strong mind and a strong body?”

Brooke just giggled. “Words to live by, Mister Ilyin. Words to live by.”


“Amos,” Jack called, working on his fourth bottle of vodka. “How much d’you think it would cost for me to get a suit made?”

“A suit, sir?”

“Yeah, a suit. Nothing too fancy; just a three-piece. You know, like my navy Armani one, just… not Armani.”

“You’ll need shoes to go with it, sir.”

He slapped his forehead. “Yes, shoes! How could I forget? Price those out for me too.”

“And you’ll need a belt and socks, Master Ilyin.”

“Yeah, of course.”

“How about a tie, Master Ilyin?”

“Nakhuya!” he snorted sharply. “Amos, when have you ever seen me wear a tie?”

“Very silly of me to ask,” the computer said. Brooke just laughed as she finished folding the napkins. “This will take me some minutes to find out for you, Master Ilyin.”

“Take your time. I’m just curious… and getting a little sick of this damn bedsheet business. I miss clothes.”

She laughed some more as she hovered by the table, trying to remember which fork went where. “You’d look very handsome in a suit, Jack. I mean, you did before, but you’d look especially handsome now.”

“You really think so? It wouldn’t drape the same. The seams and the cut would have to be a little different…”

She turned around, leaned against the table and sized him up. “I can see it right now: hair pulled back all classy-like, gray slacks, jacket, shiny black shoes in size 200, cuff links…”

“I don’t do cuff links either. I also don’t do button-downs unless I have to. They’re so stiff.” He gave her a look. “They’re also harder to take off.”

“Really?” she said, licking her lip and giving him a little wink. “You weren’t ever one of those guys who liked to slowly unbutton his shirt to start the night?”

He was suddenly beside her, arm resting on his knee as he leaned in. “I was one of those guys who preferred to take my time undoing my belt and sliding it out of the loops. Nothing like watching a woman’s face as she listens to you unzip your fly, too…”

Brooke blushed and shivered. Jack reached for her hand and gently took the forks from her as his lips brushed her ear. She heard him set them down on the table. “Right now?” she whispered with a smile.

“It’ll ease the tension a little,” he murmured, slipping his fingers around her waist and bringing her forward to stand between his knees. “I always feel better after a fuck.”

Well, he was probably right.

She let him nudge her onto her back in the grass, giggling as he planted kisses along her neck and collarbones. “Sorry,” he rumbled with a smile as he gave the hem of her pants a little tug, “But these have got to go.”

Brooke shimmied them off as he watched with a hungry smile on his face. When they were set aside, he wiggled his finger at her. “And that top thing, too.” Soon, that was gone as well. He bent in again, humming satisfactorily in his throat. “I didn’t want to rip anything. You look so good in it.” She kissed at his big, soft, bottom lip and he smiled against her.

“You wouldn’t.”

“Nothing stands in Jackson David Ilyin’s way, Miss Foster. I thought you did your research?” He was being silly, she knew, but it still gave her a little bit of a thrill.

“Really? I guess we must be talking about different Jack Ilyins, then. I seem to have gotten in your way a few times, now.”

He laughed and planted his mouth square on her belly. She shrieked with laughter when he licked her navel – that felt so weird! – and she tried pushing his face away. But he just did it more. Before long, he had her in a giggling, panting mess of herself.

“Didn’t know you were ticklish,” he said, the hint of a threat in his voice.

“I’m not! I’ve just never been licked with a tongue that big before!”

“Oh, well, you’re probably in for a treat then.”

Her laughter stilled when he dragged his lips downward, kissing each of her hip bones, before hooking his finger under the waistband of her panties and pulling them down. Brooke did that thing again where she clenched her thighs together – this was still new for her. His big lips grazed her mons, and when that hot, slick tongue darted in between her legs, it felt so good that she couldn’t help but open for him.

Once her muscles relaxed he was able to draw her thighs apart. His gaze fell to her core now, spread open wide for him, and Brooke found his scrutiny a little uncomfortable. She wanted him to look away.

“Would you look at that,” he rumbled. “A gorgeous little pussy.”

Brooke squirmed the tiniest bit, wanting him to do something and stop looking, even though he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the view. When she looked past his face and arms again, she saw his cock peeking out from behind the sheet, nodding its own approval.

Jack lowered his mouth, dragging his tongue up her core from ass to pubic bone, and she couldn’t help the long, faint moan that escaped her. But when he took her into his hot, wet mouth, that’s when she began to see stars. He licked, sucked, and Brooke gasped when he stuck his tongue inside of her. It was a pitiful few seconds of that before she started to squeeze her thighs against his cheeks, already feeling the tingling heat in her belly. And when he picked up the pace, she bucked her hips against that scratchy face and came hard.

He just watched as she rode out her orgasm, little body shaking and shivering , and as she caught her breath he smiled.

“You said my name.”

“I… I did?”

“You most certainly did.”

She blushed again and looked away. “That’s awkward…”

“No!” he laughed, then kissed her. “It’s hot. You’re hot.”

He let her come down for a minute, stroking her hip with his thumb, before she asked about him.

“Well, I was thinking about ways you could help me out on my end of things…”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, c’mere.” He sat back on his knees, and patted his lap.

Brooke stretched on the grass. “What if I’m too tired?” she pouted.

He wrapped his own thick fingers around himself and began to stroke. “You do have a bum hand. There’s always next time.”

But she was quick to go back on that. “I’m just kidding!” She got on hands and knees and crawled into his big lap. “Like hell am I missing out on this.”

He instructed her to lay on her back underneath his cock and wrap her legs around it. The head, to both of their pleasant surprise, just touched her chin like this, and she couldn’t help but hug his foreskin and cover it in kisses.

“I can’t decide if this is the hottest fucking thing or the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen,” Jack said with a lusty grin.

Brooke dragged her tongue along the slit. “Why can’t it be both?”

Jack purred – purred like a lion the size of a pickup truck, that is – and looked to be in absolute heaven. “Yeah,” he said. “Definitely both.”

Sliding his hands underneath her, one grabbing her ass and the other her shoulders, he began to move her back and forth. Brooke knew to hug him harder, and was rewarded by some delicious sounds coming from deep within him. He used her like that for a few more strokes then stopped.

“What’s the matter?”

He just looked down at her for a moment. “I’m gonna start a fire if we keep this up without lube.”

Brooke just laughed and gave him a squeeze.

Jack shook his head. “Mm yeah… we’re gonna be in trouble. Amos!” he called. “Amos, buddy, I’m sorry to do this to you but… could you grab me the stuff from the great room?”

“I suppose I’ve saved you from more embarrassing situations, Master Ilyin,” the green light blinked with faint amusement and a little… was that chagrin?

“Now don’t you start with me.” The giant shook his finger at the little pole sticking out of the ground, and Brooke continued to laugh and jerk him off as the robot approached with the bottle in hand. “Thank you,” he huffed, snatching up the lube.

“Of course, Master Ilyin. And don’t mind me.” The white robot plodded back to the house, and she could almost, almost sense an eye-roll on its voice. Brooke wondered why she wasn’t even embarrassed.

As soon as Amos was gone, Jack dislodged her from him and drizzled a good helping of lube onto her chest, belly, arms and legs. Brooke couldn’t help but laugh – all things considered, this was mighty ridiculous. But the best kind, of course.

“There we go.”

Brooke hugged him again, but this time the slick made her slippery and her arms glided across his hot, taut skin.

“Oh, fuck that’s good,” he hissed. He grabbed her again, and slid her along his length experimentally, decided it was perfect, and started to pump away.

It was hard for her to do much else beyond hold on, but, strangely enough, it still felt good. The feeling of that huge prick between her thighs, his balls against her ass; the sight of the massive silhouette above her, muscles straining and sweat beginning to collect along the nape of his neck so far above her…

Jack closed his eyes and she could tell by the way he lifted his hips to thrust in time with his strokes that he was getting close. His teeth stayed parted, and Brooke just looked up at him with awe and not a little need. She suddenly wanted to feel his mouth on her again, but the sun was going down and the evening was wearing on, and –

The giant’s stomach tightened, and he gripped her hard as he thrust wildly into her. Then he slowed her down, and she could feel his cock swelling and throbbing against her. She could even feel the pumping action as he came, could feel his cock shooting that big, gooey load all over her chest. Holy shit!

Brooke unhitched her arms and legs from around him and splayed herself open on his lap, ankles just barely grazing his sides. She looked with casual interest at the softening member laying heavy on top of her, and gave the head one last lick.

He lifted her from him, though, and slid them both into the pool as a quick way to clean off before company arrived. “Well?” he asked against her neck.

“I’m down for doing that again,” she smiled. “And again, and again…”

Jack laughed, wiping his fluids from her chest with a swipe of his hand. It clouded the water for a few seconds then dissipated.

“I hope your lawyer wasn’t planning on going for a swim,” she chuckled, gesturing with her chin at where the cloud of spunk had been. A thought occurred to her. “I wonder if you could get knocked up from swimming in…” Then another thought occurred to her, and she quickly turned to face him. “Jack, we haven’t been using protection!”

“Ah, I should have told you sooner, but… you don’t need to worry about that. I’m clean and I’ve been shooting blanks for a few years,” he said.

She squinted at him. “Snip-snip?”

He nodded. “Snip-snip.”

“Oh.” Well that was a relief. She wasn’t looking forward to having to hunt down the Amazon listing for whale condoms. “Well now that that’s sorted out, I can officially say that you were right.” She sucked in a slow breath and floated on the surface. “My tensions are definitely eased.”

Jack kissed her one more time before stepping out of the pool and brushing the water off of himself. Quite a bit of it still clung to the fine hairs on his body. “Now just to figure out what to wear,” he snorted. “The white sheet or the gray sheet?”

“Gray is definitely more professional. Very no-nonsense.”

He nodded resolutely. “Gray it is.”

Chapter Text

 “…my god,” Jack’s lawyer said as she approached the house. He and Brooke were waiting anxiously at the front entrance; he was pacing and rubbing at his scratchy chin. “Jack?

“It’s, ah… good to see you, Michelle,” the giant Russian said with a smile that looked a little more like a wince.

The woman, dressed smartly in a pencil skirt and suit jacket with laptop bag slung over her shoulder, was six foot in heels and had cheekbones you could mount on the prow of an icebreaker. Brooke knew immediately that she was one of the few people in the world, except maybe for his parents, who could get away with telling Jack Ilyin what to do.

“What in god’s name happened to you!” she gawked. “Is this why you’ve been in hiding?”

He sighed. “Yeah. And its a long story.”

“Well you’d better be prepared to tell it, because I need to know every damn -” She suddenly noticed Brooke. “Who’s this?”

“My private investigator.”

Michelle gave her a hard look. “I’m going to need to see your credentials.”

Jack was quick to intervene. “She’s… in training. She’s been more like my personal research assistant.”

“My father has been handling most of the case,” Brooke was sure to add. “In fact, we’ll be hearing from him tonight, as soon as he gets in to see the lady that did this.”

The lawyer shook her head and blinked. “Alright, alright. I need to know everything, and I need to know it now. First though, I’m going to need a drink.”

Jack nodded, and started for the back side of the house. “Bourbon on the rocks coming right up.”

“Sounds like you two have been through hell together,” Brooke said, extending her hand for a shake. The woman took it firmly.

“It’s been a long eight years. What’s your name?”

“Brooke Foster. My dad’s Martin Foster, PI.”

“Michelle Douglas. Pleasure.”

“I’d recommend going the long way, Miss Douglas. It might be easier to hear the story before… you see how he’s been living over the past two years.”

She cocked a sharply waxed eyebrow at her, but took the advice and followed in Jack’s footsteps, with Brooke in tow.


“Are you sure?” Michelle said when the story – and dinner – was done. She was nursing a third bourbon, but didn’t even appear buzzed. A voice recorder had been placed on the table as Jack spoke, and the little red light was still on. “I mean… it could be a lot of things that caused this, I’m sure.”

Jack just looked at her like he’d been down this road before. “Like what.”

“Like, uh… radiation poisoning.”

“Uh huh.”

“Solar flares.”

“Please, go on.”

“Genetic tampering.”

Jack just buried his big face in his big hand and sighed. “Michelle, I’ve had two years to think about this. None of the usual – ‘usual‘ – explanations hold water. I’ve read it all. By the way, this isn’t a 50’s Hollywood monster movie. Radiation doesn’t supersize you, it just fucking kills you.” He threw his hands up in the air. “Magic. It’s gotta be magic.”

“Alright, so let’s say it is magic. And I’m not saying that it is, but we’ll pretend for a minute. Let’s say that it’s magic. How do you establish culpability? We’d need a full admission of guilt from this Lisa Thomas before we could do anything.” She tapped her manicured finger against the glass for a second as she thought. “Unless we ignore the inhuman growth angle and focus on the psychological damages…”

Jack threw his hands up. “I told you, I’m not interested in suing.”

Michelle gave him a deadpan look and took another sip. “Then what are you interested in?”

“Getting back to normal!” he shouted. “You remember? Six-one, two-hundred thirty pounds -”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, with skim milk, two pumps of caramel, and an extra shot. Don’t worry, we’ll get you back to being a grande soon enough.”

Jack just sighed and rubbed at his eyes, shaking his head. Meanwhile, Michelle casually finished her drink, setting the glass down like she were as sober as the preacher’s wife on Sunday, and turned to Brooke.

“I’m gonna need to speak with my client alone, sweetheart. Hope you don’t mind.”

Brooke rose from the table and nodded. She couldn’t help but feel a little stung, but knew better than that. “By all means,” she said, putting her hand in her pocket and heading inside, but not before grabbing the remnants of her own drink. “I’ll be at the computer.”


She’d found herself standing in the doorway to Jack’s old office, wondering why she felt so strangely jilted, when a thought occurred to her. Brooke turned, remembering another room at the opposite end of the long-abandoned hallway, and followed it to the closed door at the end. She turned the handle and opened it, and what greeted her eyes made her sad.

Before her was a sprawling bedroom, sparsely furnished. Two of the panes of glass from the window-walls were missing entirely, and when the door opened a pair of birds fluttered out in a hurry, startling her. The floor underneath one end of the bed frame was covered in guano, and the wood floor near the gaping hole to the outside world was warped and stained with moisture rot. The bed frame itself was shoved unnaturally up against one wall, which still bore the scars from the metal gouging into it.

Along another wall was a dark, open doorway which looked like a bomb had gone off inside. Clothes were strewn across the floor and spilling out: jeans and shirts, as well as slacks and suit jackets, socks and boxer briefs. When Brooke dared to creep in further, she noticed the bathroom to her left, a cavernous master suite… filled with broken glass. She recognized the shards as belonging to bottles of alcohol, thrown, it appeared, from outside. The mirror above the bathroom sink had long since shattered too; the bullseye hit on a target.

“Master Ilyin’s room,” Amos quietly said. It was so unexpected that she all but jumped out of her skin.

“He would get drunk and trash the place?” she guessed, tiptoeing around the shards of glass.

“The rest of the house, yes,” replied the light on the wall, hanging out of its socket. “It was different with this room.”

Brooke gave the place another once over, rubbing her chin. “Particularly intimate reminders of his old life,” she mused aloud. “The clothes and the broken mirror speak to that.” She studied the bed again for a moment. “He took the cal-king mattress downstairs, probably. But the frame still reminded him of what he used to have, so…” The young woman made a little punching gesture into the air.

“Indeed,” Amos said.

Brooke turned to the robot’s fixture in the wall, tucked the wires back in and finagled the faceplate and green light back into place. Then, wordlessly, she decided to go downstairs and grab a broom to begin sweeping up the glass. Brooke wasn’t sure why, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Chapter Text

Brooke was almost done cleaning the room when she was notified of her father calling the house. The Amos unit had started helping by taking the old clothes, which were well on their way to becoming little carpets of moss and fungi, and putting them into garbage bags, when it paused and looked her way.

“Miss Foster, I believe there’s a call for you,” it said.

“Oh!” She set the broom and dustpan full of glass aside and quickly headed for the computer room.”Amos, can you record this conversation please?”

The robot didn’t follow, but its voice did. “I can. Should you like to answer it now?”

Brooke settled into the computer chair, grabbed a pen and paper, and nodded. “Yep.”

A pause, then the line opened. “Hello?” she said. This was it, the moment they’ve all been waiting for.

“Hi Brooke,” Martin said. She could tell that he was in a quiet room. “I’m here with Lisa Thomas. You’re on speaker.”

A surge of excitement electrified her and she scooted up to the edge of the computer chair. “Hi, Lisa.”

She could make out a faint, sardonic chuckle in the background, then a simple: “Hi.” She sounded haggard, groggy. Defeated.

“So how come you’re willing to talk to us?” Martin asked.

“The jig is up, I guess. I know when I’ve lost.” She chuckled. “I’m also high as fuck on painkillers. That’s probably helping.”

“So, let’s hear it.”

“You’re asking for Ilyin again, right? Yeah, I remember Ilyin. Brilliant, famous, and a grade-A piece of shit,” she said. “So I cursed him. It’s just what I do. I made a deal with the devil once or something about it.”

“How well do recall the night of the party?”

“Like yesterday,” she said, pausing to cough. Then mumbled: “Man, I wish they’d let me have a cigarette. Anyways, I showed up to the party, impersonated a big NGO representative or something, and asked if he’d consider donating one of his Malevichs to auction on behalf of a children’s cancer research center. His reaction was… telling.”

“What’d he say?”

“Nigh threatened me with sexual assault in front of his guests before yelling at me to leave. I wasn’t phased. In my line of work, I’ve dealt with men who are actually dangerous, and I knew he wasn’t going to do anything in front of 200 people. I cursed him and left.”

“Why the tattoos? I can see some on your arm,” Martin said calmly. “And one on your neck.”

“Yeah, I’ve got more under these casts and bandages.” Brooke heard her shift around in the bed. “They’re just part of how the magic works. You can’t get something for nothing – the curses have to be paid for, you know.”

“…And when they’re not?”

“You get T-boned by a semi,” she said with a dark laugh.

“They’re all tarot cards,” Brooke finally said. “Why was Jack’s The Tower?”

“The picture on the card is one of a tower being struck by lightning and breaking apart. Everything you thought you knew, a lie. Everything you thought you had, taken from you. The higher you are, the harder you fall.” She snorted. “It’s it perfect?”

Brooke felt a little knot in the pit of her stomach, remembering what Jack Ilyin had done to deserve it. And he had deserved it.

“How does the magic work?” Martin asked.

“I still don’t know. It just does. I find somebody who I think needs to learn a lesson, think about the lesson I want them to learn, and it happens on its own.”

“Is there a way to lift these curses?”

“Yeah, by knowing you fucked up and walking away from your old life. But it never happens. Nobody ever learns their lesson. I cursed a coal mine company CEO – you know, the ones that do the mountain-top removal – so that the skin on his hands turned black. Coal black. Did he ever stop to think, hm, maybe what I’m doing is fucking evil? No. He just spent a half-million on cosmetic surgery and then just decided to wear gloves for the rest of his life.” She laughed again, then sighed. “God damn I want a cigarette.”

“You said this accident is related to the magic.”

Lisa glibly recounted the story of some high-profile lawyer and lobbyist who was responsible for putting LA public transportation through hell over the past 15 years on behalf of automobile interests. She snuck into a private gathering that he was attending several days before, and did her thing.

“I gave him the Chariot,” she said.

“The Chariot?”

“That card depicts a warrior in a chariot pulled by two sphinxes, one black, one white. It’s a card of mastery over moving parts, temperance, pure skill. It’s also, well, a chariot. It’s transport. So I think to myself… what would happen if one of the sphinxes went AWOL? That’s the target I painted on him.”

“…But it backfired.”

“Something came up, and I didn’t get the ink done in time, so I got the treatment instead.”

Brooke winced. “But you’re alive, though,” she said.

“I’m alive now,” Lisa said. “But trust me, I won’t be for long. Don’t know how, but shit finds a way.”

Just then she heard someone knocking on the door of the hospital room and entering. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave, Detective. We need to change her dressings and she needs to get some sleep.”

“Of course, sorry about that,” Martin said. There was more shuffling noises.

“Hey, hey wait,” Lisa called into the phone. “You said Ilyin wants to get back to normal? I’m on my deathbed, so I’m feeling generous. Tell him that what he needs to do is care about someone else more than himself, and care about something else more than his own work!”

“You get that, Brooke?” Martin said into the mouthpiece, having turned off speaker.

She sucked in a breath and set down her pen, realizing that she hadn’t written a damn thing. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I got that.”

Chapter Text

Brooke was left with the thought for the next hour as Jack continued to fill in his lawyer.

"Care about... someone else?" she murmured to herself as she chewed on the end of the pen and spun around in the chair. The young woman's stomach felt tight as she thought about it. As she thought about... that person maybe being her. "Nah," she decided, scoffing. "Don't even think about it."

But she couldn't not think about it. They were having sex, they seemed to be growing as friends, and...

She shook her head and repeated herself. "Don't even think about it."


When the sun dipped below the horizon, Amos informed her that Jack and Michelle's conversation was over and that dinner would soon be ready. She nodded and headed outside.

"I wish I could stay, Jack, but I've got to call the water taxi before it gets too late," Michelle said, looking at her very expensive watch as Brooke approached and took a seat at the far end of the table. Amos was bringing out the cart of plates, including Jack's enormous serving, as the lawyer began putting her things away.

"You're not going to stay for dinner?" he asked.

"I'll have a few bites, but its already nine."

"What'd... you guys figure out?" Brooke asked when her meal was placed before her: filet mignon, candied carrots, endive salad, rustic bread, and red wine. Jack, on the other hand, was given six porterhouse steaks (each with their filet intact), about three cubic feet of tossed salad, and a pair of loaves of the same bread. Michelle went straight for the wine before digging into her steak.

"It's a pretty simple case," she said. "Except for the fact that, well..." She gestured with the glass at Jack.

The giant man heaved a heavy sigh and brought a steak to his mouth. He held it pinched between two fingers as he tried to eat without making a mess. "To put it in plain English, we don't know what my goddamn rights are."

"We need to make sure he's still a legal person before we get anyone else involved," she clarified.

She hummed and hawwed a little. "We need to make sure he's safe..." Brooke chewed slowly as she thought. How could this be done, ensuring him some kind of recourse should the law not want to play fair? She thought and thought, and altogether suddenly remembered something. "Exposure!" she declared, excited by her own idea.

"Exposure?" Jack said.

Michelle cocked a brow. "No, that's... quite the opposite of what we need to do first, honey. He needs to be kept on the down -"

But Brooke shook her head firmly. "Visibility is his best defense right now," she said. "Record a video and send it to the press. Make him go viral. By tomorrow, millions of people could know what's happened to Jack Ilyin, and when the cops and the courts step in, a billion eyes would be watching their every move."

Jack and Michelle looked at each other for a second, before his mouth widened into a broad smile. "You hear that?" he said excitedly, pointing in Brooke's direction. "She's fuckin' brilliant, that one." He turned to her. "Brooke, I could kiss you right now!"

She blushed and bit her lip, but still smiled. "Save it for when it works," she dodged.

"Sounds like a good a plan as any," Michelle relented. "Still, I'm going to speak with a few law scholars I know about the whole human rights thing. See if we can't dig something up that will protect you because Patel is going to use every dirty trick in the book to get you out of the picture." She took one last bite of food before finishing her wine and standing up. "Even if that means getting you shipped off to a zoo. All the better for him."

Jack went to stand, but remembered that he was no longer six feet and change. Instead, he took Michelle's hand in both of his and shook her whole damn arm. "I'll get you those papers as soon as I can. There's gotta be something in there that can help me."

"If you're as smart as I think you are," she countered wryly, adjusting her glasses when Jack let her go, "Then there oughtta be. It's just a matter of reading all the fine damn print."

Jack gave Michelle his every last thanks, and sent her out with an extra bottle of wine. Brooke said her goodbyes, and the two of them waved from the house as she set down the path toward the dock.

"Isn't she great?" he beamed as they headed around back again. "She's great."

"Well, I'm sure she'd be less great if you weren't paying her so much."

"Everyone needs to be paid."

Brook swallowed and looked away. "I don't need to be paid," she said quietly.

"Of course you do. It's only fair."

They walked in silence for a few seconds as heat slowly rose to her face as she thought. Eventually, the words just came out of their own accord, it seemed: "Jack, what are we?" she asked, stopping in her tracks and looking up at the giant before her. "What the hell is this?"

He stopped, and frowned, and looked at her. Then he was suddenly crouched down, and there was something in his face that spoke of his being 15 years older. He studied her for a moment, reading her like a doctor reads a patient. "This is whatever you want it to be," he quietly rumbled in response.

A stupid goddamn lump hardened in her throat and she blinked back the pressure building in her eyes. "What if I don't know what I want this to be?"

His hand was on her back, his thumb on her shoulder, and Brooke had to look at the ground. "Then we play it by ear, and you let me know if you figure it out."

"Augh!" Brooke ripped herself from him and stormed away, back to the expensive teak dining set by the pool because that's where they'd started and that's where there was liquor. "Forget it." Then, quieter: "I'm just a dumb fuckin' kid." She reached for the opened bottle of wine and took a long swig, not even bothering with a glass.

There was the faint quaking of his footsteps as he came into view again. God, he was handsome. "Brooke, what's the matter?" he asked. His eyes were harder than they were warm; but that's just how he was. It was how he prepared himself for doing damage control.

She laid down on the grass, looking up at the stars, with the wine still in hand. She didn't want to answer, because there was no good way for any of this to come out.

"Brooke..."

He was standing over her now, like a tall pillar of hard muscle and blond fuzz, arms crossed over a chest thrice as broad as any other man's. Why did he have to do that? Why did he have to be so fucking hot? Why do I have to like him so much?

It was no use, though. She was going to have to tell him.

"I talked to my dad," Brooke said quietly. He gave her a look that told her he was confused as to how this related. "He found Lisa Thomas."

Jack's brows shot upward and he knelt at her feet, leaning in. "And?"

"She's OK but she's convinced she's going to die anyway." Another gulp of wine. "And yeah, she cursed you because you were a big-name asshole. Fessed up to that pretty readily."

"...What does all of this have to do with you? Us?"

Brooke took a deep breath and tried picking out some constellations, but all she could find was the Big Dipper. "She said the curse could be broken."

The air was suddenly very tense. "She did?"

"She said you... you had to care about s-something more than your own inventions," she began, then swallowed. Barely a whisper: "And that... you had to care about someone else more than yourself."

Jack's expectant posture drooped, his mouth became a fine line, and he wrung his hands as he looked away. "I... see."

They sat in silence like that for a few moments. "So that's it, then," she said quietly, still trying to get rid of that damn lump. "Assuming she's telling the truth, then... the proof is right here in front of me."

"Dammit, Brooke, what do you want me to say!" he said, suddenly rising to pace. "What am I supposed to do? What... fall in love with you?"

The tears flowed freely now and she sat up. "I don't fucking know, OK! I don't make the fucking rules!"

Jack scoffed; one of those anxious sounds people make as he ran his thick fingers through his hair. "What does that mean, anyway..." he muttered. "Care about someone more than... I care, alright?"

"Yeah, how much?"

"Dohuya," he said.

"What?"

"Dohuya! A hell of a lot!"

She looked at him through tear-streaked eyes. "But not more than yourself."

He buried his face in his hand and said nothing; just breathed those long, deep lungfuls of air.

"I'm going inside," Brooke murmured, standing up from the grass and brushing herself off. "I'll see you in the morning."

Chapter Text

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.

"What the..?"

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."

Click.

Chapter Text

“Oh goody,” Brooke said flatly as she stared at the news footage playing on the great room’s enormous screen. “We’re on TV.”

Before them was a live feed from one of the helicopters as it slowly loitered about the airspace above the island. They had the entire house in the camera’s sights, as well as the courtyard, some of the pool, and the front and south patios. The resolution was so good that she could even make out the outdoor furniture, and little dots that couldn’t have been anything other than the empty bottles that Jack had downed last night. She counted eight of them. At the top of the screen, in red and white, was a big title block that read BREAKING, and underneath that in smaller red and white was the word LIVE. At the bottom was somebody’s attempt at being cheeky: “Giant-Spotting On Ilyin Private Island”.

“If you’re just joining us now,” came the voiceover of an anchorman, “We are currently looking at the home of Jack Ilyin, the tech magnate who has taken the world by storm in his drunken confession video from last night, which he released after all but disappearing two years ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’ll be playing it again in a little while here…”

“Confession video!” Jack harumphed from where he lay down behind her, still nursing his hangover. He’d taken three more asprin and was now chugging a large bottle of Gatorade.

“Can you describe the situation, Tom?”

The audio cut to a man in the helicopter, his voice distorted by the loud whine of the engines. “Yes I can, Brent. So right now we’ve got the top of the Ilyin residence here, which is located on privately-owned Bell Island in the San Juan County of Washington State. Several features of the house are plainly visible, um, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any trace of Ilyin himself, or anything we could point to as evidence of anyone having grown to be twenty feet tall.”

“So you haven’t seen any activity yet?”

“That’s correct, Brent. But we’ll be here, and the moment that someone comes or goes from the house, we will be the first to capture that for our viewers.”

“Thank you Tom. In the meantime, we have a few guests joining us this morning by satellite to help us make sense of the Ilyin confession video.”

“It’s not a confession,” he groaned. Brooke shushed him.

The screen cut from the helicopter feed to the anchorman in the studio as he introduced three guest “experts”: some CGI wizard from a movie company and a forensic video analyst to attest to the legitimacy of the video itself, and a professor of orthopedics to talk about the physical limits of the human skeletal structure at scale.

“Should have just released a sex tape,” he snorted. “Amos, why the hell did you let me do that?”

“I aim to please, Master Ilyin.”

“Do I look pleased, Amos?”

The robot laughed then – laughed! It was a strange sound, and Jack and Brooke exchanged looks.

“You’ve… never done that before,” he said.

“This past week is teaching me much about human behavior, sir. I’m finding it… entertaining, I believe is the word.”

Jack groaned theatrically. “God, not you too!”

Brooke laughed as well and muted the TV from the over-sized tablet remote. “Think of it this way: you’ve gone viral, which is exactly what you needed to accomplish. The rest was going to happen anyway. At least it’s on your terms, now.”

Jack just sighed and closed his eyes. It was going to be a long day.

“Your suit, by the way,” the computer added, “Was estimated at around $14,000, not including the shoes.”

“Might as well place the order,” Jack huffed. “Looks like I’m going to have to make a public appearance here sooner rather than later.”

“What deadline should I give the atelier, sir?”

“ASAP.”


Brooke was in the kitchen, along with Amos, making herself a sandwich. Jack’s food stores were running low she’d noticed, and Amos explained that they got a delivery of food (and vodka, of course) every two weeks from ‘his man in Friday Harbor’: about $1500 worth.

“So, I got a question for you, Amos.”

“Yes, Miss Foster?”

“You want Jack to get back to normal, right?”

“Of course I do.”

“What if it means that you’ll go back to being your run-of-the-mill AI?”

The glossy white robot stopped spreading mustard on ten slices of bread and the little green light on its face held steady for a moment as it… what, computed?

“It appears that… we have a conflict of interest then,” it said, resuming work on Jack’s sandwiches, voice still amiable. There was an awkward silence before the robot continued. “However, my dedication to Master Ilyin is unwavering. Without him, I wouldn’t be here in any capacity.” It shrugged. Or, tried to. Its shoulder joints didn’t quite work that way.

“You’re quite the little robot, Amos,” Brooke said with a smile, patting it on it’s elegantly sculpted back. It didn’t seem to be expecting that, and its head jerked around to get a look at her.

“Thank you, miss Foster.”


Michelle Douglas and the sharp dressed man she had in tow didn’t bother knocking on the front door when they all but ran inside; it was their loud complaining that told Brooke that they had company.

“My god, it’s a madhouse out there!” she shouted as she quickly closed the door behind her. “Channels 4, 7, and 9 all have eyes in the sky, and there are at least forty boats crowding the sound! We could barely get to the dock without hitting somebody!”

“I have water rights 50 feet from the shore,” Jack shouted from the great room.

“Coast guard is doing crowd control,” she replied, stepping into the kitchen for a drink. “Oh, and I found you a PR man in Seattle.” Grabbing a tumbler from the freezer, she went into a cabinet under the counter that contained a mini fridge that Brooke didn’t know was there, and grabbed a bottle of Laphroaig.

“Gonna need ‘im,” Jack grunted from the great room.

The PR man was shorter than Michelle, but every bit the well-manicured, well-paid urbanite, complete with silk tie, expensive suit, designer sunglasses, and some kind of ring on his left thumb that had a carbon fiber inlay. He’d kept silent so far, but had been busy absorbing the strange new surroundings, getting a bead on his new client.

“First off,” Michelle said, leaning against the counter with scotch in hand, “The video? It’s real.”

“It… is?”

She nodded. “If I told you any sooner, you’d have thought I deserved to have my license taken away.” She shrugged. “So, here we are. And it is real.”

The public relations specialist rubbed his chin, suddenly not quite sure about this job anymore. “Uh… huh.”

Brooke and Michelle looked at each other before heading out of the kitchen. “C’mon, he’s over here.”

Jack was in the other room, watching the news broadcast lose its shit over the arrival of the two newcomers, and throwing the last of the ten sandwiches down his gullet.

“Alright, so, we have confirmed that this was indeed Jack Ilyin’s lawyer setting foot on the scene,” the closed captioning frantically parsed. “This is a very good indication that Ilyin is, in fact, present on the property right now. While there is still no sign of him, giant or not, he’ll have to come out eventually…”

“Christ,” Brooke gawked. “They’re acting like this is a damn hostage situation.”

“Jack, Ryan. Ryan, Jack,” Michelle said.

Ryan the PR guy stammered a few nonsense syllables at first, before extending his hand to the giant man sitting cross-legged on the floor shakily. “P-pleasure, M-Mr. Ilyin.”

Jack just glanced at the hand, and looked back to the TV. “I’ll shake your hand when you’re in the mood to tear your rotator cuff,” he sighed.

Ryan looked back to Michelle, then back to Jack, then back to Michelle. “I mean… his voice sounded deep in the video, but I just… I guess I just figured…”

Brooke just snorted. “My introduction was a giant hand coming at me, so this is nothing.” She elbowed Jack in the arm. He smiled and rolled his eyes.

“Wait, who are you, anyway? A housekeeper?”

“Brooke Foster, PI-in-training.”

The Brooke? The one from the -?”

“Yes,” Jack cut in. “The same one.”

“She…”

He nodded. “I was drunk off my ass, but what I said was true.”

“Alright, well…” Ryan reached into his bag and produced four newspapers, each with the Jack Ilyin story on the front page, and dropped them onto the ground for all to see. The fourth was a tabloid, speculating something scandalous about this mysterious Brooke person. “You’re going to have to reel in the honesty. I know you’re Russian -”

Nu, tak chto zh?

“Er..?”

“Yeah, and?

“You’re gonna have to play this like an American.”

Jack scoffed. “Yeah, yeah. Let someone else do all the talking.”

“Exactly. And that person is me. So, first things first.” Ryan reached into his pocket for his phone and began to type away with his thumbs. “You need to write up a press release, like, yesterday. Literally. Secondly…” He gestured at Jack’s whole person. “We need to get you looking presentable. You don’t have any clothes, do you?”

“Yeah, I checked Big and Tall. Their ‘gargantuan’ section left a lot to be desired.”

“Oh-kay. Well, we’re going to need to -”

Jack stared the man down. “I’m working on it,” he said flatly.

“I think we should get him something to wear in the meantime,” Brooke said. “Jack, what if we sent someone to a fabric store to get you a few bolts of fabric that we could make some simple pants out of? Drawstring waist, something real basic.”

“Enough to theoretically put on for cameras,” Michelle said.

“Closest fabric store is going to be in Bellingham,” Ryan said, stroking his chin.

The lawyer looked at him. “Can you make this happen in the next four hours?”

“Don’t look at me, I’ve got a press strategy to come up with!”

“I’ll do it,” Brooke offered, with a little less enthusiasm than normal. Once again, she was feeling out of her league – like she should maybe go home. She also barely knew how to sew.

Jack looked at her, though she didn’t see it. “Hey, could you two go upstairs for a few?” he said. “I’d like to speak to Brooke in private.”

Her gaze lifted to his for a moment, a questioning look on her face, and there was a trace of concern in his blue eyes.

Ryan shrugged. “I better get to work anyway.”

Michelle started pushing at the screen on her own phone with a frown. “I’ve got to make a few calls. Take all the time you need.”

With that the two of them disappeared up the stairs.