Brute Heart
by Luna

i. black shoe

So much for a stylish entrance: Sam breaks the Manolo's heel against the curb, goes stocking-footed into the office.

His head's down, fingers crooked around a pen. "Not now," he says, and then looks up. "Oh, you're--"

"Your new transfer. Samantha Spade." She stares at him, waiting for a crack about her name. He doesn't blink.

"Right. Jack Malone." He stands, looks her over. "You're barefoot."

She holds up her damaged sandal. Jack whistles. "Save those for dancing."

"You do a lot of dancing in this job?"

"You have no idea." It's the first time she sees him smile.


ii. i have had to kill you

He has no physical evidence of her. No scraps of clothing, no perfumed notes, no photographs. If he had, he'd gladly burn it in the oven, a sacrifice to his marriage, his children.

Marie's hands jitter on the kitchen table. She's lost her voice from shouting, so he barely hears her. "Why should I believe you?"

Jack can't answer that. "I can't answer that. But it's true. I don't see her anymore."

"You see her every day."

"I don't fuck her anymore." He tastes bile as he says it.

She sees him wince; her hands fall still. She whispers, "Go."


iii. green over blue

Sam's first case is a contractor named Tony Antonini. "Anthony Antonini," she says aloud, and instantly likes the missing fifty-year- old. She's not surprised it's organized crime, but she still throws up into the East River when they fish his bloated body out of it.

She hears a step behind her, and Jack saying, "It won't always be like this."

She grips the guardrail, eyes shut against the blue current. When she trusts herself to talk, she says, "You mean, I'll get used to it?"

"No. You won't." His fingers press strength into her shoulders. "But sometimes, you'll find them alive."


iv. in the german tongue

The year his family moved overseas, Jack was eleven and tall, his weight lagging behind his growth so his elbows stuck out like wings. He didn't have friends on the base, or on the continent.

He learned German from the comics. This girl in the store, a stranger, watched him through thick yellow bangs. He saw her three times before he had the nerve to say hello. She kissed him fast on the mouth, against the Supermann shelf. An introduction to desire.

Thirty years later, he hates himself for remembering, and harboring a weakness for heroes, stolen kisses, golden hair.


v. stuck in my jaw

"Want an apple?" Vivian asks, leaning against the corner of Sam's desk. "It looks like we'll be working through lunchtime."

Sam reaches around stacked paperwork and takes the apple with a smile. It tastes like summer vacation. Sometimes she wonders what brought her to this city where trees grow in cages.

"You're new to this. I've known Jack for a long time." Vivian's voice is light, friendly. "He's brilliant, but he doesn't always think about what he's getting himself into. Know what I mean?"

She's grateful for the mouthful of fruit, an excuse to shrug silently, pretending she doesn't understand.


vi. and the language obscene

He's permitted to kiss his daughters goodnight, tuck them in, read Harry Potter aloud until they're snoring. He leaves their door ajar behind him. Marie's waiting at the end of the hall.

"Thanks," he says, although he shouldn't have to.

She nods, pulling her hair back. "The girls really shouldn't suffer because of this."

"I agree."

"But they will." Her mouth is a bleak horizontal. "Because you had to chase some slut with a badge."

"Don't," he says. Much louder, harsher than he intended. "Don't talk about her that way."

Marie edges backward like he's slapped her. Maybe he has.


vii. an engine

They're taking the Jersey Turnpike to retrieve a runaway. The air- conditioning's dead, and the engine's loud even when it's idling. Sam unfastens another button on her blouse. "What's this traffic?"

"People heading out to the shore." Jack lets the wheel go to loosen his tie.

"Lucky them." She fans herself with the Kaplowitz file. The sun blazes off the cars. "I'm going to melt."

"Yeah?" He looks at her. Lifts his hand to her cheek, testing her temperature. She's holding her breath.

A horn blares, separating them. But her face is burning, and his hand never returns to the wheel.


viii. not very pure or true

The witness's sweat stinks up the interrogation room. Jack's pretty sure this isn't their kidnapper, pretty sure the polygraph's a formality. He watches with his eyes half-closed.

"Have you ever cheated on your wife?" asks the administrator.

It's just a standard question, breaking up the rhythm of name, rank and serial, but the witness practically falls off his chair. "I'd never hurt her."

"Yes or no," Jack says, not moving from the wall.

"Fuck the machine, man! I swear. I'd never hurt her."

Jack squints at the graph's sharp teeth and frowns. "The truth," he lies, "will make you free."


ix. luftwaffe

Only the third time and everything is still new, memorable, from the way Jack's tongue flicks at her nipples to the powdery smell of hotel sheets. She runs a fingernail along the hook-shaped scar on his thigh. "You were in the military?"

"74th Airborne." He says it like a punchline, but there's unmistakable pride underneath.

"Were you a pilot?"

His hands slide deep into her hair. "Nah."

"Too bad." She grins. "I always had a thing for the Red Baron."

He groans. "You've got the wrong Army." But in another minute the sheet's over her head and he's not complaining.


x. every woman adores a fascist

At eight a.m., Jack's either finishing an all-nighter or beginning another long day. He's going down for food when Paula Van Doren slips into the elevator, asks, "How's Fitzgerald working out?"

"Fine." He knows she already knows that. He waits for what she's really trying to say.

"Sometimes it's tough when a unit's chemistry changes." She studies his face doubtfully. "Sometimes a new agent isn't a blessing."

Jack turns, teeth grinding as the elevator slows. "I'm in control of my team. Do you have a problem?"

"Not yet." She smirks, clicking her heels. "Just keep the trains running on time."


xi. at the blackboard

It's everything they have of the Evans girl. Lunch menus, bus schedules, school picture beaming from the board. Jack breathes audibly as he takes it down, and Sam sighs with him.

Martin almost raises his hand and then catches himself. "It's only been a week. She could still--"

"We have other cases." Jack's voice is flat as a knife turned sideways. He's no actor and she's not fooled: he'd walk through hellfire to bring these parents back their baby.

Sam crosses her legs, thighs tender where his touch has left marks. It'll happen again tonight. It's everything they have.


xii. pretty red heart

Marie is waiting patiently for him in the outer office, smiling through Danny's lame version of small talk. She reaches into her coat pocket as Jack comes over. "Kate made you this," she says.

Lace glued onto red construction paper. Lopsided, grape-soda scented printing. "In school?"

"Mm, and I figured, since you won't see them until the weekend--"

There are only inches between them, and it's almost everything it should be until she steps back. He follows Marie's gaze, catches the bright flash of Sam's hair as she walks out.

It's Valentine's Day. His wife doesn't quite kiss him.


xiii. they pulled me out

She'll never forget this, screaming September daylight, three blocks away from the nightmare. The way Jack comes for her, a man in black pushing through the madding crowd, seizing her arms to make sure she's whole.

"Christ. Samantha. Fucking Christ."

"I had to come," she begins, coughs, tries again. "I could help, maybe...get names or something, but they. They wouldn't let me." Coughing. "They..."

"Come on." Tugging her gently, lips at her ear. "We can't stay here. You can't breathe."

It dawns: what the smoke means, what the ashes are. Breathless, burning-eyed, she falls into him. He leads her home.


xiv. the rack and the screw

ABBA plays on the jukebox, and Sam and Martin dance.

Jack's only a little drunk. He looks around for someone to argue with, but no one's there. Danny left ages ago, sober as a Sunday suit, and Vivian went home to kiss her boy goodnight. He gets up, gripping the table--barely drunk at all--and paces toward the door.

Nothing's waiting for him. No, "Hey, honey, how was your day." Nothing but the torture of sleeping alone in a double bed.

So he stays, leaning on the wall, watching them together. Turns out he's drunk enough to stand it.


xv. if i've killed one man, i've killed two

Once--she was still a teenager--she packed a suitcase while her husband cried in the next room. "Can't I do anything?" Brian pleaded. "Anything to change your mind."

Sam just said, "No." She'd dithered for weeks; deciding had turned her hard and cold. An ice maiden. She walked out of her first love without a backward glance.

Ten years later, she sits on a bed, watching Jack button his shirt. Briefly, he buries his face in his hands. "I have to stop this," he says.

She wonders if he can hear the ice cracking inside her. She says, "Yeah."


xvi. they always knew

He sits by the bed until Marie stirs, her eyes widening in the morning light. Her pajamas droop, baring one shoulder. "Hi," she says.

Jack lets his head touch the wall. "Hi."

"I saw the hostage situation on TV. I..." She yawns. "I was really scared. I almost went down there, but then I thought that was crazy."

"Everything about tonight was crazy."

Marie hesitates. "Is she okay?"

He can still feel Sam's arm around his neck. "She will be."

"If you'd gotten hurt--" Marie struggles upright.

He shades his eyes. He is so tired. He says, "It's over."


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