Jack keyed the locked on the apartment door and walked in. He was hoping that Anna would be running errands or at the Hoffmann office. But he knew that wasn’t the case. The team had been in Milwaukee for two days with Sal and Nat sending crazy video from the mission. Anna was going to be here, wide awake and waiting. Mercifully most of the team’s phones were trashed in the fight in the sewer. Otherwise Anna would have been blowing them up looking for details and making sure they were alright. He felt bad about it but he just didn’t want to deal with the boss part of Anna’s job right now.
As he walked in Anna came out of the kitchen. She ran to hug him but stopped just short.
“Jack! Thank God you’re…uh, you smell awful. Are you okay? what happened?”
Jack tried not to be frustrated. It wasn’t Anna’s fault but he had reached his tipping point hours ago and was trying to keep from going off. He set his bag down on the full and tried to calm down. “Count to ten,” he heard the therapist saying in his head.
“What didn’t happen? We fought some shape shifting whatever the fuck they were things and I got hit by one. So now Hoffmann will send me back to New York and shoot me full of that silver shit while I sit on my ass and do nothing. Everything I eat tastes like nickels for two months after that. I lost one of my guns so some gang banging piece of shit has an untraceable weapon. Most of the team’s phones got wrecked. Sal, Mia and Nat got fucked up and Wade just about died drowning in sewage. We left a mess in a warehouse that a department with maybe one decent cop has to clean up. I am still half covered in shit. That creepy, mind bending friend of yours did something to my head that I can’t figure out. And I fucking hate Milwaukee.”
Anna let it roll right off of her. She knew that Jack was venting and that it he had to do it. But it was still hard to not feel somewhat responsible since she sent them there in the first place.
“Jack, I don’t think you have to go to New York. Sal said those rat men…”
“Sal can fuck off. I don’t care what kind of things they were. Hoffmann is going to be cautious and won’t listen to a damn word we say about it. They don’t even like Sal.”
“Let me see what I can do,” she said calmly. Talking to Jack when he was pushed too far was like negotiating with a cross between and angry child and a hungry bear. “Can I get you anything?”
Jack exhaled. " I just want a shower. And I want need some sleep."
The sun coming through the widow woke Jack up. He rolled over and looked at the clock. 12:30. He had about an hour before the briefing at Hoffmann. Plenty of time. He swung his legs out from under the covers and sat on the edge of the bed for a minute. A couple of quick sniffs and he knew the thirty minutes in the shower had done the job. He no longer smelled like used Old Milwaukee. Clothes, lunch and on to the debriefing. Piece of cake.
As he walked into the kitchen Anna was sitting at in the table with her coffee. “There’s cold chicken in the fridge if you want some. I also made a sandwich for you if you want it. It’s in by the milk.”
“Thanks,” Jack grunted in reply. He grabbed the sandwich and the milk and joined her at the table.
Anna drink her coffee slowly, watching him over the rim of her cup. He still had a bit of that restless animal energy. Missions like this often took a full day or two for Jack to fully calm down. She was still surprised at the amount of adrenaline he could summon when he needed it. The downside was it took so long for him to wind down. Sometimes the best way to help was to take his mind off of it. She wanted to know the details of what happened. It was her job, sure. But she cared so much about the team. Nat was one of her best friends. Jack was her…boyfriend? Sure. But the word sounded weird with him. Sal was starting to grow on her once you got past all the handsome guy womanizing appearance. Her friends and the people she was responsible for had been in danger. She as glad they were back safe and sound. For now, waiting for Jack’s report was going to be the best way to go. As Agent In Charge he had to write it. He was great at writing reports. It must have been the former cop in him. He got the details. It was clinical and to the point. But at least she’d have that. Now was not the time to ask. For now she wanted to get Jack settled.
“How is Natalie doing?,” she said, taking another sip.
Jack stop chewing and looked from the window to her like he just realized she was sitting across from him. “Huh? Oh, yeah. She’s good. Wade was the one I was worried about. Sal, too. He got some of that, what do you call it, ichor? Yeah, some of that right in his face. I had to wash it off in that shitty water. It was a mess.”
“No, Jack. I mean how is Natalie doing? How is it going with Wu or her MMA training?”
Jack stopped chewing again an looked stared at her. “What the hell does Wu have to do with anything? He’s just an FBI guy we know.”
“Natalie and Wu are an item. Did you even know that? She could see the hangry half animal part of his brain trying to process what sounded like a foreign language.
“What do you mean, an ‘item’?”
“They are seeing each other, Jack. Like dating. They started training together and it just happened. He was in her corner for her last fight. Jack, do you even know what is going on in her personal life? Take her to lunch. Ask her how she’s doing. Go to one of her fights.”
“Hang on a second. What? Ask her about Wu? Why? That’s her business”
“Jack, you need to know about your team. You need to know what’s going on with them. Sal is seeing someone, too?”
“Sal sees a lot of ‘someones’”.
“It’s the same woman, Jack. He has been seeing her for some time now.”
Jack slumped back in his chair and sighed. “Where is all of this coming from? We do our missions and go our own ways. I don’t need to know what they are doing and they don’t need to know my business either.”
Anna leaned forward and put her hand on his arm. “That works great for you. I get it. You come back from a mission and pace around or hit a heavy bag and then sleep for a whole day. Then you’re done. It doesn’t work that way for everyone. They know you have their safety in mind. They know you’ll do anything to keep them safe on a mission. But people need to know you actually care what’s going on in their lives and show some interest.”
“But I’m not interested.”
“Ok. I’ll ask Natalie how she is doing and take her to lunch. But do I have to go to her fights? Fighting for money is…I don’t like it. I don’t fight unless I have to and then it’s no rules. Hurt them bad before they do it to you. This MMA stuff just seems…wrong.”
“She knows how you feel, Jack. She understands. But it hurts her. She respects you, more than you’ll ever know. I bothers her that what she is passionate about you can’t even watch. She fights and it’s a big deal and you don’t even show up or ask. You even called it “play fighting”.
“That’s because it IS, dammit!. In reality if a guy knocks you out in the street he’s going to do more than go through your wallet. You can’t tap out. He stomps your head into the curb and leaves you gurgling on your own snot. There’s no ref to stop it. You can fucking die. So when it starts you finish it. Hard and fast. Brutal as you need to be. That’s not what she’s doing.”
‘So you don’t respect her then?"
“No, dammit. I mean, yes. Yes I respect her. She has always had my back and kept me safe, too. But this isn’t a mission. This is fighting for fun, or whatever. I can’t get that. It makes no sense to me.”
“But it does to her. You need to go. She wants your support. You don’t have to like it. But you need to go. For her. And Sal, too.”
“Jesus. I have to ask Sal the details about who he’s fucking now?”
“Maybe, just maybe he actually likes her. Maybe she likes him. This is important stuff. You need to be a friend as well as their colleague.”
Jack sat back and put his hands on his face. He rubbed his head like he was washing the rest of Milwaukee off and exhaled hard. “Okay, fine. I will ask Sal and Natalie to lunch. I will go to one of Nat’s fights. Square?”
“Mia, too. And Danielson. Ask them, too. Maybe Danielson would like to take my sister out. They may be a good pair.”
“Smith and your sister? Jesus. Where did this come from? And don’t call him Danielson. It’s weird.”
’That’s his name, Jack."
“It’s not what we call him. Fine. Whatever. Sign me up and I’ll go. I gotta go get dressed and write a report.”
Anna watched Jack get up and head to the bedroom. “I’ll set up some double dates,” she called after him.
“Whatever. Sure,” he called back.
“That ought to get his mind off Milwaukee,” she said to herself as she took another sip of her coffee and smiled.