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And Now We’ve Carved Out a Life

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July 24th, 1939 wasn’t a special day to anyone, lest- it shouldn’t be. It was just another Monday; another dreary, slightly grey Monday morning, where the sun was doing its level best to push through the clouds that filled the sky of Richmond, and rain was failing in a thin sheet outside the front window. 9:47 in the morning on July 24th shouldn’t feel special either- it was not early enough for cool winter sun to half-heartedly warm the house, nor was it early enough for the birds still to be singing but, for some reason it did, and Phryne Fisher felt that inexplicable happiness of a special day deep down in her chest. Today was a special day- though, not in the most common of senses. It wasn’t an anniversary, nor was it a birthday, and it certainly wasn’t as if she had any social arrangements to go to. Those had dropped back over the last few years, she thought to herself- they had been plentiful after her first return from England in the spring of 1930, and a few had even lingered after her second return from England in 1933, but in the space of six years, social invites were now few and far between, usually limited to Aunt P’s birthday, and the Fireman’s and Policeman’s ball every year. Just the two events- two events that she cherished with her heart and soul, though, perhaps one more so than the other. It wasn’t as if she didn’t enjoy the social gatherings that her aunt threw together, but more the fact that everyone at said events always asked one too many questions. Phryne, in bed and alone with her thoughts, yawned, and for the first time that morning, opened her eyes, stretching her arms, and grasping the empty sheets that her hand had fallen upon for the second morning in a row, though, it didn’t trouble her all too much. It used to.
When she had first risked everything, if she woke up and the sheets were cold it would chill her to the core, and she wouldn’t know how to react properly. She’d wander aimlessly around the house, worrying her hired help, scaring the cat, and eventually sinking into the leather of someone else’s favourite armchair with her head in her hands. Now, however, ten years later, Phryne knew that it was more than likely that her bed was simply cold due to a desire to get out on a bike before the whole world was up and about- before the sun was too hot, and before cycling shorts were far too indecent for the everyday streets of Richmond.
A silly little smiled pulled at Phryne’s lips as she rolled over in bed, spread-eagling out across the covers, and hugging the blue pillow to her chest, as a happy sigh escaped her lips. Considering the scent of herbs and frying bacon that was on the air, it seemed more likely that her bed partner had simply escaped her clutches to cook breakfast. Another happy sigh escaped her lips- which was somewhat out of the love for a habitual life.

Ten years ago, Phryne Fisher would never have imagined lying in bed thinking about Jack Robinson at almost ten in the morning- and if she had, it would have been flipping his card over in her fingers, contemplating whether it would be useful to call him in for help on the Andrews case. Now, however, she thought of him with nothing but love, which of course, ten years ago, she would never have even considered a state of being that matched her title. The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher simply didn’t fall in love, it wasn’t acceptable. She had flings, she danced with men, and she certainly didn’t marry. Well. She still didn’t marry, yet, her body seemed to have... settled, and so had her mind. She smiled again, and looked around the bedroom she was asleep in with the remnants of a grin on her face. The room was almost as fashionable now as it had been when they first decorated in 1934, when the house had been renovated out of the terrible wallpaper that it was home to in the 10’s, and drawn quickly up into the style of the late 20’s, much similar to how Wardlow had looked, but also more simple, gentle, easier on the eye. Wardlow had gone up for sale just after the stock market had crashed, and Phryne missed it dreadfully. So much as her own investments had been wise and stable, she had worried, and taken the time to sell off the home that she had held so dear since returning to the Antipodes. It had been a toiling time- trying to pay Mr. Butler enough to persuade him that he could leave her, getting Dot set up in the home she and Hugh Collins had chosen to raise a family in, and also figuring out her own issues; finding somewhere else to live.
That’s when Jack had opened her doors to her- his home close to City South being offered as a share with her; a woman being behind its doors since Rosie had left in 1927, and after she had collected the last of her things in 1929. When Phryne had arrived for the first time, it had been on shaky legs, and her eight cases had taken up more of the house than she had. After having to leave so suddenly for England and Jack never coming after her, their relationship had been on stilts- unsteady, unsafe, and full of untrodden ground.

The first week of the shared commodities had been awkward. Phryne smiled forlornly at the memory and hugged the pillow a little closer to her chest: there had been so many pieces of the house that were clearly designed by Rosie, and had hurt her heart to look at to start with; Jack’s bedroom being one of those areas. Obviously, and not just because of the presence that Rosie seemed to still have, she took her own room, but when she wasn’t out chasing criminals, or sleeping in the room of which she had procured for herself, she was sat quietly in the window seat of the parlour, with her head in her hands, or perhaps, with a book in her lap. The parlour connected with the kitchen, and every day when Jack returned home, he would smile sadly at Phryne as she read her books, before getting the necessary supplies out the cool box to make dinner, which they would eat together, but in silence, save for the smooth jazz that the record player would churn out, night in and night out. When dinner was done, Phryne would return to her books, and Jack would take whiskey and Shakespeare to his room, leaving her in the lone light of the candles. Her silence spoke to him- and he left their relationship at that: he had opened his home, yet she had not opened her heart: they were back at page one, once again.
After a week of silence, Jack was tired, after two, he was bereft. After a month, he had run out of Shakespeare, and he knew full well that Phryne had run out of D.H Lawrence: he had seen her rereading “Rainbow” four times in the last three days- and at this point he had decided that change needed to come- it was killing him to see Phryne like this.

Phryne wiped a stray tear that seemed to be making its way down her cheek, and let her thoughts drift again.

She had been sat reading “Rainbow” again, her head against the cool windowpane, and the rain falling in thick sheets outside, even if it had been sunny only a half hour earlier. A sad sigh had escaped her lips, and she had closed the book with a slam, the weather perfectly reflecting how she felt inside: gloomy, dreary, and all round dampened. She knew that the silent treatment she was giving darling Jack had no reasoning behind it at all, other than the pain she felt from having to put Wardlow up for sale, but she had no reason to be quite so sombre as that they didn’t even talk, and he had to resort to drinking whiskey all alone in his room while the jazz crooned on in the background, rather than taking to the living room floor and waltzing with her like he had once at Wardlow. It was at 4:35 on that dreary afternoon that Phryne Fisher decided to clean up her act; and clean up her act she did. With a laugh, the gramophone had been put back to use, and walked into the kitchen, scouring the fridge for ingredients, and using her tiny cooking repertoire, whipped up an omelette with herbs that were likely fresh from the garden. The stove was turned on at five, and at the usual time of ten after, Jack’s footsteps could be heard coming up the back path, and the door was unlocked.
When Jack had walked into the kitchen that day to find Phryne dancing to jazz music and cooking (of all things!), his only reaction had been silence, before he had closed the door behind him, and sunk down into his usual chair at the head of the table. Neither of them had spoken for a good couple of minutes, and when they had, it had been at the same time- both of them uttering an awkward “How was your day?”. Jack had had no choice to smile- it was the first time he had heard Phryne’s lilting voice for almost a month.

1939 Phryne smiled and sat up in bed, pulling the covers up to her chest, and tucking her knees under her chin. She remembered that day with a certain fondness that she didn’t associate with very many things at all, save her very first meeting with ‘Inspector Robinson’ in Lydia Andrew’s bathroom. That dinner on the rainy night had been one of the best they had shared since Café Répliqué (and even then, this was only a winner by the fact that the kisses shared were not only in the line of duty). The dinner in Jack’s kitchen had been filled with laughter and catching up, and when Phryne was stood at the stove, she could have sworn that Jack had just been watching her- the sparkle back in his eyes for the first time in all too long. When Jack had offered Phryne a nightcap that evening once they had stood side by side doing the washing up, Phryne had had no choice but to say yes, and both of them had spent all too long sat in front of the fire, talking about cases, and explaining themselves. Later- many hours and many glasses of whiskey later, Jack had bid Phryne goodnight, and they had gone their separate ways to their rooms, him pressing a gentle kiss to her cheek in parting. That night, she had crept into his bed, and they had simply lain together, his arms around her shoulders, and her head on his chest, for they were back on track once again: finally.

Phryne smiled, and reached for the gilded photo frame that lay on her bedside table, as it had for the past four years, and regarded its contents with a sappy smile on her face- it was a photo that she absolutely treasured, and likely would treasure forever. She remembered the day it had been taken in a crystal-clear manner. The sun had been beating down, and Mac had offered to take a photo of Jack and Phryne with their newest purchase: a home together. It had been a few weeks after finding their feet again that Phryne had shared her feelings about Rosie’s essence in the house, and only days later, Jack had taken her to visit the local estate agent’s, telling her it was an undercover assignment, and having her go by Pearl, and himself by Archibald. She had laughed at that, but four months later, they had found the most perfect little bungalow in Richmond, and Phryne had put in an offer on ‘The Joneses’ behalf, and lo and behold, they were suddenly the owners of a home together- not caring for the fact they were not married, but simply basking in the fact that this was as close to settled as they would ever get- and Jack was happy with that. He didn’t ask for much from Phryne, but he did ask that she took care of the house’s decor, and that was the question he had popped in the photo that Phryne held in her hands now. Even in the black and white, it was clear quite how much Phryne was laughing, how her hands were on Jack’s lapels, and how she was quite clearly in her element- head thrown back, clasping onto the man she loved. She had whispered that in his ear later when they were alone, lying back on a blanket in their new back garden, and he had smiled wider than she had ever experienced him smile before. He had said he knew, and had wondered when she would say it- was knowing him for six years long enough?, and Phryne had peppered his face with kisses, for, how sweet it was to be in love.

Current day Phryne pulled herself out of bed, and wrapping a robe around herself and smoothing her hair, before popping into the bathroom and sorting the makeup that was sat under her eyes- oh the joys of not properly removing makeup!
Dropping back into the bedroom, Phryne sighed, and hummed under her breath: ten years ago, this picture of domesticity would never have even been in her peripheral vision, and now she was here, she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, being with anyone else, having anyone else to love other than Jack. She turned down the cover just as Dot had showed her too many a time before, and slipped her feet into her slippers before leaving the room, and wandering across to the doorway of the kitchenette. The house wasn’t big, but it fitted the both of them perfectly, and was beautifully decorated. Most importantly, thought Phryne as she leant in the doorway, it had Jack, and that was all that truly mattered. She stood in the doorway and got her first glimpse of the man in question for that morning, wearing the blue satin pyjamas she had gifted him oh so many years ago, and with his glasses perched on his nose, newspaper open on his lap, pencil between his teeth, struggling with the daily crossword in the Argus, and getting a tad bit frustrated when he couldn’t quite think of the right word to fill the blanks, muttering the clues under his breath. Phryne internally giggled- the Argus crosswords were getting harder and harder, and as he aged, Jack had started doing them more and more. When he was 34, the crosswords were easy and he found them easy, but now at 44, his mind failed him a little more often, and his words were only ever police-work related unless he was talking to Phryne. His muttering under his breath persisted.
“Eros... Eros... Greek God of...” his brow furrowed, and Phryne laughed.
“Love!” she said as she walked into the room, and Jack beamed at her presence, putting down the paper and sweeping her into a hug, kissing her forehead and then her his lips as they did every morning.
“Do I smell breakfast?”
Jack laughed.
“Good morning to you too, Miss Fisher.” He said fondly,
“I am happy to say that you do indeed smell breakfast- I got up slightly early to grab the newspaper, and made an omelette because I figured the scent might rouse you out of bed- cheese and chive, the same as ever- and there’s coffee in the pot if you need it.”
Phryne detatched herself from Jack, and poured herself a cup of coffee, Jack sitting back in his chair as she helped herself to sustenance and hmmed in delight.
“You darling man.” She said simply, as she leant against the worktop and forked the first mouthful of omelette into her mouth, grinning like a cat who had got to the cream. Jack glanced back up to her with a bemused smile on his face, and straightened the vase of flowers that were on the table.
“So you’re not going to chaste me for getting up without you then, Phryne?” he asked, half softly, and half as a joke, and Phryne laughed- the intended effect.
“Of course not, Jack!” she said with a smile, bouncing over to put her plate on the table, before returning to the stove to top off her cup of coffee, and sipping it happily as Jack gazed at her.
Her mind wandered, and as the gramophone carried on with music in the background, she smiled hazily.
“Jack?”
“Hmmm?”
He didn’t look up from his crossword, and Phryne used her favourite, age old technique, taking the paper from his hands, and folding it, not looking at the headline that blared possible countries... starting something that would dredge up issues from the past, but rather placing her derriere on the edge of the table, and flicking her feet up onto Jack’s lap.
“Do you feel a strange sense of deja vu?”
Jack hummed in response, and Phryne took that as a yes, her heart feeling full in her chest.
“We’ve carved out such a beautiful life together, Jack.” She said softly,
“Since I started again, since we moved here- even just since that silly day that I put down “Rainbow” and actually talked to you. When I was cooking and you were looking at me like just now when I was at the stove- the rain, now and then, the jazz. Jack.”
Her voice gentle, almost sad, and Jack felt his heart melt for her- this silly, delightful woman who had pushed her way into his life, and ended up making it so much better than it had been without her. How she had opened up his eyes again, how she had managed to make him whole. He looked up at her with kind eyes.
“It does feel familiar, Miss Fisher.” He said endearingly, and she beamed at him,
“Even the silly little omelette, and the music.”
Phryne leant down, and kissed Jack soundly on the lips. He was right- everything was the same, but at the same time, everything was different- after all: ten years ago, Phryne Fisher wouldn’t have settled down with any man, and now, here she was, kissing one at the breakfast table while the rain fell outside, knowing that they were sturdy, stable- in love, and likely together until the end- whenever that was.
Phryne’s eyes filled with tears, and she looked at Jack, who pulled her carefully off the table and into his lap, crossword forgotten. His eyes were shining too, and Phryne’s voice cracked lightly as she spoke.
“Yes Jack.” She said gently, brushing his face with caring fingers,
“Even the silly little omelette.”