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Your Heart Shines Like the Sun

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“I am never getting out of this bed.”

 

Jack raised his eyes from the buttons of his shirt, looking past his own reflection when a rumpled-looking head peeked out from underneath the duvet and began speaking unexpectedly.

 

“Does that offer include me, or should I secure my own room while there are still vacancies available?” he shot back casually, forcing himself to return to his buttons lest his wildly beating heart jump out of his open collar. Her bare face had that effect on him even under the best of circumstances. And when she’d just flown him halfway across Asia and he hadn’t had the chance to show her his appreciation, he had to actively restrain himself from joining her on the bed.

 

Her eyes still half-closed, Phryne shifted a little and unintentionally treated him to a glimpse of her long, graceful throat. Making matters even worse, his mind instantly began to calculate the exact number of kisses and soft bites he would be able to plant there if only he returned to her. 

 

“Well, that depends. What is your opinion on living out your days as a full-time headrest?” she asked, completely oblivious to his ongoing internal battle.

 

“I’ve never wanted a position more,” he replied immediately.

 

“Well, then, you’re in luck. My legs are pure jelly, and I couldn’t move my neck more than an inch even if I wanted to.”

 

His small smile when he realized that she wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon was instantaneous, having lived in the corner of his mouth for the better part of a week now and enthusiastically awaiting any opportunity to come out. His new life never felt more real than it did first thing in the morning when he woke up in her arms, but he was still getting to know the curly-haired man in the mirror, with his sparkling blue eyes and ability to let loose. His world now seemed brighter and more open than it ever had before. The light streaming through the open window of their hotel room cast his partner—the center of this new world—in a captivating glow, while a gentle morning breeze swirled around him like whispered promises of countless upcoming adventures.

 

Phryne was a delight to watch as she stretched, a pair of gently muscled arms sticking out from underneath the doona, and he shamelessly drank in every second of the spectacle as he patiently waited for her to face him. When she did, her eyes were fierce as if daring him to contradict her, to list any of the reasons they couldn’t live out their days in this bed, all of which would doubtlessly pale against the raw determination of Phryne Fisher on a mission if not for one tiny detail.

 

“In what way do food and not dying of starvation fit into your plan never to leave this bed again?”

 

She frowned. “Damn.”

 

They’d reached their hotel late the previous night and had gone straight to bed after he’d gotten a head start on thanking her for her flying prowess. This morning, his hunger had won out over both Phryne and his fatigue, their unfortunate lack of food forcing him out of bed far too early. If he wasn’t already in the final stages of getting dressed, he might still have taken her up on her tantalizing offer.

 

“I’ll make you a deal.” He reached for his shoes, delighted to find her watching him with sleepy but apparent interest. “Would you like to freshen up while I get us something to eat?”

 

“Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?” The way she snuggled into her pillow made it clear that she was even more interested in uncovering every possible way to lie comfortably in their hotel bed. His bout of amusement came to an abrupt end when she shifted her right shoulder, resulting in a loud pop as her body decided that the movement was too strenuous.

 

His tone softening immediately, Jack lowered himself to the bed and turned her around, applying light pressure to the sore muscles around her shoulder blade. “You flew me halfway around the world in your yellow death trap, and told the strange woman in the lobby that I am your darling husband,” he recalled another one of her heroic acts from the previous evening. “Getting you breakfast is the least I can do. And if you’ve fallen back asleep by the time I return, I’ll just have the receptionist direct me to Miss Turner’s room,” he threatened her in a tone so gentle, not even his unwanted admirer from the night before could have missed the lovesickness in it.

 

“Well, we can't have that. I'll do everything in my power to stay awake,” her words reassured him, though her drooping eyelids had other priorities.

 

As he played with her mussed hair until her breathing evened out, Jack felt utterly grateful for her complete lack of awareness. Tired and sore after several days of flying, he’d found the only imaginable version of his lover who wouldn’t notice him making elaborate plans for how best to repay her for all that she had done for him. Once her loudly cracking shoulder had provided the initial spark, his plan came together surprisingly quickly. All he had to do now was find out where a traveler entirely unfamiliar with the area might be able to procure a bottle of massage oil.

 

***

 

Phryne was awake when he returned solely because silently unlatching door locks had yet to be invented. She managed a quick trip to the bathroom as soon as he left. But other than that, the bed was far too comfortable to abandon for anything less relevant to her current situation than the impending end of the world as she knew it. She spent her alone time drifting happily between sleep and reality, basking in her memories of the past couple of days.

 

He’d both delighted and surprised her with his seemingly unending attentiveness, and every single moment they spent side by side was a miracle for them both. Twenty-four hours ago and in a different country, her period had woken her before Jack’s soft, sucking kisses at the base of her throat attempted the same. Once they were both satisfied, he’d slipped from her gingerly before leaving her to clean himself with an insufferable smirk.

 

The previous evening had been similar. He’d taken her gently with his fingers, praising her for her strength and murmuring love declarations into her ear in the same breath. A slight pang of regret accompanied the realization that she hadn’t been able to return the favor before drifting off into a blissfully pain-free slumber. She would have to remedy that as soon as she was fully awake, and imagining the various ways she might bring him pleasure—especially with her mouth—kept her just alert enough that she noticed the sounds of his footsteps immediately.

 

“Oh, you’re back.” She smiled, walking into his arms after giving him about a quarter of a second to set down a suspiciously large number of mysterious bags. His shirt buttons pressed into her skin like little pinpricks even through the additional barrier of her pajama top, making her more conscious of his suspicious behavior than she might otherwise have been whilst breathing in his comforting scent.

 

“How bad are your cramps?” he asked her cryptically as he pulled her close by her soft hips.

 

“Better than they were before your pain relief last night. Why do you ask?”

 

“Let’s see if I can’t make the situation even better.” He smirked at her soft gaze, toying with the hem of her shirt in a tantalizing preview of pleasures yet to come. “Can you lie back down? On your back, if you please, and without your pajamas.”

 

He rummaged through his bag for the bottle of massage oil, which he presented to her with a flourish like he once had a bottle of very significant wine. The long fingers curling suggestively around its neck gave her several interesting ideas. Oh, that seemed promising. As her heart did a little dance and she began to undress quickly, Jack set to work covering the bed with towels to protect the white duvet from any oil stains and her period.

 

As she lay down atop them, a tight coil of stage fright wrapped itself around Phryne’s heart as she realized that she was utterly exposed to his inquiring gaze. As if cataloguing all the places she was vulnerable to his touch, he swept his eyes over her and lingered wherever he felt like it—paying as much attention to her pebbling breasts and the soft swell of her belly as he did to her sides and the delicate blue veins on the insides of her forearms.

 

She felt utterly bereft of any semblance of control, left with only the sound of her own shaky breathing to anchor her to reality. As if that in itself wasn’t terrifying enough, the realization that some deeply buried part of her had never felt more at peace had her shivering helplessly against the suddenly cold bed.

 

“Is there anything else I can do to assist you? Would you like me to spread my legs for you?” she asked, trying to regain control of her own emotions.

 

“For what I have in mind, you’re perfect just as you are.”

 

When he suddenly appeared directly in front of her, it was all she could do not to jump off the bed and throw herself at him. Her need to press him down into the mattress under the guise of a game was all-consuming and making her desperate, but the tips of his fingers running gently down her arm took away just enough of her pent-up nervous energy and she remained perfectly still, but she could see one final straw and she’d be damned if she didn’t take it.

 

“If that is the case, would you mind taking your shirt off?”

 

Jack nodded, aware that she needed this more than he needed to be in control of every aspect of this situation. “It is getting rather sweltering in here,” he agreed amiably before pulling the offending garment over his head, grateful that this new version of him didn’t bother with an undershirt.

 

An invaluable signal of their mutual vulnerability, the sight of his bare chest set her frazzled mind at ease as he reached for the bottle and poured some oil into his palm, monitoring her face for any further signs of apprehension. When he found none, he hovered for a moment with his slick hands over her belly, afraid they might get burned as soon as he made contact.

 

After a lifetime of relying exclusively on whiskey and masturbation for her pain relief, the initial few seconds of his hands on her bare abdomen stirred up a storm of conflicting emotions. The idea of involving another person in her period was one her stubborn independence appeared to dislike with a passion, exhausted though it was after a year and a half of being worn down by her supportive chosen family. She almost couldn’t fathom that he would want to bear witness to this aspect of her reality, but his slightly shaky hands and equally unsteady breathing confirmed to her that he did.

 

As Jack rubbed her soft flesh in a circular motion and her period cramps became a half-forgotten afterthought, his eyes on her body were incredibly tender, like she had only ever seen them in the aftermath of their lovemaking. The realization that she wasn’t dead had hit him when she quite literally slammed into him, pressing him into the desert ground while her moist breath ghosted teasingly over his nipple. But being with her sexually had been an afterthought compared to the casual imperfections and unfiltered realities that only a true partner had the privilege to see—moments like the one he was currently experiencing.

 

The thought of ever taking his hands off her filled him with a profound sadness, and he exhaled with relief when the idea of asking her to roll over forced him out of his stupor of lovestruck astonishment. His heart found peace once more as he gazed upon her bare back, with its expanse of so many tense muscles just waiting to receive his acts of heartfelt appreciation.

 

He covered her with more oil before digging his thumbs into the space between her shoulder blades, the biting scent of rosemary combined with the sweet musk of her arousal rising straight to his nose and making him dizzy. The quiet sounds of swishing fabric encouraged the eye towards her restlessly shifting hips, their movements refusing to be forgotten as he moved slowly down her back and she succumbed to him on instinct.

 

“God, I love you.”

 

Jack had been staring down at the hands splayed over her lower back, the thumbs stroking slowly from her spine towards the soft curves of her hips, as if they couldn’t possibly be his, just like the body at their mercy couldn’t possibly be Phryne’s. At the sound of her low voice, his head instantly snapped up and the tears he’d been fighting since her memorial service became more insistent than ever. Between her sudden reappearance and their ensuing adventure, there had been neither room nor time for in-depth reflections about his feelings, and several months of unprocessed grief and a newly discovered happiness crashed into him at once and threatened to pull him under.

 

With an almost painful jolt, Jack realized that he’d grieved this facet of their relationship twice, that part of him had never truly believed that they could end up here even before her supposed death. He almost broke in two as an entirely new future opened itself up to him.

 

Blinking away his tears, his eyes immediately found refuge in a pair of seafoam green ones.

 

“Was that too much?”

 

He huffed out a little laugh, charmed by her confusion. “No.” He shook his head, swallowing hard. “No, my love.”

 

This was far from the first time either of them had said the words—or utterly different ones that carried the same meaning—but this moment was special and he felt it should be treated as such. He hoped that she could sense the sincerity in his caresses as, his hands slicked up with more oil, he tried to use his touch to thank her for adding new light to his life.

 

Though he was determined to touch her where she most wanted it, he indulged in a brief detour to scrape his nails lightly against the base of her spine. The small breathy moan she let out was so promising, he couldn’t wait to find out what other sounds she had in store for him. Deciding to continue with his experiment immediately, he trailed his fingers straight down her cleft in excruciating increments designed to make her feel the full extent of his gratitude. Her entire body twitched as he made contact with her second opening and she burrowed even deeper into the towels underneath her. Moaning uninhibitedly, she pressed her upper body into the bed for leverage as her hips shot off the bed in search of further stimulation.

 

“God, more,” she demanded, shocking him with her strength and unparalleled vulnerability. He felt her eagerness like a fiery storm licking over his skin as his own heart nearly jumped out of his chest, overjoyed to have found yet another way he could love her.

 

Jack, who had watched the scene unfold as if from a great distance, exhaled shakily behind her back. Wave after wave of elation cascaded over him; he felt certain that he had just gained entry to a world of possibilities that might bring them closer together than he could ever have anticipated.

 

“Is this how you want it?” His voice sounded rough as he swirled his fingertips in the oil covering her hole. His heart jumped in his chest; the oil was hot from her skin, causing his fingers to slide easily against her.

 

“Jaaack, if you so much as think of stopping, you’ll find that your luggage has been skillfully delivered to the ground outside our window.”

 

“That does sound reasonable,” he agreed, gently beginning to penetrate her in earnest, marveling at her ability to say just the right thing to relieve him of his unease and unfounded insecurities.

 

They shuddered in unison at the unfamiliar sensation, each lost in their own thoughts of how marvelous it was to be this close to one another. Jack’s ministrations were unbelievably gentle. He explored her methodically, pushing deeper into her tight flesh when she keened and adding a second finger when her moans grew more urgent and the distance between them became increasingly unbearable. It took all of his willpower not to strip and get himself off to the melody of her sinfully erotic moans. It was all too tempting to escape the pressure building behind his eyes again, to lose himself completely in a mind-numbing climax and emerge unburdened by his inner turmoil. Though it was utterly terrifying to love someone this much, he felt he owed it to her to honor his emotions and he pressed his other hand to her clit to let his utter amazement at this new reality run free.

 

Enveloped by a cocoon of unconditional love and safety, Phryne came with a small shout as soon as he touched her clit, her flesh already tender from the additional sensitivity that always accompanied her period. Add to that the sweet thrill of his fingers stroking her inside, and she had no choice but to succumb to the wave threatening to claim her.

 

Her mind was still in the process of floating gently down to earth when his fingers slipped from her tight flesh. A few moments later, the sound of running water drifted over from the bathroom, piquing her ever-present curiosity when it didn’t stop and Jack didn’t return to her immediately after washing his hands.

 

Phryne followed her heart’s lead and trailed his soft sounds to the bathroom, catching herself against the doorframe as her body struggled to support both her weight and her immeasurable happiness. It only grew in strength when she spotted him through the steam and realized what he was doing. He’d taken his paper bag into the bathroom with him, and had spread out its contents along the width of the counter. Aside from the oil she was intimately acquainted with, she saw a bar of light green soap and a glass vial filled with bath salts—some of which he'd just poured into the rapidly filling tub.

 

“Oh, you truly thought of everything,” she complimented the ensemble with a slightly wobbly grin, the echoes of his hands on her making her eyes well up with tears. Pushing off the doorframe, she did the first thing she could think of and threw herself into his arms. Small, trembling hands latched greedily onto his bare torso. His warm, solid chest against her cheek wrenched a tiny, strangled sob from her, the realization of how far they’d come striking her in the chest like a knife to the heart.

 

“I hope that my failure to return straight here from the nearest bakery can be excused in light of this development.” Squeezing her hips, he whispered the words lovingly into her ear.

 

“Depending on your further plans, I might be willing to consider it.”

 

Her green eyes were soft, her smile like a revelation—radiating happiness and impossibly adoring. She channeled all of her willpower into suppressing her tears—she didn’t want to hide them, but transforming them into a grin made her feel infinitely more powerful. Jack seemed to agree, judging by the way he melted instantly against her, moaning indecently when it resulted in his erection rubbing insistently against her hip.

 

She undressed him efficiently, silently marveling at the state of his erection. She wanted to lower herself sensually into the water between his legs, but felt uncomfortable doing so without ensuring that she would never forget the sight he made. The head of his cock protruded slightly above the waterline, and even the slight tinge of green given to it by the sage-scented bath salts couldn’t hide his beauty from her appreciative gaze. Tendrils of steam escaped from the water and stroked up his chest, drawing her attention to the spot she needed to lay her head to be able to hear his heartbeat; the hands that had written his love for her all over his skin rested casually against the rim of the tub. Her hands fluttered at her sides when she finally locked eyes with him, drinking in those blue pools she wanted to be her last memory if the world were to break open and swallow them whole.

 

She didn’t fare much better once she was actually in the tub with him. His hands immediately took over where his eyes had left off, approaching his mission to turn her into a helpless puddle with his usual combination of sincerity and playfulness. She wished she could see his face as, having worked up a lather with the olive-scented soap, he tickled his soapy fingers against her breasts but immediately backed off to soap her arms with unparalleled precision. The rest of her body got the same treatment—he took extra care to remove any remaining oil, combing through her soaked curls and carefully washing between her buttocks. Their breathing became increasingly labored as images from earlier commanded their memory once more.

 

It occurred to her that he’d felt every part of her under his hands. He’d seen more versions of her in less than two years than any other person had in all of her lifetime and he cherished them all equally. She could tell that that was the case with every gentle swirl of his fingers over every part of her he could reach.

 

“There.” Kissing her shoulder, Jack wrapped his arms lightly around her waist. “Now you’re all fresh and clean again.”

 

She worried her bottom lip between her teeth before retorting, “On the outside,” the hot pressure of his cock slowly but surely becoming impossible to ignore.

 

“On the outside,” he conceded. Their heads were pressed so close together, he knew it wouldn't take much more to hear her dirty thoughts in real time. “Are you too tender to take me inside you?”

 

“No, but I won’t be any good to you if you ever want me to get out of this tub,” she warned, wanting to be honest about her body’s limitations.

 

Jack nodded his understanding. “It would be my great honor to carry you to the bed,” he offered her his support but his hands were already pushing into her curls again, his eagerness to get on with it as soon as she consented to his suggestion making her laugh.

 

“Excellent! Now that that’s settled, can you lie back a bit? Now put your hands on my hips,” she instructed him further as soon as he complied, though it was all she could do not to take him inside her immediately. She managed to hold herself suspended until his hands squeezing her soft flesh grounded her in reality once more. The sight of his strong legs shifting helplessly as she guided him into her wet heat was all the sweeter for the slightly prolonged wait.

 

“God, Phryne. You feel amazing.”

 

She loved him for waiting until she began to ride him; only when she’d established a slow rhythm did he complement her movements with shallow thrusts of his own. It didn’t escape her notice that he'd surrendered control of his pleasure to her completely, putting her in charge of every aspect of their lovemaking as she was the one on her period, the one for whom going too hard and fast could potentially end in pain. She squeezed him with her muscles to express her appreciation, their moans forming a perfect harmony that propelled her mercilessly towards the edge.

 

Jack’s lower vantage point in the tub afforded him an unprecedented view of her flexing muscles, the same muscles responsible for them safely making it to this hotel. He’d spent several long days in the air with her by now and he found himself surprised by how much he enjoyed it, itching for the opportunity to let go and trust that she would get them safely to their destination, each lost in their own thoughts but united in their exhilaration. Watching her rise and fall above him gave him a similar feeling of putting himself into her hands, and the sudden realization that she had done the same thing earlier in the bedroom, surrendering herself to him simply because he’d asked, had him cursing and shaking violently as he came.

 

Feeling him begin to climax inside her, Phryne pushed one of her hands—which she’d been using to steady herself against the bottom of the bathtub—down between her legs to slide in circles around her clit. Feeling Jack’s love like a physical presence—in his cock buried inside her, his hands on her hips, the sage-scented steam that was one of the many physical manifestations of his consideration that he’d given her—she let out a small scream and let her orgasm overtake her.

 

Pushing herself off him once her shudders had subsided, she pulled the plug and expertly washed them clean using the last of the rapidly draining water, all in rapid succession of one another and with an efficiency that was astonishing to witness and impossible to replicate. Though he had yet to move a muscle, her squeaky-clean body stretching out fully atop his set him alight with a surge of renewed energy. He promptly put it to action by repositioning her, so that her chin was on his chest and she was close enough to breathe in.

 

“Goodness, Inspector. I always suspected you had it in you, but to know I could have saved myself months upon months of early nights and powders...”

 

Jack shook his head without hesitation. “I don’t believe for a second that that is your preferred method of pain relief.”

 

“It’s a pity you left our breakfast in the main room. But I remember you mentioning a rather compelling remedy for that.”

 

She was studying him so intently, he could practically see the wheels turning in her head as she considered him in this new light. The events of his morning had unlocked something in him, as if granting her entry to a deeper layer of his heart, and her matching expression of total infatuation promised him that she felt the same. Considering the water drying rapidly against their skin, carrying her to the bedroom seemed like a more reasonable alternative to his sudden desire never to let her go.

 

They toweled each other off before returning to the bedroom, where they redressed in their underwear in preparation for their grand feast. Jack’s second paper bag revealed an assortment of sweet pastries that looked more delicious than anything she’d eaten since leaving Australia. He smiled quietly to himself, watching her munch enthusiastically on a bite of flaky pastry. The crumb sticking to her lower lip drew his attention inexorably to her mouth. Her small snort when he licked at it lodged itself firmly in his heart. It was another reminder that this was real and glorious.