“The flowers?” Mac smirked as Rosie’s cheeks flushed.
“I was caught unawares,” she said defensively, allowing herself to be pulled into Mac’s embrace. She brushed her palms over the front of Mac’s waistcoat, grasping her shoulders in a desperate attempt to ground herself as she remembered the events of the afternoon. She wasn’t usually so thrown off-guard by being seen with Mac when they were in public; since they’d begun dating, she’d had to grow more accustomed to the realities of being a woman in love with another woman in a world that viewed it as all but criminal. A lifetime of practicing self-restraint came in handy when she had to remind herself not to stand so close, to avoid showing too much affection. Normally, she was careful, even in the relative privacy of the doctor’s office, but it was so hard to resist sometimes… and she certainly hadn’t expected her ex-husband to waltz in and interrupt the moment.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Mac’s voice was gentle, a practiced calm to it that Rosie supposed she used when addressing patients.
Rosie nodded. “Yes, Doctor,” she teased, stroking a hand through Mac’s coppery-red curls before cupping her face in her palm. She brushed her lips over the doctor’s, lightly, a promise that she was telling the truth.
“Good.” Mac smiled.
“It’s an odd place to run into your ex-husband, isn’t it?” Rosie mused. “The morgue?”
“Less odd when he’s a police detective and you’re dating the coroner,” Mac said, pulling Rosie closer. “But yes.”
Her lips found Rosie’s, leading her into a gentle kiss as she smoothed her hands comfortingly over Rosie’s sides. Rosie knew what she was doing, knew she was trying to distract her from her thoughts, but she didn’t protest. On the contrary, she decided that she quite liked this course of action.
“Perhaps we could… move this conversation to the bedroom,” she suggested, already toying with the buttons on Mac’s waistcoat. The sharp intake of breath when Rosie’s fingers brushed against Mac’s breast told Rosie exactly what Mac thought of the plan, but Rosie also knew the doctor could never resist a chance to tease her.
“Already?” Mac said, a familiar twinkle in her eye even as she tilted her head to allow Rosie to kiss a path down her neck. “We haven’t even had dinner yet.”
Rosie grinned against Mac’s collarbone. “I believe dinner can wait. I’m hungry for something-” she nipped at the pale skin under her lips, “-or rather, someone else.”
Mac laughed as she took Rosie’s hand and led the way. “Whatever you say, love.”
“People may start to get suspicious,” Mac said darkly, her expression making clear what exactly she thought of the aforementioned ‘people.’
“People in general? Or people meaning Miss Fisher?”
“And Jack,” Mac sighed, indirectly answering the question. “I’m no stranger to it, but I know you-”
“Elizabeth MacMillan,” Rosie said, delighting in the flush that crept onto Mac’s cheeks with the use of her full name. “My name has already been linked to scandal on multiple occasions. What’s one more on top of the others?”
“Shh.” Rosie pressed her lips to the doctor’s. Mac narrowed her eyes when Rosie pulled back.
“Don’t think you can always just stop me talking by-”
Another kiss, this one deeper.
“What was that you were saying, love?”
A third kiss. Rosie smiled sweetly.
“You’re adorable when you’re frustrated, Mac.”
“And you’re frustratingly adorable.”
Rosie laughed. She turned the doctor’s hand over in hers, carefully tracing her fingers over the lines of her palm.
“Let people be suspicious,” she whispered, talking of Phryne and Jack, but also the world at large. “Who I love is nobody’s business but mine. And yours.”
“Who you love?” Mac’s eyes searched hers, seemingly seeking any sign that Rosie had misspoken.
“Yes,” Rosie said, feeling butterflies in her stomach. “I love you.”
“Say it again.”
Rosie laughed. “I love you, Elizabeth MacMillan.”
“And I love you, Rosemary Sanderson,” Mac said, eyes sparkling with affection. A part of Rosie was still amazed that she of all people was allowed to see Mac like this, soft and open and vulnerable, all of her usual protective layers stripped away, both figuratively and literally.
Rosie leaned in for another kiss, lazily exploring the doctor’s mouth with her tongue. She tasted of whiskey, a delightful enough flavor on its own, but utterly intoxicating when combined with Mac’s natural taste. She let her fingers explore Mac’s body, touch feather-light as she brushed over her bare chest, then down her sides, squeezing her buttocks. Mac’s skin was flushed a most delicious shade of pink, Rosie noticed when she pulled back, making her grin slyly at the effect she had on the doctor.
Mac watched her in amusement as Rosie’s hand fluttered back up to Mac’s face, stroking her cheek gently. “Enjoying ourselves, are we?” she teased, pulling Rosie flush against her body.
“Greatly,” Rosie murmured, kissing the corner of Mac’s lips. “Another round?”
Mac laughed even as she stroked her fingers over the warm skin of Rosie’s back. “Another round.”
“Phryne and Jack will be here soon.”
“Are they suspicious yet?” Rosie sighed, letting go of Mac’s hand and sitting back in her chair.
“Phryne’s always suspicious,” Mac remarked wryly as she stood. “But not about us, as far as I know.” She held out her hand for Rosie to take, pulling her up from the chair. Rosie grasped Mac’s waist briefly as she caught her balance, then reluctantly let go.
“What about Jack?” she said as she grabbed her coat and followed Mac out of her office and into the main room, not sure if she wanted a truthful answer.
“What about him?”
“Is he suspicious?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest. I think he believed the charity excuse.”
“Well, that was only partly a lie. I was volunteering.”
“Just not with me.” Mac checked her watch, then crossed the room and peeked out the door. “No sign of them,” she said quietly, turning back to Rosie. Rosie sighed as she leaned against a table, shoulder to shoulder with Mac.
“I suppose I should tell him soon,” she said softly, staring at the tiled floor.
“You don’t have to tell anyone if you’re not ready,” Mac said firmly. “You don’t owe him anything.” The sureness in her voice made Rosie smile.
“I know,” Rosie said. “But I’d like him to know, and I know you’d like to tell Phryne. I’m just… still afraid, of how he might take it.”
“I know you are,” Mac said. “But I do think you’re selling him short. He’s a good man, and you know what that means, coming from me.”
Rosie laughed out loud at that, and couldn’t resist giving Mac a quick kiss on the cheek. They fell into an easy silence for a few seconds until they heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps walking down the hall. They both spun around quickly, and when Jack reached the room, Rosie was pulling on her coat and Mac was fussing with some of her tools.
Mac glanced up when he walked in. “Hello, Inspector,” she said, seamlessly switching back to work mode. To be honest, Rosie was a little envious of how effortlessly she could do that. “Right on time.”
“Miss Fisher should be here any minute now,” Jack said. “Hello, Rosie.”
Rosie looked up at the greeting, feeling a twist in her stomach. If he’d arrived just a minute earlier… She pushed the thought from her mind and smiled. “Hello, Jack,” she said pleasantly. “Goodbye, Doctor.” She held Mac’s gaze for longer than she meant to, but finally tore herself away, pushing the door open and walking quickly down the hall.
Rosie still had ten minutes before her lunch break was up, so she sat down on a bench outside of her office building to think. Logically, she knew that Mac was right – Jack was a good man, and clearly accepting of Mac’s… sapphic inclinations. She’d never heard him express bigoted views about anyone, frankly; Jack Robinson was not a judgmental man. But accepting your partner’s best friend was one thing; accepting your ex-wife was another.
She’d loved him, once upon a time. She still cared for him; that would likely always be the case. And she’d certainly been attracted to him when she married him. She’d been attracted to Sidney, too, though the thought now disgusted her. But she was also attracted to Mac – deeply attracted, she thought with a blush – and in love with her, and the feeling was as natural as breathing. As natural as loving Jack had been, so many years ago.
She would tell him, she decided then. Soon. She just needed some time to decide how best to explain.
“Jack came to see me today.”
Rosie looked up from her book as Mac hung her hat and coat on the rack by the door, giving Rosie a meaningful look.
“What… what did he say?” Rosie said, suddenly getting a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Despite her promise to herself, she’d still not told him that she was in love with Mac.
“He asked me if I was seeing you, in a romantic sense.”
“Oh.” Rosie suddenly felt her breath leave her lungs. “How did he take it? I assume you told him the truth – if he didn’t take it well, it’s all right; we can manage-”
“Rosie.” Rosie looked up; Mac was suddenly standing right in front of her. “He only wanted to know if you were happy.”
“Oh,” Rosie said again, this time in relief.
“He said he was glad for both of us.”
Rosie opened her mouth but didn’t speak. She felt tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. “I’m so relieved,” she finally admitted in a whisper. Mac smiled gently, brushing away the tears with her thumb.
“I know,” she said, sitting down next to Rosie. She pulled her into a tight hug. “I know.”
Rosie wasn’t sure how long they sat like that before Mac pulled back just far enough to see her face. “Jack invited us for dinner tonight, at Wardlow,” she said. “If you’d like to tell Phryne.” She stroked a wayward strand of hair off of Rosie’s face, her hand lingering on Rosie’s cheek. “If not, there’s no pressure-”
“No, I’d like to tell her,” Rosie said. “She’d probably work it out for herself soon anyway – I don’t think Jack is particularly good at keeping secrets from her.”
“No one is,” Mac laughed. “I think he’d try, though, for you. He still cares about you.”
Rosie smiled. “He really is a good man,” she said. “I’m glad he’s happy.” She took Mac’s hand in hers. “And that I’m happy,” she added quietly.
Mac pulled her closer so that Rosie was tucked against her as Mac held her in her arms. “So am I, love.”
“Are you certain you want to do this?” Mac seemed to be searching Rosie’s face for any sign that she wasn’t ready, and Rosie smiled.
“I’m positive,” she said, daring to kiss Mac’s cheek in the fading light of day. They were standing just inside the front gate at Wardlow, out of view of the street, Mac having stopped them briefly to make sure Rosie wasn’t having second thoughts.
“Come on,” she said to Mac, nodding toward the door.
Jack had said the door would be unlocked, so they let themselves in quietly, hanging their coats and hats by the door. They heard voices in the parlor, and one glance at the scene inside had Rosie laughing at Mac’s exasperation.
“And what will our guests say?” she heard Jack ask, clearly distracted by the Honorable Miss Fisher, who was sitting practically in his lap.
“They’ll tell you to get a room,” Mac said dryly, interrupting the scene. Rosie stifled a giggle as Jack pulled back, clearly embarrassed but not ashamed. It reminded Rosie of the Jack she’d fallen in love with so many years ago, before he’d gone off to war and come back a different man, having retreated into a protective, impenetrable shell. She was glad that he’d found someone who could bring out his playful side again.
“Mac!” Phryne sounded delighted to see her friend, Rosie thought as she carefully tucked her gloves into the pocket of her coat. “Jack refused to tell me who was coming,” Rosie heard her say. “I was afraid he’d invited Aunt Prudence. Come in, Mr. Butler should have dinner ready any time now.”
Her eyes widened at the end of her sentence as Rosie walked up to the doorway behind Mac.
“Rosie? I wasn’t aware that you and Mac were…” she looked between the two of them, clearly fitting the pieces together in her head. Rosie suddenly felt pity for any poor criminal who had the misfortune of being caught by Miss Fisher.
She felt a sudden twist of nerves in her stomach, and was grateful when Mac reached out and pulled her close, the familiar touch grounding her. Her nerves abated somewhat when she looked up and saw Phryne’s grin, and faded completely when she saw Jack, who actually looked proud.
“Oh, Mac, this is delightful news!” Phryne exclaimed. She leapt from the chaise and pulled Mac in for a tight hug. “And you too, Rosie,” she added, surprising Rosie by hugging her as well.
“We’ve been together about six months now,” Rosie explained quietly when Phryne pulled back, sharing a smile with Mac. She looked at Phryne and then at Jack. “I’m sorry we didn’t say anything sooner, but-”
“Nonsense,” Phryne said, shaking her head. “You’ve got nothing to apologize for.” She appeared absolutely serious, and Rosie was almost in shock at how accepting she was. She supposed she was Mac’s best friend for a reason.
“In fact, I think this calls for a toast,” Phryne continued. “Mr. Butler?” she called. “I believe we could use some champagne.”
Soon, a response came from another room. “At once, Miss.” A moment later, a man that Rosie vaguely recognized from her last visit to Wardlow appeared holding a tray with four bubbling champagne flutes.
“Thank you, Mr. B,” Phryne said as they each took a glass. Rosie entwined her fingers with Mac’s, squeezing her hand gently.
Phryne spoke again. “To Elizabeth MacMillan and Rosie Sanderson.” Rosie looked at Mac and smiled. “And to their beautiful romance,” Phryne continued.
“Cheers,” Jack said. He was smiling when Rosie briefly glanced at him, but she was more focused on the woman beside her. The woman she loved, and who loved her as well.
“Cheers,” Mac said softly, and they each took a sip. Rosie tugged Mac’s hand, pulling her closer, and kissed her on the lips, company be damned.
“Cheers,” Rosie said, and then she kissed her again.