Phryne sat at the kitchen table. This case was complicated. Almost all of City South’s other work had been delegated to other stations. Phryne, Jack, Hugh, Dot and Jane sat at the table. Mr Butler was making more hot chocolate for everyone, and Mac was leaning against a wall. “It’s risky,” argued Mac, who never shied away from being honest. “And stupid,” she added.
“It’s the only way we can solve this,” argued Jack. Hugh and Dot exchanged a glance between them. Mac met Phryne’s eyes, raising an eyebrow.
Phryne was determined that there would be another solution. “I can go undercover by myself,” she suggested, already knowing the answer.
“No,” said Jack immediately, with finality. He didn’t even bother offering further explanation. This Cade family was bad news, and Phryne’s reckless investigation habits would be dangerous. Jack had already warned everyone that the Cades weren’t above murder, even of innocent bystanders.
With the Cades’ money, they’d be able to afford good legal representation, and they’d surely plead innocent in court. Jack needed legal, by-the-book evidence that could be used to get a conviction. Phryne knew that. If anyone was going undercover, it would be him.
“Surely I can go undercover on my own,” suggested the Inspector.
Everyone was quick to argue. “A lone man staying at the Windsor? No one would believe it, sir,” pointed out Hugh.
The table sat in silence for a moment, pretending to study the evidence. Everyone knew the solution, and after Jack and Hugh left for the night, Dot, Jane and Mac accosted Phryne.
“The two of you are too stubborn to pretend to be married?” Mac was harsher than the others. The four women sat in the parlour, discussing the case. “No one’s going to believe Jack’s holidaying in Melbourne on his own, not without a wife.”
“You could pretend to be his mistress,” suggested Jane with a cheeky smile.
“Jane!” exclaimed Dot, scandalised. “You’re too young to know about things like that!”
The fifteen-year-old just grinned. Phryne was considering her idea when Mac interrupted, once again choosing brutal honesty. “You could never pretend to be his mistress, Phryne,” she commented. “Mistresses are for sex. Sorry, Dot, but it’s true. The way you and Jack interact, no one would ever believe you have a purely physical relationship. You communicate with your eyes too much, and you look at each other like you... care about one another. No one would believe it. They might believe you’re his wife.”
Phryne could see the sense behind Mac’s idea. She knew Jack had thought of it, too, and she sighed. Their close friendship could easily pass for the closeness that years of marriage would bring, and she suspected that Jack would be more comfortable playing the role of a husband than of a man with a mistress.
She grudgingly accepted a fake marriage as the best plan, then shooed Jane and Dot out of the parlour and Mac out of her house.
The next morning, she was planning to call Jack and raise the idea of a married couple charade, but as she was walking to her telephone, there was a knock on the door. She was closer to it than Mr Butler, so she moved to open it. Jack stood there, hat in hand, smiling slightly awkwardly.
“Jack! Come in.”
He did, hanging his hat and overcoat on his hooks. He smiled at Phryne. “It has been drawn to my attention by Constable Collins and a very angry telephone call from Doctor Macmillan that the best plan is to pretend to be married,” he said, his eyes sparkling with hidden amusement. He must know Mac would have already grilled Phryne.
“Yes,” agreed Miss Fisher. “Yes, Mac was kind enough to bring that to my attention, too.”
They smiled at each other, most of the awkwardness gone. There was no more agreement to reach. They would pretend to be wed. “The return of Archie Jones,” joked Jack as they strolled into the parlour together. “And his wife... What’s a suitably boring name? If it’s anything unique, they could look it up in Records and find it doesn’t exist.”
“Mary,” responded Phryne. “Lots of people are called Mary. I’m sure there’re hundreds of Mary Joneses in Melbourne.”
“All right,” Jack agreed. “Archie and Mary Jones. And don’t be angry, I’m going to introduce you as Mrs Archie Jones.”
“Why?” demanded Phryne.
“So if I have to tell you to be quiet, it fits my slightly sexist personality.”
Phryne grinned at him, unable to stop her smile. It was just like Jack to assume he’d have to silence her during their undercover stint. “I can live with that.”
“Do you have a ring?” asked Jack, and something in his voice made Phryne realise his question was strangely important.
“A ring? Why?”
“It seems a little silly to have a married woman without a ring.”
“I have a gold band I can use as a wedding ring, but no engagement ring,” Phryne explained. “I usually wear the gold one on my right hand, but it’ll fit my left.”
“You could use this as an engagement ring,” said Jack, too casually, pulling a ring out of his pocket. It was silver, with a small sapphire studded with even smaller diamonds. The gems were small, but they were real. At Phryne’s confused expression, Jack quickly explained. “It was my mother’s,” he said. “She gave it to me last year.”
“To give to...?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to take it, and I haven’t had a chance to give it back yet.”
“It’s very beautiful,” Phryne said truthfully. It was true. The ring didn’t have the large, sparkly jewels that usually caught her attention, but it radiated love.
As if reading her thoughts, Jack handed it to her so she could examine it. “My father met my mother when they were twenty. He met her in a library. Dad didn’t read much, he was just there on an errand, but Mum was there every day. He came back to the library most days after he met her. He read all the books she loved just so he had something to talk to her about. He saved up for six months so he could buy her that ring. She wore it for more than forty years.”
Phryne smiled. She loved it when Jack spoke about his family. “That’s a lovely story,” she said, holding the glittering ring up to the light. It sparkled. She wondered what Jack’s parents would think about a symbol of their love being used to investigate a series of murders. She figured that Jack’s mother might be very disappointed that, instead of giving the ring to a woman he loved and wanted to marry, he gave it to his partner as part of an undercover mission.
“Well, Jack,” said Phryne jokingly. “If you’re going to ask me to marry you, you ought to do it properly, don’t you think? Come on, get down on one knee. This is probably the only time I’ll ever say yes to an offer of marriage, so let’s make it count.”
Jack laughed, sinking down onto one knee with an overexaggerated flourish. When he looked up at her, though, his smile was slightly strained. “Phryne Fisher, will you do me the honour of being my wife?” Even though he smiled, there was a deeper emotion in his eyes, and his words didn’t sound as joking as either of them would have liked. “For a week,” added Jack with a chuckle.
“Nothing would make me happier, Jack Robinson,” said Phryne, trying to force her own tone to stay light. It was a struggle. Seeing him kneeling in front of her, offering her his mother’s precious ring, hurt her heart. Why? She didn’t know. She was struck by the inexplicable feeling that she wished she had the view in different circumstances, more genuine circumstances.
Jack rose, swallowed, then slid the ring onto her wedding finger. Phryne smiled up at him. He was looking at her with a strange expression. He coughed, blushed, and quickly drew away. “I suppose I ought to have proposed to Mary,” he muttered, with a wry chuckle.
“Yes,” agreed Phryne. “It doesn’t matter. I accepted Jack Robinson’s proposal, not Archie Jones, after all.”
Jack’s grin was surprising. Standing in her parlour, in a pretty day dress, being proposed to by Jack Robinson, and yet it was fake. She shrugged mentally, and she and Jack went into the kitchen to discuss plans with everyone else.
Phryne and Jack go undercover. There's only one bed... Phryne has a dream about her sister and Jack comforts her.
This chapter is more fluff... The next two chapters will be better (definitely the next one, I haven't written the last one yet.) Also yes, I know the one bed plot is hardly original, but I don't care.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I hate not driving,” Phryne commented, as she climbed into the backseat, almost tripping over her skirt. Unlike Phryne, Mary Jones was not a fashionable flapper, but a more reserved woman, one of high society. The dress was old fashioned, and although it was appropriately tight, it lacked the stylish fringed skirt, or the square neckline. The skirt was too long, with a layer of sheer over otherwise boring pink fabric. It was too high-waisted to be in style, although it did compliment Phryne’s figure.
“You’re boring now,” Jack reminded her, as he climbed in after her. “Boring women don’t drive.”
Cec and Bert drove off, pretending that they didn’t know the two affluent strangers in the backseat. Archie and Mary Jones came from Sydney. Rich and slightly silly, the happy couple knew no one in Melbourne.
At the hotel, a bellboy took their luggage up to their room. Phryne and Jack followed him. The hotel suite was neat, and pretty, however it didn’t contain much except a small sitting room, a bedroom with a queen bed, and a bathroom. “You take the bed tonight,” Jack insisted immediately. “I don’t mind. I slept on the couch for years when I lived with Rosie. I’ll be fine.”
Phryne knew better than to argue. During their various investigations, she’d known Jack to sleep in his office, in a car, on a train, and once on her parlour sofa, when he’d been waiting for her to come downstairs, and she’d taken too long. The man could sleep anywhere. Phryne, however, was a restless sleeper, and while she slept long hours, she liked the comfort of her giant bed at home.
That night, after a dinner with the creepy couple suspected of killing children, Jack and Phryne returned to their suite. Both were shaken. The couple had been unnerving, casually speaking about “that terrible tragedy” without a hint of emotion. Phryne was convinced they were psychopaths, and the wife had definitely disliked her. More accurately, she had disliked the way her husband eyed her.
“Let’s be paranoid and barricade the door tonight,” Jack suggested as they stepped into the suite. Phryne agreed, and they shoved a chair underneath the door handle, placing one of Phryne’s suitcases on top of it. That door wasn’t opening anytime soon. “God forbid there’s a fire,” muttered Jack, looking at the blocked door.
“I’d scale the side of the building,” laughed Phryne. Anxiety made her check every nook and cranny to make sure they were alone, and even so, she was uneasy. “I haven’t had a bad gut feeling like this since Murdoch Foyle,” she explained. “I suppose I’m just a little worried. Would you stay with me tonight, in the bedroom? I’ll sleep on the floor, you can take the bed.”
“No, don’t worry, I’ll sleep on the floor. It’s fine,” Jack insisted quickly. He seemed relieved that she had suggested they share the room.
That night, Phryne settled into the bed to sleep. She was wearing winter pyjamas made of green silk. Jack was wearing black cotton pyjamas. He made himself a nest of blankets on the floor, then settled into it. Phryne reached over to turn off the lamp.
There was ten minutes where they both lay in their beds in silence, both staring at the ceiling. Phryne twisted the engagement ring on her finger. “I realised,” she began, and she sensed she had Jack’s attention. “I realised yesterday, when you pretended to propose, I suppose it dawned on me that I’d never say yes to another offer of marriage. I don’t know, I suppose that made me a bit emotional. I don’t know why.”
Jack nodded. “I felt like that, too. When I gave you that ring, I realised that was the last time I’d ever propose to someone. I’d always known that I’d never get married again, I suppose it just hit me in that moment.”
“You might get married again,” said Phryne from above him. “If you wanted to, you could. A woman would be crazy to not adore you, Jack. I reckon you could marry any woman you wanted to.” As she said it, Phryne felt a twinge of fear, and a sudden feeling that Jack getting married was the last thing she wanted. She desperately wanted him to be happy, but the thought of him going home to another woman filled her with dread. If Jack got married, his wife would hate Phryne. A pretty, flirty woman who worked with her husband? What married woman liked that idea?
Jack smiled to himself, the irony of her words not lost on him, even if she never intended them to be ironic. She wasn’t thinking about what she was saying. “Unfortunately, Miss Fisher, the only woman I could ever imagine marrying is one of the ones who’d say no. That’s all right. I was terrible at marriage before, there’s no reason to believe I’d be better at it now.”
Phryne looked down at him. He was curled on his side, facing the bed. She couldn’t see his face, but she didn’t miss the pain in his voice as he told her he’d be rejected by the woman he wanted to marry. Did he mean her? She found she didn’t want to know. It was too late to unpack her feelings.
She rolled over, and let his slow breathing lull her to sleep.
Jack knelt in front of her, offering her his mother’s ring. They were still in the parlour, but it was evening, and there were candles, and Jack was in a tuxedo. He sounded confident, but still scared. Phryne wore a beautiful evening gown, the finest she owned. When Jack asked her to be his wife, she said yes, and she meant it.
The dream shifted. An old church, made of sandstone, with stained glass windows. A crowd of friends and family gathered in the pews. Dot, Hugh, two nondescript babies who must belong to them. Mac, Jane, Mr Butler, Cec and Bert, Aunt Prudence, her cousins, even the slightly rage-inducing faces of her parents. When a nondescript preacher asked for the “I dos,” they were readily given, and she walked out of the church on Jack’s arm to the sound of her loved ones cheering.
The dream changed. A small child, who looked like Janey, except with Jack’s smile, grinning up at her, about five. Phryne was showing her the ring on her finger. “You met at a MURDER scene?” exclaimed the little child happily, and dream-Phryne almost sobbed, because that was how her sister used to speak.
Then the dream shifted abruptly. Phryne was back in her old bedroom, her first bedroom. She’d left his place at thirteen, yet the version of her now was thirty-three, exactly as she’d fallen asleep in the hotel, pyjamas and everything.
Janey sat on the bed, eight years old, as she’d been the day she’d gone missing. Blue ribbons and everything. She hugged her sister, and Phryne sobbed as she embraced the small body that had once seemed as big as her own. “Are you happy?” whispered Janey, and Phryne, crying, nodded. “I’m so proud of you,” Janey said soothingly. “You left our broken family and you made your own.”
“There will always be a Janey-shaped hole in my family,” sobbed Phryne.
“I’ll always be with you, as long as you remember me,” whispered Janey. “And I’m happy that you found love.”
“What about that sister pact? To never fall in love?” Phryne whispered, clutching Janey to her. She’d forgotten about that silly promise for years, after Rene, when falling in love again had seemed impossible and foolish and dangerous. She’d only remembered the childhood vow to her sister when she looked at Jack and wondered if Janey would have liked him.
“I was scared we’d fall in love with a man like Father,” Janey explained. “So were you. That was all we’d ever seen of love. Of course we were afraid of it. But Phryne, love isn’t like that. You love everyone in your life, in different ways. And they’re all good people, and I’m proud of you. I never would have believed you’d fallen in love with a copper, though. Don’t worry. If I could meet him, I know I’d like him.”
“I love you, little sister,” said Phryne as she hugged Janey. She couldn’t feel it. She knew it was a dream, but it felt real. She wished it was real. “And I miss you every day.”
“If I was grown up,” said Janey solemnly. “I’d live in that grand house with you, Phryne, and all your best friends would be my friends as well. But I’ll have to settle for watching over you, and loving the way you live your life for the both of us.”
Phryne sniffed. “You always were an angel, Janey, even when I was a little demon. Now you’re a guardian angel.”
Janey smiled, with a gap in her smile, just like Phryne’s non-existent dream-daughter that she’d seen moments before. Then everything faded to black.
Real Phryne sat up quickly, panting, her breathing heavy and her hands shaking. She folded forwards, and let herself sob, wrapping her arms around her legs. She tried to muffle her cries for Jack’s sake, pressing the back of her hand into her mouth as she sobbed. It didn’t work. After five minutes, gentle arms wrapped around her and a deep voice whispered comforting words into her ear. The mattress shifted as Jack sat beside her, holding her in his embrace. “It’s all right, Phryne, it’s okay. It was just a bad dream.”
“It wasn’t a bad dream,” croaked Phryne. “It was the best dream. Janey was there, and she talked to me. She said she was proud of me.”
“She would be,” murmured Jack onto her ear. “She’d be so proud of you.”
Phryne found herself turning into his arms, letting him hold her against his chest. Jack gripped her tightly, unsure what had prompted the dream. He ran his fingers up and down her arm, pressing light kisses into her hair, trying to comfort her.
They sat like that for ages. Phryne didn’t know how long. She clung to Jack, and eventually her breathing calmed and she felt her eyes drift closed. Jack sensed the change, and he gently lowered Phryne to her mattress, before he stood up to return to the floor. Phryne woke up quickly. “Jack, where are you going?”
Jack hesitated, then pointed back to the other side of the bed, where his bundle of blankets was tangled on the floor. “Back to bed?”
Jack froze, looking at Phryne uncertainly. Maybe it was the lack of seduction in her eyes, or perhaps it was the sadness in her face, but he sat on the bed beside her, swinging his legs onto the mattress. He sat stiffly until Phryne shuffled over, flinging the doona over him, draping one of her arms across his chest. Jack reluctantly relaxed, snuggling down into the warmth of Phryne and the blankets. He rested one hand lightly on her shoulder, but when Phryne shifted to lie on her side, facing him, his arm ended up wrapping around her. Surrendering to the inevitable fate, Jack twined both of his arms around Phryne and turned so he was facing her. Her face was pressed against his chest, and he could bury his in her hair. Taking comfort in each other’s arms, they both fell asleep.
I wanted to explore Phryne's thoughts about her sister, in particular what Janey would think about Jack if she could meet him. Janey's appearance in Phryne's dream isn't supposed to be religious, but a creation of Phryne's subconscious, but if you want to see it as religious you can. Again, let me know what you think! Comments and kudos mean so much to me, thanks for reading!
Phryne and Jack discuss what Jack said last night, about never getting married because he only wanted to marry one person... any guesses who that person is?
Here you go, the promised angst and emotional stuff. I did write this chapter in a rush, but oh well...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jack woke up at five. It was winter, and outside was dark and cold. His arms were wound tightly around Phryne, and he looked down at her sleeping face. She was so beautiful when she was asleep, so peaceful. His heart ached slightly at the sight.
Jack had known for a long time that he was in love with Phryne, and it had hurt to propose to her, knowing it was all pretend. It was like being offered a glimpse of what he wanted but could never have. And to have her sleeping in his arms? That only added to the blow. The woman he adored, curled so close. Phryne had said he could marry any woman he wanted, but it wasn’t true. Phryne would never get married, or even commit to a long term relationship, and Jack could never look at anyone else. After Phryne, every other woman seemed boring or dull.
Phryne Fisher stirred in his arms, her hand on his back moving to hold him closer. “I quite like waking up like this,” she mumbled into his chest. “Jack, what time is it?”
Her voice was deep and groggy from sleep, and Jack’s heart fluttered as he checked the clock on the wall. “Five fifteen. We don’t have to be at breakfast until eight, you can go back to sleep.”
“What are you thinking about, Jack?” murmured Phryne questioningly, noticing the tension in his body.
Jack shrugged. “Nothing.”
“I was thinking about things,” Phryne commented, and Jack wondered how long she’d been awake, or if she’d spent time over the night lying awake in his arms. “Jack,” Phryne began tentatively. “When you said there was only one woman you could imagine marrying, who were you talking about?”
She felt Jack’s body go rigid, and even though she already suspected she knew the answer, this almost confirmed it. She didn’t want to make assumptions, though, so she just looked up at him.
Jack was berating himself for saying anything last night. Why on earth did he say that? Phryne’s expression was complicated but unreadable. Curiosity, a small amount of fear, perhaps hope? Jack considered lying, making up some ordinary, boring woman. But something in Phryne’s face told him she wouldn’t like that answer. Being honest was almost unthinkable. He could picture it now, Phryne leaping out of bed and fleeing the hotel, scared away forever by what would essentially be a declaration of love. Jack opened his mouth to answer her original question, then closed it, having no idea what to say.
Phryne looked at his face, his expression of pain, hurt and fear. “Jack,” she said softly. “Were you talking about me?”
Jack scanned her face. It was gentle, almost pitying, but there was hope in her eyes, too. None of the fear he’d expected, or that he’d seen moments ago. “What do you want me to say?” he choked out, confused and upset. He didn’t want to have this difficult, ultimately heartbreaking conversation now.
“The truth,” responded Phryne, her voice wavering slightly.
“The truth hurts,” snapped Jack.
“Hurts who?” countered Phryne, raising herself up on her elbow slightly. “You or me, Jack?”
“Probably both of us,” sighed Jack, rubbing his face with his hands. Phryne could sense him pulling away from her, bringing the walls back up. His face was a mixture of emotion, fear and sadness and regret. Regret was very prominent. “I know the truth hurts me. God, we never should’ve done this undercover thing,” he groaned.
“Jack,” said Phryne, confused. “Jack, do you want to marry me? Who were you talking about last night?” Phryne realised that she wanted Jack to say it was her. She’d be devastated if he named another woman. Did she want to marry him? Her subconscious clearly did, if it was giving her dreams of her and Jack at the altar.
“It doesn’t matter, Phryne,” Jack snapped, his voice full of pain. “It doesn’t matter, because I accepted long ago that I’d never get married again! Or love another woman again, or anything! I’ll die miserable and alone and that’s okay! Just leave me alone!” He swung his legs off the bed and marched towards the door. Realising that they’d also decided the block the bedroom door with a heavy trunk, he turned on his heel and walked towards the window, choosing to press his face against the cold glass, trying to stop the tears pricking at his eyes.
He heard the rustling of doonas, then Phryne’s approaching footsteps. She rested her hand on his shoulder, trying to turn him to face her. When he didn’t, Phryne stepped up beside him, watching the grey dawn light start to appear on the horizon. “Last night,” she said softly. “My dream about Janey wasn’t the only dream I had. I dreamed that you proposed to me, and that it was real. I said yes.”
Jack turned to look at her now, shocked. Phryne continued to look out the window. “We got married, and we had a daughter who looked like my sister.” She sniffed at the memory. “I never wanted marriage or children before, but with you, the idea didn’t seem so terrible. My dream changed halfway through. I met Janey at our old house, and she told me she was proud of me, and if she could meet you, she’d like you.”
Phryne met Jack’s eyes cautiously. “You don’t need to worry about me running away, Jack,” she whispered softly. “I’m not afraid of loving you.”
Jack stared at her, his eyes lighting up with disbelief and hope. “You love me?” he repeated, his voice wavering.
Phryne nodded, stepping into his arms. “Of course I love you. Sometimes I wonder at your detective skills.”
Jack kissed her, pressing his lips to hers in a beautiful rhythm. Phryne wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back, and for the first time she acknowledged that love was a very good thing.
She’d been afraid of being trapped in a cage by love. But kissing Jack? Kissing Jack felt like freedom.
This is a shorter chapter. Next chapter should have smut. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!
If you like this work so far, you can check out my only 2 other works, which are Phryne Fisher/Jack Robinson emotional angst/smut.