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All the Better for It

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Deciding to fly her father to London was perhaps the stupidest stunt Phryne has ever pulled. The fiery brunette could barely restrain herself from strangling him in front of people, what was she going to do hundreds of meters in the air over open ocean, alone, with no witnesses? Though, Lord Fisher was probably going to spend most of his time trying to keep his insides from becoming outsides, so they shouldn’t be conversing too much. That, Mac supposed, was the only plus. Meanwhile, she was stuck here with a moping Detective Inspector as Phryne-less life set in. The whirlwind Phryne created had died and it left the poor man deflated, so much so that not a single attempt at banter had been made on his part for the last four morgue visits. Mac couldn’t really blame him, though, it was exactly what she was like when Phryne first left her. All she could bring herself to do was bury herself in her studies and make good on her promise. Now she had work, friends, and Maggie who helped fill the hole her best friend always left, the Inspector did not. Well, not that he didn’t have friends, but given the amount of times Mac spotted him at various bars over the past two weeks, it was safe to say they were either preoccupied or too far for a night on the town. She felt for him, she really did, but what possessed her to give up a quiet night in with Maggie for a night of drinking with him, Mac had no idea. So here she sat, in her office, waiting for her lately not so punctual guest to arrive. 

 

Thankfully for Jack, and Mac’s patience, he was only twelve minutes late. A strong knock resounded through the room and he entered hesitantly when she called.

“Doctor MacMillian,” he greeted, standing awkwardly by the door, hat in hand.

“Inspector,” she replied, “are we not staying long?”

A faint shadow of his old self returned when his eyes sparked at her comment as if he instinctually had a comeback prepared, but it was gone just as quick as it came and he moved to the pair of chairs across from her desk. Mac usually opted to move them so they faced the couch to make the get together more natural, but with Jack she left them, feeling that he’d prefer if the set up was the same as their occasional post work chats. Taking his normal chair, Mac passed him a tumbler with two fingers of scotch before leaning back with her own glass and propping her feet on her desk.

“So, how’s the Marley case coming?” Mac asked, unable to think of anything better to talk about.

“Poorly,” he sighed, “We had a lead, but Collins found nothing so we’re back to square one.”

“What about that brother you were talking about, I thought he was looking promising,” she questioned.

“He was, but he has a solid alibi,” Jack frowned, “I am considering pulling his financial records though, just to check.”

“You think he paid someone to do it?” Mac asked, intrigued.

“I think it’s a possibility,” he answered with a shrug, focus drifting around the room as he observed it.

“Must you always be so cryptic about cases?” she sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to get much more information.

“Well they are confidential,” he reminded, a smile flickering across his face.

“I’m the coroner, you can’t just dump a body on me and not explain anything beyond the crime scene,” Mac replied, “Leaves a woman with too many questions.”

“You sound like Phryne,” he smirked, the alcohol loosening his posture.

“Please, that woman is unreplicatable,” Mac snorted, “besides, I’ve been around her too long for me to start picking things up now.” Jack chuckled then grew quiet, his previously wandering eyes settling on her desk. Mac wasn’t one for secrets, but when she saw where his sight fell, her body instantly tensed. Apparently, she’d forgotten to replace a stack of files she moved while cleaning, revealing the only three photos she kept in the room. They were taped to the top of her desk and worn from constantly being hidden under papers, books, and various other things that passed through her office. The first was of Janey and Phryne. It was from one of Prudence’s picnics when Mac and the Fishers went to Melbourne for a visit. The sisters were laughing in their summer dresses, provided by Prudence and only to be worn when they were staying with her, as they attempted to wipe off the frosting they had tossed at each other. It was from the last trip to Melbourne before Jane was taken and one of the only photos ever captured of the younger Fisher. The next was of Lara. Mac and her had been raiding the MacMillian family library which was actually just her father’s study. Lara sat cross legged in an armchair that almost swallowed her with a massive tome open in her lap. She had been reading when Mac jumped up and revealed her find: a camera. Lara, being the goof she was, immediately started making silly faces and young Mac captured them all, her favorite being taped to the desk while the rest were either lost or gathering dust at home. The final and most recent addition was Daisy. They had gone to a lecture at a wildlife rescue a little ways outside of Melbourne. Daisy had always been completely enamoured by creatures of all shapes and sizes. While there, there had been a photo opportunity with some of the animals and Daisy jumped at the chance. Mac could still remember the way her chest fluttered as Daisy laughed and beamed during the entire thing. She had never looked happier.

 

Mac was pulled out of her reminiscing when Jack shifted, realizing he was intruding on something Mac never planned to share with him. It was too late now and Mac trusted him, so with a sigh she pointed at the first picture.

“That’s Janey and Phryne, which I’m sure you’ve guessed as her hair hasn’t changed much,” she said, “next is Lara, she was a close friend, and, well, you know Daisy.”

“They’re hidden,” he stated, giving her the option to back out.

“They are,” she shrugged, “I don’t really like being questioned about them by people I barely know or nosy coworkers. I also just like to keep my personal life private. Only Phryne and Maggie have seen them, though I’m sure a couple of the nurses have also caught glances.”

“Why them, if I may ask,” Jack said, curiosity clearly getting the better of him when Mac didn’t shut him down.

“They remind me of why I chose this profession and the people who I do it for,” Mac replied honestly. “They ensure I never falter or stray from the goal and morals I set out on when I started.”

“They must have been exceptional people, I’m sorry I never got to meet them,” he consoled, eyes meeting hers with genuine empathy. It caught Mac off guard, she wasn’t expecting such sympathy from a man as closed off as Jack Robinson. Mac bit back a ragged breath as the comradery in his expression brought back moments with all three, each just as cherished as the last.

“Ya, they were,” was all she said, grabbing the bottle to top off her drink.

“Why did you decide to become a doctor?” he asked, “not to be rude, but it’s not a profession I’d expect of you.”

“Please, if you think I’m bad now, you should have seen my bedside manner when I first started,” Mac smirked before sobering, “Honestly, I didn’t really want to become a doctor. I started because I lost someone and I was angry. I often lashed out at my colleagues and professors, disrespected superiors without a care, and refused to acknowledge many people I should have. But, as the fury dimmed to bitterness and the bitterness to acceptance, I grew to love the work. I had always been fascinated by science so the material wasn’t terrible to learn and, once I calmed, I found quite a few like minds. I can’t say that was the point I never looked back, I did that from the start, but that was when I knew I had found the right path.”

“I’m glad, there are many people all the better for it,” Jack smiled, taking another sip from his glass.

“What about you Inspector,” Mac replied, deciding that was enough personal anecdotes for the day, “was law enforcement your calling or did you just sign up after the war?”

“A bit of both,” Jack shrugged, “I was a constable before the war and after, I began questioning if that was really what I wanted to do. The daily onslaught of burtality and cruelty were getting to me and I was close to writing my resignation when Nate’s, a good friend of mine, brother was murdered. He was in a rough place and decided to do a round of the local bars. Around 1, he got into a fight with a couple drunks when they found out he didn’t enlist and never made it out. The officers sympathized and made it so the guys got a light sentence. It was what pushed me over the edge to finally decide to quit, but Nate promptly shoved me and declared that men like me were what the police needed if things were ever going to change. So, here I am.”

“And many people are all the better for it,” Mac parroted with a kind smile. Jack just chuckled and poured himself more scotch.