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Another Wednesday

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"Another Wednesday," Mac proclaimed, raising her glass.

Jack reached across his desk and clinked his glass against hers. "Another Wednesday," he repeated. He relaxed in his chair and threw back the drink in one go.

It would be that kind of night, then, would it? Without a word, she leaned forward and poured him another few fingers of scotch. It sat untouched for the moment, but he'd get to it. She knew that look on his face and that hunch in his posture.

"Fine stuff," she observed, turning the bottle. "Sent from home."

Seemingly entranced by his ink blotter, Jack nodded, and she wondered if he was hearing - really hearing - anything she said.

They sat in comfortable silence, which Mac considered one of life's best gifts. He stared at various items and papers on his desk, and she sipped her drink. She was about to tip her head back and close her eyes when he decided to speak.

"Have you heard from her recently?"

It would have been superfluous to ask which "her" he meant. "Friday last," she said. "She still sounds... threadbare. She's recovered, though."

Jack's head shot up. "Recovered?"

"From that cold." His face was blank. Mac finished her drink and poured another. "I suppose she didn't mention it to you. It was only a slight cold, she told me, but if that woman had an illness worth mentioning, it probably had her laid up at least a week. She ignores commonplace complaints. Considers them a nuisance." She chuckled, sipped slowly, and watched him over the rim of her glass.

He said nothing, but he took his refilled drink in hand. It was drained a moment later. Mac glanced ruefully at the bottle between them. So much for savoring something fine. But needs must. She handed him the bottle. She had, after all, been exhorted in almost every letter to "take care of Jack."

Fortunately, the duty was a pleasant one. She liked Jack Robinson. She liked that he could be quiet. She enjoyed his dry wit. She appreciated his respect. And she never felt a need to tell him that she appreciated his respect because it was something assumed with him - something which was hers simply by virtue of her being an intelligent person who knew how to do her job. It shouldn't be remarkable at all; it was something that every person who dealt with her professionally should do. But they didn't. So she appreciated it where she found it.

"And when did you hear last?" she asked, propping her feet up on his desk. When he didn't reply, she snapped her fingers. "Are you sloshed, Detective Inspector?"

"Christmas," he said.

"What?" Christmas was months away yet; why should he be thinking of it now?

"Christmas was when I heard last."

She stared at his hand as he turned his glass in circles. "Christmas."

He withdrew a card from his desk drawer and slid it across the space between them. She stared at the front of it, the same winter scene she recognized from her own card. Then she looked up at him, he nodded, and she opened it.

 

Best wishes this Christmas and in the coming year
Phryne

 

She closed it, slid it back.

She had no idea what to say. She knew that Phryne wasn't angry with or tired of Jack; on the contrary, her friend's letters spoke of missing him. Sometimes they spoke of missing him without referring to him at all. They didn't have to.

"What did you reply?" she asked finally.

He filled half his glass. "I didn't."

"Why not?"

"She had already stopped answering my letters." He didn't drink the scotch he had just poured. Only looked at it. "I believe I must have been too open - too frank in one of my letters."

Mac couldn't help but laugh softly. "Too open and frank for The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher? Far be it from me to speak for someone, but I find that extremely unlikely." She finished her drink and set the glass aside. "Especially openness from you," she mumbled, unsure if he heard her or not.

They were quiet for another long time.

"You read Jane Austen in the trenches?" she said, breaking the silence.

He looked at her in utter bemusement, obviously jarred by the non sequitur. "We all did," he said. "What on earth made you think of that?"

"There's a line where someone says that his feelings are too strong to talk about them more. Perhaps Phryne... I don't know what she's thinking. I never have. But I do know that she's worn down. I think you must know that, too, from the letters you got."

"Yes. She was tired."

"She was tired then, and things certainly haven't gotten any better for her, I can assure you." She stood up, closed the scotch, and tucked it under her arm. "You should write to her. Even if you never get another reply, you should write to her. If she didn't want your letters, she would tell you so in no uncertain terms. This is Phryne Fisher, remember." She motioned to his still-untouched glass. "Finish that so I can get you home."