The afternoon light stung Jack’s eyes as he left the college building with Phryne in his arms, or, at least, that’s what he told himself. As he saw Dot and Hugh and several other officers running to his and Jane’s side he quickly stated, “Foyle and Rhodes are in a basement room under Rhodes’ office, both severely wounded if not dead. I have to get Phryne to the hospital as he forced her to drink some sort of poison. Jane…” He turned to the child. “Jane, I need you to go with Dot and Hugh.” Before Jane could open her mouth, he countered the argument he knew she was about to give. “I want you to go home, get something to eat, and get cleaned up. Then they can bring you to the hospital, get you checked out, and you can check on Phryne. Deal?
While there were tears hovering in her eyes, Jane bravely nodded. She moved to her adopted mother’s side and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I love you, Miss Phryne.” Jack smiled gently at her and said, “Just wait until she wakes up and I get to tell her how you saved the day. She’s going to be so proud; I know I am.” With that, Jane gave him an unexpected hug before he placed Phryne in his car and headed for the hospital.
Her head lolled on his chest and he placed his arm around her to keep her steady. In any other situation, he would have appreciated this intimacy, this chance to hold her. This time, he could only pray that he got her to the hospital on time. He took a small solace that her breathing appeared to be regular.
Whether it was an effort to calm himself or her, he started speaking to his unconscious partner.
“Phryne, sweetheart, I need to keep breathing steady for me. While I am quite sure you would enjoy kidding me about giving you mouth to mouth resuscitation, we need to get whatever poison Foyle gave you out of your system. When you come out of this mess healthy, I promise I’ll let you tease me about it all you want.
And, after you get well, I have to tell you how amazingly brave Jane was. I know she’s adopted but there is absolutely no doubt she is your daughter. She was calm and brilliant under pressure, just like you. She makes an excellent partner in a tight situation but…” Jack found himself choking up. “But that doesn’t mean I’m looking for a new partner. I’m rather fond of the partner I have. Phryne, sweetheart, please keep breathing, stay with me. There are so many things I want to say and do but I don’t have the right just yet. I never expected anyone like you to come bursting into my life. You make me laugh and think in new ways, and scream in frustration, and look forward to waking up in the morning because I know there’s a chance of hearing your voice and seeing your smile. Before you, I just existed, I wasn’t really alive. You beautiful, exasperating, loving, crazy woman, you pulled me out of the grave and gave me a reason to live. You gave me friends and a family and because of you, I love again.
You are the most fantastic, exuberant, independent, life-affirming person I have ever met and I wouldn’t change a hair on your head. Know that I love you, Phryne Fisher, you are my best friend and my partner, and G-d help me, I am in love with you as well. I know I shouldn’t say it but it needed to be said.
If you can stay, know that I will cherish you no matter what road our relationship takes, but…but if you can’t stay, that won’t change how I feel. I’ll take care of Jane; she won’t be without a parent. I’ll love her for both of us.”
With that declaration, as tears flowed down his face, he pulled up in front of the hospital, kissed her gently on the head, and carried her in.
The only reason that Henry George Fisher wasn’t dead was because Dr. Elizabeth McMillan’s arms couldn’t reach England. She remembered every time that drunken sot had blamed Phryne for Janey’s death in her presence and knew there were more times she hadn’t heard. And while Foyle was solely responsible for Janey’s kidnapping and death, Henry was responsible for the emotional scars caused by blaming a child for the acts of a madman that directly led to Phryne currently being in a hospital fighting for her life after having her stomach pumped.
Mac listens to her heartbeat and then gently brushes the hair from Phryne’s forehead. “The bastard is going back in jail sans a kidney, thanks to you, brat, and this time, he’s going to be swinging from a noose for what he did to Janey. Thing is, we can’t have a proper celebration until the heroine of the hour is recovered enough to get properly heralded, laid, and soused in whichever order she deems fit.”
Mac sensed motion behind her and smelled a familiar pomade. Leaning in to whisper into Phryne’s ear she ribbed her unconscious friend, “And here’s just the man to help you decide on the order!”
“The nurses said it was OK for me to come back.”
Mac cocked her head to motion him in. Noting the worried look he had on his face, she reassured him. “She’s going to be paler than usual for a while due to the procedure. You got her here fast enough that we were able to get quite a bit of the poison out. Apparently, it was a paralytic. He gave her a larger dose than he used when he kidnapped Jane. We gave her mild painkiller before we pumped her stomach. She may be out for a while but we’ll keep monitoring her to make sure there’s no lasting damage.
It’s a good thing Foyle didn’t have a chance to administer the opiate mixture he was going to use to hasten her to the underworld, she would have been dead before you left the college.”
Both of them silently shuddered at the thought. He moved to the other side of the bed and sat in the lone chair, taking Phryne’s hand. “I tried to stop her; told her it was too dangerous but we both knew she had to. She gave me a whopping kick in the shins when I tried to arrest her.”
For a moment, Mac tried to contain her amusement, but the scene playing in her head was just too over-powering. Pent up tears, flowed from her eyes as she laughed. “You two are funnier than Napier & Yvonne! You actually tried to arrest her?”
“For her own protection! She said she was going to give herself to Foyle if he’d let Jane go!”
“OK, I understand your reasoning but exactly how long have you known Phryne Fisher and at what point in all those months did you think that plan wouldn’t get you a kick in the shins?”
Jack shook his head, “I know, I know, but I couldn’t let her just offer herself up for sacrifice like that! I wanted to save Jane and get Foyle without losing her, or worse losing them both!”
“Jack, you and I both know that you were coming from a place of love while trying to look at this from police strategy but you have to realize that telling a mother not to rush to save her child is never going to be a good plan, especially when the mother is Phryne Fisher. While she has spent her adult years announcing, “I don’t do children”, she has mothered Janey from the day she was born and she couldn’t love Jane any more if you and she had brought her into the family the old-fashioned way.”
At that, Jack blushed to his ears.
“I should probably take a look at where she kicked you. That woman can kick like a mule!”
As he pulled up his pants leg, he concurred, “Don’t I know it! It still hurts!”
Mac whistled when she saw the bruise. “Yep, that’s gonna leave a mark.” After studying both the bruise and Jack, she commented, “She must really love you.”
“Exactly how do you figure that from the sight of a bruise?”
Mac’s eyes came up to meet his. “Inspector, Phryne Fisher is my oldest and dearest friend and from years of experience both in Collinwood and abroad, I can assure you that if she’s mad enough to kick a man that hard, she doesn’t aim for his shin.”
Jack’s response was to cough quite vigorously, turn bright red, and change the subject.
“Jane’s in the waiting room with Dot. May she come in and see Phryne?”
The physician nodded saying, “Only for a little while, and then I want to make sure she’s OK as well.”
Jack smirked, “Apparently, Miss Fisher isn’t the only protective professional in the room.”
As she walked out the door, Mac smiled and said, “You should be grateful I like you, Inspector, given I’m the one who taught Phryne how to kick.”
It was easy sometimes, because of her intelligence and natural precociousness, to forget that Jane was still a child who had gone through quite a lot in her short life. But when she quietly curled up on the bed next to her adoptive mother and stroked her hair, it was enough to cause Jack and Dot’s eyes to well up. It was obvious that in whispering love and support to her unconscious parent, she was self-comforting as well.
“What did Dr. McMillian say? Is she going to be OK?” Dot whispered as though she might wake her employer up.
“They pumped her stomach of the paralytic so she is going to be quite sore when she wakes up but Foyle hadn’t administered the final opiate mixture, so she should be fine once she wakes up.”
Jane raised her head from Phryne’s shoulder and asked, “May I stay here until she wakes up?”
Jack smiled gently and said, “That’s going to be up to Dr. McMillian. She said she wants to check you out as well.”
“Don’t but Inspector me! She even checked me out where your mother kicked me.”
“She kicked you?”
“She loves you so much she wanted to trade herself for you and when I tried to stop her, she kicked me.”
Jack raised his pants leg showing the evermore colorful proof of the tale. Jane examined the bruise quietly, appeared to silently confer with Dot, then looked Jack in the eye to offer her opinion.
“I don’t doubt that she loves me but Inspector, that’s not where she told us to aim. She must…”
Jack ducked his head and smiled slightly. “So, I’ve been informed.”
No one questioned that Jack would stay behind after everyone else had left. Dot and Jane left with a list of what to bring to the hospital the next morning and Mac had supplied Jack with a blanket and pillows “in case he had the good sense to try to get some sleep”. For the most part, he sat by side holding her hand and talking to her about everything and nothing at all. As evening turned into night, Jack stretched his arm under her pillows and lowered his face to lie next to hers and stroking her hair.
“Miss Fisher, I expect that by the time I wake up you will be up and causing your regular amount of trouble. You have been entirely too quiet for too long. By this time, you would have made a flip remark about you and I having pillow talk. While I do find this incredibly pleasant, I have no doubt it would be more enjoyable if I could stare into your eyes and hear your voice.” Gently, he kissed her on her forehead and then chastely on her lips. “Night, Phryne.”
When Mac came in, Phryne was laying one her side, stroking the sleeping man’s hair. She smiled at her old friend and held a finger to her lips. “Don’t wake him up, he hasn’t been to sleep that long.”
Mac just rolled her eyes. “How do you feel?” she whispered.
“Stomach muscles are sore and I feel pretty muzzy.”
“I’m not surprised. Any headache, dizziness, unpleasantness?”
Phryne smiled at the still sleeping man and kept to herself the fact that upon waking and seeing his face lying next to hers, she had laid a brief kiss on his lips, whispering, “Morning, Jack.” She simply looked back up at Mac and said, “No unpleasantness whatsoever.”
After a brief but expected eye roll, Phryne asked, “How’s Jane? Have you seen her? She’s had an awful scare.”
Mac’s pride in her god-daughter caused her to almost gloat. “Fit as a fiddle and more worried about you than herself. It’s my understanding that she and Jack made a pretty resourceful team in there. She made me promise to call when you woke up. She begged to stay but Jack convinced her to go home with Dot. Oh, and Hugh will be coming by to handle your statement after you’ve had some breakfast.
Speaking of which, we probably should wake Sleeping Beauty up and get him fed as well. He’s going to be sore from sleeping in that position, he hasn’t had anything to eat since he’s been here, and I know his leg is going to hurt for another day or two.”
Phryne smirked and huffed saying, “Darling Jack but he had it coming! He actually thought he was going to keep me from rescuing my own daughter!”
“So, why the shin?”
“Never you mind, Lizzie McMillan! I had my reasons.” She blustered.
“Well, all I can say is that’s a helluva way to announce your intentions. Now, I’m going to call the family and let them know you’re awake and you wake up Jack. I figure by the time they get here with breakfast and your clothes; I may be able to arrange to throw both of you out of here. No alcohol today and try to get some rest. I’ll be by this evening to check on you.
And Phryne…” Mac’s voice cracked a little. “Good on you for getting that bastard so he can hang as he should.”
The women stared silently at each other knowing the grief of the past, the grief of the present, and the healing that could now start.
In the dark recesses to slumber, Jack heard her voice in a dream.
“Jack. Time to wake up, love.” A soft hand stroked through his hair. He murmured her name which warmed her heart and parts south. “Jack, there is a certain irony to the fact that you waited for me to wake up yet here I am waiting for you to wake up.” She moved her hand to stroke his cheek. Gradually, his eyelids fluttered open. “I waited a long time to wake up to see your face on my pillow but I didn’t expect us to be in a hospital bed.” She gently joked.
His eyes widened. “Phryne! You’re awake!” He cupped her cheek and looked at her with tears in his eyes. “I was so afraid…” He caught himself and said, “Good partners are hard to come by.” Phryne kissed his palm and said, “Don’t I know it! Now, why don’t you splash some water on your face before Dot and Jane bring breakfast in? Mac says if I am a good girl, I’ll get out of here this afternoon.”
As he stood up, he bent to kiss her gently on the forehead. “If we have to wait for you to be a good girl, Dot and Mr. B will have to rent your room at Wardlow.” And so it was that as Dot and Jane found imminent lady detective and the esteemed detective inspector having a pillow fight in the hospital.
After the pillow fight was called a draw, breakfast was finished and Phryne got dressed, Hugh arrived to take her statement in private. She explained how she had gone to the college to rescue Jack and Jane and had offered herself in their place and drunk the paralytic. She explained that while she had no control over her voluntary muscles, she continued to be conscious except for the period of time when her stomach was being pumped. “I assure you that’s not something I would want to remember.” She quipped.
Hugh’s expression stayed a bit confused and concerned. “But why willingly drink something you knew might kill you?” Phryne thought for a minute about how to explain herself. “The most important thing to Foyle was that he obtained his fourth goddess and if I acted willingly, he would release Jack and Jane unharmed.” “And you were willing to drink poison to save them?” Phryne took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “Hugh, if Foyle had made that deal with you to save Dot and your daughter, would you have done any different?” Hugh gave her hand a squeeze and said, “No, I guess not.”
The next day was difficult for everyone as they identified the graves of Joan Rosen, Diedre Kelly, Iris Fulton, and Janey Fisher. As the officer got to the level of where Janey’s body lie, Jack unconsciously placed his arm around her shoulder. While he knew he couldn’t shield her from this grief, he could at least let her know that she was not along in that moment.
Phryne drew closer to the makeshift grave as Janey’s bedraggled overdress and shift came into view covering her tiny bones. Phryne had, in her adult life, as a nurse and as a detective seen all manner of violence and death, but the sight of her sister’s fragile bones literally brought her to her knees. As her knees hit the dirt of the grave, Jack moved to be next to her. When the full wave of realization and grief hit her, that there was now no doubt that Janey would somehow eventually come home, Phryne’s keening wail of grief could have challenged a banshee.
All her life, Phryne Fisher had moments when she reached out to the universe for security and comfort;
When her father would beat her and lock her in the dark cupboard with only the sound of scurrying spiders, she reached out and found no solace;
When Janey disappeared and Phryne first took on the guilt of her kidnapping onto her youthful shoulders, she sought relief but no relief came;
When Rene’ stripped her of her trust in love and in herself, she desired surety but found none.
But, in the instant when she knew her beloved sister was both finally found and ultimately lost, she reached out to the universe for comfort, for grounding, for shelter from the pain of this new reality and Jack was there to take her hand.
He didn’t let go until she fell asleep on her chaise back at Wardlow.
Jack went back into the office on the 21st in order to put the final touches to the paperwork of the Foyle case. The other three families had been contacted, the bodies of the children had been moved to the respective funeral homes, and Jack went through reading the interviews that Hugh had done for the case. DI Hastings had signed off on them since Jack was considered a victim in the case due to the kidnapping and assault but, as Hugh’s direct superior, he wanted to read them if not sign off on them.
Hugh's interview with Foyle in the hospital was quite professional, given that he was forced to keep his personal aversion at bay. Jack understood Hugh's affection for his sweetheart Dottie’s boss, Phryne, better than most did.
“While Miss Fisher did admit that she is unmarried, it was also obvious from her tone and body language that she is either in a budding romantic relationship or wants a romantic relationship with Detective Inspector Robinson and that these feelings were not unrequited. I decided to utilize this to my benefit. If she was willing to consider offering herself for the sake of her daughter, there was no question she would come willingly if I had both her child and the man she loved.”
Jack choked back bile reading such calm and even-toned evil. He had never before wanted to pull the lever at an execution but Foyle sorely tested his mores. That said, Jack assured himself that Foyle simply misunderstood what little he’d seen. Phryne didn’t love him, she cared for him as a friend and perhaps considered seducing him as a challenge as she had seduced others, but love him?
And then, he started reading Phryne’s statement.
“Hugh, if Foyle had made that deal with you to save Dot and your daughter, would you have done any different?”
It wasn’t the fact that Phryne had been willing to risk her life that astonished Jack, it was the fact that she, in explaining her actions to Hugh, had equated him and Jane with his future spouse and an as yet unconceived child. She saw him not as a dalliance, or a momentary fling but was a professional and romantic partner who she was willing to die for. Tears glistened in his eyes and he quietly choked back a soft sob. This amazing, passionate, vivacious, vexing woman might not ever walk down an aisle with him but, whether she realized it or not, she had shown more commitment to him than he had had in the 16 years with Rosie. He pulled himself together and got himself ready to celebrate not only Phryne’s birthday but the start of a fuller relationship with her. He would wait for her to tell him herself but he felt he was definitely on the right path as long as he walked with her.
Prudence had known something was not quite right from Phryne’s voice on the telephone asking if she could stop by. Not only was she quiet and reserved, Phryne rarely came by without a specific purpose such as helping with an event, coming to dinner, or taking Arthur to the zoo or to the park.
When Phryne walked into the parlor, Prudence knew she had been correct in her assumption. Her niece was pale, somber, and, instead of the customary air kiss, Phryne wrapped her arms around her aunt and hugged her.
“Phryne, dear, what’s wrong? Has something happened? Is Margaret alright?”
Phryne took her aunt’s hand and patted it. “Mother is fine but I do have news that I need you to sit down for.” As they settled on the couch, Phryne, with tears in her eyes took a deep breath and said, “We’ve found Janey…where Foyle buried Janey.” Prudence blanched and tears welled in her eyes. She placed her hand on Phryne’s cheek. “You sweet, brave, blessed child. You’ve brought our lamb home. I am ashamed to say I had given up hope of ever knowing what happened and I mourned the fact that that wretched father of yours forced you to carry a guilt that wasn’t yours to bear as a child. Where is she? Have you contacted your parents?”
Phryne wiped the tears from her eyes as she said, “She’s at the Coroners. They are ready to move her whenever they hear from the funeral home. I haven’t contacted Mother yet. I wanted to speak to you first so we could discuss the arrangements.”
Prudence gave a watery smile and shook her head. “Obviously, she needs to be in the family plot. Given that Guy and Isabella have chosen to live in Europe, I’ll check with him about placing Janey in his place next to Arthur. I’m thinking it should be a small private affair, your household and mine and any of Janey’s friends who are still in the area. Then we can have a second family-only service for when your parents get here.”
“I think Janey would like that and I think that Arthur would as well. Did you want me to be here when you tell Arthur?”
“No, dear, but I do think you should speak to him after I have. Did you want to stay the night and have Jane come over?”
Phryne blushed a bit. “Actually, Aunt P, if Mac finds out I left the house so soon after leaving the hospital, she’ll make one of your scoldings seem tame.”
“HOSPITAL! Phryne Grace Fisher what haven’t you told me!” Phryne was sure that Aunt P’s voice could have been heard in Perth. That said, she felt that her assumption about Mac’s reaction was probably correct.
“Aunt P, it was only overnight and it was worth it to save people I love and bring Janey and the three other girls back to their families and now Foyle will finally hang for what he’s done. And I had to tell you face to face.”
For all her exasperation, she simply couldn’t argue those points so she merely shook her head and gathered her beloved niece in her arms. “I’ll call when I have arrangements made, now go get home before Elizabeth has your guts for garters.”
As she closed the door, Prudence prayed that by bringing her sister home that Phryne might be able to find the peace she hadn’t had since that circus years before.
The party had been fabulous with drinks and food and dancing and raucous laughter. Phryne had been determined that her family deserved it after all that they had been through. All had stayed until late into the night but by and by all had said their goodnights. Mac had kissed her friend on the cheek and had not said one word of reprimand about leaving the house. Dot and Hugh had gone outside to say their goodnights before Dot turned in. Bert and Cec had driven Aunt P and Arthur home but not before Phryne had frantically stuffed his pockets full of treats while his mother, supposedly, wasn’t looking. Arthur and Phryne giggled like children at the idea of pulling the wool over Aunt P’s eyes. The gentle smile on her face let everyone know that she had not been fooled.
Jane had enjoyed the festivities but it was obvious to Phryne and Jack that Jane had not let either of them out of her sight for any amount of time. She fell asleep sitting between them on the sofa while resting her head on Phryne’s shoulder with Phryne stroking her hair. Phryne caught Jack’s eye and glanced down at the sleeping child. “Help me put her to bed.” She whispered. Jack lovingly scooped her up in his arms, her head tucked into his chest and her arms around his neck. “I’m not sleepy.” She murmured. “Of course not, but since everyone else has gone home, you won’t miss anything by resting your eyes.” Jack suggested diplomatically. Apparently, the logic made sense to the already sleepy child as she snuggled in and agreed, “M’kay.” He softly deposited her on her bed and gave her a kiss on her forehead. “Night, Jane.” Before Jane let go of his neck, she gave him a hug. “Night, Inspector.” As he stood up, Phryne placed her hand on his arm and whispered, “I’ll be down as soon as I get her tucked in.” The look between the two was so loving and domestic that neither knew what to say next so he merely shook his head, patted her hand, and made his way downstairs to prepare them drinks.
Phryne got her ready for bed then tucked her in. She sat next to the child and rubbed her back. Just as she finally drifted off, Jane murmured, “I love you. Can we keep the Inspector?” Phryne leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I love you too, sweetheart. I’ll see what he has to say on the subject and let you know. Between you and me, I vote yes.”
Phryne joined Jack on the chaise and took a sip of her drink. She closed her eyes and leaned back, signing gently.
“It was a good party.” Jack mentioned.
Phryne nodded. “Everyone seemed to have a good time.”
“What about you?”
Phryne cocked an eye his way. “What about me?”
“Miss Fisher, you can take the hostess face off. In the last week your staff was poisoned, your daughter kidnapped, you were forced to drink poison, you discovered your sister’s whereabouts, captured her killer, been in the hospital, planned a funeral, and hosted a party. How are you?”
Recognizing there was no putting anything past Jack Robinson, she took a deep cleansing breath. “Honestly, I don’t know. So many things have changed so quickly, I’ve hardly had a chance to evaluate them all. So much of my life as been tainted by not knowing what happened to Janey and now knowing and knowing that it should have been me…”
Before she could finish, Jack interrupted. “No, it shouldn’t have been you! Birth records don’t work that way. They are separated by state, then year, then last name. Foyle had them searching for girls born from 1901 to 1904. You were born in 1900. Had Janey’s birth been registered properly, Waters would have found another girl born the same year as Jane, not you. It was just a tragic twist that Foyle discovered your birthday after you visited him in prison and chose to use you as the fourth goddess instead of searching for a new child. You have every right to grieve Janey’s death but no right to carry any guilt. The only person responsible was Foyle and you put your life on the line to stop him and bring justice to Janey and the others. You brought them home.”
Phryne searched his eyes hoping he was telling the truth, knowing he was telling the truth, but hesitant to fully believe. Her eyes filled up with tears and without considering propriety, Jack swaddled her as she let go of fifteen years of ill-attached guilt. She wrapped her arms inside his coat and released the emotions that had been dammed for so long. For quite some time, Phryne’s head lay on his chest as he lay back against the edge of the chaise rubbing her back.
As her tears finally subsided, Phryne said, “I really don’t know what I or Jane would have done without you in all this. You said in the car that I pulled you from the grave and that’s exactly what you’ve done for me.”
“You heard me in the car?”
“I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak but I could hear everything. About you being willing to adopt Jane, about the mouth to mouth resuscitation, about Mac teasing you about me kicking you and you kissing me good night. Throughout that whole situation, as terrifying as it was to not have control over my own body, I felt protected, and cherished, and safe and those aren’t words that I have ever associated with a man before.”
She tilted her head up to once again look in his eyes which were glowing with joy, surprise, and love.
“I heard you when you told me you loved me but I could speak then. In my mind, you have been a part of this family for quite a while and as Jane was going to sleep tonight, she asked if she and I could keep you. I am not comfortable with the concept of marriage but perhaps we could extend our partnership beyond professional and beyond friendship to create our own commitment? Bear in mind that this commitment will also include becoming a gradual father figure.
I know that we would have to take things slowly as we each have healing to do but if you’re amenable I would like to try something new. I would like to experience courting. I know that in the past that I have had dalliances, and flings, and trysts, but when we’re ready, when we’re sure of ourselves and each other, I want us to do something I’ve never done before – I want to make love to you as the man I love and have you make love to me. I want you to know how much I do love you…beyond the hematoma on your shin.”
Jack laughed and held her hand to his heart and as though he was intoning a wedding script, he repeated the words he spoke to her when he thought she couldn’t hear. “Before you, I just existed, I wasn’t really alive. You beautiful, exasperating, loving, crazy woman, you pulled me out of the grave and gave me a reason to live. You gave me friends and a family and because of you, I love again.
You are the most fantastic, exuberant, independent, life-affirming person I have ever met and I wouldn’t change a hair on your head. Know that I love you, Phryne Fisher, you are my best friend and my partner, and G-d help me, I am in love with you as well. If you can stay, know that I will cherish you no matter what road our relationship takes. Even if I have to limp.”