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a lack of pretense

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As Phryne enters the warehouse, gun drawn, there is a hideous, awful moment where she sees the unmoving form tied to the chair and fears the worst.

“Jack,” she calls out, running forward. “Jack!”

She goes to her knees in front of him, staring at his slack face, his closed eyes--and then she catches sight of his rolled up sleeve, the livid red mark on the inside of his elbow, and the discarded needle on the ground, and her body goes cold with rage and horror.

“Jack,” Phryne murmurs, now, searching for a pulse and thank God, finding it along the side of his throat, his skin hot to the touch. “Jack, come on now, wake up.”

Finally, he starts to stir, a soft groan escaping his lips. Phryne holds her breath, waiting until Jack’s eyelashes begin to flutter, his eyes finally opening to look at her, dazed. “Phryne,” he murmurs as he sees her, and Phryne lets out a shaky sigh of relief.

“Yes, Jack, it’s me.” She cups his face with her hand, as much for her own sake as to make sure his eyes are still on her. The lighting is awful here, but she’s sure his pupils are dilated--no doubt the result of whatever drugs have been pumped into his body.

“The gang--”

“Are all being arrested as we speak,” Phryne reassures him. “Hugh’s out there making sure of it.” She tries to smile, adding, “And, I’m sure, putting the fear of God into them all while he’s at it. He was so very worried, Jack. We all were.”

Her voice catches a little at the last, remembering that awful panic, Jack having disappeared and knowing the most dangerous gang in Melbourne had him, that they only had so much time before he was shot or strangled or bludgeoned to death, his body dumped in some alley or off into the sea.

He leans into her hand, and murmurs, “So you found me. Thought you would.”

Phyrne’s throat is too tight for her to speak at first, but she eventually manages to smile. “Yes. Of course I did.”

*

“Well, he’s a lucky man,” Mac says with finality as she enters the hallway, arms folded. “Best as I can tell, they dosed him with some sort of opiate, but it should wear off by morning. Got knocked about a bit, to be sure, but with a bit of rest, he’ll be as right as rain.” She gives Phyrne a gentle smile. “News I’m sure we’re all glad to hear.”

Phryne leans against the doorway, looking at Jack, dressed in a set of men’s pajamas that Mr. Butler magicked out of nowhere, taking his rest in Phryne’s bed, where he is safe and warm and fed, talking quietly with Hugh. “Yes, it is,” she breathes out, too worn down to even bother trying to hide her relief.

“Bit ironic, given that it’s you, but do try and convince him to stay out of trouble, will you?” Mac asks, with a hand on Phryne’s arm. “Much as I like our good inspector, I’d prefer not to have him as a patient when it’s all said and done.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Phryne says, her eyes still on Jack. She stirs herself, saying to Mac, “I’ll see you out, Mac, and thank you again for coming.”

Mac waves off her thanks, and Phyrne sees her to the door, but as she turns around to head back upstairs, it’s to find Hugh coming down the stairs, helmet in hand, clearly on his way out. “Leaving already, Hugh?” Phryne asks, surprised.

Hugh smiles a little. “Thought it might be best. The inspector’s doing well, but er, seeing as he still has those drugs in his system, thought it might be best to wait until morning to get his official statement.”

Phryne tries and mostly fails to hold back a smile. “Rather out of it still, is he?”

Hugh appears to give this actual thought. “Well, his statement did contain far more Shakespeare quotes than I think might be needed in the official report, that’s all.” Phryne laughs at this, and is rewarded with a beaming smile from Hugh.

“You did wonderfully today, Hugh,” she tells him, still smiling. “And as soon as he’s fully back to himself, I’m sure Jack will say the same.”

Hugh ducks his head, but the pleased smile on his face is clear as day. He lifts his head back up and tells her, “Couldn’t have done it without you, Miss. Thank you.”

If it wouldn’t make him blush, Phryne would kiss him on the cheek. As it is, she smiles at him and says, “I’ll let you go and say goodnight to Dot, I believe she’s in the kitchen with Mr. Butler.”

Hugh beams and heads off, and Phryne goes back up the stairs.

When she heads into her bedroom, she thinks Jack might have dozed off, but at the sound of her steps, he stirs, blinking before focusing his dark gaze back on her. “Hello.”

“Hello yourself,” Phryne says, smiling at him. She settles herself on the edge of the bed and looks down at him. “Feeling any better?”

“Mm, much better, thank you,” Jack says. It is rather fascinating to watch him now, how relaxed he is, no longer filled with his usual air of quiet control. “Has Hugh gone?”

“He probably has by now, yes. Said he would come by again in the morning, though. Apparently your last statement had some quotes from the Bard he didn’t think would be of much use.”

Jack actually scoffs at this. “Shakespeare is nearly always useful, I’ve found. But yes, that’s probably for the best, I find my mind isn’t too clear at the moment.”

“That’s not so surprising, given your treatment by that gang,” Phryne says, keeping her voice as level as she can. “Mac says you’ll be fine by the morning though, so all will be well that ends well.”

“I don’t know about that, I think I’ve already found a good ending,” Jack says, and Phryne tries to contain her smile. She will always prefer Jack when he is in his usual senses, but there is something incredibly endearing about him in this state. “I’m not tied up, I’m not in danger of being killed, and I’m in the bed of the woman I love, so this is a good ending so far as I’m concerned.”

Phryne holds herself very, very still as those words hit home. Jack’s watching her, his hair mussed but his eyes far clearer than she’d originally supposed. “I mean it, you know,” he says, and even though it might be physically impossible, her heart seems to stop at the words. “I’ve always meant it, with you.”

There are a thousand things she could say in this moment. She could match his declaration, she could smile and laugh it off, attribute it all to the drugs she still knows are in his veins.

Phryne has never been one for pretense, though. And so she smiles, and tries not to let her mouth tremble as she tells him, gently, “Mean it in the morning, Jack.”

“Of course I will,” he promises her, and it takes so much for her not to kiss him in that moment, not to lean in and make a thousand promises against his soft mouth.

She holds back, just, containing herself to brushing his hair off his forehead, liking the way the curls feel against her fingers. “I know. Now get your rest, Hugh will be here in the morning.” As his eyes obediently flutter shut, Phryne adds, so soft that she’s nearly sure he won’t hear, “And so will I.”

*

It never is entirely comfortable, sleeping in a chair, but Phryne has always been one of those blessed people that can sleep in just about anything, in nearly any position. Comfort is always appreciated, true, but rarely necessary.

So when she finally wakes, in the armchair next to the bed where Jack’s slept all night, she stretches herself out, arms above her head, waiting for the various pops and cracks to subside.

It’s only then that Jack says, voice a little hoarse, “Morning, Miss Fisher.”

Phryne settles back into her seat, and meets his gaze directly. “Jack,” she says, and hides any dismay she might feel at the return to ‘Miss Fisher’. “How do you feel this morning?”

“Far better,” he confirms with a faint smile. “And much more like my usual self.”

“Wonderful,” Phryne says brightly, getting out of her seat. “The gang is all in custody, Hugh will be by shortly to take your official statement, and I believe Mr. Butler will have breakfast ready shortly, I can check to see what we’re having--”

“Phryne,” Jack says, cutting into her chatter, and Phryne falls silent. He is watching her again, with those marvelously expressive dark eyes. “It’s morning now.”

Phryne swallows. The morning sun is pouring through the windows, and Jack’s skin is faintly golden in the light. “So it is,” she agrees, as evenly as she can manage.

“Do I really need to tell you that I still mean it?” Jack asks her next, a faint line between his eyebrows, as if he’s worried about this, as if there is any possible way he could be on unsteady ground with her.

Phryne slowly moves towards him, settling herself down on the bed. “Well...I won’t deny that it is very good to hear,” she admits, giving in to the urge to touch his face, her thumb running along his cheekbone. “Especially since only twenty-four hours ago, I wasn’t sure if you were alive or dead.”

Jack is looking up at her now, and he’s here and in her bed and still alive, and Phryne can’t hold herself back any longer. Really, it’s incredible she held back this long.

Jack’s mouth is soft against hers, and he leans into her kiss as though it is the only thing in the world he wishes to do. Finally she pulls back, but only far enough to rest her forehead against his hand and say the one thing she has wanted to say over this past day. “Don’t you dare,” she says, her voice trembling only a little, “Don’t you dare ever go where I can’t follow you.”

“As if I ever could,” Jack replies.