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When the Long Trick's Over

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***

Jack watches the little plane until it fades into the distance, dipping its wings into an elegant left bank.

There’s no way Miss Fisher can fly to England. It’s never been done before, and she’s got little by way of preparation, of fuel, of food. To Sydney, then to Cairns, then to Thursday Island, then far beyond. The resources—the resourcefulness—required are steep indeed.

Then again, the impossible has never stopped Phryne Fisher before. It certainly won’t now.

Jack tips his hat to the empty sky and turns back to his car.

**

City South is quiet. Collins won’t have much by way of a wedding holiday, so recently returned from extended leave, but Jack had ordered him elsewhere for a few days to be with his new bride. Jack suspects Miss Fisher may have paid for a seaside cottage, a gift to the new couple.

But even Collins’ absence isn’t enough to explain the stillness. In Jack’s experience, beautiful spring afternoons bring mayhem, or at least mischief, but today there is neither. Crime, Jack thinks, must be taking a day off to honor Miss Fisher.

He smiles at that, rueful. He would like to think that it is too soon to feel her absence; she has spent many spring afternoons at charity functions or chasing down stolen jewelry or terrorizing the locals in her motorcar or any number of other things that kept her away from his police station. And yet, only hours after her departure, she is very acutely absent: not on his desk, swinging a distracting leg. Not leaning too close for propriety, daring him or the world to comment. Certainly not giving Hugh orders or distracting him so Miss Williams—Mrs. Collins—can filch a piece of evidence.

Not here to wonder at the quiet and drag him away from his desk on a hunch that will crack open a thorny murder.

Jack knows he is in love with her, has been for longer than he would care to admit. But more than that, somehow harder to untangle, is that he has become accustomed to her. She should be here, causing whatever ruckus she pleases, no longer disrupting his life so much as demanding he live it as fully as he can stand.

The mischief and mayhem and murder will return soon enough. The quiet will persist.

Jack doesn’t like it.

**

There is a body in the morgue. Doctor Macmillan rattles off the pertinent details: male, forty years of age, white, professional, dead. Found by the wife at eleven in the morning, foul play suspected but not confirmed. Might be a heart attack, then we’ll all get out of here on time. Toxicology forthcoming.

“You’re not listening to me,” Doctor Macmillan says, leaning forward across the dead man to wave the file under Jack’s nose.

He raises his eyes and repeats everything back to her, verbatim. If Miss Fisher was here, she would catch his smirk, laugh.

Doctor Macmillan raises an eyebrow. “You’re listening,” she concedes. “But you’re not paying the least bit of attention.” She raises the other eyebrow, as if expecting an explanation that Jack feels ought to be unnecessary. Doctor Macmillan—perhaps one day he will start calling her Mac, but she hasn’t yet invited it—is Miss Fisher’s oldest friend and an astute observer of humanity.

Jack doesn’t reply, but doesn’t make to leave. He has everything he needs—nothing to be done until the coroner’s report comes in. Now that he thinks about it, he’s not sure why she called at all; Doctor Macmillan doesn’t need him until she has confirmed that this man was murdered.

“You’re the one who asked me here,” he says finally, pretending a conversational tone and meeting her eyes.

Doctor Macmillan shifts. “I suppose I did,” she says. “Though I don’t recall what I was planning to say.”

This time it is Jack’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “It was a beautiful wedding,” he offers.

Doctor Macmillan smiles. “It was,” she says. “Blushing bride, nervous groom. All the things you’d hope for.”

“Yes,” Jack says, laughing a little. “Though I once again find myself without a constable.”

“All the better to bring you to the bedside of this unfortunate fellow,” Doctor Macmillan says, gesturing to the body lying between them.

“Yes,” Jack says, looking down. At a glance, the corpse is not so different than he is—not much older, not in much worse shape. If he did die of natural causes, perhaps that is better than so many things that might have befallen him. Perhaps not.

“Look,” Doctor Macmillan says, drawing a deep breath before studiously looking at the dead man. “She’s mad about you, you know.”

Jack stares down. “I know,” he says. And, because lying is a fool’s errand and the doctor is not an idiot, “I’m mad about her, too.”

Doctor Macmillan snorts at this; he has shared news as novel as the rising of the sun in the east. She says, “If you’d have asked me in 1920 if Phryne Fisher would ever fall in love again, I’d have laughed you into the next century.”

Jack looks up, perhaps quickly enough to give away his surprise at her comment, except that Doctor Macmillan continues to regard the corpse with pretended studiousness.

“I wouldn’t have pegged you, either,” Doctor Macmillan continues as if Jack is not still interrogating her previous words. She looks up and her gaze is sharp, but Jack knows her well enough now to sense the kindness behind those words. She lets him off the hook: “When I met you, you were no fun at all.”

Jack lets the corners of his mouth turn up at that. He isn’t going to give the doctor the benefit of saying anything obvious or romantic, but he meets her eyes nonetheless. Her comment isn’t entirely true, because she didn’t know him enough to see beyond buttoned up Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. But it isn’t entirely false, either. He concedes with, “I suppose not.”

Doctor Macmillan purses her lips. She pulls the sheet to cover the body between them and steps back, setting the folder in her hands on the desk beside her. “What comes next?” she asks.

Jack puts his hands in his pockets, rocking on his feet. Now that he is here, having this conversation, he finds he needs to know what she thinks of the choice Phryne put before him. Jack doesn’t smile as he says, “I could sail for England.”

He thinks he has surprised the good doctor, but he has also surprised himself. He hadn’t given much credence to Miss Fisher’s words, wondering too hard at the logistics of the invitation and not enough about the seriousness with which it was issued.

But, instead of calling him a fool, Doctor Macmillan grins and that is all the confirmation Jack needs that he might reverse his thinking. “You could,” the doctor says, voice level.

“Bloody complicated,” Jack says, which isn’t the half of it.

Mac—he is going to call her Mac after this conversation, invited or not—nods. “You wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.

**

“Come after me,” Phryne had said, as if it were an easy thing.

The last time he’d been on a steamer, he’d slowly made his way home from France in December 1918. He was lucky, he knows now, after too many years of reflection.

He’d sailed in the first wave, young and married but twenty months, eager to fight for—what, he doesn’t remember. For right and justice and good, he supposes, for making the world safer for peace. It was October 1914 and the world was alight with arms and young men willing to watch others die for their countries.

It was a time before war.

The Great War, the war that would end all wars, except Jack is now cynical enough to know that more will come. More war, someday, to take young husbands away from their wives and their lives, to disrupt obvious progress.

There had been a course of things:

Joined the constabulary at eighteen under the tutelage of George Sanderson, a friendly neighbor and sometimes mentor, whose daughter—well, she was beautiful and sunny and smart and happy to talk for hours about the life they would build together as soon as they were old enough.

Married at twenty-one, with almost two happy, naïve years. Sunday dinner at the Sandersons, Saturday luncheon at the Robinsons. Rosie went even if Jack was working, and if he wasn’t, then he and Rosie would go walking in the mid-afternoon and then home to make believe that theirs was a happiness destined to last, unencumbered.

War at twenty-three was not part of the plan, but right and good prevailed, and newly-commissioned Lieutenant Jack Robinson sailed for England with the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Force. Of course, history knows, England turned into Egypt, and then eight bloody, stalemated months in Gallipoli.

And that was just the beginning.

He doesn’t talk about it, not to Rosie, not to Phryne, not yet. War was hell, that was all there was to it, and in between putting the blood and stench out of his mind, he had also forgotten those first weeks at sea, crammed in with so many other men.

He wonders, of the thousands of men and horses on his troopship, how many others came home alive.

It hadn’t been bad, the time at sea. It had been a floating introduction to the army, daily drills and calisthenics, the occasional sport. They didn’t know, then, what lay before them, and instead they gawked at the open ocean and the coast of Africa; a ride, courtesy of His Majesty King George, to the far-flung corners of the world.

Jack’s captain told him he was smart: “Just keep your head down and you’ll be home before next summer.” And so he stood at the rail and watched the waves and the world go by, imagining the people who lived on those distant shores, wondering if his books had their stories right.

Jack’s captain died at Pozières, not quite two years on.

Jack’s was one of the first troopers to leave Europe, packed to the gills and jubilant except for memory clinging to their skins like the sweat and dirt that followed them home.

It was a restless journey as hundreds of men keened over the rails trying to sight their native shores; days turned to weeks and even as it grew closer, Australia seemed further away. That the return to their quotidian lives, cobblers and farmers and policemen, required a wait of another day, another minute, seemed the greatest offense of all.

They were alive, but their friends were dead, their God was dead, and so many of their dreams followed.

“Come after me,” she’d said, as if a steamer to Europe was no undertaking at all.

**

A phone call to the Deputy Commissioner results in a pause so long Jack is convinced his superior cut the line rather than respond to his outrageous request for six months of personal leave. “You’re pushing it, Robinson,” the Deputy Commissioner says at last.

“Yes sir,” Jack says. By all rights, the Deputy Commissioner should turn him down outright, offer the job he has, right here, or no job at all.

In the space between his boss’s breaths, Jack wonders what he will do if refused. The romantic thing would be to resign, to consign himself to the seas and fate and Phryne Fisher. But the seas and fate have never been kind, and he has been paying his own way through the world too long to stop now.

He drums his fingers on his desk.

The practical thing would be to stay, to stay solid, staid Jack Robinson, who always does the right thing. Who went to war and had the poor sense to live to see the consequences of his risk.

The Deputy Commissioner is breathing heavily on the line.

“Perhaps,” Jack says after another long moment, “the Commissioner could write a letter of recommendation to Scotland Yard.” The Deputy Commissioner doesn’t say anything, but he stops panting. Jack hopes he is no longer working up to firing one of his best men outright. “Surely I—surely the Victorian Police Force—could benefit from training in the most recent investigative methods.”

The Deputy Commissioner huffs. “You’re a piece of work, Robinson,” he says.

“Yes sir,” Jack says.

His boss laughs, but not kindly. “You get six months,” the Deputy Commissioner says. “And if your presentation to the Commissioner upon your return is unsatisfactory—.”

“Thank you sir,” Jack says as the line goes dead.

Jack stares at the receiver a moment before setting it in the cradle. He isn’t sure if this is the best idea he’s ever had or the most cowardly. It is a way to give in to this fanciful idea that Phryne wants him with her in England but still maintain his position. But it is also a safety net, space for both of them if they need it, a pretext if it all goes to hell.

A fully professional undertaking and his departure so close to Miss Fisher’s a coincidence only.

Phryne will welcome him with a mixture of surprise and surety at his arrival, when it happens. He has expectations for their reunion and no doubt that she will meet them—that they will meet them, together. Here, alone in his office, he lets himself anticipate something more than a kiss at an airfield under her father’s frustrated gaze.

But Jack has no idea what will happen after that, except that he will excuse himself to Scotland Yard with the regret of leaving either a contented bed or an empty one.

He will hope and ask the seas and fate and Phryne Fisher for the first.

**

Despite his worry, the logistics are easy enough: £200 for a second class ticket on the P&O Line, thirty-five or forty days via the Suez Canal, expensive—but he isn’t saving it for anything else anymore. His rented flat returned to his landlord on short notice. The loose handle on his desk drawer tightened for his interim replacement. Trunks packed with clothes, shoes, books.

The rest is more challenging.

**

He has seen Rosie three or four times since he arrested her father and Sidney Fletcher. Each meeting, she has looked a little sturdier, more like herself. She’s got her fight back, which is what she said about him after meeting Miss Fisher for the first time.

She greets him in her sister’s parlor, smile warm and welcoming. He kisses her cheek and squeezes her hands before depositing himself on the settee. “You’re looking well,” he says.

Rosie shrugs, turning to pour herself a drink. “It’s quite something,” she says, conversationally. “Trying to figure out where you fit in the world when it’s been turned completely upside down.” She pauses. “Everyone has questions, but they can’t bring themselves to just ask. And what would I say? That I have—I don’t even know what I would say.”

Jack rises and moves to pour himself a glass of the lemonade. It’s the most Rosie has said on the topic of Fletcher and George’s arrests since the night they were made, and in their brief meetings Jack hasn’t raised the topic. He has nothing comforting to offer; he thinks Phryne’s advice might prove more valuable in the context of murdering lovers and thieving parents.

He tries and fails to imagine that conversation and returns to his chair.

“No,” Jack says, rolling his glass between his hands before taking a sip. The lemonade is too tart for his liking. “You don’t know what to say,” he continues, remembering Rosie, so young, demanding he tell her everything about four years of war. That he never could and that she kept insisting—well, those were the twofold failures of their marriage. “I suspect you never will.”

Rosie nods. “Speaking from experience, Jack?” she asks, voice tired. She can replay as well as he can the terse conversations that faded into brittle silence, their ability to converse at the end of the day as much a casualty of the war as Jack’s men.

Jack shrugs. “It is impossible to find words for something you don’t understand yourself,” he says. “It’s helpful,” he continues, “to have something to distract you.”

Rosie lets that sit for a moment, before saying, “I’m thinking of joining a board. Those girls need the right people, good people, looking out for their interests. I know I don’t have the money like some of the other members, but I—.” She hesitates. “I would like to be useful.”

He takes another sip of lemonade before leaning forward. “I can make an introduction to Mrs. Stanley,” he says. He suspects Mrs. Stanley will find the inducement to meet his former wife surprising, but manners and need will win out in the end. “I know she feels strongly about these causes and would be happy to have your assistance.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Rosie says, grateful for the turn of conversation. “Speaking of Mrs. Stanley, how is Miss Fisher?”

“Ah,” Jack says. “Presently attempting to fly her father to England to escape a homicidal cousin.”

Rosie laughs. “Oh dear.”

Jack says, “My understanding is that it’s going well enough.” He reaches into his jacket pocket and brandishes a telegram. “Kuala Lumpur is apparently very hot.” Jack creases the well-read paper between his fingers before stowing it away again. “And her father is being difficult. She comes by it honestly.” He smiles at this, because for everything else, she would not be his lock-picking, train-jumping, building-scaling Phryne Fisher without her father’s criminal inclinations.

Rosie takes another sip of her drink, setting the glass down with a clink. “You love her,” she says and though her tone is resigned, it is not an accusation.

Jack nods his head. “Without a doubt,” he says, a little wry. “Against my own better judgment much of the time.”

“I told her she had made things more difficult for you,” Rosie says, which Jack hadn’t known. “But I think I was wrong. You’re different,” Rosie continues. “All energy and brass and taking on the world, consequences be damned.” She smiles. “I remember that Jack. What happened to him?”

“He went to war,” Jack says, surprising himself. He has had too many honest thoughts in the last weeks, too much time spent in his head without his usual foil to draw him out for a laugh or a dance or a nightcap, and the words spill out.

“And then what happened?” Rosie asks.

Jack purses his lips. He has spent a decade not telling her these stories, insisting that even the barest outline was his alone. But now, with the recriminations behind them and a new life ahead of him, perhaps it is time.

“We lost five thousand men at Pozières,” he says finally. “One day it will just be a number, all the honored dead of the 1st Australian. But—I see death every day, Rosie, and I still cannot describe to you what that looked like. My whole platoon, every last one of them, dead.”

His tone is almost conversational. “Shelling is bad,” Jack says. “You can’t hear anything afterwards, sometimes for days. And then if the shelling is successful, on the part of the enemy, it is followed by guns and bayonets. My friends—.” He shakes his head, stops.

Perhaps if they’d had this conversation years ago, but now, some things are not Rosie’s to know.

“We fought for two more years after that,” Jack says after a pause. “You know they pulled me back from the trenches for survey and intelligence at that point.” He was shell-shocked into silence for a month, shut up in hospital until his wits returned; he’s never spoken of it and he never will. As Rosie nods, Jack says, “But we still lost thousands and thousands more.”

“And then you came home,” Rosie says. She is pale, her lips drawn.

Jack nods. “And then I came home. It had been years, Rosie, of nothing but blood and death and cigarette smoke, if we could get it.” He flexes his fingers. “And I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to work.”

Back to work and then home to a wife who wanted everything to be the way it had been, when they were young and the world was bright with possibility. Who wanted a husband with ambition and joy, who got a solemn man with a cutting sense of humor and no greater drive than to keep the streets safe.

Rosie closes her eyes. “And now?” she says, not letting him dodge the other half of the question, despite, he thinks, appreciating his words.

Jack takes another sip of his lemonade and then rolls the glass in his hands. He says, “Miss Fisher showed up at a crime scene like she owned the place. And it was absolutely infuriating.” Jack shrugs, trying to piece together the last year of his life, as if there was an easy explanation that took him from wanting her gone to finding her impossible to live without. “But she was always right,” Jack continues. “Or nearly, anyway. And I’m still just trying to keep up.”

Rosie’s gaze is faraway, somewhere long behind them. “You always did like a challenge,” she says.

“Were you a challenge?” Jack asks lightly.

“My father was,” Rosie says. “You had to go through him to get to me and you did it, little Jack Robinson with nothing but a pile of books, a bicycle, and a chip on his shoulder.”

“Is that how it was?” Jack replies, because he remembers George as a stern but willing second father and Rosie the joyful spitfire, happy to make him work for her regard but giving it freely once earned. He doesn’t remember exactly when that changed; a slow fade into oblivion for that affection, and now here they are trying to become something like old friends.

Jack quietens his gaze. “Rosie, I’m sailing to England on Thursday. To be with Miss Fisher.”

Rosie closes her eyes and nods. “And what of your job?” she asks.

Always practical, Rosie. Both of them. “I’m taking a three month secondment to Scotland Yard,” he says. “I’m expected to develop a training course.”

“That’s quite a coup,” Rosie says, because she knows the politics of Russell Street as well as Jack does.

“They don’t want to dismiss me,” Jack says. “But they would like me gone as things settle down.”

“A perfect solution,” Rosie says, and Jack pretends not to hear the note of sadness in her voice. He knows her well enough to know that she’s thinking of him moving heaven and earth to make this crazy idea work when he couldn’t find a way to make their marriage last. But if she says that, Jack would point out that it was a wholly unfair way to think and they would have the same fight that led them from separation to divorce.

“It is,” Jack says. “I’ll make the introduction to Mrs. Stanley before I leave.”

Rosie shudders minutely. “Thank you,” she says, voice wavering a little.

“I’ll come back,” Jack says, because the last time he left he couldn’t make that promise.

Rosie nods. “I know,” she says. “I’m not worried about that. I just always thought you’d—I don’t know. Settle down again.”

Now Jack smiles and turns the conversation. “You know,” he says, “I tried. Found someone lovely.”

“But?” Rosie says, now staring curiously at him. This is not something he was ever going to tell her, but then, there has been quite a bit of that today.

“But,” Jack says, “it turns out I’m in love with Phryne Fisher.”

That wasn’t entirely it, Jack knows. Loving Phryne would never be the problem; choosing her life, with adventure as its master, over the stable one Concetta offered was the challenge. He suspects he owes Concetta a debt for her refusal to let him make that choice.

Rosie smiles. “And you’re going to cast caution into the wind and go after her, society be damned?” she asks, trying for a lightness of tone that Jack knows she doesn’t feel.

Jack wants to shrug as if this is not the gravest decision he has made in a very long time. But it is, so he says, “Yes.” He fusses with the lemonade glass before continuing. “My mother informs me that I am courting social ruin.”

Rosie laughs a little sadly. “Again.”

Jack doesn’t know what Rosie’s circles had said after the divorce. To her face, “Good riddance” and “Congratulations,” probably, but behind her back, he imagines many crueler words. He suspects that his ability to put his head down and go back to work—again, always—served him well. Rosie had to face the world alone.

“Yes. Apparently, the divorce was one thing, but this is a step too far.”

Rosie’s shoulders shake in quiet laughter. “Has she thought about me? Divorced, first. And now my father and fiancé turn out to be selling children for—.” She stops, waves a hand that encompasses an array of crimes Jack hopes she doesn’t contemplate in detail. Rosie says drily, “My calendar has been quiet.”

Jack lets himself smile at that, a little rueful. “There are more people than you might expect that value character over the rules of proper society,” he says.

“Like your Miss Fisher,” Rosie says.

Jack raises his lemonade glass in acknowledgement. Rosie leans forward to clink her drink against his, a quiet toast, he thinks, to a future ignoring the conventions that ruined their past. He wonders, for a moment, if the Rosie he knew even six months ago—before all of this—would have been so understanding.

They sit quietly. After a long moment, Rosie looks over at him before standing and dropping her glass back on the sideboard. They have both said their piece. Rosie folds her arms and gives him a falsely stern look. “You write,” she says, “and tell me how on Earth anyone can fly from Australia to England.”

Jack chuckles. He can’t wait to find out.

He takes his leave.

**

City South is still quiet. Jack watches as a laborer chips at the paint of his name on the office door, preparing it for someone else.

Collins comes up beside him. “Pity they have to take it down, just to put it back up again,” Collins says. “Seems like extra work for nothing.”

Jack stands with his hands in his pockets. “Can’t say I disagree with you, Collins,” he says. “You’ll keep the lights on for me?”

Hugh nods. “Of course, sir,” he says. “She’ll be as good as new when you get back.”

Jack smiles. “She hasn’t been new since 1893,” he says. “So you’ll have your work cut out for you.”

“Ah, yes sir,” Collins says, darting his eyes to check if Jack is joking. Jack isn’t sure what he concludes, because the door behind them bangs open and they both turn to see a small, familiar figure march through.

“Jack Robinson!” Dorothy Collins says in the same tone she usually reserves for scolding Hugh.

“Yes?” Jack asks as mildly as he can.

“You were going to leave without saying goodbye,” she accuses, pointing a finger at him.

“Beg pardon, Mrs. Collins,” Jack says. “I had no idea it was important.”

Mrs. Collins makes a face at him that is so reminiscent of Phryne at her most annoyed that Jack almost laughs. “Then you’re an idiot,” Dot says. “And I’ve never thought you were an idiot.”

“Dottie,” Collins says, glancing between his wife and his boss with wide eyes.

Jack waves him off. “It’s all right, Collins,” he says. “I apologize for the oversight, Mrs. Collins.”

She huffs at him a little. “Apology accepted,” she says before reaching into her satchel. She pulls out a paper-wrapped package and holds it out to him. Jack takes it from her; beneath the paper, he can feel several hard-bound books. “I wanted to get you something for the voyage,” Dot says. “They’re all new, and I don’t know what you like to read, but—.”

Jack turns the package over in his hands. “It’s perfect, Mrs. Collins,” he says and finds his voice hoarser than it should be. “Thank you. I mean that.”

She nods, biting at her lip. “I told Miss Fisher to come back safe,” she says, taking a deep breath to clear the wobble in her voice. “So I’ll say the same thing to you. Bring both of you back safe.”

Jack steps forward, bringing himself closer to her where she stands next to Collins. He glances between Collins and then at his wife, encompassing them both in his response. “I will,” he says, looking down at the books in his hands. “I will.”

Behind him, the laborer folds up his tools. The door is blank.

**

Jack keeps to himself on the ship, trading time between his little cabin and a spot on the deck with an umbrella to shield him from the sun.

He reads; Dot sent him with Sinclair Lewis and Zane Gray. He brought a trunk of Shakespeare and too much poetry and a new, controversial option, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Jack purchased it on a whim the day before the journey, curious after newspaper reports and too many whiskeys. He keeps the book with him as he works through the others, undecided if he will open it or merely turn it over in his hands, imparting his own feelings into the words between its pages.

He breathes; the last months have been difficult and he lets the ocean air wash over him. Jack lets the equatorial heat sink into his skin as he sweats through his shirt. It is good to simply be, here in this space between continents. He wonders what it looks like from the air.

He rises from his chair, book folded under his arm. He leans against the railing, watching the water break against itself in the expanse of sea before him. He has been here before and everything is different except the ocean.

They have been at sea twenty three days, closer now to England than Australia. He wonders if Phryne has landed safely, absconded to a fancy hotel, abandoned her father to her mother or the closest taxicab.

He paints a picture of her in his mind, charming the hotelier and the guests, dancing until dawn with any man who will have her. He imagines the beads of her dress, the cut of her headpiece, glinting under the electric lights.

She is beautiful.

**

She is beautiful. Windblown from Southampton’s stiff onshore breeze, face painted with freckles from too many hours flying close to the sun. She is not Icarus, fallen. She is standing before him, hand clapped to her head to keep her hat from escaping, grinning up with delight.

“You came,” Phryne says.

“You asked,” Jack responds.

“And you always do what I ask?” she responds, the banter familiar and yet already weighted with something more.

“You did say something about improving on my romantic overture,” Jack says, reaching out to take her hand. Her can feel callouses on her fingers beneath her lace gloves, wants to ask about each of them, kiss them smooth.

“I did,” Phryne says, and the giddiness drops from her voice, replaced with a tone he wants to hear again and again. She turns her hand so she is grasping his tightly and pulls him closer. “Not bad for a first effort,” she says.

“I do try,” Jack says, and then he kisses her. She tastes like tea and sea air and she leans against him, shifting her hand from her head to grasp at his lapel, holding him to her, possessive. She has been anticipating this reunion as much as he, and Jack wonders what she has in store for him when they are away from the crowd.

Jack smiles against her mouth, and Phryne leans back. “What?” she says, looking delightfully put out at the interruption.

He gestures over her shoulder with his free hand before running his fingers through the strands of black hair at the side of her face. “Your hat is making a run for it,” he says. Her hatpins are no match for the stiff sea breeze.

And then Phryne is running down the dock, chasing her cloche in the wind. Jack watches her for a moment as she skips around luggage and people, a look of pure joy on her face as she scampers for the offending millinery. He locks a hand around his own hat and follows her into the fray.

***