Miss Fisher was getting antsy. She enjoyed her evenings with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, to be sure. She found that she even enjoyed playing draughts with him. Whereas she usually found the game as stimulating as a game of cards or, perhaps embroidering a toilet seat cover.
Surely the fact that he was a handsome man helped to pass the evenings. The fact that he was a handsome man who, in fact, let her traipse all over his crime scenes helped all the more. She was conscious that in her mind, the word "let" might be open for interpretation.
No, what she really liked about playing draughts with the detective inspector is that when he played, he played seriously. He brought out her competitive streak. He was also very, very good at playing several steps in advance. He caught her out a few times when she made a winning move only to discover that she was being trounced within the next few moves.
Nonetheless, she felt the need to up the ante. Perhaps it was the heat. More likely, it had something to do with growing frustration proportional to the number of men she had been rejecting of late.
Jack was thinking of his next move. Phryne truly enjoyed watching his eyes dart about the game board. She knew he saw the opportunity to be crowned and also saw that she'd take his king in the very next step. He probably also considered jumping his man once back, luring her in so that he could take another one of her players. She was getting better at anticipating his next move but more often than not, he surprised her.
He played the move that had him go back a square.
He glanced up at her.
She thought about moving her piece in. Allowing herself to be caught. But, what's the fun in that? Phryne chewed on her lower lip as Jack sat back and took a sip of whiskey.
"You are. Nevermind, if you tell me what you are thinking, I'm highly likely to be embarrassed. Please keep it to yourself."
Now she was pouting. And he was smirking. So, she was caught after all.
"Jack, I was thinking..." She caught him rolling his eyes. "What?!?" Her eyes got rounder.
"I don't want to know."
She glared at him. She sipped her whiskey and investigated the possible moves available to her.
She moved a piece into position 28, effectively blocking his king from moving forward. Ha. How if he moved into position 24 to get her king, she'd jump him first. She liked the sound of that. Jumping him, that is.
He looked up at her again then down again at the board. He was doing that thing with his hands. That thing where he was lightly tapping his finger to his knee. He moved into position 24.
Yippee, she thought! I've got him now. She jumped and took his king.
Jack appreciated her look of glee.
Then he jumped her 16 to 23. Again from 23 to 14. One last time from 14 to 7.
He grinned unapologetically. She tried glaring at him. She really did.
"Very good, Inspector. But the game isn't over yet."
She looked down at the board and up at him. She's going to chance it.
"I think we need to raise the stakes, Inspector."
"Gambling, Miss Fisher? I don't think so. That is quite illegal, as you know."
"Only if it is money at stake. No, no. I'm thinking of something else entirely."
He squinched his eyes. This is exactly what he was trying to avoid. Knowing her, she has concocted some sort rules around taking an item of clothing off for each crown that occurred. Or sharing secrets on a case that he definitely shouldn't be sharing.
He practically glared at her under hooded eyes. "Whatever you are going to ask. Is it legal?"
"Can I beg out without consequence if it involves confidentiality associated with my job?"
She sniffed. "I suppose"...knowing full well that she had ways of getting around that.
"Can I keep my clothes on?"
"I assure you Jack, you are always welcome to take your clothes off with or without any games in place."
He looked nonplussed.
"Oh, alright. No one will force you to take off any clothes."
"What is this idea, then?"
"You have heard of the game Truth or Dare, haven't you?"
Yes, he had. This is what he was afraid of.
"I'm simply proposing that the loser of each of our OTHER games - draughts...chess...investigations" (she raised her eyes coquettishly) choose between a truth or dare. The winner asks a question to be answered honestly or provides a suitable dare that the other must perform."
"And in the case of a forfeit?"
"The loser provides the next dinner"
"So, the loser can always choose truth?"
"Uh huh. Always"
"And a Truth cannot include information about my job that I am legally obligated to keep confidential?"
"We are partners Jack. When do you ever have to keep confidential information from me? No, I think withholding that information warrants a forfeit."
He could live with that. Losing wasn't going to be the problem...winning was. Phryne would never choose a "truth." The issue for him would be in coming up with a dare that was satisfactorily adventurous for her but not mortifying for him. He was less worried about the latter. The worst possible scenario is that he would win. She'd ask for a dare. He'd come up with something either childish or inconsequential. What if he couldn't come up with anything she considered ... daring?
If he accepted, this dilemma would begin very soon, indeed. He was only 2 moves from winning this round.
He looked at her again. She knew he'd say yes. He could tell by the way her eyes were twinkling at him. Oh what the hell. It isn't like he's going to be giving into any "gaudy nights". Ultimately, the control was his. He was reasonably sure he could be inventive. He was a grown man, after all.
"I don't think you know what you are getting into, Phryne. You might be getting in over your head."
He lowered his eyes and pretended to see that she wasn't grinning at him like a cat who already had her mouse.
"I think I can handle myself with you, Jack."
He looked up at her and tilted his head. "You know how competitive I can get. You also know that I am not inclined to suffer fools gladly. Are you sure you are up for this?"
"Quite." She raised her eyelashes, recklessly.
"Very well, then" He nodded. "I accept."
"Oh, its *my* turn." Jack can tell she sees the opportunity to jump one of 4 men remaining on the board. She takes it. Of course.
He moves his king into position.
She can only move into a single spot. So, she does.
He sweeps the board of her remaining pieces. "I won."
She looked surprised. He tried to hide that this was, in fact, very charming.
Jack raised his chin and met her eyes. "So, what will it be?" He said stoically. "Truth or dare?"
She glanced at him sideways, her lips in a sly smile. "Dare"
"What a surprise." He got up and asked if he could look in the kitchen.
She knitted her eyebrows together and followed him. "What are you looking for, Jack?"
"I'm just wondering if your kitchen has an apron"
"Well, here is Mr. Butler's"
Jack looked at the man's apron, which would fasten to the upper section of a coat or a waistcoat with a button. No. This would not do. He pursed his lips. "I'm looking for a women's apron. Perhaps a pinafore?"
Odd request, thinks Phryne. She searches around and finds a thin, white cotton pinafore with lace and ruffles up to the neck, a fitted waist and a skirt that would go down past a woman's knees and about three quarters around her hips. She is wearing a confused frown and holds it up to Jack for his inspection.
"Is this what you are looking for, Jack?"
"Yes, that will do." He licked his lips and prepared to issue first dare.
"Miss Fisher, I dare you to make me a cup of tea wearing that pinafore."
She laughed and started slipping over her head.
"No, Phryne" Jack shook his head with the kind of frown that showed he was actually very amused. "Just the pinafore."
He waited for the other shoe to drop. Phryne Fisher blushed prettily. That alone was rewarding.
He looked at her innocently. "You have a dressing area down the hall. Do you not?"
He sat down at the kitchen table, crossed his legs and leaned one arm over the back of the chair.
"Close your mouth, Miss Fisher. You have a dare to perform." Her jaw snapped shut. "Unless....you'd like to forfeit?"
She raised her chin and pursed her lips. She considered the situation and took herself - and the pinafore - down the hallway. In her absence, he contemplated the balance to strike between finding suitable dares and embarrassing himself. He forced himself to make an early peace with defining a set of experiments that would undoubtably land him in situations well worth even large doses of mortification.
In the meantime, Phryne was trying on her new outfit. Usually, she'd be quite up for something like this. In this case, there were 2 things weighing heavily on her mind. The first is that Jack had made quite an issue of protecting his own propriety only to raise the stakes so quickly. That was something she did not see coming and she didn't know how to respond to it.
The second thing is that she really didn't know how to make tea.
Part of her thought, "well, how hard could it be?" Put in leaves. Add water. Steep - which, is really just a special term for "wait" (not that she ever did that well). Pour into a cup. Add milk and, possibly, sugar. Cup on saucer and serve.
But she didn't do it particularly well. Not like Dot.
She examined herself in the mirror. He said "only" the pinafore. She decided to remove her earrings, necklace and shoes. If she was doing this, she was not going to get corrected in her interpretation of things.
She took a deep breath and ignored the fluttering she felt in her chest. She's Phryne Fisher. She can do anything...and, in most cases, do it without smearing her lipstick. She decided to repeat this to herself as a mantra.
She walked into the kitchen, chin high and went to fill the kettle.
Her eyes went wide.
He's reading the newspaper. She is in here, practically naked as the day she was born, and he's reading the newspaper???
She snorted imphrynefisherimphrynefisherimphrynefisher...
Jack cleared his throat and turned the page. "Do you actually know where the teapot is kept, Miss Fisher?"
He knows that she thrives on the response men give to her. He wasn't about to give away how alluring he thinks she is. He isn't going to share how his mouth watered on seeing her pert, dusky nipples peeking out behind the white lace. How he wanted to touch the tie at her waist. How his eyes caressed the curve of her hips. The white fabric barely shaded the black triangle covering the most intimate part of her.
He could practically see her mind working. The teapot. The teapot. Her eyes glanced around the room. She looked back at Jack, who (nose in newspaper) was pointing his finger at the closed cabinet across from him.
"Of course, I know where my own teapot is" she stated, sounding particularly flustered.
She managed to find the tea, the sugar, the tea cups and some milk. ...imphrynefisherimphrynefisherimprhynefisher...
Jack loved the smell of Phryne's french perfume. The smell brought on his much improved mood of late. When she walked by him now, however, he could smell something that was much more...secret. Her scent made him dizzy.
No, as much as he didn't want her to feel ignored, it was much more important that he was able to maintain some level of dignity throughout the evening and - more importantly - the next time he saw her.
She continued the artifice of making tea.
She was about to pour some tea leaves into the pot when she remembered that Dot would pour some hot water in first. Yes, she could do that. Ooch - hot. She looked around for a towel so that she could lift the handle of the kettle.
She swirled the water round the pot and felt the outside get warmer. She dumped some tea in. She looked at it then she added some more. More is always better, she reminds herself. She is frowning inside the pot.
She isn't sure if this is right. She adds hot water until the pot is half full. She covered the pot with the lid then draped the towel over it. Just like she had seen Dot do it.
She cleared her throat. "Will you be taking sugar in your tea, Jack?"
"No, not tonight. Thank you"
She leaned against the counter with her arms folded across her chest. She had no idea how long it was supposed to sit before serving it. Jack had yet to look over once.
She poured the tea into a teacup. Topped it with a bit of milk. Gave it a stir. Put the cup in a saucer and brought it over to him.
She stood right in front of him to hand him his tea. He looked up at her - cool as a cucumber. "Ah, thank you Miss Fisher. Would you sit it down right over there?" He indicated a spot on the table with his eyes.
Phryne was quickly becoming incensed, thankyouverymuch.
She made a play at leaning across him, folding her body over his arms and across his newspaper. She put the cup down and looked back at him.
"Here? Is this okay, Jack?"
He had to bite his lips to keep from laughing. He nodded quickly. "Yes. Thank you."
She stood up again and made a point of pulling out the chair beside him to sit down. She pulled the newspaper down toward her with her index finger and looked him straight in the eye.
"Will you be *trying* this cup of tea then, Jack?". He thought that she was doing her best to put on a haughty air.
He did note, however, that she did look a little upset. He looked at her sideways and smiled warmly.
He collected the tea and saucer in one hand and the handle of the cup in the other. It was steaming. Still quite warm, then. He looked into her eyes and then down into the cup of tea. He blew across the top of the liquid a few times.
He sipped at the cup, experimentally. He almost choked. The tea was so thick, a spoon might be able to stick straight out of it. He cleared his throat, nodded and said "this is almost as good as Constable Collins' tea, Miss Fisher."
She glared at him.
He felt a devilish again. "Well, I hope you weren't expecting it to be as good as Dot's, were you? She is such a treasure...as you are wont to describe her yourself."
Her nostrils flared.
"So, you'll finish it, then?" Her voice sounded unnaturally high, even to her. She ignored the detective inspector's grimace.
"Yes, yes. Quite happy to." He slowly sipped on the tea, ignoring how the large amount of tannins were puckering the inside of his mouth. He tried not to think about how the caffeine would be turning his stomach in a manner of minutes.
He turned to look Miss Fisher in the eye again and smiled pleasantly (Keep looking at her eyes, man. Just her eyes). "Had I lost Miss Fisher, what would you have asked of me?"
She was looking at him dolefully. "That depends. Would you have asked for a truth or a dare?"
"I think we both know that I would have asked for a truth."
Her eyes softened. "Well, I can't tell you what that would have been then, can I? I may want to ask it the next time we see each other."
He sets down his empty tea cup and stands, taking special care to fold the newspaper in front of his trousers. He walked out to the hallway, quickly swapping the newspaper for his overcoat before she had followed him out.
He grabbed his hat and set it on his head. He looked forward as he made his way to the door. He did his very best to sound conversational.
"Now that I think on it, that was the most satisfying cup of tea I have had in a very long while."
He tilted his head and smiled at her. He was already dreaming up the next set of dares to accompany his upcoming victories.
"Good night, Miss Fisher." Detective Inspector Jack Robinson walked out the door into the night.