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Dot knows exactly how long he’s been gone (three weeks, 504 hours, hundreds of minutes upon minutes of being without him), but it doesn’t truly hit her until Mr. Butler goes to the closet and pulls out the silverware and polish. The last time he’d sat down to his work, Hugh had been at her side. His hand at the small of her back, wearing the earnest smile he always gave when he visited on official business but couldn’t help kissing her hello—

 

“Did you hear me?” Mr. Butler’s eyebrows knit together in concern. “I asked you a question. Are you well, Dorothy?”

 

“Hugh’s been gone almost a month now.” She’s been thinking of these words all day long (while tying her penny loafers, during her ride to the store, as she wiped the top of Miss Fisher’s wardrobe for the third time this week because that thing traps dust like the dickens) but spoken out loud, she’s surprised by how annoyed she sounds. She’d been sad at first (and she still is, God knows) but a low grade anger has begun simmering inside of her as well. How dare he , she thinks, mouth flattening out into a straight line. How dare he leave without a word, how dare he think he has to do it all alone .

 

“Have you spoken at all?”

 

“A few postcards...” He hasn’t phoned at all or written about anything substantial and she’s refused to make the first move. Dot raises her chin and straightens her back because the last thing she wants is someone trying to raise her spirits about this, about his absence, but she needn’t have worried, Mr. Butler doesn’t attempt to. He just looks at her with sympathy before getting back to his work.

 

 

---

 

 

The cases keep coming, but every day is the same.

 

Dot wakes up to the sound of Mr. Butler rattling around in the kitchen. She pulls on her clothes, straightens her finger waves, goes downstairs to eat oatmeal. Calls her parents and tries to ignore her father asking about Hugh and her mom talking about the nice catholic boy she met at the market. Mostly, she catches the tram to whatever crime scene Miss Fisher’s been called to. Every now and then, she’ll catch a taxi. Even fewer and farther between, Miss Fisher will be home and Dot will ride in with her. In this fashion, days become weeks and one month turns into two. She doesn’t know how much longer this would have gone on if she hadn’t missed her stop one morning and ended up in front of the newly renovated Calypso Club, formerly known to certain wheelers and dealers as The Imperial Gentleman’s Club.

 

They’d promised to let bygones be bygones, to keep in touch, but (and it shames her to admit) Dot hasn’t seen or even thought of her sister in almost a year. She hesitates, then steps forward and knocks. It’s easy to get inside (something about being a seamstress and nonsense about costume measurements) and there she is, nursing a drink at the bar. Dot watches her for a moment before Nell starts to speak. “I hate those shoes. You look like a school teacher.”

 

Dot takes in the too dark eye makeup, bright red lips and tired gaze and decides against saying what she looks like. “A perfectly respectable occupation.”

 

Nell rolls her eyes and takes a sip from her glass, leaving a smudgy red blob at its lip. “What do you want?”

 

“It’s been awhile Ne—Lola. I just wanted to see how you were. I’m getting married.”

 

“That’s funny, because Mom asked if I was coming to your heathen wedding not too long ago. Then I spoke to her last week and she was wondering whether or not it was too soon to set you up with a fine young man from her church.”

 

She doesn’t say anything and Nell smiles wide. “Lost your copper already, have ya? What? Wouldn’t give it up?” Dot’s face heats up and she pulls her sweater tighter across her middle. “There are plenty of other things you can do to keep them happy if you won’t go all the way, big sis. Believe me,” she lowers her voice and leans toward where Dot’s standing. “They like it when you put your mouth—”

 

“It’s nothing like that!” she says quickly. Dot’s confused by a lot of the decisions Hugh has made, but she’s never had a single doubt about his respect for her boundaries. “We just— He needs—” Dot shrugs helplessly and climbs onto the stool next to her sister. “I don’t know what he needs anymore. Maybe I never did,” she finally admits. “We haven’t spoken in weeks and I don’t even know if he loves me anymore let alone if we’re still getting married.”

 

Nell motions to the bartender and he places a squat glass with a splash of brown liquor in front of Dot. She picks it up gingerly, smells it and takes a sip before putting it back down with a grimace. They sit in companionable silence for a moment.

 

“You know what the difference between us is, Dottie?”

 

“I was invited to Christmas dinner.”

 

Nell watches her with soft eyes and Dot immediately regrets saying it, but doesn't know how to apologize in a way that won’t turn her sister defensive. Their relationship has been antagonistic for too long. They don’t share a language anymore.

 

“If I could find someone who looked at me the way your copper looked at you,” Nell says, staring into the bottom of her glass and seeing things Dot isn’t sure she wants to know about, “I wouldn't be standing here waiting. I’d go and get him and I wouldn’t let him go.”

 

 

---

 

 

The low simmering anger inside of Dot has come to a full-fledged boil.

 

Two and a half months with no contact besides postcards about blackfish and spangled perch. No news on how he’s doing except the Inspector’s offhand comments about their talks, and the amount of repairs Hugh’s been able to make on the cabin, two and a half months without hearing his voice, without his lips against her cheek, his arms around her waist, pulling her close. Two and a half months of feeling so alone that when Constable Martin moves into her space in that hotel office one afternoon, she doesn’t push him away. Then his lips are on hers and she can smell him (masculine and there ) and she can feel him (heavy and solid) against her and she thinks of Hugh’s face. Of what he would think if he could see her right then, if he knew she had options, that he was running out of time.

 

That last thought shakes the rage inside of her on its moors. As distant as they are now, it’s only ever been Hugh and when he offered her a ring, they made a promise to one another. Dot doesn’t think she can let that go. Not without speaking to him first, maybe not even then.

 

Dot tells Constable Martin it can never happen again. That she has a fiancée (one she hasn’t spoken to in months and has no idea whether he even still wants to marry her, but a fiancée none the less) and she won’t betray his trust for anyone. He agrees, but there’s a tension between them now and people notice it.

 

Miss Fisher has noticed it, of course she has. Even with Dot making sure she’s as professional as possible, the woman wouldn’t be one of the best (lady or otherwise) detectives around if she weren’t observant, but she doesn’t push. Dot almost thinks nothing will be said until her employer invites her into the parlor for tea one afternoon. Dot sticks her head around the corner and takes in the white eyelet tablecloth topped with one of the nicer tea sets. It’s surrounded by cakes and sandwiches and she almost wants to turn tail at the setup, but she’s noticed and motioned forward. “Have a seat, please.”

 

Miss Fisher swings her legs down from where she’d been lounging in the window seat and sits up straight to pour Dot a steaming cup of Earl Grey.  She smiles shakily, takes a sip and steels herself. “If I have been anything but professional this past week or so I apologize and—”

 

“Stop, it’s nothing like that at all,” Miss Fisher says quickly, putting her cucumber sandwich back on the tray before she can take a bite. “You are always proficient, Dot. It’s just that you haven’t seemed quite like yourself.” She pushes a white box across the table and leans back. “I know it’s a bit early, but here’s your wedding gift.  You look like you could use it now.” Dot picks the box up and shakes it as Miss Fisher laughs and says to open it. “I considered another color, but he’ll have already seen you in white.”

 

Dot mulls that intriguing statement over before she tugs her gift free from the box. It's black silk chiffon and, judging by the feel and the person who gifted it, expensive. So soft and well-made she can barely see the stitching. It looks floor length with some very light metallic black threading throughout the fabric. Not so much that it overwhelms, but just enough to catch the light and make the person wearing it sparkle. The thing could almost pass for an evening gown, almost . If it weren’t practically sheer, that is. Dot shoves it back into the box and clears her throat, not sure what to say. “It’s—”

 

“—A bit obvious, I know,” Miss Fisher laments without an ounce of regret and a smile. “But you must agree that there’s no better time for a woman to be obvious than on her wedding night.”

 

Dot clears her throat at that. She isn’t a child, she knows the general mechanics and she’s been around Miss Fisher long enough to pick up quite a few of the specific details, but when she thinks about it (about Hugh’s skin against hers, the feel of his weight on top of her, of his breath at her neck, her legs around his waist…) she still feels lost. Dot watches a bird first circle then light upon a branch just outside of the picture window. “I miss him so much.”

 

Miss Fisher puts her hand over Dot’s. “He’s coming back. He loves you.”

 

“He kept things from me, things I had every right to know.”

 

“He did, and that’s something you need to put him straight about in the very near future. Have you called or written?”

 

“If anyone should call it should be him!” Dot says righteously. “He’s the one who left, the one who kept secrets. Hugh may have never outright lied to me, but that’s just called a sin of omission, Miss.”

 

“Yes, and I haven’t been to church in a long while so correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe pride is a sin as well.” Dot feels her face go red at the admonishment and Miss Fisher pats her hand again. “Even if things don’t go the way you want them to, don’t let your ego keep you away from someone you love.”

 

Dot wants to ignore her the way she ignores Mr. Butler’s knowing glances, the way she ignored Nell’s advice, but she can’t. Not anymore, not after that kiss. She needs to know what’s happening between them. One way or the other, she needs to know. Dot drops her arms to her sides. “I need a few days to… to attend to a personal—”

 

“It’s yours,” Miss Fisher decrees with an easy flick of her wrist. “You’re going to go get him then?” Dot doesn’t say anything; she doesn’t have to. Miss Fisher nods. “I’ll tell Jack you’ll be at the cabin,” she says, then turns and looks Dot full in the face. Studying her in a way that makes her shift her feet and glance away. “Go ahead then,” Miss Fisher finally says and moves her gaze to the table. “Have fun, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”

 

Dottie leaves so quickly, she misses the smirk that accompanies her employer's last directive.  

 

 

---

 

 

The train is a relatively short hour and 45-minute long ride to the outskirts of Woolloomooloo, but the land leaves little of interest to look at, so Dot reads, her hands getting clammier and her mind wandering further the closer she gets to Hugh. By the time the conductor calls her stop, she’s 25 pages into her novel and can’t remember a single plotline. Dot grabs her bag, shoves the book inside and waves down a taxi to get to Inspector Robinson’s cabin because she isn’t a hundred percent sure where she’s going and she’s got no time to waste getting lost. It’s already near dark and by the time she reaches her destination, the stars are a blanket overhead. She pays the driver, walks to the front door and raises her hand to knock, but it opens before her fist can land.

 

“You shouldn’t be here.”

 

It isn’t the welcome she was hoping for, but it isn’t completely unexpected either. He picks up her overnight bag and moves to the side as she holds her purse against her chest and steps in. The place is tiny but immaculate. The wall across from her has an oversize window with a very pretty view of the river, the distant city lights sparkling on its surface. There’s an old wood table in the middle of the floor, it’s surface pale and pockmarked from years of use. A two burner stove hulks in the far corner with a fireplace nearby and a full size bed is against the wall opposite it. She takes another step inside and spots a door to what she guesses is the bathroom. “Of course I should be here. It’s where you are.”

 

He doesn’t say anything, just drops her bag near the bed and pointedly looks away as he grabs a seat at the table, pulls his boots on and begins lacing them. She stands there for a few minutes until that old annoyance begins to stir inside of her. “Are you going to invite me to sit down?”

 

He looks up sharply and by the tilt of his lip she knows exactly what he will say, something about how she invited herself here without his permission and how she can take a seat without it as well, but the look falls away almost as quickly as it appeared. He gets to his feet and motions to the chair opposite his own. “I’m sorry, sit down, Dottie.”

 

She does and watches as he grabs a dressier shirt from the wardrobe and starts finger combing his hair back into place. She realizes that he’s trying to make himself presentable for her and Dot feels whatever anger she’s carried along this journey begin to melt away. “I missed you, Hugh. Why didn’t you tell me about the promotion or your mother kicking you out? I would’ve helped. I would’ve—”

 

“What? Let me sneak in every night and sleep on your floor?”

 

Dottie thinks about him climbing through her bedroom window, the moonlight making a halo of his hair. She wouldn’t have made him sleep on the floor, he’d place his work boots against the wall and get into bed with her. Mold his body around hers, kiss the soft spot behind her ear, follow the line of her jaw and…”

 

“You wouldn’t have had to sneak,” she says, her voice sounding a little breathless to her own ears. “I believe Miss Fisher would have been more than happy to offer you a room.”

 

“I’m a man, Dottie, I shouldn’t need you to keep a roof over my head.” She doesn’t know how to respond to that, so she doesn’t say anything and he softens. “Does your mom know you’re here?”

 

She lifts her chin and shakes her head.

 

“We’re not married yet,” he says with a sigh, like she isn’t already keenly aware of it. “You know what our fam—”

 

“I’m not leaving you, Hugh, and that’s it!”

 

He watches her for a moment, searching for weaknesses and finding none, before he goes to grab a blanket and pillow with more force than she thinks is strictly necessary. “It’s too late anyway. Take the bed. We’ll talk more tomorrow.” He’s out of the door before she can respond.

 

---

 

Even without the sound of Mr. Butler in the kitchen or Miss Fisher dancing through the door, Dot still wakes up with the sun. She moves to stand and if she’d thought the view was beautiful last night, it’s spectacular now. The reflection of the sun on the water almost blinds her. She enjoys it before standing and pulling on a dress from her bag. Hugh is still nowhere to be seen and Dot goes to splash her face with water, brush her teeth and throw on some shoes before making her way to the dock.

 

When she opens the back door, she realizes what a short trip it will be, because Hugh is there. Wrapped up tight and fast asleep on a bench on the covered porch. He must have been out here all night. She takes a step closer and frowns; he never even took his boots off.

 

She turns on her heel and goes back inside to check the icebox. She’s got the idea that she’ll make him some breakfast: bacon (not too crunchy), some eggs (sunny side up), roast a few slices of tomato (until they’re sweet and warm), but when she opens the door three frozen bass barely miss her toes on their way to the floor. Fish. Fish everywhere. Murray cods, golden perches, a few barramundi, even little guys most fishers throw back like tupongs and dwarf galaxies. She stares before closing the door and picking the bass up to thaw in the sink. She moves to the dry storage and pulls down some porridge. It’ll have to do.

 

He comes in, rubbing his eyes, as she sprinkles some nuts and honey she found in the cabinets over the top of their breakfast. He sees the food, moves forward and hesitates as Dot sits and nods toward his bowl. “Eat, Hugh.”

 

She only has to tell him once and the bowl is clean within 10 minutes. She pushes hers over for him to polish off even though she’s not quite done because he’s eating like he’s been starving. “Tired of fish?”

 

“You have no idea.”

 

Dot just laughs.

 

---

 

The day is quiet.

 

Dot watches him as she lays across his bed pretending to read, Hugh watches her back from the corner of his eye as he pretends to fix a leg on the table. She makes lunch, he eats it. Dot helps him dig for bait and they spend most of the afternoon on a little boat even though the best time for fishing is the early morning. She names all the specimens they catch and tells him about going out on the water with her dad and brothers every now and then. That her love of sewing began as a way to be with her mother and that she learned every fish she could to be closer to her dad. They go to town for groceries and she starts dinner. They don’t talk about anything they should (like the wedding, their parents, the fact that she didn’t call home this morning and they’re bound to realize something is up, that he left her without a word).

 

They retire to their beds, but neither of them sleep.

 

---

 

When she steps out early the next morning, Dot has to go back inside for a jumper. The weather has cooled down considerably since her arrival and Hugh is shivering. She shakes him awake and drags him, half asleep, to the bed. “But where will you—”

 

“I’m up, just get some rest.” He doesn’t put up a fight, just climbs under the covers, finds her warm spot and drifts back to sleep. She busies herself by cleaning the dishes she let sit in the sink overnight, something that felt decadent and sneaky the night before. Something she’d never been allowed to do as a girl and would never think to do in Miss Fisher’s house. Dot pulls out some perth to thaw for dinner. They forgot to get lettuce for a salad, but they picked up rice and potatoes along with some bacon and eggs for breakfast at the market yesterday. He shifts awake at the smell of the first slice hitting the pan and she smiles.

 

They stay inside to avoid the unseasonably cool weather and play cards. She teaches him to make a custard pie after finding a few cans of the stuff in a cupboard and he teaches her to measure and cut a shelf for the wall by the stove. When she comes out of the bathroom later in the evening, freshly washed and ready for bed, he’s building a fire. She climbs in and sits up against the headboard to watch him, her heart beating full and hard. He adds a few more logs and turns back toward her. “Well...”

 

“Well…”

 

They stare at one another until he breaks the moment to poke at the fire some more. “I’ll be out on the porch if you need me.” He picks up an extra blanket and starts toward the door when she stops him.

 

“Don’t leave,” Dot says and he stops dead in his tracks. “It’s cold out there, Hugh. I want you stay here. Stay with me.” He looks uncomfortable and she clears her throat. “If you want to.”

 

“I want to, Dottie,” he replies and even though his voice is soft, she can hear just how much he really does. “Believe me when I say that there’s nothing I want more, but I couldn’t. You know what people would say. You’re—”

 

“—thinking for myself,” she finishes. “I’m saying what I want to without worrying what Father O’Leary or our parents will think because it’s only the two of us here. I don’t have to hide with you.”

 

He takes a step forward, and lays his hand on the footboard. “And you don’t have to prove anything either.”

 

He’s not listening to her. He thinks he knows what she wants, what the both of them need, better than Dot herself does and she gets to her feet angrily. “How do you think it isn’t what I want when I’m telling you it is?”

 

“Because you would never be saying any of this back home. We’ve had this talk before, Dottie, and we agreed to wait for... everything.”

 

“I just wanted you to sleep inside, Hugh.”

 

“Really? Is that all you wanted?”

 

She thinks of his body curled around hers, his lips at her throat and Dot’s eyes slide away from his gaze, but she tells him the truth. The most important part of it anyway. “I love you and you’ve been gone so long. I just wanted to be with you.”

 

“I’m here, Dottie. I’ll be just outside the door and tomorrow we can talk more—”

 

But they haven’t talked at all. Not really, not since she got here. He’s still pacing the floor, wringing his hands and Dot needs him to sit still, to stop moving and running away and just listen to her and she stops short when the memory of something she saw in the dry goods closet behind the cereal and flour yesterday crosses her mind: Rope. She saw a length of rope.

 

Dot turns without a second thought and makes her way toward the pantry door, begins pulling powdered milk and eggs and sugar from the shelves (it was here just the other day, she’s sure of it so where is the dang thing?). “Dottie?”

 

That’s when she spots it, half hidden in the very back of the second lowest shelf.  She gets to her knees and pulls it free, snaps it taut in her hands and realizes the man behind her has gone quiet. “I need you to listen to me, Hugh Collins. Listen to what I’m actually saying, not whatever it is that you think you want to hear.”

 

His hands hang loosely at his sides and she can feel him staring at the side of her face. “Sit down please.” He falls back into a chair and Dot turns.

 

“I think I want—” She straightens up and looks at him head on. “I want to tie you to this chair.” (And yes, saying it out loud, that feels right. It feels exactly like what she needs). “Alright? Is this okay because if it isn’t that’s fine too, but…” She goes quiet before she can finish her thought because she thinks she might be on the edge of trying to coerce him into it and that’s the last thing Dot wants. Either he’ll let this happen or he won’t. That’s it.

 

They study one another for moments on end and if he would’ve looked worried or even the least bit concerned she would’ve called the whole thing off, but Hugh doesn’t seem frightened, just curious. He hesitates only once, then nods his assent and she lets out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.

 

She crosses the floor and leans over him with a smile that he returns easily and Hugh smells warm, like the fire at his back, as she loops the rope once around his waist. She follows the same track a second time, only now, she threads it through the back of the chair and brings each end back forward. She ties both wrists to the armrests with a double knot and steps back to take him in.

 

(white, thermal pulled tight across his chest, breath coming fast, face flushed and turned up to hers, looking for guidance)

 

The restraints are tight enough to hold him but not tight enough to smother, and Dot feels a flush of heat low in her belly at the sight of him. Even though she doesn’t understand it, Dot knows there is a world of things out there that she couldn't even begin to imagine. She’s learned a lot in the past three years (like the lengths people will go to for desire) and this doesn’t scare her. Not at all.

 

She steps between his legs and she can hear his breath catch as she reaches out and runs her fingers through his hair. He’s kept it neat and tidy since she showed up, and though Dot appreciates the effort, she wants him messy. She wants him the way he was that morning when he crawled into her bed (sleep rumpled and warm), vulnerable, the way he only allows the people he loves to see him. She drags her thumbnail along his nape and he lets out a breath that sounds a lot like a gasp. It pulls her focus back from watching what she’s doing to him, to seeing how he’s reacting (pink cheeks, hair suitably mussed) and Dot likes what she sees.

 

He’s still got his boots on and she moves to take them off. Absently runs her fingers along the outside of his arch while removing his socks and starts a little at his burst of laughter. He swallows it quickly but she savors the sound. I’m about to pledge the rest of my life to this man and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him barefoot; I never even knew he was ticklish. There’s so much I don’t know . She feels some of the warmth drain from the room at the thought. “I’ll be back.” she says, standing in one graceful movement and Hugh sways forward, like he wants to follow, before settling. She waits for him to ask to be untied, but he stays quiet and she grabs her bag. Dot goes into the bathroom and closes the door behind herself.

 

When she threw the lingerie into her luggage back home, Dot told herself she was only bringing it along to keep the delicate fabric safe and close at hand. There’s no need for any lies now.  After slipping it on, she looks at herself in the mirror behind the bathroom door. The top has the low V neckline Miss Fisher makes look chic, but without a corselet beneath, it gives a laughable amount of support that doesn’t do much of anything to contain Dot’s god given endowments. It nips in and has a slightly higher waistline than what’s popular (but that suits Dot’s figure), and it flares just a bit from her lower body until it grazes the floor. There’s three layers of chiffon and it gives some amount of coverage, but it’s most definitely sheer (she can just make out the thatch of light brown hair between her thighs and the reddish brown tint of her nipples) but it doesn’t leave her feeling exposed, just powerful, sexy.

 

Hugh has never been able to hide his feelings, and the look he gives her when she walks back into the room is so openly appreciative and bowled over and loving and full of want that whatever games she may have been ready to play fall by the wayside.

 

“Dottie...”

 

“You wanted to leave.” It sounds petulant, but there it is.

 

“I wanted to make sure that you didn’t do anything you would regret later because it would kill me,” and he sounds so earnest she almost wants to look away. “It would kill me , Dottie, if you were sorry for anything when I can wait. I’ve been waiting and I’ll wait more. As long as you want me to.”

 

She knows he’s telling the truth and since that was never in question for her, she sets the conversation to the side. “Why did your mother kick you out?”

 

He looks away for the first time tonight and Dot’s across the room, her hand at his chin before she can think better of it. She turns his face back toward hers. “Why, Hugh?”

 

“We got into an argument.”

 

“About?”

 

“The same as always: You. The wedding. She called me a— a tyke, Dottie. I couldn’t live with someone who would think of me, of my wife, of our children that way. Not for one second. I should have told you, I know, but I didn’t want you thinking any worse of her than you already do. She’s still my mother.”

 

She moves her hand to cradle his cheek and he leans into it. The recognition and sanction of the church for their union is important to Dot, but it isn’t everything. When Hugh says he’ll wait forever, she knows it isn’t an exaggeration. It’s why she doesn’t want to wait anymore. At least, not for everything.

 

Dot pulls the hair at the scruff of his neck and tilts his head back, angles her mouth over his.

She isn’t quite sure what to do, so Dot just tries to relax. To remember how she’s seen Nell and Miss Fisher do this. She brings her hand down to the side of his neck, works her mouth against his and Dot’s so lost in thought that when she feels Hugh’s tongue slip against her bottom lip, she jerks away.

 

“I’m sorry!” he apologizes. “I didn’t mean to—”

 

“It’s fine, really,” she cuts him off. “I just wasn’t expecting… Can we try it again, please?” He doesn’t bother saying yes, just leans his chin up and Dot takes his mouth. This time, she licks along the seam of his lips and Hugh lets her in. She moves her tongue alongside his, melts into it, and when she starts moving toward the floor, Hugh bends his body to follow her as she gets to her knees. They stay like that for a long time, Dot’s hands fisted into his shirt, pulling him as close as she can, but it isn’t close enough. She turns her head to take a shaky breath and he follows the turn of her jaw. Dot leans in more and lays her hand in his lap. His lips stutter against her, but he doesn’t stop and Dot takes that as a good sign. She turns back into his kiss, tries to take the measure of him through his trousers first, and his mouth loses a bit of its finesse.

 

She pulls the top button free, undoes the zip and sticks her hand inside when he pulls away. Dot licks her lips and tries to catch her breath. “Do you want me to stop?”

 

“No,” he says quickly, then shakes his head. He looks confused, but Dot thinks he’s beginning to trust that she knows what she wants. She gives him time to say something, to change his mind, and when he doesn’t she reaches back in and pulls him free. She’s seen drawings before, even a photograph during one of her cases, but Dot has never held one in her hands. It’s smaller than she imagined it would be though she knows he’s probably average (in her mind, the thought of Hugh’s penis has taken on gigantic proportions), but still much too big to consider when even a finger bothers her. Dot runs her thumb along the ridge and the underside of the head and his face looks like he’s in pain.

 

“Is this—”

 

“Yes, Dottie. It’s fine.”

 

She works her way up and dips a finger into the sticky moisture gathering at the slit, spreads it out. She glances up and he’s staring at her hand on him, like he’s shocked, like he can’t believe this is really happening. Dot smiles a little; she likes him like this. She wants to surprise him again. She leans forward, licks, and when he moans she takes as much of him into her mouth as she can. Hugh says her name like a whisper but now that she has him in her mouth (thick and hot) Dot isn’t quite sure what to do with him. She swallows around him and his knee starts jiggling, he shifts lower in the chair but doesn’t make another sound. She could pull back and ask him, but she realizes he’s already telling her. She thinks of the way she likes to touch herself, of the way he’s breathing heavy and the way his thighs are clenching and releasing and she follows the movement of his own body. He’s groaning now, trying so hard not to thrust up, but his hips give him away. Whenever she pulls back, they push forward for more.

 

She adds a bit more suction, flicks her tongue against the underside of the head on her upstrokes and he’s nearly gasping for breath and murmuring her name. He says how he’s wanted to be with her since the moment he saw her, how beautiful she is and how smart. How he can’t believe his luck and it’s a vain impulse, but she wants to hear more. Dot’s just getting into a rhythm, a nearly thoughtless feedback loop of his voice and the taste and feel and texture of him on her tongue when he says, “I’m gonna—” and jerks back hard.

 

She lets him go, but keeps at him with her hand and feels it begin to flex in her palm. Then it happens and she pulls back altogether to watch. She imagined it would look closer to the way it does when she hits her own peak, but it’s…messy. “Look at that,” she says with wonder, rubbing it into the skin of his thighs. She looks up and he’s still got his head down. “Are you okay?”

 

“I want to touch you,” he says lowly, leaning forward in the chair, watching her with eyes that look hazy and unfocused but that she knows are carefully cataloging her every movement. “Let me up, Dottie.” It almost sounds like an order, but when he tries to move closer, the rope holds him back. Dot watches him struggle against it for a moment longer, studies the way his muscles stretch against her bonds (but doesn’t break them) and it makes that place inside of her go hot and molten. He might have the badge in the real world, but she’s the one in charge here.

 

“Dottie…” She lurches forward at the sound of her name and for a moment she isn’t sure what he wants. “Untie me, please,” he asks again and she nods. Pulling the knots free and trying not to stare at the places the ropes have made the skin at his wrists go red and raw. He takes her by the elbows and pulls her along as he stands. Kisses her left temple, the curve of her neck and backs her toward the bed. He’s never handled like this before, never used his own body to direct hers, and Dot holds him closer as he starts pulling the gown up. “Can I?” he asks, and she can’t get the words out, so Dot nods yes. She helps him pull it off and lays it carefully over the footboard.

 

She takes a breath, tries to figure out what to do with her arms before dropping them to her sides and looking back toward Hugh. This is the first time any man has ever seen her naked, the first time Hugh has seen her naked, and she wants to be confident. To be knowledgeable and open, but she mostly feels a mixture of nervousness and excitement over what his reaction will be. Looking at him now, she needn’t have worried.

 

He looks dumbstruck, grabs her hips and tugs her back into his space, runs his hands from her torso to her breasts, touches the edge of her areola and watches as her nipple pulls tighter. He makes a sound in the back of throat and leans sideways to take it in his mouth.  She feels lightheaded as she watches him suck and slowly release and she’s shiny where his mouth just was. He runs his thumb through the wetness and she knows he’s thinking the same thing.

 

He looks up and catches her eyes. “You are so pretty.”

 

She flushes and sits on the edge of the bed as Hugh moves to finish undressing. He’s not putting on a show for her, but Dot watches anyway as he grabs the neck of his shirt and pulls it over his head. He kicks his pants and underclothes further away and she leans forward to touch him. “So are you.”

 

“Aw, Dottie…” he says, looking shy. Then he motions for her to move and says, “lie back” as he starts getting to his knees. “It’s my turn now?” She swallows and nods as he bends her leg at the knee and puts her foot flat on the bed. Then he thinks better of it and pulls the same leg over his shoulder.

 

It’s kind of embarrassing, this position. Hugh’s got a better view of what’s going on down there then she’s ever had and Dot kind of wants to tell him to forget about the whole thing. Then he rubs his thumb in a tight circle at the base of her clitoris (so close to the spot she reaches for when the house is quiet and she’s lying alone in her bed) and Dot thinks better of it. She focuses on her breathing as he leans in and oh , it’s a shock at first, the feel of his mouth on that part of her, but then it’s good, it’s better than good. Wet pressure and heat and when she grabs a fistful of his hair he moans into her and she understands so much more about why the people in her life do the things they do if this is their reward.

 

He pulls back with a damp pop! (somewhere in the back of her mind, she thinks it’s something like the sound a tin can makes when you put a hole in the lid and release the suction) and it’s kind of disgusting and sexy and it makes her clench and want more.

 

She moves to grab for him, but he isn’t going anywhere. Hugh pushes her a little further up on the bed, climbs up and settles more comfortably on his stomach between her thighs, presses a finger to her entrance and Dot frowns. She’s tried this before and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine that one day it’s supposed to feel good. It’s just an uncomfortable stretch that she knows will drain away all the warm floating feelings his mouth just gave her. She twists her lower body away and he stills immediately. “No?”

 

One day they’ll work through this together, but right now, she wants to feel good. “I just want your mouth.” Her face goes hot and Dot hates saying it (it’s sinful, how wanton it sounds, how needy) but she loves the way her words make him look full on drunk. Sick with desire.

 

“Just my mouth,” he mutters, pushing the palms of his hands up past her hip bones to her breasts. “I can do that.” He rests his lips against the skin of her inner thigh, sucks, uses just a little teeth, then adds a little more when she moans and thrusts up. Dot grabs his hair tighter and rolls her hips, asking without words. “Okay,” he answers lowly and bends the other thigh up onto the bed to spread her legs further apart. “Okay.”

 

Then his mouth is back where she wants it and Dot squeezes her eyes shut. She can feel him everywhere, his hands on her chest, her calf tight against his back. She sits up and leans back on her elbows, looks at him between her legs and she can follow the line of his back all the way down. Even with everything they’ve done tonight (even with what they’re doing right this second) Dot is still amazed that she’s looking at his naked behind.

 

She starts to laugh at how ridiculous that thought is when he does something that makes her gasp and it’s on her. That simultaneous pull and release between her thighs. It starts low in her belly and spreads like molasses into her limbs, thick and heavy and suffocating. It’s too little, but it’s too much. She has to push him away. He sits back on his heels, drags his forearm across his mouth and lets her have some space. Dot clenches her thighs, trying to wring out every last bit (and she can feel how wet he made her, how wet his mouth was, and the thought sends a shaft of interest through her that she’s too tired to act on), before reaching for him. He comes easily and they lay there.

 

“I like everything about you, Dottie,” he says lowly, turning on his side and laying his hand at the dip of her waist. Looking at her like she’s the most amazing thing he’s ever laid eyes on. “I like your breasts and your legs and your bum and your fanny...”

 

Dot does laugh then and hugs him close so he doesn’t get the wrong idea, oddly proud of his compliments. “Thank you, I like you and your bum, too.”

 

They don’t say anything for a long time, then, “Hugh?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“How did you know how to do those things to me?”

 

He fidgets a little, but doesn’t try to duck the question. “I just tried to ask you questions and do what I thought you might like. I had a—a girlfriend when I was younger. It didn’t go any further than some kisses. My friends and brothers told me some stuff, but I didn’t want to put too much stock in their advice.” He turns even redder. “I’ve seen a few magazines. How did you know?”

 

“I live with Miss Fisher.”

 

Hugh smiles and nuzzles the side of her neck. “Of course.”

 

---

 

They ride back into the city together early the next day and, after making plans to meet later on and find a rental for Hugh, they part with a kiss. Dot hops the tram home and when Miss Fisher sees her in the front hall, she stops and smiles her welcome. “Happy to see you back, Dot. Everything work out well?”

 

“Yes, Miss.”

 

“Good, I’m happy to hear it.” Then that old gleam of a curiosity that needs to be satisfied begins glowing in her employer's eyes and Dot knows for sure that she’s home.“—because someone just rang about a development in a case I took on not long after you left…”

 

 

---

 

    

    Meanwhile, across town…

 

 

Hugh updates Inspector Robinson on the repairs he was able to make to his cabin, hands him back the keys and a stack of mail that had been delivered out there. “Thanks again, sir.” He’s already turned to leave when the Inspector speaks.

 

“Aloe vera, Collins,” he says without bothering to look up.

 

“Sir?”

 

“For the rope burn.” He stops on a certain piece and begins flipping through what must be a particularly interesting ad from David Jones. “I have it on good authority that the stuff works wonders.”

 

Hugh freezes with the tight smile he always wears when he’s been caught at something he would’ve rather kept to himself. He pulls at the sleeves of his shirt, shamefaced, and says, “I’m not quite sure what you mean...” He ignores his boss’ disbelieving hmmmm and just barely keeps himself from jumping off the porch to escape. He says goodbye, walks away with his head held high, and only starts sprinting after he’s hit the corner.

 

---

 

Jack would never describe himself as a gossip and he thinks, as long as no laws are being broken, people have a right to their privacy. He sits his mail down on the bannister, looks after his constable with a smile, and wonders how long it’ll take Miss Fisher to pry this out of him.