Actions

Work Header

Landing

Work Text:

It had not gone at all like she had imagined it would. 

In the days and weeks since she’d left him, standing staring after her on an airfield, Phryne had thought about all the ways she might have reunited with Jack Robinson – as well as all the ways she mightn't – but in the end it had not gone anything like any of them.

The fantasies of reunion were mainly passionate and exciting – full of hungry kisses and searching hands and skin finally, finally meeting – and Phryne tried to either have these in private or excuse herself to privacy as soon as she could once one had invaded her thoughts. These fantasies were, though she hated to admit it, even to herself, sometimes even quite romantic – full of soft touches and knowing smiles and words she almost wishes she’d spoken before she’d flown so far away, just to be sure he knew. 

The fantasies – or nightmares, rather, that she sometimes found herself waking from sweating – of them not reuniting, whilst difficult to bear, she had at least been able to reassure herself were somewhat on the ludicrous side, at least. After all, the odds of Jack falling into the ocean from on board ship and drowning, or being kidnapped by a miraculously unhanged Murdoch Foyle and sacrificed to the Gods, seemed altogether fairly low. 

Strangely though, in all her mix of steamy fantasising and anxious dreaming, it had never occurred to her that he might just... not come. 

She had asked him to, hadn’t she, and she was reasonably secure in the knowledge that he’d want to. He’d even seemed enthusiastic, at first – the initial flurry of telegrams between them after she’d left heartfelt in their longing and honest in pain at their distance from each other.

Then she’d landed in India, and everything had rather gotten away from her. Her father had been an abject torment, and she’d only been looking to get a break from his company for a couple of days – but then there’d been a mystery and a Maharajah and the next thing she knew she’d gone and gotten married.

It really had seemed like the best idea at the time, but in the whirlwind of weeks that had led to it she’d found herself unable – both politically and personally – to keep up correspondence with Jack. She’d tried – as soon as she had a moment to think again, away from her ruse of a marriage and any spies that might have been checking – telegram after telegram as she continued to wend her way further from him; but still no answer came. 

She’d almost begun to fear for his safety when word from Mac had confirmed that he was, in fact, alive, and that had led her to a conclusion that almost felt worse. 

He’d given up. 

She’d no idea why or what had changed – could only imagine that he had taken offence to her silence and was sulking about it (which she raged to herself about often, though the anger rarely seemed to help alleviate the pain of rejection that sat simmering underneath). All she knew was that with every day that passed she was flying further from him – too far to turn back – and Jack wasn’t coming after her.

The whole thing hurt far more than she really wanted to admit, and once she’d finally arrived in England and deposited her father safely back to her mother she wasted no time in heading off again in search of distractions. 

She’d warned him, after all, there was a whole world out here and she was Phryne Fisher – if he wasn’t going to come then that was his problem, and she wasn’t going to sit around crying about it. 

Jonathan was useful for that. They’d had a brief affair years before, and he knew more or less what she liked and what she didn’t without needing too much guidance. There was also a quiet gentleness to him which was reminiscent of that which she found herself missing. 

It wasn’t the same. He wasn’t who she wanted, but he was enough to keep her distracted for now between adventures. 

She’d even been quite glad to see him on returning from Palestine. The whole thing had been a bit of a mess – and she’d even had the briefest moment, atop a train hurtling towards a tunnel, where she thought her luck might have finally run out. Avoiding the authorities hadn’t been hard, but a hassle, and she’d been immensely looking forward to her return to England and the opportunity of a hot bath and something to take the edge off. 

Jonathan is a welcome sight when she sees him, and her mind is just starting to wander off onto all the fun she’ll have with him to make up for the stresses of the last few weeks when she catches sight of who’s behind him, five paces back from the rest of her welcome party, eyes wide and bursting with a mess of emotion.

They’re eyes she knows, eyes she has been lost in so many times, that she has missed so desperately – perhaps more than she’d even realised until this precise moment as she stares back into them across the Lofthouse’s carefully manicured lawn. 

Jack’s eyes. 

Jack is here, in England, at the Lofthouse’s no less. He has been standing here this whole time – and why? Why is he here? Why now? When she had been trying so hard to make peace with the fact he wasn’t coming, and she had stepped off a plane and right into Jonathan’s arms in joy and relief at being back in one piece. 

In front of Jack. 

Jack who is here and has no right to be here now with eyes that are full of so much that she can’t even begin to dissect it all. 

She feels panic well inside her because this? This is not at all how it was meant to go. She’s not even sure she quite understands what’s happening, but she definitely knows she’d like a do over because it’s all wrong, and Jack... how dare he be here? Now. When she had asked and he had rejected her and she had been doing her absolute utmost to try not to think about him and enjoy herself without him. 

How dare he stand there and look at her like she’s the only thing in the world that matters. How dare he.

It’s petty, she knows, but she can’t help what comes out next. Because if there’s one thing that she can do unfailingly it’s nonchalance, and dammit if Jack doesn’t deserve it for sneaking up on her like this. 

“Jack,” Phryne says, and is slightly annoyed at the breathlessness of it, she puts special effort into making sure her next words don’t carry the same mistake. “What are you doing here?” 

She almost winces at how falsely bright the words come, but she doesn’t know what else to do. Of all the ways she’d imagined this moment, all the different circumstances she had considered for their reunion, this is such a pitifully awkward reality that she finds herself irrationally angry over it.

Then he speaks, and his words make her heart stop momentarily.

“I came to pay my respects,” Jack answers, the words careful and measured, like he’s working over some great calculation in his brain. “At your memorial service.” 

There’s a moment, a mere second or two where his words hang in the air, dancing around her ears before they truly register, and then what he’s just said hits her, and she looks around her to those assembled in shock. Her memorial service? It can’t be, can it? 

They’re all dressed in black though, tears glistening shed and unshed in eyes and on cheeks. And things start to click into place in her tired brain. Her Aunt’s uncharacteristically emotional response to seeing her, the oddly organised gathering on the lawn, Jack’s presence... the large photo of her displayed front and centre that she’s just now noticing across the lawn. 

“The newspapers reported you were dead,” Eleanor supplies then – and Phryne feels her heart sink deep down into her stomach. This is... God, no, this is all so very wrong . She takes a brief look around those gathered, desperately seeking someone to contradict this information, but all she receives instead is confirmation. 

Her eyes return to Jack. Beautiful Jack who her body is unhelpfully reminding her she has missed – far more than she would ever like to admit – with the rapid thumping of her heart in her chest, and whose eyes remain on her, amazed, angry, grieving.

Well then. 

Fuck. 

“Oh,” is what comes in outward response, the only word she can be sure to manage that isn’t a curse. 

Beside her Eleanor makes some comment about champagne, but Phryne can’t concentrate on it. She doesn’t feel much like champagne, in all honesty, eyes still locked with Jack’s like predator and prey circling each other waiting for someone to move. She’s not sure who’s who in this scenario, but she’s not sure she likes either option. 

She’s distracted briefly by Eleanor embracing her, and it warms her for a split second before her words come. 

“Jack knows,” she offers, and Phryne feels more panic course through her. 

“Knows what?” It’s a stupid question, because there’s only one thing it could be, but it’s the worst thing possible. 

“About the Maharajah.” 

And there it is, the worst possible thing – and she finds herself suddenly incandescently angry at it. At the situation, at her bad luck, at Jack – for being here and for knowing things and for not being here before when she had asked him to be. 

She had asked. She had opened her heart and asked him to come and claim it and he had refused and she had been trying to accept that, damn him. She doesn’t owe him any kind of explanation. She doesn’t owe him anything but his eyes… his eyes are so familiar and so confused and there is something that sits hanging in them that looks just as broken as she has been feeling. 

She stares at him for a long moment, watches the emotions play out behind those eyes, and desperately searches her own mind for some kind of answer to it. 

She has nothing, though. She cannot even begin to unpack everything there is to say to each other. Instead, she sidesteps, reaching desperately for something that feels familiar. 

“Is that a new hat?” 

And it’s awful. It comes out high pitched and insincere and she knows a split second after she’s said it that it was a mistake, Jack’s chuckle morphing into something dark and pained. 

“Is that all you’ve got to say to me?” 

It isn’t, of course it isn’t – and so much of her wants to tell him that but then he continues and it stops her short. 

“Do you have any idea what it was like for me – reading that you’d died a horrible death in a foreign country?”

There’s fury in it, fury she doesn’t altogether understand. He had rejected her, hadn’t he? He had had his chance and he had chosen not to come after her, not to follow her like she had so desperately hoped he would. He had made his choice and she had been the one nursing a heart that ached ever since then, not him. 

He has no grounds on which to be upset now.

“Why are you so angry?” she asks and her confusion manages to at least mask her own fury.

Jack stalks towards her, a piece of paper clenched tightly in his hand, eyes burning in anger that doesn’t seem inclined to dim. 

“I wrote a eulogy for you.” 

Phryne bristles. Well of all the ridiculous, petty things to be upset about...

“My apologies for the wasted efforts,” she snaps back. 

For once, though, Jack seems unmoved. His anger unflinching. 

“Oh, they won’t be wasted,” he replies, “I’ll save it for the appropriate day.” 

And that, that enrages her. After all they’ve been through, all the growing they’ve done… they’ve been here before and he’d gone forward then knowing the risks. Even if he has given up on her since then, he still knows this part of her, still made a promise once that he’d never want to change it – and now he has the audacity to stand here acting righteous just because the press couldn’t resist an unsubstantiated piece of gossip. 

He turns to walk away and she’s speechless for half a second until her brain reminds her that he is walking away, and she can’t possibly let him win that easily. 

“Wait!” she calls. “What are you going to do now you’ve come all this way only to have me disappoint you?” She stalks after him and then stops short again when he turns. She’s goading him, and she knows it’s not altogether fair, but she feels strangely, uncomfortably out of her depth.

All she knows is that she is still indescribably angry with him, but that also it might just break her if he walks away from her now. 

He sighs, defeated enough that it scares her. He’s not biting. Not playing. 

Maybe he truly has given up. 

“I only had one plan – to farewell you,” Jack replies, so matter of fact that she has the sudden, crushing feeling that she might not have miraculously returned from the dead after all, not for him. She watches Jack’s eyes close, pain in every part of his stature. “Farewell,” he repeats, a whisper, and it strikes her like a blow. 

He turns again and Phryne feels panic course through her. As confused and angry as she feels by the entire situation, she knows without doubt that she cannot let this happen. She cannot let him go, not like this, not when she has him in front of her again after so long. 

“Farewell?” she calls, stunned. This can’t be it, this can’t be how their reunion goes – a farewell and then nothing – but she doesn’t know what to do. “Wait!”

Jack always comes around. He always has, even after the unfortunate incident with the car. She’ll win him over, she has to. 

She doesn’t know how to. 

There are words she could say. Big words, important words that have felt so very far away from her in recent months but bubble to the forefront of her mind again now she’s looking at him despite her anger. It’s not right though. Even were she sure she could form them they both deserve more than a confession shouted across six feet of grass to try and stop him walking away from her. That’s not how she wants him to hear them, nor how she ever wants to say them. 

No, declarations won’t do, so she’ll just have to try charm instead. 

Charm and hope. 

“What did it say?” And it’s a little like grasping at straws, but his back is retreating further and it’s the first thing she can think of. She needs him to turn around, to look at her, talk to her. All she needs is for them to talk and then maybe he’ll remember what it feels like. Them. Then maybe he won’t leave, just when he’s finally arrived. 

“What did what say?” 

Charm is her best weapon, it always has been, and so she goes with it, painting on her best smile and eyeing him like she has so many times before, fun and flirty and inviting.

It has to work, surely. 

“My eulogy?” 

There’s a moment, a smirk, a tilted head, and she thinks maybe she’s won.

Then, “It said I’m done with you.” 

And the breath is ripped from her.