Chapter 1: Prologue
“Lovely stationery, Dot,” Phryne commented as she picked up the thank you card.
“Oh, isn’t it? Hugh picked it out for our first anniversary,” she beamed.
“Ah, paper,” Jack stated knowingly.
“Exactly, Inspector,” Dot smiled in surprise at his knowledge. “I framed the movie ticket stub from our first date for him,” she revealed.
“Paper?” Phryne closed the card and stared at the pair.
“Emily Post, Miss. She wrote the book Etiquette. I received a copy as a wedding gift. She’s assigned a theme gift to each anniversary year. The first year is paper, the second year is cotton, and so on.”
“And you knew about this?” She turned to Jack.
“We only caught the tail end of the trend, but Rosie wanted to do it. She received a… silk scarf for our 12th anniversary and a lace tablecloth for our 13th,” he informed her. “She took the tablecloth with her when she left so that had to mean something,” he smirked as he shook out the morning newspaper.
“Well, if Hugh and Dot just had a wedding anniversary, our anniversary can’t be far behind,” Phryne realized and Jack set down the paper again in interest.
“I know that we’ve shared some deep bottles together, Miss Fisher but I don’t recall ever marrying you.”
“No, I meant, when did we first…?”
“Nnh,” he cut her off. “Choose your next words very carefully,” he warned, “there are children present.” He gestured towards the baby asleep in the corner of the dining room.
“When did you arrive in London?” Phryne rephrased politely.
“October 20th, 1929,” he recalled.
Phryne smiled at his excellent memory.
“Well, let’s use that then. It will give us time to prepare,” she decided as she stood up, thinking the conversation was done.
“You actually want to celebrate our anniversary?” Jack asked as he followed her into the hall.
“In the two years that I’ve known you, you’ve run as fast and as far as you can from anything that resembles commitment. Celebrating it hardly seems like your style,” he said suspiciously as she slipped into her coat.
“In those two years, have I ever turned down a night with you, or a gift, or a party?” She asked.
“No,” he concurred reluctantly.
“Moreover,” she wrapped her arms around his neck, “in those two years, have I ever appreciated being told what I will do or won’t do by a man who bought his wife a lace tablecloth instead of lace lingerie for their 13th anniversary?”
“Oh, check mate,” he conceded with a groan as she brought him in by his neck to kiss him goodbye.
“You better start planning,” she warned as she opened the front door. “I have a feeling that I’m going to be very good at this," she said confidently.
Chapter 2: Paper - 1930
Jack crept up the pavement, wondering just how much trouble he was in. He’d phoned from the station, letting Phryne know that he had been called out and wasn’t sure that he’d be on time to their anniversary dinner. She’d sounded understanding on the telephone but now it was six hours later and all the lights in the house were off.
As he was quietly hanging up his hat and coat, Phryne appeared at the head of the stairs.
“You’re definitely late,” she agreed from the safety of the higher ground. Her folded arms did little to hide her emotions.
“I’m sorry,” he sighed. “Homicide. I had no idea that it would take so long or I would have tried to…”
“No, you wouldn’t have,” she knew him too well to swallow the lie.
“I’m sorry all the same,” he offered.
“And Rosie?” She asked with an expectant tilt of her head.
Jack was surprised that that bit of information had already found its way to her; although, he should have been more surprised that she didn’t meet him at the scene, now that he was thinking about it.
“Shaken up,” he said honestly. “The victim was a childhood friend.”
“Good of you to stay with her then,” Phryne agreed, trying to be the better person.
“Really, it wasn’t like that,” he started to argue.
“Jack,” she cut him off, “it’s late. I’m exhausted. Mr. Butler prepared the guest room for you,” she informed him. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Phryne, wait, please?”
She didn’t. For the first time in their relationship, she closed her bedroom door to him.
Jack looked at the empty space she’d left behind at the top of the stairs for a brief moment before trudging up the steps.
He took a chance and knocked lightly on the door.
She didn’t respond.
“Look, I know that you’re upset and rightly so. I disappointed you. I know that. I’m going to try and make it up to you by leaving your anniversary gift at the door. If you want to count to 50 to make sure that I’m no longer in the hallway, I’ll understand but you should at least have that tonight.” There was another pause for silence. “I love you. Sleep well.” He tapped the door once to confirm that he was leaving and headed down the hall.
He was halfway down the hall when he heard her door pull back. He glanced back over his shoulder just in time to see it close again.
He smiled at her insatiable curiosity.
He awoke the next morning to a soft knock on the door. He lifted his head from the pillow to confirm that it was Phryne opening the door slowly.
“Paper,” she held up the new pocket notebook. On every page, there was an activity that she could tear out and spend: a private poetry reading, a weekend trip of her choosing, an evening stroll on the beach. She had already torn out a page and was holding it out to him.
Breakfast in bed.
He lifted the doona for her to join him. She slipped in beside him and they considered each other for a long moment, nose to nose, before she decided to speak.
“I’m sorry that I locked you out,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry that I let you down,” he replied, touching her cheek.
“You didn’t,” she assured him. “You were doing what you’ve always done. But it wasn’t so long ago that I was the other woman, borrowing your time,” she acknowledged. “I know that she needs you too, I just wish that I wasn’t so familiar with the feeling.”
He looked into her worried features and sighed.
“Do you remember when you told me that you hadn’t taken anything seriously since 1918?” He asked, brushing her bangs out of her eyes.
“That was the moment that you stopped borrowing my time and I started giving it to you,” he informed her.
“Our third case,” he acknowledged, having done the math ages ago. “You turned my head and I’ve never looked back.”
She swooned a little, pulling him closer.
“You know, you could have had me then if you’d asked,” she mentioned casually as she wrapped herself around him.
“Not like this,” he countered seriously. “This was what I was waiting for.”
“Was it worth it?” She questioned, knowing all of the trials that they’d endured together.
“Every second,” he replied honestly.
She nodded in agreement before leaning in to kiss him. He wrapped his hand around her neck to keep her close. His fingers were burrowing in her hair when a tiny groan broke from her and she pulled away.
“What?” He asked, wanting a good answer before he let her go.
“Mr. Butler is bringing us breakfast in bed.” She leaned her forehead against his.
“We’ll lock the door. He can leave it in the hall,” Jack assured her as he pulled her back in for another kiss.
“Jack,” she warned against his lips. “It’s my first present, I tore it out of the book and everything,” she reminded him before she nipped at his lips.
He deflated beside her with an unsatisfied groan.
With his usual omnipotence, Mr. Butler knocked on the door.
“Come in,” she gave him permission with a knowing look at Jack. " Good morning, Mr. B,” Phryne greeted.
“Good morning, Miss.” He set the tray of food down in front of Phryne and went back to the hall and came in with a second tray for Jack.
“Thank you, Mr. Butler.”
“My pleasure, Inspector,” he said as he left the room with a smile and shut the door again.
“Mr. Butler’s croissants,” Phryne announced as she tore a corner off of the pastry. “They’re heavenly.”
“I didn’t seem to get one,” Jack pointed out as he lifted the lid off of his plate to find a silver pen and a folder tied together in a ribbon.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have spent our first anniversary with your ex-wife,” she suggested pointedly as she took another bite of her croissant.
He gave her a look that told her he’d take it under advisement as he tugged on the ribbon and picked up the folder. He turned his attention to and scanned the paper inside casually before realizing what it was and scanning it again.
“Phryne, what is this?”
She glanced over his arm, pretending to read it.
“It looks like a romantic overture to me,” she decided.
“This is an application for a marriage license,” he stated, convinced that she had made some sort of mistake.
“Yes it is,” she confirmed.
“If this is because of my comments on commitment…”
“No, well, a little, but no.” She shook her head. “Only because they made me realize that I haven’t had a single second thought about us since the moment that you kissed me on that airfield. Not one. You came to London and I was thrilled, you followed me home, you practically moved in,” she added dramatically, “and I have never once felt restricted or stifled in any way. Even last night, I knew that you would come home and I knew that we would be fine. So, knowing that and knowing you, I thought that perhaps you should have a copy of this on hand, just in case you decide that you'd like to use it someday. And if not, then you get a shiny new pen and we need never discuss it again."
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” she confirmed.
“And what if I put you on the spot and propose right now?” He squinted.
“Do it and find out,” she leaned closer, calling his bluff.
He stared into her eyes, knowing that she’d do it just to prove that she could.
He leaned back against the headboard and considered her gift.
“I know,” she nodded, rubbing his arm. “But so are you,” she smiled.
He stared at her for a moment before tilting his head, wanting her to come closer. She obliged him and he kissed her sweetly.
“I love you,” he whispered against her lips.
“I know that you do,” she smiled. “You’re still not getting my croissant,” she dismissed him with another short kiss.
“Noted,” he pulled away from her as she went back to her breakfast.
Chapter 3: Cotton - 1931
“Where in God’s name are you taking me?” Jack asked as she hopped out of the motorcar and headed directly into the trees.
“Toward your sense of adventure, I hope,” she grinned as she looked back over her shoulder.
He followed her, mostly out of a sense of duty to protect her from herself, but about ten minutes into their trek, they came upon an open meadow with a canvas tent. She smiled and turned around.
“We’re camping?” He guessed.
“We’re camping,” she confirmed. “And do you know why we’re camping?”
“Do we need a reason?” He asked as he glanced around at the set-up.
“No but we have one.”
“And what would that be?” He asked, playing into her excitement.
“Two years ago tonight, we were in a desert in Africa,” she wrapped her arm around his to pull him into the campsite. “Making love under the stars, wrapped in blankets,” she smiled at the memory. “It was the first time that you ever told me that you loved me,” she informed him. “I’ve been meaning to take you camping ever since, but now we have a reason.”
“Yes, I’m still waiting in suspense for that reveal,” he assured her.
“Year 2 is cotton,” she said as she drew his attention to the material of the tent.
“Mm,” he smirked. “I see.”
“Come inside,” she grinned as she untied the flap of the tent and let him go first.
He took a single step into the tent and took in the sight.
There was a full bed with white cotton sheets and several pillows. The ground was covered in cream-colored cotton woven rugs. There were glass lanterns scattered around the tent just waiting to be lit.
“I hope you bought cotton shares before you purchased all of this,” he commented dryly.
“Do you like it?” She asked, suddenly realizing that he hadn’t said anything.
“Of course I do,” he smiled as he pulled her into his side. “But I would have settled for swags and a fishing pole.”
“Oh!” She left and grabbed the poles from the side of the tent and brought them back inside to show him. “I must warn you, I’ve never actually caught a fish before. As I understand it, I put the line in the water, and then lay out on a blanket and work on distracting the man who took me fishing until we’re no longer fishing,” she grinned.
“Well, I’ll look forward to that,” Jack smiled. “Did Mr. Butler also pack us dinner?”
“Of course he did. He has no faith in my ability to exist outside of Wardlow.”
“Then we’ll have to play for higher stakes,” he grinned as he picked his pole.
“What stakes?” She asked, unable to resist a challenge.
“Favors,” he decided. “For every fish that I catch, you owe me a debt, and vice versa.”
“You’ve got a deal, Inspector Robinson,” she said as she reached out to shake his hand.
“Aha!” Jack cackled as he got another bite.
“You’re cheating!” She stomped her foot petulantly.
“Four to zero,” he bragged as he held up his pole to reveal yet another fish. “I think I’ll use one favor to make you stay silent during an entire investigation,” he teased.
She watched him remove it and toss it back into the river, completely unimpressed, when she felt a tug on her own line. She looked down and watched it tug again.
“Jack,” she called out to him. “Jack, I believe that I’m finally fishing,” she said as she began reeling in her line.
“So you are,” he smiled proudly as he set down his pole to watch.
The fish emerged from the water and she swung it towards him, wanting him to do the dirty work.
“Oh no, you have to remove the fish from the pole or it doesn’t count,” he folded his arms. “And I’d hurry or you’re going to have to cook it too.”
She groaned as she brought it closer and assessed just how to proceed. She clasped it in one hand and reached for the hook with the other, but the fish jumped and the barb of the hook went straight into her thumb.
She yelped and dropped the fish and pole as her cut thumb began to bleed.
Jack was by her side instantaneously. His attention was on her thumb but she stepped back.
“The fish,” she redirected his attention. “Put it back, quickly.”
He pulled the line out and tossed the fish into the water before reaching into his pocket for his handkerchief.
“Where’s your flask?” He asked and she nodded towards the picnic basket.
“Ow!” She winced as he poured some whiskey on her thumb before wrapping her thumb in the handkerchief and holding it above her head for her.
“I told you that you didn’t fish,” she maintained.
“You do too, I just witnessed it,” he argued. “It’s not your fault that you caught an ornery one.”
“It was ornery,” she agreed, looking spitefully at the water.
After a few more minutes had passed, Jack lowered her hand to examine her wound.
"I think that it's stopped bleeding," he said as he unwrapped the makeshift bandage.
The hook-shaped wound had bled through the folded linen, making a perfect heart shape when he reopened it.
"Jack, look," she gestured towards the cloth. “It’s a heart. On cotton.”
“How did you manage that?” He asked with a smile as she took the cloth from him.
“Can I keep it?” She asked hopefully.
“A bloody handkerchief?” He questioned. “By all means. Happy anniversary,” he teased.
She knew that it was silly but it felt like a good omen, like they were right where they were meant to be.
“It’s going to be dark soon, we should pack up,” he said as he looked around. “I’ll start a fire and we can put some of that whiskey to better use.”
“Maybe use up one of those favors too?” She suggested as she picked up the picnic blanket.
“Something tells me that I won’t need to use one tonight,” he said confidently as he picked up their poles.
Chapter 4: Leather - 1932
"Happy Anniversary," Jack smiled as he came up behind her chair and placed a box in her lap.
"Thank you," Phryne beamed at the surprise.
Their 3rd anniversary was still days away but he'd known that he'd never get away with hiding the package in his office and now that he had just sold his house, he was at a loss of where to keep it safe until then.
"May I open it now or am I meant to wait?"
"Have you ever waited for anything in your life?" He questioned.
"I waited for you," she reminded him.
He smiled and shook his head, unable to even pretend that the charm didn't work on him.
"You're cheating," he maintained as she began to open her present with a smile.
She slid a delicate finger under the lid and lifted it off, wading through the wrapping tissue to find a pair of purple leather driving gloves.
"Oh, they're gorgeous,” she praised reverently as she tried them on.
“Is the purple alright? The lady behind the counter said that I could exchange them for a different color if you preferred something else.”
“I couldn’t have chosen better myself,” she assured him. "I love them, truly. Thank you," she pulled him closer to her level to kiss him.
"I'm glad," he smiled.
"Stay here. I’ll go fetch yours,” she instructed as she stood up.
He watched as she disappeared, still wearing the gloves, he noticed with a smile and when she came back down again, she had a small box in tow that he suspected to be a wallet.
“This is for you,” she handed it to him.
“Thank you,” he accepted the gift. He pried open the box and sure enough, it was a monogrammed leather wallet.
“It’s stamped with your initials so no one can get away with stealing it,” she smirked proudly as she took off her gloves.
He opened it up to peer into all of the pockets before looking at the stamp again. He'd been waiting for a moment to bring up the conversation and this felt like a natural opening.
“Speaking of initials,” he began as he looked up again, “how would you feel about changing yours?” He wondered curiously.
Her smiling gaze flickered to confusion before settling on understanding.
“What did you have in mind?” She asked hesitantly.
“Phryne Fisher-Robinson has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?” He asked.
She caught the unintentional pun and physically took a step back.
"Are you serious?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box that had been residing there for a few days.
"Where did you get that?" She asked.
"I sold the house," he informed her with a smile.
"I sold the house," he repeated. "I have to be out by the end of the month, by the way."
"Alright," she agreed, looking completely overwhelmed and unable to say anything else.
"Breathe," he smiled and she took a deep breath. He made to open the box but then paused. "Are you ready?"
“Yes!” She nodded, unable to stand the anticipation.
He cracked open the box and presented it to her and she looked like she was going to cry.
"Will you marry me?" He asked.
"Yes," she replied with a laugh as she launched herself into his arms.
He held her tight until she broke away for a heart-stopping kiss.
“I love you,” he murmured as he cupped the back of her neck.
“I love you,” she giggled.
"Do you want your ring?" He asked as he realized it was still in his right hand.
"Of course I do," she said as she spun just enough to his side to see him hold it up for her. She plucked it out of the box and stared at it for a long moment.
"It's beautiful," she praised as she put it on her finger.
"Better than the gloves?" He asked.
"They're a close second." She held it out for them to look at it and then she kissed him again.
"Are you happy?" He asked as he rubbed the small of her back.
"Yes," she nodded definitively. "You?"
"You've always made me happy," he promised.
She buried her face in his neck and he held her a little longer.
"Do we need to start packing your things tonight, or can we pop some champagne?" She teased.
"I think it can wait until morning," he smirked.
"Mr. B?! We're going to need champagne," she called out.
Chapter 5: Fruit and Flowers - 1933
Phryne smiled as Jack’s lips trailed across her shoulder, waking her up in the sweetest way.
“Good morning,” he murmured in her ear.
“Good morning,” she muttered groggily.
“Happy 4th anniversary,” he said as he produced something with a rustle.
She opened her eyes to see a bouquet of flowers, wrapped in brightly colored paper in front of her nose. She smiled sleepily before rolling onto her side and taking the bouquet from him.
“Thank you,” she smiled as she buried her nose in the petals.
“I wrapped them in paper, just in case we were starting over.”
“If we were starting over, this would no longer be our anniversary,” she pointed out. “And I don’t think it’s fair to lose three entire years simply because I wasn’t wearing the proper piece of jewelry at the time.”
“I concur,” he smiled. “I have to go to work now. Dinner tonight?”
“Amongst other things,” she promised with a sly smirk.
“I can’t wait,” he said sincerely with one last kiss goodbye.
“Have Mr. Butler bring up a vase when you leave,” she called after him as he left.
“On your end table,” he called back from the stairs.
She turned and saw the water-filled vase and grinned as she sat up in bed.
“I’m going to like today,” she decided out loud with another sniff of her flowers.
Phryne heard the door open and she smiled to herself. She listened as Mr. Butler took his hat and coat.
His footsteps on the stairs made her shiver in anticipation.
“Phryne?” He called as he came in loosening his tie. “Where are we going to dinner toni…?” He paused, hand still on tie, as he took in the sight before him.
“Hello,” she smiled from the middle of the bed, her back against the headboard, clad only in lingerie.
“Hello,” he mimicked, his eyes never quite meeting hers.
“I thought that we might eat in tonight,” she gestured to the trays of various fruits and dips that were at the foot of the bed.
Jack came to his senses and pulled the door closed, making her smile.
“I’ve got berries, grapes, oranges, kiwis, cherries, and apples. Whipped cream, caramel, honey, and chocolate sauce,” she pointed to each tray. “The champagne is chilled and ready and my sleep mask is on the end table if you really want to make things interesting.”
“You’ve thought of everything,” he praised as he began taking off his jacket.
“I told you that I was going to be good at this.”
“This, you’ve always been good at,” he promised as he removed his waistcoat. “Some would say excelled, even.”
“Is that why you married me?” She asked with a smirk.
“It was a definite factor,” he played along as he undid his cufflinks. “Why did you marry me?”
“Oh, because I liked watching your jaw clench in frustration,” she smirked.
“The last five years must have been a delight for you,” he commented as he rolled up his sleeves.
“They were,” she agreed as he sat down beside her.
“They weren’t so bad for me either,” he revealed with a smile before kissing her.
“We’re up to three different anniversaries now, you realize that,” she pointed out as he picked up the champagne. “Five years of knowing each other, four years of being together, and one year of marriage.”
“Smart of us to choose one straight out of the gate,” he complimented themselves as the cork popped and he poured them two glasses. He handed one to her and raised his.
“To you, Mrs. Fisher-Robinson,” he toasted her. “It’s been a wonderful one, four, and five years.”
“Here, here.” She clinked her glass against his before taking a sip.
Chapter 6: Wood - 1934
“Inspector!” Jack smiled as he was announced by Will Collins, seated at the kitchen table watching his mother at the stove.
“Hello, Will,” he greeted. “What smells so good?”
“We’re making a broth,” he explained as he drew on a sheet of paper.
“Broff!” Eleanor repeated proudly with a bang on the table.
“Is someone sick?” Jack asked Dot, who immediately put her head down and began stirring more fervently.
“Oh, don’t tell me,” Jack sighed.
“She’s in the bath now. I came over to drop off her dress for tonight and she was pale, shaking, feverish.”
Jack sighed and rolled his eyes, knowing that the next few days were going to be intolerable.
“I see. You had better take the children and flee while you still have the chance.”
Dot put a lid on the pot and turned to him.
“Keep that simmering for another 20 minutes and then it will be ready. Mr. Butler stepped out to buy supplies but he should be back to ladle it up for you,” she said as she picked up Eleanor and put her squarely on her hip. Will hopped down from the chair, knowing his job.
“This is for Phryne,” he said as he handed Jack his drawing.
“I’ll make sure that she gets it,” he winked as Dot handed Will his coat. “Thank you,” he told Dot sincerely.
“You’re welcome. Phone if you need anything?” She requested.
“Say goodbye,” she instructed her children.
“Bye!” They waved as she ushered them out of the kitchen.
Jack made his way up the stairs and knocked on the bathroom door.
“Phryne?” He called.
“Come in,” she called back before coughing.
He opened the door and took one long look at her.
“You’re definitely ill,” Jack confirmed.
“I feel fine,” she maintained, although she could barely breathe.
“That doesn’t make you any less ill,” he pointed out as he leaned against the counter.
“It’s our 5th anniversary. I’m taking a bath, I’m getting ready,” she argued. “My dress is hanging in the bedroom.”
“I’ve already cancelled,” he lied.
“You have not,” she scoffed.
“I’m about to,” he defended. “I wanted to check on you first and bring you this picture that Will drew for you.” He held it up for her to view. “Dot’s made you soup. It smells delicious. I’ll whip up some sandwiches and then we can exchange gifts in bed.”
“That’s not an anniversary,” she pouted.
“The calendar would disagree.”
She didn’t seem any more willing to give so he decided to bribe her.
“I’ll let you wear my pajamas,” he added, knowing how much she liked that.
“Fine,” she pouted.
“Fine? There was a time when you would have gone out of your way to get me into your bed and now that I’m offering to spend the evening there, you’re pouting about it?”
She smiled, despite herself.
“I’ve become spoiled, is that what you’re saying?”
“A little perspective is all that I ask. We’ve spent worse nights together.”
“Well, that bar is fairly low,” she replied.
“You’re not wrong,” he credited her the point. “When you’re ready, come to bed. I’ll prepare everything,” he promised.
“Hm?” He came back into the bathroom.
“Your gift is wrapped and in the bottom of the guest room armoire, under the linens,” she replied.
“I’ll make sure to bring it in,” he smiled.
When Phryne came in, he was already dressed in his pajamas.
She scoffed at the sight and he held up a pair for her as well. She dressed slowly and crawled into bed.
“Gifts or dinner?”
“Your gift first,” she said as he joined her in bed, wanting the time to rest from her exertions getting into bed.
Jack reached for the gift and placed it on his lap.
“It’s heavy,” he commented.
“It’s wood,” she responded.
He undid the paper and revealed a wooden chess set.
“Oh,” he smiled, touched. He pulled out the drawers to find handmade chess and draught pieces. “We haven’t played draughts in a long time,” he realized.
“Well, we found other ways to occupy our time,” she smiled weakly as she rested her head on his shoulder.
“Thank you,” he kissed her hair. “When you’re feeling better, we’ll play some?” He requested.
She nodded but didn’t lift her head.
“Want to sleep some before you open yours?” He asked.
“No, you open it for me.”
“Alright,” he said as he reached out and pulled the gift closer to them. He lifted the lid and pulled out her jewelry box.
“Ooh,” she cooed as he set it on her lap. She coughed over her other shoulder before opening the jewelry box to look inside and play with the inserts. “It’s beautiful.” She yawned as she closed the lid.
“I’ll put it on your vanity for now,” he said as he picked it up.
“I think that I’m going to close my eyes for a little bit,” she murmured as she slid down to the pillows in his absence.
“I think that’s wise,” he smiled as he tucked her in. “Love you,” he whispered before turning off the lamp beside her.
“Love you,” she muttered.
Jack tip-toed out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Chapter 7: Sugar - 1935
Phryne silently walked through the gate and paused in front of his office door. Her knock was met with his bellow to enter and she swung it open and leaned in his doorway.
“Phryne,” he sighed, happy to see her, but clearly exhausted. “What are you doing here?”
“Hugh was worried about you being here on your own. He called for reinforcements.” She put her bag down in her usual chair.
“He’s a good kid,” Jack replied, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
“He’s a father of two,” Phryne reminded him, “which means that you are getting too old for these all-night sessions.”
“I’ve got…” he waved his hands over his full desk.
“I know. Hence,” she reached into her bag, “reinforcements,” she revealed the thermos of tea.
“Lifesaver,” he praised as he took the thermos and poured himself a cup.
She then brought out a tin of biscuits and put it on top of the stack of papers in front of him.
He was looking at her in that same way that he did the very first time that she ever brought him food. His hair was lighter, his eyes had a bit more wrinkling around the edges, but the light inside him was shining just as bright as ever.
“Have I married you already?” He asked through a mouthful of biscuit.
“Almost three years ago,” she confirmed.
“But more importantly, it was six years ago when you arrived in London to sweep me off my feet, and so, I present the 6th traditional gift of sugar,” she smiled as she swept her hand over the desk.
The transition on Jack’s face could only be described as utter terror as he realized that he might have forgotten their anniversary.
She pointed to the clock, showing him that it was now after midnight.
He visibly relaxed and she chuckled at his deflation.
"How can I help? I've been told that I'm a good man to have in a storm," she looked around.
"You are," he agreed with a smile as he nodded for her to come around the desk.
She did as she was told, sitting down on his thigh.
"You're tired," she noticed.
"Yes I am," he agreed.
"Come home and do this in the morning."
"I'm nearly done. It's easier just to stay."
"Then let me help," she repeated.
"You help by simply being here."
"I spent all those years sitting on the other side of the desk, wanting to come over here and comfort you, and now that I actually can, you want me to return to my seat and look pretty?"
"I can't see you when you're on my lap," he reasoned with a smirk.
She stood up and took the biscuit tin with her.
His small noises of protest went unheard.
"You may have the biscuits when you finish your work," she encouraged as she sat down with the tin in her lap.
Chapter 8: Wool - 1936
“The 7th anniversary is wool?” Phryne said in disgust. “There’s nothing attractive or romantic about wool.”
“That’s not true,” Jack frowned. “I seem to recall that we had quite a romantic moment when you wore my Abbotsford scarf around your neck during a football match,” he pointed out as he came up behind her.
“I seem to recall that you didn’t kiss me because your corrupt father-in-law and your recently estranged wife were watching,” she countered, refusing to give in to his charms.
“And I’ve seen what you look like wearing only my wool jumper and it’s extremely attractive.” Jack ran his hand under her blouse and across her bare stomach.
“Is that what you want for your gift?” She asked with a smirk as he started to nibble on her ear. “To watch me walk around the house in only a wool jumper?”
“I would never discourage it,” he said seriously.
“Wool means clothing, right?”
“Unless you’d like to start a sheep farm,” he smirked.
“Your garden would suffer,” she dismissed the idea as she turned in his arms. “Take me shopping. We can find something for one another together.”
“That takes the surprise out of it,” he frowned.
“It’s unusually nice outside. I want to stroll by shop windows, and eat lunch at that little cafe that you like, and then find a quiet place at the park to sit beside you while you read me poetry,” she stated.
“Did you have a particular book in mind?” He teased.
“If I’m going to be stuck with something wool as my present, I want to at least spend some time with you while it happens,” she said honestly as she turned back around to let him continue.
“That was almost romantic,” he complimented.
“More romantic than a scarf at a football match,” she decided.
“I love my coat,” she wrapped herself tighter in it as she walked down the sidewalk.
“You’ve had a change of heart on the subject based on a single coat?”
“This isn’t just a coat. This is cut just so,” she tilted her hip. “And it cinches here,” she waved over her own curves. “And the collar,” she sighed as she stroked her lapels. “Have I mentioned the collar?”
“You have,” he smiled at her enthusiasm.
“I’m going to wear it year-round. It’s going to be my new look. People are going to call this coat the Fisher-Robinson from here on out.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he agreed.
“Thank you,” she smiled as she pulled him in for a kiss.
“You’re welcome,” he murmured as he pulled her in for another.
“Now, we need to find you something, come along,” she wrapped her arm around his and began looking for something of interest.
“Wool socks?” She asked facetiously, making him chuckle. “Another blue suit?” She wrinkled her nose.
“Another near-miss in our romantic wool history,” he grinned.
“We almost died,” she reminded him distractedly as she stopped in her tracks. “Oh.” She smiled. “I haven’t bought you a new hat since Maiden Creek,” she offered.
He opened his mouth but she cut him off, already knowing what he was going to say.
“That one counts,” she allowed. “You came to rescue me when I phoned, you quoted Rilke, you helped Hugh propose to Dot. It was, in fact, quite romantic.”
“I was shot at and you bought me a hat for my troubles,” he added.
“Let me buy you another one,” she requested.
“Alright,” he allowed with a smile as she pulled him into the shop.
It was sitting on display, simply waiting for them to find it, and when they did, she picked it up and placed it on his head.
He smiled at her as she adjusted it and took a step back.
“Perfect,” she shrugged, unable to believe their luck. “We’re fabulous,” she decided as she stood beside him in the mirror.
“It’s nice,” he said as he adjusted it to a less dramatic tilt and moved his head from side to side.
“It’s definitely wool. Will it live up to our long history of so-called romantic moments?” She inquired.
“I think that we can make it work,” he said as he snagged her by the waist and brought her in for a long kiss under the shadow of the brim.
Chapter 9: Bronze - 1937
Going to be very honest: I spent all night on TikTok and smashed this out in a few minutes. lol.
Jack took the stairs slowly, tugging off his tie as he went. He turned on the lamp beside the bed and smiled. A new set of bronze bookends quietly enveloped a single book on his end table. He took the book out, grinning from ear to ear as he read the title “The Bronze Age”.
He reached into his pocket, retrieved Phryne’s box, wrapped in a ribbon, and placed it on her end table in response.
He picked up his new book and his robe and made his way to the bath to learn something new.
He awoke to his wife gently pulling his new book out of his hands.
“Hello,” she murmured with a smile.
"What time is it?" He asked as he rubbed his eyes.
"Late, go back to sleep,” she said as she set the book aside.
“You were missed,” she said as she took out her earrings. “How is your case going?”
“Had some luck tonight. I’ll present it to Russell Street tomorrow morning.”
“I see you found your present,” she nodded towards his book ends.
“Yes, thank you. Yours is over there,” he said as he gestured to her side of the bed.
She slipped out of her dress and into her robe before padding over to the end table and picking up the box. She removed the ribbon as she sat down on the bed. She opened the box and pulled a small statue out of the box. It was about 20 centimeters tall.
“It’s your namesake,” he explained.
“Phryne before the jury,” she smiled, knowing the story.
“A woman so beautiful and charming that no one could be bothered to charge her with a crime,” Jack smiled. “Sound familiar?”
“She is beautiful,” she held it up to admire the art.
“And very nude. I know your artistic taste,” he said groggily as he shifted lower in bed and fluffed his pillow.
“Thank you,” she leaned over to kiss him. “I’m going to find a place for her in the morning.” She set the statue aside. “But for now,” she crawled over top of him, “I have a case that I'd like to plead myself, Inspector,” she smirked.
"Is that so?" He smiled, looking up at her.
"Mm, and I think that you'll find that I can also be very persuasive," she promised.
Chapter 10: Pottery and Willow - 1938
Sorry about the delay. I wrote an entire chapter and then realized just as I was about to click "Post" that there was a better idea staring me straight in the face that I had missed and well, I had to start over.
Hugh and Jack were whispering in the kitchen when Phryne came through to refresh her coffee.
“Morning, Hugh,” she smiled as she poured herself a cup from Jack’s new espresso maker. “Would you care for some coffee? Jack received a new espresso set for our 9th anniversary. We have plenty of cups.”
“Ah, yes. Pottery and willow,” he smiled. “I gave Dottie a new picnic set and took her on a picnic under a willow tree along the river,” he stated. “But no, thank you. I’ve been up all night. If I don’t get home soon, Dottie will be wondering why my breakfast is going cold.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’re exhausted. You should go. We can finish this conversation tomorrow,” Jack excused him quickly. “Give our love to everyone.”
“I will,” he waved goodbye as Jack closed the kitchen door behind him.
“Care to explain yourself?” She asked expectantly.
“Given the upcoming anniversary, I assumed that you wouldn’t want any more reminders,” he sighed.
She took in that information before realizing that she hadn’t connected Janey to willows at all.
“I didn’t,” she shook her head. “I didn’t even think of her.”
She felt Jack’s careful eyes on her but she couldn’t meet them.
“I’m forgetting,” she realized out loud as she set her cup aside.
“No,” Jack argued immediately, crossing the kitchen.
“I once moved halfway around the world to find the location of her body and now I can’t even make the very obvious connection to that place?” She asked him seriously.
“You weren’t exactly admiring the scenery at the time,” he pointed out. “And I for one am grateful that you don’t associate that place with your sister. You should keep your memories that you do have. I shouldn’t have assumed otherwise.”
“No, it was kind,” she defended his actions. “You’re kind," she informed him.
“But still sorry,” he repeated and she kissed him his forgiveness.
He nodded as she sighed.
"That’s how old she was.”
“I know," he replied quietly, rubbing her back.
“We've know each other for the same amount of time that I knew her.”
He didn’t comment, but his hand pressed a little tighter on the small of her back.
“Can we…?” She started only to find that he was already nodding.
“I’ll drive," he nodded, taking a step towards the door.
“Wait,” she requested. She left his arms and pulled the bouquet of flowers out of her new ceramic vase, wrapped them in that morning’s newspaper, and reached for his hand. “Ready.”
“What brings you to Wardlow, Mr. Johnson?” She asked with a knowing grin.
“I’ve got a fare with your name on it,” Bert explained. “Hop in.”
Never one to turn down a spontaneous adventure, she tucked her bag under her arm and immediately got in the cab.
It wasn’t until he turned into the drive of the Windsor that she began to smile.
She got out of the cab and tried to pay him, but Bert held up his hand.
“Already been taken care of, ma’am,” he assured her. “This is for you,” he handed her a key through the open window. “S’posed to tell you to go up to the suite; everything’s upstairs and waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Bert.” She smiled fondly as she kissed his cheek through the window.
“My pleasure, ma’am.” He tipped his hat to hide his uncomfortable blush.
As she made her way towards the same suite that she had occupied over 11 years ago, she realized that it felt like a lifetime ago. She’d been a woman so desperate to find the answers to the past that she hadn’t realized what she had stumbled onto in the present: a family, a career, a home. She would have never sought them out on her own, but somehow, they had wrapped themselves around her and held her still until her roots had grown all the same.
She unlocked the door and searched the suite, seeking out her luggage but found gifts waiting on the bed instead.
“Jack,” she shook her head as she reached for the card.
Tin isn’t all that imaginative, is it? I hope that this suffices.
Happy 10th anniversary,
The first box contained tins of all of her favorite cosmetics. Underneath was a Madame Fleuri box with a brand new blood red dress and shoes that she knew that he couldn’t afford, so she hoped that he’d charged them to her account.
When she was bathed, dressed, and made up, a knock came on the door. She grinned as she took one last look in the mirror. The dress took her breath away and the thought of seeing his reaction to it made her giddy. She practically ran to the door.
“Wow,” Jack shook his head in awe. “God, you’re beautiful,” he smiled as he came into the room.
“I had some help,” she acknowledged as she kissed his cheek. “Is it everything that you imagined?” She posed for his benefit.
“I didn't look. I wanted to be surprised,” he said sincerely. “I phoned the experts and they said that they knew exactly what to give you, they had your measurements, and not to worry.”
“It must have cost a small fortune,” she ran a hand over her stomach.
“Curiously, a bill was never received.” He smiled. “When I phoned to inquire about that, they told me that it must have been lost in delivery but from their secretary’s tone, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for its arrival.”
Phryne smiled knowingly.
“Well, they’re grateful," she explained. "If we hadn't solved their case, they wouldn't have the empire that they have now,” she reminded him.
“Before I give the impression that your entire gift was purchased from the local chemist, I do have one more surprise,” he said as he reached into his jacket to pull out a velvet necklace box.
She gave him a scolding look for spoiling her with jewelry when he'd already done so much.
“Go on, open it,” he instructed, ignoring her concerns.
She took it from him and cracked it open slowly.
“Oh, Jack,” she shook her head at the beautiful diamond necklace. “The setting matches my ring,” she smiled as she showed it to him.
“It should. I bought them as a set,” he confirmed.
Her eyes shot up to see if he was kidding but his eyes were sparkling with mischief.
“And you’ve just been hiding it for seven years? How? Where?”
“Do you want to try it on?” He asked, ignoring her questions.
“Yes, are you going to answer my questions?” She asked with a tilt of her head.
“Come into the bedroom,” he said as he brought her to the nearest mirror.
She took the necklace out of the box and hummed quietly in excitement as he placed it around her neck. She fingered the diamond gently as he clasped it and watched the way it fell perfectly onto her neck.
“I love it. And you.” She turned around and kissed him briefly before wiping the wax off his lips before it could stain. “You’re next,” she smiled as she opened the top drawer of the dresser and pulled out a small box. “This one first.”
He looked intrigued by the gift and he opened it quickly.
“A tin of tomatoes?” He asked curiously as he looked over the label.
“I stole one from the Camorra warehouse, do you remember?”
“Vaguely,” he confirmed.
“That was the case when I thought that I’d lost you forever,” she revealed and he looked up in surprise. “I had always assumed that our connection was unique because it was unique for me but when I saw you with Concetta and I saw you two sharing the same glances that were normally reserved for me, I realized that not only was there competition for your attention, but that she was winning.”
Jack was staring at her with an intensity that he only reserved for his toughest cases.
She looked down at her hands to continue.
“That night, I was sitting in my parlor feeling terrible,” she recalled. “I had no one to blame but myself for the loss, but all the same, I found it unbearable.” She looked up to see the recognition in his eyes at the weaponized word. “And then you walked in,” she said simply, “with a bottle of wine and a smile.” She could see it in her memory even now. “And I mournfully said that you’d have to make do with me, because I knew that I was your last choice, but you corrected me. You said that we’d have to make do with each other from then on.”
He nodded, recalling the moment.
“And while there have been many men in my life, you’re the only one that I’ve ever wanted to keep there,” she confessed. “And it took a tin of tomatoes for me to realize it.”
He brought her in for another kiss, this time not concerned in the least about her lipstick, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. When he finally broke away from her, he set his forehead against hers and sighed.
“I love you,” he praised, the magnitude of the moment stealing his words from him.
“I love you too,” she murmured. “But there’s more,” she revealed as she reluctantly stepped out of his embrace.
“More than that?” He questioned as he wiped his lips clean, unable to believe that anything else could compete with a single tin of tomatoes.
She reached into the drawer and pulled out a bottle of Italian red wine with a silver watch around its neck and held it out for him.
He smiled, touched at the continuation of the gift.
“It’s engraved,” she said with a gesture for him to take it.
He slid the watch off the bottle gently before turning it over in his hands.
“To ten more years of making do,” he read with a chuckle. “I love it,” he said as he immediately began taking off the watch on his wrist.
She reached for it and set it on the dresser as he put the new one on and held it up to test.
“Does it fit?”
“Yes,” he held it out for her inspection. “And it’s telling us that we’re late for dinner,” he added.
“Then let me fix this mess and then we can go,” she said as she fixed her lipstick quickly in the mirror. “Perhaps if we tell them it’s our anniversary, we can get the same table where I first announced my business,” she suggested.
“What makes you think that I haven’t already requested it?” He questioned smugly.
“Did you really?” She paused, wanting his confirmation before continuing.
“And no one even required the fire department this time,” he assured her as he opened the door for her.
“I’d rather hoped that as you got older, your memory might fade a little,” she frowned as he locked the door behind them and pocketed the key. “Those early days weren’t my most charming.”
“Oh, trust me, they did the job well enough,” he muttered quietly as he pressed the button to the lift.
Her pleased smile at his former frustration didn’t go unnoticed and he smiled at her smile, tugging her closer by the waist so that he could kiss her cheek lovingly.
Thanks for reading!