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Stating the Obvious

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‘Coward.’ Mac turns and locks the door of the anatomy room. There isn’t much in there that anyone would want to steal, but it is a crime scene now, she supposes. Although clearly Professor Katz had been killed somewhere else -- there must be a huge pool of blood somewhere and you’d think someone-- No. Enough. She taps the side of her head with the key and turns back to Phryne who, she thinks, hasn’t really stopped talking.

‘I know!’ Phryne flings her hands into the air and spins back towards Mac, broad skirt of her coat spinning out and settling again around her knees. ‘It’s just so frustrating--’

Mac takes note of her friend in a kind of automatic way: she’s always known that Phryne was beautiful -- you’d have to be blind to miss it -- with the kind of charisma that could stop a charging water-buffalo. She remembers having the conversation with herself about whether or not to fall in love with her; Phryne seemed like the type who might take that well -- but then the war and Europe and the hospital and-- When Phryne had returned, it was better to be friends and it wasn’t a decision she regretted. Let Jack try to keep up with her.

‘I wasn’t talking about him.’ Mac drops the key to the room in her pocket and pats it to reassure herself.

‘What?’ Phryne stops and stares at her, dark eyes wide under the fringe of her hair.

‘I was talking about you.’ Mac strides past her, heading for the main hall.

‘Me! But -- Mac -- what -- I --’ Phryne’s heels tap sharply on the stone flooring as she catches up. Mac doesn’t slow down. ‘What did I do? He’s the one who--’

Mac nods in mock understanding. ‘He’s the one you’ve followed around--’

‘I have not--’

‘--and teased and flirted and joked with and--’

‘I don't owe him--’

‘--and he’s the one who shows up at your house almost every night for a drink where you sit together alone and talk about nothing--’ Mac takes the corner of the hallway sharply, forcing Phryne to step out into the hall and hurry a step or two to keep up with her. Really, this is quite fun; she hadn’t realised that putting Phryne off her stride would be so easy.

‘How do you--’

‘--for hours on end. He’s the first one you think to call when there’s trouble--’

‘I do not--’

‘--and the last one you want to talk to when you’ve sorted it all out. He’s followed you around, helped you, protected you, picked up after you, picked up you--’

‘Mac--!’

Mac stops outside her office door, spins to put her back to it, and shoves her hands in her trouser pockets. Phryne is flushing and slightly out of breath; she’s glancing up and down the hall as if one of the students hustling past might know or care what Mac’s talking about.

‘--and now you’re trying to make sure he can’t sneak up to hear you admit--’

‘Mac!’

Mac stops, sighs, and shakes her head theatrically. ‘Phryne Fisher. I’d’ve never believed it if I hadn’t been here to see it.’

Phryne shakes her shoulders back and pulls herself up; the gesture is so exactly like that of a hen just drenched with a bucket of water shaking itself dry, that Mac almost starts to laugh. ‘To see what. Exactly.’

‘You. Scared of a man being in love with you.’

Phryne sniffs, tosses her head. ‘As if that would scare me.’

Mac snaps her fingers and offers Phryne a wicked grin. ‘No, of course not. Silly me. Got it backwards.’ She ducks into the dimness of her office before Phryne can sort it out and throws herself into her armchair to enjoy the affronted gasp from the hallway.