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Standard Candles (Aerodynamics)

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His hand was on the doorknob when the telephone rang. If he weren’t Jack Robinson – duty bound, self-sacrificing, honorable – he might have let the sound trill on unheeded as he closed the door behind him, pulled away in a staid black motorcar, conveyed himself at moderate speed to Victoria Dock, and stood waiting, rather awkwardly, for the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher to come ashore and welcome his embrace.

If he weren’t Jack Robinson, though, said lady might have had no inclination to embrace him in the first place.

The call, like most that he received at home, was from the station. So he went out as planned, but in lieu of the pier his destination was a seedy pawnbrokers in Chapel St., and his assignation was with the decidedly less alluring woman sprawled pitifully beneath a case of jewels.

Phryne’s letter, at least, was tucked close in his inside breast pocket – more of her than had graced his crime scenes for some time. The creamy square of paper overran his mind and blunted his characteristic vigilance, and hence, when a swirl of satin dropped across from him, his consternation was more pronounced than usual when he said, “Miss Fisher?”

Jack should have known that he’d encounter Phryne, for the first time since he watched her take off in an aeroplane with her kiss still sparkling on his lips, over the grim, galvanic riddle of a corpse.

“Say yes, Jack,” Phryne says. “You’ve never been up with me.” He furrows his brow at her but can’t help half a smile. Her fingers tugging at his tie are one constituent of the fond expression. Her green eyes glittering up at him, promising to strip him down to parts and learn every quirk of his machinery.

“You have ample opportunity to threaten life and limb here on the ground, Miss Fisher,” he says – mostly to prompt a pout that he can kiss away. Since September, since her meteoric departure and then her smoldering return, he has devoted diligent (she might say remedial) study to the craft of saying yes to her. As for this request, well, he’s spent too long thinking of her in the air – her hands assertive on the stick, scarf a triumphal banderole behind her, vital beyond what even gravity could subdue – not to feel a thrill.

Those damned assertive hands have reached his fly. “A certain limb has no complaints,” she purrs. When he leaves off arguing to ravish her, it’s at least a graceful way to concede.

At first it’s not so different from the Scenic Railway: a warbly quake tossed between his sternum and his hips as he lifts slightly, strangely off the seat. But then he looks as they keep rising – the city shrinks beneath him like a camera trick until it’s gridded into a living diagram. He summons a forensic gaze, cultivated poring over maps of Melbourne, and the land shimmers surreally into the familiar plotted contours of Bentleigh, Malvern, and South Yarra, jumbled alleyways of Richmond butting against the stately Cricket Ground and Botanic Gardens, Princes Bridge and their fine metropolis bristling up like modernity itself. Just as he settles, ready to enjoy a loop around St. Kilda – panoramic views of Luna Park and the foreshore (perhaps even a glimpse of Wardlow like a jewel in a row of pavé) – she banks sharply out over the water. The primal sensation of freefall, the rush of wind that swallows his raw gasp, the sudden seizing of the muscles slung between his legs, bring his arms up to grip the edges of the cockpit. He hears her laugh effervesce behind him, a sound of pure delight.

Jack has certainly held on for dear life in the Hispano, but – with Port Phillip rippling beneath them, a luxuriant expanse of foulard – this isn’t like surrendering to her driving. Phryne relishes a weapon that fuses opulence and threat: the car serves as readily as her pistol or her dagger, her lipstick or her lingerie. She wields it between them, toward ends alternately adversarial or seductive. The plane, though, is more her incarnation than her instrument. They’re of a piece: liberated, extravagant, exacting and precisely tuned, surprisingly delicate, forged in war and dare-devilry, finally still quite improbable. It’s wood that surrounds him, leather meeting the weight of his buttocks, but he has the disorientating sense of being inside her body. She calls out to him, inaudible but euphoric, and he lets the potent vibrations of the engine take him over.

They’re just south of Torquay, by his best estimate, when Phryne touches down in a field with a great jolt and a rumble. Her laughter peals again, exultant, as they judder to a stop.

“Did you survive your maiden flight, Jack?” she yells, before cutting power to the propeller. When the beast quiets to a safer hum, he pushes up onto the fuselage, swings his legs around to land them in her lap. The perch on the lip of her cockpit is precarious, but he’s come this far relying on the frame below and wing above, and he supposes they’d serve to seize hold of in a pinch.

“I’m hardly a maiden, Phryne.” Her chin tilts up to look at him, beaming even as she bats his shoes away from kit and gauges so he’s securely straddling her seat. He must be flushed and windblown – he watches her open appreciation shift from his dishevelment to the agitation set into his jaw. Her eyes dip from his face to his crotch at a level with her head.

“Well, so I see.” She licks her lips. He’s half hard.

Phryne extricates herself from safety belts and goggles, nonchalantly checks the dials and levers of the plane, and only then reaches out to squeeze his thighs. Jack surveys their location: tucked up to a copse of trees shielding them from nearby grazeland, and elsewhere meadow shading into wild bush.

“You were satisfied by my piloting, then?” she asks, gloved fingers testing the tension of his muscles.

“As in cases of your driving, I count myself lucky to come out alive.”

“Nothing like the embrace of a powerful machine to make one feel alive, Jack.” His name ends with that velar snap she uses as a challenge.

“And have I been embraced, then? I thought that was merely flying.”

Her palm ventures, finally, to cover his erection. “Perhaps you should get back in so we might explore the definition further.”

Jack chuckles stutteringly under the pressure she’s applying and gestures to the cockpit. “I can’t fit in there with you, Phryne.”

“Suit yourself,” she shrugs, sitting back before he can move to keep her. She unfastens her trousers, bites her lip and bats her lashes, and sighs as she slides one hand into her knickers, fine driving glove and all.

One day, her audacity may cease to catch him by surprise – but he hopes not.

“Aviating, Jack, it’s mastering and being mastered all at once,” she’s saying, as she strokes. “The plane this organism under your command yet an extension of your body.” (Her body, squirming when she moves her fingers, blush creeping up her chest.) “It confers superhuman powers yet confronts you every moment with your mortal vulnerability. Demands your absolute control…” (She angles her hips and spreads her knees, thrusting into the leather seal around her hand.)

“Makes you want to lose control,” he finishes, and sees the smirk tease the corners of her mouth. “Not to mention matching the capacities of the Percussor.”

“Why Jack, I thought it was merely flying?”

“The way you describe it, I’m not even sure I’ve been flying yet.”

Phryne levels him with a look of brazen provocation, eyelids heavy and pupils dark. “Go on, then – don’t let me stop you.”

There’s a breeze feathering the eucalyptus, flashing them the silvery undersides of the leaves. The grasses sway lazily in the midday sunshine, content to shroud them in a densely rural silence. Jack no longer bothers wondering why (as a cautious, upright man) he has so little will to leave lying a gauntlet she throws down for him. He unbuttons himself and takes out his cock, shivering as the lush atmosphere seems to taste his intimate flesh.

Phryne, he notices, licks her lips again. He wraps his fist around the shaft, one slow pull to bring his grip over the head – part stimulation, but just as much a shield between that delicate organ and the prickling of the air. Phryne – he can always count on her impatience – moves her hand from her own parts to his, squeezing the root of him in a gloved collar that makes known its prerogative with an exquisite twist. The leather breaks over him like a clinging summer storm, supple and long worn into her shape, with more friction than her skin and a slick finish at the fingertips where they’re shiny with her liquor. She shifts forward and rubs her face against his bare knuckles, catlike – and, when he doesn’t yield, bites down until (with a last prayer to the heavens) he relinquishes his protective clutch so she can take him in her mouth.

Her mouth! There’s inevitably a moment – as she samples the first sip of him (never quite the same way twice, but always with some devastating conflagration of lips and tongue and suction) – when he feels a hot rush of shame engorge him further. It’s not the act that mortifies him, but the fact that, for a taut and hovering instant, it’s the act he craves most of anything she might do to him. It can’t be decent (goes the impulse) that he’s not holding some desire in reserve for a more conventional joining. Then he takes a breath, like she taught him, lets his hand tangle in her hair and sinks into this specific pleasure.

Not that she isn’t remarkable with her cunt – her movements and her muscles orchestrate sensations he could never have imagined – but her mouth plies him at a more intricate and more deliberate scale. Just now, her tongue is firm and keen, mapping out the veins and ridges branching down his length within the molten hollow of her cheeks. She flattens it and pushes him against her upper teeth, slides him along her palate with that alarming scrape crowning the warm, wet embrace. Jack grunts and clambers for a handhold on the wing, before her torments send him plummeting from the plane in actual fact.

“Phryne,” he says. She’s gazing up at him wickedly from her seat, wanton with her lipstick smeared and fringe ruffled from the flight. At his entreaty, she smiles around his cock so he can see her teeth – obscene! – and jerks him with her unrelenting grasp until her fingers meet her chin. And down again, hand moving in counterpoint to a volley of nips and kisses at his glans. The glove is bracing and unnatural, arousing him with the muted promise of her skin, with its contrast to the sharp stimulus from her mouth. She licks the fluid from his tip (her spoils) and says “mmmm” guilelessly, as if she could simply savor him like this forever.

There’s one way to convince her to stop teasing – Jack understands this from experience. He fists the hand resting on her neck around a hank of hair, cool and smooth as jet, and tugs. She resists the grip, just a little, lets him force her head back to look at him as he says, “Phryne.”

“Was there something you wanted, Jack?”

With his cock damp, the breezy day stings and constricts the tissues – it seems like his erection is an offering in marble. “Your…” He clears his throat, thick suddenly with the carnality of his need for her. “I want you to devour me – to take my entire length in your mouth.”

When he pushes her down, this time, she curls her lips over her teeth and sucks in earnest. He keeps the pressure on her head until he feels her swallow – and it’s bliss. She doesn’t require the rough handling to blow him masterfully – she can read his pleasure from the slightest twitch or gasp – but she enjoys the weight of his arm, the tension at her scalp, the physicality of his hunger as she sears up and down his shaft. He knows that she enjoys it because she moves faster, because she hums and grinds her legs together, because she says it with her eyes. (He knows because she told him.) Her tongue kneads the marrow of him, and she works her hand inside his shorts to enfold his balls in that accursed leather. On the fragile skin, he can decipher every subtle texture of the wear across her palm, the jagged ruck of stitching at the thumb that flays him as she rubs – mirroring the seam along her fingertip that’s flirting with the near side of his arse.

He starts to go blind and liquid, all the higher faculties of his person swirling down into his cock. Jack had to learn this too – the switch short-circuiting the conviction that he’s not allowed to take his satisfaction first, to fuck a woman’s face, to succumb to the blooming burst of ecstasy and –

Phryne’s throat pulses ironclad around him once more, and he’s gone.

When Jack can stand, he drops to the ground and catches Phryne as she disembarks. She wraps her legs around his waist and, with only a minimal lapse in grace, he lowers to his knees and lays her on the slanted surface of the wing. Despite the stiffness of the glossy dermis, the jutting ridges of the skeleton underneath, she swans back decadently as if the plane is her accustomed nest. He leans over her, his forearm buffering her middle from the tapered aileron, and they kiss and kiss. Penetrating, tranquil kisses that let her ease her jaw and share his taste with him. By the time he’s bestowed his thanks on every talented lineament of her cheeks and neck, Jack has managed to bunch her trousers partway down and fit his hand inside. He can feel her, damp and swollen, through the lavish silk – counterpart to the sturdy fabric stretched against the wind, buoying up her body so she can fly.

He wants her, wants to make her moan and clench her thighs around his hips, wants to steer her through the strata of intensities to make her his (perhaps she already is). He massages the slopes of Phryne’s labia and mons, seeking the firm whorls of energy that reveal her inner structure. His fingers pause above her opening, soaked silk almost indiscernible from the texture of her flesh. “Did you bring your rubber friend?”

“I didn’t, Jack,” she laughs. “I didn’t plan this element of our outing, honestly – it’s all your doing, darling.”

“Well, I believe you challenged me to win a Bingo – perhaps I had a square in mind.” She’s stunned into a giddy grin, and Jack savors the expression, the substance of her in his lap, the pulse of her under his hand, the entire outrageous spectacle of her spread out before him, spanning the interval between a plane and the wild grass.

Phryne recovers her verve and pushes up with one foot, bringing the other to rest between his legs. “You’d best continue, then.” He’d more or less tucked himself away, in haste, but his fly’s still hanging open, leaving the merest cotton as a barrier. The sole of her boot on his cock (now showing a renewed interest) is a dare. He runs both thumbs down the vamp with enough pressure to feel the crocodile pattern, the arc of her instep joining the furrows of her toes.

There’s a tall column of tight lacing standing in the way of stripping her bare, and he frowns. “You had to wear this contraption?”

“You love my boots.” She steps harder on his burgeoning erection, smugly.

He loves her boots. He loves how she strides through the world. He loves her boldness, her impulsiveness, her variable hues and surfaces. He loves her. He loves that she’ll set off for Neverland in an aeroplane on one day’s notice – even as the specter of that departure (redux) haunts him. Jack cups the back of her calf – snug, svelte sheath of leather – and squeezes rhythmically, as if he could jerk himself through the boot.

“Take it off,” she says. When, instead of reaching for the laces, he bends to grasp the knot in his teeth, he hears her murmur of surprise. Releasing the bow and unhitching the upper hooks requires some time and concentration, but it’s well worth it for the scent of shoe polish and the quiet purr she makes as his lips brush against the leather. He can only bend so far, though, and he sets his fingers to the rest and sits up to ask her, with the slightest blush, “Can I take you at the rear?”

It’s the same laugh – he suspects Phryne of delight at his predicament. “I don’t think there’s anything here for lubricant. You’re just going to have to wait to have me till we get home, aren’t you?”

The final hooks, loosening through the eyelets, the buckle of the crisscross strap, and the boot is sorted. Between them, they maneuver one leg out of her trousers and smalls.

“However will I occupy myself while I endure this wait?” Jack twines a finger through the curls now ruffling in the breeze and tugs. Phryne lifts the other boot, plants it squarely on his chest, and pushes till he’s supine on the ground. Willingly, he wriggles down between her legs, arranges himself under the shadow of the plane in a familiar repose – her knees to either side of his head.

He forms a cradle with his palms for her to sit on and parts her with his thumbs – she’s slippery and combustible, inviting him to dip the pads inside. Every time, it’s like the first, when he was so desperate to taste her it didn’t matter that they were in public, in his office, in their clothes (and indefinable, incompatible, in love).

He traces each fold with his tongue, memorizing. His fingers steady her, splayed over her belly, as she attempts to rise off the desk.

He strokes along her lateral walls and pulls against the coiled tautness there to stretch her open – a channel for his tongue. Phryne’s flavor is ever changeable (today, an amaroidal tang of petrol mixed with brine and new-mown hay), and he nestles his face deep to chase its sundry shades before licking up, up slowly, over the most mystic, pillowy expanse to the underside of her clit, smooth and lustrous as a true pearl.

When he tastes her, the world stops. Smiling against her, Jack finds her pearl and sucks.

He exposes the orb and traps it daintily between his teeth – a threat, a lien, a pact.

“Jack Robinson,” she gasps, “behave!” But she rides his mouth rougher to flirt with that knife edge of him.

He relents, and returns his velvet lips and tongue to her. Phryne is canted back, shoulders resting on the wing, and the oblique angle leaves him room to breathe and gaze at her, hands flung above her head and clutching at the windward curve.

She’s slick and tight, smooth and rippled, and Jack seeks the throbbing places to stroke. He wants to survey every inch of her.

He remembers it, every time, and yet every time it’s a new magic, vivid and occult – the way Phryne moves and moans and breaks apart above him. Now, Jack knows just how to tease her. He flicks his tongue across the longitudinal axis of her hood, accelerating in his pace and thrust, shifting his trajectory when she quakes and keens to send her shuddering off course. He watches her writhe to meet him, kaleidoscoping that first kiss in an airfield much like this into a million crystalline shards of color.

“Dammit, Jack, may I come?” she pleads. “Say yes!”