For a moment Jack couldn't remember where he was and why he was there. His mind was foggy and his vision hazy and the fire that seemed to have settled beneath his skin under his right shoulder and through to his chest wasn't clearing his mind at all.
There was a young girl cradled against his left side as he bent over her, kneeling on the cold ground, and details started to filter through his slow and muddy thoughts.
Lizzie Cole. 8 years old. Kidnapped by her abusive father after he had killed her mother.
He and Miss Fisher had tracked her down and snuck into the building to try and get her out of harm's way before confronting her father, James. But he'd spotted them after they got her outside and gave chase. And when he'd pointed his gun at them Jack had instantly reacted to protect the girl whilst Miss Fisher had spun around, golden pistol in hand, whilst dual cracks shattered the air around them.
He could feel Lizzie's hands clenching onto his collar and he could hear her terrified sobs but the sound seemed muffled and he tried to turn his head to see if James was dealt with or to pull Lizzie away and check her for injury. But his arms didn't want to respond and the moment he twisted his head the fire near his shoulder seemed to explode like a mortar shell and the gasp of breath he took made him realise that he couldn't seem to fill his lungs.
Hands cradled his face as he struggled to normalise his breathing and Miss Fisher's voice started to filter through his overwhelmed senses.
'...ck. JACK! Jack, please, look at me!'
'...Is Lizzie alright?' The words sounded weak to his own ears and speaking them seemed to consume the little breath he'd managed to regain.
He could feel his left arm being moved and he realised that someone was taking Lizzie out from under him and he flinched and tried to make his arm respond to his instinct to protect the young girl but Miss Fisher instantly tried to calm him.
'It's alright, Jack, Lizzie is fine and James Cole isn't going anywhere. Dot is going to take care of her, you see? And Hugh is dealing with him. You can let her go, now.'
Her words were soothing, like she was trying to calm a wild beast or frightened victim and he wondered which one she saw him as, right now. But her words worked and he knew Miss Williams would look after the girl. He allowed Lizzie to be pulled away and the lack of her warmth under his arm seemed to amplify the burning that was consuming his entire right side.
Miss Fisher's hands moved from his face and he missed the points of contact that had been a welcome, if slight, distraction from the pain that seemed to be worsening with each laboured breath. But seconds later he almost wrenched his whole body away from her as her hands clamped down over his back and the pain intensified and focused on where she was forcing her hands to remain.
He could vaguely hear her trying to say something to him, to calm him or stop him from trying to squirm from her grasp but she remained firm and soon there were more hands holding him still and he realised that some of her words had been to ask Cecil to help her hold him still.
He'd moved in his struggles and now he was leaning against her with Cecil's hands gripping his left arm and right knee to prevent him from moving away from what he was slowly realising was Miss Fisher's hands putting pressure against a bullet wound.
'What...' he could only talk in short gasps and the pain was intense, his thoughts muddled and he couldn't quite seem to focus on what was going on and memories of recent events seemed to be slipping away like grains of sand through an hourglass, 'what happened?'.
'James Cole fired at us as we were getting Lizzie to safety, do you remember?' She sounded like she was reading from a written report, words precise, but he could hear traces of fear in the sound of her voice, even as he struggled to focus.
'Lizzie...is she alright?' He'd remembered holding her but things were all mixed up in his head and the pain was consuming.
'She's fine, Jack, Dot has her. And Hugh has arrested James Cole, albeit pending treatment for a gunshot to his left thigh.' He swore he could hear a glimmer of pride and a very large lack of sympathy underneath her carefully chosen words and he found himself wholeheartedly agreeing with both sentiments.
'I think...' He struggle to breath again, 'I think I need a doctor.'
He saw Cecil, still holding him in place, roll his eyes at his statement of the obvious but Miss Fisher was quick to reassure him.
'It's alright, Jack, Bert is getting my car. It'll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance and one of your constables has phoned ahead to the hospital.'
She hadn't even finished speaking before he heard the familiar rumble of the Hispano Suiza but he felt so dizzy that everything lurched and blurred and it was only a reignition of every painful sensation that brought him back to full alertness. Despite every care, Cecil and Albert couldn't help but jostle him as they carried him over to the car and settled him on the backseat, Miss Fisher still keeping her hands firmly over the wound on his back as she skirted around them and joined him, once again allowing him to rest on her, his head lolling back against her left shoulder. She was once again talking to him, but the blood was pounding in his ears as he tried to calm down from the rush of pain and difficulty in breathing and he couldn't make out what she was saying until Albert had gotten the car in motion.
'...ake Jack...Please, you need to stay awake for m...' Sleep tempted him and he wanted so much to give into it but he'd never really been able to ignore Miss Fisher and he forced himself to focus on her words, '...ost at the hospital. Please, just stay awake. Please, Jack.'
The pain in his shoulder was starting to fade and he didn't think that was a good sign as the less pain he felt the less he seemed to be able to think clearly. He forced himself to focus on Phryne, words still tumbling from her lips but now sounding more frantic than they had before they'd been in the car.
He suddenly couldn't remember getting into the car. Or who was driving if Phryne was uttering wishes for him to stay awake and to stay with her into his ear.
'Where...are we going?' He couldn't even remember how he got here, had he been shot? He couldn't breath properly and he couldn't find the energy to move.
'The hospital, Jack, remember? James Cole shot you and we're taking you to the hospital.' Jack could, vaguely, remember the details.
'Where's Lizzie, is she...alright?' They'd been trying to rescue the girl, he could remember that, and he felt a strong sense of panic at what could have happened to her.
Phryne let out a little puff of air that sounded like a cut off laugh or a broken sob, something that he could feel shake through him as he leaned against her, and her affirmative, patient and reassuring tone implied that he'd already known that. But everything was so fuzzy, even the view outside of the car wasn't clear but that possibly wasn't just due to his inability to process everything.
'I think...we're going a...above the speed limit.' He could just about make out buildings whizzing past them at a speed he didn't want to think about and Phryne's response to that was definitely preceded by a broken sob.
'I promise, darling, you can ticket us later. I'll get Hugh to bring the paperwork and everything. Just stay awake until we get to the hospital, please?'
Jack wanted to reassure her, promise that he would do just that but his eyes felt like lead and his every thought was sluggish. But despite the quiver in her voice and the halting breaths he could feel under his shoulder, there was a strength and demand in her pleas that made him want to do his best for her, like he'd wanted to do from the moment she'd inserted herself into one of his cases and made him want to challenge and push himself to keep toe to toe with her quick mind and enterprising spirit. He'd never been a bad Detective but she made him want to be even better.
He turned his head, trying to get a glimpse of her, and he saw her staring ahead of the car, as if looking would make their destination arrive quicker, her attention briefly diverted from him. He could see her lower lip caught between her teeth and he wanted to reach out and smooth it out from her bite. But his limbs were still refusing to respond and he could only watch as her troubled gaze drifted back to him.
Her face was pale and the only times he'd seen her this openly worried had involved Foyle or DuBois. He hated the thought that he'd caused her to feel this way, memories of his own choking fear at her not quite death in a motorcar invading the forefront of his mind, and he tried to soothe her worries just a little.
'It's okay...Phryne...I'll be fine...don't worry, please.'
The car lurched to a stop and he could hear a cacophony of noise approaching the car and the doors were wrenched open. Hands started to grasp at him, forgotten pain relit and his loosely constructed thoughts broken like cobwebs as he was moved onto a trolley and wheeled swiftly towards the hospital doors.
Jack looked to where Phryne had followed, her promises that he would be okay, now that he was here, rising above the chaos surrounding him, but all he could see was the blood covering the front of her dress and panic clawed through him and took hold of his every thought.
'Phryne! Phryne...are you alright?' She'd been stopped from following him, now, and was that Doctor Macmillan holding her back? 'Are you hurt?' There was so much blood, it couldn't all be his, could it? But he didn't want any of it to be hers.
She didn't answer him, a hand rising to her mouth to cover her emotions as a few tears seemed to break through her facade. It was Doctor Macmillan who reassured him.
'She's fine, Inspector, just let them help you.'
He was wheeled away from her and only then did he allow himself to cave to the darkness that had been clawing at his mind since the moment the bullet had hit.
When he woke it was like trying to swim against a strong current, and his inability to breath easily caused a panic that finally forced his eyes open.
He was surprised at how little had changed from his last memories-he still couldn't seem to draw in enough breath and the pain in his upper right back was still intense and overrode most of his thoughts. But his thoughts felt clearer and other sensations slowly trickled in as he felt the scratch of stiff sheets and a matching pillowcase underneath him contrasted by a surprisingly soft blanket covering him. He could just see the top of the blanket without moving his head too much, something he didn't dare do yet with the way everything still ached, and the deep blue colour and the slight sheen to the fine, and probably expensive, yarn implied it had been smuggled into the hospital by someone who obviously didn't think much of the standard hospital fare. Because, yes, this was definitely a hospital room with a stark white ceiling and walls and a scent of disinfectant strong against a hint of faded, but still delicate and enticing perfume.
The perfume made him brave enough to turn his head and look about the room and he eventually found his gaze resting on Miss Fisher, curled up into a chair that looked surprising comfortable and definitely not the normal sort of chair that would be left for a visitor to use. It looked like it had been co-opted from somewhere and he suspected that Doctor Macmillan was currently missing a chair from her own office. She was sleeping and, whilst her clothes had changed from the last time he saw her (and he was so grateful for that because the thought of her covered in blood set his heart racing in fear and horror and he suspected that the image would cause him more nightmares than actually being shot), her face was free of makeup and her hair slightly ruffled and just less than it's normal perfection. She still looked beautiful, though, and he couldn't help falling back to sleep at the sight of her relaxed expression and her soft breathing.
The next time he woke was easier. The pain in his shoulder was now a mild throb, although he suspected that pain relief was responsible for this vast improvement, and his breathing was still difficult but it felt less troublesome, like he'd grown accustomed to it and it no longer caused him to panic.
He could hear voices all around him, chatter uninterrupted by his unnoticed awakening but one name drew one important thought to the forefront of his mind.
'Lizzie...' Although he'd seemed to be used to his shorter breaths, that first word made him reevaluate how much air he had to use and he took a moment to regather himself, 'Lizzie, is she alright?'
The occupants of the room had all drawn their attention to him the moment he spoke and their relief was tangible. The soft chuckle that came from Miss Fisher preceded her face hovering above him, a gentle look partnering the slight, teasing exasperation as she answered him.
'Yes, Jack, Lizzie is fine. As you have already asked and been told many times. She has been collected by her mother's cousin and it looks like she is going to be very well looked after.'
Jack remembered that it had been said cousin who had alerted them to the situation in the first place and her devastation at the murder and kidnap had been profound. At least it seemed like Lizzie would have plenty of love and care to help her through this ordeal.
He looked around the room, to get a sense of who else was there, and wasn't surprised to see Miss Williams sat next to Collins on the opposite side of the bed. He was a little more surprised to see Cecil and Albert stood behind them, leaning against the wall near the door. He wouldn't exactly call his relationship to the two red raggers friendly but they had built up a sense of mutual respect since they'd all been pulled into Miss Fisher's orbit. Looking back towards Miss Fisher, who had settled back in her seat, he could also see Doctor MacMillan stood behind her, hands resting on the back of Miss Fisher's chair. She was wearing her doctor's coat and he suspected she was briefly visiting between rounds, a suspect that was confirmed when she looked down at her watch.
'Right, I need to get going and I'm afraid that the rest of you are going to have to leave, too.'
Jack felt a pressure on his left hand tighten and he realised that it was held by Miss Fisher and had been since before he had awoken, the heat of her palm seeping into his own skin. The smooth texture of her fingers clasped around his almost blocked out her protests about leaving just as he had woken.
'Sorry, Phryne, but visiting hours are over and now that he's conscious they won't allow any exceptions.' Doctor Macmillan's attention turned to him, 'I'm glad to see you awake, Inspector, I'll let your doctor know that you're up and he'll be in to see you shortly.' Despite her no nonsense tone, Jack could see her genuine happiness in seeing him well and he nodded in acknowledgement to her words.
The rest of the room made to filter out, various dismissals being made although Collins' comments about being sure to bring in the speeding ticket paperwork next time made him chuckle, an action he soon regretted as it caused little spikes of pain to burst along his back.
Miss Fisher was the last to rise, her expression at being forced to leave indicating that someone, somewhere, was going to hit with the full force of her freight train personality with regards to her having to bend to rules she didn't believe should apply to her. He knew he shouldn't be so charmed by her stubbornness and her inability to kertow to rules but he'd learned to redefine stubborn as tenacious and to think of her lack of care for rules as innovation and determination.
The hand that hand been holding his released it's grasp and he watched as she settled it on his pillow so that she could lean down over him.
His heart tripled in time as he felt her hair brush against his face and was struck by an up close waft of expensive French scent. But his pulse calmed as he felt her lips brush gently against his forehead, a soft pressure that relaxed him and made him cherish the contact. As she rose he felt her fingers brush against the spot, presumably to wipe away traces of lipstick, but they trailed down the side of his face, a caress that lingered slightly as she whispered her goodbyes.
'I'll see you tomorrow, Jack, as soon as I can. And I'll bring you something to eat, I'm sure the hospital food won't be up to snuff. And...'
He lifted his left hand to grasp at the fingers of her right hand, still resting against his cheek, and the motion stopped her words in their track.
'Thank you.' He wanted to thank her for her emergency care and swift actions, knowing how much blood he had seen spilled all over her he knew her war time medical knowledge had probably helped save his life. And he wanted to thank her for obviously staying with him when she could have left him safe in the impersonal care of the hospital. And he wanted to thank her for caring about him, the fear and strength and softness and concern she had displayed betraying how she had allowed him to worm his way into her life in a way he knew she wasn't always comfortable with, something he could very much relate to.
But he also knew that he didn't need to clarify his words, because she would understand what he couldn't bring himself to say. And as she trailed out of the room, her eyes only leaving his as their view was disturbed by the entrance of a doctor and nurse, he felt content despite his mild discomfort. And he couldn't help but think that it perfectly described the way she had turned his life upside down.
I think I've written more author's notes than fic for this piece. I started Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on Netflix less than a month ago, finished both seasons in a week, instantly purchased the DVDs and then proceeded to watch it all over again. I've spent the last week devouring fic and trying to resist the impulse to rewatch the series AGAIN. So I'm not surprised that my all consuming love for this show translated into fic, despite my normal aversion to writing.
This fic came about as I pondered the fact that we have yet to see the 'someone close to Phryne is seriously hurt' trope on this show (except plot relevant easy unconsciousness causing head wounds) and I figured that it was probably bound to show up at some point. The obvious two choices, for emotional impact, are Dot or Jack. And since Dot would likely become more about Phryne's guilt in dragging her into danger rather than about the emotional impact of a loved one being hurt I ran down the path of Jack.
One of the things I love about this show is that Phryne very rarely has to be rescued from danger. She almost always saves herself and, even if someone assists her, she is never passive in her own defence. So I knew that Jack would not be injured whilst protecting Phryne. And as soon as I pictured Lizzie I imagined him constantly asking about her wellbeing as his thoughts became muddled. And then I realised that I was more interested in writing a befuddled injured person than the worried party.
And as much as I love Phryne (WITH THE POWER OF A THOUSAND BURNING SUNS) I probably relate to Jack, more, so I'm not surprised that I went with his POV.
Another thing I love about the show is that whilst Phryne is strong and capable and generally a force to be reckoned with, she is also allowed to be vulnerable and gentle and kind. I loved that moment when she was tried to save that man who had been shot at the docks and, after, she stopped mid interview with Hugh to remove her bloody top because the blood was disturbing her. It showed that she could be in command of the situation in one moment but still be allowed to show emotion and lose composure. So I tried to capture that in this fic, through Jack's eyes. Where she takes control of things and commands the situation but, when she's done what she can, she's allowed to be affected by what's happened.
Also, this wasn't intended to push their relationship forward. I intended this more as something that could happen between episodes so the level of intimacy between them is supposed to be canon based. The 'darling' that slips from Phryne could be seen as a slip of her deeper feelings or that she's using it in the same way that you tend to use casual terms of affection to children or injured people in a reassuring/comforting way. And Jack's use of Phryne only happens when his thoughts are really staring to lose coherency, in a similar way to how he only uses it on the show when he's worried about her.
Also, his injury is implied to be a gunshot wound just under his right shoulder that has broken one of his ribs and caused it to perforate his lung. From my (admittedly swift) research this should have been serious and painful but survivable in the late 1920's. But I left it vague in case my research was insufficient!
EDIT: I also remembered, a few hours after publishing this, a comment made by the book author during one of the 'Behind the Scenes' features about how pleased she was that the script didn't feature such anachronistic terms like 'okay' and I swiftly had to come back and edit every single usage out of this fic! How the language changes in almost 90 years!