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through griefs of joy

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Jack stared at the picture they made: Hugh with his one hand proudly on his wife’s shoulder and his other hand rubbing his red eyes; Dot, exhausted but happy, propped up in the hospital bed; and in her arms, impossibly small, the healthy new Collins.

“Her name is Joan,” Dot said proudly to Phryne, who looked delighted.

“Oh! Like Joan of Arc!”

Dot gave small huff of a laugh at that. “After Hugh’s father John, Miss.”

Phryne turned to the puffy-eyed Hugh and placed her hand on his arm. “That’s wonderful.”

She glanced at Jack and smiled.

Jack smiled back at her before turning to Hugh. “Congratulations, Collins.” He turned to the hospital bed. “Dot.” It felt rather inadequate, but there was suddenly a lump in his throat.

“Thank you, sir,” Hugh said. He straightened himself, still sniffing from all the crying. “Uh, Dottie and I…” He looked over at Dot, who beamed at him. “…wanted to ask whether both of you would like to… to be Joanie’s godparents?”

The room was silent for a moment. Phryne looked over at Dot, as if she couldn’t believe her ears. Dot nodded at her with a small smile.

“Oh, Dot!” Phryne’s voice was thick. She nearly threw her arms around Dot before seemingly remembering about the baby in Dot’s arms and giving Hugh a crushing hug instead.

“It would be an honour,” she said tearfully.

“And you, Inspector?” Dot asked. She was looking at him expectantly, as was Hugh.

Jack couldn’t speak. His eyes were foggy and he was trying his best to find his voice. Hugh stepped forward, wringing his hands nervously.

“I know it’s a bit unorthodox, sir, with you being my boss and all,” he misinterpreted Jack’s silence, “but it’s just that you’ve done so much for us, sir, like, uh, when you helped me to get promoted, and, uh...”

Jack finally got his vocal cords working again. “Of course,” he managed gruffly. “Thank you, Hugh, Dot,” he said, his voice threatening to turn into a whisper. He smiled at them blindly, before he had to turn away to rub his eyes.

 

***

 

Phryne was leaning into him, her hand in the crook of his arm as they walked out of the hospital together. Jack found that he appreciated that tonight even more than he usually did.

They got to the Hispano. Jack opened the door for her, but Phryne didn’t let go of his arm to get in. She turned to him and looked up, studying his face with a smile.

“You look slightly stunned, Jack. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was you who became a father tonight, not Hugh.”

He didn’t answer immediately, but he knew she could see exactly where his thoughts were. She suddenly pulled him into a tight hug.

“You’re happy,” she stated after a moment.

He didn’t let her go. “Yes,” he whispered.

She pulled back and his eyes met hers again. They were softer than he had ever seen them before.

“Me too,” she said and kissed him.