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A Good Familiar Creature

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The first thing Phryne was aware of was a horrible headache. The second was that there was another person—almost certainly male, judging by the cologne—in her bed, and the only possible response to that was a muttered “Oh shit.” The other person groaned and shifted. Definitely male—the morning erection poking into her back settled that. She kept her eyes closed and willed herself back to sleep.

The first thing Jack was aware of was an obscenely dry mouth. The second was that there was another person in the bed, and even in his semi-addled state he recognised the perfume. Well, he supposed, that was one way to solve their current predicament. Or possibly make it worse, because he was most definitely naked. And judging by the bare skin pressed against him, so was she. Which meant… no.

No.

There was no way in hell he had finally had sex with Phryne Fisher and forgotten about it in a haze of absinthe and vodka. What sort of idiot mixed absinthe and vodka?

(He did, clearly. Next time he was sticking to whiskey. Or water. Water would be good.)

He opened one eye, then closed it again quickly. Definitely Phryne’s bedroom, definitely Phryne, definitely naked.

Somehow, this was not quite how he’d seen his trip to London going. He tried to remain as still as possible while plotting his departure. If he could just slip away—

“Nghh,” she said, rolling over and dropping her arm across his torso. So much for a quick escape.

Phryne woke again, realising that the man in her bed was not only still there—a particularly egregious thing to do when she’d like to imagine it had never happened—but she was cuddled against his chest. If she woke up now, perhaps she could get him out the door before Jack came from the guest bedroom.

Ohh, Jack. He’d arrived in the middle of a rainstorm a week before and had been so deliciously bedraggled she had sent him upstairs for a hot bath and he’d fallen asleep, and somehow that had killed whatever momentum had gotten him on to a blasted ship and halfway around the world. They had eaten together and seen London together, Phryne ever the gracious hostess, but they had not so much as spoken of… well. It had seemed like a brilliant idea to take him dancing the night before, only it appeared that Phryne had ditched him for an assignation.

She had never been the sort for monogamy and had her doubts about whether they could ever make a real attempt at things, but this was a level of inconsiderate crassness she had not imagined possible.

She was just about to evict the man from her bed when a glimpse of the night before came to her.

It’s dark and smoky and almost too crowded to be pleasant, but Jack’s got his arms around her as they dance and she doesn’t care how they got there so long as they stay there. His hair is so soft beneath her fingers, and she wonders why she hasn’t touched it before.

It came to her surprisingly late, the idea that the man in her bed—she cracked open an eye, and smiled.

“Good morning, Jack.”

He had been dreading the words, but to actually hear them—Phryne’s voice husky from sleep, her fingers dancing across his chest, a smug sort of contentment in every syllable—was quite possibly the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.

Or would have been, if he wasn’t too busy wondering what the hell they had done and what he failed to remember.

“Miss Fisher.”

He sounded…

Phryne sat up, crossing her arms over her chest. That was not the way satisfied men sounded after a night in her boudoir, quite frankly, and to hear it from Jack…

“Was it that awful?”

He blushed, and most adamantly not in a restrained-man-found-freedom-beneath-the-sheets sort of way. (It was possible, of course, that she had imagined him blushing in such a way. Once or twice. When she wasn’t preoccupied by more thorough fantasies.)

“I, uh… was it… I mean, I...”

“That good?” Phryne asked dryly, wishing she could remember. They couldn’t have been that incompatible, surely?

He ran a hand over his face and let out a low curse.

“Damnit, Phryne, I can’t remember.”

Phryne flopped back on the pillow, noticing the way his eyes dropped to her breasts and quickly glanced away. Well, it was a start.

“How much did we have to drink?”

“Uhh, judging by the state of my mouth I’m going with ‘a lot’.”

Spying two glasses of water and packets of powders on her bedside table, Phryne laughed.

“Either my maid’s taken pity on us or drunk me had the foresight to take care of the morning-after headaches,” she said, taking one and offering the other to Jack, who was still trying to look anywhere but her naked form. And he’d pulled up the sheets until all she could see was his shoulders.

They were very nice shoulders.

“Drink,” she ordered.

“I should—”

“What, Jack? I can’t get out of bed because you might have an apoplexy at the sight of my bare flesh—”

“I’m a grown man, Miss Fisher.”

“So you keep saying, but I’m not convinced. And you are, unfortunately, rather firmly tucked beneath the doona and terrified that I might see your bare flesh. It’s best if we take our medicine, go back to sleep, and deal with this at a much more sensible hour of the day.”

And with that, she laid back down and went to sleep. Somehow, Jack found himself following her example instead of beating the world’s quickest retreat. He really was in no shape for stealth maneuvers, he rationalised.

They are in the back of a cab and his hand is on her thigh and she’s so warm and he hasn’t even kissed her yet—why hasn’t he kissed her yet?—but her neck is begging for his mouth and he can’t remember why he’s ever resisted so he doesn’t.

She sighs, her breath gusting across his ear.

An hour after the first horrified encounter, they woke up again, medicine in full effect. Phryne drew the blanket around her to protect her dignity (or his, possibly) as best she could.

“You really don’t remember?” she asked, hating the slight disappointment in her voice.

“Do you? Did we even…?”

“I don’t know, Jack. I remember quite a lot of alcohol. And dancing.”

“I remember kissing your neck on the way back to the flat,” he offered.

She had no such memory, more was the pity; she felt you could tell quite a bit about a man by how he kissed your neck—tender or tough, careful or careless. And it always felt divine.

“Did you?”

“Clearly I did it well,” he said, his lips quirking in that sly self-deprecation she'd come to associate with him.

“Refresh my memory.”

She hadn’t intended to say it, but once it was out she had no intention of recalling it. He looked at her questioningly, and she wondered if his natural hesitance was even possible to overcome, but then he rolled over to face her properly and lowered his lips to the crook of her neck. His lips softly trailed up, slow and insistent, and she shivered slightly. He pulled away and smiled gently.

“Something like that, at least.”

“Mmm, definitely not remembering it. Try again, just in case.”

He kissed his way along the other side of her throat, and Phryne felt her body respond to the gentle caresses.

“I remember playing with your hair,” she murmured, tangling her fingers into it as he moved towards the hollow of her throat—his hair was as soft as she remembered.

“I think I touched your thigh,” he whispered.

“Oh, please,” she breathed. “Do it.”

He ran his hand up from her knee, along her thigh, stopping just short of—her hips bucked, a groan emanating from deep within her, and he moved higher, his fingers completing an action his brain did not remember doing and she gasped.

Her hands dropped to his shoulders, fingertips digging into the muscles there. The sensation was familiar, whether from the night before or his dreams he neither knew nor cared.

Her legs parted as he rolled on top of her, fingers still exploring, and she scraped her fingernails against him experimentally while he shifted to fumble for a condom.

“Phryne…”

It was a sound she had never heard before, her Jack unraveled and ready, and yet it was as familiar to her as her own soft moans as he entered her and began to meet her movements, slow and languid.

Perhaps they had had sex the night before. Perhaps they hadn’t. Perhaps they’d never know for certain. But this? Making love while the early winter sunlight streamed across the bed? It was entirely new, and entirely familiar, and entirely right.