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Jealous Ruminations

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AN: Season 1 Episode 10

Jean hesitates before stepping onto the scale, a little bit embarrassed at the notion of her employer, of Lucien, having any idea how much she weighs. He is a doctor, she reflects, but given the feelings that have begun to rise to the surface she feels more self-conscious then she probably should have. She steps onto the scale and hears Lucien mumble something about needing to adjust the calculations because the victim weighed 140 pounds. She hazarded a quick glance down, not thinking she could have weighed any more than their victim did. She quickly jumped off when she saw the number, 150, it wasn't a significant difference in practical terms, well except if one was going to be trying to figure out a person's dead weight she supposed.

Lucien gestures towards the stool that she only just realized was in front of the scale, "Would you mind popping up the stool there for me?"

She gave him a look of crazed concern. She was becoming accustomed to his wild plots and notions, but this one was certainly new. He held out his hand to her, "I won't let you fall." She heard the words come out of his mouth and while she knew he meant one thing, her heart felt another thing entirely — it was making it hard for her to focus on this experiment of his with his hand in hers. If he wasn't trying to calculate her dead weight in order to solve a crime it might almost be romantic.

Jean feels her breath quicken as he grasps her hand more firmly when she reaches the top step and wobbles a bit. She catches him glancing up at her and for just a moment thinks she sees a twinkle in his eye that she can't entirely place, but feels warm and if she dared to say it — loving. The moment or rather the spell is broken as it always seems to be in that house with the ring of the phone or a knock at the door.

"I'll get it," Jean stammers and steps down the stool abruptly, heading down the hall before Lucien can say anything.

She wasn't sure who to expect on the other side of the door, in fact she mostly stopped expecting these days. After two months living exclusively with Lucien she came to realize that any number of people would show up on their door step at any time of day. She wondered briefly as she pulled the door open whether this is what Lucien alluded to when he said things would always be messier with him.

"Ah," she lets out as she opens the door not surprised to see Joy on the other side. They don't bother with greetings, "He's in the surgery." For once Jean doesn't mind seeing her, it gives Lucien someone else to weigh and drop off a stool for one of his experiments. She just tried not to think about what Joy weighed, or him holding her hand or putting his arm on her waist, purely to keep her balance of course. All in the name of science. Either way it wasn't something that she could stand to watch, she closed the front door and went back to the kitchen, trying to keep herself distracted with the mundane task of preparing dinner.

The phone rang jarring her once more from her thoughts, today was turning out to be a very unnerving day. She checked the clock on the wall and wondered if Joy was still in with Lucien or let herself out. It had been nearly an hour since she let Joy in, she shook her head again not wanting to think about any of it. If Joy was what Lucien needed, if she was the one that could make him happy then she would just need to accept it.

After stumbling across the pictures of his wife and daughter, the sketches he drew that put faces to the nightmares she'd hear him shouting over at 2am, she knew that he deserved all the happiness the world could muster. She'd never met someone who had endured such heartbreak and tragedy, it was unspeakable the things he went through in that camp that she at least understood even if she didn't condone his drinking habits. Even though she was trying to be more understanding of the positive influence Joy was having on Lucien it didn't mean she wanted to see it or even be around it. She listened to Danny and was grateful to have an excuse to interrupt the pair. She didn't mind having to fetch the doctor for Lawson, anything that separated those two wasn't a bad thing in her mind.

A few hours later after Lucien left for the hospital and Joy went off to do whatever it was that brought her to Ballarat again the phone rang. Jean assumed it was Lucien calling to say he wouldn't be home for dinner, she knew that already of course because he had a meeting with the hospital board, but for as smart and observant as Lucien was he was horribly forgetful at times.

"I'll get that," she wiped her hands and reached for the phone.

"Blake's residence," rolled off her tongue easily. It was of course the proper greeting as this was his home and also his place of business. It didn't matter that she or anyone else lived here, it was the home of Doctor Blake, it was another reminder of her place in the world.

"Oh Mrs. McDonald," Jean held herself back from rolling her eyes.

"No I'm afraid he isn't," her face turned into a bit of worry when she heard Joy asking to Lucien's whereabouts.

"He's at his hospital board meeting," Jean then wondered if he remembered he was supposed to be there or if he had gotten himself wrapped up in the case again.

"Oh, about twenty minutes ago," Jean said glancing at her watch, feeling her concern heighten as she listened to Joy talk quickly on the other end of the phone, she could tell that something was the matter.

"But you can leave a message —" she started to say when she heard the phone hang up abruptly without warning. Jean looked at the phone as if she expected something to happen. There was no doubt that Joy sounded anxious on the phone, and that was enough to increase Jean's worry for Lucien. She worried he would do something rash with Nicholson and it would appear Joy was equally as worried. Jean put the phone back into its cradle and turned her attention back to Danny and Mattie, trying to shove her panicking thoughts of Lucien aside. There was nothing that she could do at this point, but brace for whatever potential impact and subsequent fall-out came when he returned home.

Jean was grateful that Danny had gone back to the station after dinner at the Mattie had to start her nursing shift, the house would be empty when Lucien returned and she would be able to deal with him, with whatever situation unfolded earlier today. She had hoped that Joy might call back and give her some warning or head's up, but the phone had been eerily quiet since they last spoke. She kept vigil at her post in the kitchen when she heard the front door open. It didn't slam shut, but it did close with more force then required. She heard him riffling through papers and moving swiftly through the otherwise quiet office. The tea kettle began to whistle and she quickly lifted it off the burner and placed it on the tray alongside the two cups. Whatever it was they would deal with it together as they had everything else they'd faced this year — the death of his father, Robert Hannam, Danny's near-death snake bite.

She gently knocked on the open door not waiting for a response before entering. She saw him sitting at his desk riffling through his papers, "I thought you may need some tea," she was used to him cocking things up, but she could immediately tell that this was more than just aggravating someone's nerves. His face was ashen, his eyes glassy, his hands were shaking as he brought them to his temple and leaned back in the chair. Worry filled the room. The anxiety was so palpable she could practically taste its bitter copper in her mouth.

"I made a fool of myself Jean. I humiliated Jeffery Nicolson in front of the entire hospital board. I treated the man like he was a bloody criminal. I resigned from the board before they had a chance to fire me," Lucien's words spilled rapidly from his mouth. His voice quivering as he spoke.

Jean tried to follow his words, but they didn't make sense. Her thoughts raced around in a jumble as he spoke. Accusations. Murder. Resignation. Everything his father worked to build up Lucien had managed to destroy in just a few months. She worried for him, but now for herself. Jean unconsciously played with the wedding band around her finger, spinning it around. Was he going to destroy her too, taking everyone down on his sinking ship.

"So you're the police surgeon and you've resigned from the hospital board, in disgrace," her brain speaking its thoughts aloud as she tried to make sense out of what he was telling her. She heard him respond, trying to justify things, but that seemed to make everything worse. She felt herself snapping, she knew she should walk away before she said any of the potentially hurtful things swirling around in her mind, but she couldn't help herself. Weeks of holding in emotions led to a raw explosion of all her feelings, jumbled together.

She spun around stopping him from continuing, "That's not the point. Piece by piece you have unraveled everything your father has built here. Don't you understand?" The words, the emotions just spilled from her, "Your patients need you, we need you." She stopped herself before she said I need you, because even though she did in both a professional manner and it would seem personally she didn't want him to know that. She felt herself shaking from anger, "And you don't need the likes of Jeffery Nicolson to make your life difficult because you do perfectly alright by yourself. And one day people might just stop forgiving you, and then what?"

She was grateful that he didn't call out for her, didn't try to stop her from leaving or to reason it all away. She wasn't entirely sure she meant the last bit, whether she'd ever stop forgiving him, but she needed him to think it. Perhaps it would mean something to him, she wasn't sure, but had hoped it might. She grabbed her coat and walked off, not all too surprised to run into Matthew in the drive, no doubt there to officially sack him.

"He does all the damage when he's sober anyway," was the last thing she remembered saying to Matthew before she took off as quickly as she could down the drive. It was true, but it wasn't, the man was toxic to himself and to everyone around him — with or without the drink. Jean wiped the tears from her face as she walked down the street, she looked back at the house a few times wondering if there would be any house, metaphorically speaking, to come back to in the morning.

She wasn't sure where to go, it was too late to call on any of her friends to stay for the night, and if she was honest with herself she didn't want to have to explain to them or anyone else why she couldn't be home tonight. How would one explain that they got into a huge potentially relationship ending argument with the man they were falling in love with, a man the whole town already thought you were sleeping with. A few minutes later she realized that her feet had taken her down the lane and towards her church. She laughed to herself at the irony as she stopped beside Doctor Thomas Blake's tombstone. She paused letting her fingers run over the letters, wondering what he would say if he could see his son now. She wondered if perhaps he would be able to get through to him, to shake him out of this self-harm routine he'd gotten himself into. Taking a deep breath she pulled her hand back and continued her walk through the cemetery up to the church. It would be empty at this time of night, but she figured the quiet solitude might be exactly what she needed right now.

Pulling the heavy door open, she slipped inside. The church alter was dimly lit, but the rest of the hall remained mostly dark. She dipped her hand into the holy water and anointed herself with it as she knelt crossing herself. As she looked down to the floor she realized that she was still wearing her kitchen apron, in her haste to leave the house she forgot to take it off. The thought that she could be seen like this in public made her let out a watery-eyed chuckle. The sight of it all was just so pathetically sad.

Jean pulled herself up and walked down the long aisle to the front of the church giving pause to look at Jesus on the cross before stepping to the vestibule alongside the alter. Several candles were still lit, but had burned low to their wicks already. She lifted a candle and lit it, holding it in her hands forgetting why she had just done that. It was rather instinctual, she'd come often and light a candle for young Christoper, worried about his job in the Army. Another for Jack who couldn't seem to help but find himself mixed up into trouble. For friends and in the past for her husband, but right now in this moment she found her mind staring blankly at the flickering red candle. It would be wrong to lit it and pray for oneself, and yet part of her wanted to do just that. She wanted to will God to give her the strength to help Lucien, to sort this mess out. She wanted to know why God had placed her in this house with this man, why this challenge and why now. Questions were swirling around her mind as she felt a flood of emotions threaten to spill out. Jean staggered back into a church pew, still holding onto the candle, and began sobbing. None of it made any sense, and yet in her heart she knew the reason behind all those questions.

She didn't doubt that she cared for him, nor he for her. Early on she thought of him as an annoying older brother, one constantly getting himself into mischief and she'd chide him like a know-it-all sister would do. It didn't take long though for that sisterly feeling to disappear. Doctor Blake, the junior, was tactile with nearly everyone, but she found his touches caused a certain spark in her. This spark was of a man and a woman, not of sibling affection. Occasionally, Jean caught him staring at her — at her more feminine features. It wasn't an uncommon thing, even if the frequency had seemed to decrease as she got older, men looked at women it's what they did. But the way he looked at her made her heart swell, she felt there was something more, something deeper there.

As Jean sat on the pew sobbing, she realized who she lit the candle for — it was for Lucien. Of course it would be for him. Her heart had pushed her through the motions when her brain couldn't or didn't dare to function. Despite all he had done, no matter the burning wreckage he brought into her life she still wanted the best for him, for things to be better. Selfishly she knew that she wanted things to be better for them too. She lifted her hand to her face and wiped away the tears as her crying slowed. Her eyes became transfixed on the flickering flame, she rose from the pew and placed the candle into one of the empty slots and said a prayer for Lucien.

Everything ached, her mind, her heart, and now her body. She returned to the pew and watched the candle burn awhile longer unsure of what to do now. She wasn't sure if it was safe, or rather wise, to go back to the house. While the Church wouldn't turn her away from staying the night, it would be uncomfortable and awkward in more than one way. She opened her purse and rummaged around, she had a few pound notes on her, just enough to get a room at Solider's Hill. It would be late enough that no one would really question, or even know that she was there. Jean would be able to get a few hours of sleep, and then slip out early in the morning.

It was a long walk, especially in heels, low ones at that, to the hotel. When she arrived it was half-passed eleven. She signed into the guest log book and handed the gentleman the carefully unfolded notes. It was most of the savings that she had intended on using to purchase a train ticket to go visit Christopher and Ruby in Adelaide, but sacrifices needed to be made. He handed her the key and gestured up the stairs towards her room, she nodded her thanks and headed up. The door had barely closed before Jean had her coat and apron off and had collapsed on the bed. She yanked the bedding back and crawled in, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster she'd ridden over the last several hours.

Jean woke with a start, disoriented by her surroundings, incessant knocking at the door calling her attention.

"Yes, coming," she slipped on her coat and pushed her hair back attempting to look slightly more presentable.

"Good Afternoon Miss, just wanting to know when you'll be checking out so we can attend to the room," a young woman answered as Jean opened the door.

Jean's face dropped, checking her watch she was horrified that she'd slept this late. "I'll be checking out in half an hour, if that's alright?"

"Oh yes, we'll go on to the next room. Thank you and have a lovely day," the maid replied politely and shuffled down the hall.

Jean shut the door and sat on the edge of the bed. It was nearly two in the afternoon, she'd never slept this many hours or this late in the day since she was pregnant with Christopher Jr. She scurried into the bathroom to freshen up as best as she could, tucked her apron into her handbag, then slipped on her heels stepping out of the room. Her plan of avoiding running into anyone and adding any further fodder for people to gossip about was shot to hell, but then she recalled from her interview several weeks back that there was a rear entrance that employees used. Jean checked the stairwell before ducking down and out the back door.

She spent the entire walk back to the house thinking about what she was going to say to Lucien, how they might fix this mess together. With me it will always be a bit messier, she replayed his words over and over again in her mind. When she reached the drive she noticed that the mailbox was empty, but assumed Mattie picked it up already. As she reached the house she was surprised by how quiet it seemed. His car was parked out front, so she knew he should be home. She checked his room first, catching sight of the telegram on the dresser. While she wasn't one to read someone else's mail she was growing more worried by the minute. Thinking he had done something stupid again, she read the message and her heart swelled, finally a piece of good news. His daughter was alive. She darted from the room into the hall calling for him, but got no reply. She went into his office and found a letter addressed to her on his desk. Now she really was worried, cautiously as if it would burst into flames at her touch she picked up the letter and began to read it.

Dear Jean,

I have received word that my daughter is alive and arrangements have been made for me to meet with her in Shanghai. This is the journey I have longed to make for so many years. You of all people will understand how much I need to see her, to hold her, to tell her I love her. Who knows what will happen, how it will end, but please know this, in coming back to Ballarat to my father's house I have found a place of light in the darkness, I have found my home. Thank you for caring and for being my friend. For the first time in a very long time, this feels like the beginning and not the end.

Yours with much affection,

Lucien

She tried not to read too deeply into his closing remarks, although it was hard not to. Her heart filled with his words, it filled to a size she had not felt since marrying Christopher. It was also full of sadness, he had left without her having a chance to say goodbye, to be safe, and without him knowing that she wasn't really mad at him, just hurt because she cared so deeply. She took a deep shuttering breath and re-read the telegram once more, this time she caught the name at the bottom "John Wright" news desk. She knew this was Joy's doing, and for once she found herself thankful that this young woman showed up on their door step. If she helped him reconnect with his daughter, there was no way she could hold jealous spite over her any longer. Bringing together Lucien's family was more an important then her, then the practice, then all of it. For that she could be thankful.

She returned the telegram to its place on his dresser and carefully folded up his letter to her and took it upstairs. She needed a shower, and to get on with the day, but as she opened up her jewelry box to tuck the note safely away as prized as her emerald engagement ring, her eyes caught the jade broach he had given her three months earlier for her birthday. Her fingers ran across the delicate and intricately carved stone, she'd decided she would wear it today needing to feel a piece of him close to her heart. She replaced the letter in the broach's vacant spot in the box and closed the lid, giving her hands one last caress across the lid before taking a deep breath. She wasn't sure if he would be coming back, or if he did that things would ever be the same again. She repeated her prayer from last night, Dear God, Please watch over Lucien. He spends more time looking after everyone else than he does himself. I need you to be his eyes and ears when I am not there. Please keep him safe, and help him find his way back home.