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A Jealous Defeat

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AN: Apologies for the terribly long wait to finish this trilogy cycle. Please read Early Stirrings of Jealousy and Jealous Ruminations first.

Part 1 (S2.E1)

She read his letter again, not that she needed to the words were long ago memorized, etched into her brain. Despite his remarks that he'd be returning home, she wasn't as sure. Perhaps once he reunited with Li he would want to stay in China. Every day for weeks she checked the box sure there would be a letter from him asking her to pack up his things and ship them over. When a letter did arrive it was brief, but cordial letting her know that he'd arrived safely in China and would give word when he could. Four long weeks passed before she received another letter from him, this one was a little longer than the first. He'd explained that things were complicated between he and his daughter, a lot of time had passed and he worried it was too much time. His words were vague, but she knew exactly what he meant. She had the some fears with her boys. Christopher was always a bit distant in his words, though he checked in frequently. Jack remained aloof and ever hard to pin down. If by some miracle their father were to reappear in their lives, it would be more of an uphill battle to reconnect than it seemed it should be. Then two weeks later she received a telegram from Lucien telling her that he'd be on the Francesca, an Italian ocean liner, headed to Sydney, from there he'd take a train to Melbourne and then a bus to Ballarat. He said he would telephone once in Melbourne to confirm, but asked that she pick him up from the station in two weeks time.

The hall clock chimed four times, pulling Jean away from her thoughts. It was ten, and Lucien was due to arrive on the 10:20 bus from Melbourne. It was the last bus out and having received no calls earlier she assumed there had been no delays on his journey back home. She worried of a flat tire or a broken down engine, but it seemed for once that the world sought to be kind to her, and to Lucien.

As she gathered her coat and purse the phone rang, she was tempted to just let it ring not wanting to be late to get Lucien, but then she thought that it might be him calling. She took two strides to the phone in hall and answered, "Blake residence."

"Good evening Mrs. Beasley, might I speak with Dr. Blake?" Chimed a familiar voice, but not one that had called on the house in sometime.

"I'm sorry Matthew, but Dr. Blake isn't home," she replied a bit curtly. She felt annoyed at the possibility that after months apart she and Lucien wouldn't get a few hours to catch up together. Even Mattie had switched shifts so she'd be home in time to surprise him.

Matthew was all business in his reply, "When do you expect him?"

She bit down on her lip not wanting to divulge how soon she was expecting him, but she wasn't one who frequently lied and so the truth blurted out before she could stop it, "I'm picking him up from the bus station this evening, he's just returned from—"

He interrupted her before she could add anything further, "Great, please have him stop by the mayor's office. Oh and let him know that I need him to resume his duties as police surgeon immediately?"

She stifled a groan, "Has there been a death?"

"Yes," he said and the line went dead. She held the phone away from her ear for a moment staring into the receiver, kicking herself from having said anything to Matthew. One more minute and she would have missed the call entirely. Damn phone, she thought to herself as she righted her hat and walked out of the Blake residence she called home.

Jean pulled up to the Mining Exchange and parked across the street. The phone call had delayed her, as did that silly old car, the bus was just pulling up as she got out and hurried across the street. She'd claim that she was hurrying because she was late and not because she was excited to see Lucien. Not because she spent twenty minutes fixing her hair and lipstick wanting to look just right when he saw her again. And most certainly not because she was so fond of this man that she ached for his return. She'd spent far too much time after she got the letter confirming his return, pondering how they might greet each other. It would be in public so naturally anything too forward would be out of the question, but it didn't stop her heart from wishing that he would sweep her into his arms and give her a very warm and familiar greeting. She shook her head as she waited for the car to pass and moved alongside the bus anxiously looking for his tall muscular figure in the crowd, knowing that even with a hat she'd spot his blond hair anywhere.

"Lucien!" She saw him immediately.

"Ah! He exclaimed as they spotted each other.

"I'm so sorry I'm late, that damn car of your father's!" Her heart nearly exploded as he took both of her hands into his, and if she hadn't put the gloves on moments ago it might have done just that — skin to skin.

"Jean," his voice was low, but warm and full of something that made her blood boil with excitement. She swore she could listen to him say her name like that and never tire.

She stared into his eyes and couldn't believe that he was there in front of her, it'd been two months since he left and while she stayed busy she found herself missing him every day. They had grown so comfortable and familiar since Thomas's passing that she missed his company. Mattie was wonderful, the daughter she never had, but Lucien was where her heart wanted to be.

"It's great to see you," he continued to say but her eyes caught the unmistakeable figure of Joy walking beside the bus. Her face fell, she didn't need to hear anything else. Of course he would call on her when he was in Melbourne. He'd been gone two months, naturally he'd want to see her, they'd have a lot to catch up. She felt Lucien let go of one of her hands and follow her gaze, as their contact broke apart so did her heart.

"Oh, of course you know Joy," he said turning to reacquaint the two women.

Jean straighten her back and steeled herself as the younger woman approached them. Her face said everything to Jean, her smile was full of disdain and smugness, "Miss MacDonald," her voice took on a curt edge.

"Jean how are you?"

Breaking into a million pieces, but otherwise great, is what she felt like saying, but instead all she could muster was a smile and nod. Her hands now free from Lucien's anxiously wrung themselves together.

Dear Lucien kept talking as if either woman listened, "We just happened to be on the same bus," Jean wasn't entirely sure that was all by coincidence, "She's covering the council election."

"Oh," was all she could say in response and quickly decided to change subjects, "You're wanted at town hall, police business."

"Really?" She watched his face fall, he must be so exhausted from his journey, "Already?" He added on turning towards Joy. Maybe he wasn't as tired as she thought.

"I brought your medical bag along," she kept trying to smile but she knew that it was fake and finally stopped as she saw how Joy stood beside Lucien as she spoke. This was all becoming too much, after all this time apart.

"What would I do without you?"

His comment made her smile, but let out a small scoff. It wasn't directed at him, but just the remark in general, she was just doing her job and always felt uncomfortable when someone gave her praise for doing it well. She nodded and turned away biting her lip to keep her composure as she heard Lucien return his attentions to Joy, "Excuse me." She expected to hear more and chanced a glance over her shoulder, surprised to see Lucien in tow with his bags. The minute she stopped to wait for him though he turned back around, "Lovely surprise seeing you Joy."

"You too Lucien." Her smile was large and genuine. Jean shifted uncomfortably in her place waiting for Lucien's next move. He turned back around and walked towards her with a smile on his face, but now she wasn't certain who that smile was meant for, or because of. She turned back around and lead the way towards the car, almost thankful now that Lucien would be off to work for the evening so she could return home and wrestle her affections back into the ground where they belonged.