Author's note: This is inspired by a conversation with KylieSmilie and HikerLady on tumblr.
It seemed as if Jean had spent her entire life trying to hold on to Lucien Blake. In the first forty-six years of her life a part of her was always reaching, yearning for something she couldn't have even though she could not define what that thing was. The farm never suited her, life off the farm alone with the boys struggling to get by suited her worse. Jean thought nothing of this at the time, no one would want to be in her position. They survived and she was proud of it. But there was always a tiny place in her heart and mind that believed something else was out there for her, a puzzle waiting for its missing piece. She knew if she could find that life she would be the missing piece and she would be happy. In the ten years she spent resident with Thomas Blake she lived in a house full of ghosts. She spent her days walking through the memories of his dead wife, his absent son, and the many friends and associates who seemed to have either forgotten him or who had passed first. At night she was happy that the ghosts remained downstairs, she had her own to contend with. Her life was comfortable enough; her boys were grown, she made a decent living, she had friends and hobbies, and yet that sense of the missing still grew. It felt to Jean that if she could just figure out what the missing thing was she could reach out and grab it and then everything would be different. She would no longer be afraid of the ghosts, Thomas' or her own.
When Jean met Lucien Blake for the first time two thoughts immediately clashed in her mind. "This man is a complete boor," and "I am never going to let him go." Watching him search his father's office for a bottle and ask for a glass before even introducing himself, the former thought quickly pushed the latter out of her mind. Despite having forgotten her declaration from this first day she spent the next year and a half trying to hold onto him, not for her sake but for his. He was undisciplined and difficult even has he was unfailingly kind to those around him. He had nightmares and drank an alarming amount. Like his father before him he seemed surrounded by ghosts, this time in the form of his long-missing wife and child. He rarely appreciated her concern and often tried to avoid her altogether, but she felt compelled to at least try and save him from the demons that were causing him to self-destruct before her eyes. Sometimes she wondered if her attentions were unseemly, showing up at the police station when he hadn't eaten or tracking him down at the park when she suspected he was starting a bender, but someone needed to keep an eye on him. Still, people were starting to talk.
Ultimately Jean's efforts were in vain, and the only thing that saved Lucien from the townspeople of Ballarat running him down with torches and pitchforks was that he retreated to the fogs of Asia from which he came. Supposedly he went back searching for his ghosts and Jean prayed that he could made peace with them. In his absence Jean carried on as she did before, the caretaker of the legacy of two Blakes instead of one. When he returned, Jean was grateful to find him much more settled. He no longer seemed to chafe at small town life, in fact he seemed to find comfort in it. Jean found increasingly that she sought him out not out of concern for his welfare but simply because she enjoyed his presence. Then suddenly she was standing in his arms in the sun room, distraught over her son Jack's sudden departure, and Lucien is holding her face in his hands and looking into her eyes and she knew she loved him and worse, that he was in love with her, and she was terrified. She ran away to get to the phone and then ran to her room to hide.
In the weeks following the encounter in the sun room it seemed like the tables had been turned. She was no longer trying to keep tabs on him, if anything the opposite was happening. He'd seek her out when he came home from work, would linger after dinner in the kitchen, and his gaze would follow her when she left a room. On her birthday, that horrid night at the club, no matter where Jean was in the building Lucien was there with a comforting hand on her shoulder. After they went home, punchy and exhausted from a night without sleep, Mattie produced a cake and they all sang for her. Lucien embraced her from behind, pulling her back briefly, and despite the presence of her son and lodger Jean hoped that he would wrap his arms around her and never let her go. But he did let her go. Soon after her birthday he seemed to turn in on himself again and reject her entirely, even while she was making an agonizing decision about her future that she thought would be theirs. She began to realize that this amorphous missing piece she hoped to be did not fit with inside Lucien Blake, no matter how much she wanted it to be, and it was time to move on.
So in the end she left, but Lucien pursued her, and the days that followed made her head swim to remember them. They stood on a jetty by the sea in Adelaide, his arms wrapped wound her, whispering in her ear that he would hold her until the end of the world. Lying on a blanket under a tree in a nearby park while her granddaughter slept in a pram, he kissed her hands and implored her to come back home with him, to their home. Then finally she was in his hotel room, invited to "have some tea and keep me company while I pack." She could barely breathe with him leaning over her, his hand up her shirt, his lips on her neck, begging her to spend the night. She backed away, even as her hands moved automatically to unbutton his shirt. It was too much, too soon, and she still had her reputation to maintain. However she vowed to herself that when she returned to Ballarat she would never let him go again.
Now she is standing in a brick paved motor yard with both hands grasping for him, having just saved his life. Lucien had done it again; risked his life in pursuit of a killer and nearly gotten done in himself. Had he put a wedge under the tires before he shimmied under the car? Yes. Had he checked to see if the suspect was lurking nearby? No. As Jean ran up behind Clive Hildebrand with a wrench in her hands a brief though had passed through her mind.
This was not the first time Jean had come to his aid in matters of life and death. Soon after moving back to Ballarat Jean had faced Robert Hannam down, terrified with shaking hands. For her efforts she received a polite thank you from Lucien before he ran off with the police and they never spoke of it again. Now they stand watching as Sgt. Hobart arrest the killer, arms braced together as they watch in mutual outrage at the Australian hero that turned on the boy who idolized him. Suddenly Lucien pulls away, angry not at the attempt on his on life but the at the senseless death of the boy. As Lucien lunges towards Hildebrand Jean is suddenly seized with fright. She had almost lost him and she didn't want him anywhere near that man, whether he was under Hobart's control or not. As he pulls away Jean grabs on to his hand, unwilling to let go, trying to hold him back. Lucien slips free without even trying, delivers one last self-righteous declaration to Hildebrand, and immediately runs back into Jean's arms.
Later that week Lucien would take Jean out for a ride in his new car, a 1958 Holden FE that Jean wryly though was influenced by his acquaintance with a certain female motor racing star. After evangelizing on the benefits of his new vehicle he pulled over onto a quiet county road. Before Jean could chastise him for his obviously adolescent intentions Lucien pulled her close.
"I just wanted to thank you."
"For ever what?"
"For coming home to me and for saving my life."
They would not drive home for a long time.
In the span of eight weeks Jean had gained and lost everything. A husband, a home, a would-be lover all gone with a knock on the door. There had been more crimes to solve, more adventures, and a house to keep as Jean filled in the missing pieces of the puzzle as naturally as she fit into Lucien's life at home. And now on the verge of marriage and a new life, Jean watched her world crumble as Mei Lin took halting steps through her rubble. On that first night they were only concerned for Mei Lin's safety. Exhausted, dehydrated, and incoherent, Lucien and Jean worked as a team to get her comfortable and stable. They had banded together so many times before to care for the people they loved, it seemed the natural thing to do. But when Jean left Mei Lin and Lucien alone in his bedroom that night, Jean knew it was over. Mei Lin had taken her rightful place in the bed Jean made every day and never slept in, and in the morning Jean would make the bed again like the dutiful housekeeper she was. The next day was one of the longest of Jean's life. Her first view of Lucien was him on his knees in his wife's embrace before he disappeared on some case, leaving Jean to wait on the real Mrs. Blake with no time to breathe or think nor any privacy to mourn her loss.
Lucien finally returns home and they have only a stolen few moments in a house full of people to talk. Hiding in a shadow in the sitting room they stand close together, clinging to each other for support. Speaking in hushed voices, Jean is surprised by Lucien's ambivalence, Jean assumed the matter of their relationship was settled when Mei Lin arrived. He turns to Jean for a solution to their problem and she wonders how he can be so thick. There is no problem that needs solving, only facts to be adhered to. Lucien is a married man and his wife is home. Jean turns away, she finds the desperate look in Lucien's eyes too painful. As she leaves to tend to her guests she can not bring herself to let go of Lucien's hand and holds tight until the distance between them forces her to let go. Jean knows in her heart this will be their last embrace and she can not bear for it to end, even as Mei Lin glares at them from the kitchen.
Jean faces Lucien staring at him through the bars of a jail cell and thinks to herself that she has rarely seen him so at ease. It's particularly odd given that his last stint in jail nearly sent him off the rails. Jean knows him even better than he thinks she does, and she knows of his terror of small spaces. Now he is calm, almost serene save for his concern for Jean and the dangerous situation she is now in. He alternates between concern for Jean's safety and apologies for all the pain he has caused. And Jean can not hide the fact that he has caused her so much pain. He reaches through the bars and caresses her face and she lets him because despite making it clear to him that their relationship was over a few days ago, Jean knows two things: That Lucien is innocent and that he loves her.
Earlier that morning Jean was ambushed by Robert Hannam in her own home. On the run and bent on revenge, Alderton's thug had cornered Jean and threatened her, demanding to know where Lucien was. His thick gloved hand had wrapped around her throat but instead of instilling terror Jean had a moment of clarity. Despite everything she would fight for Lucien; she would fight to free him and then to keep him. This was her life, the thing her mind had been searching for all these years, and she wasn't going to give it up. Jean was going to keep the vow she made to herself in Adelaide, she would hold on to Lucien and never let him go.
Hannam left the house empty handed and now Jean stands before Lucien, shaken but unafraid. Lucien takes her hands, apparently to check for injuries but he does not let go. Jean looks into a face more concerned with having hurt her feelings than his own dire predicament and wants to tell him that none of that matters, that she will be here, that married or not she loves him, but Sgt. Davis comes down to the cells and they quickly pull apart. A staunch ally, Davis warns them that Jean can't stay much longer, then he leaves them to spend another quick moment alone. Lucien has her hand again and Jean assures him she can keep herself safe and Mei Lin as well. It seems to her own ears a peculiar thing to say but Mei Lin is Lucien's wife and Jean will protect her. Despite Lucien's calm demeanor Jean worries he is putting on a brave face for her sake and fears for what will happen when he is alone for the night. He assures her he will be fine and while Jean is unconvinced she has no choice but to leave. Her hand is clasped between his and she grabs him tighter as she turns to go, only breaking contact as she hears the sounds of someone coming down the stairs. Her hand reaches back towards him as she swiftly walks away, and even as she leaves she can feel his eyes staring after her.
After Mei Lin left for Hong Kong Jean hoped they could make a fresh start. She tried to keep him at bay at first, as much as they loved each other he was a married man and they simply couldn't resume their previous relationship. That was the lie she told Lucien. As confident as she felt while staring at him through jail cell bars she could not help the fear and doubt that kept creeping into her mind. The pain was never far away. He had a wife, one who took the whole of his attention in her brief stay here. Surely they belonged together and Jean was just a temporary distraction. Lucien would not be deterred this time. A few nights after Mei Lin left Lucien closed the door on Jean in his office and pulled her into his arms, kissing her hard on the lips. Jean tried to pull away but he wouldn't budge, she had not realized up until this point that he could easily overpower her if he wanted to. Finally after some angry words on Jean's part Lucien took a step back, his hands still on her arms, a determined look on his face.
"Jean I am not letting you go. Not tonight or tomorrow or the next day. I am going to kiss you every day until you believe me."
"Believe what?" Jean's annoyance with his cryptic behavior was outweighing her anger at his insolence.
"I am not letting go until you believe that I love you."
Jean sighed and put her head on his chest. He was wrong, they both were, to be behaving this way but in that moment she didn't care. He was uncharacteristically forward after that night. Gone were the unsure looks and quick kisses that marked her days when she returned from Adelaide. He was almost aggressive in his affections to the extent that Jean would let him. Jean would try on occasion to emphasize the difficulties of their situation and make her case for platonic boundaries, but her arguments fell short. Even she had to admit to herself that trying to explain to him that he was married and their behavior was unacceptable rang hollow as she whispered into his beard, one hand sliding inside his waistcoat. Just as Lucien promised, one kiss at a time, Jean began to believe in them again.
The letters and telegrams starting arriving a few weeks later. Mei Lin and Li were struggling. The promised governmental assistance had not materialized. No one in Hong Kong cared that a scandal needed to be covered up in Australia, that was not their problem. Mei Lin had tried to sort their situation out herself and some unscrupulous locals were more than happy to take advantage of a refugee in a foreign land, and all the money Lucien had given them to help get them settled was gone. Lucien made endless phone calls overseas and tried to wire money, but something always went awry. Wracked with guilt Lucien took to drinking heavily every night. Jean could not blame him, she was tempted to go in there with a bottle and help him, their predicament was as much her fault as his. They never should have let Mei Lin go back to China, at least not alone. It was this idea that sent Jean into his study one evening, hoping to talk to him before he became too incoherent.
"Lucien, I think you need to go to Hong Kong."
"Mei Lin can't do this alone, not in the beginning. The British authorities in Hong Kong won't ignore you, and you'll know the right people to call if they do. Then you can set up a bank account in your name and demand that they route all correspondence through you. Mei Lin won't know how to do this, but you do, and you can ensure she won't get taken advantage of."
"Jean, I don't want to leave you, not again."
"Honestly I don't think you have a choice."
Jean's voice was firm.
"Your wife and daughter need you, Lucien. If they fail and disappear again, you will never get them back and neither of us will ever forgive ourselves."
"I could be gone a long time. Likely months."
Jean lowered her head, her voice cracking.
"I will come home as soon as I can. As soon as I get them sorted."
Jean choked back the feeling of doubt that suddenly settled in her chest and tried to look him in the eyes.
"I know you will."
It only took a few days to make the arrangements. Lucien packed light and planned to tend to lodging and other needs as they arose. Jean drove him to Essendon Airport herself. She hoped that this show of support would hide the fact that she had been awake for three nights, sick with the concept that she was delivering him back into Mei Lin's arms. No matter what the outcome for Jean, she knew this was right and necessary. At the terminal Jean was grateful to be in a public place. Keeping up appearances kept her emotions at bay and she hoped it would deter Lucien from any declarations of love that he would regret later. As they waited in the terminal making nervous small talk he looked over at her several times and looked like he had something important to say, but he would always think better of it. When it came time for him to board the plane Jean grasped his hand firmly, wished him safe travels, and let go. She was determined to keep a brave face and not make their parting any harder than it had to be. As she dropped his hand Lucien looked down in dismay, seeming to expect something more from her. He opened his mouth again as if he wanted to say something but cut his own words short.
"Goodbye Jean. I'll send a telegram when I am in Hong Kong."
Jean resisted her temptation to take his hand again, knowing in her heart she might break down and beg him to stay. She simply nodded at him and told him to get going, leaving Lucien to settle for a quick squeeze of her arm before turning to leave. As Jean watched Lucien walk through the gate onto the tarmac, she realized she had tightly clenched the fist of her right hand, the one last holding his.
In the ensuing weeks and months Jean became one of the ghosts of the Blake house. She flitted about aimlessly, a memory of happier times, materializing only to cook meals for Charlie and do the housework. The letters and telegrams Jean received were short and impersonal. Things did not go well in the beginning. Lucien was able to get them housing on a short term basis and ensure their basic needs were met but getting them into a stable situation was going to be a long process. On the one phone call Lucien attempted the time delay was so bad that a real conversation wasn't possible. Lucien could only relay that everyone was fine and be reassured by Jean that everything was well in Ballarat before the call dropped entirely. Jean would go two to three weeks at a time with no contact from him at all. If he missed her or wanted him by her side he rarely expressed it.
Jean began to suspect that the inevitable had occurred and that Lucien was building a new life with Mei Lin. She realized that she could not hold on to him if he didn't want her, this was no less true now than it was when she left for Adelaide. She debated packing up her belongings and moving out to save the trouble later but in the end decided that keeping up appearances was more important, plus she would need all her savings when the call finally came saying that she needed to make way for Mrs. Blake's return. She wondered if they would decide to settle in Ballarat or Hong Kong, he had friends and job prospects in both cities. Yet as much as Jean knew she had to come to terms with her loss, she could not keep her emotions at bay. There were days when she thought she would go mad with longing just to have his presence in the house again. Her mind wandered back to the late nights and stolen afternoons in his arms. Jean wondered often if she should have given in to his wandering hands, his pleading looks, then maybe he would at least have had a reason to come home. All her virtue and morals had accomplished was pushing him away, out of her life and into Mei Lin's, and now Jean was living with the consequences.
One night, sick with loneliness, Jean crept downstairs and into his bedroom. She never would know what went on here those nights Mei Lin stayed with them but in that moment she didn't care. If was the closest thing she had to being near him. Jean slipped under the covers and slept and did not return to her own bed again. She could at least feel close to him a while longer until she received the call or letter informing her that his bed and his home were no longer hers.
Jean is asleep in Lucien's bed again. It is the dead of night, many hours since Jean retired when the door creeps open. The noise barely disturbs her until a soft voice calls out.
Jean pays it no mind. She has dreamed of Lucien so many times in the last few months she is unconcerned by this vague presence. Jean rolls over to face the direction of the voice.
"I thought I'd never see you again."
"Tell me about it. That's why I decided to fly back. I couldn't bear the thought of another two weeks on a ship waiting to see you. I've been traveling for three straight days."
Jean becomes aware of the sound of clothes rustling and can barely make out a figure undressing. Jean smiles to herself, this is a sweet dream. Jean hums happily as the figure slides under the covers next to her. An unpleasant odor causes her to wrinkle her nose. Jean thinks to herself that this is an odd thing, her dreams of Lucien are usually not this vivid. He smells like a man who has been traveling for three days with no bath and no fresh clothes. A curious thought gradually makes its way into her consciousness. Very slowly Jean reaches out in the direction of the figure. The apparition takes her hand. He is warm, solid flesh. Jean bolts upright, looking in shock at Lucien lying in his pyjamas next to her. Shock is quickly overwhelmed by joy, and joy gives way to embarrassment.
"Lucien! I suppose I owe you an explanation."
"I...welcome home. I should go back to my bedroom."
"Please don't. I want you right here with me."
Lucien tugs lightly on her hand. Jean lays back down and buries her head in his chest. She does not care how unkempt he is, he is home. Lucien wraps his arms around her and pulls her close.
After a few minutes, nearly back asleep, Jean sits up again.
"I'm sorry Lucien I don't know where my mind is at. You must be famished. Would you like me to make you some tea and something to eat?"
"No, thank you. Honestly Jean I haven't slept for days and I am exhausted. I just want to try and get some sleep."
Lucien reaches up and grabs Jean's arm, coaxing her back onto his chest. Jean looks up briefly.
"You've been traveling so long. Are you sure there isn't anything you need?"
Lucien kisses Jean on the top of the head.
"Yes Jean, there is. I want you to hold on to me and promise you'll never let me go."