On My Way

"Lucien, are you quite sure about this?" Jean asked for what felt like the thousandth time.

He snuggled closer to her in their bed, taking his wife in his arms and nuzzling into her hair. "I'm sure. It'll all be alright, my darling," he promised.

Jean sighed to herself as she finished her morning tea. Matthew had already gone to the station. Amy wasn't due to arrive for another hour. Jean herself didn't need to leave for the town hall until the afternoon. Her mind had wandered back to the morning, nearly nine months earlier, when Lucien had left their bed, kissing her softly, and not come home.

He'd planned it, of course. For all his haphazard running about, he always had a plan. Even if he came up with it at the spur of the moment. And Jean trusted him in that. He always figured it out, eventually. But this time, his plan to disappear—which he'd revealed to her in confidence a week before he'd gone—had thus far not gone accordingly. Oh he'd disappeared alright. His promise that it would only be a few weeks seemed almost funny now.

Except nothing about this was funny. After two months, she'd closed up the surgery and his study, unable to pass by the open doors and not see him inside. After three months, she couldn't bear to stay in their bedroom anymore. The studio was filled with boxes and locked it tight, just as it had been when Jean first arrived in the Blake house. After five months, all her friends and everyone in town treated Jean like a widow. Again. And she hated it.

She wasn't a widow again, no matter what anyone else thought. Lucien had planned to leave. She knew he'd planned it. His timing was off, certainly, but he wasn't gone for good. Jean was sure he was alive and out there and on his way back to her. How she knew, she couldn't quite explain. Lucien loved her. More than anything else, she trusted that. And he wouldn't leave her unless he had to. Even if it had been nine months since he'd left, Jean still wasn't ready to believe that he wasn't coming home.

Of course, she couldn't tell anyone that. No one else knew that Lucien intended to disappear off that bridge. Only Jean. Only Jean knew her Lucien had a plan. At least, nine months ago he'd had a plan.

Times had changed in the last six years. Small town Ballarat knew him well, now. Even in Melbourne, he was known among police circles. He'd testified in court enough that the higher ups knew him and trusted him. But after all the unpleasantness with Derek Alderton, his connections with the army and the national government weren't as friendly as they once were. Lucien Blake didn't carry much weight outside his smaller and smaller world.

The trouble was, his world wasn't really so small. He had a child in China, who had two children of her own. Mei Lin was able to go to be with Li and her family, but Lucien hadn't seen his daughter in many years now. And when he had last seen her, it had been to reunite for the first time since she was taken from him when she was small; they hadn't had a good go of it. But since then, their letters back and forth had created a stronger bond between them. And now, with things having changed so much for them both, Lucien longed to see her.

Jean had encouraged him, told him that he should see Li and his grandchildren if he could. His wife—what a thrill, even after two years of marriage, to refer to Jean that way—understood the importance of family and the pain that came from having a child so far away. And that was why, when he'd come up with his plan, risky though it was, he knew she would support him.

"I have to go away for a while, my darling," he'd told her.

She'd frowned and gotten a bit worried. "Go away where?"

"Away. I'm afraid I can't tell you much, because I don't want you to get in trouble in case anyone comes asking. But just know that I'm going to disappear, but I will come back."

"For how long?"

That, he didn't really have a firm answer to. It would take time to arrange everything. "A few weeks. Perhaps a month or so."

And then the day finally came, when Lucien left his wife with a kiss and traveled to Sydney under the guise of solving an old case. In order to truly disappear and not have anyone follow him or ask where he was going, Lucien even went so far as to fake his death. He raced after a killer to the edge of a bridge, making sure the police in tow saw him go up, and he dropped a few important things, things he wouldn't reasonably be expected to run away without, and climbed underneath the bridge to hide until everyone had gone away and he could make his escape. The killer tumbled over, which had been a lucky accident. The police would assume the two had tussled and gone off the edge and into the river together. They'd only recover one body, if they recovered any at all.

After that, Lucien was free. Free to use the falsified identification papers and forged visa and currency of many kinds to get his passage to China. Free to see his family, at last. His one regret was that Jean could not go with him, that his very heart remained in Ballarat without him.

But he had promised her. He would be coming back home. He would return to her.