Actions

Work Header

Return to Ballarat

Chapter Text

Jean Beazley tries to keep Dr. Thomas Blake’s spirits up, but they both know it is becoming more difficult for him to breathe and his coughing has become more labored. She keeps him propped up with pillows in his bed and reads to him, holds his hand and talks with him about his son Lucien and the decisions that need to be made. Thomas asked her to let Lucien know that he wants to see him. It had been over 20 years since they had had the dreadful conversation, a hate filled shouting match. Thomas told him not to come back. Lucien stormed out of the house and then the letters Thomas sent to him started being ‘Returned to Sender.’ He kept all of the letters, in case Lucien came home and they could talk. But clearly, time was running out. Being a Doctor had its disadvantages – Thomas knew he was dying.

That evening, Jean thought about how to contact Lucien Blake, M.D. She had all of the letters that Thomas had sent him with all of the addresses he tried to use to contact his son. Jean called her good friend, Matthew Lawson, Chief Superintendent of the Ballarat Police, and asked him to come to the Blake residence and talk with Thomas and her. Thomas had served as the Police Surgeon for years, working with Doug Ashby as well as Matthew.

The next day, Matthew knocked at the Blake residence and Jean answered the door. She told him that Thomas was asleep but she knew what they needed to do. She pulled out the container of letters, told him that Thomas was getting weaker, and that Lucien needed to be contacted. How could they accomplish this seemingly impossible task?

Jean put the kettle on and they began plotting their strategy. Jean thought if they sent a letter from Thomas, Lucien would probably return it the minute he received it. Matthew knew that a return address from Jean would not be a recognizable name, and Lucien would probably trash it. Then he thought if the return address was from him, Matthew, perhaps Lucien would open it. The kettle was boiling, and Jean made the tea. When she sat down at the table, they both looked at each other at the same time, pointed their index fingers at each other, and said – “Telegram!” If several ‘Official’ telegrams were sent from Matthew Lawson as the Chief Superintendent of the Ballarat Police and to all of the addresses that Thomas had, maybe one of them would reach Lucien and he would read it. They did not know if this would work, but the approach would take less time than a letter would – at least that’s what they thought.

Matthew and Lucien went to grade school together until Lucien’s mother Genevieve died. Lucien was just 10 years old and within a week, Thomas sent him to boarding school in Melbourne. They saw each other occasionally after that; Matthew was in Ballarat when Lucien returned about 20 years ago and had the terrible fight with Thomas. Their paths had diverged since that time; however, each had served in WWII. Matthew had joined the Ballarat Police and worked with both Doug Ashby and Thomas Blake and had risen steadily through the ranks.

Jean and Matthew started writing the telegram:

To: Lucien R. Blake, M. D.
Address:
From: Matthew Lawson, Chief Superintendent of Ballarat Police,
Victoria, Australia
Message: Your father is dying. Need to return home now. Jean
Beazley, his housekeeper, is taking good care of him. Contact
me about your return plans. Matthew

Matthew sent a dozen telegrams and the waiting began. As soon as Matthew heard from Lucien, he would let Jean and Thomas know. If they did not hear from him in a week, Matthew said he would talk, in an ‘official’ capacity, to the Army in Canberra.

Lucien did receive one of the telegrams – in Hong Kong. At first, he read it and wadded it up into a ball and threw it against the wall of his medical office. He grabbed his bottle of top shelf single malt Scotch whisky and poured a glass full and downed it quickly. That was not the way he liked to drink good scotch – he wanted to savor it, sip it slowly – but not today. Then he got up and picked up the telegram from the floor, opened it and flattened it out so he could read it again. How dare Matthew “Bloody” Lawson write him and ask him to return to Ballarat? Get into another argument with his father? Bury his father? Sell the house, the practice, the car? And who in the world was Jean Beazley and what was she doing living in his boyhood home? He would have to tell her she no longer had a job! She was probably old enough, a mature matron he guessed, to quit working anyway. Just thinking about all of this triggered another reach for the whisky bottle.

After a night of drinking and thinking about what he wanted to do – stay in Hong Kong and forget about his father – and should do – return to Ballarat and deal with all of it – he decided he would return to Ballarat – but just long enough to get his father’s affairs settled. Just a few weeks he thought and he would be back in Hong Kong and have his life back.

He would find someone to cover his medical practice. He would pack his medical license so he could practice in Ballarat until his father’s affairs were settled. Perhaps he could sublet his house in Hong Kong for the short term or maybe just close it up – I will be back. He needed money, his passport and to set up a forwarding address. He should contact Mr. Kim who was looking for his wife and daughter. He had laundry to pick up and his tailor had three new suits ready for him.

And he had to book passage on a ship bound for Australia; from Sydney, he could take the train or a bus to Ballarat. He decided flying to Australia would get him back to Ballarat too quickly. He had to mentally prepared himself for this return to his boyhood home and his father. The ship’s longer voyage would be better, he thought. He put his clothes into a couple of large suitcases and supplied his medical bag. In his mind, he had committed to a few weeks at most in Ballarat and he would come back to Hong Kong. Just in case, and he did not know why he thought this - maybe because it was 3 AM and he was very drunk - who knows, he packed up all that he owned in a couple of large steamer trunks. If he found Ballarat to his liking, he could have the trunks sent on later. He sent Matthew a telegram telling him of his arrival in Australia.

Once the ship left Hong Kong, Lucien had entirely too much time to think and drink. He ate at the Captain’s table, where the liquor flowed freely, almost every evening at first. He had terrible reservations about going back to Ballarat, but it will only be for a few months, he kept telling himself, as he tried to convince himself that the decision he made to return home was the right one.

He decided that when he returned to Ballarat, as soon as he arrived, he would fire the housekeeper – Jean somebody – and then what? The more he thought about that strategy, the more it seemed rather stupid. If she is gone, who takes care of this father? Well, Lucien thought I will not. I could just put him in the hospital and let them take care of him. After all, my father has money.

As the ship traveled towards Sydney, he obsessed about all of the unresolved issues he had with his Mother’s death, and then being sent to Melbourne for school by his father. He was just 10 years old when all of this happened. He thought – All children want is to be with their parents – something that he was denied when his mother died and his father sent him away. He remembered with bitterness, that his father did not even hug him when he left Ballarat for Melbourne. Thomas just told him ‘Do your best’ and that did not help one bit.

As the time drug on, he knew he was not good company, so he stayed in his cabin more often than not. His thoughts wandered to the war, losing track of his wife and daughter, volunteering for all of the dangerous assignments he could, drinking outrageous amounts of whisky, being captured and ending up in a god-awful torture-filled POW camp for over three years. His horrible nightmares all revolved around this time in his life and the only way to control them, according to Lucien Blake, M. D., was more drinking.

After the war, he and Derek Alderton volunteered for more dangerous assignments, this time with Army intelligence. He killed two people – Bao Cheng and Victor Gennardy – I am a physician and surgeon who pledged to do no harm, to help people – not to kill them – what was I thinking? Well, he told himself, I was not thinking straight.

Then in a slightly sober moment, Lucien told himself, I have a chance to change course. I could stay in Ballarat and maybe start a new life or I can blast in there, fire the housekeeper, bury my father and return to Hong Kong and then what? He fell over in the bed, tears flowing, head pounding, stomach aching. Will this damn ship ever get to Australia? Maybe I should have flown to Sydney – I don’t know –

Jean asked Matthew to come out to the Blake residence and talk to her about Lucien. After all she would not recognize him if he came to the front door. The pictures that Thomas had were 20 years old. What was Lucien like now? Matthew really could not answer that question nor could Thomas. During WWII, Thomas was informed that Lucien was in a POW camp for 3.5 years. Matthew said the war probably messed Lucien up pretty good, but he stated emphatically, Lucien is a survivor. Beyond that information, Jean knew very little. She thought the meeting was pretty disappointing. She thought Matthew could give her more information about Lucien, but she was wrong.

One thing Jean did know – she needed to think about a different job. Her time with Thomas was a god send. With her Christopher buried in the Solomon Islands, she was left to raise two boys, and make ends meet. The farm they owned was simply too much for her, and she sold it and finally got the position with Dr. Blake. She had a place to live, he liked her cooking, she learned how to manage his Surgery, he taught her basic medical skills, she read his medical books, and she learned about the life of a Police Surgeon. Hopefully, there would be another position like this in Ballarat or nearby.

Matthew dropped by the house and told Thomas and Jean that Lucien would be arriving soon. He was afraid that Lucien might change his mind after he arrived and not come to the house, so he kept the arrival date to himself. Thomas was happy to hear the news, but Jean knew he was quite ill. He updated his will and left the house, car, and practice to Lucien. Jean did not know if all of this meant she had been ‘left’ to Lucien or not. All of these legal matters could take months to settle, but just in case, she continued looking for other service positions. If he came home and promptly fired her, she would need somewhere to go, in a hurry. She was thinking about the position at the Royal Cross Hotel in Ballarat.

A couple of days before Lucien was supposed to arrive in Ballarat, Matthew and Cec came with more news about Lucien Blake. “Jean, I have been contacted by the Melbourne police and by a Major Derek Alderton of the Army in Canberra. Lucien is an ex-Army intelligence operative who is quite volatile and angry after completing an assignment. Lucien also drinks heavily. He was ordered to kill two foreign agents and completed the assignments successfully. I think Lucien was well trained as an operative and could be quite dangerous.” But what Matthew did not tell Jean was of his increasing uneasiness about Lucien’s return. How did the police and army know Lucien was returning to Ballarat? Why were they ‘tracking’ his movements? Was it just because he was from the Far East or was there more going on than they told him?

Matthew was concerned about Jean – he figured she was probably half Lucien’s size, Lucien would be staying in the same house with her and Mattie, and Matthew wanted her to think about an exit/escape strategy. Cec told her there was a room at the Colonist’s Club that he had prepared for her to stay in, if necessary. Jean was given phone numbers for all of the police including Doug Ashby, as well as Cec’s number. The police would swing by several times a day and would be posted the evenings that Danny would not be home. Matthew asked Jean if she would be comfortable with this plan. Jean said if she and Mattie felt uneasy once Lucien returned, they would leave and stay at the Club. She gave Matthew a key to the Blake front door, just in case.

Jean, looking at Matthew and Cec, asked them, “How many of the returning soldiers that Thomas had treated would fit a part of that description? We all need to give him a chance to show what he is made of, now, not then. And you know, people can change. I for one, will give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.” Jean continued, “How do we know that this Major Alderton is telling us the truth?”

Chapter Text

Matthew dropped by the Blake house to see if Lucien was back in town. He told Jean today was the day. But the anticipated day of Lucien’s arrival came and went and he did not come to the residence. Jean was apprehensive about how Lucien’s return would impact Thomas; he was now unable to speak. How was she going to tell Lucien that it was too late for him to have a meaningful conversation with his father? Had Lucien changed his mind and would not come to the house? Where was he staying? She was getting very anxious about his return. Matthew said he was in country. So, where was he?

A cab arrived at the house the next day about 9 AM. A blue-eyed, sandy haired, very handsome man, with a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard, in his late 40’s stepped out. He was wearing an expensive three-piece grey suit, carrying a fedora and a medical case. The cab driver placed two larger bags at the entrance of the house. Could this be Lucien Blake, Jean thought? She opened the door and introduced herself.

“I am Jean Beazley, Dr. Thomas Blake’s housekeeper. And you are?”

“I am Dr. Lucien Blake and I would like to see my father,” he said curtly. Jean could smell the whisky on his breath. Matthew was right about his drinking.

Jean told him which room was his father’s but Thomas was asleep. Lucien headed into the house and into his father’s bedroom. As he was backing out of the room, Lucien, looking at Jean, said angrily “Matthew did not tell me he was so ill!”

Jean glared back at him and spit out in a similar tone, “If you did not take so damn long getting back here, you would have been able to talk with him. That is not my fault! It is yours, Lucien Blake! Thomas deserved better from his only child - his son!”

Jean showed him the room she had made up for him and he placed his suitcases near the bed. Lucien was looking at Jean and she was staring back at him. It seemed they were circling around each other – seeing who would blink first. Jean decided it would not be her. She was certain Lucien Blake was going to fire her, perhaps even today, maybe right now. Well, it was probably for the best, for her and for the very handsome, very angry Dr. Lucien Blake. So, Matthew was right about the anger issues as well.

Since she still had her position as Dr. Thomas Blake’s housekeeper and needed to be as cordial as she could be to guests in his house and she considered Lucien a ‘guest’ at this point in time – she asked him if he would like some breakfast? Or perhaps a cup of tea? As they moved to the kitchen, Matthew and Doug came strolling in the back door. Matthew saw Lucien and walked up to him and shook his hand and gave him a hug. Lucien grimaced slightly at the pressure applied to his back. He shook Doug’s hand as well and Doug quickly headed to Thomas’ room to sit with him. Lucien said ‘Hello’ to both of them but did not initiate any further conversation; neither did Matthew or Doug. Matthew asked Jean about breakfast; she told him she was going to prepare some for Lucien and it would be no problem adding some more eggs and bacon to the skillet.

Lucien wanted to know more about Jean. How many years had she worked for his father? What did she do in the Surgery? Who else was living here? He saw a young woman in a nurse’s uniform and a young man in a policeman’s outfit leaving the house as he arrived. Why were they here? How did Jean know Matthew? Should he just tell her that he was not staying in Ballarat? Jean could just leave when Thomas passed. She was bossy and sassy and in the short time he was in the house, telling him what she thought. But much younger than he assumed his father’s housekeeper would be. And those beautiful green eyes, darting looks at him, staring at him. She was just downright gorgeous. Lucien thought all of this could wait. With Matthew sitting at the table and Jean still glaring at him, his voice seemed to catch in his throat; he had no clue what he would sound like or what he would say.

Jean knew that taking care of Thomas was a full-time job and now to have the handsome, prodigal son here, smelling of booze at 9 AM, was a bit too much to think about. I am a widow, a few years younger than Lucien, living in the same house with him, and the gossip – the gossip – the whispers – her mind just tailed off. A very handsome, alcoholic physician living with me. My goodness! This news is probably all over town already. Because Jean had heard Thomas’ side of the story of his wayward son, she wanted to hear Lucien’s side. But after the encounter with Lucien this morning, she figured, why bother, he is going to sack me. Jean was not able to talk to Lucien either.

Matthew sensed that there was so much – so much – not being said. Lucien had just arrived. What in the world had happened between Jean and Lucien? Had they fought already? Who started it? What was it about? You could feel the tension between the two of them. They all ate breakfast and drank their tea in silence. Maybe it was because I invited myself to breakfast? Lucien’s return was already proving more difficult than I imagined it would be. Matthew knew he had to keep tabs on Jean and Mattie as well as initiate the daytime police patrols and nighttime assignments. He also wanted to talk to Jean about what happened.

After breakfast, Lucien cleaned up, changed clothes, and asked for the keys to his father’s car and left, without telling Jean where he was going or if he would be back. In reality, Jean was quite relieved when he drove away. Having him around the house had given her one heck of a headache.

Lucien did not eat lunch or supper with Jean, Mattie and Danny. He did not call to let them know where he was or if he was coming back to the house. Jean thought when he does return, he needs a good talking to and she would do it. After supper, Danny left for work and said he would be back after midnight.

Later that evening, Cec called Jean and told her Lucien was at the Colonists’ Club eating and drinking, drinking far too much he thought. He would make certain Lucien got home safely. And he would call Matthew. “Jean, I tried to talk him into staying here at the club but he wants to see you. He says he needs you,” Cec relayed to her. “And Bill Hobart wants to throw him in jail and ‘teach him a Ballarat police lesson’ if I remember what he said correctly. Danny stopped him but Bill could easily land serious blows, as drunk as Lucien appears to be. I don’t think Bill cares if Lucien is a physician or not. Be careful Jean, please.”

Jean heard two cars pull up in the driveway. Danny was driving the Blake car and had Lucien with him. Bill was driving a police car. Lucien stumbled out of the car and headed for the grassy area near the house and promptly threw up and then threw up a second time. Clearly, he had been on a bender since he left the house. Jean went to the kitchen and got a large glass of water and some wet towels and then went out to see what she could do to help Lucien. She approached him and offered him some water to rinse his mouth out and a towel to clean up his face.

“Jean, thank you very much. I think you just saved me from a pummeling from Bill Hobart. He wanted to throw me in jail. But Danny stopped him,” Lucien told her, like a little boy who knew he was in a whole lot of trouble. “I will not beat you physically, Lucien, but you need one hell of a good talking to, and I will do it, as soon as you are not so drunk,” Jean spit out, raising an eyebrow at him. When she got angry, Lucien noticed that her green eyes got even greener and one of her eyebrows arched up.

Jean asked Danny and Bill to help Lucien inside and take him to the kitchen. She went inside ahead of them and went to Lucien’s room to get his toothbrush and some tooth powder – she was going to insist he wash his mouth out again and then brush his teeth – his breath was just appalling. Danny told Bill to leave that he had control of the situation.

Before Bill got out of the house, Matthew came striding in. “Jean, are you alright?” came tumbling out of his mouth, as he surveyed the kitchen area. “Yes Matthew, Danny and I are fine. Thank you for coming so quickly,” Jean told him while watching Lucien finish brushing his teeth, for the second time. Lucien got another drink of water and quickly downed it.

“Lucien, I know you need to drink water, but not so fast,” Jean told him. He filled the glass again and said he needed to go lie down. Matthew reached for Lucien’s arm and told him, “Lucien, let Danny and me help you to your bedroom. You are not steady on your feet.”

Lucien shook his head no and said, “Matthew, I am fine. I just need to lie down. I don’t need your help.” As he left the sink area, he stumbled and crashed into the one of the kitchen cabinets and broke the drinking glass into his thigh, with glass fragments and water falling to the floor. Then Jean noticed that his leg was bleeding onto his trousers.

Chapter Text

“Bloody Hell” came rolling out of Lucien’s mouth when he saw the cut in his trousers and felt the pain coming from his thigh. Jean told Danny and Matthew she needed to look at his leg. “Lucien, we are not just helping you to bed with a cut like that. You will bleed all over the sheets,” Jean told him. Danny and Matthew grabbed Lucien and steadied him as they helped him walk to the Surgery. When they got to the Surgery, they held Lucien by the arms and guided him to the examination table.

Jean told Lucien, “You need to let me look at your leg – it is bleeding. You need to undo your belt and unbutton your trousers and drop them down below the cut. Let’s get you up on the table.” Matthew and Danny stepped aside, knowing from the tone of Jean’s voice that she had control of the situation.

Lucien just stared at her. Jean told him again what she wanted him to do. Finally, she took charge and started on the belt buckle, buttons and the trousers slipped over his hips to the floor. Danny helped him up and stretched him out on the examination table. The cut was still bleeding. Jean covered it with some gauze pads and then saw a piece of glass protruding from his injury.

Because Thomas had taught her how to handle simple emergencies like this, she had a supply of small surgical gloves she used when attending a patient. Lucien was her patient, whether he liked it or not, and whether she liked it or not. Gloves on, gauze pads and antiseptic in hand as well as forceps, she began to attend to his wound. She told him what she found, what she intended to do, and he nodded his head and said “Jean, I do need your help. Please.” He could hardly think a straight thought and he kept seeing two of everyone. Jean was thinking how could such an intelligent man get himself into such a mess, on day one of his return to Ballarat. This was beyond her comprehension. Was he just a very handsome drunk? Would he even be able to continue Thomas’ medical practice?

Once the glass fragment was removed, she looked again at his wound. Jean saw an additional piece of glass that was deeper. She told Lucien she needed to remove it; he needed to hold still.

“Danny, Matthew, come here and help me.” “What do you need us to do, Auntie Jean?” Danny replied.

Jean told them that Lucien’s leg still had some glass in it. She needed to remove it and Danny needed to steady Lucien’s thigh for her. Danny positioned himself in front of Jean and held the leg steady. Matthew went to the end of the examination table and steadied Lucien’s legs. Lucien asked her if she was going to numb his leg and she looked at him, eye brow raised, and much to her surprise told him “No Lucien, you are a big boy, who is very drunk. Just grit your teeth.” Jean proceeded to probe the wound and quickly located the piece of glass and removed it. Lucien was grimacing and groaning and glaring at all of them but held his tongue and let her finish.

Jean held several gauze pads over the wound and then looked to see if the bleeding was slowing down. Then she asked Lucien if a simple butterfly bandage or would several strips would be better. He sat up and looked at the wound said he thought several strips would be better. He laid back down, dizzy from the booze and sitting up too quickly. He was quite pale and looked disoriented. Jean grabbed a basin and held it by his head because she was concerned he might upchuck, but he controlled the impulse.

“What if I needed stitches?” he snapped at her. Jean, lifting that eyebrow again, said “You would have to do them yourself.” Lucien thought this woman is going to prove to be a handful. But right now, he really needed her help. He could not see straight – he kept seeing two of her. Two gorgeous images of Jean ---

Once the strips were applied, she added a thick absorbent pad and then a final wrap to hold the pad in place. When his color was better and she steadied him as he sat up and then swung his legs off of the table. Jean got some water and a towel to clean up his leg below the cut. After a few more minutes, Danny helped him down. Lucien pulled up his trousers and fastened the button at the waist.

Danny and Matthew steadied him as they walked to his bedroom and once inside, Jean guided him to the edge of the bed, sat him down, took off his shoes, and then asked him to take off his suit. He just stared at her, continuing to have difficulty processing what she had said. Finally, Jean took over and started undressing him. She thought, my goodness he is a handsome man, square shouldered, muscles well defined, trim physique, but look what this drinking is doing to him. Lucien raised his bloodshot eyes, looked at Jean, and said, “I don’t even know you and you are undressing me, in my bedroom no less.” Was he reading her mind?

On second thought he continued, “Jean, Thank you. I have made quite the mess tonight, haven’t I?” Matthew, noticing his scarred back, quickly helped him into his dressing gown, while Jean hung his suit up. Checking the trousers, she knew they would need cleaning and would need a repair where the glass cut into his leg. She would get Danny to take them to the tailor in the morning. Danny left the room to check on Mattie and Thomas and get Lucien another glass of water. Matthew hoped Jean had not seen Lucien’s back. What had happened to him? Was his back, so scarred from the beatings in the POW camp, driving the heavy drinking? Well, why wouldn’t it? Matthew thought.

“Do you always drink so much?” Jean asked Lucien.

Lucien replied, “Drinking whisky is something I need to do. I can sleep only if I drink and pass out. So, Jean, you need to get me another bottle of my father’s Scotch Whisky. You have some in the house, don’t you, sweet Jean?”

Jean looked him squarely in the eyes, held his head in her hands, and told him emphasizing each word distinctly – “No more whisky tonight!”

Danny brought a large glass of water for Lucien to drink. Jean ordered him to drink it all before he laid down. Jean took his socks off, lifted his legs onto the bed, helped him turn on his side, put a basin on the floor in case he needed to upchuck, and held him down until he closed his eyes. Lucien may have ‘inherited her’ from his father but in the short term, what had Jean ‘inherited?’

“Jean, thank you, my Jean, thank you,” rolled from Lucien’s inebriated lips as he reached for her hand and then caressed it. Jean shook her head and thought to herself, what a drunken sod you are tonight, Lucien Blake. Lucien held on to her hand and would not let go of it. With her free hand, Jean brushed his hair down and massaged his temple as she had done for her boys when they needed help going to sleep. “Lucien, give me my hand back, now.” “Jean, don’t stop, please,” rolled out of his mouth. She just shrugged her shoulders at Matthew as he looked at her and then at Lucien. Lucien’s behavior continued to baffle Matthew – was Lucien just a bloody drunk or was his childhood friend going to eventually emerge?

Jean got him to release her hand. Lucien stayed in bed, eyes closed, feigning sleep and listening to Matthew, Danny and Jean talk in the hallway. None of them spoke poorly of him, his behavior or his accident. Then Mattie joined the conversation and talked about Thomas. She had his most recent vital signs and was relaying them to Jean. Jean says she will sit up the rest of the night with Thomas.

Lucien is surprised that these people care so deeply for his father; he feels such hostility toward the man and to prove it has shown no interest in him for over 20 years. He is surprised at the easy repertoire between the two younger people and Jean, how easy they talk about the day, about his father, and how they are trying to put a positive spin on his return, despite his selfish, abysmal behavior that night. He had yet to spend any time with his father or have a conversation with them and right now, he had no intentions of doing either. But was he missing something? And how did Matthew know to come over? Are he and Jean just friends or are they in a relationship?

Jean was not the housekeeper he had imagined. She handled a challenge like a professional, was knowledgeable, had a caring approach to a patient, even a drunk one, and quite frankly, even in his drunken state, he was impressed with her. And yes, she was just down right beautiful; he loved the eyebrow raising thing she did at him and the fast return of an opinion. She was smart, confident and he certainly didn’t expect this. And when she told him something, she meant it, in spades. Where had Thomas found her?

Chapter Text

Several hours later, Lucien woke up from a fitful sleep and limped to the loo. On his return to his bedroom, he stopped to get a drink of water and then to check on his father. Jean was napping in a chair near the bed, but the blanket had fallen off of her and he replaced it, hoping he did not awaken her. He sat down on the bed and looked at his father, saw the chart that Jean and Mattie were keeping on him, and saw the stethoscope hanging on the bedrail. He decided to do a quick check of his father’s condition. Thomas’ breathing was labored and he opened his blue eyes and looked into his son’s eyes. He teared up, as did Lucien. So much needed to be said and he could say nothing to his son. He held Lucien’s arm and just looked at him.

Jean heard Thomas begin to cough and knew the nighttime coughing could be difficult to control. She opened her eyes and saw Lucien sitting on the bed helping his father sit up and was rubbing his back to help him get his breath. She went to get him some water and the two of them assisted Thomas. Thomas put a hand on Lucien’s arm and his other hand on Jean’s arm. Then he smiled at Jean and rolled his eyes at Lucien and then back to Jean. Then he fell asleep again leaving Jean and Lucien sitting on opposite sides of the bed, looking at each other.

Lucien saw the ‘signup’ sheet for sitting with Thomas. It included Matthew, Bill, Danny, Mattie, Doug, Ned, and Jean. His name was not on it, yet.

“When are you going to take turn at minding your father and not just drink at the Colonists’ Club? Lucien, you need to move on from the fight of 20 years ago and you need to understood that, now. I don’t need your destructive behavior, self-loathing and whatever else is going on with you – getting in the way of you helping with your father. If you want to continue to sabotage your return, drink too much whisky, hurt yourself, well, please don’t stay here. I do not have the energy to deal with that kind of behavior. I just don’t. We – I – need your help with your father,” Jean angrily told him. Lucien looked at Jean, seeing how angry she was becoming at him, her lower lip quivering, and very quickly said, “I will add my name to the list. Of course, I will, Jean. I intend to help you.”

Lucien was stunned with her dressing down of him. On second thought, I think she nailed me perfectly. And she waited until I was sober enough to hear what she said. How did this woman I just met know me so well? She is so calm with Mattie and Danny and is verbally crawling all over me several times a day.

Lucien proposed to Jean, “I will open the Surgery for afternoon hours – if you will help me. Or are you mad enough to dump me on my own with my father’s patients?” Jean answered, but it sounded more like an order, “I will help you, but the drunken behavior needs to be absent by then – Do you understand, Lucien Blake?!”

Jean thought to herself, here is Lucien Blake, a physician and a surgeon, a POW survivor, well educated, upper class, rich, my employer, at least for today – and what am I doing – telling him what I think. And me – a farmer’s widow, with two boys, one who spent time in detention, lower class, hand to mouth so many times, in a service position for years, no money saved, can’t travel anywhere – no doubt this outburst will lead to my firing. Why didn’t he sack me right now? What is he thinking?

The morning was spent setting up supplies and medications the way he wanted. Jean showed him the way the patient records were organized and what paperwork she needed for the business end of the practice. Lucien was surprised that Jean had taken charge and ordered materials before he had returned to Ballarat. Sitting in his father’s desk chair, Lucien told her, “I was run out of the office almost every day by my father. I just wanted my father’s love and he could not give it to me. And when my mother died, he sent me away, without a hug, but with a pocket watch that said ‘Do Your Best.’ From then on, I was by myself, on my own, alone. I hated what he did to me. I was just 10 years old, Jean. You know Jean sometimes I think my father thought what he did to me would make me stronger. Well, maybe it did, but at what cost – to me?”

Lucien spent the afternoon seeing patients with sore throats, congestion, fevers, and flu that were going around. At dinner that evening, he told Jean and Mattie about the number of cases of flu he had seen and of his concern to keep all of the Blake household members well. “That bug does not need to infect the three of us and then my father and Danny. If you feel like you are getting ill, tell me. I know I have not shown this side of me yet, but I am a physician, a very good one I think, and I will take care of you. In my mind, I am responsible for the medical needs of anyone living under the Blake roof.”

About 11 PM, Lucien, who had worked on patient notes all evening, wandered down the hallway to talk with Mattie and Jean. He wanted to check on his father and be certain they were both alright. They talked about Thomas’ condition and about the next day’s surgery schedule. He looked at them, smiled, and much to their surprise said, “Good night Jean and Mattie. I am pleased that you are taking care of my father - and helping me. Thank you. I know my return has presented problems for this household, especially for you Jean. You don’t need additional stress, you have enough with my father’s illness, I know that. Jean, I intend to cause you less grief.” Lucien went to his bedroom about 11:30 PM. Jean went upstairs to her bedroom, hoping this night would be much calmer than last evening.

Danny finally came home from work about 12:30 AM. As he entered the house, he heard a heavy thump from Lucien’s bedroom. He knocked and asked, “Doc, are you alright?” Danny entered the room and saw Lucien on the floor trying to figure out how he got there, rubbing his head. Danny turned the light on and called for Jean and Mattie. Mattie was sitting with Thomas and was there first. Jean came down the stairs from her bedroom, wearing her favorite old pink housecoat. Mattie immediately went into the surgery getting some supplies to treat the cut on the side of Lucien’s head.

Danny helped Lucien sit on the edge of the bed so Mattie could look at the cut near his right eye. It did not look too deep but there would be some bruising around his eye. However, Jean noticed his pajama bottoms were getting stained with blood. He had landed on the injury from the previous night’s encounter with the drinking glass. Jean got a towel to cover him as Danny pulled his PJ bottoms down. With Mattie’s help, Jean cleaned up the wound and asked Lucien about closing it up again. He thought more strips were needed, and then the heavy gauze pad and wrap like before. Danny found a clean pair of PJ bottoms and help Lucien put them on.

Lucien told all three that “I had a horrible nightmare. I have not been drinking heavily tonight. If I drink until I pass out, then the nightmares are gone. Well, at least I am not aware of them. I thought I was tired enough I could sleep, but I was wrong. Thank you for helping me but each of you should not have to do this for me. It is and has been my problem since the war. I do not want your help. So please, just go to bed. I will get a bottle of scotch and drink until I fall asleep,” he told them.

Jean took charge and told everyone to go into the kitchen and called a ‘household meeting.’ Lucien glared at her and said, “Jean, I told you I can handle this myself.” “Kitchen, Now, Lucien Blake!” Jean ordered. When he did not get up off of the bed, Jean took his hands, pulled him up, and walked him into the kitchen and sat him down. He wondered why did I let her take control of me, order me around? After all, she is my employee, not a superior officer; I am supposed to be her boss and tell her what to do not the other way around.

Jean laid out what the household was going to do to try and help. She started by looking directly at Lucien. “Lucien, look at me,” she said forcefully. “I have been with your father, who is a doctor as you know, for over a decade. We have seen men, soldiers, POW survivors like yourself, dealing with these serious nightmares. I have been included in the discussions of how to treat the soldiers with nightmares, night terrors, panic attacks. Thomas, Matthew, Doug and I have sat around this table many times trying to figure out a way for Thomas and the police to help the families, as well as the individuals, who are dealing with this. The bottom line is this: It is not your ‘fault,’ it will not go ‘away,’ the entire household must help and be supportive in an individualized way; you cannot drink the nightmares under the table, you cannot take drugs to make it go away. Each situation is different and needs an individualized approach.”

Lucien replied, “Jean, I am a physician. I know all of this. What is your point?”

Jean continued on, “Yes, I know you know. You are a very smart man, very well educated. You are a Physician and a Surgeon.” Walking over to Lucien and placing her hand on his head, “But knowing it in your head, as a physician, intellectually, rationally, is so different – she placed her hand over his heart - than experiencing it yourself, struggling nightly with these nightmares. Right?” She then placed her hands on his shoulders.

He looked at her, putting his hand behind his head and smoothing his hair down, then at Danny and Mattie. He said softly, tears starting to collect at the corners of his eyes, “But you three are not responsible for me. You do not even know me. It is my problem. Perhaps I should sleep elsewhere, out of the house, so I do not wake you up at night.”

Mattie looked at Lucien and quickly jumped into the conversation, “Lucien, I am young and you may think I do not know anything about life or you or what you went through, but I do know one thing with great certainty. With the three of us helping you, how can we not make a difference? Just let us try! Coming back home has to be so difficult for you. I imagine the nightmares are more intense than when you were in Hong Kong, right?”

Lucien sat staring into space. How could he have just returned to Ballarat and ‘inherited’ these three people, who seemed to want to help him? It had been so long since anyone cared about him. He knew he did not deserve this. How did Thomas collect this crew of people who maybe, just maybe, could make a difference in my life – and not just with the nightmares? Why don’t I just get up and go back to my bedroom? Or to the sunroom? Or outside? Why am I still sitting in the kitchen? He could not get his legs to move and walk away from these people. Why not? He just shook his head, started to shiver, and felt Danny and Mattie hugging him. Jean grabbed a blanket from the couch in the living room and wrapped it around him before she held him tightly. His tears flowed, his breath caught, and he did not try to regain his composure; for some reason, he was not embarrassed to be crying in front of these three people. He could not understand it. Jean wondered if years and years of loneliness, anguish, and hurt were pouring out of him. They all tried to support him as he grappled with controlling his tears and agony.

Once Lucien had dried his eyes and face, he asked, smiling at Jean, “Dr. Jean Beazley, what is your treatment approach for me going to be?” Jean, raising an eyebrow at him, looked at him and then at Mattie and Danny. “So, you will try to limit your liquor consumption; we both know I need your help with your father’s care and I want you relatively sober. Perhaps we could walk on the trail at Lake Wendouree in the evening or we could sit outside and chat before you go to bed; when you awaken us with your nightmare, one of us can knock on the bedroom door, get you awake and talk to you; we could even get you up, come into the kitchen and put the kettle on and talk; we could get you up and walk to the sunroom and talk; we could sit on the couch and talk; we could go outside and walk. What other ideas do you have, Lucien?”

Lucien thought a few moments and then said, “If you want to help me, there is one thing you have to be very careful about – when I am thrashing about, I could hit you, not meaning to of course, but I could hurt anyone of you. I would just be mortified if I did. You need to be certain I am awake before you get too close to me. I really do not deserve your help; I have done nothing to earn your help. Quite the contrary, I have made a horrible mess of the last couple of days for all of you. I am so sorry.”

“Lucien, I think we need to try a different approach to these nightmares instead of drinking yourself to sleep and being hungover the next day. In Hong Kong, you were by yourself, alone, and I imagine you did drink to excess. But here, in the Blake household, we try to help each other, try to make it easier for each of us to deal with each day. We are offering our help – please accept it.”

Danny heard the back door open and before he could say anything, Matthew walked in. “Jean, I saw the lights on in the kitchen and I just let myself in. It is 1 AM. Why are the four of you sitting around the kitchen table? Jean, what is going on?” Then he looked at everyone and noticed that Lucien looked like a train wreck, with a cut near his right eye, a bruise beginning to develop, wearing mismatched pajamas, and had very red eyes. “Matthew, we are all ‘alright’ and we were having a ‘household’ discussion.”

But he quickly moved on to his reason for stopping by. “Parks, I need you. There has been a serious car accident outside of town and we are needed. Let’s go.” Matthew put his arm around Jean and spoke softly to her. “Are you certain you are alright? If Lucien becomes too much to handle, you let me know. Ned will be outside tonight if you and Mattie need help.”

Lucien noticed how close Jean was to Matthew and how he had his arm around her. Was there anything between them? He was beginning to think there might be. Jean was certainly a beautiful woman. If I am going to have a chance with Jean, I need to clean up my act, promptly, Lucien thought to himself.

Matthew told Jean and Mattie,” I know I signed up for early morning time with Thomas, but I don’t know when we’ll be back. I will make up the hours, I promise.” Jean said she knew he would keep his promise. As Matthew and Danny left, she told them, “Please take care of each other. Neither of you need to get hurt. There will be breakfast in the morning for you both – whenever you get back.”

Mattie said her goodnights, Jean and Lucien headed to Thomas’ bedroom. He was limping a bit and touching his head. Jean told him to wait and she would get him a dishtowel and a bag of frozen peas she had put up last summer. They would be good for his eye and head to slow the bruising down, and then they could eat them for supper. “Very clever, indeed, Jean,” Lucien said with a smile. “Well, you cannot look like you have been in a fist fight when your surgery hours start in the afternoon, right?” Jean asked him. Lucien barely thought about his response and said “Yes, of course, Jean. Now let’s check on my father.”

Jean and Lucien talked about how difficult the trip back to Ballarat was on him. “Jean, I am drinking, at times to excess, like on the ship coming to Australia and the first couple of days I was in town. You know, Mattie was right. My nightmares are more vivid and intense and longer lasting; so many old memories are roaring in my head, I am just overwhelmed and at times frightened and anxious and scared.”

“Jean, I am rather glad we had the household meeting about my nightmares. Look at the mess I have made in this house in just under two days,” Lucien haltingly stated. Jean told him to look at her, “I refuse to believe your behavior the last two days is the real you – I think you are a talented physician and surgeon – you do care about people. Nell Clasby tells me that you are a kind person, Lucien. I value Nell’s opinion. But I want – No, I demand – to see that person – and soon! And Lucien, you cannot do everything yourself. Let us help you.”

Jean continued “I thought we needed to get you more involved in patient care, to help make the transition to Ballarat less of a jolt to your system. That is one of the reasons I restocked the surgery before you arrived.” Lucien, looking at Jean told her, “I need to be challenged with mysteries and puzzles either from patients or investigations. My colleague Derek had told me that I have a labyrinthine brain that needs to be focused on a problem. Jean, you are helping me, but I don’t know how you know so much about me.”

“Lucien, I have been with your father for over a decade, and he has talked to me about you and your mother many, many times. You seem to be more like her than Thomas. I can hardly imagine the trauma you suffered when she died and you were sent away. You were just a child, Lucien, just a child. You have missed her for so, so long.”

Talking with Lucien was becoming somewhat easier for Jean. She rethought the first day he arrived and reconsidered the anger and sullen behavior and drinking as a way he used to protect himself. Did he think his anger and drinking would drive me away? Well, if I did leave, that would make my life a whole lot easier than it is now. But, I did not leave – and I promised Thomas I would not leave – and Lucien did not fire me, yet. I have certainly told him off enough times already, I cannot imagine why I still have a job.

Chapter Text

About 9 AM, Matthew and Danny came back from the car wreck. Danny took his muddy shoes off and helped Matthew take his off as well and both left them in the sunroom. They had dirty uniforms and brushed some of the dirt off as well. Danny came in first and sought out Lucien and told him, “Doc, you need to look at Matthew’s left hand. He hurt it getting the car door open. There was a dead person in there.” Danny went to the sink to clean up before eating.

Matthew came into the kitchen with his left hand wrapped in a bloody bandage and headed toward the sink to wash up. Lucien stopped him and said, “Let me help you, Matthew.” Matthew looked at Lucien and said, “Lucien, it is a bloody, nasty mess.” Looking out the kitchen window by the sink, Lucien saw Ned leave. What is that about? Did he stay outside all night? Why? Are Jean and Mattie afraid to be in the house with me? I need to talk to Matthew and Jean about this.

Once Lucien unwrapped Matthew’s hand, began to clean it up and he agreed with him. “On my initial look at your hand, you will need at least a dozen stitches. Since you are left handed, I want to take extra time repairing the damage and then I want to immobilize it for at least 48 hours to ensure the stitches stay where I want them to. This will take about 30 minutes to do. Do you want to eat now and do it afterwards? If that is alright, I can clean it up better, numb it, wrap it and we can eat. I will suture it after you eat. By then, you will feel nothing in the hand. Does that sound alright to you?”

Matthew looked at Lucien and replied “I was going to go to the hospital after breakfast and get it stitched up but your offer sounds better to me. That way I can check out what kind of a Doc you really are. Are you any good?” Lucien put his hand on Matthew’s shoulder, smiled and told him that “My friend, I am a good physician and a skilled surgeon. From my behavior since I got back to Ballarat, you would never know that. Thank you for letting me prove it to you – and everyone else in this household.”

“Come on Matthew, let’s go to Surgery. Jean, please come with us and help me find all of the supplies I will need.”

They came back to the kitchen and Danny and Mattie started putting breakfast on the table for everyone. The conversation revolved around why they were eating eggs, bacon and peas for breakfast and the car accident. Lucien had to explain the fact that he used three bags of frozen peas on his face to keep the bruising down. “I thought Jean could just refreeze them, but now I know differently, as she told me three times, each time a little bit louder. We’ll eat them with every meal today,” he said with a lighthearted look at Jean, trying to get back in her good graces. Jean gave him the eyebrow thing that she did when she was perturbed at him, which seemed to be most of the time. Danny and Matthew told a cleaned-up version of the car wreck. The car was registered in Melbourne and they were trying to locate family. Danny said he hated to tell families this kind of news, but Matthew told him this time it was his assigned chore.

After Matthew, Jean and Lucien had finished eating, they returned to the surgery. Jean helped Matthew take off his shirt, and Lucien made certain the hand was numb. Matthew got up on the examination table and Jean unwrapped his hand and positioned it so Lucien could begin the repair. Jean could tell he was a talented surgeon, just like his father, with precisely placed stitches in the hand and awareness to Matthew’s needs. Once Lucien was finished suturing the hand, he wrapped it with several layers of padding so Matthew would not be able to use it. Then he strapped the hand to his chest. Matthew just looked at him. “What are you doing, Lucien? I am left handed and you have my whole arm where I cannot use it.” Lucien replied, “I want this hand to heal the first time – no pulled stitches -- and I do not want you moving it for 48 hours. Then I will give you more freedom of movement. You also need a dose of penicillin to prevent infection, as well as a tetanus toxoid injection.”

“Matthew, you are staying here with us until lunch; I want to be certain you are doing alright. You can borrow one of my robes. The couch is yours.” Matthew looked at Lucien and said, “You know, Lucien, you are a good physician. Thank you for helping me.” “Matthew, you are most certainly welcome. I needed to prove that fact to you and Jean, and I hope I have.”

After positioning Matthew on the couch and covering him with a blanket, Lucien checked on his father. Mattie was feeding him some broth and Thomas saw Lucien and Jean enter. He watched Lucien with his eyes and he raised a hand and pointed to his eye. Lucien realized this gesture was about him – “Nightmare, fell out of bed.” Thomas’ gaze turned to Jean. “Thomas, I will take care of your boy. I told you I will do that for you – You know I will,” Jean told him, with her voice nearly breaking. Lucien looked at Jean and thought just how are you going to do that, Jean Beazley? What have you promised my father? When did you promise him that? Jean could not look at Lucien, left the room and headed to the kitchen for some tea.

Danny cleaned up the kitchen and then went to bed. He had been up nearly 24 hours and Mattie told Jean she would help with Thomas in the afternoon if Jean and Lucien could cover this morning.

Lucien came into the kitchen for a cup of tea and thanked Jean for her assistance with Matthew. This just confirmed to him how important she was to the practice. She was so much more than a receptionist and his housekeeper. Jean asked Lucien if still wanted to do Surgery hours in the late afternoon and he agreed. Lucien also signed up for late evening hours with Thomas.

“Lucien, do we need to check the dressing on your leg?” “Jean, would you help me with it?” They walked to the Surgery so she could change the dressing and he could check on the healing. “Jean, thank you so much – for everything. I don’t know if I could have survived the last couple of days without you,” he told her, lifting her hand to his mouth and giving her hand a kiss. Jean was stunned, speechless, and started to blush before she turned away from him. To her surprise, she did not stop him or give him the raised eyebrow. He was such an interesting man, surprising her at times, in both good ways and bad. What was he doing kissing my hand? Why did I let him? Why didn’t I tell him to stop? And why haven’t I been fired? I have told him off so many times, told him what I think of his behavior.

Jean checked on Matthew and found him awake. “Matthew, do you want anything. I am fixing myself some tea, and will be glad to bring you a cuppa.” “Jean, that would be nice. Thank you.” When Jean brought the tea, Matthew told Jean, “I want to talk with you; do you have time? Is Lucien nearby?” “No, Matthew, I think he is in the surgery working on patient records.”

“Jean, I have been thinking about what the Army told us about Lucien. I have decided they want him back in the field and told us a lot of dirt on him to make us very apprehensive about his return. I think they have done a pretty effective job of it, don’t you? But, I just don’t know what to believe – the idea that he is angry and volatile – I just have not seen that kind of behavior since the first day. The drinking – well, it was really bad initially, and I have not seen him drink that heavily since. Jean, what have you observed?

“Matthew, do you think you don’t want to see this behavior in him? After all he is a friend, you grew up with him. Do you think that influences your thinking? The scotch bottle is going down slowly and he has not left the house since Danny brought him back drunk as a skunk from the Club. We had a drink before dinner last evening. That is the first time I have observed him drinking. I was really dreading his return after the Army told us all of that - what do I call it, stuff, gossip, rumor, dirt, truth - but since the nightmare incident, he has tried to be a part of the household, to help us, to help me, to help his father, had surgery hours. I just don’t know what to think.”

“Jean, while we have been talking, I noticed that you are moving your entire body to look at me. Is your neck sore again, Jean? Do you have any more medication from Dr. King to take? Have you seen him about this? Do you want me to take you over there? You know I will.”

“Matthew, my neck is a mess again. I ran out of Dr. King’s medication. Thomas told me that stress drives the tension in my neck and the medications hide it. I need to practice stress management techniques, do my exercises, and I have totally failed with that approach, again. Matthew, it really hurts.”

“Maybe Lucien has another strategy to help you. Have you asked him? You know Jean, you expected him to let us help with his nightmares. Maybe it is a two-way street? When you get a chance, ask him. Do you want me to talk to him first? Why don’t you just make an appointment with him? That way you will have time to explain what is going on.”

“Matthew, I will think about asking him for help. I will.”

The Blake household settled into a routine for the next few days. Thomas’ care was divided between Lucien, Danny, Jean, and Mattie as well as some of the Police officers. Lucien’s transition to Ballarat and the Blake household was still somewhat bumpy and he continued to have nightmares each night. He usually made enough noise so that Thomas’ caregiver came down the hall to talk to him, maybe go into the kitchen, get some tea, help him get settled. Besides Jean preparing food for everyone, Lucien was having afternoon hours in the Surgery, of course with Jean’s help.

Matthew dropped by after work just in time to eat supper with the Blake household. He had a shift with Thomas later that evening and knew Jean would feed him. She was such a fine cook and never turned him down if he wanted to share a meal with her and the Blake household. Matthew asked Lucien “Can you look at my hand and give me more mobility? Can you unwrap it?” Lucien got some scissors and released the arm from Matthew’s chest and unwrapped the hand so his fingers were able to move a little bit. “Lucien, it is still fairly hard to use my hand.” “That is my intention, Matthew. I don’t want you using it yet.”

“Lucien, on another topic, has Jean talked to you about her neck? About how she feels? I know she does not feel well, she is so tired, her neck hurts, and you know, from the look on your face, I bet she has not told you any of this, has she?”

“No, Matthew, she has not. I should have been more observant and picked up on her distress. I am so sorry she is not feeling well. Jean just does a remarkable job in the house and surgery and I did not consider how much this is taking out of her. Thank you, Matthew. I will talk with her. I will ask her if I can help her.”

Later that night, when Lucien and Jean were in Thomas’ room, he began talking to Jean, “Jean, I am concerned about your well-being; you seem so tired and I understand that your neck is quite sore. It is understandable with all of the sleepless nights you have spent sitting up with my father and now, dealing with my return to Ballarat. Jean, I am so sorry I have made your life so much more complicated and stressful.”

Jean snapped back at him, all too quickly he thought, “Lucien, I am fine. If I feel unwell, I will get an appointment with my physician. I bet Matthew told you about my neck, didn’t he? He just overreacted to a conversation we had a few days ago. You do not need to be bothered with me. Just leave me alone, Lucien.”

Lucien, putting his hands up, backed away from her and said, very sincerely, “Jean, I am so sorry. I thought you might need my help. But I now understand, you do not. However, the offer stands if you change your mind. I recall just the other day that a certain Jean Beazley told me that I don’t have to do everything myself – do you think that might apply to you? That in this household we help each other? Do you remember that? Listen, if you do not want me to help you, and I understand why you may not, then ask Mattie for assistance. I remember how you gave me no choice in letting the household help with my nightmares. And Jean, all of you have made such a difference in my getting back to sleep after the nightmares and not just relying on drinking myself silly. Let us help you. Please think about this. Jean, Mattie or I will help you. I hope you know that.”

Jean did not answer him and walked away. Lucien asked himself, what else could I have said to Jean? Should I have stopped her? She looks like she is just worn out and I let her walk away. I will talk with her again tomorrow. I will be more forceful, I will order her to let me take care of her, he thought. No, that approach will not work either. But I have find a way to convince her to let me help.

Lucien found Mattie in the sunroom reading and sat down next to her. “Um Mattie, I want to talk to you about Jean. Jean looks like she is worn out and Matthew tells me her neck is really bothering her. I tried to talk to her just now and she walked away from me and told me she had a physician and did not want my help. Do you think she does not trust me because of my earlier behavior? Is this why she is so hesitant? How can I help her Mattie? I will not hurt her, she must know that, right? I told her if she did not want to talk to me, to talk to you.”

“Lucien, I will talk with her tonight. Jean is on Dr. King’s list. I could take her there tomorrow if she will let me. She can be quite stubborn at times. And you need to talk to Matthew for answers to your questions.”

As Lucien returned to the surgery, he looked out the window and saw Matthew and Jean sitting on the bench in the front yard. Matthew was hugging Jean and it seemed to Lucien that they were talking. He could see Matthew getting animated and then Jean refusing to talk to him. She was also shivering. He knew Matthew had a shift with Thomas tonight and would be coming inside very soon.

Lucien picked up his yellow sweater from his bedroom and went out the front door towards them. Matthew got up and started towards the house. Before Jean realized what was happening, Lucien put the sweater around her shoulders and then sat down next to her. She knew he would get right back to his argument about helping her and she just did not want to listen to it again. Jean knew she had a stubborn streak that sometimes was good and other times got her into a situation she did not want. She had just stonewalled Matthew on how she felt and she was ready to do the same to Lucien, again.

“Lucien, I have taken care of myself for years. I don’t need your help. Thank you for the loan of the sweater. I am getting chilled. I am going inside.” Lucien reached out for Jean’s arm and stopped her. “Jean, I am not that person who showed up drunk on my first day back in Ballarat. I am not. Please believe me. I will help you, but I am not going to unless I have your permission to do so. We can deal with your neck tonight or in the morning. But you will need medical help soon.”

“Just how do you know that Lucien Blake?” Jean snapped at him as she walked towards the house, still wearing his sweater, leaving Lucien sitting on the bench, shaking his head. My goodness, she is one stubborn, independent creature.

Lucien walked into the house and into his father’s bedroom. Matthew was sitting in the chair, reading the Courier. “So, Lucien, you made no progress with Jean either, right? She has been on her own so long, raising the boys by herself, scraping by, she is not ready to trust many people, and certainly not you. You have come home bloody drunk, cut yourself and fallen out of bed – all of which she has had to clean up – and now you want to help her? She is supposed to trust you? I don’t think she is ready for that – just yet. I imagine she will fall into your lap tomorrow and then she just might consider your help – but I wouldn’t count on it even then. Lucien, we have both given her our best arguments tonight, maybe she will reconsider. I certainly hope she does. She is just running on fumes, I don’t know how she is staying on her feet. You know, she might surprise us and show up while we are talking. So, don’t leave for a while – let’s just keep talking, about anything. If Jean does ask for your help, don’t you dare let her change her mind.”

Jean knew that both Lucien and Matthew were trying to help her and were trying to make it easier for her to say, ‘Help me,’ and the more she thought about it, she knew she did need help. She believed Matthew’s take on the Army and what they were doing to Lucien – sabotaging his return to Ballarat. Lucien was not who the Army said he was. But then she thought he has just been home a few days. Maybe this part of him – the anger – would come out; Matthew still has the police patrols for her and Mattie. On the other hand, he is helping me with his father. I know he is a good physician; he has scared some of the patients who were used to Thomas, but he does care about them. Nell Clasby told me he is a good physician; I have always respected Nell’s opinion. I think he cares about all of us in the household; he told us he was here for us if we were ill. He helped Matthew when his hand need suturing. Jean, stop being so darn stubborn. Quit arguing with yourself. Alright, Jean Mary Beazley, you can do this. Walk to Thomas’ room and talk to him. You know he is in there with Matthew right now. You can hear them talking. After you talk with him, you can always tell him no and walk away.

Matthew saw Jean at the bedroom door and moved his eyes to Lucien and then rolled them towards the door. Lucien turned around and saw Jean standing at the door, looking at him. He walked towards her and Jean sighed and said, “Lucien, I need um your help. My neck –” as he gently took her into his arms and held her. He thought, she got this far and I am not letting go of her until I know what is wrong with Jean. She is more than my Father’s housekeeper and receptionist; she has made such a difference in my life since I arrived back in Ballarat. Matthew has helped me appreciate how hard this request has been for her. Lucien could feel the tight muscles in her shoulders and neck and then felt Jean begin to shiver. Lucien held her tighter and could feel her tears soaking his shirt. “Jean, it will be alright. Thank you for asking me to help you. I promise you we will figure this out.”

Chapter Text

Matthew went to find Mattie and have her join them in Thomas’ bedroom. Lucien was still comforting Jean, offering her his handkerchief to wipe her eyes. He decided not to let go of her – being afraid that she would change her mind and walk away from him. For some reason, the arguments that he and Matthew developed actually worked on Jean, right now, tonight, and the longer she thought about it all, Jean probably would change her mind. Lucien would not let that happen. He kept an arm around her waist, holding her close to him.

Lucien held Jean’s hand and walked her to the surgery. “Jean, I want to get you some medication to help with the tightness and pain before I do much in terms of massage and hot compresses. I also want to check your general condition to be certain you are not getting ill. We have seen so many cases of sore throats and flu in the last few days. Jean, you know with you being so tired, you are very vulnerable to illness.”

As soon as Lucien placed Jean got on the examination table, she began, “Lucien, I am fine now,” as she changed her mind and started to get off of the table. Lucien stopped her. “Jean, you are not ‘fine’ and we both know it, right?”

Holding her head in his hands, he looked at Jean and said, “I am your physician, Jean. There are two things we need to agree on - You need to be truthful with me and no arguing with me. In return, I will be honest with you about my treatment strategy and your condition. Agreed?” Jean nodded her head in agreement, realizing she had met her match in Lucien.

“Why is Mattie here?” Jean asked no one in particular. “Jean, I might need some assistance from Mattie. I do not know what tests I may need to do. And I do not want you to be alarmed at my approach,” Lucien told her, as he switched to holding her hands and keeping her on the exam table.

Lucien took Jean’s temperature and it was normal; her blood pressure was elevated, probably due to the pain she was experiencing. Lucien took her pulse, checked her throat, and listened to her chest. It seemed that Jean had avoided the illnesses moving through their patients, at this point in time.

Then, Lucien started talking to both her and Mattie. “My approach to diagnosis has always been – the simplest explanation is first; I feel free to use both Chinese and Western Medicine, whichever applies best to the patient. At times, I will use both.”

He left Mattie in the front of Jean and he went to the other side of the table and gently placed his hands on her neck and shoulders. Jean flinched and gasped. “Jean, I have a couple of questions to ask you. How long have your neck and shoulders felt so tight and the muscles so tense?” Jean looked at Mattie and then away, dropping her gaze to the floor. Lucien motioned to Mattie to ask Jean again what was going on. Holding Jean’s head, Mattie started talking to her, “Let’s try this again. How long Jean? You need to be truthful with Lucien and me, alright?” Jean looked at her and slowly said, “You want the truth? Since the first day Lucien was in this house.” Lucien shook his head back and forth, “Oh, Jean, Jean, I am so sorry you reacted to me this way, that I have caused you such distress. This has to be so painful. Why didn’t you say something to me earlier?”

“Lucien, I work for your father. I told him I would stay for you. I am in a service position. Either I get used to you or I break my promise to Thomas and leave or maybe you sack me. If I leave, I have no paycheck and I have to find another position. I see no other options – I don’t have another job lined up right now. I am considering one job, but it is so hard to leave, to leave Thomas when he needs me. My neck and shoulders just get tighter every day,” Jean softly replied, looking away from Mattie towards the floor.

By then Lucien had moved to face Jean and noticed her lower lip quivering, tears collecting at the corner of her eyes. What have I done to this beautiful creature who cares so deeply for my father and other members in this household? I need to gain her trust and I need to convince her I will help her. I must break through her stubborn exterior.

“Jean, what are you taking for pain control?” “Nothing. I ran out of what Dr. King prescribed for me the last time my neck got like this. Of course, Thomas could not give me a new script. I knew I should not get into his or now your medicine cabinet. If I take Bex, my stomach hurts.”

“I am going to start with something to get your pain under control and relax your neck and shoulder muscles. Then I will do a more thorough evaluation.” Lucien moved to his cabinet of medications and found what he wanted to give to Jean. “Jean, here is some water. Please take these for me. Let’s go to the kitchen and drink some tea to give them time to begin working. Before we come back here, I want you to change into some sleeping attire that is loose and comfortable. I will need access to your shoulders and neck. Mattie will help you and Mattie will be with us in the surgery, alright?”

Matthew had put the kettle on and the tea was ready to drink. He raided Jean’s biscuit tin and had them on the table as well. The four of them sat around the table talking about stories in the Courier and what was happening in town. Lucien was trying to get up to speed on the families in town and the local gossip, which Jean seemed to have an inside track on. It was all mindless blather to keep Jean as calm as they could. After about an hour, Lucien got up and went over to Jean and felt her neck and shoulders; she did not flinch like before. “Mattie, please help Jean into something loose and comfortable. I will meet you two in the surgery. Matthew, can you bring some hot water into the surgery for us?”

Jean and Mattie returned to the surgery and Lucien helped her up on the examination table. “Jean, we need to get these muscles to relax. I will help you, but this may seem a bit strange to you. Mattie will be here with us. First, I am going to get behind you and I want you to lean back into my chest, please, and try to focus on a point on the wall. I have you, a little bit more. Now you are going to have to trust me and try to breathe slowly and evenly. I know that is not going to be easy for you. I am not letting you fall. I am not going to hurt you.”

“Lucien, your father and Dr. King never did anything like this to their patients,” Jean told Lucien. “Jean, I don’t think they even would consider doing Chinese Medicine but it is common in my practice,” Lucien said. She started to move away from him and he applied pressure to her midsection and he forced her to lean back into him again.

“Jean, the sooner you relax a little bit, the sooner I can move forward with what I want to do. Try to relax into me and let me help you. I will not hurt you.” Jean finally started breathing more evenly and very quickly Lucien was pushing on pressure points on her neck and spine. Once he applied pressure, Jean could feel her muscles begin to relax. “Don’t stop Lucien, please, don’t stop,” Jean was murmuring, as she relaxed into his broad, muscled chest. Mattie saw the relief spread throughout Jean’s body. “Jean, better now, right?” asked Lucien. “Please don’t stop, Lucien.” “Jean, your muscles are a mass of knots, stress - how on earth are you enduring this?” Jean did not answer him, but several tears fell from the corners of her eyes.

“Now, you should be able to lie on the table on your stomach without too much discomfort. What I want to do is put hot compresses on your neck and shoulders and then massage your muscles to continue to get them to release. After about 30 minutes, Lucien noticed that Jean was very quiet, breathing evenly, and not responding to his conversation. She had gone to sleep on him. “Mattie, Jean went to sleep on me! – I have never had a patient do that. She must just be running on fumes.”

“Mattie, Matthew told me Jean raised her boys by herself. What happened to her husband? I see she still wears his ring. Do you know?”

“Lucien, have your talked to Jean, really talked with her about her life?” “Well, no I haven’t. As you well know, I stumbled into this house with a huge chip on my shoulder, very self-centered, and - Um, I have told her bits and pieces of my story. I think she has a very different perspective than me because she has lived with my father for so many years and heard his take on me.”

“Lucien, it is not all about you and your issues with your father, your drinking, your nightmares, it isn’t. You and Jean! You are like two ships passing in the night. You are both adults, right? Talk to each other. Share what you are feeling. Talk, please.”

Lucien looked at Mattie, “I will talk with Jean, I will. Please find Danny and have him come into the surgery. Tell him I need help getting Jean into my father’s room for the evening.”

Between the two of them, they carefully lifted Jean off of the examination table and carried her down to Thomas’ bedroom. Mattie helped them put her into the extra bed and cover her up. Jean never knew they had moved her and did not wake up during the transfer. Lucien sat on the edge of the bed and did a check of her vitals and just shook his head. How on earth can I keep her in the Blake household? How can I convince her to stay and help me?

While continuing to massage her neck and shoulders, Lucien was deep in thought – so much pressure on Jean and I am not carrying as much of the load as I should. Jean had nearly cratered from it. Then he thought – I hurt people. I may not mean to do it, but I do. I, Lucien Radcliffe Blake, must start thinking about these souls who have been helping my father. I am so angry with my father, and what good has it done me? Decades have gone by, and I need to let this go for my sake. The war burden – all of the nightmares – is more than enough for me to deal with right now.

Several hours later, Lucien was sitting in the chair near his father. Both his father and Jean were sleeping and he started to doze off when he heard Jean talking. “Thomas, what am I going to do? Don’t leave me. I am so sharp with Lucien. Fire me? Told you I would stay.” Then she quieted down some, but started thrashing around in the bed. He went over to the bed and sat down and began talking to her, “Jean, I need my ears boxed on occasion and you are doing a mighty fine job of it. I am not leaving you, I am not firing you, and I want you to stay here, help me, and become my friend, my confidant. Please believe me when I tell you that.” He reached for her wrist and then felt her forehead.

She lurched awake when she felt a hand on her wrist. “Matthew, is that you? Where am I? My neck – Did Lucien help me? Is he angry with me?”

Lucien held Jean down and gently told her, “Jean, it is me, Lucien. I was just checking on you. You are in the extra bed in my father’s room. How does your neck feel? Is it any better? Do you need anything?”

Jean slowly opened her eyes and focused on him. “Lucien, how did I get here? My neck is somewhat stiff but it does not hurt like it did. What I really need is a trip to the loo.”

“I’ll help you up and walk you there. I don’t want you falling. The medications really knocked you out – you fell asleep on the examination table and Danny and I carried you in here. Jean, sit up slowly for me. Are you dizzy? Alright let’s get you up. I am going to steady you.”

Once Jean came out of the bathroom, she started towards her bedroom. Lucien gently touched her arm and said, “No, you are going back downstairs with me. I need to get you some more medication, and I will put you back into bed in my father’s room. That way I can keep an eye on you.”

“But Lucien, I want to sleep in my own bed.”

“Jean, do you remember that we agreed on ‘No arguing’ and I consider that arguing. So, let’s go.”

They walked to the surgery and Lucien got her some more medication and then back to Thomas’ bedroom. Jean started to tell him, “I am ‘fine’ and then stopped as soon as she said ‘fine’ – yes, I know Lucien, I need to be truthful and that is not the truth. I think the meds are wearing off and my neck is starting to pound again. I will do what you want me to. But please don’t let me sleep all day. I am supposed to take care of your father and you.”

“Jean, I need to work on your neck and shoulders and let you get some quality sleep. You must rest before the next round of treatment. Otherwise, your body will not be able to repair itself. Crawl into the bed for me. Scooch over some, I think I will stretch out as well. I have way too much body to be sleeping in that chair. I will stay on top of the covers. If you need anything wake me up.”

Jean reached for his hand and held it tightly. “Thank you, Lucien for helping me. I should have asked you days ago but I did not. I do not know why I thought asking for help from you was so hard. You know, I can be so stubborn. You and Matthew finally convinced me. But, it was important that you held me and did not let me escape your grasp. I was so ready to bolt from you. I was. Good night, Lucien.” “Good night, Jean,” Lucien tried to say but it was stifled by a huge yawn.

Danny came down to relieve Lucien at 2 AM and found them both asleep, Lucien on his side and Jean tucked in close to him. He put the blanket over Lucien and thought to himself, this is interesting. Let’s see what the Doc has to say in the morning. He just smiled and decided he had to watch over three people instead of just Thomas until first light.

About 6 AM, Mattie came into relieve Danny. She found him tending to Thomas and found Jean and Lucien in the bed, still asleep. Mattie looked at Danny and grinned, ‘What is this about?” Danny just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. “Mattie, will you start breakfast for us? I will stay here and take care of Thomas.”

When the smell of freshly fried bacon reached Thomas’ bedroom, Lucien began to wake up. Lying in the bed, next to Jean, he began thinking. I am trying to get oriented – I am in the extra bed, wanted to keep Jean close by in case she had medication needs, now I find her head is tucked under my chin, her hair is all over the pillow, she is still asleep, holding my hand, Danny and Mattie are looking at me, at us. Well, this will take some explaining. I cannot get up without waking Jean up. What will she say? – I bet I will get my ears boxed once again from my father’s housekeeper. She is really quite good at it. How many times has she chewed on me since I returned to Ballarat? I have lost count. Am I doing some things just to get her attention? Don’t know. Perhaps. But I do like that eyebrow thing she does at me.

Jean began to move a bit as she started to wake up. Smelling the bacon was making her hungry. “Lucien, do you smell breakfast cooking? Is Mattie taking over my job? How long have I been holding your hand or are you holding mine? I think the medication is making my thoughts disjointed, can that happen? Do Mattie and Danny know we are in the same bed? How did that happen? Goodness gracious, the Ballarat gossip mill better not hear about our night sleeping together in this small bed in your father’s bedroom. Lucien, I am ready to get up, are you?”

Mattie saw that both were awake and told them, “Alright, sleepy heads, get up. I have breakfast ready for all of us.” Lucien got up first and helped Jean up. “How do you feel this morning? What about your neck and shoulders?”

“Lucien, I am hungry. My neck and shoulders are tender and stiff but I do not hurt like last night. I think I must have slept for hours. I have not slept like that for weeks. Did I keep you awake?”

“Jean, you didn’t keep me awake. I invited myself to share the bed. That chair just got too tight and uncomfortable for me. Anyway, I could keep you in bed and not let you change your mind about me helping you. Let’s get up and eat. We can see if Mattie is a good breakfast cook.”

As the four of them ate breakfast, Mattie asked, “Danny, did Lucien have a nightmare last night?” “No, Mattie, not while I was sitting with Thomas and that was from about 2 AM until 6 AM when you came in to check on us. But I thought Lucien might get in his own bed when I showed up. Two people sleeping on that small bed in Thomas’ room took some ingenuity.”

“Well, my intentions were to get up and move to my bed when Danny came in, but I just crashed. I guess all of that arguing with Jean last night took it out of me,” Lucien said with a silly grin on his face. Looking at Lucien and then Jean, Mattie began, “Maybe you two need to be together every night – maybe that would help with your nightmares?”

Danny looked at Mattie and quickly said, “Mattie, do you know what you are suggesting? Jean is my aunt.” Danny was flabbergasted at where Mattie was taking the conversation. Lucien and Jean were looking at each other, smiling, and then starting to blush as well. “Oh my, Jean and Lucien, I am so embarrassed. You are both old enough to be my parents, and I would never ever say anything like that to them, out loud, in their presence. I am so sorry.”

Lucien continued, “Mattie, you must be very comfortable with Jean and me to tell us what you did. I did not have a nightmare, that is true, but it was only half of the night. Who knows what would have happened if I gone to bed earlier. I was focused on arguing with Jean and then Jean’s care and maybe all of that pushed the nightmare away last night. I don’t know. But if they do get scary and really frightening, I will keep in mind -- sleeping with Jean.”

“Lucien Blake, what are you suggesting to me?” Jean said, looking at him, trying to figure out how to get out of this conversation. “Nothing Jean, nothing at all. I know if I proposed that, I would be banished to your sunroom. And then I would be sleeping at the Club. Right?”

After they all finished eating breakfast, Lucien looked at Mattie and Danny asked them, in a very serious tone, “Please, keep quiet about the two of us sleeping in the same bed together. I am certain we are already in the gossip mill and this would just be evidence to prove the point.” Both Danny and Mattie nodded in agreement.

“Mattie, will you help Jean get cleaned up and then bring her back downstairs to the surgery. Make certain she has on comfortable, loose fitting clothing again. I will be working on her neck and shoulders and using hot compresses on the muscles.”

Jean and Mattie returned to the surgery, Lucien checked Jean’s vitals again, and gave her more meds for the pain and to help her muscles relax. Then he helped her get on the examination table and started working on her neck and shoulders.

“Lucien, the hot compresses make such a difference. I don’t hurt like yesterday. Thank you for helping me.”

“Jean, I think we are making progress and I want to keep this up for today. I think you will notice less stiffness tomorrow if we stick to an intensive treatment regimen today. After 30 minutes of massage, Lucien told Jean, “I can’t believe it, you are still awake. So that is progress, Jean. Let’s get you back in bed so you can rest.”

Jean let Lucien help her get into bed and cover her with the blanket. “Lucien, I feel like you are making a difference in my neck. Thank you.” “Jean, that is my plan. I am glad you are feeling better. I will keep an eye on you today. Now, if you need anything, ask me. Get some more sleep. I will take care of my father.”

While Jean and Thomas were sleeping, the doorbell rang, Lucien answered it and Matthew Lawson and Bill Hobart were there. Matthew wanted to continue the conversation about the ‘telegram’ that brought Lucien back to Ballarat and Lucien’s plans. Bill would stay with Thomas as well as Jean.

Matthew and Lucien went into the kitchen. “Lucien, I am surprised to find Jean asleep. Is she doing alright?” Lucien described the situation after he left last night and this morning. Matthew asked him straight on, “Are you leaving after you father dies? Are you staying? Does Jean know your plans? She has a right to know. She has been so important to your father. What have you told her? This could be part of the stress she is feeling. Are you firing her? Does she have a position with you?”

Lucien looked at Matthew and said he would be staying on in Ballarat for a while after his father died, and he had not told Jean nor the boarders, Mattie and Danny, about his plans.

“Bloody Hell, Lucien, don’t you think they have earned the right to know! Jean has worked here for over a decade. She is not just a housekeeper. The sooner you figure that out the better. Danny has helped Jean with Thomas as well as you, and Mattie has relieved Jean at all hours of the day and night with your father. They deserve to know, and now!”

Matthew just shook his head at Lucien. “For being so smart, you can just be a damn fool some times. And today you are a fool, my friend. Yes, Jean is not as educated as you, she has worked hard all of her life and has the calluses to prove it, has not seen the world like you have, has not had the privileges you have enjoyed, but according to your father, there has never been a woman as generous, thoughtful, bright, funny, intelligent, and armed with a quick retort that he ever knew – on a par with your mother, he has told me on several occasions. Talk with her, today!”

Lucien sat and stared at Matthew. He put his hand behind his head, in a nervous gesture, and smoothed his hair down.

Matthew shook his head at Lucien and thought how is Jean dealing with him? Is his return to Ballarat just too hard for Jean? Will she leave the household? I know Lucien needed to come back and Thomas wanted him to, but I never anticipated the issues his return would present for the Blake Household, especially for Jean.

As Matthew and Bill left for the Police Station, Lucien noticed that a second police car was posted just outside of the driveway. Then Lucien returned to Jean and Thomas. He had much to think about before Jean woke up from her nap.

Chapter Text

When Danny and Mattie came home from work, they brought fish and chips for supper. Lucien told them that Jean was still asleep and he thanked them for thinking about something to eat. Lucien seemed a bit less intense than when they left in the morning, so Jean must be doing better, Mattie assumed, and he did not smell of booze.

All three ate supper together, Danny and Mattie talked about their work day and told Lucien a bit about themselves. He realized he had been in the house for several days, and not even asked them one question – about who they were, why they were living with Jean and his father. It had been years since Lucien lived with anyone and he was terribly out of practice – of even simple conversation. Matthew was right on about telling the household – so Lucien told them his plans and hoped they would stay in the house as boarders after his father passed. He also thanked them both for all of the help with his father and the assistance they had provided Jean.

Lucien asked Danny about the police cars parked at the end of the driveway. Danny quickly told him it was a quiet place to catch up on paperwork and it was a midpoint to most calls they might have to make. Lucien thought that might be a reasonable explanation, but he doubted it. It sounded like something Matthew had coached Danny to say. But why?

A couple of hours after supper Lucien was attending to his father. He heard Jean begin to talk in her sleep. “No, not Christopher, No. No. Alone. Why? Boys and me. My neck. Can’t.” Lucien went over to the bed and sat down next to her. He held her hand, and talked quietly to her, “Jean, you are not going to be alone. Do not worry about that. I will be here for you, if you will let me. I am not going to sack you. I am not going to be a pain in your neck, I am not.”

She stretched and moaned, turned on to her back and then her arm hit someone sitting on the bed next to her. She was trying to figure out if she was dreaming or just groggy from the medication Lucien had given her. Then she felt a hand on her forehead, pushing her curls away from her eyes, and then a gentle hand on her wrist. The hand was too large for Mattie’s. Perhaps it was Matthew’s? or maybe Danny’s? She slowly opened her eyes, tried to focus them and found Lucien looking at her, with a smile on his face, blue eyes twinkling. “Well, sleepy head, are you about ready to get up and eat some fish and chips?”

“What time is it? Is Thomas doing alright? I should have fixed supper for all of you. When did you get the fish and chips? I need to get up right now,” Jean said very quickly. Lucien held her down and would not let her move. “No, No, No, Jean. Just slow down, please. Mattie and Danny brought supper, my father is asleep, and you are not going to get up until I check you out. After all, I am your physician, right?”

“Oh, Lucien, my neck – a knot on the left side – Oh, why is it there? I thought you got rid of it,” Jean pleaded for help, as she looked at Lucien, tears gathering in her eyes. “Jean, I want you to sit up for me, lean into my chest, and I will work on it. I am going to slip my hand up the inside of your PJs and feel it and see what I can do. Here, right – “Yes, please make it go away.” – I will but it is going to hurt at first.” Soon, Jean began to mumble thank you and Lucien figured he had made a difference for her. This time there was no arguing, Jean accepted his help, needed his assistance. Lucien was thinking maybe I have made some progress with Jean. Broken down some barriers. Time will tell.

“Jean, what about dizziness?” Lucien asked her, looking into her eyes.

“No, I am pretty clear headed, Lucien. My neck is better. That knot is gone, isn’t it?” “Jean, it is for now, but we will need to keep working on it. That area was the worst part of your neck last evening.”

“I am hungry. What time is it?” Jean replied, focusing better and smiling at him. “You have slept the day away, my Jean. It is about 8 PM.”

Lucien asked Mattie to walk with Jean to the loo and then to help her back to the kitchen. He told her “We all need you, Jean. I do not want you to fall.”

He went to the kitchen to get the fish and chips out of the oven; he also put the kettle on. Jean returned to the kitchen and Mattie to the bedroom to be with Thomas. She was surprised to see Lucien setting the plate of food out for her and pouring the water for tea.

While she was eating, Lucien began talking to Jean. “I think you are suffering from exhaustion – and me – and you need to let me know if you experience any new symptoms. I want to keep working on your neck and shoulders. We need to get the muscles to relax.” “Lucien, thank you again for taking care of me. I really was not ‘fine’ when I told you I was. I just did not want to be a bother,” Jean tried to explain why she was so hesitant in asking for help; but it really wasn’t the truth. She was lying. Should I tell him what the Army told us? Maybe I will tomorrow, she thought. “Jean, you are not a bother, and never will be. Please remember that,” Lucien told her, smiling at her, reaching for her hand to hold it.

Then Lucien turned to the small talk from Danny and Mattie’s day at work, Matthew’s visit, and him realizing he knew very little about inhabitants of the Blake household. Lucien asked Jean to tell him something about herself. Jean looked at him, raised her eyebrow and said, “Only if you tell me something about yourself first, Lucien.”

Lucien starts by telling her, “The house is not what I remembered or expected; the atmosphere is so different from 20 years ago and I mistakenly thought it would be the same. The fact that Danny and Mattie are living here, they are in their early 20’s and could be staying anywhere is a testament to you – Jean – and how welcoming you are to them, but you hold them responsible for their actions, talk to them as needed, and are a very caring person.” Lucien grins and says “it seems like Mattie and Danny are our adult children. And maybe Mattie wants us to be together, do you think, Jean?”

“Your turn Jean, tell me something.” Jean begins her story by telling him “I was born in Ballarat, graduated from high school and married Christopher Beazley when I was just 19. We had a farm outside of town and had two boys, Christopher Junior and Jack. Christopher was killed in the Solomon Islands and I struggled unsuccessfully to keep the farm. In 1946, I started working for your father. The boys are adults now and Danny reminds me of them. And I like your beard the way you have it trimmed, but you need your hair cut. And I am not quite sure what Mattie wants for the two of us. I don’t think she understands we are in different social classes and what that means here in Ballarat.” Jean had no idea why she told him he needed a haircut; what am I thinking? I am just the housekeeper – she reminded herself.

Lucien looked at Jean, reached for her hand to hold and began, “Jean, I am so sorry I did not know about Christopher and the boys, and feel worse that I did not ask you about your family. I should have. I have no excuse. I just came home concentrating on my issues with my father, and not thinking that other people have their burdens as well. I am so glad you got a position with my father. I hope he made your life better, that he helped you with your boys. Jean, I am just a fool to only think about myself. Can you forgive me?”

“Lucien, how could you know anything about me? You never read any of your father’s letters – you sent them back to us. I still have all of them. I will share them with you one day - when I think you are ready to read them and we have time to talk about them. This position in your father’s house has been a God send. I can never thank him enough. And that is so very hard to say to you, because I know how much he hurt you,” Jean told Lucien, taking his hand in hers.

“Lucien, your turn,” Jean said, smiling at him. Lucien, taking a deep breath began his story, “I went to school in Melbourne, attended medical school in Glasgow, Scotland, and then joined the army and was posted in Germany and eventually posted to Singapore. I married Mei Lin and we had a daughter, Li. They were both lost when Singapore fell in 1942. I have not been able to find them yet. But the length of time I have spent looking -- they are probably both lost to me, maybe even deceased. Mattie would be about the same age as my daughter. And when are you trimming my hair?” he asked Jean with a silly grin on his face, lifted eyebrows teasing her. Jean wondered if he was flirting with her?

“Your father told me about your fight with him, about you wanting to marry someone he considered a ‘poor match’ as he told me. I can hardly imagine how you felt. Thomas has a ‘hard’ side to him. He can be very difficult. I don’t think you could ever satisfy him and his ideas of who he thought you should be. This has had to have an impact on you,” Jean told Lucien, looking at him, their eyes meeting. He tried to smile at her, but she could see the tears building in his eyes.

“Jean, it has, as you already have figured out in just the few days I have been back. Mattie and Matthew both told me to talk to you, to get you to talk to me – that we needed to clear the air, so to speak. Thank you so much for making this easier than I thought it would be,” Lucien replied, as he reached for Jean’s hand, and caressed it.

Jean continued the conversation. “I wanted to see the world but Christopher was content to be a farmer and stay in Ballarat. He wanted the simple life. I still want to travel and Europe would be so fine, Paris would be my first destination. But, I don’t think it will ever happen – unless you take me there. Will you, Lucien? And something else I want to tell you, I like your three-piece suits. They fit you so well and you are so distinguished looking in them. I especially like the grey pinstripe you have on now.”

Lucien turned red, reached his hand behind his head to smooth his hair down, and smiled at Jean. “I didn’t think you noticed me except to tell me what I was doing wrong and now you are suggesting I am distinguished looking in my suits, perhaps handsome, you want to travel to Paris with me, and I need a haircut. Do you realize how incredibly disjointed that sentence is?” he queried her.

Her turn to blush and look away. She decided not to answer that question, after all he was her employer and what she had just suggested would be considered scandalous in Ballarat. Maybe the medication Lucien had given her had loosened her tongue? Was this what she really was thinking, or wanting her life to be? Jean was so embarrassed and her blushing was increasing very quickly. And yes, Lucien was still looking at her and noticing her face and her neck continue to brighten. They were nearly a matched pair of blushing - - -

Jean was finished eating and the tea pot was empty. She started to get up from the table, but Lucien asked her to stay. “Jean, I have something to ask you, please sit down.” Seeing her lower lip start to quiver, he hurried with his news: “I am not leaving Ballarat immediately after my Father’s death. I intend to stay for a while and take over my father’s practice. I want you to stay, I really do, but understand if you have another position lined up. With all of the trouble I caused you in the first few days I was back, I imagine you have thought seriously about leaving. I have caused you such stress. I really have been a pain in your neck. I want you to stay – because you want to. But Jean, I really need you to stay and help me. Jean, I will be on my best behavior for you. I want your neck to stop hurting. Did any of that make sense to you Jean? Please tell me some of it did.” Jean recognized that “lost little boy look” that Lucien got on occasion. It seemed so hard for him to verbalize what he was thinking, what he was wanting to happen.

Jean was quiet and Lucien just looked at her waiting for her response. Jean is going to leave me, I just know it, I don’t deserve her or to be happy, Lucien thought. What can I say to her to keep her in my life? I never thought I would be pleading with my father’s housekeeper to be a part of my life, I just did not.

Jean realized she was holding her breath, and finally let it out. The heat from her blushing was finally decreasing. Then, looking at Lucien, she answered, “Lucien, I thought you were going to sack me right now, I really did. After our first encounter, I just knew you would fire me. I did not appreciate you barging into my house, this house, drunk, belligerent, angry, and demanding. I told you what I thought many, many times and I am certain you could tell from my body language and eye brow movement – well, you have seen enough of it the last few days to know when I am upset with you, haven’t you? I told Thomas I would stay and I kept expecting you to fire me, and my neck just went crazy from all the – I guess not knowing what was going to happen between the two of us.”

“So, Lucien, you might stay awhile? You are right – I have thought about leaving and finding another position. As a matter of fact, the Royal Cross Hotel has an opening that I am looking into. But, um, well, um I think, um, I will stay here, for a little while. I don’t know if being a housekeeper is all that I want out of life, now. With my boys grown up, I can, for the first time, think about what I want. In the short term, since we are both staying, we will have to talk about some items for the house, like a new sweeper, and there are some repairs that need to be completed, and about the household account at the bank. I am keeping my flowers and want to grow begonias. And will each day be as confusing as the last ones have been? Will Danny and Mattie be staying as well?”

Lucien just looked at Jean, trying to catch her breath after the barrage of questions and responses, replied “I will start with the last question, Jean. Both Danny and Mattie said they would stay, so it would be the four of us. Would that be alright with you, Jean?” “Yes, it would, Lucien. I would like that very much.” “Jean, about the rest of your questions, we will talk about tomorrow, alright?”

“Yes, talking about those question tomorrow is fine, but there is something else we need to talk about now, Lucien. Your drinking. You have to drink less whisky. I am not saying you need to stop but please, just less than the first couple of days,” Jean told him.

He grinned back at her and said, “Jean, there are few consolations in life. Good whisky is one of the few.” Jean quickly replied, raising her eyebrow at Lucien, “That may be what you think, but whisky is not the answer to all your troubles.”

“Jean, I know that and I am not drinking as much. I am certain you already know, as you check the levels in the bottles each morning, don’t you? But did you know that I nearly pickled myself on the voyage back to Sydney. I was so uncertain about coming back, seeing my father, and I just drank and drank. And when I arrived in Ballarat, I was as hungover as I have ever been. That will not happen again, I promise you, Jean.”

Jean started to get up from the table. Lucien asked her “Just where do you think you are going, Jean Beazley?” Jean replied, “To clean up the kitchen and then to check on your father, Lucien, what else would I be doing? That is my job. That is what your father is paying me to do. I slept the day away, thanks to your medication, and did not help Thomas or you at all.”

Lucien looked at Jean and smiled and told her, “Jean, your job tonight is to go to bed – now – Doctor’s Orders. I will take care of the kitchen and my father tonight. No arguing, please. I will be up in 10 minutes to be certain you are in bed and check on you. Go!”

“But Lucien, I have been in bed all day. Why?” Jean said with a whine in her voice. “Remember our agreement, Jean?” “Yes, of course, Lucien, no arguing with my physician.” “Jean, I am still in doctor mode. You are arguing with me. Go – to – bed – now.”

Lucien’s tone of voice sounded like she thought Major Blake would use. He continued in that tone as he called out to Danny, “Danny, help your Auntie Jean up to her bedroom and make certain she does not fall, please.” Jean did not argue with him. She looked at him and he had a very satisfied look, even a smug look, on his face, as if he had won a game of chess – against her.

As Danny walked Jean walked up the stairs to her bedroom, Lucien thought about the many questions and requests from Jean – they would have to talk about all of them. Somehow, none of this bothered him; his boyhood home just seemed to be a warm, comforting place to settle for a while. Who would have thought? But Jean seemed so conflicted with what she was going to do and what she wanted in life. Could he be a part of her life? How did this all fit with his hunt for Mei Lin and Li? Should he just stop looking for them? Was it just false hope that he would ever find them? He hoped that Jean and he could work through all of this together. He did care for Jean, he did, he had to admit that to himself. These feelings – for his father’s housekeeper, soon to be his housekeeper, he hoped – were not what he expected to find on his return to Ballarat.

He would think about all of this as he spent the evening with his father. He checked on his father’s condition and found him to be little changed from the morning. He asked Mattie to cover for him for 20 minutes while he went up to check on Jean. Lucien picked up his stethoscope and headed up the stairs. When he got to her bedroom door, he noticed it was slightly open, lights out and Jean was on her side, her arms were outside the covers. Danny had placed a glass of water on her nightstand. Lucien entered the room quietly, and noticed the pink curtains and flowery wallpaper, and Jean’s clothes folded neatly on the chair. The room smelled of his Jean’s perfume. This was the first time he had been in this room, now Jean’s room, since his childhood. His yellow sweater was folded up on her vanity. He went over to the bed and Jean reached for his hand. He sat down on the edge of the bed, took her hand, kissed it, and asked if she needed anything.

“Lucien, thank you for all of your help. I really did not feel well for days, but thought I could work through it myself. I was wrong. I can be so stubborn at times. I should have asked you for help, but I didn’t.”

“Jean, yes, you should have. I know you are not comfortable with me living in this house, yet. Asking me for help is the last thing you wanted to do, and I understand that, I truly do. As you know, I find it hard to ask for help as well. We are both very independent creatures – we think we can do it all ourselves. But here is the way I feel – anyone living under the Blake roof – I am responsible for your well-being – for you, Mattie, and Danny, as well as my father. That is just the way it is going to be, Jean. You need to tell me how you are feeling.” Jean posed a question to him, “And will you let us take care of you as well, Lucien?” “Jean, I find it hard to share, to confide, but with your help, I think I can learn, I certainly want to. Too many years by myself, confiding in the bottle.”

“Let me help you sit up. I want to listen to your chest and check your neck again. I still think you are dealing with exhaustion and not an infection.” As he listened to her back, she leaned into his chest and for some reason, put her arms around his neck and told him – ‘Thank you, Lucien’ – again. He then leaned her back a bit and listened to her chest. He smiled at her and said “You are most welcome, Jean. I still think no infection at this time.”

“Now, let’s get you settled in bed. Jean, can you close your eyes and go to sleep for me? I will sit here awhile, talk to you, and massage your neck and shoulders if you would like me to.”

“Lucien, please do that for me; my neck feels like it is tightening up again.” After about 10 minutes of work on her neck and shoulders, Jean started breathing deeply and was asleep. Lucien continued working on her neck for a few minutes more and when he got up, he leaned over and gave Jean a kiss on her cheek and told her ‘Goodnight Jean,’ before heading downstairs to take care of his father.

Lucien was with this father until 2 AM when Bill Hobart came into the bedroom to relieve him. “My shift now, Doc. Try to get some sleep, alright? How is Mrs. Beazley?” Lucien told Bill, “I think she is feeling better. Thank you, Bill for asking about Jean and watching my Father.” Lucien thought back to the first day he was in town and Bill was ready to pummel him. Things had calmed down between the two of them since he stopped drinking so much, Lucien thought to himself.

Before he went to his bedroom, he grabbed his stethoscope and walked up to check on Jean. When he opened her bedroom door, she was not in bed, but standing by the window, looking outside. Lucien knocked on the door gently and walked up to her. Jean had his yellow sweater around her shoulders. “Jean, are you alright?” “Lucien, I just went to the loo and have not gotten back into bed yet. I am not dizzy; my neck and shoulders are not tight like they were but are somewhat sore.”

Lucien stood behind her, placed his arms around her waist. Then he leaned into her neck and gently kissed her neck, first one side and then the other. “Lucien, what are you doing?” “Jean, I remember as a child, I wanted my mother to ‘Kiss a hurt, a boo-boo, and make it better.’ So many times, I thought her touch did. Maybe I am trying to make your neck better, to help you, to make certain that you know I am going to stay here, in Ballarat, with you. Let’s get you into bed and I will see what is going on with your neck and shoulders, alright?”

Lucien helped her sit on the bed and then before she lay down, he took his sweater off her and told her he needed another listen to her back and chest. “Lucien, I am not congested, my throat is not sore, and I do not have a fever – I do not have an infection – you are worrying too much about me.” “Jean, you told me I could be your physician, and I do not consider you in good health, yet. So, let me do my job, please.” Lucien checked her again and then helped her lay down. “Eyes closed, Jean Beazley. I do not want to see you downstairs until 8 AM at the earliest. Understood?”

“Lucien, I think my neck does feel better since you kissed it, not once but twice,” she said with a wicked grin and a giggle. “Jean Beazley, I think you are teasing me. Do I hear laughter coming from you? I did not know you could laugh. It sounds so good!” Lucien leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.

Then he began massaging her neck and shoulders. Jean was murmuring her pleasure at his touch, asking him not to stop. Jean knew she could get used to his hands on her neck and back; he really had the touch, at least for her. And maybe even his kisses could become – What in the world is happening between us? Then she thought, I am just the housekeeper, I am his employee. I am supposed to take care of Lucien, not the other way around. I am still so tired. I think Lucien was right – I do need to go back to bed and sleep some more. Jean fell asleep, with his hands still massaging her neck.

As Lucien left the room, he folded up his sweater, placed it on her vanity, looked back at his sleeping housekeeper and thought to himself, what is happening between us? She is so strong, sassy, fierce, and independent, and yes, so very stubborn. I love her for that, and I do think she is the reason I am staying, that I have sent for the rest of my belongings – but when do I tell her this? What will she say? I should have told her already, I know, I know.

Jean will box my ears, on occasion. I need that at times, I know that very well. Does she want to leave? Will she leave? I must keep the tension down between us – for Jean, her neck and me. She does not need another pain in the neck caused by me and my antics. Too much confusion for 2:30 in the morning, Lucien thought as he walked to his bedroom.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Lucien was sitting in the kitchen drinking tea, reading the Courier, and was within earshot of Jean and Mattie who were in the living room. They do not know that he can hear their conversation.

Mattie asks Jean “How are you feeling? What did you think of Lucien’s treatment approach? What about the conversation after supper? What do you think of him now?” Jean reached for Mattie’s hand and thought about how to answer her. “Mattie, where do I begin, so many questions. Lucien and you are of a different social class than Danny and me. You have parents who live in Melbourne and your father is a government minister. You have money and have never gone hungry. Lucien is going to inherit a house, a medical practice, a car, and money to spend on whatever he wants. You both have obtained an advanced education. I am a farmer’s widow, with a basic education, with two boys, one of whom has spent time in detention. I scrape by from week to week. I cannot even dream of Lucien seeing me as more than ‘just the housekeeper’ or his ‘employee’ and I know that. Ballarat society dictates that we will not be together, I know that as well.”

“Jean, I do not understand what you are saying. So, if you and Lucien really got interested in each other, you would not, let’s say go on a date, get engaged, get married – because of what exactly? What some society people think or say? So, Lucien would be marrying ‘below’ his place in society? Is that so bad if you love each other? Well, I think that is just so old fashioned. After all, it is nearly the 1960’s. If I found someone I loved, I don’t care what anyone says. I want to be with them.”

“Mattie, what if your parents were telling you not to get involved with that person? What would you do? What if they told you they would cut you off from the family if you married that person? Now, of course, it would be different for Lucien, but if no one came to his surgery, he would have no income. If he did want to practice medicine, he would probably leave Ballarat, sell the house. I would lose my job and I would find it very hard to live in Ballarat. What would I do, where would I go?” “Jean, would Lucien ask you to go with him?” “Mattie, I doubt that very much.”

“Jean, I need to think about this. This ‘society’ thing is more complicated than I imagined. Let’s get back to some my questions about Lucien and how you feel today.”

“Back to Lucien – you know I do not think he is content or even comfortable in his own skin. The drinking and the nightmares – those are so destructive. What is going on with him? Being pretty much alone since he was just 10 years old certainly had a profound effect on him. His father sent him to boarding school without so much as a hug. On to Scotland for medical training by himself. When he came back 20 years ago, he left again, by himself. I know he was a POW for over three years. I think that may be driving his excessive drinking. His return to Ballarat has to be so conflicted and complicated, finding me here in his boyhood home, telling him what I think of his drinking, his behavior -- Oh Mattie, why hasn’t he sacked me? Sometimes I am so sassy with him. But you know in the few days he has been here, he has changed a little bit, don’t you think? Being around the three of us and Matthew has to be so, so strange for him.”

“As far as Lucien being a good physician, I found him to be patient, kind, and thoughtful, but so very unconventional. Do you know he came to my bedroom and spent at least 20 minutes talking to me and massaging my neck last night? And then he came back again in the middle of the night to check on me. I also think he read me pretty good; I was not telling him the truth about how I felt initially and he knew it. And I still do not why I told all of those personal things last night. I felt so comfortable talking to him. But other times, I don’t think he even knows I am alive.”

“All of this is so complicated, Mattie. I am still trying to figure out the ‘Lucien’ that the Army told Matthew about and the ‘Lucien’ that is living here now with us. This cannot be the same person, Mattie, it just cannot be.”

At that point in their conversation, Lucien walked into the living room and interrupted Jean and Mattie. “Jean, when are you going to cut my hair? You told me you would last night, remember? Now is a good time for me, how about you?” Lucien asked her. “Let me get the scissors, a comb, a mirror, and a sheet and I will meet you in the sunroom. That way I can show you my flowers,” Jean replied.

Once in the sunroom, Jean draped a sheet around Lucien and then asked him “How short do you want your hair?” “Whatever you think would look good, is fine with me,” Lucien responded. “Why would you trust my opinion on this?” Jean asked, looking at the length of his hair. “You told me I needed a haircut yesterday, so I figure you have an idea of what the length should be, right?” Lucien replied, smiling at Jean.

As Jean cut his hair, he continued talking. “Jean, I do know you are alive and I do notice you, despite the fact you think I do not. And yes, I overheard all of your conversation with Mattie.” “Lucien Blake, all of it? You should have said something to us,” as Jean hit him on the shoulder with her comb. “Ouch, you hit me, Jean! Why should I tell you I was listening? That way I got an insight into the ‘sassy’ Jean Beazley!” Lucien quickly replied, ducking away from her comb, as she went after his shoulder again.

“Jean, class means nothing to me anymore. I do not care what the proper Ballarat society people think about the two of living together in this house, I really do not. I want you with me, living in this house, helping me – and the rest of Ballarat is just going to have to deal with it. Having money has afforded me many opportunities but has not made me very content, as you already know. But I am very happy here, in this house with you, Danny and Mattie – for the first time in I don’t know how long, Jean. I am delighted you are a part of my life. I am not going to sack you, Jean, I am not. Stop worrying about it. And I am going to do everything I can to help you and your neck feel better about me.”

Jean gave him the mirror and he told her some areas he wanted a bit shorter. She continued the haircut and he studied her flowers. “What are the names of these plants? When did you start growing them? What is the fire orange/red one outside? How do they survive the heat and cold here in Ballarat? Do you sit out here and read? Do we ever eat outside?” asked Lucien in a seemingly never ending list of questions. Jean told him she would walk him from flower to flower and tell him about each one, when they both had time.

Jean picked up the conversation, “But right now, I will tell you about the bright red plant outside; it is an Aloe spinosissima or Gold Tooth Aloe. I transplanted it from our farm when I started working for your father. It reminds me of Christopher and our life together. Sometimes I am happy I did it and other times it makes me so sad, I just sit out here and cry.” Lucien heard her sniffling and then crying. “Oh no, I did not mean to start crying now. Lucien, do not turn around; I will get my composure back in a minute,” Jean told him. She put her head on his back as she cried. He did not turn around and let her reclaim her dignity.

“Jean, can I turn and talk to you now?” he asked quietly. “Yes, I have stopped the tears and I may look dreadful, but I am - - -” she replied, still sniffling. Lucien pulled out his handkerchief and handed it to Jean. “Jean, we are both struggling with all of the changes in our lives in the last few weeks – my father getting desperately ill and my decision to come from Hong Kong and you wondering what will happen after my father passes and if I was going to sack you. And your neck reacting so strongly to the stress of my return. Can we agree on one thing – it is acceptable to cry, be angry, be frustrated, be confused, and also to be happy and maybe even laugh."

"I stormed into a situation here that I fully intended to destroy as soon as I walked in the front door. I decided to fire the housekeeper – you – the minute I left Hong Kong. On arrival, I tried my best to make life in this household as miserable as I was, as you well know. But the three of you and Matthew have circumvented my best laid, stupid plans. I am still reeling from what has happened the last week or so. I am so glad you are here. I know I am a challenge to live with. I am who I am. I live a very messy life. I am used to being by myself. I can hardly imagine how different my life is from my father’s. I hope we can make sense of our lives together. I do want us to be together, Jean, I do. I know you will tell me off when I need it – as you already have several times - and to encourage me to be the best version of me that I can be for you, Danny, Mattie and Matthew. And initially, you will probably need a pay increase for all of the extra work this could prove to be, and then maybe later, a different um,” Lucien told her, finally verbalizing so much he wanted to tell her earlier and could not.

“And Jean, what did you mean about the ‘Lucien’ that the Army told Matthew about?” Jean began telling him about the conversation with Matthew and Cec. “Lucien, a couple of days before you were to arrive in Ballarat, Matthew and Cec came with news, more like cautions about you. Matthew told me he was contacted by the Melbourne police and by a Major Derek Alderton of the Army in Canberra. They said you were an ex-Army intelligence operative who was quite volatile and angry after completing an assignment. You also drank heavily. You were ordered to kill two foreign agents and completed the assignments successfully. Matthew thinks you are well trained as an operative and could be quite dangerous. He also told me of his uneasiness about your return – for Mattie and me.”

“But Matthew wondered, how did the police and army know you were returning to Ballarat? Why were they ‘tracking’ your movements? Was it just because you were from the Far East or was there more going on than they told him? Matthew had not contacted the Melbourne or Army officials about your return. This is what Matthew and I were talking about the night I finally asked you for help. How much of this is true? False? Could I trust you? Would you hurt me? Get angry at me? I finally decided to ask you for help and then as you remember, I tried to back out – I just didn’t know what to think. But now, I know you are not that person.”

Jean could see Lucien getting angry and she looked at him and said with conviction, “Lucien, look at me. Now!” Reaching for his head and looking him in the eyes, Jean continued, “You are not that person. The way you helped me yesterday when I felt so poorly, I do not believe that you would deliberately hurt me. Please prove the Army and Derek wrong. Please, Lucien.”

Lucien told her, “Jean, I am not that man. And the police cars and random visits from the police are all a part of this, aren’t they?” “Yes Lucien, Matthew is concerned about me and Mattie – and also about you. At first, I know I was afraid of you because of what the Army told us and I know I struggled, for days, with asking you for help. The night Matthew talked to me outside, he was trying to convince me to ignore what they said, to trust you and let you help me,” Jean told him, reaching out to touch his hand. “I imagine you wondered why I kept telling you I was fine and then you could see I wasn’t. You were probably wondering about my sanity as well. I just did not know what to believe.”

“Jean, take my hand, walk with me, outside.” Jean removed the sheet from his shoulders, and they walked out from the sunroom, into the back yard and near the property line. Shrubs and bushes nearly concealed the both of them. He stood in front of Jean, held her hands, and placed his back towards the house. It was obvious they were having a serious conversation; no one could see Lucien’s face and he had blocked Jean’s face from view as well.

From the kitchen, Mattie and Matthew saw them walking into the yard. They walked to the sunroom and began watching them. As Matthew looked into the yard, he told Mattie, “I am going to go out there and be certain Jean is alright.” Mattie stopped him. “No, don’t Matthew. Look at Jean’s body language. She is not afraid, she is not trying to get away from Lucien, she is listening to whatever he is telling her. I think Lucien needs to talk with Jean, away from anyone hearing what he is telling her. He wants no eaves dropping.”

“You know, Mattie, I think you may be right. Whatever it is, he wants to share it with her and not with the rest of us, not even me. But I will stay here and watch until she is back in the house. I need to see that Jean is alright.” After about 20 minutes, Matthew saw Lucien reach for Jean’s face and kiss her. She stood tall and kissed him in return. She started to wipe her eyes and Lucien handed her his handkerchief, and then put his arm around her. Soon after, they began to walk back towards the house, holding hands and talking with each other.

As they approached the house, Matthew asked Jean, “Jean, are you alright? Do you need any help?” “Matthew, thank you for your concern, Lucien and I are both fine. We are headed to the Surgery so Lucien can be certain I am recovering - according to his schedule. Thank you for checking on me.”

Once in the Surgery, Lucien helped Jean up on the examination table. It was very obvious that her neck and shoulders were less tense. Dark circles were still very prominent under her eyes. “Jean, I want to draw blood for basic tests, check your blood pressure, throat, pulse and your neck. Will you let me do that?” Lucien asked her. “Lucien, I won’t argue with you the way I did yesterday. If you think it is important, please do it. I just don’t want to watch you take blood from me,” Jean said. Mattie was going to work and would run the samples by the hospital lab to be processed. “And Jean, thank you for the haircut. I do look more presentable, don’t I?” Jean smiled her response and thought to herself he was quite the handsome man indeed. And he was living in the house with her and her job was to take care of him, if he would let her.

After Lucien completed his medical check of Jean, she continued their conversation, “Lucien, I have something to ask you,” as Jean pulled a slip of yellowing paper out of her apron pocket. “For years, your father compounded a lotion for my hands and it really did wonders for them,” Jean started to tell him, as he picked up her hands and looked carefully at them and then felt them. “But the last time he tried to order the components of it, they were not being made any longer. He became ill and I just did not pursue it.” Lucien, still holding her hands, picked up the flow of the request, “And your hands are very rough now and we need to figure out a replacement, right? Let me see the paper with the ingredients.” Jean gave him the paper, and he discovered that the script was written by his father and it was for his mother. “Jean, no wonder, you could not find the components -- this is over 40 years old. I will think about replacements we can easily order. Can I keep this paper?” Jean looked at him, and said, “If I can have it back. It is very special to me.” Lucien said, smiling, “It is special to me too. I guess if we both want it, we need to figure out a way to share it or we need to stay together, right?” Jean started blushing and Lucien reached over to her and gave her a hug and kissed her cheek.

“Now, how about letting me massage your neck and shoulders? We need to get the muscles to settle down.” Jean looked at him and said, “Yes, please do. Last night each time you touched my neck and shoulders, I fell asleep. Please, don’t let me do that this morning, alright?” Jean told Lucien with a smile on her face. Lucien helped her take off her blouse and then Jean stretched out on the examination table. He began massaging her neck and shoulders, which were tightening up again. “Jean, tell me about the ‘Thomas, I will take care of your boy. I told you I will do that for you –You know I will.’ agreement that you made with my father. When did you make this agreement? What does it mean, Jean?”

“Your father does love you, Lucien, he always has, and I know how hard that must be for you to accept or believe. A few weeks before we contacted you, Thomas asked me to stay on to help you, if you returned to Ballarat - but only if I could get along with you. At this point, you have come back to town, and I will stay. I am still deciding on whether this job makes sense for me long term. Is this all I want out of life - to be a housekeeper? I will stay with you, in the house, until Thomas passes, unless you fire me. As you know, I keep thinking you are going to do that. I have been very outspoken at times to you.” “Jean, what about the third part - getting along with me? Have you figured that part out yet? Jean, I told you I am not going to fire you. If you leave this house, it is your decision, of course, but I will be terribly disappointed and saddened if you do leave. I do want you to stay. I do want us to get along. I do not want to be a pain in your neck like I am now. I don’t care what the gossip mill says about us.” “But Lucien, I do care about your reputation in this town, about your Father’s medical practice, and the whispers do hurt me – I do not have the armor on that you have.”

Lucien helped Jean get up from the table, helped put her blouse back on and gave her a hug and kissed her hands. “Please Jean, let’s keep talking about our situation – no decisions without talking to each other, please. Does your neck feel better now?” “Lucien, my neck does feel much better. And yes, I will keep talking to you. Thank you for helping me, again. And I am trying to get along with you. You are easier to live with now than the first few days you were home. Those days were so stressful, Lucien. I don’t think I can deal with much more of that.” “Jean, you will not have to - I am going to be on my best behavior to keep you in my life. I want you in my life, I truly do.”

With Jean feeling better, the Blake household settled into a routine. Lucien’s time was spent having Surgery hours, sitting with his father, and talking with Jean. The heavy case load of sore throats, congestion, and flu cases gave way to seeing Thomas’ regular patients and talking with them. Every night he did case notes, stayed caught up with his reading in his medical journals, and drank in moderation. Jean prepared meals for everyone, sat with Thomas, did some repair work on Matthew and Danny's clothing, and chatted with Lucien and Mattie. Her neck continued to feel better and she resumed the 'stress relieving exercises' that Thomas suggested years ago.

Mattie brought the results of Jean’s bloods a couple of days later. Lucien studied them and decided there was really nothing dire going on with her, just dead tired, of taking care of Thomas, the house and yes, him and his antics. He shook his head; he could make anyone sick.

He called Jean into the Surgery and they went over her results; he explained each value to her and even pulled out a medical book and showed her what the blood cells looked like and the range of acceptable values. “Lucien, Dr. King has never shown me my lab results like this and never spent this much time with me explaining them. Thank you.” Jean told him. Lucien, smiled at her, and said, “Jean, you are most welcome. Now, let’s work on your neck and shoulders again, alright? I think you doing better but I would like to confirm it.”

Later in the afternoon, Jean went to Thomas’s room for her shift with him. She always talked, almost nonstop, to Thomas when she was in the room. She insisted that all of the caregivers talk to him. She read the Courier to him and then gossiped about what is going on in town. She also held his hand and her touch seemed to calm him. If Lucien was in the room, she tried to catch him up on 20 years of news, families, happenings in Ballarat.

That evening, seemingly out of nowhere, Lucien asked Jean, “Has the piano been tuned recently?” “Yes, Lucien, within the last few months. Thomas liked to play and he was quite good.” On top of the piano, were two pictures – one of Lucien’s mother and the other of Lucien, with blond curls, grinning, just a wee lad. Lucien sat down and started playing Maria from the current musical West Side Story. He was singing the first verse and Jean interrupted him. “Lucien, I quite like that; I have heard it on the wireless. It is very popular now, isn’t it?” Lucien looked at her and said, “Yes, it is – do you know the first verse too? Sing with me Jean.” Jean stood behind him and placed her hands on his broad shoulders and then around his neck, leaned over him and kissed his neck. Their voices harmonized very nicely and they both enjoyed their impromptu duet. Then she moved to where they could look at each other and Lucien said to Jean, “Here is one I am certain you want to sing to me” – and started playing I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair from South Pacific. Lucien, laughing, told Jean “You want to do this to me, don’t you?” and sang the song again for her. She smiled at him and asked, “How do you know these? Where did you learn them?”

"With two weeks of forced relaxation on the ship coming to Australia, I listened to the ship’s band almost every night. I pick up rhythm easily because I play the drums; melody comes from my Mother’s piano lessons. My father never approved of my drum playing – I played drums when I was in Berlin and he never heard how good I was.” Lucien slammed his hands on the piano keys. Jean could sense how hurt he was, even so many decades later.

The next day, Doug Ashby spent the afternoon with Thomas. He talked old cases with Thomas and Lucien listened in after the Surgery hours were over. A phone call from Matthew interrupted their conversation. Matthew wanted to talk with Doug and Lucien handed him the phone. Doug saw Jean walking down the hall and said, “Jean, what is for supper tonight? Can I eat with you?” Jean looked at him and said of course you can. “We are going to have chook and three veg. I was also going to make a dessert. What would you like?” Lucien, at first, did not think much of it. But when Jean told him that Danny was busy with a case and would be home much later and miss supper, Lucien was suspect. So why was Doug staying? He had not eaten with them before. He thought Doug was responsible for putting Jean’s youngest son in detention. He would have to ask her. How could Jean be so civil to Doug? So, Matthew still does not trust me, in the house with Mattie and Jean. When is this going to end?

During supper, the conversation turned to Lucien’s mother Genevieve. Doug wanted to talk about her and shared several stories that Lucien had never heard or had forgotten. Doug finished his stories with a simple statement: “Your Father is a good man but we all loved your Mother.” Lucien filed that thought away to process it later; he just did not know what to say or think. He would first ask Jean what this was about.

After supper, Doug asked Lucien, Jean and Mattie about playing a game of Pontoon. “Lucien, do you remember how to play this card game?” Doug asked Lucien. “You bet I do.” replied Lucien. Mattie got the cards out and Jean cleared the table and the game begun. It was about 11 PM when Danny got home and shortly after that that Doug left. He gave Jean a hug and said something to her. As Lucien saw Doug out the front door, he again noticed a police car at the end of the driveway.

On his return to the kitchen, Lucien asked Jean about her relationship with Doug. “Doug sent my youngest boy, Jack, to detention in the late 1940’s and I have never forgiven him for it. But I realize that he had no choice, it was the law.” Her voice tailed off. “Thomas helped me deal with the police, as well as the emotional toll all of it had taken on me. You do remember that Doug and your father were colleagues at the Police Station and attended the Masonic Lodge, right? I try to be civil to him. I know he thought he was helping Jack -- but he didn’t, Lucien, he did not.”

Lucien stood by the kitchen sink just looking at her. “It seems to me you have more you want to talk about. What is it?” Jean asked him. “What did Doug mean when he said ‘We all loved your Mother?’”

“Lucien, you are just full of questions this evening, aren’t you,” Jean said, “Your Mother? Well, I would start by talking with Doug, Cec, Agnes and Nell. They all knew your Mother and they are contemporaries of her. They will fill in some of the holes for you. You also know that her studio has been shut since her death. I have never been in it. The key to the door is in the bottom drawer of your father’s desk in the Surgery. Is that all for tonight, Lucien?” I need to make certain Mattie and Thomas are alright and I am going to bed. He looked at her and smiled and said “Good Night, Jean.”

Lucien went into the Surgery and thought he would look up the files that Thomas had on Jean. What emotional difficulties did Thomas help Jean with? Was this scouring his Father’s records even ethical to do? Well, Jean was his patient recently and he should combine records, right? Maybe Thomas did not keep records on her. Maybe because she was on Dr. King’s list? He would soon find out. He got into the files and found 'Beazley, Jean Randall' and pulled the file out. Thomas had taken care of her when she was married, but there was very little beyond an occasional cold since she started working for him over a decade ago. Thomas had handled a miscarriage very early in the marriage, and in looking at the dates of care, it seemed that Jean and Christopher had to get married very quickly. Later, Thomas delivered her two boys, Christopher Jr. and Jack. Lucien added his case notes from Jean’s current illness to the old file. If Dr. King wanted an update, the notes were there.

Lucien felt for Jean, getting pregnant out of wedlock at just 19 years of age – Did she want to marry Christopher? Did her family force her to? That event certainly halted her chance at an education, pursuing any plans she might have had and set a lifetime of struggle and near poverty for her. Oh, Jean, how you have had to be a fighter just to survive. Certainly, Ballarat society would look down on her, probably for her entire lifetime, for just one liaison. He did not think he would discover this information about her; he needed to keep it close to his vest. She did not need to know that he knew. Really, it served him right for being so nosey about his housekeeper. Yes, he called her his housekeeper – what would Jean think of that? He knew what Ballarat hoity-toity society thought of the two of them living in the same house already.

The next evening, Jean took a plate of food to Mattie in Thomas’ room and Matthew, Danny, Lucien and she were eating supper in the kitchen. In the course of the conversation, Lucien said his nightmares were less now. Matthew, Danny, and Jean looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Lucien, seeing their gestures, asked, “What is going on?”

“Lucien, you are having one a night at least, but they are not as intense as the first week,” Matthew told him. “We are keeping a log of your nightmares and writing down the date, time, what we are doing to help you and then what is working and not working. So far, you have accepted our help, get up and come into the kitchen, talk and drink tea. No one has noted that you are drinking in response to the nightmare and you do not smell like booze when you get up in the morning. I think we are making a difference, at least I hope we are. What do you think Lucien?”

“I did not realize that I am an ‘experiment’ in progress. Can I see the log? I believe you, I do, I just want to see what I am doing. I have not hurt anyone, have I?” The log was filled in by all of Thomas’ nighttime caregivers. So, Lucien thought, it really was once a night at least. And everyone is helping me, even Bill Hobart.

“How are you three handling me?” Each of them explained their approach to his nightly screams and anxiety issues. Matthew said, “I knock on the bedroom door and yell ‘Major Blake, you are wanted immediately.’” Danny says, “I knock on the door and yell ‘Doc, we have a case to go to. Get up now.’” They both told him, “Once we get you up, we go into the kitchen and put the kettle on and talk until you calm down. You seem to settle down quicker now and go right back to sleep.” Lucien just shakes his head and tells them “Thank you for helping me, Matthew and Danny. Thank you.”

“What about you Jean? Are you ordering me around as well?” Lucien asks. She starts her answer, “My approach is different Lucien. I knock on the bedroom door and talk to you until you wake up. Then I sit on the edge of the bed and we hold hands and we talk until you fall back asleep. My problem with this is that after a while, I start falling asleep too. One of these nights, I am going to keel over into your bed and will be quite embarrassed - even mortified - in the morning.”

Lucien grins and says playfully, “Please, sleep with me, Jean! You have once before, remember. Mattie thinks we should.” “LUCIEN BLAKE! Goodness gracious. Wipe that thought out of your head. Now!” Jean is dumbstruck she told him that. And in front of Matthew and Danny no less, who were both grinning ear to ear and started laughing at the two of them. Jean blushed and looked away from all of them, very embarrassed, “You three – stop staring at me this very minute! And don’t you dare tell anyone about this conversation, understood!?” None of them could answer her because they were all laughing and chuckling. Once his laughter slowed down, Lucien told Jean, “Thank you, Jean. I do appreciate your help.”

Danny and Lucien pulled night duty with Thomas that night. Thomas’ breathing was more labored and difficult. About 2 AM, Danny woke Jean and Mattie up and told them they needed to come downstairs. Jean held Thomas’ right hand and talked to him. Mattie held his left hand and then grabbed Danny’s hand. Lucien was at the foot of the bed, beginning to realize all of the time he and his father had wasted. Well, this was the reason for the trip back to Ballarat and now it was upon him. He knew Jean would be devastated; he would focus on her care and well-being. He didn’t know what he would feel about his father’s passing, probably nothing.

Thomas took his last breath about 3 AM. Jean kept holding his hand and could feel the warmth draining away. It felt like a part of her life was fading away, draining away as well. Mattie and Danny said their goodbyes and left the room, leaving Jean and Lucien. Lucien came up to Jean and hugged her and gently pulled her hand out of Thomas’ hand. She began to shiver and he grabbed a blanket and wrapped her in it. Jean turned into Lucien’s chest, buried her face into him and wept for herself and for Lucien. Lucien held her tightly as she sobbed. He was not able to shed a tear for his father but his eyes were tearing for his Jean and how devastated she was.

Jean had arranged all of the final details. Lucien thanked her and Jean told him to thank your father. These were his choices. A service was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with Father Morton presiding, with burial in the Ballarat city cemetery. Lucien had not stepped foot in the church since he was a child and attended his mother’s services. He had long since given up on organized religion. He went to the funeral because Jean told him he needed to attend.

Chapter Text

After the internment, Jean, Danny and Mattie walked to Christopher’s marker. Jean begins talking to Christopher, “Christopher, Thomas has died and now the two most important men in my life are gone. I am at a crossroads. I am alone. Our boys are grown up and on their own. When we were 19, we married and now at 45, another fork in the road has presented itself.” Jean begins sniffling and both Mattie and Danny put their arms around her. Then they are all enveloped in a bear-hug embrace from Lucien. He looked over and saw the marker and immediately understood why they were comforting Jean.

The younger folk released Jean to Lucien and he stood behind her, with his arms around her waist. Jean was crying, but Lucien could not see her tears. Jean so hoped he stayed where he was. She told Lucien, “This is a double loss for me and a new chapter in my life is opening up. Do I stay in Ballarat or strike out on my own? Now is an opportunity that I had once before, when I was 19, and I chose a life with Christopher. With Christopher’s death, I had to keep my family together and did not have any choice. I need time to work through all of these feelings, Lucien.”

“I understand, Jean, and I want you to stay at the house, stay with me, while you work through this. I hope we can help each other come to good decisions. We are both at crossroads in our life.” Lucien walked Jean to the car and they drove home, to Lucien’s house now.

Three dozen people came over to the house after the service and offered condolences to Lucien. Jean kept an eye on him, the amount of whisky he consumed, and reminded him of names, professions, place in society. An occasional eyebrow gesture alerted him to be cautious around certain individuals – watch what you are saying – but many times he ignored her on purpose, she thought, and said some very pithy things. Many of the guests were trying to figure out the relationship between Jean and Lucien. Jean overheard the gossip and the whispers that she already knew had started.

After dinner, Lucien found Jean in the kitchen, preparing lunches for Danny and Mattie for the next day. Lucien asked her to sit down; he wanted to talk to her. “Jean, the last few days have been quite stressful – on all of us, especially you. I wanted to be certain that your neck and shoulders are not tightening up. Will you let me do that?”

“Lucien, I am not arguing with you anymore about my neck. I think you will find that I am not the tense knot of muscles that you found before, but I have –” Lucien picked up her hands, pulled her out of her chair and told her, “Jean, I thought we agreed to be truthful about your neck, right?” as he gently chided her. “We’ll go to the Surgery and I will work on your neck and shoulders now.”

Once in the Surgery, he helped her up onto the exam table and helped her remove her blouse and stretch out. He started slowly massaging her neck and gentle moans of relief started coming from her. “Don’t stop, Lucien, please.” “Jean, you need to let me know when your neck and shoulders are like this. Tell me, what did I do to cause it?”

“Lucien, why do you think you did anything this time? I think it is tied to your father’s passing. Lucien, I miss Thomas, I really do. He was so important to me. He treated me like an equal, like I was not in a different social class, like I had worth. We talked every evening – about everything. Sometimes we agreed with each other, other times we disagreed. We respected each other’s opinions. He asked me to have food for the police whenever they showed up – and then Lucien, to stay and participate in the discussions. I felt so – Oh Lucien, I do miss him. I am so sorry you did not know the man I did. And I am so disappointed that he did not know you.”

“Jean, tell me when these issues with your neck started,” Lucien asked as he continued finding tense muscles, but they were not as bad as the previous time Jean presented with her neck issues. At least my behavior is not the trigger, this time.

“Lucien, I remember very clearly – the day that the Army told me that Christopher was dead, had been dead for months and buried somewhere in the Solomon Islands. I was left with two little boys, so much to do on the farm, no money, no way to pay for any medical help. I just endured and plowed through, somehow we survived.” Jean shivered at the memories. Lucien leaned down and kissed her neck.

“Jean, thank you for telling me this. I would predict that Jack’s trouble with Doug Ashby would trigger it again, did it?” “Yes, Lucien, that is when your father helped me, not only with the police and the decision to put him in detention but also as well as working with me on my neck. He tried to help me develop some strategies to relieve tension. As you can easily feel, I am not very successful with ‘relieving tension’ am I?” “Well, Jean, it seems like you are not. But it is something we can work on, together, alright?”

“Jean, is your neck better? Should I continue?” “Yes, Lucien it is better, but don’t stop just yet.” “Are you going to fall asleep on me, Jean?” Lucien asked her as he bent down to kiss her neck again. “No, Lucien, not like the last time my neck was so sore.” After another ten minutes, Jean told him, “Alright, time to get up and back to work.” Lucien stopped, helped Jean sit up and she got dressed. He reached for her and drew her closer to him and hugged her, placing her head on his chest and his head rested on her hair. Jean started to say something and he realized she was just sputtering Ums, Ahs, Well, – She did not get a coherent thought out of her mouth, but she did not yell at him, just remained with her head resting on his chest, actually relaxing into him. After a minute or so, Lucien realized he was probably pushing the limit on the amount of time Jean would let him hold her, released her, kissed her on the cheek, smiled at her and said, “Jean, thank you for staying with me, making this home feel so welcoming.”

“Lucien, what is happening between us? How can we go from sparring, glaring at each other the first day you were in this house to now – enjoying each other’s company, a touch, a kiss, an embrace? I just do not understand.” “Neither do I, Jean. I am not going to try – I am just going to enjoy us.”

As Jean and Lucien walked back to the kitchen, Jean held his hand and kissed it. “Thank you, Lucien. My neck feels much better now. You may need to check it tomorrow as well.” “You think so, Jean?” He made tea for the two of them, Jean finished the lunches for Danny and Mattie, and they talked about what tomorrow would bring.

All of Blake household members went to bed early that night. About 2 AM, Jean, wearing her old pink housecoat, went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and was going up the steps to her bedroom when she heard the screams coming from Lucien’s room.

Jean went to his room, opened the door and met Lucien coming out. He shouted “Bloody Nightmare!” and appeared to be heading to his office to get a bottle of scotch from the desk drawer. “No, Lucien, you do not need any more to drink tonight. You had enough this afternoon. Come on, let’s get you back in bed and I will sit and talk with you. You know the drill, right?”

Lucien agreed, but only if the door was left open and the curtains pulled back so he could see outside. He told her he was feeling very claustrophobic and needed to sense that open space was around him. He got back into bed, laying on top of the duvet, and they started reviewing the day. Both began to relax into the rhythm of simple conversation, and after 20 minutes or so, Jean caught herself dozing and her head dropping. “Lucien, I am getting very sleepy and should return to my bedroom.”

Lucien quickly replied, “No, No, please Jean, don’t go. I am still not able to sleep; stay and keep talking, about anything, I don’t care what you say, just don’t go.” He reached out for her hand. She let him hold it, thinking this was just temporary, and he would let go of her.

Against her better judgment, Jean stayed, continued talking to Lucien, but was soon just mumbling, her eyes went shut and she fell over into his bed. Lucien realized she was asleep, helped her stretch out in the bed, covered her up, without waking her. He got an extra blanket from the closet, laid down on the top of the duvet, and covered himself up with the blanket. Just Jean’s close proximity was enough to relax him and he drifted off to sleep as well, holding her hand.

The next morning, Mattie and Danny came out of their rooms, and seeing Jean’s bedroom empty thought she was up cooking breakfast for the household. They reached the kitchen – but no Jean, no food prepared, and no kettle on. Mattie looked down the hallway and saw that Lucien’s bedroom door was wide open; approaching the open door, she peeked inside and discovered Jean and Lucien were both still sound asleep.

Danny and Mattie began fixing breakfast and put the kettle on. They had barely begun to talk about what was going on with Jean and Lucien when Matthew came in the back door. He wanted to check on the Blake household and eat breakfast with them.

“Where are Jean and Lucien? Why are you two cooking breakfast?” Matthew asked. Mattie rolled her eyes towards Lucien’s bedroom. Matthew rolled his eyes towards Lucien’s room in response to Mattie’s gesture. He grins and chuckles, “Really? No!” “But it is not like what you are thinking, Matthew. The door is wide open,” Mattie quickly replied.

“They are in the same bed, but Jean is under the duvet and Lucien is on top of it, covered in a blanket, and they are holding hands,” Mattie told him. Matthew grinned and asked, “What is that all about? A nightmare?” Mattie shrugged her shoulders in response. “Maybe?”

Danny and Mattie slipped out the backdoor for work so as not to awaken Jean and Lucien and Matthew continued eating, drinking tea, and reading the Courier. The smell of bacon drifting down the hall towards Lucien’s bedroom finally began to have an effect on Jean and Lucien. Lucien is awake first and then he feels Jean begin to move. Recognizing the bacon smell, she started to jump up and he put his arm on her and gently restrained her.

Matthew hears them talking and giggling. A smile crosses his face. Maybe Lucien and Jean can be happy. Who knows? Jean certainly deserves to be happy. Well, I could say the same for Lucien. Then he thinks – that bloody Army guy – Derek Alderton – did he tell me all of that dirt about Lucien to get him back in the fold, back into intelligence? Lucien spoke multiple languages, was looking for his wife and child in the Far East – a perfect cover. Damn him! He hoped Lucien was not going to leave. However, Matthew thought that Lucien needed to prove – to Jean and to him – that the Army is wrong in its analysis of his behavior – that he could control his anger, his drinking – and he better not hurt Jean.

“Jean, the first thing I need to know is how ‘mortified’ you are at waking up in the same bed with me.” Lucien looked at her, very pleased she was in his bed, for whatever the reason. “Well, my Jeannie, there is significant redness starting at your hair line, as he carefully pushed her curls back, then using an index finger he traced the redness, moving onto your face and down to your neck, even your ears, spreading rapidly into your upper chest. And now there is even more color, moving towards deep purple! I feel a rapid heartbeat too. Is that warmth I feel, the beginnings of a fever? I have never made this diagnosis of ‘being mortified’ before, Jean. My goodness look at that color of your right ear. He leaned in and gently kissed her purple ear. Are there any other symptoms you want to tell me about? Or perhaps show me? I am a doctor, sometimes I am your doctor, remember?” Lucien could not suppress his laughter any longer. Jean just glared at him.

“Lucien, stop looking at me this instant. This is so embarrassing! You are having entirely too much fun teasing me,” Jean told him, with a smile on her face, and then turned and hid her face in the pillow, breathing in his scent, feeling his body so close to hers. She could feel him breathing, his warmth and her breathing quickened – Oh my, Jean Mary Beazley – What on earth are you doing? thinking? she asked herself. You are a respectable widow, living in a household with a man (is he a widower, married?) a few years older than you are, and the gossip, the gossip this arrangement has already triggered. You let him hold you last night, in the Surgery. And this morning, he kissed you and you did not tell him to stop. Did you encourage him? Oh, my goodness gracious! And Lucien would still not let her get up. He had placed an arm around her waist and pulled her even closer to him.

Lucien gently turned her over, kissed her neck this time, and told her, “We’ll go into the kitchen together and I will explain what happened last night. I know Danny and Mattie will not gossip. You fell asleep first and I covered you up. I guess I should have carried you upstairs to your room but decided I would let you sleep here. I stayed in the bed with you and I probably should have slept on the couch, but I did not. Jean, nothing happened between us. And you need to know that I have not slept that well in years. I did not drink any whisky and I am getting up sober – thank you.”

Jean and Lucien reached the kitchen, looked in through the hatch, and there sat Matthew, looking at them with a smirk on his face. “We thought Danny and Mattie were cooking breakfast. How long have you been here?” Lucien sits down to tell Matthew about what really happened in ‘their half of a night spent together.’ He knows that Matthew will say nothing about this but will tease him for forever and a day. Jean gets their breakfast off of the stove, pours the tea, and just tells Matthew that last night’s sleeping arrangement was ‘Lucien’s Orders.’ Now they need to figure out the story they will tell Danny and Mattie.

“Matthew, are you ready to have your hand back?” “Lucien, it is about bloody time!” They all walked to the Surgery. Lucien unwrapped Matthew’s hand and when Jean and Matthew look at the injury, they are both amazed – Lucien had closed it up so well, you could hardly see where Matthew had torn up the top of his hand. “Let me remove the sutures and I will get you some medication to put on it to continue the healing and wrap it again so you remember that your hand is still on the mend.”

Jean looked at Lucien and told him “Quite impressive, Lucien.” “Jean and Matthew, I do good work, I really do. I am not the person who showed up here a couple of weeks ago. I really don’t not know who that bloke was,” Lucien told them, shaking his head.

Matthew told Lucien he had a question he needed to ask him and Jean. “Lucien, I am assuming you are staying on for a while, right? I need a Police Surgeon. I will leave the list of requirements so you can read it. Basically, you do autopsies, fill out death certificates, and assist me in the investigations. You cannot be arrested. You cannot be drinking alcohol when you are on call.”

Matthew continued, “Jean, Lucien will be called out any time of day or night and you need to be alright with this. I know you have a good idea since Thomas was a Police Surgeon. You already have an idea how much it can impact the household.”

Jean told Matthew she thought “Lucien needs more than the medical practice to keep him content. With the police cases, he would provide an expertise from years of intelligence work. He is a problem solver and I think he would be an incredibly good Police Surgeon. But he would probably make people mad at times. I am fully aware of the late nights, missed meals, and dirty clothes that would probably be involved in this. Please keep him safe, for me, Matthew.”

“Matthew, I will not be satisfied with simplistic explanations of cases. The evidence will lead where it does and it probably will not be in a straight line. I think I will fail spectacularly at times, and anger people, but my goal is to determine what happened to the deceased and to honor their life by finding out the truth. I think that people are genuinely worth fighting for. Is this approach alright with you? If not, tell me now.” Matthew said Ballarat had a new Police Surgeon and he would start the paperwork on the appointment.

Lucien, looking at Jean and Matthew, said “Um, while you are both here, I have something else to discuss, well, more like tell you – yes, tell you – I am expecting the rest of my belongings from Hong Kong to arrive in the next few weeks. There will be two large, heavy steamer trunks as well as some art work arriving and we need to figure out where to put all of it.” Jean and Matthew just looked at him.

Jean, raising an eyebrow at Lucien, asked him, “Just when did you send for the rest of your belongings?” Lucien, putting his hand behind his head, smoothing his hair down, replied, “Well, after the night when we had the household discussion about my nightmares. Jean, I just felt like I wanted, no like I needed to stay here in this house, my house now, with you. Despite all of the trouble I caused you, I felt welcome, I felt um –”

“Lucien Blake, that discussion was days ago. Why did you not say anything then? You should have let all of us know. Don’t we have the right to know?”

“Yes, Yes, you do. I realize that now, but I did not really find the ‘proper’ opportunity to tell you, Jean,” Lucien said, trying his best to get Jean to smile at him. “Please, do not be angry with me Jean. You just don’t realize how turbulent my life has been and how different it is here, with you. I like living with you, in this house, with Mattie and Danny, and I want to re-establish my friendship with Matthew.”

Lucien reached for Jean’s hand, kissed it and looked into her eyes. “Jean, chew on me all you want, do that eyebrow thing you do so well, but I know you cannot stay mad at me for very long. I am not leaving, I am staying. My belongings are on their way, and the bottom line is this, I want you to stay and for the two of us to be together.”

Chapter Text

After Matthew left for work, Jean told Lucien to sit down, she needed to talk with him. Lucien figured this conversation was coming – after all he had made a major decision about staying in Ballarat, sending for his belongings, and did not tell anyone. Didn’t tell Jean. Sat on the decision for days. My decision did involve more people than just me. Well, I have it coming – whatever Jean says, I need to consider it carefully. I just hope she is not changing her mind and leaving. I have no plan if she does, I don’t know what I will do, where I will go.

Jean looked at Lucien, her green eyes snapping, then spoke with a voice strong and confident, “Lucien Blake, what makes you think you can make such a major decision, that impacts us both, without discussing it with me, and then not telling me for days? I decided to stay in the house only because you were staying for ‘a while’ and then I assumed you would sell the house, and we would both be leaving. Do you realize that I can, for the first time in my life, go where ever I want, do whatever I want, be more than just the ‘housekeeper.’ And now, you, you are making my life so confusing and complicated, it seems like you are making decisions for us – not just yourself – but us. The other night when you held me, when I fell asleep in your bed – I am, oh, I just didn’t think anything like this was going to happen, maybe even keep me here in Ballarat. Lucien, my life is getting so confusing, it just is.” Jean continued looking at him, looking into his eyes, wanting to just shake him good, except it probably would do no good. Lucien was still used to making decisions, for himself only – but maybe he would listen to some of what she said.

Lucien was looking at Jean, staring back at him. I so hope this is not a return to our first day. Her look could certainly get his attention. “And Jean, you don’t know what you want to do? In reality, neither do I. Jean, I did make a decision that I am staying. And I was wrong to assume you would stay. That is not what I should have done. I know that now – you have made it very clear.”

“Jean, I did not expect anything to happen between us. As a matter of fact, when Matthew told me you were taking care of my father, I assumed you were an older lady ready to retire, not someone as young as you, as beautiful as you, as smart and talented and sassy as you are. Jean, I am delighted that you and I are finding our way from that dreadful first day encounter to what we have now. And I want to cultivate our relationship, work carefully on it. For a start, I cannot make decisions like sending for my belongings without a serious discussion with you. I do need to talk with you, let you know what I am thinking, feeling and I will make a much more concerted effort to do that. Jean, this is so hard for me but I am going to be more upfront with you. I must be – I do not want you to leave.”

“Lucien, I want more control over my life. For the first time ever, I have choices that I can make. I don’t know if --” Lucien reached for her hands, held them, “Jean, we both have to take our time making decisions – we are both dealing with my father’s death, in ways we probably don’t even understand yet. I am not making decisions for ‘us’ – I want you to know that. You stay here as long as makes sense to you.”

Jean stood up and looked at Lucien and started to leave and then turned around and said “Lucien, the last few weeks have been so difficult and stressful for both of us. I want you to know” – Lucien reached out for her and Jean let him hold her, comfort her – “I am glad you are staying. I just wanted to be included in the decision.” “And you should have, Jean, you should have.” Neither one wanted to end the embrace; they said nothing and just held each other.

Lucien made a pot of tea as Jean finished straightening up the kitchen. They began a conversation about the practical aspects of running the Blake household and medical practice. Jean told Lucien that the household account had Thomas and her name on it and now Lucien’s name needed to replace Thomas’ name. She had been paying herself, the household bills, and for the medical supplies from it. The bank only let her do this because Thomas was ill.

“Why can’t we just leave you as the only person on the household account? I don’t want to be an accountant; I hire someone to do the accounts for my Hong Kong practice,” Lucien said. “But the bankers do not think any woman can manage money without a man’s help,” she told him. He replied very quickly, “They do not know Jean Beazley, do they? Let’s go to the bank and fix the names on the household account as you suggested. But, I want you to stay in charge of the finances the way you are now. Jean, is that alright? I will pay you an additional ‘accountant’ wage if you do them for me. Tell me how much should I pay you.”

“Jean, do I put your salary in your bank account or do I give you cash? How much should I pay you? Do I pay you each week? How does this work?”

“Lucien, your father just gave me cash each week. To keep a bank account open, I would need £100 in it, at all times. I just don’t have that kind of extra money,” Jean told him, looking away from him and starting to get up.

“Jean, sit back down. I want you to open a savings or checking account in your name. That way you will have an account to put your pay into and always have some money. I will give you £400 to start it off, alright?” Lucien told her.

“Lucien, I do not need your – Lucien stopped Jean in mid-sentence by putting his hands on her shoulders. “Jean, Jean I am not giving you a handout. Considering all of the hours you have put in with my father the last few months, the additional responsibilities you have carried, I think that is just the beginning of what the Blake Household owes you. So, think about which type of account you want to open.”

“Lucien, we also need to go the meat market and get a roast, maybe a chicken, and then to the grocery for some items for the next few days. What would you like for supper? You know you can make suggestions about what we eat, right? I don’t know what your favorite meal is, what kind of dessert you prefer or the kind of biscuits you like – you seem to eat anything I put in front of you.”

Lucien then looked at Jean and smiled, patting his belly. “Well, Jean, I do like your cooking but I need to slow down on the desserts. My new suits are getting a bit tight around the waist already. There is one more stop I think we need to make. Your pink, soft, ratty, old housecoat may be warm but it looks like it is falling apart. Do you think you could find a new one? What store do we go to?” Jean looked at him, raised her eyebrow and Lucien thought very quickly, Oh my, bad idea, right? Got it. Leave it be – for now.

“But before we go into town, Jean, we need to go to the Surgery and prepare your new hand lotion. Everything has arrived and we need to compound it. I need you to tell me if the consistency of it is what you want. Let’s do it now.” As Lucien added the components and mixed them, he asked Jean, “What type of fragrance do you want to add?” He had several for her to choose from. Once the decisions were made, and he completed the lotion, he gently took off her wedding ring, laid it on the table, and put the lotion on her left hand. “The verdict? What do you think, Jean?” he asked, looking for her approval, like a small child would do. Jean felt her left hand and said, “This lotion is very nice, it is not too heavy and is not greasy. It feels different than the one your father made for me, but that would be expected, because the components are somewhat different, right? Thank you, Lucien. Thank you.” “I am delighted you asked me, Jean. Let’s put it on your right hand now,” Lucien suggested.

As Jean was rubbing her hands together, he transferred it to a container and labelled it for her. He typed the label – without thinking – ‘Jean Blake’s Special Hand Lotion’ and the date. Lucien handed it to Jean, she looked at it, and gave Lucien that eyebrow thing she did so effectively but he did not notice. Did he even know what he typed? He was writing down the amounts of each component, how he prepared it, and then gave the new script to Jean. “When you need more, we will compound it. If you want me to ‘tweak’ it next time, let me know, alright?” Jean held her new jar of hand lotion, smiled at him, and then took his hand and kissed it and kissed his cheek. Thank you, Lucien, her eyes told him.

Lucien had the surgery open late in the afternoon and Jean fixed roast and three veg for all of them. It was so strange not to have to check on Thomas. Jean thought that a part of her job had just disappeared but was replaced with a different one – managing Lucien, helping Lucien, organizing Lucien, training Lucien, as he tried to get the hang of living with people and not just striking out on his own. She did want to be with him, she knew that much already. Who would have thought based on the first couple days of his return? She certainly did not.

Danny and Lucien were called out that night. Jean asked them to stay safe and not to get too dirty. Lucien returned home about five hours later and found Jean, in that old pink housecoat, on the couch napping, with the wireless on, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest laying on top of her. She was surprised how gently he woke her up, with a touch to her shoulder. “Do I smell fresh biscuits?” Lucien asked. Jean said, “Yes, you do. Are you hungry?”

He sat on the edge of the couch and he pushed her curls away from her eyes. “What are you reading? Do you like mysteries? Why are you reading the play script? What films do you like?” They both had a tendency to ask a barrage of questions without letting the other one even answer one of them.

Jean started answering him. “I like mysteries – no particular author – just a good puzzle, with characters I care about. I am auditioning for the play, but since the Tyneman’s are sponsoring the season for the Ballarat Drama Group, I will not get the lead. Probably a male role, since there are few men who audition. Have you been to the Rex since you have returned? It is such a beautiful theater. I like Alfred Hitchcock’s films – the last one I screened was The Wrong Man. I am looking forward to screening Vertigo. And you asked for biscuits this afternoon – so I made you some. Let me know if you like them or want a different kind, next time.”

Lucien helped her sit up and noticed she had on that old housecoat. “Jean, this housecoat is so old. Can’t we get you a new one?” She looked at him, lifting that eyebrow, green eyes snapping, and said, “So, you want to get me a ‘sexy’ thing, right? Well, you need to realize the reason I wear this old thing – when your father was the police surgeon, there were police officers, all men of course, in and out of the house at all hours of the night. I did not want to be serving them sandwiches and tea in a ‘sexy’ thing, alright?” Practical Jean made perfect sense. So, Lucien reframed his question: “What if we – ah you – selected a new housecoat, similar to this one?” Jean smiled at him and said, “I will think about it. Let’s head to the kitchen for tea and biscuits.”

They had just made it into the kitchen and the back door opened and Matthew, Bill, and Danny came in. They all said in unison “Is the Blake kitchen open for sandwiches?” Jean looked at Lucien and said “Told you so!” She then told Lucien to get out plates and silverware; Danny was to make the tea and get tea cups out; Jean pulled out roast beef and corned beef, cheese, mustard, fresh tomato chutney from the Fridge. Matthew spotted the biscuits, quickly ate one and put the rest of them on the table. Bill got the bread out of the bread box. Lucien was still trying to figure out why all of them stopped by. They were all packing their service revolvers and did not take them off. They briefly told Jean what had happened and then it turned to simple conversation and eating.

As Matthew and Bill left by the back door, Matthew hugged Jean and talked softly to her – “Are you alright? Is Lucien angry? Has he started drinking?” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and left. They promptly went to the front door and Matthew let them back in the house. Danny said his goodnights but met Matthew and Bill in the hallway.

Lucien carried dishes to the sink where Jean was working and then pinned Jean there. “What is going on with you and Matthew? The cops are still here at all times of day and night. When is this going to stop? Tell me. Now.” He was not angry, but sounded confused and hurt.

Jean tried to move away from him but he prevented her movement. “Lucien, Step back, you are too close to me.” He put both hands in the air, took two steps back. Jean continued, “Matthew is still concerned about your post-operation volatility, drinking, and anger issues. This was your first call as the Police Surgeon. These are the issues that the army told us about. How would you react?”

Lucien shook his head and asked her, “Since the first two days I was back, have you felt uneasy being around me Jean?” Jean saw Matthew, Danny and Bill standing at the hatch listening, ready to help her if needed.

Lucien continued – “The Army wants me back in the field and I do not want to return to that life. They will say anything to complicate my return to civilian life in Ballarat. Was it Derek Alderton who talked to Matthew? Derek knows that I am a valuable operative – in the Far East looking for my wife and daughter, speak and write several languages, and have completed many covert assignments. The Army is trying their best to make me theirs again. I do not want to be that type of person ever again. Jean, Jean, I was ordered to kill two men – two men, and I did it. I did. I was trained to kill and I followed orders and I killed two men. Jean, I am a physician – I should be helping people, not killing them. I will not do that again – I will not be that person again. I think I can make a difference here, in Ballarat. At least I want to try. It would not surprise me if Derek shows up here in Ballarat and tries to convince me to return to the field.”

“Yes, I get angry, sometimes I drink too much, I speak before I think about things, like injustice, about the inhumanity I see in people. But you must understand, I would never ever hurt you, Jean. You have welcomed me into my father’s home and have already made me feel like I can contribute to this household. I know I have to be more considerate of you and our boarders, and I am really trying. I must control my drinking or I could drive you away; I do not want that to happen. I do not want you to leave. I want you to be with me, to help me, to be my friend and confidant, and hopefully, eventually much more. You do not know how long it has been since I have felt this welcome. I am staying and I hope you want to stay as well. This is more than my home, it is our home, now.”

“And Matthew and Bill and Danny – I know you are all standing behind me – go on home and go to bed – Jean and I will be alright. We are home, at last.”

Lucien, turned around quickly and with a commanding pitch to his voice and a physical bearing that Jean had not witnessed in him before, ordered: “Matthew, return the key to Our House, now. Danny, escort these police officers out and lock the doors to the house before you go upstairs.” The three police officers took Lucien’s orders and left the two of them standing in the kitchen. Lucien reached over to Jean and held her hand and kissed it and hugged her.

Lucien went to change into his sleeping clothes and get a blanket and returned to the living room. While he was changing clothes, Jean headed towards the living room, with a Sherry glass and a whisky glass. On his return, Lucien got the liquor. He jokingly said, “Doctor’s Orders, Jean.” He poured their drinks and noticed it was nearly 3 AM. They sat next to each other on the couch, covered in a blanket and began talking, something they had quickly grown fond of at the end of the day or when he needed it, the middle of the night. He put his arm around her so she could lean into him if she wanted.

Jean asked Lucien, “How did you know that Matthew, Bill and Danny were standing behind you?” “Pretty simple Jean, I watched your eyes.” Then they talked about the visit to the solicitor tomorrow to start the legal process for Lucien to inherit his father’s house, car, practice, and yes, money.

“Lucien, am I being ‘passed down’ to you as well? I am facing a decision that I must consider carefully – to stay or to leave. Maybe, if my position was retitled – I don’t want to be ‘just’ a housekeeper, because I am also a manager, an accountant, a problem solver – and then I am also a seamstress, baker, cook, flower specialist, chief purveyor of gossip for Ballarat – and then helping you get to bed after a night of drinking, dealing with you when you are a royal pain in the neck or lower – my list is getting so long. Lucien, do you even realize what I do for the medical practice and the household and you?”

“Jean, I know that we must talk about your position as my housekeeper. As you already know, I am not my father. My lifestyle is very different and I want you to have considerable input into what you want the position to be. I want you to stay and I will take your assistance in any way you think will work for you.”

Jean looked at Lucien, and thought to herself, my feelings for Lucien are getting more complicated and confusing each day. I like him, despite all of his issues; I really do. I need to tell him how I feel. When should I talk to him?

Very soon after finishing their drinks, Jean snuggled into Lucien’s chest, pulled the blanket around her neck, yawned and went asleep. Lucien looked at her, smiled and thought, well, how do I take that? Am I that boring? I had more to talk about, ask her, and I guess that conversation will be delayed until tomorrow. Jean is probably still bordering on exhaustion and staying up until nearly 4 AM is really not a good idea for her. As her occasional physician, I need to keep an eye on her medical needs. These last few weeks have taken a toll on my Jeannie. Now where did that term of endearment come from, Lucien wondered.

Lucien looked at Jean and thought about the last couple of weeks, how much he had changed and how much he had learned about her. She did so much for the household and the medical practice and especially for him. He was certain he did not need a ‘traditional’ housekeeper; he wanted lots of help in so many different areas. He would talk with Jean in the morning about the ‘housekeeper’ role and see if she would stay if she had input into exactly what she wanted to do for the Blake household, the kind of help he thought he wanted from her and in reality, the type of help she wanted from him.

And Lucien knew he was becoming closer to her. He wanted to be a part of her life. What was Jean feeling he wondered? I need to ask her. Neither one of us is very up front about how we feel, what our needs are – we both must learn to talk to each other, on a more regular basis. I think I nearly blew it with Jean when I delayed telling her about my belongings coming from Hong Kong. At least we cleared the air this morning on that.

Both Jean and I are struggling to ‘even out’ the direction of our lives. Maybe it will be together, maybe not, but whatever happens, I know that I have a friend who cares about me. I know I certainly care about Jean. We need to find a quiet time to talk, share our feelings. But it was so busy at the house, with all the comings and goings, to find the needed down time. Lucien thought about a trip – away from Ballarat – maybe we could talk then? With a huge yawn, he snuggled closer to Jean and fell asleep, quietly saying, “Good Night My Love.”

When Mattie discovered them at 6 AM on her way to work, they were both still asleep on the couch. Jean was cuddled up next to Lucien and they both looked content for the first time since Lucien had stormed into Ballarat.

About an hour later, Jean began to move around on the couch; she could not believe that they had fallen asleep sitting upright, covered in a blanket. I am tucked into Lucien’s side, as close as I can get to him. As she started to get up from the couch, Jean yelped and grabbed her neck. “Oh! Ouch! Ah! O my neck!” came in gasps and groans. Lucien woke up with a start and asked her what was wrong. Jean grimaced as she told him her neck was hurting. Lucien immediately slipped his hands under her robe and PJ top and felt her neck. She had a muscle in spasm – probably the same one from the other day – and he started pushing on it and rubbing it. Jean shrieked and pleaded with him to st– before she could finish the sentence, she realized he had worked much of the tension out of her neck and shoulder region. “Thank you – and please do not stop just yet.” She leaned her head into his chest, took a deep breath and let it out, as he continued massaging her neck and shoulders. Lucien could feel Jean’s tears falling onto his chest.

Lucien asked Jean “Getting better, Jean?” Trying to help Jean calm down, Lucien told her, “This is another new diagnosis for me. The other morning it was ‘being mortified’ and this morning it is ‘Sleeping with Lucien Radcliffe Blake causes a pain in my neck.’ Is your neck feeling any better, now? Once you are up, I will get you some medication from the surgery and we will alternate cold and heat on that area.”

“Jean, I apologize for my quick response. I just reacted to your distress. I am sorry I did not ask you if you wanted my help. I know I had my hands all over your neck and shoulders and I still do.” Jean suggested to Lucien, “Will you just stop apologizing for helping me?” “Really? Do you mean it Jeannie?” Lucien asked her. Jean noticed that silly grin on his face and the twinkle in his blue eyes. Why on earth was he calling her Jeannie?

“Lucien, you helped me and my neck appreciates it very, very much. We learned that I should not sleep sitting up on the couch, next to you, didn’t we? You do enjoy teasing me, don’t you? What about bubble and squeak for breakfast?”

“Yes, I do enjoy teasing you and your idea for breakfast sounds good. I am going to the surgery to get some medication for you and I will help you fix our breakfast. Then, I think I will write a short note for the Ballarat Medical Society on my two new ‘diagnostic’ discoveries. Want to help me, Jean?”

Chapter Text

“Oh, Jean, where are you?” Lucien called throughout the house. When Jean finally heard him calling her name, she told him “Out here, Lucien, in the sunroom. What do you need?” He found her elbow deep in her plants, working on transplanting some into larger containers. Lucien walked into the sunroom, admiring Jean’s plants and marveling at her green thumb.

“Jean, your plants are always so beautiful. I am so glad you want to work with them. It makes our house so very special. Thank you.” He walked up to her and put his arms around her waist and kissed her neck.

“Now, Jean, I have a question for you. Would you like to go with me to Melbourne? Since I am the Ballarat Police Surgeon now, I want to set up meetings with colleagues at the medical school and military hospital and then to chat with the police surgeon in Melbourne. I thought we could take the early morning train down to Melbourne and catch the late afternoon one back. You would have most of day to do what you wanted to. You would have some time away from Ballarat. No one would know you there. You would not have to think about the gossip and whispers that are all too common now.” He turned Jean around so he could look into her eyes.

Jean, looking at Lucien, asked him, “Are you certain this day trip is part of my job? When Thomas left for the day, I stayed here and cleaned the house, cooked, and did laundry. Having a day trip is not part of the job, Lucien.”

“Jean, I am not my father. I want you to have more say – more input – on what you want to do. I would like you to come with me. You need some down time from the last few months of my father’s illness and my return. Come with me, please.” Jean realized he was serious about offering her a day off. She took off her gardening gloves and focused on what he was saying.

“Lucien, don’t laugh at me, but a trip to Melbourne would be my first time out of Ballarat, ever. I have always been in the service of someone – Christopher, your father, my boys – I have not had a full day off to do anything by myself in such a long time. I would love to go. I will check your surgery schedule and find a day in the next week or so that is open and then check the train schedule. Thank you for including me in your plans,” Jean told him, as she reached towards his cheek to kiss him.

Lucien held her hands, smiled at her and then kissed her cheek, before holding her tightly to his chest. “Jean, thank you for going with me to Melbourne. I hope it is the first of many trips that we take, together. And I want to show you more than just Melbourne, I do.”

“Let me know the day that is open because I also want to get an appointment for legal advice – Jean, I need to find out what my legal options are about Mei Lin. I have searched for her since I got out of the POW camp. I need to know what I must do to – Jean, this is such a difficult decision – not knowing where she is, if she is – But I think it is time I found out what my legal options are. And you need to know whether I am married or a widower.”

On Wednesday, they each purchased a train ticket and boarded the train at 8 AM. Jean was all smiles and grabbed the window seat before Lucien even had a chance to ask her which seat she wanted. Everything was so new, interesting, different for Jean, she could hardly believe this was happening to her. Lucien read the morning Courier as the train made its way to Melbourne, occasionally looking over at Jean and smiling at her. Jean observed the countryside, as well as people-watched the other travelers, read a mystery novel, and returned Lucien’s smiles. Are we flirting with one another? We are both too old for that behavior she thought.

Before the train pulled into Melbourne, Lucien reached into his suitcoat pocket, pulled out his wallet and gave Jean some cash and told her that it was her ‘mad’ money. She tried to tell him no, but Lucien said, “Just take it and enjoy your day. I want you to be able to purchase what you want. Spend it, don’t spend it, it is yours.”

“Thank you, Lucien,” Jean told him, smiling at him. Should I have taken the additional cash he offered? Well, it will give me enough to get a new robe and some PJs and probably something else. I would not have been able to purchase all of those items without it. He is so – well, don’t try to figure it out now, just enjoy the day, she told herself.

Once they were in Melbourne, they agreed on a meeting time of 4 PM under the clocks. Lucien oriented her to the shopping area. “What are you going to do, Jean?” “Believe it not, Lucien, I am going buy a new housecoat, and then look for a book shop, do some window shopping, enjoy lunch.” He made certain she knew where he was going to be and she was off on her adventure.

After lunch, Jean was walking by a window that had displays of travel posters - trips by ship and plane, anywhere in the world you wanted to go. I am barely out of Ballarat a day and here I am plotting my great escape she thought. Once inside the business, Jean started talking with Margaret, a travel agent, and Jean introduced herself. Margaret’s first question to Jean was “Jean, do you have a passport?” “No, I don’t and I have never had one,” Jean replied, a bit embarrassed that she did not have the basic paperwork to travel out of Australia. “So, we need to get the paperwork started so you can go wherever you desire. I will give you the forms, and a list of what you need to include, and where to send the application.” Margaret informed her. “I have a friend who has a passport and it is going to expire in the next six months. Do you have paperwork for that – so I can take it to him?” Jean asked her. “Of course, I do. Let’s put all of this into a large envelope for you.

“Now, where do you want to go?” “Well, I would like to see Paris and London and Edinburgh and Dublin and truth be told, I have never been anywhere – how do I decide?” Margaret suggested Jean start looking at travel brochures and jot down ideas. She pointed to a table and chair and suggested she sit down and take her time looking at all of the trip brochures. She would answer all questions that Jean had.

As Jean was looking at the brochures, she spotted a flyer about a trip to the Solomon Islands – it was organized for families wanting to visit where their loved ones were buried. Margaret told her, “Jean, I went on that trip last summer. I found where my husband was buried. It was a difficult trip but it really helped me come to closure with his death. I needed to see where he was. If you know where your loved one is buried, then you can arrange to stay over on that island for four days and have plenty of time. That is what I did. It will take some investigation ahead of your trip. Jean, it is really worth thinking about. I would also recommend you take a good friend with you. It is not a trip to go on by yourself.”

“Margaret, thank you for all of the information. So much to think about. I will get the passport paperwork started soon. Do you have a business card that I can have?” Jean was overwhelmed with all that she had discovered. So much to think about.

As Jean walked out of the agency, Lucien emerged from the office next door. “Lucien, is this the office you needed to visit?” “Yes, it is, Jean. What are you doing, coming out of a travel agency? I thought you might still be shopping. Well, in a way I guess you are. Are we leaving on a trip? Where are we going? I will go anywhere with you. Just tell when and where,” he said with a boyish grin.

Lucien took Jean’s arm and guided her to a tea shop a few doors down. After they placed their order, Lucien asked Jean, “Tell me what you found, Jean. I want to know.” “Lucien, I asked about a passport for me. I do not have one. And I want one, I want to travel. And I asked about renewing yours, since it expires in the next six months.”

“Jean, I did not realize my passport will be expiring. How did you know that?” Lucien looked at her with an inquisitive look. “Lucien, that is what an excellent housekeeper does – takes care of her employer – who is forgetful,” Jean said with a silly smile. ‘Thank you, Jean, for taking care of me. I do need help, don’t I?” Jean replied, “That you do, Lucien Blake.”

“Lucien, I have information about Europe and the Solomon Islands. I asked you about taking me to Paris, remember. I would still like to go there, with you, I really would. But, um, you know that my Christopher is buried somewhere in the Solomons. I have all of the paperwork the Army gave me concerning his death and burial. Will you help me figure out what cemetery, what island? That might be my first trip, with my new passport. What do you think?”

“Jean, you have barely been out of Ballarat a day and you have quite a journey under consideration. Now, let me get this straight. If we figured out where Christopher is buried, you would undertake this journey – by yourself? I think we need to talk about this – it would a difficult trip for you, very emotional, very stressful – Jean, don’t take this wrong, I think this trip is a good idea and I think you could complete it. I also think someone should be along with you for moral support, someone to talk with each day, to unpack what you are feeling.”

“Lucien, I would like someone to go with me. I think you would be the right person. But that is such a strange request – asking you to visit the island where my husband Christopher is buried. You don’t know him, we barely know each other. But, you know, I don’t have enough money saved up to go anywhere, and I should pay for your ticket as well, so we are not going any time soon.”

“Jean, let me see the flyer. Let’s look at the departure dates. They are booking up to 18 months in advance, so we have time to get passports, save money, figure out what island Christopher is on. Jean, it would be my honor to go with you. I think it is an important trip not only for you, but for us. If we can both bring closure to our respective situations, I think that will help solidify our relationship.”

“Lucien, you would accompany me? I can think of no one other than you that would understand what this trip means to me. But I know it will be hard on you as well. Are you certain?” Jean looked at him, realizing how important he was becoming to her life, and she picked up his hand and gently kissed it, in public no less.

“Jean, we will make the trip, we will help each other get though the tough parts, be strong for each other – I know that will be the case. So, we need to start planning, doing our research, and getting our money together. I remember when we talked about my nightmares, that you told me in the Blake Household, we help each other, make each day easier than it would be if we were alone. That is the way I look at this trip.”

By 4 PM, Jean and Lucien were walking back towards the depot, he was carrying her purchases. “Lucien, I did find a robe and PJs that I liked. But they are not ‘sexy’ – I am not quite ready for that yet. Thank you for letting me come with you. This day was such fun,” Jean hurriedly told him.

They walked over to the depot to check in for the return trip to Ballarat. However, they were told a freight train had derailed on the line and the passenger train was cancelled. The agent did not know how long it would take to repair the line. He also told them they had just missed the last bus to Ballarat.

Lucien and Jean just stared at each other in disbelief. “Lucien, what are we going to do?” “Jean, I think our Melbourne trip has just turned into an adventure. Let’s just enjoy it.”

Lucien pointed to the hotel across the street and they walked over to it and went into the lobby. Lucien asked if there were any rooms for the evening and was told no rooms, but the Suite was available. He told the clerk we will take it and signed into the hotel as Dr. and Mrs. Blake. Now, how was he going to tell Jean what he had just done? He thought he would just ask Jean for her forgiveness instead of her permission. He asked the concierge about getting two tickets to the Shakespeare play As You Like It that was being performed at the theatre nearby. He was told to check with him on their way out to dinner.

Lucien was given the room key and the two of them took the lift to the Suite. Once inside, Jean just looked at the opulence of the room, then at Lucien and said, “We cannot stay here, Lucien. It must be so expensive.” Then she noticed that there were really two rooms – a sitting room with a couch, a large bedroom, with bath, and a beautiful view of Melbourne. She had no idea such hotel lodging existed. There would be a room for each of them to sleep in. She would take the couch.

“Lucien, is this really for us?” Jean was trying to figure out if she was delighted that he had made the decision for them or mad that he had not asked her about the cost. Lucien thought she would be so angry at him for booking the Suite for the night. As a matter of fact, she had not given him the eyebrow thing at all and she seemed to be enjoying their adventure. Lucien, smiling at Jean, told her, “Let’s just enjoy ourselves, a chance to go out for dinner and perhaps see the Shakespeare at the theatre or a film at the cinema. Don’t you think we deserve this? I certainly do.”

Lucien called Matthew and told him about the train derailment, and Matthew said he had heard the line would be down for several days. Matthew told him that Danny could come to Melbourne tomorrow and pick them up about noon. His final comment to Lucien was, “Take Jean to dinner alright? Where should Danny meet you?” Lucien told him the name of the hotel and gave him the address. And then finished with a request, “Oh Matthew, ask Mattie to reschedule my surgery hours for tomorrow to start at 4 PM will you? Thank you.”

Lucien told Jean about the plans for tomorrow and then proposed, “Let’s go shopping to get me a dressing gown. Do you need to buy anything else for tonight? I want to get a toothbrush and some toothpaste too. Let’s make that run and look for a nice restaurant for dinner. I will ask about theatre tickets as well.”

Jean was smiling at him and told him to let her get her coat and purse. As they exited the hotel, Lucien checked on the Shakespeare tickets and was told two were reserved for him with a curtain at 8 PM. Hearing this good news, Jean said with a huge grin on her face, “I am going to the theatre, Lucien, do you believe that?” Lucien shook his head, smiled at Jean, and told her, “Yes, Jean, you are - and you are going with me, of all people.”

They found a men’s store and purchased Lucien a dressing gown and Jean picked out a new tie for him. They found a drug store for some other items and spotted an Italian Restaurant, near the theatre, for dinner.

After Jean and Lucien ordered dinner, he asked her, “When did my father ask you to work for him, Jean?” “Well, Lucien, that was years ago. Let me think about it. I do remember he asked me while he was driving me home from the hospital. He had put a cast on my left wrist and would not let me walk home by myself.” “Jean, what in the world did you do? How did my father get involved?”

“Lucien, I was rough housing with my boys, we were on a picnic, I tripped over one of them, fell, stopped my fall with my left hand. I thought I jammed my wrist, didn’t hear anything break, so I just put a bag of frozen veggies on it when we got home. By the next morning, it was really sore, swelling up, I remember that it hurt.”

“So, Jean, you went to see my father, then?” “Of course not Lucien, you know me better than that, right? My stubborn streak reared its ugly head, and I did not seek medical help. I did not have any extra money for that added expense. I had lost the farm and we had just moved into Ballarat. It was hand to mouth. I just hoped my wrist would be alright, in a few days.”

“I worked several days a week at the Tuck Shop at the boys’ school and your father was doing a health check a couple of days later. He asked for some lunch while he was there and I served him. He saw my swollen, multicolored wrist and asked me what I did. I told him I fell and it was still hurting, really hurting. I decided to let him look at it. When he checked my range of motion, I thought I would pass out. He could see how pale I was getting. Lucien, I still remember how much it hurt. He told me, he didn’t ask me, let’s go now - he gave me no choice. He took my hand, walked me to his car, drove to the hospital, got my wrist x-rayed, put it in a cast, gave me a bottle of pain meds, and drove me home.”

“Well, Jean, if I had known that you responded to an ‘order’ like that, I would have treated your neck sooner, without all of the arguing we went through,” Lucien told her with a grin on his face. “You know Lucien, I don’t know why I just let him help me like that, I did not have any money. He probably could tell the desperate situation I was in.”

“On the way home, he asked me what I earned at the Tuck Shop and then told me he would double it if I worked as his housekeeper and his receptionist. I told him right then I would. He said I could start the next day. And I did.”

“So, Lucien, I worked 8-6 for many years and then when my boys were gone, Christopher to the military and Jack in detention, I moved into the house. I had my pick of the upstairs bedrooms. I chose the one I am in now, he paid for some paint and wallpaper and I redecorated it. Made the curtains too. He told me the room had been empty for years.”

“Jean, did he tell you it was empty because I no longer used it as my bedroom. It was my room until my mother died and he sent me away.” “Lucien, I had no idea. My goodness, what did you think when you found out it was my room now?”

“I was somewhat taken aback, but it fits you so well now, the pink curtains, the wallpaper, your smell – It seems like it is yours, not the rough and tumble Lucien Blake who used to sleep there.”

“Jean, want some dessert to finish off our meal?” “Do we have time, Lucien? If you think we do, I would like to split an order of the panna cotta.” “Yes, let’s try that. We will make time.”

“Jean, thank you for telling me how you started working for my father. I am delighted you were still with him when I finally returned to Ballarat. I am so glad you were not the older lady I assumed you were. Let me pay the tab. I think we need to get going or we will be late for our play.” They made it to the play but just five minutes before the curtain.

Chapter Text

It was nearly midnight when Jean and Lucien returned to the hotel. As they went to the Suite, he stopped by the front desk and ordered a sherry and whisky from room service.

They sat on the couch, drinking their nightcaps, and unpacked the events of their lengthy, unanticipated day. “Lucien, I have never in my life had a day like this, never in my wildest expectations did I think today would be like this, thank you, thank you so much.” Lucien looked at her and said tenderly, “With what you have been through with my father – and me – the last few weeks, you deserved it, needed it. I am so delighted that you enjoyed yourself. Now, show me what you purchased.”

Jean brought out the new robe, PJs, and a package of chocolate covered nuts. Lucien offered to cut the tags off the clothing, and silently slid the tags into his suit coat pocket. He complemented her on her clothing choices. But, his eyebrow lifted and a grin appeared on his face when he picked up the confectionary. “Jeannie, I did not know you had a chocolate fetish.”

“Lucien, your father gave me a box of these candies years ago, and I must admit I do like them.” Lucien picked one up and he nibbled on it. Jean exclaimed, “No, Lucien. You will not believe this. You eat them exactly the way Thomas would eat one.” “What?” he responded, as he realized that as a child he loved that sugary treat. “Thank you, Jean. I would never have recalled that memory,” as he licked the chocolate from his fingers. He reached for another chocolate nutty treat and she softly slapped his fingers. “Lucien, you are going to buy me some more of these tomorrow, right?” “Of course, my dearest Jeannie,” Lucien replied. Jean looked at him with that eyebrow thing he was used to seeing. Lucien just chuckled and pointed at her eyes.

“Jean, can I see your wrist? Did you break it, sprain it, do you remember?” As he held her wrist, did range of motion tests, felt it, he asked her “How long in the cast, Jean?” “Lucien, that is the funny part of the story. Initially, Thomas told me three weeks, and then when the day came to get it off, he told me he was too busy, remind him the next day. That went on for two weeks, before he had ‘time’ to remove it. I asked him if I had broken it. And he told me no, it was a bad sprain. I asked why I had a cast on my wrist? He told me that he knew if he had put my wrist in a simple wrap, I would try to use the hand too much and I would probably not give it a chance to heal properly. With a cast on my wrist, I had no choice but to behave myself.” Lucien chuckled, as he kissed her hand gently before he releasing it.

“That was a good approach – your wrist feels very stable. So do you think you would have rested your wrist if he had not put on the cast?” “Lucien, I doubt it very much. For the next few weeks, I had to do exercises at breakfast and dinner, and Thomas watched me. He could be a task master when I needed it.”

Jean went into the bedroom, removed her blouse and skirt, hung them in the closet, took off her undergarments and changed into the new pair of PJ’s she purchased as well as the new robe. When she came out, Lucien was looking at her and said, “The new robe is very practical – based on all of the ‘cops in the kitchen at 2 AM expecting sandwiches and tea.’ I like the color you chose. But one day, one day soon, I hope you will want to buy a very different style of night clothes.” Jean began to blush and Lucien headed to the bedroom to change clothes. He hung his suit coat, waistcoat, and shirt in the closet, put his tie in the suit coat pocket, took off his shoes and socks and then removed his trousers and put on his new dressing gown. He came back into the living area and found Jean looking at the lights of Melbourne, and mindlessly fingering her wedding ring.

“Lucien, can we talk?” Jean softly asked him. Lucien stood behind her, with his arms encircling her. He could feel her trembling. He gently kissed her neck.

Jean started telling Lucien what she was thinking – “Lucien, I ah I need to tell you what I ah I am feeling about us. This is so hard for me. I am just on a roller coaster of emotions and this day and evening have made everything so much more complicated and confusing. You know that I have been a widow for years. I have let no one get close to me, even pushed Matthew away. You crashed into my life, at a time when I very vulnerable – your father so ill; knowing you were going to fire me; then me feeling so poorly and asking you, of all people, for help; then sleeping with you, under strange circumstances albeit, three different times. This day was supposed to be so simple – shopping and a train ride home to Ballarat. And now, you have paid for this expensive room, bought me a fine dinner with wine, and paid for tickets to the theatre.”

“Lucien, I have strong feelings for you – the first time, for anyone. I had no hopes of this happening with you – I am your employee, I am your housekeeper. We are of very different social classes. You were so maddening when you returned to Ballarat.” Her voice caught in her throat as she turned and looked at him, a bit teary, lower lip quivering. “It has been – um, I know I did not feel this way about Christopher – Lucien, am I reading our relationship totally wrong?”

Lucien held her face in his hands and smiled. “Jean, I don’t think so. I have strong feelings for you as well. I know I tried to destroy the Blake household when I returned, and you stopped me, thankfully. Stumbling in drunk, cutting my leg, falling out of bed, not wanting to help with my father, I do not know why you even stayed – except loyalty to my father – it was most certainly not to me. But over the last few weeks, I realized if I am the best Lucien Blake I can be each day, I maybe, perhaps, I could ah have a friend and a partner in you, Jean Beazley – someone who enriches my life, who will tell me off when needed, who will listen to me unpack my day, someone I can love with all my heart. And I hope you can love me in return. I think you told me you could, right?”

Lucien continued, “Today was supposed to be simple. When it turned into an overnight trip, I took the opportunity to treat you to a fancy hotel room, dinner and the theater. You deserve to have the finer things in life. However, I did not expect that we would both be ready to share our feelings with each other. It is quite overwhelming, isn’t it?” Neither one could answer that question, as they collapsed into each other’s arms and held each other tightly.

Lucien and Jean walked to the couch and sat down, finished their nightcaps, and continued to chat. Lucien asked Jean, holding her hands, “Do you know when I begin to think differently about you? Do you have any idea?” “I don’t, Lucien, tell me,” Jean smiled at him. “Well, it was the morning that you cut my hair and we talked about your flowers and your life with Christopher, and I was relaxed for the first time around you. You came on like gangbusters at first, never missing the chance to make me think hard about what I was doing. But that morning was different, like I had become a different person in your eyes. What about you, Jean?” Lucien asked, reaching over and gently kissing her check.

“It was the evening that I was feeling so poorly, my neck was pounding, you and Matthew tried so hard to get me to ask for help, I got so stubborn and wouldn’t, and I finally gave in – asked you for help. My neck hurt, oh it hurt. You held me and did not let me walk away from you, did not let me change my mind. You were so patient with me, so caring, so gentle. I just never expected you to be that way. I felt like I could believe in you and trust you. I began to question what the Army major told Matthew about you.”

“Do you realize Lucien that if you had read your father’s letters, you would have known I lived in the house, that I was not an old lady serving as your father’s housekeeper, maybe you would have come back earlier, maybe we would have found each other sooner - but maybe we each needed to go through what we did, so that we are ready for each other now. What do you think?” “That is an interesting scenario to think about. At this point, I really have no answer for you, Jean.”

“But what I do know is this - it is 2 AM and we need to lie down. We are both running on fumes. We can continue talking and if we go to sleep, we will not be sitting upright on this couch. I remember the last time we tried that and your neck rebelled.”

Much to Lucien’s surprise, Jean agreed to lie down with him. They continued talking about their day, about what he learned at the hospital and with the Police Surgeon and about his legal situation. He promised Jean that he would get his marital situation sorted as fast as the courts would let him. Lucien pulled Jean close to his chest, held her tightly, kissed her cheek, her breathing deepened and soon she was asleep. Lucien thought that Jean was relaxed in his presence, enough to fall asleep the way she did or more likely, still desperately tired, but she certainly was not afraid of him. I am not going to be far behind her. He fell asleep as well.

Sometime during the night, Jean got up to use the loo. She realized she had been sleeping next to Lucien, under the sheets, in the bed. As she walked back to the bedroom, she looked at Lucien and then at the sitting room. Earlier that evening, she thought she would sleep on the couch and let him have the bedroom. She did not imagine that they would share how they felt about each other.

I think I made a decision that will change the direction of my life. It just happened tonight, right here in this room. Jean stood for several minutes, lower lip quivering, thinking about that complex man who had just recently stormed into her life. Lucien forced me to think long and hard about what I want out of life, making my life so interesting, yet so confusing.

Jean looked again at the sitting room – that is my life without Lucien. That is not what I want. When it came time to go to bed, I got into bed with Lucien. It just seemed like that choice was what I wanted to do. Being with Lucien – it is a challenging decision; he seems to be falling in love with me, me with him. I chose a life with someone who can be so maddening at times. Do I take a chance on Lucien? Should he take a chance on me? We are both bringing a good deal of 'baggage' into this relationship. After several minutes of standing there, thinking, shivering, Jean walked over to Lucien and realized that he had been watching her the entire time. He reached out for her.

“Jean, you fell asleep while we were talking. I covered us up. I do apologize for not asking you if you wanted to sleep on the couch. I wanted you in my bed, Jean, with me.”

“Lucien, will you hold me? I want to be with you and I have more questions for you – about us.”

Before she could ask him anything, he started talking, “Jean, I want you with me. I need you. I want you to remain as fierce, strong, sassy, and independent as you are now – I want you to be my best friend, and as soon as you are willing, to be my lover, be my wife. Now, what did you want to ask me?” Jean crawled into bed with him, buried her head in his chest, kissing his neck. “Jean, we will be alright, we will. We will make this work, I know we will.” Lucien whispered in her ear, as he held her tightly, never wanting to let her go. Soon after, they fell back asleep.

When they started waking up, sunlight was streaming into the room. Lucien, clad only in his shorts and singlet, had his back next to Jean’s face, she had her arm over his chest, and she thought, my goodness, what a physique and what a tan. He tried to turn over quickly to keep her from seeing his scars but she got a glimpse of the scarring on his shoulders.

“Lucien, what happened to you?” she said slowly to him. “No one told me you were beaten and tortured – like this.” Tears gathered in her eyes as she tried to be strong for him; she could see the tears gathering in his eyes as well. “This is the reason for the nightmares?” Jean hesitated to say any more but moved slowly over to Lucien, touched his face, held his hands in hers, and stared into his blue eyes. He smiled at her and she started kissing his face, stroking his beard. “My Jean, My Jean – I can’t believe you are still in my bed this morning! I do not deserve you.” “And Lucien, what is this?” she asked with a knowing smile on her face. “Well, Jean, either you were going to see my back or see how much I want you. I hope neither one of those discoveries will drive you away from me.”

“What are we going to do, Jean? Us – this is not what I expected when I came back to Ballarat. I do not want to mess this up. What do we do?” Jean, taking a deep breath, replied, “Lucien, I did not expect this either. But what I do know is this – I know that you are not going to be a passing fancy for me. I would like to spend more time with you, I really would. I want to get to know you better – it has only been a few weeks that you have been back at the Blake Household and we stared and glared at each other for the first couple of those weeks.” Lucien continued, “I too want to spend more time with you. We have learned so much in the last day about each other. Perhaps, spending time away from Ballarat, where both of us can be ourselves, enjoy each other, is something we must do. No gossip, no whispers to interfere with the two of us.”

“Lucien, do you think last night was our first date? Am I supposed to split the cost with you?” Lucien, with that silly grin of his and a teasing wink, told Jean “Well, Jean, as far as you paying me back for last evening, I propose we return to Melbourne, with plans to stay overnight, and then you can consider paying me back, but only if you want to.” “Lucien, I will need to get a proper nightie, won’t I,” Jean said, in an almost embarrassed response. “Yes, Jeannie, I think you might consider that.”

As they crawled out from under the covers, they embraced each other, entangled in the other’s arms and legs. Lucien, always the tease with Jean, asked her “Are you ‘mortified’ this morning, Jeannie?” Jean looked at him and replied “Do you see any purple or red color in my face, Lucien?” Lucien replied, “No, I do not, but let me keep looking at you. I bet I can trigger it.”

“Ah, Yes, Jean, I can and did and your face is turning red.” He kissed her on each cheek and then each hand. She could feel herself get even warmer and thought she must be purple by now. Why do I respond this way with him she asked herself? “Lucien, stop that. It is nearly 10 O’clock. Danny comes in just two hours. Let’s get up. For some reason, I am hungry. Do we have some time to do more shopping at the bookstore? You need to get me another box of candy, remember?”

They checked out of the hotel, found a small restaurant to have tea and toast, and then were off to a book store that they both wanted to visit and Lucien needed to purchase another box of candy. About noon, Danny drove up to the hotel entrance, and they piled their purchases into the boot and got in the car ready to head back to Ballarat and the Blake residence.

Danny seemed like their chauffeur – Lucien and Jean were sitting very close to one another in the back seat, with lots of quiet ongoing conversation, smiles, hand holding, and Lucien nibbling on her neck. Lucien told Danny “Just remember, you did not see or hear anything that happened in this back seat, right?” Danny replied, “Yes, Doc, I totally understand. Auntie Jean, I am so glad you are happy, you deserve it. Mattie is going to be so disappointed she did not get to come with me – I know she will not believe this!”

Chapter Text

Danny dropped Jean and Lucien off at the front door of the house and headed back to work. As they entered the house, Mattie called out, “Is that you, Jean and Lucien? You must tell me about your trip.” As she walked down the hallway to greet them, Mattie asked, “Was the play really good? Where did you eat? What did you do?” Lucien smiled at Mattie, gave her a hug, and answered her questions. “Yes, Italian, enjoyed ourselves. I need to get ready for my Surgery hours.”

“Jean, Jean, talk to me. Lucien is telling me nothing, really nothing, about your trip.” When Mattie saw Jean, she noticed a difference in Jean’s smile, the glance she gave Lucien, their lingering hand touching. “Mattie, leave Lucien be. I will talk to you. We had a very nice trip. He made contact with the Police Surgeon, hospital physicians, and I visited a Travel Agency to ask about a passport for me. That evening we had a very pleasant dinner, and then went to see As You Like It. It was a delightful evening.” “Jean, I think you reached an understanding with him, didn’t you? You did. You both seem so happy, his eyes are dancing when he looks at you and you are so relaxed. Since I started living here, I have not seen you like this. I like this version of Jean Beazley. When are you going back for another evening or two together?” “Mattie, when we decide I will let you know, alright? And no questions about what we did after the play, alright?”

Jean decided they would eat fish and chips that evening. With helping Lucien with his Surgery hours, she would have little time to fix dinner. After Lucien and Jean finished seeing his patients, Danny and Mattie joined them for dinner and conversation. They were nearly finished eating when the phone rang. Jean answered it and told both Danny and Lucien they were needed – a wreck on the south road outside of Ballarat, a possible fatality. Mattie and Jean finished eating, cleaned up the kitchen, and decided to sit in the sunroom, drinking some tea and talking.

Several hours later Matthew returned with Danny and Lucien; they all looked exhausted, perplexed, and of course hungry. “Jean, is there anything to eat?” “Of course, I have some sandwich meat and the trimmings – will that be enough? I also made some fresh biscuits for us. I will put the tea kettle on as well.”

“Lucien, why is this not just a wreck with someone being killed by the impact? I do not understand. I bet your father would say it was that and leave it be. Are you going to make my life difficult?” “Matthew, there was one occupant. We found the body in the back seat, right? How did he get there? If he was in the front seat, the driver’s seat, and this was a head-on wreck, which it what it looks like, why aren’t there injuries to the front of the body? How did he get to the back seat with injuries only on his back? The injuries are not typical of an auto wreck. I will do the autopsy in the morning and take x-rays and see what I can determine about the cause of death. Then, I will be either be right or I will be apologizing to you for misleading you and will owe you a bottle of Scotch.”

The next few days Lucien was involved with his patients or working on the case. Several evenings, Lucien and Danny came in just in time for dinner, both had dust on their clothes and were getting quite the suntan. Danny told Jean that the two of them were still working on the case – “Auntie Jean, it is a complicated case and Doc is teaching me how he does the investigation.”

Jean asked them to take off their shoes instead of tracking in dirt into her clean kitchen. “You are both so dusty and dirty. What are you two doing? Let me tell you what I think. You two are doing carpentry work – I can see the occasional splinter in each of your hands, Danny has a purple finger nail. Are you building something? What is it? Where?” Lucien just smiled at Jean and told her, “In time, Jean, in time. We are not ready to tell you, just yet. Don’t try to get Danny to tell you anything either. You are one observant gal, do you know that, Jean?”

After eating dinner, Lucien touched Danny’s arm, ”Let’s walk to the Surgery and talk. Mattie and Jean, sorry, this is guy talk only.” When they got to the Surgery and shut the door, Lucien began talking. “Danny, we need to get some paint. What color do you think would be best? Let’s not get too bold but I want something that Jean would like. What are some colors you think would be good? How much do we need? Will you get all of it, brushes, whatever we need? You know I have never painted anything other than a canvas.” “Doc, do you mean you have not painted like a room or the outside of a house? Your father didn’t let you help him paint? Of course not, I am sorry, I stumbled into that and did not intend to. Yes, I will get what we need and will store it at the station until we are ready to paint the inside and outside of the cabin. You need to find some old clothes to wear so you don’t ruin your good ones. Jean would be quite unhappy if you ruined your clothing. I think you might make a bloody mess painting the cabin, Doc,” Danny said with a grin. “And thank you for letting me help you with this project.” “Danny, I would not have started it without your help. How much money should I give you? Now, let me see your hand with the purple fingernail. Jean is so observant, I think I need to do something to it so she thinks that was what we were doing in here.”

As Lucien worked on Danny’s hand, he began a conversation, “Danny when did you learn to paint, be a carpenter?” “Doc, I worked as a painter the summer before I started working at the station. I am a good painter, but not so good as a carpenter – as you can see, I really missed the nail and hit my finger, didn’t I?” “I don’t think you broke it but let’s wrap it up so Jean won’t get too curious.” Lucien had just finished with Danny’s finger when Jean knocked and walked right into the Surgery. Mattie was just a step behind her. “Just what are you two doing in here? Too much quiet conversation for me, what are you two planning? Why are Mattie and I left out?” Lucien held Danny’s hand up and said, “See. That is what we were doing. I had to convince Danny to let me treat his hand – he is a lot like his Auntie Jean in that regard.” Jean gave Lucien an inquisitive look, like I know you are telling tales, Lucien Blake, and then said, “Come on you lot, let’s get the cards out and play Pontoon.”

About a week after they returned from Melbourne, Jean was in the kitchen, preparing lunch. “Lucien, come here and sit down. You must talk to me.” Jean had that tone in her voice, and Lucien knew he was probably in the ‘doghouse’ about something he did, maybe didn’t do.

“What have I done to upset you, Jean? You know I am still learning to live with you, right?” Lucien replied, trying to figure out what triggered that tone from Jean.

Jean took his hands, sat him down, and simply said, “Talk to me now – please. You know we agreed to talk to each other, to help each other – Lucien you are nearly impossible to live with. In fact, I would classify you as a number one grouch. What is going on? Tell me.”

“Jean, I am sorry I have been in such a foul mood the last few days. It has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t. I should have been talking to you, but you know how hard asking for help can be, right? I think I am being stubborn, like someone we both know.” Jean looked at him and he knew he would not get away from her. He had to talk with her, as a matter of fact, he needed to talk with her. Should have a few days ago. “Alright, Um, Jean, my back – my back itches most of the time, I am trying not to scratch it but it is driving me nuts.”

Lucien reached for Jean’s hands, held them, and Jean could see Lucien formulating a question. “Ah, Jean, um will you help me make some more of your lotion and then would you be willing to apply it to my back? I hesitate to ask you because it is so scarred and I do not want to frighten you, but you have seen some of it already, right? I need someone, I would like it to be you, to look at it for me. Jean, I trust you with my back,” Lucien looked at Jean, almost pleading with her to help him.

“I will help you, Lucien, you know that. It has not been that long ago that I struggled with my neck, trying to ask you for help. We both need to be more open with each other, and remember each of us is here to help the other, to make life easier together, than by ourselves. But it can be so hard sometimes, can’t it Lucien?” Jean replied, putting her hands on his face, kissing his cheek. Lucien, put his hands over her hands, his eyes misty with tears, “Yes, Jean, it can be.”

“Jean, I ordered a large supply of components for your lotion earlier this week and they should be arriving today. Once they are here, we could compound the it. Then you tell me what my back looks like, apply the lotion and give me your best guess on whether this would be sufficient treatment to calm it down. If not, I think we may need to locate a physician in Melbourne to help me. I understand that a new treatment center will be opening soon at the Military Hospital. It is designed just for World War 2 POWs. They are hiring at least two new physicians, have grant money, and will focus on our physical injuries, like my back, and emotional injuries, like my nightmares. We could end up there if you think I need to.”

The package arrived just after Lucien and Jean finished eating lunch. They went to the Surgery and compounded the lotion. Lucien took off his suit coat, his waistcoat, untied his necktie, took off his shirt and singlet and stood near the exam table. Jean looked at his back, tearing up but telling herself you must be strong for him. He trusts you with his back, with his memories. In looking at the scars, she noticed the area around his waist would need attention as well. “Lucien, why don’t you take off your trousers and shoes too. Your waist line looks different than the rest of your back; it has an area that is really inflamed. Then you can stretch out on the table and I will cover your legs with a sheet. I think it would work better for me that way.”

She was not certain he wanted her to talk and she was not certain what she would sound like, so she started to apply the lotion, carefully and methodically. She slowly started rubbing it into his back and working from his shoulders to his waist. Lucien laid quietly for the most part, rarely talking to her, with an occasional flinch and twitch as she entered a new area of his back. Jean asked him, “Are you alright? Am I hurting you? Do you want me to stop?” He replied “Jean, you are so very careful with my back, your touch is comforting, gentle – it helps me relax. You are not hurting me and I know you would never deliberately hurt me. The scars have healed – it is the memories that are coming back.”

When she got to his waist, she pulled his shorts down so she could look closely at his waist line and then apply the lotion. “Jean, what are you doing?” Lucien, asked her, surprised at her actions. “I want to see your naked bum, Lucien! What do you think? Your waist is really inflamed, more so than the rest of your back, and I need to see it better, so I can tell you what it looks like. I will get you a hand mirror and let you look at it as well,” Jean replied, kissing his neck and then teasing him with several kisses on his bum. “Jean Beazley, just what are you doing? Here I thought you were going to behave yourself.” “Lucien, there was just too much bare skin to deny myself a good look, sorry,” as she chuckled knowing that she had a captive audience who could not get away from her.

When Jean had finished applying the lotion, Lucien got up from the table, looked at Jean, held her hands, and told her “You do not know how many times I have tried asking you to do this for me. I was so afraid I would scare you away; I do understand how terrible looking my back is. This task is certainly not in your job description, is it?” “No, it isn’t. I would put it in my ‘helping Lucien’ category,” Jean replied.

Jean asked him how often they should treat his back and he thought probably several times this week and then let’s see what you think after that. He had seamlessly transferred the care of his back to her. Jean looked at Lucien, “Do you mean I am in charge of your back?” He looked at her and nodded, “Please say yes, Jean.” Jean just gave him a hug – “Of course, but only with your help.”

“You will need to compound some more lotion because I used most of it on your back today. It was so dry; some areas around your waist were close to cracking. I will make you some undergarments, from a soft material, so your back can heal around your waist. I think it is being irritated, maybe rubbed, by the waist band of your shorts. I can see what material I already have and I could make you a trial set this afternoon. Would that be alright?” Lucien thanked her again for her willingness to help him.

“Lucien, before you get dressed, let me get a measuring tape and figure out what I want to do for the new undergarments. I will be right back.” Jean came back and Lucien stood in his shorts as she measured him from head to foot and wrote down numbers. “Jean, why so many measurements?” he asked her, with a puzzled look on his face. “Lucien, I may make you some other clothes one day – maybe a shirt for the beach or some shorts or some lounge pants,” Jean answered.

She asked him about a two-piece set, with a V-neck sleeveless shirt, how long?, one or two buttons to close at the neck, shorts with a button to close or perhaps a simple tie would be better, yes, a tie she decided, a button on the umh touching his lengthening cock in the process – “Lucien, what is he doing?” “Jean, you are being nasty!” – “how long for the shorts? Alright, let me see what I can come up with.” Lucien held Jean’s hands and said, with a mischievous grin, “Jean, we – me and him – like you, a lot. Did you know that?” “Lucien Blake, stop that, we are not by ourselves. I think Mattie is in the living room.”

“Jean, you can make clothes from scratch? You don’t need a what do you call it – yes, a pattern?” Lucien, asked her with a smile on this face for the first time in days. “Yes, I can and have done this for years. It is a way for me to earn extra money,” Jean told him, as she kissed his cheek and gave him a hug.

“Lucien, you must talk to me and tell me what is going on with you. I cannot read your mind.” Lucien reached out and held her by the arm and pulled her in, very close to him and hugged her and when he let her go, he kissed her on the lips. Jean’s eyes widened and she willingly returned the kiss, melting into his chest. “Lucien, when are you taking us back to Melbourne?” Jean asked with a silly grin. “I think it needs to be pretty soon, don’t you think Jeannie?”

“Lucien, I have another question. Will what we did today increase your nightmares? I cannot imagine what you went through and each area of your back must bring back memories that you thought were long ago buried.” “Jean, I guess tonight will be a test of your theory. I really have no idea,” Lucien replied, reaching for her hands to hold and caress and then to kiss. “Jean your hands are really soft and smooth now. I bet you will notice a difference in them with all of the lotion that you will be applying to my back.”

“Jean, I have something else to tell you. You are the first person in years to touch my back, to see it. I was so hesitant to ask you to help me. Thank you for making me talk to you. I have so much to share with you, most of it is good, but some of it may prove a bit challenging for you. I so hope you do not leave me over this.” “Lucien, why would I leave you? We have both lived for decades, and both of us have to learn to share and help each other. Just don’t think that you have the only baggage we need to unpack.”

“And one other thing before we go get tea. How is your neck? You have not said anything in a while, and that is either very good or you are not talking to me.” “Lucien, I think I am doing alright. But you will not be content with my ‘alright’ answer, will you? Go ahead and feel it. Tell me what you think.” “Sit down here and let me see.” As Lucien began to check her neck shoulders and back, Jean asked about his back. “Lucien, who helped you with your back in camp?” “Jean, a number of fellow POWs did their best with it. Some of them were young officers, who had no medical training, but apparently had strong stomachs. I can hardly imagine what it looked like initially. I think your neck and shoulders are doing good right now. I am delighted it has settled down, for now. Are you doing your exercises?” “Lucien, some days I remember to do them, and others I don’t.” “Let’s tie your exercises to my back treatment. That should help both of us remember you must do them or you will be one unhappy camper again. Agreed?”

Jean had picked up his dressing gown when she made the run for the measuring tape, handed it to him and gathered up his clothes to take to his bedroom. “Is this the first time you have treated a patient dressed only in your underwear, Lucien?” “Probably so, Jean. I guess there is a first time for everything, right? Let’s make some tea.” “Lucien, what are you and Danny making? repairing?” “Oh, Jean, that was clever, so clever. Slipping in a question, hoping I would spill the beans. I couldn’t possibly comment. But, can we talk about our trip?”

Jean and Lucien walked to the kitchen, holding hands. “Jean, I want to take you to Melbourne soon. I am looking at a beach cottage. Would you like that? Would you be embarrassed if someone saw my back? As you can hear from my questions, I am having second thoughts. Maybe a hotel makes more sense?” Lucien stumbled through his thinking process. Jean was all smiles and said “Let’s go, soon. Beach cottage, please. Let’s look at the Surgery schedule and clear out a couple of days just for us.”

Each night Lucien showed up in his dressing gown after dinner and Jean went to work on his back. Jean told Mattie and Danny what they were doing and that there had been improvement already. If either one wanted to talk to him, he was a captive audience for about an hour. They also talked about his nightmares. “Jean, the nightmares are no more vivid, maybe even less so, than before the work on my back began. Maybe, I am more settled now, with you helping me, being with me, the way we feel about each other. I do not know. I am not drinking myself to sleep. I never thought I would ever be able to say that. I know I brought a tremendous amount of baggage with me from the war, and perhaps, you and I are starting to unpack some of it. I certainly hope so.”

As Jean was getting more comfortable working on his back, she talked to him, just like she did with Thomas. “Lucien, I want to make you a beach shirt, maybe two, that would not irritate your back. We could find some soft material and I would design you a simple but practical shirt. I think a soft cotton material. I could find a crazy pattern or we could go with a more conservative pattern. I think you are more conservative, right? We could get swimming apparel when we get to Melbourne as well as I could look for nightclothes. No reason to encourage the Ballarat gossip mill, is there? What do you think, Lucien?” “Jeannie, whatever you want to do is just fine with me. I want you with me – I do need you,” Lucien told her with such feeling Jean could hardly breathe.

In the middle of the session, Matthew came in the front door and then into the Surgery. “Oh, I did not realize that this was a ‘private’ session, Lucien and Jean, my sincere apologies.” When he saw Lucien’s back his face took on a very troubled look and he glanced at Jean. His eyes were asking, “How can you deal with this Jean?” Jean told him what they were doing and how much better his back was. She lifted her eyebrow at Matthew and he said, “That is really good news, Lucien.” Matthew could not look any longer at Lucien’s back; he did not know how Lucien survived this torture.

Matthew sat down near Lucien’s head and started talking. “I wanted to tell you about a telephone call I had this afternoon. A Dr. James Cornelius from Melbourne Military Hospital called looking for you, Lucien. He has just moved to Melbourne from London and has a practice near the hospital. He was in hospital a couple of weeks ago and thought he saw you walking down the hallway, but said you were so much thinner the last time he saw you -- which was when you were liberated from camp. By the time he had figured out it might be you, you were gone. He talked to the colleagues you were with and they confirmed it was Lucien Blake and they told him you were in Ballarat and the Police Surgeon here. He left his contact information and said he would be coming up here in the next few days to visit you. Do you know who he is, Lucien?” Matthew said, as he finished telling them his news and put the information on Lucien’s desk.

“Yes, I do. We were in POW camp together for several years. He was a young Lieutenant; he was not a physician at that time,” Lucien told Jean and Matthew. “And – is there more to tell us Lucien?” Jean asked him. “No. That is all I want to share at the moment,” Lucien said softly. “Is it alright if he does come up and spend some time with you? Or do I call him and tell him to stay in Melbourne?” Jean asked. Lucien did not answer her. Jean noticed a blank look in his eyes, tears collecting at the edges of his eyes, and he was having difficulty swallowing. He was becoming quite distressed. He said nothing to her. Lucien got off of the table and put his dressing gown on. He told Matthew he was fine and then ‘Good Night.” Lucien sat down at his office desk.

“Lucien seems to be in some trouble, Jean. Will you be able to handle him?” “Matthew, I will call you if I need to. I will get him to talk to me. Why don’t you come for breakfast and check on us?”

After Matthew left, Jean approached Lucien and asked if he wanted to talk. He shook his head no. Jean did not leave him alone. She got him to sit in one of the chairs across from his desk and then sat next to him and held his hands. Lucien didn’t tell her to go away but he said nothing. He had so much bottled up inside him. Jean did not know how or if she could help him. He seemed to be in such a dark place. She had not seen him like this since the first few days of his return to Ballarat. Maybe just being with him was enough for now. That’s all she could offer him.

They were still sitting in the Surgery an hour later. Jean was holding his hands. He still had not spoken to her about what had happened and she was quite concerned if she left him, he would start on a bottle of Scotch and empty it. She did not want him to regress to the behavior he showed the household in the first few days he was back. Finally, Jean asked him if he was ready to lie down and try to rest. She stood up and kissed his cheek and asked again if he wanted to lie down. Again, no answer. She held his face in her hands and ordered him to stand up. “Lucien Blake, stand up. We are going to the kitchen and get some tea. And you are going to talk to me, understood! I will not take ‘no’ for an answer. Remember, we talked earlier about the fact that you are not alone any longer and we are – I am – here to help you, listen to you. So, let’s go now, Lucien.” She took his right hand and hauled him up and out of the chair and made him walk with her to the kitchen.

Once in the kitchen, he drank his tea and then began talking to Jean, “Do you really want to listen to me? If you do, I will go to my bedroom and get my sketch book and we can talk.” “I do want to listen to you and we can talk here or in your bedroom – whichever room you are more comfortable in, Lucien.”

They sat on his bed and he opened the sketch book and began to tell her of his captivity and the abuse he suffered. He slowly, tearfully, and hesitantly told Jean his story. She was shocked beyond measure at what he told her. At times, they were both crying and comforting each other. And she wondered if he was even telling her the half of it. How on earth had he survived? How was he coping day to day even now? He trusted her with his story and his memories. Jean did not know if she was able to deal with it, but Lucien must have thought she was.

After two hours of Lucien talking nonstop to Jean, he told her “I am not finished but I need to lie down, I am really tired and I have a pounding headache. I am certain you are tired as well. Will you stay with me? I just want you in my bed, close to me. I will behave myself, I will, my Jean.” Jean looked at him, took his face in her hands, kissed his cheeks and said, “Yes, Lucien, I will stay with you.”

Jean woke up first and watched Lucien sleeping next to her. He was finally resting; it seemed to take hours for him to settle last night. After they laid down she held him and let him sob and talk some more and he finally seemed to sleep. Looking at the clock, she realized that she needed to start breakfast for Danny and Mattie. About an hour later, Lucien walked into the kitchen and smiled at Jean and told her, “Jean, Thank You. I do not know how I would have survived the night without you. If you were not there, I would have emptied an entire bottle of Scotch and been bloody drunk this morning. That is how I used to handle the dark moods. Now, I have someone to share my story with, thank you. Is there any breakfast left?” “Lucien, yes there is. Your first appointment today is in a couple of hours. You should have enough time to eat, clean up, and be ready to face your patients. I am glad you were able to tell me part of your story. I am here any time that you need to talk. I am, Lucien. Please remember that.” “Jean I did not want to burden you with this, I didn’t. But you helped me so much last night, I don’t know how to thank you.”

Matthew came into the kitchen through the back door. His timing told Jean he must have been standing at the door, listening to their conversation, and then walked in when there was a lull. “Good Morning, you two. Anything left for me to eat?”

“Of course, Matthew, if there wasn’t I would fix you some food, you know that.” “Thank you for dropping by, Matthew. I know you are checking on me and Jean. I am much better this morning, thanks to Jean’s care. I did not mean to frighten either one of you last night. Usually, only the Scotch bottle sees me in those dark moods.”

The next day, Jean noticed that four days, not two days, were marked off on the Surgery schedule. Four days with Lucien – I wonder what he decided Jean asked herself. When she asked him, Lucien was very evasive, and just gave her a list: “shopping, some time on the beach, perhaps a film or the theater, some good restaurants, lots of time spent just with you, my love – does that all sound good, Jean?” Jean asked him “Do you think we can be together, just the two of us, for four days without getting on each other’s nerves?” Lucien enthusiastically replied, “Yes, I think we will manage just fine, Jean.”

Chapter Text

A couple of days later, there was a knock on the front door. Jean went to answer, thinking it might be a patient or maybe Danny who had forgotten his key. “Good Morning. I am Dr. James Cornelius and I am her to see Major Lucien Blake, please.” Jean invited him in and walked him into the surgery where Lucien was working on patient records. “Lucien, this is – Jean did not even get to finish as Lucien stood up and exclaimed, “Bloody Hell, James Cornelius, it has been years.” James immediately snapped to attention and said “Major Blake, Sir, it is so good to see you, Sir.” Lucien walked over to him and hugged him, both men started tearing up. “James, let me introduce you to Jean, my very good friend.”

James reached for Jean’s hand and shook it. “Delighted to meet you, Jean,” James told her with a smile on his face. “James, welcome to Ballarat. I will put the kettle on and leave you two to chat,” Jean said as she walked out of the surgery and shut the door. As she reached the kitchen, Jean was thinking to herself, I certainly hope this goes well for Lucien. This man’s name triggered one heck of a dark mood for Lucien. I wonder if James is one of the new hires in Melbourne? Perhaps he is. And if he is, I will talk with him about Lucien’s back, which is not healing the way I think it should.

James and Lucien stood and looked each other up and down and then hugged again. James said he heard that Lucien was in Ballarat, had a medical practice, and was serving as the police surgeon. I have a free day and decided to visit. “Lucien, you may not be aware of how much you meant to my survival in camp, my career choice of medicine, and – his voice broke and he just stared out the window, wiping tears from his eyes.” Lucien walked up to him and hugged him. “Major, there were so many times I did not want to go on and you made me, you encouraged me, you did, I hope you know that. I needed to tell you that in person, I did.” Lucien handed him his handkerchief and continued holding James. “Thank you for telling me this, James.”

Lucien looked at James, with much emotion told him “You were one of the few who helped me after the god-awful beatings I endured. When I came out after 40 days in the pit, you kept me focused on living and not giving up. I know how much you helped me and” – Lucien’s voice broke and he stared into the wall. Memories were rolling out of each of them and they had great difficulty verbalizing their feelings.

Lucien, changing the subject, moving to less emotionally charged conversation, asked James, “What is your specialty and where are you practicing?” “I went to Medical School in Glasgow, like you did, and I am at the Military hospital in Melbourne, but not in the military any longer. I just arrived from London last month and I work with survivors of POW camps. I found out that you were talking with my colleagues at hospital a couple of weeks ago. I am setting up a Research Group and I wanted to see if you had any patients here who would be interested in joining. Physicals, lab work, group sessions, treatment, etc. are all provided for free. I think there would be several publications come from this work. Perhaps you would want to be one of the investigators with me? You could work from here, a satellite office. Please think about it, Sir,” James said, looking at Lucien with much admiration. “James, your proposal is one I will certainly consider. There are many survivors in the area and avoiding the journey to Melbourne will be a real incentive to seek treatment here in Ballarat.”

Jean knocked on the door and told them tea and biscuits were ready. They both walked to the kitchen, sat down at the table and started to update Jean on their time in the POW camp. James told Jean, “I survived only because of Lucien’s care, inspiration, leadership; I am now a physician because of Lucien. I work at the military hospital in Melbourne as a physician and surgeon specializing in POW injuries from the physical beatings and emotional trauma.”

Lucien continues their story, “James was one of just a few who helped take care of me after the relentless beatings. Dealing with my injuries probably prepared him for the practice of medicine.” “Lucien, your back looked like raw meat at times – Jean, oh my, I am so sorry, Jean, I did not mean to be so explicit, can you ever forgive me, please – Lucien, I am so, so sorry.” “James, I think you are just telling the truth.”

Lucien told James, “Jean has seen my back, all of it, has been treating it for me, and well, as you can clearly see, she is still with me. I know how hard it is for her, but she is willing to help me, each day with it.” James asked Lucien about his back – “What’s going on, if I may ask?” Lucien began detailing the issues with his back, “I have developed severe dryness and Jean is applying a lotion that my father developed. It is making a big difference, but my back is not healed yet. The area around my waistline is still quite angry looking and is cracking. Jean has designed some different underclothing to try and keep the pressure off of my back. She thought at first the elastic in my shorts was rubbing that area. But we are not so certain now.”

James asked Lucien if he wanted him to look at his back. Lucien looked at Jean and then Jean replied for both of them, “Yes, Lucien and I would like your opinion, James.”

“But first, I have a question for you James. Why did you drive up to Ballarat today?” Jean continued. James looked at Jean and Lucien, “My nightmares have become more intense since my arrival in Melbourne. Recently Lucien has been in them. I wanted to see him, talk to him, thank him. Lucien, do you still have nightmares as well?” Lucien replied, “Of course I do. Jean has been a great help in handling me during them. As a matter of fact, Mattie, Danny, Matthew and several police officers who were night time caregivers for my father have also helped me. They even kept a log that detailed my episodes. They were very intense when I first returned to Ballarat; I even fell out – well, more like exploded out – of bed the second night I was here. Thank goodness, they are not as severe now. But, I still have them, almost nightly.”

Lucien, Jean, and James walked to the surgery. Lucien stripped to his shorts and James felt his back, pushed on it, had Lucien move his arms, stretch some, turn side to side. Jean motioned to James to look at Lucien’s waistline; James looked at it and felt his waist line, and Lucien flinched and gasped. James told Lucien, “Your range of motion is still good, your skin is not dry now, but your waist line is still inflamed. I would suggest you do some stretches several times a day, continue the lotion, because it appears to be better than anything I can prescribe. I would like the script for the lotion, if you would share it.”

James continued, “About your mid-section – Lucien, are you able to get on the examination table and let me look at it more closely?” Lucien got up on the table and Jean covered his legs with a sheet and then gently caressed his shoulders. He reached for her hands and kissed each one.

Jean told James how the area looked when they started the lotion treatment. “James, I think there is something under the surface, and the redness is increasing despite the fact he has been wearing the undergarments, with no elastic that would rub his back.” James looked at the shorts Lucien had on. “Jean what you have designed is very well suited for what Lucien is dealing with. It should have helped.”

James put on some gloves and pushed and pulled on the area and Lucien grimaced. “Jean, can you hand me forceps, please? There is something there and it is coming out – fragment of wood? leather? debris? What is that?” Lucien asked Jean, “Are you alright?” “Yes, Lucien I am. But it is really disgusting looking.” They showed Lucien what was removed. Lucien said I will figure out what that is. “Of course, you will,” Jean told Lucien.

James told Lucien, “I want to numb the area and open it up and see what else is going on – Is that acceptable, Sir?” Lucien replied, “Yes, it is. Jean can help you get what you need. And Jean if there are any appointments this afternoon, move them to tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.” “Jean, give Lucien at least two days off from having his Surgery hours. He is going to need it.”

James numbed Lucien’s back and told Jean want he needed. “Let’s start with pulling a dose of penicillin for Lucien. He then took a scalpel and carefully opened the area and found even more debris under the skin, cleaned it out and closed it with several stitches. He helped Lucien sit up and then he bandaged the wound. “Lucien, how are you doing?” Lucien replied he was doing fine, so far.

“Lucien, do you have pain killers here or do I need to write a script?” “No need for a script, we have them and Jean can show you where.” James told Jean how to change the dressing and monitor Lucien’s progress. Jean brought Lucien his dressing gown from the bedroom while James helped him stand up. He gave Lucien the penicillin injection and had him take a pain killer. Lucien thanked him for his expertise and willingness to do the minor surgery.

James told both Lucien and Jean that they had quite the well-stocked surgery. “So, Lucien, you are just a country doctor and police surgeon now?” James asked him. Lucien looked at him and told him “Yes, I am and I love what I do. And as you can tell, Jean is so much more than my receptionist and housekeeper – I am so delighted she is now a part of my life – and I am in love with her.” “Lucien Blake, what did you just say?” “You heard me Jeannie. I think James can see how we feel about each other.” “Yes, Lucien and Jean, I most certainly can.”

James told “Lucien, let me look at the shorts Jean designed for you again.” Then Jean pulled the undershirt she had designed from the clothes Lucien had been wearing. “These are very impressive, innovative, and will certainly help his incision heal faster. There is no pressure from the waistband of the shorts and they are soft,” James told Jean, noticing that Lucien was beaming with pride. “Let me keep this in mind if one of my patients needs specialized clothing.”

Jean asked James, “Do you want to stay for lunch? There will be several others drop by, including Matthew and Danny and maybe Mattie. Matthew, you talked to the other day and he is the Chief Superintendent of Police; Danny is a Police Constable and my nephew and boards with us; Mattie is the district nurse, is from Melbourne and also boards with us. I have sandwich meat and all of the trimmings in the Fridge. I am certain you and Lucien have not finished talking. Please stay.” James told Jean, “I would be delighted to. And Lucien, you know the atmosphere in this house is so comfortable; you are one lucky man.” “James, it is all because of Jean - it is that simple,” Lucien answered while looking at Jean and reaching out for her hand to hold.

There was a commotion in the kitchen as the back door opened and closed and Danny announced that Matthew and he were washing their hands and setting the table for lunch. Jean headed to the kitchen to help the guys get lunch organized and told them they have a visitor who will be eating with them. She also explained to them about Lucien’s back and why he is in his dressing gown in the middle of the day.

James walked in with Lucien and introduced himself to Matthew and Danny, giving each of them a firm handshake and a smile. They all sat down and began eating and talking. “Auntie Jean, do we have dessert too?” Danny asked, hoping that she fixed his favorite chocolate treat. “Of course, Danny, you know I like to spoil my nephew,” she replied. Danny took two pieces and passed the plate around the table. He had just finished eating when the phone rang. He jumped up to answer it and told Matthew, we have to go. They both asked James to stay for supper; they wanted to talk to him some more.

“They moved in and out like a whirlwind, Jean. Is this a typical day?” James asked her as he helped straighten up the kitchen table. “James, it is. There are four of us living here, and a variety of Ballarat police officers are in and out of my kitchen at all hours of the day and night. I typically fix two dozen biscuits or other treats each day and somehow they disappear by nightfall.”

After lunch, Lucien and James went into the living room and Lucien stretched out on the couch. Jean covered his legs with a blanket and made certain he was putting no pressure on his incision. James sat in a chair nearby and they began talking. “I will be working in the kitchen cleaning up from lunch and getting dinner underway if you two need anything,” Jean told them. From the kitchen, she heard their non-stop conversation, occasional laughter, and stories.

After 30 minutes or so, James stood up, walked over to the couch and checked on the sleeping Lucien. He had finally fallen asleep, his pulse was stable and no fever. While looking at Lucien, James just shook his head and thought, you are a survivor – at times, I had my doubts you would ever get out of camp, alive.

James wandered into the kitchen and asked for a cuppa. “Lucien has fallen asleep, finally. The pain medication should have felled a horse an hour ago, but not Major Blake,” James told Jean smiling. “Let’s go to the sunroom, drink our tea and talk,” Jean suggested to James. She found James easy to talk to. She was learning more about Lucien and it was obvious that James needed to talk about their shared POW experience as well.

“Jean, tell me about you.” “James, I lost my husband Christopher in the war, raised our two boys by myself, lost our farm, and when Dr. Blake hired me, I became his housekeeper and receptionist. I have been here for over a decade. Lucien’s return has ranged from problematic to – she looked into the distance, a tear sliding down her face.” “Jean, it is alright, let me finish – to an unexpected love. It is alright to finally find happiness – even if it is with Major Blake,” he said with a chuckle. “James, I have decided to stay on as Lucien’s housekeeper and receptionist, for a while. But, I want to be more, do more. With Thomas’ death, I have an opportunity to make my own decisions for the first time in years.” “And Jean your life is getting very complicated and confusing, right?” James asked Jean. Taking a deep breath, Jean told James, “Yes, it has.”

Jean told James about Lucien’s dark mood the other evening. “James, his mood came on very quickly. Matthew told us about you and your upcoming visit. He barely said anything about you – just slid into a deep hole. I stayed with him, finally got him to talk with me. Should I have handled him differently or was what I did alright? I don’t want him going back on the heavy drinking like before.” James took Jean’s hands and told her, “You do what feels right to you. You have good instincts. Just trust yourself with him. The depth of darkness we can slip into can be quite deep and it is, for me, unpredictable when it happens.”

“James, Lucien told me about a new center at the Military Hospital for POWs. We were going to get an appointment there if his back did not improve. The two new hires – one of them is you? Sorry, this is so disjointed, I am just linking several conversations together – Is that right?” “Yes, Jean, and you have strung some of the information together. The second new hire is Hugh Alexander, another POW camp survivor. In fact, I have asked Lucien to have a satellite office for us in Ballarat. I hope you would be involved as well. Hugh and I think that working with physicians who understand what happened in camps will make it easier for our patients to ask for help.”

Jean heard a car drive up and the door slam. Mattie, hearing the conversation in the sunroom, walked in. She was surprised to see Jean talking with a handsome stranger. James immediately stood up and introduced himself to Mattie. “I am very pleased to meet you, James.” “Mattie, it is delightful to make your acquaintance.” “Mattie, James treated Lucien’s back this morning and he is sleeping in the living room. I am going to go check on him as well as our dinner. So I will leave you two to get to know each other.”

James told Mattie a little bit about himself and his relationship with Lucien and what had transpired with Lucien’s back earlier in the day. Mattie told James, “I am the district nurse, moved in with Jean when Thomas, Lucien’s father, was dying and helped Jean with his care. When Lucien arrived, ah James, he was so very difficult to live with at first – the anger, drinking, nightmares – but Jean is learning to manage him and keep him in line. But sometimes his behavior is still very confusing, messy, complicated. At first, when Lucien returned to Ballarat, I thought Jean and he were going to duke it out. It was so stressful for her that I thought she was going to leave. He was such a pain in the neck for Jean – literally, James. He finally wore her down one evening, she asked him for help. Her neck was a mass of knots, stress, muscles that were so tense and sore. After he helped her, something happened between the two of them. Recently they went to Melbourne and their return was delayed due to a train derailment – when they got back, I could tell, I could, that they have reached an understanding. I would not have predicted this in a million years.”

“Mattie, that must have been the day I saw Lucien from a distance in hospital. Took me several days to figure out who he was – he was so thin, even thinner than most of us, when we got out of camp. They tried their best to starve him but he refused to give in. Mattie, I do not know how much you know about Lucien’s POW experiences. Quite frankly, I do not know how the man survived it. He took the brunt of the punishment, to protect his men, me included. He was incredibly brave, a leader, kept all of us focused on the time we would be free again. I am a physician because of him, he is an inspiration to me.”

“Mattie, I am starting a POW clinic in Melbourne. Free treatment for our patients. I have asked Lucien, and of course Jean, to open a satellite clinic here in Ballarat. We will have to talk with you more about this when Lucien is awake and not hurting so much. There will be plenty of work for all of us to do. The other physician involved will be Hugh Alexander. We both went to Medical School in Glasgow – because of Major Lucien Blake. I am so glad we met up again, and I could tell him how much he influenced my career choice. I tried to this morning, but basically dissolved into a mass of tears.”

James also told Mattie about the lunch invasion that let him meet Danny and Matthew. James asked Mattie, “Is this household always so busy?” Mattie answered, “Jean runs a tight ship and Danny and I are both are boarders who really enjoy living with Jean and Lucien. There is never a dull day or night at the Blake household.”

Jean was working in the kitchen, finishing up dinner and heard noises coming from the living room where Lucien was sleeping. Jean walked in, sat on the edge of the couch and held Lucien’s hand, kissed it, then kissed his cheek. He was beginning to wake up – “Jean, Jean, where am I?” – he seemed confused, his eyes were not focusing. “Lucien, I am right here. Can you hear me?” “Jean, I see two of you, do you know that? I remember the first evening I was here, in this house, I saw two of you. You were so beautiful. Do you remember that Jean?”

“Yes, I do. That was the evening you cut your leg. You were beginning to be a pain in my neck, how could I forget? After lunch you and James came into the living room, you laid down on the couch and fell asleep. Do you remember that James worked on your back this morning?” Jean kissed him on both cheeks.

“Um, Jean, I do. That pain pill knocked me for a loop, didn’t it? What time is it? Is James still here?” “Yes, Lucien, James is in the sunroom talking to Mattie and it is about 4:30 in the afternoon. Can you tell me what you and Danny are doing?” Lucien, grinned and shook a finger at her, “Jean Beazley, I couldn’t possibly comment. And Jean that was very underhanded to be sure. You are taking advantage of my confused mental state,” Lucien answered with a smile as he reached for her hands.

“Lucien, you can’t deny me the chance to get some important information out of you, even if you are bit spacey, right? Do you need to use the loo? If you do, I will get James to help steady you. Now don’t get up too quickly. I don’t want you getting dizzy.” “Jean, I think having James help me is a good idea.”

Walking to the sun room, Jean said, “James, Lucien is awake and we need your assistance.” When Mattie and James walked into the living room, Jean asked, “James, will you help Lucien to the loo? – He is a lot bigger than for me, is a bit unsteady, and I don’t want to get smashed if he loses his balance.” “Jean, of course, I will help. Come on, Major Blake, let’s get you up and make certain you are motoring on all cylinders, alright?” Before the guys came back into the living room, they had taken a detour and Lucien put on some clothes.

“Lucien, what is Jean fixing us for supper? It smells so good.” “James it smells like lamb – I really like the way she prepares it. Jean always has such good meals, plenty of food, and is keeping Danny and me supplied with biscuits and desserts – sometimes, I eat too many,” he said with a smile.

Mattie helped Jean finish up supper and James and Lucien sat down to eat. Matthew and Danny arrived just as Jean was putting supper on the table. Lucien told them, “Perfect timing for food, gentlemen, but you two will have to clean up in return.” “Jean, thank you for letting me eat with all of you this evening. The lamb is so good. Is there any more?” James asked her, with a grin. Matthew piped up, “James, Jean never turns me down for a meal, there is always some extra food on the table, and I figure, I can do the dishes in return, like I am getting to do tonight. I guess what I am saying is this – come again for dinner at the Blake household.”

James, Matthew, Danny and Lucien moved to the Surgery to talk, as Jean and Mattie worked on a new fancy dress for Mattie. About 10 PM, Matthew left for home, and Danny, Lucien and James returned to the living room. They all started to continue the conversation. However, James suggested, “Lucien, you should take another pain med and lay down. You need to rest.” “James, you are right. I am really getting tired and my back is starting to hurt. I will leave you in the company of Danny. Goodnight you two.”

“Come on Lucien I will help you get comfortable in your bed. I will talk with you until you go to sleep,” as Jean took him by the arm and they walked to the loo and then onto his bedroom. It took a while for Lucien to figure out how he would sleep without putting pressure on his incision. Once he was settled, Jean positioned herself in the bed so she could talk with him. “Lucien, do you think opening the satellite clinic is a project you want to get involved with? Do you think it will increase your patient load too much, too quickly?”

“Jean, I think it sounds like a good idea. I hope you would you like to be involved with me. I can envision you being much more than my receptionist.” “Lucien I have been thinking about what the clinic might involve - for instance, preparing patient reports for the grant, accounting for the funds we get to run the clinic, helping design the flyers to recruit patients. Would you get a publication out of it?” “Jean, maybe even helping writing – not just typing – the next grant, yes a publication or two, travelling to Melbourne and other things we do not even know about. I think you would be excellent. But the bottom line is this – do you want to do it? Jean, of course, I am very selfish – I want you involved in this clinic with me. But you must stay independent, make your own decisions, be your own person. Please think about it.”

“Lucien, this is an opportunity that you should not turn down. I want to be a part of it, I do. I will learn so much; I will not be ‘just the receptionist.’ I think this is something that will keep me excited about each day, give me a purpose, I can make a difference, give me a reason to get up each day. I never felt that way about my life until I met you, do you know that, Lucien? You have made my life so different, interesting, and yes, so confusing. But I like it, I do. And I do love you, you know that, right?”

Lucien reached for her hands, kissed them, “Jean, I love you so much. I never thought I could be happy, settled, and love someone like you. This is so unexpected, I keep thinking it is a dream. Get closer to me, will you? Jean, if I try to pull you over to me, I think I am going to mess up the stitches. Jean, we are a team – and it took us so bloody long to find each other. I do love you and I am looking forward to our trip to the beach. And I am sorry but I don’t think I can stay wake much longer. You know, you do not need to leave unless you want to.” “Lucien, I do need to get out of my clothes and into something more comfortable.” “Use one of my shirts to sleep in and get back in bed with me. With the pain med I took, I will be well behaved – Jean” That was the last she heard from him.

Jean went into the living room to check on Danny and James. “Danny, you are on call tonight, right?” “Yes, Auntie Jean, that is right. I will answer the phone.” “James and Danny, I am going to bed. Danny show James the spare bedroom and make certain he has everything he needs, alright?” “Goodnight, Jean,” they both said. Jean walked back to Lucien’s bedroom, changed into one of his shirts and cuddled up to him. “Goodnight, Lucien. I am so glad you returned to Ballarat.”

James and Danny were on the couch talking. James sketched out his friendship with Lucien, becoming a physician, and coming to Melbourne. He also told him about the grant for the POW clinic that he hoped Lucien and Jean would open a satellite clinic here in Ballarat. “Danny, tell me about living here with Jean and Lucien, will you?”

“I moved into the house when Dr. Blake started getting really ill, so I could help Auntie Jean, especially at night. Then when Lucien came back, Matthew asked me to be here every evening to, I don’t know – I guess to protect Jean and Mattie – from Lucien’s potential volatility, anger, drinking – whatever the army told Matthew about him. Matthew was quite concerned about Lucien, that he would hurt Jean or Mattie. The first night – James, he was so bloody drunk, I don’t know how he could stand up – well, he couldn’t. Jean had to remove glass fragments from his leg and Matthew and I helped put him to bed. We still have police patrols each day and there is someone nearby each night. Please, do not tell Lucien any of this. He thinks the police patrols are gone, but they aren’t.”

“James, Lucien has really changed since that first day. Jean is managing him, helping him, and as hard as it is to believe, they like each other, well, I think it is more than that now, I think they are in love. My Auntie Jean and Lucien – still trying to wrap my head around that. That is a very long answer to your question – sorry.”

“Danny, thank you for the insight into Jean and Lucien. As I told Mattie, he was very lucky to survive the POW camp. And it is very important for me to understand his struggle, but also his triumph – finding Jean. Your Auntie Jean is quite a lady, you know that don’t you? Look at what she has had to deal with and how she survived the war as well. Sometimes, we forgot that there are so many people, other than the soldiers, who are still dealing from the impact of the war.”

“James, let me show you where you will be sleeping. I need to get to bed – it seems my on call nights always involve a phone call. Hope it does not wake you up. See you in the morning.” “Oh, Danny one more thing – what did you do to your finger? “Hit it with a hammer. Doc said it is not broken. I don’t want to tell you any more, cause Jean will try to get you to tell her what we are doing.”

About 1 AM, the phone rang and Danny was called out to handle a car wreck. He returned about 5 AM and several of the officers were with him, including Bill and Ned. James heard the noise level increase in the kitchen area and got up and headed toward the kitchen to see what was going on. There was a spread of sandwich food on the table, tea pot on, biscuit tin open, Jean and Lucien were both walking into the kitchen. The conversation ranged from the wreck to the cricket match later that day that Danny’s team is playing.

Mattie wandered into the kitchen about 6 AM, dressed for work, just as the police officers were leaving and Danny was going to bed. Lucien updated Mattie about Danny’s call and James asked her about meeting up in Melbourne, when she is back visiting her parents.

“Everyone, I have some observations I would like to share with you three and to talk with you about the Clinic I am starting. Since Lucien is more awake now than last night – “Yes, James, that is true” – Lucien, I think you already know that you are living with two very strong, independent women, both of whom I want in your satellite clinic here in Ballarat. And I want to explain my thinking and then ask the three of you to seriously think about my proposal.”

“Both Jean and Mattie have dealt with you, Lucien, since your return to Ballarat.” “Yes, James, they have. You should know about my issues – beyond my back, drinking to excess at times, nightmares, and anger issues. If this derails your plans, let me know now. They are both understanding, caring, but very firm in their approach to me.” “Lucien, that does not change my mind, it basically confirms my thinking.”

“With Jean’s medical experience working with your father and now you, being a war widow and a survivor, living in Ballarat her entire life, being the organizer of your practice and this household – With Mattie being a nurse in the community, having her hand on the pulse of this area, working with Jean when your father was dying – With you being a POW survivor, with issues like you will be treating, and a physician – this is exactly what Hugh and I were envisioning in our grant proposal. You three must be involved. I want each of you to think about working with us, talk it over between the three of you. I have grant money to pay all of you.”

“Also, Jean, beyond working here with Lucien, I want to hire someone with your skills to handle the details of the grant reporting. I think you could work from here, come to our office in Melbourne maybe twice a month. Hugh and I were going to hire someone for the position, and I think you would be perfect. I will get you a copy of the grant proposal when you are in Melbourne. I know it is a good deal to think about and there are decisions you need to think about individually and as a group. I drove up here yesterday to see Major Blake – to thank you, Lucien, for your support and leadership in camp – I certainly did not think I would be offering the three of you a clinic here in Ballarat.”

Lucien looked at his independent team of women and just grinned. “Well, well, the three of us have some decisions to make, don’t we?” “James, I am surprised at your offer, I will think about it very seriously and will have many questions, I am certain,” Mattie told him. Jean was sitting at the table, stunned, smiling, shaking her head – “Lucien, do you realize how much my life as changed since you came back to Ballarat?” “James, Jean will be fine – Mattie and I will talk with her later today.”

Jean put the sandwich food away and asked, “Is anyone was hungry for breakfast?” Lucien, James, and Mattie all looked at Jean and said “Let’s fix it.” “What can each of us do?” Mattie asked. Jean assigned the breakfast duties and then when Matthew showed up – “You do the dishes, once again.” During breakfast, James reminded Lucien that he wanted to do another check on his back before he left for Melbourne.

Jean, James and Lucien walked to the Surgery. James removed the dressing, cleaned the wound, treated it, and covered it up again. “Jean, this looks like it is healing. If you see anything untoward, call me and we will discuss it. Lucien, you need to take it easy, alright? Don’t argue with Jean about resting, understood?”

“James, we will be in Melbourne three days from now. Jean and I have rented a beach cottage and intend to enjoy some quality down time.” James suggested to Lucien and Jean, “Come by my office just before noon and I can check your back again, and maybe I can remove the stitches then. Then we can go to lunch. I will talk more about my research project with the two of you. I assume you will have many questions for me by then. I also want to introduce you to some more of my colleagues who will be part of the team. How does that fit your schedule? Of course, we will do dinner while you two are in town one evening as well.”

Lucien walked James to his car, hugged him, told him good bye, safe travels. Before James left, “Lucien, do you remember Joseph McCann?” “Yes, yes I do. Where is he now?” “Melbourne, OB-GYN, has an office in the same building Hugh and I are in. I will let him know you and Jean are coming. You will have to meet up with him when you two are in town.”

“James, Jean did not say anything to you about your offer – she is still processing what you told us. You think that she is capable of more than being just a housekeeper, a war widow – she has never heard that from anyone in this town – except from my Father and me. Mattie and I will talk with her and we will talk with you when we are in Melbourne.

Jean kept an eye on Lucien that day, kept his workload under control, tried to get him to rest, and of course he grumbled at being ‘managed.’ “Jean, I am so sorry to be moaning at you but I want to do more and every time I move, my back pulls and it ‘bites’ me back. I imagine the stitches are doing that. I am trying to behave, I really am. If I take a pain pill, I will fall asleep and I do not want to sleep the afternoon away. I was really disoriented yesterday.”

“Lucien, you always have reading to do, why not go to the sun room and I will bring you some tea. You can read and give your back some time to start healing. I want to talk to you about the clinic that James proposed this morning. Lucien, I was just stunned what he told all of us. I could be involved if I want to. I can be more than a housekeeper. Lucien, this is what we have talked about so many times since you returned.”

“Yes, Jean, it is. I think we talked last evening about a number of things you need to propose to James that you would like to do.” “Lucien, I will start dinner and then I will join you – My household work can wait.” Jean got up, walked over to Lucien, “Oh, Lucien this is beyond my wildest dreams, do you know that?” Jean hugged him and gave him a passionate kiss. “Jean, this is going to be such an adventure for us. I love you.”

Danny and Mattie joined them for dinner and helped Jean clean up the kitchen. Lucien asked Danny if he wanted the bandage changed on his finger and Danny said he did. They walked to the Surgery and Mattie tagged along. Jean was in the living room doing some knitting and listening to the wireless.

Once the three of them were in the Surgery, Lucien shut the door and said, “Quietly, please. Jean’s radar is already up so I will be quick. Jean keeps trying to get information out of Danny and me. She is very good about slipping a question in the middle of a conversation and if you are not careful, you could answer her – and you have spilled the beans. Be very attentive when she talks to you. When I was so confused on the pain pills yesterday, she even tried to get me to tell her what we are doing.”

“With the stitches in my back, I cannot get hot and sweat into the wound, so I am out of the construction and painting business for a while. How are we going to finish our project, Danny?” Danny grinned and said, “Let me introduce our new partner in crime, Mattie O’Brien, who tells me she can paint with the best of ‘em. I am going to put her to work as soon as you and Jean leave town. Also, Matthew, Bill and Ned are going to help us. The cabin will be done by the time you and Jean get back from your Melbourne trip. Guaranteed!”

“Danny thank you so much. Do you have enough money for the supplies you need?” “Doc, I would use £200 more, if you can spare it.” Lucien handed Danny the money as Jean, without knocking on the door, walked in and found all three of them huddled in a circle. “Caught the three of you, red handed – doing what? Mattie, how could you switch sides on me, leaving me to figure out what is going on all by myself?”

Chapter Text

The next day, Lucien was having Surgery hours. Jean was helping check in his patients and handling the tasks required for each one. There was just one more appointment on the books and Jean was glad they were about finished for the day. She had her beach outfit complete but needed to check to see if Lucien’s shirts and shorts needed additional work. She checked the appointment log and found only the initials ‘JL’ scrawled in Lucien’s poor handwriting. “Lucien, there is one more person, you wrote them in, do you remember who the patient is? There is no contact phone number. He or she is not here yet. What do you want to do?”

Before Lucien could reply, the doorbell rang and Jean went to answer it, thinking it was probably the final patient. But that was not the case – it was a delivery of a box of medical supplies. She came back into the surgery, carrying the box. “Lucien, it was not your patient, but a box of medical supplies. Do you think this is the components for your lotion?”

“Jean, ‘JL’ is a couple and they are both here already.” Jean looked into the waiting room again – “Where are they Lucien? I don’t see them.” “Jean – it is us. ‘J’ is you and ’L’ is me. I want time to talk with you about our upcoming trip to Melbourne. This way we have time reserved for us. There are many things about this trip we need discuss.”

“Well, Lucien, alright, that is a good idea. Let me start on my list of what I want to do in Melbourne. I want to get all of my passport items together so I can submit them so I can start the process for my very first passport. We need to gather your paperwork for the renewal of your passport.”

“Jean, I want to gather all of my inquiry letters about Li and Mei Lin and turn them in to my solicitor. I also need to see if this is enough to request a court date.”

“Lucien, I want to see a copy of James and Hugh’s grant proposal. I will take my questions and ideas with me. Before we leave, we need to talk to Mattie about her questions and concerns.” “Jean, I will add my additional thoughts as well. James and Hugh may be overwhelmed with what we need to talk about but at least we will know what we are getting ourselves into.”

“Lucien, we need to prepare the lotion for your back, as well as take medical supplies to continue treating your back. We both need to get a swimsuit and sandals – in Melbourne, of course. We need to pack our suitcases. You need to pack your medical bag. What else?”

Lucien, looked at Jean and smiled, “Everything we have mentioned so far is very practical and I totally agree with you, that we do need to think about all of those items. I have another item to consider – Jean, do you want to get some ‘sexy’ nightclothes? I remember on our first trip to Melbourne you said you might want to. This is my reason for our appointment with the ‘Good Doctor.’ Jean, I am thinking about us and our stay in the beach cottage and what might develop. Jeannie, you are blushing –"

“Lucien, it has been years since I was with Christopher. You are so different than him. When I think about us, how we got to this point – sometimes, I just think I need to take a step back, think about what I told you I might do, I have never done anything like what we are planning – I start blushing and I just can’t stop it. You know my trigger points and my blushing just gets worse. Stop looking at me, please. Stop it.”

“We are going to Melbourne in a couple of days to have some much-needed down time with each other, no phone calls, have time to talk, enjoy some good seafood, just the two of us. The beach front cottage has one bed and a couch. The couch will sleep one person, the bed the two of us. I hope you will share the bed with me. But that is your decision, of course. So far when we have been together in bed, we have hugged, cuddled, slept, talked, kissed, but have not gotten to the point of making love to each other. On this trip to Melbourne, it is your decision about how intimate we will be. I wanted to talk with you about this and I wanted to have some options available to us, if we decide, you know – So, I ordered some of the items in the box that was just delivered.”

Jean and Lucien opened the box of medical supplies, which mainly contained more lotion components for Lucien’s back. Jean discovered a variety of birth control items at the bottom of the box. “Jean, this is my entrance to start a conversation with you. I think we need to talk about protection for you. And the time to do this is before we are in Melbourne, in bed, getting you know, serious about ‘doin’ it’.” Jean thought he even looked a bit embarrassed.

She knew she was turning red again, she could feel the heat on her neck and face. Lucien looked at Jean, smiled, and then held her face in his hands and kissed her. “Lucien, you are making my blushing even worse.” “Yes, Jean, I most certainly am. There is a button right here – he touched her neck and then kissed her – that turns the red color up another notch, did you know that?” Lucien grinned at her, kissing her again. “You – you just need to tease me, don’t you?” “You know I love you Jean. Me and You – we are going to be fine, I know it.”

Lucien sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk and motioned to Jean to join him in the other. “Lucien, thank you for making time for both of us to talk about our holiday. It has been on my mind for days. As much as I want to go to Melbourne with you, I know this trip is not what I should be doing with you – but most of my life I have done what is expected of me, what I have been told – and I am not very happy. I do not want to disappoint you in bed. But, um, I do not want to risk an unplanned – you know – we are not married, I am your employee.”

“Jean, your lower lip gives you away – it starts quivering when you have something important on your mind. I have seen you staring into space and I have been thinking about what it might be that is bothering you. You have made major decisions about us already – you are staying in the house, you are not leaving me. We are becoming closer, and I want to show you how much I care for you, to make you happy, to love you. Being intimate with you Jean is on my mind as well.”

Lucien continued talking to Jean, “I am trying to balance what I am saying and asking – I do not want to embarrass you, to offend you, to upset you – one part of this conversation is me, as your ‘occasional’ physician and one part of it is me, your potential lover. I am assuming we need to worry about a possible pregnancy – you have not gone through the ‘change,’ right?” “Yes, Lucien, you are right.”

“Jean, you need to know I do not practice any religious tradition. I want to make love to you, even though we are not married. I hope you want to be with me. I am not going to risk your health with a late pregnancy – I will use protection. But, Jean, I want you to go with me to Melbourne – no matter where you want to sleep, how intimate you want to be – we will get away from Ballarat, enjoy some down time, just the two of us, together.”

“I figure you would not want to go to Dr. King and ask about birth control because the Ballarat gossip mill would take that visit and run with it. The decision is a major one for you, a very emotional one, I would think. We are not married, you are my employee, I think I am a widower, but I do not know that for certain, you have been a widow for years. I do not know how long it has been since you were intimate with anyone, and I am not asking you to answer that unless you want to. I will not force you into something you do not want to do. I do not want to hurt you, emotionally or physically.”

Lucien looked at Jean, “Come over to me, will you Jean? Let me hold you. Sit on my lap, please?” She got up, sat down on his lap, putting her arms around his neck, hugging him. He took in a huge breath and just hugged her, both of them getting misty eyed. “Lucien, you seem so preoccupied at times that this conversation surprises me. I did not know you were so aware of me and my needs. Much of what you said is what I am thinking about.”

“You are right – I will not go to Dr. King for birth control. Can I even take a script from you to the chemist without the rumor mill going crazy? It is more acceptable for you to get condoms – people expect it from a male – than it would be for me to get a script filled for say birth control pills – but can you even get condoms here in Ballarat without whispers and gossip running rampant?”

Lucien looked at Jean and kissed her on each hand. “Let’s talk about some options for us. Well, the easiest is for me to get some condoms – but not in Ballarat, as you have already stated – the gossip mill has us in their cross hairs already. I will get them in Melbourne.”

“As you know, I have samples of the new birth control pills – for my patients. I know that taking them for birth control is forbidden by the Catholic church and this might present issues for you. I am not certain of your connection to the church. The two of us living together in the same house has to be causing you – well, I think you know what I mean. But there are other reasons to take them – like making your cycle more predictable.”

“I also have ordered a supply of diaphragms, again for my patients. If you decide this is what you want to use, we can select a physician in Melbourne for you to see.” “Lucien, what if I wanted you - as my physician - to make certain it fit me, would you?” “Yes, Jean, I could do that.”

Jean kissed Lucien on the cheek and looked at him, staring into his blue eyes, wondering how they were at this point in a relationship that six weeks ago was a staring contest, with angry words flying, with Thomas dying, with allegations of Lucien’s intense anger and extreme drinking. Why did I choose him? Did he choose me? Was it just meant to be?

“Lucien, I never had this conversation with Christopher or your father or Dr. King, ever. The fact you brought up our potential ah – I am even having a hard time saying the words – is ah –. No, No, let me finish, please. Christopher used condoms a couple of times after we were married, despite what the Church said, and he did not like them so he stopped. I did not have any input into that decision. I could not afford any birth control – just what the Church told me to do. So, I just got pregnant easily, too easily.”

“Lucien, beyond our discussion about protection for me, what if I am not any good – what if I can’t pleasure you? With Christopher, it was all about him, satisfying himself. I really can’t remember if I ever experienced much, felt much – that is a terrible thing to say, but it is the truth. How can I satisfy you? You are well travelled, probably been with many women, and me – I lived here all my life and married Christopher, we were just teenagers when we wed, and he died over 15 years ago. I think I made a bad decision encouraging you to take us back to Melbourne. I am so sorry, Lucien. I think I misled you. Let me up, please.” Jean tried to get up from Lucien’s lap.

Lucien held Jean on his lap and did not let her get up. “Jean, Jean, you are panicking – Just sit here and let me hold you.” Jean struggled some more but he continued to comfort her, kiss her neck. “Jean, let me help you.”

Jean looked at Lucien and opened her mouth to say something and then quickly stopped. She tried again to tell him something but hesitated. Lucien thought maybe she was trying to tell him about the quick marriage, her miscarriage. He had to be careful not to let her know he knew – it could certainly drive Jean away from him, if she thought he knew something that personal. How to support her? Encourage her? Go slowly he told himself.

“Jean, can you talk to me? I will understand, I truly will, I will not judge you, I hope you realize that.” She tried to get up from his lap again and he held her down again. “Jean, we need to have this conversation, for both of us. Talk to me, please.”

Jean turned her face away from him, lower lip predictably quivering. Lucien touched her face and returned it to his gaze. “Jean, let’s try this again – talk to me, please. I cannot help you if I do not know what is so troubling for you, causing you such anguish. I want to help you work through this. We can do this, but only together. We need to help each other, remember. You have helped me so much. Will you let me try to help you?”

“Lucien, if I tell you, I know you will think less of me and you probably will not want to be with me. I understand that. Perhaps, I do not deserve to be with you. That is what everyone in this town tells me – the gossip and the whispers – they hurt your reputation and they cut like a knife into me. ‘You are rich, upper class and I am poor, lower class. I am taking advantage of you and your money.’ Is that what I am doing, Lucien?”

“Lucien, don’t talk to me until I tell you. I miscarried my first child, a little girl, when I was four months pregnant. Your father helped me and Christopher – but we, we had to get married. We lost her. I paid the price for having sex with Christopher, out of marriage, I know I did. I know you think less of me. I do not deserve to be with you – ”

“Jean, that was over 25 years ago, you were still just a teenager. Why would I hold that traumatic event against you? Why Jean?” Jean was sobbing and sniffling and holding on to Lucien’s neck. “Jean, I am glad we are having this conversation now. Please listen to me. I want to be with you. I need to be with you, I do. You can never disappoint me. Do you hear me? We are two very different people – two very different backgrounds. But I am certain we can help each other – you have helped me so much already, do you realize that Jean? We do love each other. Promise me you will not leave my house, our house. I do love you and I want to take care of you. And remember, I just want you to be happy with me, with us.”

“Lucien, I want to stay with you. I do love you. I can’t imagine why you would not be so disappointed – I just – But, I do not want to disappoint you, you know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, my Jean, I know that. And you won’t, you can’t, alright?” Lucien told her gently. “We do not need to overthink why we want to be together, why we need to be together – we will be fine, I know we will.” Lucien gave her a hug, kissed her hands, neck and moved towards her mouth to kiss her. “We – you and I – will be alright, Jean.”

“But, Lucien, I need to tell you so many things that I am thinking about. You may want to change your mind about me once I do. Some of this – most of it – will it make any sense? My thoughts are so scrambled, didn’t know how to deal with it then, still don’t. I know getting married so quickly, Christopher and I being ostracized by our parents, not grieving the loss of my little girl. Your father tried to get me to talk with my parents or Christopher’s parents – but they wanted nothing to do with me.”

“Christopher and I fought before he joined up. I assumed he would be back, never told him how much he meant to me and the boys. I lost him in the war and it has really had a huge impact on me. Did I ever grieve for him? Had to survive, keep the boys safe, lost the farm.”

“Made me skittish about being with someone, even after all of these years. I have run several ‘good’ men away. Lucien, am I trying to run you away as well? Is this what I am doing?”

“Jean, I am quite glad you ran several ‘good’ men away and that you were still living in my father’s house when I returned. What we have in mind – the two of us going to Melbourne, being together – is not ‘good’ is it Jean? So does that make us bad?’ I don’t think our relationship is good or bad – it is what it is – two middle aged people, searching for someone to love, to be happy, to share their life with.”

“Lucien, what we are planning to do is not good. We are not married. But you know, I do want to be with you, I do want to go to Melbourne with you. I don’t want us to sleep in separate rooms, I don’t. For so many years, I have not been happy. I get up every morning, paste on a smile, and just cope with each day because that is what is expected of me, Jean Beazley, war widow, employee of Dr. Thomas Blake, member of the women’s group at the Church, lower class mother of son Jack who has been in detention – I don’t even know where he is now.”

“I want so much more than I have now – Am I just thinking of myself? Am I putting my needs and desires first? Is that good, Lucien? Am I just using you to get what I want? I am sorry that I am just dumping all of this out – but I think you need to hear it, help me sort it, maybe help me understand me better, I do not know. I have rambled here, there, everywhere with what I am thinking – this is the first time I have spoken about these feelings, ever. Lucien, I need you to hold me, to help me. I told you on our last trip to Melbourne that you were not the only one to have baggage that needed unpacking. If this is too much for you, tell me to go away.”

“You are not going anywhere. You are stuck with me. Jean we have both lived a long time, have had so much happen to us, both good and bad. What you told me helps me understand how you seemed to ‘know’ how to deal with me. Jean, you are compassionate, caring, understanding, have good instincts – you also exhibit empathy. I will support you, as you have me. You are not going to drive me away. Jean, remember you talked to me about letting you help me, that I am not alone, we can make each day better because we help each other – don’t you think that is a two-way street? I am here for you. Neither one of us has really processed what happened to us – maybe it is time we start.

“Let us agree on this: We are going to be together. Neither one of us is leaving. And, we need to get our plans in order for our upcoming trip. Now, on our holiday – I will use a condom. We can try that and see how we both feel about it. I have the birth control pills as well as diaphragms here in the office. I am taking you to Melbourne in two days and I want to make love to you and I want you to be comfortable with me, not afraid of me, and not afraid of an unplanned –”

Jean looked at him and then said, “Lucien, I am afraid of that as well and I am glad we are having this conversation before we go on holiday. Lucien, as a physician, uh my ‘occasional’ physician, would you look at my diary and see if taking the pill would even out my timing better.” Lucien smiled at Jean, “Yes, let me see your diary and we can decide if this is a good way to regulate your cycle. If it is, would that fact make taking these more acceptable to you, Jean?”

“Lucien, I think it would. But you need to know that my relationship to the church is changing, evolving – blindly following dictates of the church – I just don’t know anymore. But we would still have to figure out how to get the birth control pills without the Ballarat gossip mill knowing. But I think for now, will you use a condom?” “Of course, Jean, you know I will. We will sort out the birth control pills for you, alright?”

Lucien whispered something in her ear. “Lucien Blake!” Jean turned bright red and Lucien just chuckled at her. Lucien let Jean get up from his lap, gave her a hug and a kiss. They held hands as they walked into the kitchen to put supper on the table.

While they were eating, they talked about what clothing they were going to take with them to Melbourne. Jean got up quickly and told Lucien she would be right back, don’t go anywhere. She hurried away and in a few minutes, she was back carrying two beach shirts for Lucien to try on. She wanted to see how they fit him. He looked at her, broke into a smile and was delighted that she had done this behind his back - he had no clue that she was making him shirts for the trip.

He quickly took off his suitcoat, waistcoat, tie and shirt and put on the first shirt which was a very conservative, light blue shirt. Jean was looking at it and how well it fit him, matched the color of his eyes. She was quite happy with it. “Do you like it, Lucien?” “Jean, I do. Thank you.” Then she brought out a colorful, paisley shirt and he just looked at it and said, “Is this really me? Isn’t this too wild and crazy for me, Jean?” Jean thought it gave him quite a different look, one she thought might be an interesting one for him. “Lucien, I like it. I like them both and I don’t think either one of them need any adjustments.” “Jean, I like them. We should get me some solid colored swim trunks or shorts for me, right?”

Jean then pulled out the outfit she had sewn for herself. “Are you going to show me how it fits you?” Lucien asked, smiling and flirting at her. “Shall I put the top on over my blouse and let you see?” “No, Jean, I think you need to take some clothes off first, like your blouse, maybe your slip, your skirt, so I can really get a good look, don’t you think?” Jean looked at him and said, “I will show you how they fit after we finish working on your back after supper, alright? I don’t want Danny or Matthew waltzing into the kitchen while I am taking off my clothing.” What would they think?” Lucien looked at her and grinned, “That we are practicing for our get-away trip to Melbourne.”

About an hour later, Lucien met Jean in the Surgery for her to change the dressing on his back, to put lotion on his back and to make up a large supply of the lotion to take with them on their trip. Lucien took off his dressing gown, and laid down on the examination table. Jean pulled his shorts down somewhat so she could see his waist band and the wound that was still healing. Then she removed the bandage on his back from James’ minor surgery and cleaned the wound and then re-bandaged it for him. She was pleased at how it was healing. Jean told Lucien what his back looked like and then she applied the lotion.

When she was finished, Lucien got off of the table asked her with a boyish grin, “Where are your beach clothes, Jean?” Jean told him she was going to change into them. She took them and went behind the screen in the surgery and started to remove some clothing. Lucien very quickly moved into the area where she was and started to help her undress.

“Lucien, is this considered ‘practice’ as well for the trip?” He just chuckled and continued helping her. When she put on the shorts and halter top she had made for herself, he was delighted – “Jean, you look so good in this outfit.” “Lucien, am I too old to be wearing this type of outfit? What do you think?” “I like it and you are not too old for me, Jean,” Lucien replied, thinking she is going with me, with me, to Melbourne. I will need to keep an eye on her – she is going to catch a number of glances from other men, he had no doubts. Then she added the cover up she had made. It matched the shorts and halter top and looked quite smart on her.

“Jean, what is on your upper right leg, on the inside? Is that a scar from a burn?” Jean, looking at the length of her shorts, asked Lucien, “Can you see it when I have the shorts on? I thought I made them long enough to hide it.” “I cannot see it now – I did when you were putting them on. Tell me about it.”

“Lucien, besides my parents, only Christopher, your father, Dr. King, and now you have seen it. I was six years old, I got too close to a grass fire, my dress caught fire, and I had to get my dress off – by myself – and run, run.” Jean began to shake, sob, grab for Lucien’s hand. “Jean, I am so sorry. The memory, that burn - still so painful, isn’t it?” as Lucien held her, comforting his Jean, wiping away her tears.

“Lucien, it hurt so much. I just could not stop crying. My mother treated it, we had no medical help for me – my parents could not afford it. So, I have a scar that hurts occasionally, pulls my skin at times. I put the lotion your father and now you made for me on it a couple of times a day. It is hidden on the inside of my leg so most people do not know I have it.”

“Jean, let me look at it. Take off your new shorts, first.” Lucien had switched to caregiver in the blink of an eye. “Up you go on the table. Jean, there is a first time for everything, I guess.” “What are you talking about, Lucien?” “Jean, you did not argue with me – what is going on?” “Don’t know,” as Jean shook her head and kissed his hands. “Thank you for caring about me, Lucien Blake.”

“Now, let’s start with you on your back so I can examine your leg.” He got a towel out to cover Jean’s upper legs, then he carefully separated her legs, felt the scar, pulled on it, had Jean move her leg. “Ouch, that hurts, Lucien.” “Jean do you ever move your leg that way?” “Not any more. Pulls too much.” Lucien put her leg in several more positions, but Jean did not complain. “Jean, only one ‘Ouch’ from you so it looks to me you have just the beginnings of some issues with the scar.” He helped her sit up and began telling her what his treatment plan was.

“As your ‘occasional’ physician, Jean, I think there are a few things we can do to help you with the scar tissue. For starters, I can compound a cream that I want you to try. The age of the scar indicates that we need to do more than apply the lotion you are using now. If we were in Hong Kong, I would know exactly what shop we would visit and get the cream for you. And afterwards, I know the restaurant I would take you to as well. Oh Jean, I can smell the food cooking now. Do you? We would have such a delightful dinner there. But, back to reality, here in Ballarat, well, let me think about this.”

“Lucien, what about Melbourne? Asking James or Hugh? Do you think they might have a lead on a source for oriental medicines?” “Excellent idea, Jean. I will call James in the morning to ask him. What we need to do is to keep your scar from tightening up any more than it has. That’s why you told me ‘Ouch.’ The older the scar, the more that might happen. Once you have used the cream for a couple of weeks, I want to talk to you about some stretches that might help as well.” “Lucien, could that happen to your back as well?” “Yes, it is a possibility – but I think it will be several years before that happens.”

Lucien helped Jean get down from the table and she put her shorts back on. “Jean, did you know our beach clothes are coordinated?” Jean looked at him with disbelief, and said, “For Pete sakes, Lucien, of course I do, I made them that way! It took you long enough to figure that out.” He just shrugged his shoulders and laughingly said, “At least I noticed without you having to tell me, right, Jean?”

Jean reached to the pile of clothes she had just removed and handed Lucien two new pairs of shorts – one colorful, the other solid. “Here try these on, Lucien.” “Jean, what are these?” “These shorts are for you to wear with your new shirts – I know you cannot get in the water yet, so you will need some shorts – you are not wearing your suit pants on the beach.” He slipped them on, and told her, ”Jean, all of these – the shirts and the shorts – are from the measurements you did on me, right?” “And some early morning and late night sewing sessions when you were not aware of what I was doing. Do they all fit the way you like? Do I need to adjust them in any way?” “Jean, they are perfect. Thank you so very much. Me, Lucien Blake, not in a suit and tie, who would have thought it possible. Jean, you have helped me so much since I returned to Ballarat – I think my suits are my armor, I am hiding behind them. With you in my life, I can relax, don’t have to play a game. Thank you.”

He took her hand and pulled her closer to him and embraced her, kissed her hands and then started to kiss her passionately – and Matthew walked into the surgery. “Just what are you two doing? Getting ready for the trip to Melbourne?” he asked, with a laugh in his voice. When he came around the screen, he saw Lucien in a colorful pair of shorts and Jean in a marvelous outfit, and he had to pull his eyes back into their sockets. Lucien is one lucky fellow – and to think I thought I had a chance to win her heart, years ago, and she would not let me get to first base. “Jean, I am so sorry, I need to remember to knock before I come storming into any room in this house now, I do apologize,” Matthew said as he backed away from the two of them. “Matthew, before you go, I have our contact information on the desk for you. We’ll be back on Friday evening. Please don’t call us,” Lucien told him, with a grin. Matthew just shook his head at the two of them and walked to the kitchen for a cuppa.

Lucien returned to Jean and started on his passionate kiss again. Their late afternoon discussion was just in time, he thought. “Jean, do you want to practice what we might do when we are in our beach cottage, at night or maybe in the daytime as well?” “Lucien, you are so bad – we can’t, Matthew is here, as well as Danny and Mattie.” “Jean, I know. I know. Who would have thought the two of us would want to be makin’ out, in my father’s surgery? Do you remember this is where you first took my trousers down and saw me in my underwear?” “Yes, Yes I do, Lucien. I looked at you much, much longer than I needed to. Did you know that?” “Did you like the view, Jean?” “I must have, because I want to see more of you.”

Chapter Text

Jean saw the trio – Lucien, Danny and Mattie – talking amongst themselves in the back yard. She had given up on being able to ‘crack’ one of them for information about whatever was going on. They were all so good at keeping their secret, despite the fact that Jean had even worked on Lucien when he was loopy with pain medication. There was no doubt in her mind that eventually she would find out. Jean decided her new approach would be – not pressing them for information – maybe one of them would get complacent and then ‘spill the beans.’

Tomorrow was the day she and Lucien would leave for Melbourne for their getaway. She had not scheduled any appointments for the entire week, had talked to both Danny and Mattie about what to say if anyone called for an appointment, and of course, Matthew knew where the two of them would be.

After dinner, Lucien and Jean got serious about packing, figuring out what reading material to take for Lucien, packing the medications for his back. Jean figured she would be on the beach, walking, looking for shells and in the water. This would be her first time at the beach – she thought, my life has changed so much since Lucien Blake returned to Ballarat. If I was asked what my wildest dreams would be, nothing would come close to this. For the first time in my life, there was money, well, Lucien’s – no, in reality, Thomas’ – money for me to go away on a short holiday. Mattie and Danny both promised they would not say anything about what was going on, but Jean thought, with both of us gone at the same time, well, it would not take anyone very long to put two and two together. The town gossip would be confirmed and then spread all over Ballarat in the blink of an eye. I will have to deal with that if and when it happens. Not going to let it bother me right now. Need to pack.

With the suitcases, reading material, and Lucien’s medical bag in the boot, and some nibbles and tea in the car for a snack, Jean and Lucien started the next morning on their journey to Melbourne. They talked, held hands, the journey went by very quickly.

First stop was James’ office and lunch. As they walked into the medical building lobby, James and another physician were talking. James looked up, walked over to Lucien, shook his hand, gave Jean a hug, and then started to introduce his colleague. Lucien stopped him with a loud “Hugh – Is that you Hugh?”

“Yes, Sir, it is, Major Blake, Sir. My goodness it is so good to see you, Lucien. James said you were coming today and I told him I must see you, we must visit. And you are Jean – James told me all about his trip to Ballarat. I am Hugh Alexander, Jean.” Hugh hugged both Lucien and Jean. “I am pleased we might be working on the grant together.”

Before they moved out of the lobby, another physician walked towards James and Hugh. When Lucien looked up, saw Joseph McCann, he said “Joseph!” “Major Blake, Sir, it is so good to see you again, Sir.” They hugged each other and Lucien told him, “I hoped I would see you today – James told me you were practicing in Melbourne. Joseph, this is my good friend, Jean.” Joseph extended his hand to shake her hand, “Jean, pleased to meet you. Lucien, you look content, happy.” “Well, Joseph, Jean and I are very happy – We are both so glad we found each other.”

James suggested they go to his office and attend to Lucien’s back and then go for lunch. He had cancelled all appointments in the afternoon and Hugh chimed in and said, so have I. As they walked up the stairs to the office, James was asking Lucien about his back, how he was feeling. Hugh and Joseph were chatting with Jean, and she found out that both Hugh and Joseph were POW camp survivors. Yes, Lucien had made a profound difference in both Joseph and Hugh’s survival. She imagined that Lucien was going to tell her a similar story. There was no way any of them could have survived the camp without each other.

Once in the office, Joseph got a page from his office and said his good-byes. “Lucien and Jean, I want to talk to you both before you leave.” Lucien told Joseph, “Yes, we must get together, share a meal, drinks, conversation. James will have the address of our beach cottage. We are here until Friday early afternoon. If that does not work out, James has our address in Ballarat.” “Lucien, it is so good to see you,” as Joseph hugged Lucien again.

James and Lucien walked into his surgery. Lucien’s got partially undressed, got on the exam table, James took the bandage off his back and looked at the healing. “Jean, you have taken excellent care of Lucien, I want you to know that. I will remove the sutures, give you some medication to put on the wound, and wrapping it the way you did before is fine. Drop by before you leave for Ballarat on Friday, at lunch time is good, and I will check on the healing again. Lucien, remember, do not get your back in the seawater at all.”

Once Lucien was dressed again, Hugh said, “Lunch is on me. Let’s go. I have a place within walking distance in mind. Jean, are you ready for the beach?” “Hugh, Lucien and I are both ready for some down time, no phone calls, no murder cases, no 2 AM wrecks to deal with. I want some serious beach time.”

James grabbed a selection of sun screen samples and gave them to Jean. “You are so fair skinned, be careful of too much sun. Make certain Lucien covers any exposed skin for you. And you need to look for one of those crazy beach hats that the shops sell. Do you have good sunnies? They will help as well.” Lucien just grinned at Jean, she was getting quite a bit of attention from both James and Hugh and he thought they have not seen her in her beach attire. He thought, I am delighted Jean is with me and I am with her.

On the way to lunch, the four of them walked a couple of blocks from the hospital to the Oriental Medicine shop that James had told Lucien about. The proprietor welcomed them to his shop, all the while wondering what these four were doing, all of them were dressed in business clothing – probably walked into the wrong shop. Maybe they were tourists?

Lucien immediately walked to the counter, began speaking Cantonese, assumed the appropriate body language, and the owner responded with a smile. Jean could see the wonder in his eyes. Who is this man? Jean had never seen Lucien transform so quickly. She could see why his skills were invaluable as an agent serving in the Far East, why Derek wanted him back in the field.

Lucien told the owner the components and formulation of the cream he wanted. The owner went to the back of his shop, returned with all of the components, brought them to Lucien and the two of the talked extensively before he had Lucien make a couple of decisions. Then Lucien asked Jean to come to the counter and they talked about the fragrance she wanted and the consistency of the base they were going to use.

James and Hugh just stared at each other, shaking their heads, with James telling Hugh, “Major Blake – still at the top of his game, isn’t he?” They were going to talk with Lucien about what he was having compounded for Jean’s leg. And they were going to ask Jean if she would let them examine her scar. This could be a treatment protocol they could use – obviously, they were not as broadly trained as Lucien was, and they both knew they had much to learn from Major Lucien Blake. The fact that he and Jean endorsed this approach made them want to see what it involved and how her leg responded.

Lucien shook the hands of the owner. He told Jean, Hugh and James, “We need to be back in two hours so I can pay him and get the cream for Jean’s leg. Let’s go get lunch. I am really hungry,” as if this was just a normal day in the life of Lucien Blake.

Once they reached the restaurant and had placed their order, James asked Jean, “Can you tell us about your scar?” Jean simply said, “Not a meal time conversation topic. Maybe later.” Lucien just smiled at Jean and then said, “James and Hugh, Jean has spoken and I will not add any more about that topic.”

“Let’s talk about the grant and our potential involvement. We have our individual questions as well as Mattie’s. I will let Jean start.”

“I want a copy of the proposal so I can read it, as well as Lucien and Mattie need to read it. I have taken care of the book work for both Thomas and Lucien. Thomas was a lot easier to manage than Lucien, but I will have Lucien in line before much longer.” Lucien just grinned and nodded his head in agreement. Jean continued, “I would imagine the grant management would involve a similar set of skills. As you can hear, I am going to suggest what I want you three to do, and if necessary, I will not shy away from telling you what I want you to do.” Hugh and James just looked at Lucien, smiled and then grinned. “Well, Lucien, you seem to have survived Jean getting you organized, I guess we can as well,” James said, grinning at Jean and Lucien. Jean continued, “I want good record keeping because I can imagine publications coming from this and I hope we will need to prepare a renewal application. We have to be as complete as we can be from the very beginning.”

Lucien asked several of his questions next. “About how many patients do we need to treat at the clinic in Ballarat? I would like to put up ads in strategic places in Ballarat but do not want to be overwhelmed at first with new patients. What about the supplies I need for treating a patient? Do I get them from you or can we use ours, and Jean bills you? What if someone needs to be hospitalized - in Ballarat or in Melbourne?”

Mattie’s questions were next – Lucien talked his way through her notes. “Does Mattie simply discover the patients amongst her families or can she actively recruit new patients? Can she see them at their homes in her district nurse role or does she treat them in my office? She also has a variety of places to put up posters so that needs to be coordinated with where I put them up.

Jean piped up again, “I want good case notes from all of you. The three of you need to be consistent on what you are collecting from each patient. I figure we will need comprehensive data sets to work with for the grant renewal.”

“Here is the Melbourne schedule we are considering. Jean will come every other Friday for the day and Lucien and Mattie will join her once a month on a Friday,” Hugh told the group. “What do you think? Will that fit your surgery schedule in Ballarat, Lucien?” “Yes, I think it will. Jean, you could take the train on your ‘solo’ Fridays, don’t you think?” “Lucien, perhaps you could drive down and pick me up and we could stay for an extended weekend? “Yes, that is just what I had in mind as well, Jean.”

James and Hugh took notes, asked follow up questions, and then Hugh told them, “My goodness you had a large number of questions, and you have not read the grant but have such an understanding into what we want to do. I will send the grant to you by courier tomorrow afternoon.”

“Jean, where did you get such insight into what we are doing?” James asked her. “James and Hugh, I read Dr. Blake’s – Thomas’ – medical journals, looked up terminology I did not know, asked Thomas questions, and he gave me reading lists to complete. He did think I was capable of more than being his housekeeper. Although, he did like my cooking and organizational skills, I needed, wanted more to do. You see, being a poor farmer’s daughter, getting married early, raising two boys by myself, did derail any plans I was crazy enough to think about for me.”

As they walked back to the hospital, they swung by the Oriental Medicine shop and Lucien paid for Jean’s cream. The owner talked to Lucien in Cantonese and then conversed with Jean and Lucien about the best way to apply cream. Lucien told Jean he would take care of it the first week so he could keep an eye on how the scar was responding to the treatment. If all went well, then she could take over.

Lucien and Jean said their goodbyes to Hugh and James and walked to their car. They started driving to the beach cottage he had rented. Along the way, they saw a swimming attire shop and next to it was a chemist’s shop. Lucien smiled at Jean, “Jean, we can kill two birds with one stone. Let’s do it now. You start looking for a swim suit and after a stop next door, I will come in and you can help me pick out one.” Jean had two different suits she liked and instead of having to pick one, Lucien suggested why not both Jean? And that is what she did. They also picked out one for him. She assumed he picked up some condoms at the chemist’s shop but certainly was not going to ask him in public. Who knows what he would say.

Once they had completed their shopping, it was off to the beach cottage. Lucien had asked the owners to supply it with a selection of food, liquor, and snacks ahead of time so when Jean entered the cottage, it was all ready for them to move in for several days. “Lucien, this is so nice – thank you so much for thinking about making it so simple,” Jean told him. Jean unpacked both suitcases, and Lucien helped hang up some of the clothing and put the rest of it into drawers. He emptied his purchase on the bed and asked Jean if that would be sufficient. “Lucien Blake – what were you thinking?” There were two dozen condoms laying on the bed and Lucien just chuckled at her response. “How often are we going to be in Melbourne at a shop where no one knows me? I paid cash – did not use a check, Jean. So, I think we are supplied for a while, right?” Jean did that eyebrow thing at him and told him, “The clerk probably can’t believe someone as old as you can get it up!” “What did you say, Jean?” Lucien walked up to her, hugged her, kissed her, and held her tightly. No phone call, no Matthew, no interruptions. “Jean, you may find out very soon if I can –” he said with eyebrows raised, flirting with her.

Jean changed into her swimming attire. Lucien asked her to lie down on the bed and he applied the new cream to her leg. “What do you think, Jean?” “Lucien, it feels really good, calms my skin down, smells very nice – thank you, Lucien for taking such good care of me. I am starting to get used to being treated special, by you.” “Jean, you deserve it.”

Lucien put on clothes Jean made for him – his crazy patterned shorts and a solid beach shirt. He grabbed a couple of towels, some reading material and started for the beach. “Jean, make certain you bring the sun screen and I will lather you up. Let’s go. Times a wasting, my love.” Jean grabbed the hats, some snacks and beverages, and they were outside with a couple of hours of downtime before James and Hugh showed up for dinner with them. Jean and Lucien were walking the beach, holding hands, looking for shells when Hugh and James arrived.

Hugh asked James about how Jean and Lucien met. James told him “the best he could figure, Jean was from Ballarat, was a war widow, worked for his father, and when Lucien took over the practice, she stayed to help him and as you say, the rest is history. They seem so comfortable with each other, don’t they? She has medical skills acquired from Lucien’s father and Lucien is letting her do more in the office for him. I am totally impressed with how she handled his back, what she observed about his infection, and he told me she has really helped calm him with his nightmares, as have several of their friends. He has shown her his sketch book and they have talked at length about his experiences. She is one strong lady, indeed. Jean and Lucien have a couple of boarders, both in their 20’s, that have stayed after Lucien’s father died. It is a house populated with police at all hours of the day and night it seems to me, Jean and Lucien, Danny and Mattie. An interesting ‘communal’ approach to living and helping each other, taking care of each other. It feels so right. Lucien told me it all due to Jean’s influence on them. Jean makes him want to be the best he can be. I thought we had an excellent discussion at lunch about their satellite clinic. Jean really is going to be important in organizing the grant reporting for us, don’t you think, Hugh?” “Yes, and I am glad she will work with us here as well as help Lucien. James, Lucien seems so happy – I bet he never thought it would be possible.”

Lucien and Jean walked up to Hugh and James and Jean asked them, “What is the dress attire for supper? Do we need to change?” James answered Jean “As you can see we are very informal, the cover ups you have on now are fine, some sandals, and let’s stroll down the beach and get some seafood and drinks.”

Most of the supper conversation was about the research group that James and Hugh were establishing. Both of them were really pleased that Lucien and Jean would consider this opportunity. James told them, “Don’t need a final answer until the end of the week, alright Lucien and Jean?” James was the first to say, “Hugh and I are leaving. You know how to reach me if you need anything, right? You two want to be alone and do not need us around. Lucien, I will send the research proposal by courier to you tomorrow afternoon. I will see you and Jean the end of the week, about noon, right? Bring more questions with you. Jean, keep his back out of the seawater.”

When Lucien and Jean returned to the cottage, they both smiled at each other, Lucien took a huge breath and let it out, and held her hands. “I thought they would never leave, my Jean, I so wanted them to just go away and leave us alone. Finally, they did. We are here for three nights. There is no phone, we have food, scotch and sherry, and it is just us. Let’s sit on the porch and watch the sunset. Bring the glasses and I will bring the liquor.” Jean smiled at Lucien and said, “I think our getaway starts now, don’t you? It has been such a fun day, a long one, but so interesting. You will have to tell me Joseph and Hugh’s stories tomorrow, will you?”

The porch has a double swing on it and they sat down and enjoyed the sunset, Lucien with his arm around Jean as usual, and they unpacked the day, just like at home. When darkness overtook them, they moved inside and Jean suggested to Lucien that he take off his shirt and get into bed so she could put lotion on his back and she would look at his waistline. Jean put on her new light yellow nightie that Lucien had not seen. She so hoped he would like it. This day had been beyond her expectations already and she was excited to think there were several more days with Lucien, just the two of them.

When she walked over to the bed, Lucien was stretched out on it, laying on his belly, sheet near his waistline and it was obvious, he was naked as the day he was born. She just smiled and thought you are being so inviting, but why not, they were here together, just the two of them and this was the supposed purpose of the trip – her ‘payback’ to him for the first Melbourne trip.

Jean sat down and started working on his back. Once she started, it was clear to her that he was asleep. It had been a long day of driving, meetings, heavy meals, too much sun, getting his stitches out – had probably worn him down. He did not have to be alert for the phone calls tonight. He just relaxed and then some.

Jean worked slowly, carefully on his back, covering it all with lotion. When she was finished, she removed the dressing on his back, cleansed the wound, added more of James’ medication and then added a new bandage. Lucien never did wake up. So, Jean made certain their little getaway cottage was locked up, turned out the lights, just crawled into bed with him, as if it was the most natural thing she had ever done. She smiled at him as she got into bed and thought – how many times have you helped me to bed, covered me up, made certain I was taken care of, felt safe, felt loved? She kissed him and told him “Good night, Lucien. I do love you.”

Hours later, Lucien realized he was in bed, with Jean curled up next to his side, her head right next to his, her arm draped across his chest, their legs intertwined. It was very dark outside and he was in bed with his beloved Jean. He thought this is a dream, right? He had not had that much Scotch and he was very confused. When did they lay down? Did Jean work on his back already? He thought he would just rest his eyes when he got in bed earlier, but he must have really crashed. Jean was sound asleep and her hair was everywhere on the pillow – she must have forgotten that ‘hairnet’ thing she wears at home he thought. And she was in a beautiful light yellow nightie – and I bet I was supposed to see it, tell her it was beautiful, she was beautiful and make love to her and I fell asleep. I must apologize to her in the morning – when we wake up in the same bed. Will she be mortified? I hope not, I don’t think so, not anymore. We have no plans for tomorrow, but to stay here, enjoy the beach and each other. There will be plenty of time to enjoy my Jean then, as he went back to sleep.

Lucien began to awaken as the room lightened up. He did not have a clue as to what time it was. Jean was holding on to him very tightly and mumbling, “Lucien, don’t go, don’t leave me, please. So alone, need you to stay, please.” Jean was in the middle of a dream - what was frightening her? he wondered. Lucien held her and talked softly to her. “Jean, it’s me, Lucien. You are safe, you don’t need to be afraid of me leaving you. Can you look at me? Let’s try to stop this dream, alright? Let’s start waking up a bit, Jean.”

He told her gently, “Jean, I am not going anywhere without you. You must believe that. I am only the best I can be with your help, each and every day. I do love you.” He kissed her, more like nibbled, on her neck and began working his way up to her face and then she began to wake up, reached for his face. “Lucien, you are here. I had such a bad dream. I am glad you stopped it. Both Christopher and your Father were in it at first, and then they both walked away from me, their images getting fainter and fainter – I could not see them any longer, leaving me by myself, all alone. I was getting so scared. Not the kind of dream you would expect on a romantic getaway, is it? Or, maybe it is?”

“Jean, are you more awake now? Come here, let me hold you until you are truly awake.” “Thank you for holding me, helping me. I did not mean to start our first morning together off like this,” Jean told him as she cuddled into his shoulder. “And Jean, I did not expect to start our first night off together, falling asleep – I had plans for the two of us. I did! We are quite a pair, aren’t we?“

When Jean was fully awake, Lucien held her head, kissed both cheeks, and started talking to her, “Jean, let’s get up, use the loo, make some tea. I can look at your new, beautiful nightie and then stare and flirt at my girl, who is wearing it. Then we can go back to bed – Does that sound alright, Jean?”

After about 10 minutes, Jean looked at Lucien, reached for his hand, asked “Are you ready to get back into bed, Lucien?” “I am – what about you?” “Yes, I am too.” Lucien held Jean so she could snuggle into his chest, began kissing her, and Jean started giggling. “What is so funny?” “Lucien, do you know I have thought about what our first night together would be like, what our first morning in bed would be like, waking up together – so many times.”

“Jean, so you are not counting the times we just fell asleep – you remember when your neck was so sore, I stayed with you so you would not run away from me or when we set up on the couch, you fell asleep, tucked into me, I gave you a pain in the neck or the time I made you stay with me after my nightmare, you were mortified or even the first trip to Melbourne, when you discovered how much I wanted you.” “No, I was trying to imagine what it would be like – What would I do with you? To you? Would we have satisfied each other? Lucien, are you ready for me?” Lucien looked at Jean, laughed, and said, “Well, I guess it is time I find out, isn’t it?”

Jean rolled over on top of his chest, feeling his erect prick and placing herself carefully on top of him, and kissing Lucien’s neck and working towards his mouth. “Lucien, what is his name?” “Who Jean?” Jean reached for his prick, held him, kissed him, caressed him and Lucien just squirmed. “Jean! My goodness, he likes you.” “So, what is his name?” “Jean, I think you need to name him.” “Alright, I will think about the right name.”

He just looked at her and said softly, “Jean, I am so sorry about last night – I fell asleep before you were even in bed, before we even had a chance to talk, love each other, whatever we were going to do. I missed seeing your new, beautiful nightie, to see you in it, to tell you how beautiful you are. I don’t know what happened. I am so sorry.”

“Lucien, how many evenings have I fallen asleep in your arms? I found getting into bed with you was – as soon as you felt me next to you, you held me, let me put my head on your chest, hugged me. It was like you knew it was me and we both relaxed into a deep sleep. You only had one short, fairly quiet episode last night – do you realize that? We have several days to be together, I am not upset with you. It was so nice that the phone did not ring – but the cottage has no phone, does it Lucien?”

“Jean, what do you want to do this morning?” “Lucien, I would like to hold you, look at you, love you.” “Jean, I would very much like to pleasure you, slowly, deliberately, carefully, and fully – that was my plan for last night, but I fell asleep. I told you before that how intimate we are will be up to you. And I meant it. You are in charge. Sounds like what we each have in mind may take all morning, is that alright with you?” Lucien said with a teasing eyebrow movement. “Lucien, it is. You also asked me in your surgery, if I wanted to tell you how long it has been since I uh um – well, it has been years.” “I bet you remember more than you think you do,” Lucien whispered in her ear.

Chapter Text

Jean looked at Lucien, smiled, and said, “Me first.” “On your back, Lucien,” as Jean started looking at his face and chest. He looked at her and could not suppress a smile. As Jean kissed his face, his lips, played with his beard, she asked, “How long have you had a beard? I like it the way you have it trimmed now.”

“I grew it after my release from POW camp, mainly to flaunt the rules that the Army has about ‘No Beards.’ I like this length as well and I trim it at least once a week. But it is getting speckled with grey and white now – and that has just happened since I started living with you, did you realize that?”

“Lucien, you are teasing me, once again. Your beard was speckled grey and white when you arrived. I remember, because I thought you so handsome, but oh so, so angry when we first met.” “Jean, I was, I do remember that day. I was just awful – a bloody drunk. I don’t know how or why you put up with me. But I am so thankful that you did.”

Jean, putting her index finger on a healed wound on his upper right chest, asked “What about this? When?” Lucien, took her hand, kissed it and held it, “Jean, I was shot there during the encounter with one of the foreign agents that I killed. It came down to me or him. Most of the time I did not care if I lived or died. For some reason, I did not want to die that night. I think now, maybe it was because you were going to be in my life one day.” Jean started tearing up, her tears falling onto Lucien’s chest. He held her, looked into her eyes and said, “Jean, you wanted to know and I am going to be truthful with you. I think that is only fair to you.” Lucien gently wiped away her tears and kissed her.

She moved down to his lower left chest and felt another healed, but ugly looking wound. “Lucien, what about this area?” “That is a knife wound from the war. I ended up stitching up myself – so it looks pretty nasty, even to this day.” “Lucien, it tells me you are a problem solver, even if it meant doing the repair yourself,” Jean told him as she kissed each healed scar several times and then held his face and kissed him several times.

“Lucien, I would have predicted some wounds on your arms and I am right. Tell me about this one on your left wrist.” “Jean, I broke my wrist when I was eight or nine. Fell out of a tree in the backyard. Needed surgery to set it. My mother was calm and my father, well he was livid. I interrupted his Masonic initiation night. He was in charge of the ceremony. Oh Jean, I can still remember the dressing down I got – like I had planned to do it, to embarrass him in front of his friends. Don’t know why he did not have someone else do the surgery or wait until the next day to set it. I think that is the evening I realized he really did not know what to do with me, his son. May have started him thinking of sending me away.“

Kissing his wrist and shaking her head, Jean told Lucien “I just don’t understand why Thomas treated you like that. I continue to see the reasons why you left Ballarat and did not come back for so many years. In truth, Lucien, I really do not know why you came back now.” “Jean, that is part of the reason I came back drunk and angry and took my time getting here. I did not have to talk to him by that time. But, I did find you, my love. I did not have a clue you were waiting for me here.” “Well, Lucien, if I was a fast decision maker, I would have left the first day you were back and none of this – Jean kissed him, hugged him – would have ever happened.” “I know Jean, I know. I have thought so many times about the ‘timing’ of my return and your willingness to help me, stay with me.”

Having finished looking at Lucien’s arms, Jean reached down, took his erect prick in her hand, kissed him, and said “Good Morning, Radcliffe.“ Lucien smiled at Jean and – Radcliffe twitched in response. “Lucien, how did you do that?” “Jean, I have no control over him, excuse me – Radcliffe – is his own man and I know he likes you a lot. He told me that on this trip – well, it was about time for the two of us to get him involved. He is quite disappointed in me last night, I can tell you that with certainty.”

“Alright, my turn,” Lucien told her as he carefully removed Jean’s nightie and looked at her, eyes becoming misty, swallowing slowly, and smiling from ear to ear. “Jean, thank you for coming to Melbourne with me. You are so beautiful.” “And Dr. Lucien Blake, you need your eyes checked. I am middle aged, had children, and have not had a man look at me that way in so many years I can’t even remember.”

“Jean, you have caught my attention, that is for certain. Let me look at you.” He slowly moved his hands, gently from her face to her curls. Finding no blemishes on her chest, he began to caress her breasts, kiss them, kiss her. “Jean, tell me something you have not shared with me yet.” As she was talking, he continued to move his hands over her. Goosebumps appeared on Jean’s skin as he touched her. “Lucien, you are a distraction to me answering you, did you know that?”

“Lucien, did you know that your Father, beyond helping me with the miscarriage, delivered my two boys, at our farm house, and did not charge us anything? He knew our parents had thrown us both out because we had to get married. We were on our own. With Christopher Jr., your father came out daily for the first couple of weeks, since I knew nothing about nursing the baby or taking care of him and myself. He made certain that I could nurse Christopher Jr. I just can’t believe he was so good to us. I know that is why when he offered me the chance to work for him, I jumped at it.”

“I did not know that. I am so glad he took care of you, and that you were working for him when I returned. You know several times when we were both in his room he looked at us with such – I don’t know – like we needed to look more at each other and stop the sparing, the fighting, the arguing that was ongoing. Maybe he saw something early on that we, well I know I did not. Jean, did you?” “Lucien, I thought you very handsome, but your drinking, your anger, it was hard for me to even live in the same household as you. You do remember my sore neck that resulted, right? And how difficult it was for me to ask you, of all people, for help?” “Jean, I remember the arguments that Matthew and I worked on to try to make it easier for you to ask me. You are one stubborn gal, you know that right?” Jean smiled back and said, “You are not the first person to tell me that.”

“I remember you telling me about your sprained wrist and how you did not get my father’s help for several days. Anything else on your arms or wrists I should see Jean?” “No, Lucien, I am not as prone to trouble as you are,” Jean said with a raised eyebrow and a smile. Nevertheless, Lucien took each arm and slowly looked at it, moving his hands gently over it, again triggering goosebumps from Jean. “Are you enjoying yourself, Lucien?” “Of course, my love. I need to feel and see all of you, did you realize that was part of the trip?” “I figured that out already, Lucien. But I get the same rights and privileges, correct?” “Yes, you do.”

Lucien continued stroking her belly, kissing her and working slowly down to her curls, leaving kisses along the way. “I will be back here later, Jean. That is a promise.”

“My turn, Lucien, on your belly.” Lucien turned over and said, “Well, Jean, you have seen all of my back and my bum so many times, what can I tell you?” Jean looked at his back, kissed it in several places, and told him, “Lucien, I am so sorry that you had to endure the beatings, the isolation, the torture – but you were strong, so strong, you did survive, not knowing if your family was safe, you could have given up. And if you had given up, I would not know you and we would not be here today. I love you, Lucien.”

Lucien began to shake, reached for Jean’s hand, then began to cry. Jean held him, comforted him, “Lucien, what is it?” “Jean, my back, what I asked you to do for me – that was so much to ask – I barely knew you. I never expected anyone to want to love me, in the daylight, to see my back. You have helped me so much. Jean, I love you. I know I bring with me a good deal of baggage – my drinking, my nightmares, my dark moods, for a start – from those days. I hope that is not too much for you to deal with.”

“You have heard me talk about how confused I am. I think we might be a ‘matched’ pair. We are going to have to help each other.”

“Yes, Jean, we will help each other. Now, my turn and you need to roll over.”

Jean rolled over on her belly and Lucien began to look at her back. “Jean, do you know you have tight muscles showing up right here?” as he touched a place on her right shoulder blade. “I think I am going to have to treat that area,” as he descended on her back kissing almost every inch he could reach. Jean started laughing and then Lucien began to see if she was ticklish. He found several areas and told her, “Now I know how to bring a laugh from you, on command. But seriously, are your neck and shoulders doing alright, Jean?”

“Lucien, I am fine. I have a new physician who is making me tell him the truth about my neck, doesn’t let me get away with telling him ‘I am fine’ when I am not. He has made a difference in my life. I am glad I found him, I really am.”

“Alright, Jean I want to look at your legs.” Lucien began working his way down her legs, kissing them and then looked at her scar on the inside of her right leg. “Jean, I hope the new cream helps the scar tissue loosen a bit, you should have less ‘bite’ from the scar. Let me know what you think about this cream in the next few days.”

“Now, the physician in me is gone and I am returning to looking at you, admiring you, loving you. I want to work my way down to your feet, your toes, and then turn you onto your back.” Lucien discovered no additional scars on Jean, except she was quite ticklish on the bottoms of her feet. He admired her toenail polish and kissed her feet. “I think the one burn is more than enough for you, Jean. You could have been severely injured, you know that, don’t you?” “Lucien, I do, and I am still frightened of fire, any kind of fire.”

“Lucien, my turn. Jean had him get on his back and started on his legs, feet, toes. As she started up his right leg, at about mid-calf, Jean found another healed bullet wound. “Lucien, what on earth happened here? “Jean, another encounter during the war. I even broke my lower leg when this happened. I was in hospital for four weeks and then on crutches an additional four weeks. I started drinking pretty heavily when I was recuperating.” Jean kissed his leg, hugged his leg and continued on her journey up his legs.

Jean got to his left knee and found a scar. “Did you have knee surgery here Lucien? When? What did you do?” “Um, Jean, I damaged my knee playing a pickup game of rugby during medical school. I was showing off and really got tackled and all I remember is the incredible pain. I had surgery that evening and was not able to walk on it for weeks. When it is cold, I hurt a lot, sometimes take pain meds.”

“My turn. I need to look at your legs again.” He started kissing her toes and working his way towards her inner thighs; she began to moan. “Lucien, oh my.” Jean was thinking, his touch, his kisses, so intense. How can he do this to me? Tears came from Jean’s eyes, she sobbed. Lucien stopped. “Jean, did I hurt you? What did I do?” “No, everything, nothing, I am so happy. It has been such a long time since I have felt this wanted, needed, loved.”

“Are we are both beginning to realize what has happened to us? In a short amount of time we went from fighting with each other to loving each other.” “Lucien, the intensity of your touch, your kiss, is so much – it is making me breathless, making me cry – I am so happy. This is so much more than I expected, more than I ever felt I deserved.”

“Jean, I would like to do more.” Jean smiled at him and said, “Yes, I may cry with happiness, but please begin again.” Lucien, smiled at Jean, kissed her with more intensity than before, kissing her legs, from ankles to inner thighs, first one and then the other leg, working towards her curls, then kissed her curls, slid his fingers into her, found she was already moist. She thought he was going to enter her then, but he continued to use his fingers to stretch her, moving in and out, kissing her breasts, moving to her neck, passionately kissed her mouth, whispering in her ear how much he loved her, wanted her, needed her, she responded with a passionate kiss, holding on to him – “Lucien” as Jean’s hips arched off of the bed. “Are you alright, Jean? “Lucien, Oh my goodness.”

She reached for Lucien’s erect prick, began caressing him, kissing him, and Lucien smiled at her, squirming under her touch. “Jean, you are driving us mad, do you realize that?” “Jean, I do love you so much and I think Radcliffe does as well,” as they both looked at him, grinning. “If we don’t do something with him soon, he is going to be very disappointed in us!”

“Now I think that we, me and Radcliffe, would like to come inside. Is that still alright?” Lucien quickly put on a condom – “I don’t think we are going to behave for very long, Jean.” As he entered her, Jean wrapped her legs around Lucien’s waist, kissed his neck, held his prick deep inside her, and Lucien began thrusting – measured at first, then stronger, as Jean moaned with delight. Then Jean surprised herself, climaxed again and Lucien followed with his release. Both held onto each other as tightly as they could, tears of happiness spilling from each of them.

Lucien wiped the tears from Jean’s face, smiled, looked at her – “And you, Jean Beazley, have not done this for years, really?” “No, I have not, and I have never done it like we just did. I, I am –“ her tears started again. “Come here, let me hold you, Jean.”

“Lucien, I came to Melbourne with you with so much anticipation, anxiety, confusion – I just knew that I wanted you but I was so afraid. I think that was the basis of my scary dream this morning.” “Jean, I want to be with you. When I told you, with such confidence – ‘We will be fine’ – I did not know if that were true or not. I thought if I showed any weakness, maybe you would not have taken the chance with me.” They looked into each other’s eyes, smiled, held each other, and breathed a collective sigh of relief. “Lucien, I am delighted the first time is – well, I can relax more, enjoy us in different ways now – we have reached a level of intimacy between each other that I did not expect to happen so quickly.” “Jean, I am very happy that you want to be with me and I only want to make certain you are satisfied with us and with me. Now can we get back to ‘makin’ out’ or is this all you want to do?” “Lucien, I am ready for more, the question is this: Is Radcliffe?” “Jean, now you are teasing me. Yes, of course, we are ready for another round.”

Their love making continued for hours, with each pleasuring the other, sometimes slowly, other times with such intensity they could not believe how they had bottled up their need for each other as long as they had. Lucien found Jean laying on top of him, barely able to hold her head up but with a smile on her face; he was at least able to help her roll off of him, and he covered them both up, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her intensely once again. Just before he drifted off to sleep, he thought about their earlier conversation – Jean thought she would disappoint me – she was so, so wrong, and he was going to tell her when they both came to their senses.

The next time they were aware – it was early afternoon. They both were hungry and Jean was going to jump up and get some food for them. He held her down, which was so common – Jean, don’t get up too fast, alright? – and they talked through the rest of their day. “Jean, I need to tell you something – You told me of your fears the other day when we were in the surgery. Do you remember? You are not a disappointment to me. Do you hear me? You are not a disappointment. The last few hours have been divine, overwhelming, beautiful, I am nearly speechless, Jean.” Lucien teared up as he placed his head between her breasts and kissed her. Jean could feel his tears landing on her skin. “Jean, thank you for loving me.” Jean held his head in her hands, played with his hair, and realized without all of the hair cream, he had curly, nearly unruly hair. How had she missed that?

They both got up and checked the Fridge and found some sandwich fixings and ate lunch. Jean took a quick bath and got into her swim suit and put on a cover up. After Lucien cleaned up, he slipped on some swim trunks and grabbed his wild beach shirt Jean had made him and they both were out the door. Before Jean got very far, Lucien stopped her and kissed her passionately and then said, “Sun screen on, Jean?” “No, I forgot,” and he sat her down and applied it for her. “I don’t need you to get sun burned, alright? I want every inch of you to be mine tonight. And, I didn’t apply the new cream on your leg, did I.” “No, Lucien, you forgot. I am not the only one who is distracted.” “Jean, let me do that for you as well. I think you need me in your life, if only to smear lotion on you!”

Jean put on a floppy hat and started towards the beach to begin collecting shells. An hour later, Lucien was on the porch reading a medical journal when a courier walked up to him and asked, “Sir, are you Dr. Lucien Blake of Ballarat? I have a package for you from Dr. Cornelius and Dr. Alexander that I need you to sign for.” Lucien looked at it and signed the young man’s document. Well, the courier at least waited until late afternoon to bother them.

Lucien opened the package and found the research proposal inside. He began reading it, marking it up, writing questions down he wanted to discuss. The entire proposal was very intriguing and the satellite clinic in Ballarat would add an interesting dimension. The physicians were all POWs, dealing with similar issues as the patients. Jean would need to read it as well and they would need to discuss it before they talked to James and Hugh at the end of the week. Once they were back in Ballarat, Mattie would need to work through it as well. He thought they would be such a good team in Ballarat. He could envision his practice growing, his work with Matthew increasing, and Jean and Mattie being heavily involved in the practice and the grant.

He was surprised to see Jean returning, seemed like she was on a mission - "Lucien, I need some money to buy some fresh seafood for supper. Paul Fisher and his son Cole were delivering their fresh catch at the restaurant and had some left and I was able to buy £20 worth – so we will have fresh fish for supper. What do you think?” “Jean, that sounds great. Ask them how to cook it, alright? We don’t have an oven in the cottage like at home. How old is Paul?” “Lucien, I think several years younger than you. Why? Was he in camp too?” “Maybe, I did know a Paul Fisher there. He was probably a decade younger than me.”

Cole and Paul walked Jean back to cottage, she went to get some plates to put the fish on. Lucien recognized the voice of Paul – started walking towards him and immediately Paul sprang to attention, “Sir, Major Blake Sir, it is so good to see you again, Sir.” Just like James, Hugh and Joseph had addressed Lucien. However, Paul did not react well to the hug by Lucien. It was obvious his back was quite sore.

“Paul, will you let me look at your back?” He agreed, telling Lucien it was so hard to see a physician with the hours that he and Cole worked. Lucien examined his back and told Paul about the James and Hugh research project at the hospital. He told Paul he would begin treating him but did not have enough supplies to do an adequate job. Jean suggested she call James and Hugh and ask them to bring more – and they could eat dinner with them.

Jean went to the restaurant to make the call and she got through to Hugh’s office and talked with him. She told him what Lucien needed to complete the treatment of Paul’s back. Then she asked him to get some vegetables to go with fresh seafood and also bring several bottles of wine. Hugh asked her, “Jean, any other marching orders?” Jean replied, “Yes, bring your appetite and ask James and Joseph to come as well.”

Cole was going to show her how to grill the fresh catch for them for supper and she was delighted to learn how to fix fish outside on the grill. Within the hour, James and Hugh were inside the cottage helping Lucien attend to Paul’s back while Joseph, Jean and Cole grilled the seafood and the vegetables. Joseph opened a bottle of wine and the three of them were chatting and getting to know each other.

“Jean, James told me you are a war widow, a mother, a survivor. Can you tell me more?” “Well, Joseph and Cole, I have two boys. They are about your age Cole. Neither one lives in Ballarat now. I know that my Christopher is buried somewhere in the Solomons – Lucien is going to help me figure out what island and we are going to visit his grave in the next few years. I worked for Thomas, Lucien’s father for years, and now am staying on to help Lucien. And it sounds like I will be part of the research grant of James and Hugh. I have lived in Ballarat all of my life and Lucien, well, has stormed into my life like a whirlwind – I am still trying to catch my breath.”

“Joseph, what about you?” “Jean, just like James and Hugh, Lucien kept me going in camp. Made certain I could see the reason to survive. I helped him with his back after the beatings, as did James and Hugh. At the time, I did not realize that I was making a career decision – to go to medical school – and have a practice. OB-GYN chose me as a field. I do enjoy the new lives I bring into the world, the happy parents. Maybe one day the proud father will be me. Jean, all of us, James, Hugh and myself, do know how troubled Lucien was in camp. Now, he seems happy, it is obvious he adores you, and I am glad to see the two of you grab at love, hanging on to each other every step of the way.”

“Joseph, walk with me to the shoreline, will you? I think you all know we are together, I want to be with Lucien even though we are not married, maybe he is still married, but –“ “Jean, just be happy, time is short and you need to grab it when you can.” “Joseph, I want a script for birth control pills. I cannot get them in Ballarat due to the gossip and rumors that are ongoing about us. So I need to get them in Melbourne. Could you help me with this?” “Jean, of course, I can. I will have them for you on Friday. I will leave the first month supply with James and you can refill them in Melbourne, is that alright? Let me know if you have any trouble taking them.” “Joseph, thank you,” as Jean reached up and kissed him on the cheek.

Once treatment of Paul’s back was complete, Lucien, James and Hugh came outside and asked when dinner was going to be ready. Jean told them, “By the time you fellows find plates, eating utensils, and glasses, Cole and Joseph will be ready to serve you. Let’s eat on the porch and porch steps.” Dinner for seven outside was delightful, Jean thought. Paul was going to see James in the morning and get a treatment plan underway and he would join the research study.

They were all talking about how to recruit participants into the study, where to post information, etc. Jean told them to work with Paul and Cole – people who actually have a job – most participants were probably not at the hospital already. The four physicians lifted eyebrows at Jean and almost said in unison, “We don’t have a job?” Jean replied, “You lot know what I mean!” and gave them all her eyebrow look. Paul and Cole just looked on, amused at Jean firing back at the doctors; they had never witnessed a lady with such a quick retort. They liked her.

James told Lucien that they should be leaving for the city. Paul and Cole were ready to go home and Cole had instructions on how to take care of his father and where to bring him in the morning. Hugh asked Lucien if he could check his back before they left. Lucien thought it was overkill but tried to be the good patient. “Lucien, the verdict on your back is it is healing nicely. Jean is taking very good care of you.”

“Lucien, James and I really didn’t need to see you back. We have a question for you. Will you explain your trip to the Oriental Medicine shop?” “Can I listen in as well?” Joseph asked.

Lucien looked at the three younger physicians and started his answer but Jean broke into the conversation. “Lucien wanted some medication for my leg. He thought a trip to Hong Kong was too far, despite the fact he told me about a marvelous restaurant he would have taken me to. Even described the smell of the food cooking.” “Yes, Jean will not let me forget that I owe her a trip to Hong Kong – someday.” All three just smiled at the two of them, their easy banter, Jean’s sassy reply, as Lucien and Jean locked eyes as if no one else was in the room.

“As you know, Jean has a scar from a severe burn when she was just a child, upper right leg, beginning to cause her some mobility issues. This medication should help the scar soften and when it does, she and I will start some stretches to give her some relief from the ‘bite’ that she gets when she moves her leg a particular way.” “Lucien, since, none of us know much about this approach, we hope you will begin to teach the three of us. Will you? Jean, is this a good time to see the scar?”

“What do you say Jean? It is your leg. This could go on for a while.” ”Lucien, it is alright.” Joseph went into the bath and got a towel, Jean took off her shorts and laid down on the bed. Lucien placed the towel over her upper legs, started talking to them about the scar, showed them the leg movement that caused Jean to complain. They each felt the scar, asked her many questions about it, moved her leg into a variety of positions, asked about the stretches that Jean would do later when the scar was softer.

“Alright, you lot, that is enough. My leg hurts – and now it is cramping, really cramping. Lucien, help me, please.” Lucien sat down next to her on the bed and began working on pressure points to help with the pain. Jean squealed at first for Lucien to stop, but then relaxed as he was able to help her. “Oh, my, thank you. You found the right places, you did.”

“Lucien, what did you just do to Jean?” “For tonight boys, that is my secret. Jean needs to rest her leg and not be the basis of another ‘Grand Rounds.’ Session is over.” Lucien helped Jean sit up, put her shorts back on, and they walked into the sitting room.

Hugh told Jean and Lucien, “We will see you two on Friday at noon. Lucien, we will resupply your medical bag then as well. Call us if you need us, alright? Jean, thanks for a marvelous dinner. We are sorry we made your leg hurt. You must keep us updated on how you are doing.”

Jean told the three, “Thanks to all of you for coming out – I am enjoying learning more about each of you. I know I will see James and Hugh on Friday. Perhaps Joseph, as well? – depending on who decides to make their appearance, I know.” Joseph smiled at Jean, “Jean, a pleasure to talk with you. Lucien, take care of her, alright? You are one lucky man.” “Joseph, I do indeed know that.”

“Well, my Jeannie, what an interesting afternoon and evening this turned out to be. I have the research proposal in my hands and we need to pick it apart. We have all day tomorrow to deal with it. I would like you to be in my arms the rest of the evening, is that alright?”

“Yes, it is Lucien.”

Chapter Text

Lucien was awake and alert, not like the previous evening, and took Jean to bed with such pleasure that she could not fathom their need for each other – they had been in bed for hours that morning and she wondered if he had the energy to love her again, and to her amazement, he wanted to pleasure her time and time again. Well, truth be told, she was after him at the same intensity. Many times, they simply looked at each other, with looks of ‘What is going on with us’ or ‘I cannot believe our behavior’ or ‘We are definitely too old for this carrying on’ but neither one of them wanted to call it to a halt, just yet.

Eventually, a couple of hours later, Jean’s energy level – well, she was just exhausted, fell asleep in Lucien’s arms. He gently rolled her over onto her back and covered them. Lucien began thinking to himself. We played ourselves to a draw. I can barely move either. I am lucky I didn’t fall over first. Do I deserve this incredible woman, who is so willing to give herself to me? A few weeks ago, I would have said no, but now, perhaps I do. I do feel better about myself now than when I first arrived in Ballarat. I do want Jean to be a part of my life. He kissed her and said very quietly, “Good Night, Jean.” Already that phrase had turned into such a habit that he wondered how he lived without her for so many years.

When they woke up the next day, Lucien was holding Jean in his arms and she was fondling Radcliffe and smiling at him. He had little control when she was holding him, kissing him, and loving him. He was ready to love his Jean all over again. Lucien was so pleased Jean would do this for him and he told her time and time again not to stop, not yet. “Jean, you are so good – and so bad – at the same time, do you know that?” “You have brought that side of me out. I was not this way before you came into my life.” “Really, Jean, am I that bad of an influence on you?” “Yes, I think you are, Lucien.”

Jean asked Lucien, “Are you recharged enough to hold me? I just want to be close to you. I cannot believe we leave tomorrow for Ballarat and the real world. Where has the time gone? These few days have been delightful, exhausting, and I am still surprised how well we have gotten along – it was like we have been together for so much longer than just a few weeks. We both seem so comfortable with each other, picking up cues from the other with ease.” Lucien began slowly kissing Jean’s neck, working his way onto her chest, her breasts, on his way to her curls, kissing her, constantly tracing his hands over her, triggering giggles and gasps from her. Once at her curls, he asked her, “Are you awake, my love? Can Radcliffe come and chat with you?” “Lucien Blake, you are insatiable, aren’t you?” “Jean, I am afraid you have lit a flame in me that I did not know I had. What do you think – want another go at it?” “Yes, my love, what do you have in mind this morning?” “I will show you.”

Afterwards, Jean told Lucien, “We need to get up, eat breakfast and then I want to take a bath.” Lucien asked, “Jean, would like some help with your bath?” “Lucien, just how do you want to help me?” “The two of us, in the tub, at the same time – My Jean, that is what I want the two of us to do.” “But I want to use my pink rose fragrance bubble bath, is that alright, Lucien? Do you want to smell like that? Will you help me wash my hair too? Will you massage my neck and back?” “Yes, Perhaps, Yes, Yes and will you make love to me, Jean, in the bath?” “Oh, Lucien, of course I will,” as Jean smiled at him, kissed him. “My best laid plans to have the morning to go shopping are clearly going down the drain – and it sounds perfectly marvelous to me.” “Jean, I am delighted you agreed with me. I will repay you this evening with dinner at a special restaurant – I have made reservations already for the two of us. I know you will be surprised. Don’t try to pull it out of me either – I will not tell you.”

Jean and Lucien finally got cleaned up by mid-afternoon and were going to drive to a flower show. Jean saw a flyer detailing the show in the nearby restaurant, thought she would like to attend it and perhaps get some more ideas for plants to grow in her sunroom. Then Lucien reminded her they had reservations for dinner at an ‘expensive’ restaurant for a very special meal, at a secret location. “You are being very evasive about this, Lucien. At least tell me what to wear – do we need to dress up?” “Yes, we most certainly do. I am going to wrap up our first official get away trip to Melbourne in style, my love.”

At the exhibit, they strolled the entire length of the displays and Lucien finally said “Enough walking for me, Jean, I need to sit down, drink some tea.” Jean left him sitting at a table, people watching, and continued looking at the flowers, even struck up a conversation with the show photographer, Larry, about his camera, the type of film he used. He suggested she stop by a specific camera shop that was nearby and talk to Bryce, the owner, about camera selection. He told her ‘do not buy today, just look’ and then think about it. He gave Jean his card and told her to call anytime with questions.

Lucien was sitting nearby, drinking his tea, and had a smile on his face as she returned. He made certain the guy with the camera saw him welcome Jean back to the table, by standing up, giving her a hug and a kiss. Yes, Lucien was noticing how other men were looking at his girl. He took the card that Larry gave Jean and looked at the name. “Jean, I think I know the name but he is heavier now, lost his hair, and well, maybe not, I don’t know.” As they were drinking tea and talking, Larry came by and said, “Let me take your picture. It seems you two are having such a pleasant time, why not a photo to remember this day. No charge.” They agreed to an informal snapshot of the two of them drinking tea and talking.

As Larry came up to tell them how to collect the picture on Friday morning at his studio, he snapped to attention, “Sir, it is so good to see you again, Major Blake, Sir.” Lucien was right, another POW camp survivor was snapping to attention in front of him. Lucien stood up, hugged Larry and formally introduced Jean to him. He sat down with them and chatted a bit before he said, “As much as I do not want to, I need to get back to work. Lots of flowers to snap images of. Come by Friday about 10 and I will have the photo ready for you. It is so good to see you Sir and to meet you, Jean.” Lucien told him, “Wait just a minute, Larry. I want to tell you about the Research Project that James and Hugh are setting up – free medical care for all of us POWs – at the Melbourne Military Hospital. Here is their card. I will probably have a clinic in Ballarat and be a part of the research project as well. Think about joining us, alright?”

Before they went to the restaurant, Jean and Lucien drove to the camera shop to talk about a camera for Jean. There were so many options and they made a short list of questions to talk to Larry about in the morning. Lucien spotted a chemist’s shop nearby and headed towards it. Jean noticed a distinct swagger in his walk and knew exactly what he was going to purchase. She had lost track of how many they had used already. She assumed he was buying ahead, before they got back to Ballarat. Jean thought to herself I don’t think we are going to sleep separately any longer.

Lucien had a new restaurant in mind for their final evening in Melbourne. Jean was surprised at his choice – it was very expensive – but that did not seem to deter him. When she asked him about this expense, he said “You deserve it, Jean.” She had never been treated like this, by anyone. To move from near poverty to having what she wanted, sometimes not even needed, was hard to wrap her head around. Lucien had certainly changed her life.

They parked the car at Henri’s on the Beach, a French restaurant, that had a marvelous view of the sea, with limited seating on the veranda, and they were seated in an alcove all by themselves. When the waiter seated them, he left no menu. “Lucien, how do we know what to order? How do we know what this will cost? It seems so, well uppity, expensive, I have never been in a place like this. Are you certain?” “Jean, the order has already been placed, even wine selections, and dessert. Just enjoy.” The waiter returned with orders of Battered Snails, Shiitakes, Bacon as well as Rouquefort and Leek Quiche for them to share. He followed with an order of Fennel & Lavender Roasted Rack of Lamb and veg to share. A selection of salads was brought to the table and to complete the meal, a dessert tray was presented. During the meal, they had several different wines to complement the food. Jean continued to be amazed at the food, at Lucien, and where she was at this point in her life. And I thought the cameras we looked at today were too expensive. I had no idea Lucien wanted to treat me like this.

During the meal they talked about next steps for them, where their relationship would take them. “Lucien, I am so anxious about our return to Ballarat. Probably more so now than we decided to come here for the week. What if I can’t deal with the gossip, rumors, what they are already calling me? What am I going to do?” “Jean, it is not what are you going to do, it is what are we going to do? And we need to have a chat about options, possibilities for the two of us. I am not letting go of you, it is that plain and simple. So, do not even consider that option.”

They returned to their cottage and Jean began to pack their clothing into their suitcases, leaving out some dressy clothes for their trip back to the hospital in the morning. They had both become accustomed to the beach clothing they were wearing the last few days; the return to reality was starting tomorrow morning. She left Lucien a pair of suit pants, a white shirt and a suit jacket and herself a skirt and blouse hanging in the closet.

Lucien gathered all of the reading material together, checked drawers that he had filled with their clothes on the day of arrival and realized how little clothing they had worn. They spent most of the day in bed and then in beach wear. Who would have thought that Jean and I have become so comfortable with each other in such a short period of time? Not me, he thought. I am certain Jean did not expect this either.

Lucien and Jean spent a couple of hours sitting in the porch swing, watching the sunset, drinking Sherry and whisky, and talking. The focus of the conversation was the upcoming discussion with James and Hugh about the grant proposal. They talked through each page, wrote down questions, comments, discussed how each of them would contribute to the grant. Predictably, Lucien was more focused on the practice, increasing number of patients, and blending his patients with his work for Matthew. Jean was thinking about the reports they would need to submit, what the patient intake forms should contain, she was thinking about practical issues. They decided they would tell James and Hugh that they wanted to have the satellite clinic in Ballarat and were ready to get busy. Once Mattie read the proposal, they thought she would be interested I joining them as well. “Jean, if the gossip gets too much for you, we could move closer to Melbourne, buy a house, open a practice and still be a part of the grant. We do not have to stay in Ballarat. You need to tell me if this what we should do, alright?”

After moving into the cottage, Jean told Lucien, “I need to put lotion on your back and change the bandage. Why don’t you lay down – and stay awake this time, alright?” Lucien just smiled at Jean and told her, “My darling, I will stay awake. This is our last evening and I want to love you tonight. Will you love me as well, Jean? I will check your leg and put some lotion on your leg before we get into bed.”

“Jean, are you ready for me, once again? You have no idea how much pleasure you have given me since we have been here, in our private getaway. I hope we can continue our nightly escapes when we are home.” “Lucien, do you know that I am surprised at us, two middle aged folk, and how much we need each other, every day. It is going to be interesting to see how we manage ‘us’ with our day to day life in Ballarat. But tonight, no phone calls, just being with you. I want to love you, now.” Lucien smiled and laughed at Jean as she crawled on top of him, and started to shower him with kisses, getting the predictable rise in Radcliffe. What does she have in store for me? Whatever it was, he knew he would enjoy and love his Jean for hours.

Sometime during the night, they actually got some rest. Jean watched Lucien sleep and thought how relaxed they were in bed, how easily she loved him and he loved her, how they both cried with happiness at times. How could this all be happening to me? To Lucien? To us?

At first light, they began to awaken and Lucien looked at Jean, just beamed and kissed her. “I love you, you know that? I am so glad you want to be with me.” Jean kissed him in return and asked, “Can we continue this at home or will it be too risky with Mattie and Danny living in the house? I don’t know if I can stay away from you Lucien.” Lucien grinned at her, “Nor can I stay away from you, my darling. We are going to have to figure out our sleeping arrangements once we are home. No reason to hide it from our boarders. I think it is written all over us now.”

They got up and dressed in regular clothes for the first time in days. Both were laughing at how uncomfortable they felt. Lucien packed the car just in time for the arrival of Paul and Cole. They placed a cooler in the boot filled with a large supply of fresh seafood packed in ice. When they got to the hospital, Jean thought she would call Mattie and tell her to invite Matthew and anyone from the police station who wanted to eat with them tonight. They had been so helpful with Thomas and this would be a way to pay them back for some of their time.

On their way into town, Jean and Lucien stopped by Larry’s shop to pick up their photograph. Larry handed them a folio of not one photograph but six photographs, all large format, all excellent black and white images of the two of them, totally enjoying being together. “Lucien, there is no charge. I just could not let this time in your lives not be documented. It was so obvious to me that you love each other deeply.” “Larry, that is such a priceless gift, thank you so much.” Jean looked at the photos and was speechless. Lucien reached over to her and hugged her close to him and kissed her, wiping away her tears of happiness with his fingers.

Jean pulled out her list of questions about cameras and Larry looked at it. Then he went into his office and walked out with a used camera bag. “Jean, this is for you. I want to loan you an older camera and lens for you to begin learning about photography. I have added several rolls of film as well. There are also a half a dozen pages on my notes for you; I think they will answer most of your questions. When you come back in a couple of weeks, bring the camera, exposed film and we’ll develop it. Then I can give you some pointers – if you need any. I have a feeling you will be a very good photographer. “Jean and Lucien, we’ll settle up the camera and film later, alright?”

Lucien and Jean timed their arrival at James’ office for just before noon. On their way into Melbourne, Jean started talking to Lucien, “I need to tell you I spoke to Joseph the other night and he should have a package for me. Either he will or James – depends on his schedule. Just put it in your suitcoat pocket, alright?” “Well, you beat me to it. I was going to ask James today. I am glad you want to continue being with me, Jean. I do enjoy our time together.”

Once they were in James office, he checked Lucien’s back for the final time and told him he was doing very well and then he told Jean what to be on the alert for, as if she did not already know. Jean wandered out of the exam room as Lucien was getting dressed.

“Hugh, I would like to see your patient intake forms, other paperwork you use, and billing forms. I brought what we use and want to make certain they are similar, if not identical,” Jean told him. Hugh gave her some samples and the two of them compared them. “Jean, I like the billing one that you use, but prefer the intake from that we use. We’ll have to show these to James and Lucien and decide which ones to use. So, I am thinking you two are joining us, is that right?” “Hugh, you are correct. We have not shown Mattie the grant proposal yet but want her to be with us as well. Will the initial meeting be next Friday or in two weeks?” “That is something we can decide on during lunch today. Jean, this is so exciting for James and me. To work with the Major, well, it will be a privilege and an honor. He is such a wealth of information – both medical and personal.”

As Lucien finished dressing, James gave him a package – “For Jean, From Joseph.” As he put it inside his suit jacket, Lucien said, “Thank you. I will give this to Jean. I was going to talk with you today about this, it looks like Jean has already talked with Joseph. I assume you all know we are together, came down here to get us away from the Ballarat rumor mill. James, we are really happy.”

“Is Joseph doing alright? He seems tired, anxious, and well, I don’t know, since it has been years since I talked with him, maybe that is just him now.” “Lucien, I think he is struggling with his move to Melbourne, probably like I did at first and like you did. The nightmares keep us awake, added onto a heavy schedule, we all just wear down. But you know, Hugh and I will keep an eye on him and see if he will open up to either one of us. I will see if he will become one of our patients – perhaps that will help him adjust.”

“Hugh, I need to make a phone call to Ballarat. Would you help me?” “My pleasure, Jean.” “Mattie, we are bringing seafood back with us, I want you to invite all of Thomas’ caregivers over for dinner. You will need to find the grill in the garage and have Danny or Matthew get some wood for it. Also get some vegs and several bottles of wine.” “Jean, this is exciting. I will figure out a list of who to invite for dinner tonight. When will the two of you be home? I have missed you – and it not just your cooking, but the conversations we have. Did you have an extraordinary time with Lucien? Well, did you?” “Mattie, we will be home by 4 and you know I couldn’t possibly comment on Lucien.”

Before they went to lunch, Hugh took Lucien’s medical bag and restocked it with materials he had used on Paul’s back. As the group left the hospital, Joseph came dashing out of the main lobby and caught up with them. “Wait up. I can go as well. Where are we going? I am hungry.” Hugh suggested a place nearby and the conversation started before they even reached the restaurant.

Jean and Joseph walked together while the others led the way. “Thank you, Joseph. James passed the pills to Lucien and on to me. I want you to know you are always welcome to come up to Ballarat, visit the Blake household, have a meal or two, talk to Lucien. I do want you to meet Mattie, our boarder who is the visiting nurse. We hope she will be part of the satellite clinic in Ballarat. I am not playing ‘matchmaker’ but I think you would enjoy getting to know each other. You know, we can collect you at the train depot or the bus stop if you don’t want to drive.” “Jean, I will visit. I need to talk with the Major. I am having adjustment issues and I know he had them as well.” Jean gave him their phone number and address and told him come anytime.

After ordering lunch, James told them, “The initial research meeting will be two weeks from today, from 9 AM to 5 PM. If Mattie is a member of your team, she needs to come as well. And Jean your first solo Friday will be in three weeks. Is that alright with you? We will start the weekly phone calls on next Thursday at 8 AM.” Lucien told James and Hugh, “I am still going to be the Police Surgeon for Ballarat and there may be conflicts at times. Jean will be up to speed on what is going on with the patients in the grant and will fill in for me if necessary. I assume that is acceptable.”

“Joseph, would you join our patient set to give us feedback on what we are doing, suggesting to our patients? It could be Hugh or me as your primary physician. Would you?” “Yes, I will join, but I would prefer the Major to be my primary physician. I could see him when he is here in Melbourne or in Ballarat. Lucien, do you have room for me on your list?” “Joseph, of course. You didn’t even need to ask.”

After finishing lunch, they all walked back to the hospital and said their goodbyes. Jean and Lucien were off to run a couple of errands before returning to Ballarat. Jean got the signatures required on the passport forms and then submitted the paperwork. Now, to plan their first trip out of country together was the next item on her travel agenda. She went to the travel agency to look at brochures while Lucien went to the law office next door and talked to them about all of his letters verifying his continuing search for Mei Li and the fact that she was not to be found. This was enough to begin the court proceedings. He would need to check in a couple of weeks about the status of the case. Jean went to the candy shop for her favorite chocolate treat, that Thomas had introduced her to and that Lucien liked as well.

Now, they were ready to drive home and return to their life in Ballarat. They would have to contend with the gossip in town but figured in the house they would be together. One of the first things they would do is to ask Danny and Mattie to be discrete – as they were going to be building their budding relationship as a couple.

As Jean and Lucien drove back from Melbourne, they talked about their holiday, how much they enjoyed each other’s company, and the hope that they could continue these trips away from Ballarat, not just for the grant meetings, but for them.

Jean was looking at the photos of the two of them. “Lucien, I cannot believe where we are now compared to a few weeks ago – Oh, did I argue with you when my neck was so sore – I was so stubborn, almost stupid about letting you help me.” “And Jean when I would not talk to you about my POW experiences until you wore me down and I spilled out so much agony – We have learned to rely on each other, to love each other haven’t we? Jean – I adore you, do you know that?” Lucien reached for her hand and kissed it passionately. “Lucien, keep your eyes on the road, please.”

“Lucien, I am thinking about our trip in two weeks. We could drive down Thursday afternoon, stay in a hotel near the hospital. Then back to the beach for a couple of nights before we returned to Ballarat on Sunday. I could contact Larry about learning to develop my film. What do you think?” “Whatever you want to do, my love, is fine with me, as long as I can be with you, all night, in our bed, together.”

“Jean, I wonder if my steamer trunks are in Ballarat? It has been about the right amount of time. I assume that Danny and Mattie accepted delivery of them for me. Where do you think they put them?” “If I had thought about it, I would have asked Mattie this morning when I talked to her. We will be home shortly and your question will be answered. If they are in the house, you must unpack them and figure out where everything should go.” “Jean, you will need to help me – too many memories, too many bad memories are in those trunks. Please help me with them.” “Yes, you know I will. And you know, we also need to revisit all of the letters your father wrote you – we will do that together as well. After all, it is the two of us now, neither one of us is alone any longer.”

“Did I tell you there are also several pieces of art work too? We will need to figure out where to put them.” “What kind of art is it, Lucien?” “Well, paintings, um of the human form, well the female form, well you will just have to see them, Jean.” “Why do I think they are going to be quite controversial, probably not for mixed company? Am I going to be embarrassed by them? Should you donate them to the museum or to the club?”

Chapter Text

A couple of days before Lucien and Jean’s return to Ballarat, Danny and Mattie did indeed accept delivery of two large steamer trunks and a large wooden container with five pieces of art. Additionally, the delivery included four large crates labelled books. They had the delivery placed in the sitting room and were both very curious about what Lucien had included in the trunks. Mattie wondered where they would hang the paintings, assuming that what was inside the large wooden crate. The books? Mattie thought about medical books, journals?

Mattie asked Danny, “How do you decide what to pack? How do you bundle your previous life into a couple of large steamer trunks?” Danny was as clueless as Mattie. They were both curious about the art work but did not know if they should open the crate or just wait. Waiting was safer they thought. All of it was just sitting, awaiting Lucien and Jean’s arrival. They probably put it in the wrong place, but they were trying to think of an easy place to open the trunks, have some table space to work with. Looked like a great deal of work to them and Lucien would probably need help, Jean’s in particular, but perhaps they could assist him as well.

Danny asked Mattie, “Do you think my Auntie Jean and Lucien are getting along? Are they quarreling? Still talking to each other? I know Jean told Lucien off almost on a daily basis, but that was at first. Do you think they slept together?” Mattie shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, Danny. I think they probably did. They seem to be heading that way, in my opinion ---” “Mattie, do you think she might marry him? Would they? Or would they just live together?” “Danny, what bothers you about the two of them being together?” “Oh Mattie, I don’t know. All of this has moved so quickly for Auntie Jean. I can hardly believe it – I bet Auntie Jean can’t – she has been alone, so long, why shouldn’t she grab at some happiness? I guess we will have our answer pretty soon.”

“I am concerned about Lucien’s nightmares. What if they did sleep together and he has one of those loud, thrashing, violent ones? Will he hurt her? I hope she can help him through them and not get injured herself,” Mattie said, as she looked at Danny. “But you know Mattie, his nightmares are not as violent as they were when he first returned to Ballarat. Let’s think positive about all of this. I just want my Auntie Jean to be happy.”

A car pulled into the driveway and stopped near the front door. Mattie and Danny headed out the door to greet Jean and Lucien. Mattie ran to hug Jean, “I am so glad you are home, Jean. I have missed you.” “And you did not miss me, Mattie?” Lucien said with a chuckle. “Well, I did miss you as well, Lucien. Did you have a good time?” Lucien looked at Mattie and said, “Of course, we did. Danny, come help me with the cooler of fish we brought back. Jean, should we put it in the fridge?” Danny walked up to Lucien and shook his hand, then hugged him. “Your steamer trunks, the container of art work and your crates of books are here. We put them in the sitting room. I am glad you are both back. Let me help you with the cooler.”

Mattie helped Jean carry suitcases into the house, saw the camera bag, and looked at the beach hats they had purchased. “Jean, is this your camera?” “Yes, Mattie it is. It is a loaner from Larry, who owns a photography studio. He is one of the camp POWs that Lucien was with.”

There were two large envelopes that Mattie picked up from the back seat of the car. “Do these come inside as well?” Lucien told her, “Yes, they do. One of them is the grant proposal from James and Hugh. Jean and I have read it, marked it up, it is covered in questions, comments. You need to read it, talk to us, and decide if you want to get involved. First meeting is in two weeks in Melbourne from 9-5 PM and you would need to go with us. We’ll get to it tomorrow, alright? The other, well, I will let Jean tell you about it.”

“Jean, tell me about this envelope,” Mattie asked Jean. “I will but let’s put the kettle on first. Bring the envelope to the kitchen.” The four of them sat around the table, drinking tea, chatting about what happened in Ballarat while they were gone. “Let me show you what is in here.” Jean carefully pulled out the large format black and white images. She spread them on the table and Mattie exclaimed, “Oh, Jean, Lucien, you are so happy, oh my goodness. I hope one day I can look that way, feel that way. She reached for Lucien and gave him a kiss on the cheek and then hugged him. He simply smiled, said, “Mattie, we are very happy, with us, with our trip. It was beyond our expectations.”

Mattie walked to Jean, hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, “Jean, this is so exciting for you – well, for Lucien too. They are such good images. Who took them?” “Larry was taking photos at a flower show we attended and he took our picture, we thought just once, but when we picked up the package this morning, there were six – six photos – of us. He also loaned me the camera and lens to practice with.”

Danny was sitting very quietly and finally said, “Auntie Jean, I never thought about you being happy with someone other than Uncle Christopher. I now understand that was just my child’s view of you. I realize how hard your life has been without him, trying to make ends meet, raising my cousins. Lucien has made you so happy and for that reason, I am happy for the two of you.” Danny got up and hugged both Jean and Lucien.

“Mattie when did you tell the guys go come over for dinner? How many are coming? We need to gather the dishes, cutlery, glasses – I thought we would eat in and around the sunroom.” “Jean, there will be at least eight of us. I will start on the dishes and get the sunroom ready.”

“Lucien and Danny, get the grill out and get the fire started. I will rinse the seafood, wrap the veggies for the grill.” “And I will get the wine open, the scotch bottle, and the beer bottle opener, take some glasses outside for us,” Matthew added as he walked into the kitchen. He stopped first to give Jean a hug, “We missed you. Not a good place in Ballarat to eat last week. But really, I did miss you. My job was a whole lot easier without you, Lucien.” “Matthew, you don’t mean that. You missed me making your job intriguing, frustrating right?” Lucien told him as he put an arm on his shoulder. “Out you lot, get the fire ready for the food. Let me know when to bring it out,” Jean told them as she pushed them on their way. “Go.”

Jean could hear the laughter and conversation from Lucien and Matthew as they worked on getting the fire going. Danny came back in with orders to bring on the food. Jean helped him carry it outside and the cooking began. In just a few minutes, the rest of the group showed up, with more beer, even some dessert to share.

They were swapping stories, some of them true, but most of them undoubtedly embellished somewhat. Lucien kept an eye on Jean as the evening progressed, being certain she was not doing too much work, but having time to talk to everyone. Frequently, Jean and Lucien locked eyes from afar, one then the other secretly wishing, when are all of you leaving?

About midnight, everything was cleaned up, the fire was out, and everyone but Danny and Mattie were on their way home. “Danny and Mattie, we want to chat with you before you go to bed,” Lucien told them. The four of them sat around the kitchen table.

Lucien and Jean started to tell Danny and Mattie about their relationship but both of the young people just looked at them and Mattie said, “Just by looking at you two, we know that you are both very happy and it is so obvious that you care deeply for each other. We will not tell a soul – that is our promise to you.” Danny gave Jean a big hug and Mattie grabbed onto Lucien’s neck and hugged him. Danny told them “But, I don’t know how you are going to hide how you two feel about each other. It is written all over your faces, the way you look at each other.”

“There is something else we need to talk about with you two. There will be nights that Jean and I will be together, um all night. I know there have been occasional nights before that we were together, but they were unintentional. We will be in my bedroom – that puts us about as far away from the two of you as we can be. I love her, need her, and want to make her happy.” “Lucien and Jean, will you two please keep the noise level down?” Mattie said, breaking up with laughter as she tried to finish her comment. “Yes, we will,” Jean replied as she shook her index finger at Mattie. “Where will you be tonight?” Danny asked. Jean told him, “I am really tired and am going to my bedroom.” “Really?” Lucien asked Jean, with a teasing look. “Yes, really."

As tired as Jean was, she had a hard time going to sleep. About 2 AM, she finally grew tired of rolling around in her bed and went downstairs to make some tea. She took her drink to the sunroom. Lucien heard her come down the stairs and wandered into the kitchen to share some tea and conversation with Jean but she was not there. He knew she was up, the pot was hot – so, he made some tea for himself, walked to the sunroom and found her sitting there.

“Can’t sleep either, Lucien? Sit here and talk to me, will you?” They talked about their trip, the planned return to Melbourne in a couple of weeks, their relationship and how to handle the Blake household and close friends, unpacking his trunks and art work. Putting the medical books in his father’s office. When Lucien asked Jean about being seen together in Ballarat, she just shrugged her shoulders – “I am not ready to face the society members in town, their whispers, Lucien.”

Lucien smiled and looked at his beloved, “Jean, I want to be with you – I need to be with you – and if this all gets too difficult for you and you decide to leave Ballarat, I will go wherever you want. I can set up a medical practice and will be able to support us.”

“Jean, it has taken just three evenings away from the house to completely spoil us – we need each other. I want you to come back to my bedroom and be with me. I want our beach cottage to be here in this house – every night. Will you?” “Lucien, I am thinking the same thing. I quite enjoyed our holiday. But we need to shut the door and keep the noise level down,” Jean giggled and reached for his hand. They put their tea cups in the kitchen sink. “Jean, Dance with me, down the hall.” “Of course, my love.”

Once they reached Lucien’s bedroom door, he stopped Jean, “Wait, don’t go in yet. I need to pick you up, carry you into our ‘cottage.’ I did not do that in Melbourne and I should have.” “Lucien, don’t hurt your back, please.” “Jean, you are just a wisp of a girl, I can do this” – as he swept her off of her feet, kissed her, and walked into the bedroom. “See, my love.” Now, I want us to undress each other and get into the bed and enjoy our first night in bed, in my house, excuse me, our house. Jean do you realize how much I want to be with you?” “Lucien, I am not blind,” as Jean leaned down and caressed Radcliffe.

They made it into bed, with their sleeping clothes littering the floor, loved each other intensely, as if they had been apart for weeks, instead of two days. “Lucien, you so incredibly good with me, I do not know how you have figured ‘me’ out so well, so quickly.” “Jean, I could say the same about you. I think we just need to be together, the gossips in Ballarat, be damned.”

After the kitchen was cleaned up breakfast on Saturday morning, Jean suggested to Lucien, “Time to attack your steamer trunks and the art work. “Jean, I really don’t want to do it today.” “Lucien, you have three people to help you this morning, we can make this happen fairly quickly. So why delay it? I know you do not want to do this just by yourself.”

“Jean, well, um let’s get started. Where should I pile this stuff? Maybe I should just throw it in the bin and be done with it.” “Lucien Blake, look at me now. We are here to help you. You wanted to ship all of this here, now we are going to deal with it, warts and all. Understood?” Jean told him, somewhat in jest but realizing this was going to be very difficult for him. Just what did he pack in those trunks that was so troubling? “Yes, Jean, understood,” Lucien answered, his voice had dropped a level.

Lucien opened the first trunk and began pulling out clothing, seemed like army field clothing, military ribbons, awards, pins, name badges, certificates. These confirmed to Jean that Lucien was quite the decorated military veteran, an expert marksman among other items she saw come out of the trunk. “Lucien, you could place that type of clothing here, and in this pile put the awards here.” “That’s fine, Jean. I will do that.” He seemed to do better with this task with some guidance, even being told what to do. Well, she could do that if she needed to.

He opened additional drawers, placing the clothing into separate piles. Some of it was good clothing, socks, underclothing, several sweaters – a variety of colors, some patterned, a large number of ties – all were quite nice, some were colorful, geometric designs, some conservative – cuff links, tie clips and pins, fobs for a pocket watch, handkerchiefs, one entire drawer of fiction books, another drawer of sheet music, several sets of drum sticks – some even had his name engraved on them, winter scarves and gloves, belts and braces for his trousers, two knee braces, a true hodge-podge of smaller items. There were two pairs of his Army boots, and two pair of dress shoes. The hanging clothes were a mixture of custom made white shirts, suits of a variety of weights, two Army dress uniforms with his officer’s hat, and an overcoat. The piles began to expand all over the table, none were very tall. Jean wondered why this trunk would be worrisome to him. Maybe the army gear? Yes, that could be it.

The second trunk proved more troubling for Lucien. When he opened it up, there were several smaller boxes within the drawers. In the first pull out drawer, a box containing his service revolver, a Webley Revolver MK IV (.38 calibre) with a holster was removed. He checked the gun to be certain it was not loaded, put it back in the holster. Another smaller pistol with a holster was in the box as well. It looked like a gun he could wear in a shoulder holster – maybe when he was working undercover for the Army. In the next drawer, a box of photographs of his daughter Li and her mother Mei Lin, both still lost to him. In that drawer, a large bundle of letters, some in English and some in Chinese. In another, documentation of his medical degree from University of Glasgow School of Medicine, certifications of advanced study in surgery, some medical equipment, and his first medical license to practice as a physician and surgeon. Another box was opened. He gasped and turned away. Here were photos, drawings like Jean had seen before – that night he had his dark mood. It was of the POW camp, skeletal men staring blankly at the camera, barely clothed, long hair and long beards. Tears began to gather in Jean’s eyes and she simply said, “Lucien, you did survive this. You are with us today. Look at me. Stay with us.” Lucien turned towards Jean, held her, quietly sobbing for several minutes.

At that point, they took a break and put the kettle on. The break was helpful for Lucien as he seemed to get a second wind and wanted to finish the trunk and move on to the wooden crate of art work. The remainder of the trunk was a selection of very nice women’s jewelry, metal boxes that had been in a fire with nothing in them except ashes, a couple of Li’s toys when she was small, a carved wooden horse, a couple more pair of dress shoes. The hanging clothes were more white dress shirts, custom made suits, two dressing gowns, several pair of PJs, another overcoat.

Danny and Mattie walked each pile into Thomas’ bedroom, placed them into labeled boxes that would slide under the bed, or fit into the closet. All of the clothing was hung in the closet.

Danny and Lucien carried the trunks to the garage and placed them there. “I am so glad that is done, Danny. Thank you for helping me.” “Anytime, Doc. We all want you to stay here, with us. Now, what about the art work?” “Danny, I think Jean may get upset with me about this. You may need to help me, alright?”

They took a screwdriver and a hammer to open the crate with his art work. Each painting had been carefully wrapped, taped, and placed into a rack. At both ends of the crate there was enough room for three hat boxes. Lucien pulled the hats out first, piled the boxes on the table. Then he pulled the first frame out and laid it on the table. He cut the tape and slowly unwrapped it. Once the painting was visible, Jean gasped, Mattie giggled, Danny just stared, and Lucien, well he needed to figure out a plan in a hurry. This one was probably the least offensive painting of the five, at least in his mind. “Um Jean, why don’t you and Mattie go to the sunroom while Danny and I unpack these and put them into my father’s bedroom. Then we can talk about them when you are not quite so a upset with me.” “Lucien, that is an excellent idea. Come on Mattie.” “No, Jean, I want to see all of them.” “No, you do not.” “But, Jean you are not my mother. I want to learn about –” “Mattie, go with Jean, please. I am in enough trouble as it is. Danny be certain you turn each painting towards the wall in the bedroom so Jean cannot see them.”

Once the crate was placed in the garage, Lucien went to the sunroom to talk to Jean and Mattie. He deliberately avoided a discussion about the paintings and took the grant proposal with him. He wanted to unpack it with Mattie and make certain she wanted to participate and could arrange her schedule to be in Melbourne once a month. Mattie was quite interested in being a part of the team, had already asked about an occasional day off each month. Additionally, this way she would see her parents once a month and maybe that would stop them from constantly wanting her to work in Melbourne. She did enjoy living with Jean and Lucien.

Jean seemed relieved that the grant was the basis of the hour long discussion. Lucien seemed to be getting his focus back, the steamer trunks had been difficult for him, more than she had anticipated. The art work had rattled her more than she expected. They were going to discuss it, that much she knew for certain. But not now.

Jean organized lunch for the four of them. Matthew walked into the kitchen about the time they were sitting down. “Jean, can I eat with all of you?” “Matthew, there are several sandwich shops in town – that is all we are having for lunch. I have not been to the grocery or meat market yet.” “Well, I like your sandwiches best. And the conversation here is always interesting. And, Lucien, I want to see the artwork that we talked about last evening.” Matthew got the eyebrow treatment from Jean and quickly changed the subject. After lunch, Danny, Matthew and Lucien went outside and huddled together talking. Jean shook her head – here we go again, just what are they doing? She did not go outside to find out. Eventually, she would catch one of them unawares and find out.

“Lucien, we have the cabin ready for Jean. I am going up there today to finish a couple of items. Mattie and I have taken up kitchen things, Matthew has the liquor up there, I will make certain the dunny is vermin free, and the furniture has all been put in the proper rooms, just like you wanted,“ Danny told Lucien.

As Jean was preparing supper, she had trouble finding ingredients that she wanted to season the roast. “Mattie, do you know where my spices and seasonings are? I can’t find what I want for the roast.” “Oh yes, Jean, we cooked with them while you were gone and ran out. I should have made a trip to the market to resupply you. I will do it, I will take care of it.” “Well, alright, the roast will just be pretty plain tonight, but that will be the way it is.” Jean talked to herself some more about this – is this part of what the guys were discussing after lunch? What are they doing?

It was Sunday morning. Jean went to services and came home angry, tears in her eyes, slammed the front door shut. “I am so angry, so mad,” she said as she stormed down the hallway, talking to herself. Then, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom, again slamming the door.

Lucien was in the surgery and heard all of the commotion. “What in the world is going on?” Lucien went up the stairs and knocked on Jean’s bedroom door. “Lucien, go away. Just leave me alone,” Jean told him through her tears and gravelly voice. Lucien very gently, but firmly, said, “No, Jean, I am not going anywhere until you talk to me. You need to open the door.” Jean did not open the door so Lucien opened it and marched in. Jean had nowhere to hide in her small bedroom. Lucien walked up to her and held her. “Lucien, just go away. You are making this worse for me.” “Jean, talk to me. What is going on? Remember – we are going to help each other, be truthful, right?”

“Lucien, the ladies at church, the looks they gave me this morning. The whispers. I heard them, Oh, they made certain I did,” Jean haltingly told him, before the tears started flowing again. “Jean, look at me. I love you. I do not want you to be so upset. We need to talk. We need a change of scenery. Change your clothes and lets go on a drive, get out of town, sort this out.” “No, Lucien, I do not want to go.” “Yes, Jean, you are going. Hop to it, now,” Lucien ordered her, giving her a kiss and a hug. “Let’s go. No arguing with me Jean. As your ‘occasional physician,’ I am concerned about your mental well-being.”

They both changed clothes, packed a change of clothes, some night clothes, toiletries, food and drink, reading material, Lucien’s medical bag, Jean’s new camera, a couple of blankets and headed for the car. Lucien left Danny and Mattie a note about where they were going, when they would be back.

“Where are we going? I don’t want to see anybody, Lucien, you know that right?” Lucien headed west out of town, on paved road, then gravel roads and then the road changed to dirt and around the last corner, was a small cabin, with a porch, a beautiful view of the countryside. The name on the cabin said “Blake” and Lucien pulled the car in next to the well maintained cabin. He turned the motor off and got out. Jean continued to sit and stare at the cabin and then at Lucien. “Lucien, what is this?” “Jean, didn’t my father ever bring you here? Tell you about this? Danny, Mattie, Matthew, Bill, Ned and I have been up here several times, repairing it, cleaning it up, getting it ready to bring you here. It will be your getaway place, just for you, and just for us.”

“Lucien, is this what you would not tell me about?” “Yes, it is Jean. I wanted to surprise you. But with all of your questions to each of us, you were so close to getting one of us to tell you. And poor Danny hit his fingers, I think this last time, he might have broken a bone. Do you like it?”

“Lucien, of course I do. I love it, I am so glad you decided to fix it up. It will be our getaway place.” They embraced each other, kissed, and Lucien wiped some tears away from his face as well as Jean’s. “Let me show you around the cabin. There is a bedroom for the two of us furnished with a bed and a night stand. The living room/kitchen area has a couch, a small bed for Mattie, a couple of chairs, kitchen table with some chairs. The Y-room has a couple of bunk beds and a couple of smaller beds. I want to get electricity hooked up as well and maybe an indoor loo.” Lucien put their gear in the bedroom, and put the cooler in the kitchen. “The well works, you just have to pump it.” Jean nodded, “Yes, just like when I was growing up on my parent’s farm.”

Once they had unpacked the car, got something to drink, they went onto the porch, sat in the rocking chairs, Lucien started telling Jean about what he was thinking. “Jean, here are my thoughts on our situation. I have several possible scenarios for us to consider. If you don’t like it, tell me.”

“My first one is this: I should leave Ballarat and go back to Hong Kong. I have only been here a couple of months. You have lived here all of your life. I will get all of the legal things settled with my father’s estate, I will gift you the house, so you will have a place to live, give you half of my father’s money, and then I will leave. We will not see each other once I leave. Jean, I really do not like this option, in fact, I absolutely hate it, I told you I would not do this, but I will if you think this would make life easier for you.”

“Lucien Radcliffe Blake, I stay in Ballarat and you leave for Hong Kong. Lucien, what are you thinking! I hate it, I hate that idea, I really do. This is my worst nightmare, in spades. We have the project with James and Hugh, you just can’t leave. Please do not leave me.” “Well, Jean, that one is definitely off of the table. I wanted to be certain we both felt the same way, and we most certainly do.”

“My next idea is this: I stay in Ballarat, in the house, you leave and get lodging in town, which I will pay for, you work for me during the day and leave at night. I do not like this because I would see you each day, would not be able to be with you, hold you, talk to you in the evenings, which has become so very important to me. And I like our beach cottage in my bedroom each night. So I do not like this one either.” “Lucien, that would be agony for me as well. I do want to be with you. Throw that idea in the trash, now.”

“Alright Lucien, since you are not coming up with viable alternatives for us, here is a suggestion from me: I leave town and start over, somewhere else. But, I would need to borrow money from you to do this. My job with your father kept me out of poverty but I have not been able to save anything. I have more money now than I ever had, thanks to you. Everyone in town says I am only giving myself to you to get your money. That I am a paid – um, whore, there I said it. Oh Lucien, please hold me --” He reached for her and held her tightly to his chest. “Jean, your idea is as bad as mine. It is a non-starter as far as I am concerned. I am not paying you to be my lover – we are going to be together, legally very soon. I know it. My worst dreams are of you leaving me, leaving me alone. We need to be together. We are only the best we can be, together.”

“Jean, here is another idea. You leave and get another job in town and we do not see each other on a daily basis - unless occasionally in town. Oh my, I don’t like that option either I don’t even know why I brought it up.” “Lucien Blake if you think I am going to leave your employment and get another position in Ballarat, you need your head examined. Period. I don’t like that option. We are certainly throwing more ideas away than keeping them, aren’t we?”

“What about this idea, Jean? We move to another town and I open a practice there, and we live together, make a fresh start, a new beginning. Once I have the legal issues sorted about Mei Lin, we get married, if you would have me.” “Lucien, I had a similar idea. We both leave – we get married when we can or we just live together without being married. You could start up a new practice? work in a hospital? Where would we go? You need to know that I will go anywhere – anywhere – with you, I would Lucien - whether we are married or not.”

“Lucien, before you arrived, I thought that the church was enough for me. I was only married for a few years and a war widow with two boys, working in the church, cooking, sewing, in the drama society, I assumed that was the all I could expect out of life. Do you know that the gossip about us started in 24 hours, just one day, after you came back from Hong Kong? I was working for your father at that time, not you. They told me I should leave the house, not stay overnight, because you were, you were – a single man, an unmarried man, maybe a widower, they didn’t know, it did not make any difference, but you were a drunk, so angry – who knows what else was in the gossip mill. You and me – well, we were arguing, sparing, glaring at each other – nothing, nothing had happened between us. I was going to leave as soon as Thomas passed. You were only going to stay awhile.”

“I know what they are saying – but I am not going to leave you. You have been so good to me, yes, financially - you are very generous, probably to a fault, but I don’t think that is why I want to stay with you. I do love you, need to be with you. Lucien, I am happy, truly happy, for the first time in I do not know how long. I can do what I want, be ‘me’ for the first time in my life. I am not going to change a thing between us, well, maybe your choice in art, but I am not going to ask you to change, be someone you are not. You have not asked me to do that either. I will need to think about leaving the church, that is a fact.”

“Lucien, I want more, I never thought this way until you, you, Lucien Blake crashed into my life. And now they are really gossiping about us, about us being gone for a week. Being together. That is true, we were together, and now even in your house. I am happy, I am with someone who loves me. I think they are very jealous of me, of our happiness. Many of them have never experienced this degree of – “ Lucien reached for Jean and held her. “Jean, are you alright? You are preaching to the choir, remember? I love you, need you, will do or go anywhere with you. You tell me what you want to do.”

“Lucien, you know I am now able to do what I want to do, go where I want to – but the bottom line is this, I want to be with you – I think we can both be better people, together, rather than by leading separate lives. I can do what I want to do with you.”

“Oh, Lucien, this day has given me a real pain in the neck. Would you help me, please?” “Come here Jean, sit in front of me and let me work on your neck.” Jean sat down on the step, with Lucien sitting behind her, his knees on either side of her. Lucien helped her unbutton her blouse so he could reach her back and neck. He started by kissing her shoulders and neck, hugging her. “Alright, Jean, I am going to start. I need to assess what you have done. I am finding problem areas here, started massaging her back and neck.” Jean yelped on occasion. “Jean, my goodness, you have got your neck into a mass of knots, again – I am sorry, but I am going to hurt you. Like now, and here, and here. Just yell at me if you need to, but I am still not finished.” Soon Jean was relaxing, leaning back, melting into his chest. “Thank you so much, Lucien.” “Let me see what I have in my bag for you to help control the pain. It has been quite a while since your neck flared up like this hasn’t it?” Jean shook her head yes, still wiping her tears away and just stayed in his grasp. “Jean, let me get you some medication. I will be right back.”

“Lucien, thank you. What are we going to do?”

“Jean, there is another option that we have not put on the table. We stay where we are, 7 Mycroft Avenue, and weather the gossip. We are together, we have our ‘beach cottage’ in my bedroom or we remodel part of the house for us, and we surround ourselves with friends who support us. We have the Blake cabin for a get a way. We could even live here if you wanted to. It probably means a new a church for you. We have the grant to work on, trips to Melbourne, use our new passports to travel the world.”

“Jean, let me hold you. I do not want to mess up what we have, I do not - but by damn, I am not going to let go of you because some people in Ballarat try to dictate our relationship. Jean - We are going to stay here this evening and tonight, maybe tomorrow as well. Jean, I love you. I do not want us to be apart. I do not want to see you so upset.”

“Do you mean we are staying here tonight, Lucien?” “Yes, Yes, we are, my Jean. This will be our night, we can star gaze, eat, drink, relax. Do whatever you want to.”

After they ate a mid-afternoon meal, Jean suggested, “Lucien, let’s take a walk. Will you show me the area around the cabin? I would like to get oriented to the countryside. I want to take some pictures. Before we go, I need to use the facilities. What are my options?” “Jean, there is a dunny. I have checked it – as of last week, no snakes that I could see. Take some tissue with you. Don’t leave it out there, some curious animal will steal it tonight.” “Are you trying to frighten me? I grew up on a farm and lived on a farm. I do know kind of what to expect.”

Jean got her camera bag, Lucien got a small notebook to scribe for her, they put on hats, walking shoes, took a couple of canteens of water, and started on their walkabout. As Jean took pictures, Lucien wrote down where they were, how many shots, what the camera settings were, and they talked, laughed, relaxed and enjoyed being together. “Lucien, why can’t Ballarat just leave us alone?” “I don’t know Jean.” He reached over to her, pulled her close to him, and kissed her passionately. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

About half an hour after Jean and Lucien left for the cabin, the telephone rang at the Blake household. Danny answered it, “Blake Residence, Danny Parks speaking.” “Hi Danny, this is James Cornelius and I have called to chat with Lucien about the grant. Hugh and I have more questions to discuss with the Major.”

“James, Lucien is not here and will not be back until Monday evening. Jean came home from church this morning really upset. Lucien made her go with him to the Blake cabin so they could talk through what they are going to do. Where they are going to live. Come on up and I will take you there. Bring Hugh and Joseph as well. Lucien is worried about her. Mattie, Matthew and I just finished a new paint job on the cabin, fixed it up so that Jean will have a place to call her own, a get-a-way place. I will tell you all about it. Bring some food, some beer, sleeping gear and spend the night with us. There is plenty of room for all of us to stay overnight. Jean and Lucien need our support and help.”

Before he hung up the phone, he continued talking to James. “Well, James, I did it again. I hit my finger yesterday, not the one you looked at but another one. This time Doc says it may be broken. He was going to fix it this afternoon but he needed to take care of Jean. But, I do get it x-rayed tomorrow. Mattie and I are planning to go up to the cabin this afternoon. We will wait for you to come and then we can caravan up there.”

“Danny, I will call you when we get ready to leave Melbourne. Thanks for the invitation.”

Danny called Matthew, Bill and Ned told them about the plans for the afternoon. They invited themselves to tag along as well. About 3 PM, the Melbourne crew showed up at the Blake household. James introduced Mattie and Danny to Hugh and Joseph. All five immediately broke into conversation about what they brought with them, what else needed to be moved from the Blake house to the cabin. Matthew showed up ready to go with them as well. He said that Bill and Ned would be out as soon as their shifts were over.

Joseph asked, “What will Lucien and Jean think about all of us descending on them? I understand that Jean is quite distressed.” Matthew answered, “We are Jean’s support system. She needs us right now more than ever and we will help her and Lucien.”

“Danny, let us look at your finger before we go. Will you let one of us immobilize it for you?” “Yes, I will. I keep hitting it and it really hurts then.” “Mattie, can you show me some supplies in the surgery that I could use.” James and Mattie fixed Danny’s finger as the grill, more food and liquor from the house was added to the cars.

They were at the cabin in about 20 minutes, unpacked the supplies, food, beer, wine, grill and their gear. Lucien and Jean were nowhere to be seen. But their car was there, and their gear was in the bedroom, cooler of food in the kitchen. The guys put their sleeping gear in the Y-room. Hugh and Joseph set up the grill and got a fire stared to fix dinner for everyone.

When Lucien and Jean were walking back to the cabin, they heard conversation, lots of it. “Lucien, that sounds like Danny, Mattie, and Matthew talking, laughing, shouting. What are they doing here?” “Jean, I think I also hear James, Hugh and Joseph. I have no idea why they are here. I only told Danny and Mattie where we were. I did not ask them to come up, I wanted this time just for us. Jean, I also smell food cooking.”

As they approached the cabin, Jean spotted Danny and Mattie. Danny was hanging a new sign at the front of the cabin. The ‘Blake’ sign was replaced on the cabin with a sign that said ‘Jean’s Place.’

“Danny, what are you doing? When did you arrive?” Jean was in tears, grabbing for Danny, “Danny” – “Auntie Jean” – they hugged each other. Mattie walked up to the two of them and surrounded Jean with her hug. “Jean, do you like it?” “Oh Mattie, of course I do. But to put my name on the cabin, is um is –“ Just tears of joy and happiness flowed from Jean’s eyes. Lucien looked on at three of his favorite people. He was so glad that Jean appreciated what they had all done, with the cabin, for the extended Blake household. He walked up and hugged the three of them. “Well, we surprised you, didn’t we? No one spilled the details on what was happening.” “Lucien, I really don’t know what to say. Thank you and thank you for not telling me what was going on. This is a surprise I will remember forever.”

Mattie started telling Jean what was in the cabin. “Danny and I went through your kitchen and have taken dishes, cutlery, glasses, pots, pans, skillet, lids, stuff to do the dishes, and more. Then we went through the cupboards and took flour, sugar, salt, pepper, seasonings, to cook with and then through the fridge. We hope what we need to cook with is here. Otherwise, we will need to make do.” “No wonder I could not find what I wanted in my kitchen yesterday. It makes sense now. I didn’t get too cross with you, did I Mattie?” “No, Jean you did not.”

Matthew looked at Jean, smiled, put his arm around her shoulders. “Matthew, you are involved too, aren’t you? I see paint on your face.” “Really, I thought I got all of it off. I raided Lucien’s liquor cabinet and brought quite a bit up here.” Jean hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Lucien put his arm around Matthew’s shoulder and said to his good friend, “I wondered who was drinking my scotch, Jean’s Sherry. We were not gone long enough for that many bottles of the good stuff to disappear.” Matthew chuckled and gave Lucien a gentle slap on the back.

Jean looked at Danny and said, “Let me see your hand Danny. What did you do?” “Yes, Auntie Jean, I did it again. Yesterday.” Lucien asked him, “Did Mattie wrap it for you?” “Kind of, James and Mattie helped me just before we drove up here.” “James?” Then Jean spotted Hugh, James and Joseph, standing behind Matthew. “I thought I recognized your voices. How did all of you know how to find us?”

James explained his telephone call to Danny. Hugh added that we brought food, beer and sleeping gear. Joseph added, “Jean, you had given me a standing invitation to come up to the Blake household, so I did.” All three seemed to be delighted they were included in the ‘dedication’ of ‘Jean’s Place.’

Another car pulled up near the cabin. Bill and Ned got out of the car, walked up to Jean and Bill asked, “Mrs. Beazley, do you like how we painted the cabin, furnished it?” Jean gave both of them a hug as well, “Oh, my goodness. This is so nice. Thank you.” Ned piped up, ”We brought chairs and blankets and our appetites, some desserts. When do we eat?”

Mattie told Jean and the group, “We need to take pictures of all of us, so we can remember this afternoon, the unveiling of ‘Jean’s Place’ – well, it is yours, Jean, but we all want to use it as much as we can. It is so nice out here. Lucien, when are you going to get the electricity hooked up? An indoor loo? A Shower?” “Mattie, we are in the outdoors. Where is your sense of adventure?” “Lucien, I don’t have one, sorry.”

Lucien got everyone organized at the front of the cabin, and several of them took turns taking pictures of the group. He said, “We need to have a print framed for the inside of the cabin, so we can remember this day, our good friends, the food, the fun.”

James took Lucien aside. “You know you and Jean could move to Melbourne, we could get you an appointment at the hospital, and you could work with us there. Or move to the outskirts of Melbourne and have a satellite clinic there. Just get out of Ballarat. You need to take care of Jean. She is one in a million, you know that don’t you Lucien?” “James, yes , yes I do know that. I think we are going to stay here for the short term. I will know my status soon. Once I can marry her, I will. James, you also need to remember my work as the Police Surgeon here in Ballarat is important to me as well. If we move away, that part of my life may well be gone.”

“I need to ask the three of you if you have any meds with you. Jean’s neck is a bundle of stress. I have pain medication but want something to relax her neck muscles.” Joseph piped up, “I should have something. Let me check.” He came out of the cabin with a bottle and gave them to Lucien. “Oh Jean, could you come over here for a minute?” “What Lucien?” “Joseph has some medication for you. Lucien gave her one, put the bottle in his pocket. Be certain you eat something with it, alright?” “Joseph, thank you. And I am delighted you all came up, on such short notice,” Jean told the threesome.

The food was nearly finished on the grill and Mattie, Bill, and Ned started getting it organized so they could eat. They sat around the porch, in the rocking chairs, and ate and drank and talked for several hours. “Lucien, you need to have a couple of tables outside here for us to eat on,” Matthew suggested. Ned added, “You also need to have some bins with lids for the garbage. Don’t want any visitors tonight, right?” Danny said, “You know I forgot to get a couple of mirrors for inside. Mattie thought we needed something in the two bedrooms. What do you think, Jean?” “Mattie can pick them out. Why don’t you go to the secondhand market and see what they have? Needs to look old and rustic I think.” “Jean, I will do it tomorrow. I think we need to make a list of what else we need up here. I am certain there will be more things.”

As the sun began to set, they all gathered around a couple of lanterns that were giving off some light onto the porch. Lucien asked Jean to sit in front of him on the step and he would work on her neck. Once she was positioned, he massaged her neck and shoulders slowly, without causing her any discomfort. “Why didn’t you do it this way earlier today? I could probably be heard in town, yelping my discomfort.” “Did you consider you are already doing better, Jean?” “How can that be?” “Jean, think about what good people are with us tonight. Our built-in-support system for the Blake Household. Thank you all for coming here. You all know the way now – let’s enjoy ‘Jean’s Place’ as much as possible.”

Joseph asked Lucien, “Can you tell us about your additional training beyond medical school in Glasgow? Once again, you are doing non-traditional treatment and I find it very interesting. Where did you learn this?” “I lived in Singapore before the war and had a mentor there who started my education in Oriental or Chinese medicine. Then after the war, I lived in Hong Kong for years. Had other mentors there who were willing to work with me. I have a fairly extensive background and use both Eastern and Western approaches in my practice. James and Hugh, my work with patients will involve both, I hope that does not cause you troubles with your grant.” “No, Lucien, will not be a problem because our grant administrator will have to craft the language to explain what you are doing,” Hugh replied. Danny looked at Hugh and asked, “Who is that going to be?” “Your Auntie Jean. She will be a good taskmaster for the three of us.”

“Joseph, when I came up to see Lucien for the first time, I did not know that he lived with two women who were such independent thinkers. Hugh and I are both delighted that they are both going to play such a major role with our patients and in the grant,” James said. Matthew looked at them and said, “James, when you called I could have told you that – but I wanted you to discover it for yourself. I have known Jean forever and Mattie, well she would only survive in the Blake household if she were a younger version of Jean. Get them together and they are dynamite.” “Jean, I think we have the upper hand now, don’t you?” Mattie said with a laugh. “Would it were true, Mattie,” Jean replied.

“Boss, Ned and I need to leave and get back to town. Are you staying here tonight or do you want a ride back to Ballarat?” “No, go on. You know where I am and where Lucien is if you need us. Let’s hope all is quiet tonight.” Ned told Lucien and Jean, “We will take the garbage back with us so no visitors bother you tonight.”

The dirty dishes were placed in the kitchen and Joseph and Mattie started working on them. The fire was damped out, and the area cleaned up. “Everybody, let me tell you about using the dunny tonight. There will be a couple of torches on the kitchen table for you to use. I would take someone with you so you don’t get lost. Watch for animals,” Lucien said with a chuckle. “Lucien, quit scaring me – I think I will wake you up and let you accompany me,” Mattie said. “I don’t think Jean would like that Mattie, so ask Joseph. He’ll walk you out there,” Lucien quipped. “Of course, I will Mattie,” Joseph replied, looking at Mattie and smiling.

After everyone else had gone to bed, Joseph and Mattie got comfortable on the couch in the living room. “Mattie, will you stay up and talk to me? I would like to know more about you. I am glad I came up with James and Hugh. It has been a good afternoon and evening of conversation.”

“Mattie, tell me about you.” “Joseph, I grew up in Melbourne, my father is a government minister, my mother stays at home, they want me married, living in Melbourne, but I just love living with Jean and now with Lucien and in Ballarat. My parents and I have many arguments, I go home rarely, and I don’t know if they will ever understand me. I am the visiting nurse for our area, also work in hospital. Lucien’s arrival was really rocky. I thought Jean was going to fight it out with him. His behavior, drinking, anger issues, nightmares, well they were quite a package to deal with. Ask him to show you our log of his nightmares – you will get an idea of his struggles, and well, the household’s as well. Don’t ask me to explain what happened between the two of them – because I can’t. But, oh my goodness, now they are both love struck, don’t you think, Joseph?”

“Mattie, I could see how much they love each other when I spent time with them last week in Melbourne. Maybe someday that will happen to each of us. Who knows? Let me tell you something about me. James, Hugh and I were all young officers in the POW camp with Lucien. I had no idea if I would survive and then what to do after my release. Lucien was such an incredible leader. He suffered so much for all of us. At times, I didn’t think he wanted to survive and other times I know I did not. But we kept each of us focused on living. The three of us, despite the fact we had no medical training, took care of the Major. I went to Medical School in Glasgow, like Lucien, became an OB GYN and just recently moved here from Scotland. Um, I am – um having adjustment issues – well, truthfully, my nightmares are more severe now. James thinks it is the move, he told me he was in a similar situation when he moved here. But they are less severe now for him. That is what I hope happens with me. And I do not know why I told you something that personal. It will probably drive you away from me, right?”

“Joseph, no it will not. I want to know you better. I am enjoying your company. You need to talk to Lucien about your nightmares. I think he can help you. Do it before you leave in the morning. Will you Joseph?” “I will. Jean gave me an open invitation to come up and spend time with them. I intend to do that in the near future as well.”

Mattie told Joseph, “I am sorry, I am falling asleep. I will move to the small bed in the corner and you can have the couch or maybe move to the Y-room, but it would be pretty crowded in there I would think. Somebody is snoring already – probably Matthew.” “Mattie, I will take the couch. I would have to take a top bunk and I don’t want to fall out of it. Thank you so much for talking with me. James told me you were a good listener, just like Jean. I am glad you will be part of the Research Group and will be in Melbourne at least once a month. I would like to see you, go out for a meal, if that is alright with you.”

“Joseph, I would like to see you as well. There is nothing stopping you from coming up here either. There is always an extra bedroom and a meal at the Blake household. You may have to do the dishes, but even that can be fun. You know, I prefer staying with Jean and Lucien – over my parents. Jean runs a tight ship at the house and she is so easy to talk to. Lucien is getting his act together now, with Jean’s help. They are good people. Good night, Joseph.” “Good night to you Mattie O’Brien.”

Several hours later, Mattie awoke with a start. What was that noise? Then she heard Joseph moaning. Is he having a nightmare? She got out of bed and walked towards the couch and found Joseph, on the floor, holding his head, and she sensed he was in distress. Mattie lit the lantern and discovered he had landed on the side of his head and was bleeding. She grabbed a kitchen towel and held it over the wound.

Mattie said in a raised voice, “Lucien and Jean, I need you in the living room, now, please.” Jean was out of their room in an instant, “Mattie, I heard the noise as well. What happened?” Jean immediately saw Joseph sitting on the floor, Mattie helping him, and left to get Lucien up. “Lucien, you need to wake up, put a pair of shorts on. Joseph has injured his head from a fall. He needs your help.” “Jean, I am awake. Let me get some clothes on. I will be right there.”

A couple of minutes later, Danny and Matthew were awake and coming out of the Y-room. “What happened? Did Lucien have a nightmare?” Matthew asked. Then he saw Joseph being helped up by Danny and Lucien and realized who was injured. Jean brought Lucien’s medical bag into the kitchen as he took the towel off of the side of Joseph’s face. “Well, Joseph, you are looking at several stitches, my friend. You have a nasty gash. Then he looked at Joseph and realized he probably had a concussion as well. “Let’s clear the table and get you up on it so I can work on closing it up.” Once Joseph was lying down, he said, “I am so sorry. I woke so many of you up. It is barely first light.”

“Joseph, we are used to this. I found Lucien on the floor the second night he was back. Not only did he hit his head but also opened up a leg wound he had from the night before. We understand. We work together in the Blake household to help each other,” Danny immediately told him, placing his hand on Joseph’s shoulder. Then Matthew showed Joseph his hand, “See this. Lucien repaired my hand when I tore it up at a car accident – Jean helped him of course. You have a good surgeon willing to help you. Just don’t argue with him. Let him fix it. He will do an excellent job.”

“Thank all of you. Mattie, I am so sorry you had to see this.” “Joseph, I live at the Blake House and you should know we all volunteered to help Lucien with his nightmares, well, we do have a great deal of experience. His initial return to Ballarat was rocky as we can all attest to. But you know, his have lessened in intensity with time.”

During the conversation, Lucien had numbed the side of his head. “Joseph, feel anything here? Here?” “No, I don’t. When did you inject me?” “When everyone was giving you a pep talk. They kept you distracted I think.” “Alright, let’s get this underway so we can fix breakfast. I am hungry.”

“Lucien, where did you get those wild and crazy shorts?” Matthew asked him, continuing the banter, sensing that Joseph was having a hard time. “Jean made them for our trip to the beach. Do you like them?” “Well, I have never seen you out of your suit and tie and it is, well, a different look. I would never have predicted you would be so casual.” “Matthew, blame it on me. I would not let him walk the beach in suit pants and good shoes. He even has sandals and swim trunks. Want him to model them too?” Jean laughed as she replied. Lucien had about half of the gash repaired. Mattie had moved closer to Joseph and was holding his hand, making eye contact. He mouthed ‘Thank you.’

James and Hugh came out of the Y-room, looked into the kitchen and saw Lucien working on Joseph’s head, Mattie holding his hand. “What happened?” Danny got them up to speed and they asked if Lucien had enough supplies. “Doing alright, I think. The one thing we need is a couple of bags of frozen vegs to keep the swelling down but that is not a possibility out here. So, a black eye is in the future for you Joseph. I want you to stay with us in Ballarat several days. Mattie, will you take him to hospital this morning for x-rays of his skull and zygomatic arch? Looks bruised but I want to be certain. Seems like a possible concussion as well.”

“Of course, I will Lucien. Danny needs his finger x-rayed as well. So, I will take them both. Do you have orders in your bag?” Mattie said. “Should be several sets there,” Jean replied. Lucien was about to finish up the sutures. When he was finished, he looked at the order sheet for Joseph, beyond the x-rays of his skull, face, he added a chest x-ray, blood work and urine. Mattie cocked an eyebrow at him, “Well, Mattie, if he is going to be on my list, I need some baseline data. He will be in hospital and can get it all done at the same time, alright?” “Yes, Lucien, it makes sense.”

“I am fine, Major. I do not need to be any more of a burden than I am. I will go back to Melbourne with James and Hugh this morning,” Joseph immediately said, still quite embarrassed at all of the attention he was getting. Jean looked at him, put her hand on his shoulder, and smiled, “No, Joseph. You do not understand. When Lucien Blake becomes even your ‘occasional’ physician, there are two rules: be truthful and no arguing. Believe me, I learned that weeks ago. He is a taskmaster – I learned to follow his orders and recovered quickly. You are staying with us. We have an extra bedroom and you look like you need a few square meals before you return to Melbourne.”

The whole situation was becoming too much for Joseph. He began to struggle for air, gasped, and then began to sob. Mattie took his face in her hands. “Joseph, look at me. It is all right. The men in the Blake household have permission to cry, to need to be held. I know you are a professional, a physician – but you are also dealing your war experiences. Let us help you.”

Lucien helped Joseph sit up and admired his sutures. “Well, that is a mighty fine repair job, if I say so myself. You should see very little of this escapade in a few weeks. Joseph, I was in a similar place a few weeks ago. Jean took charge of me, ordered me to let the household help me. Of course, I resisted but discovered it was a necessary step in dealing with the nightmares. They are not gone, but I – no we – are dealing with them. You are not alone,” Lucien told Joseph and then hugged him, as more tears rolled from his eyes. “Thank you all for helping me.”

Jean, realizing that everyone was already up, suggested, “Alright, you lot, let’s get breakfast underway. Who is going to do what?” Danny and Matthew said they would get the fire going outside, Mattie and Hugh started gathering plates, cups and cutlery, Jean and Lucien began to get the bacon and eggs out of the cooler. James started getting the tea kettle ready for the fire and added, “Jean, Bill left us some scones, we could eat them with breakfast.”

Joseph was sitting on the porch in one of the rocking chairs. Lucien walked up to him, “Joseph, just look at this upcoming week as R&R – Ballarat style. We will enjoy your company, your bruising will be much less by Sunday, we wanted to talk and now we will have several days to get caught up. You will realize how good Jean is at handling you and me and our nightmares. In fact, the entire Blake household will take care of you. You might even gain some weight while you are with us.” “Lucien, I am so sorry about this.” “Don’t be, let’s take advantage of the time to sort you out. Alright?” “Yes, Major.”

James sat down next to Joseph and began talking, “Joseph, I will talk to your office staff and tell them what has happened, they need to get someone to cover for you this week, rearrange appointments. Talk to Lucien. You know he is a good listener, Jean is as well, I am glad you will be able to get to know her better. Let’s get a handle on this for you. I will call Richard McCoy and alert him to your difficulties. I will have him call Lucien. Maybe he will come up one evening and talk with you.” “But James, Richard is so busy, he has a huge patient load.” “And he was with us in camp and knows what happened to all of us. As hard as it is going to be, you need to take that first step towards gaining some understanding about what is going on.” ”James, you are right. Thank you. See you on Sunday when I get back to town.” “You bet, Joseph.”

Chapter Text

After breakfast, James, Hugh and Matthew packed their gear into Hugh’s car and headed back to Ballarat and then onto Melbourne. “Jean, sorry, I am running away from the dishes, but I will eat with you tonight – and do the dishes – me and Joseph will do them for you,” Matthew said, inviting himself to eat at the Blake household once again. Joseph looked at Matthew and asked, “Do you do that often, Matthew?” “You bet, Jean is a great cook, love her desserts, and splitting the dish duty with you will be a chance to get to know you. See you at dinner.”

Mattie gathered her gear and loaded her car. Danny and Joseph did the same. Lucien took her aside and asked, “Do you have the paperwork for both of them? I have signed it all, correct? You know the concussion signs to watch for with Joseph, right? Have the reports called to the house as soon as possible.” “And Lucien, I will get his face covered in frozen vegs as soon as we are home,” Mattie told Lucien. “I will take care of the two of them. You two will be back by 3 PM correct? Drive safely.” “Yes, and we will, Mattie,” Jean replied.

Jean and Lucien looked at each other, smiled, and she laid her head on his chest. “Lucien, thank you again for fixing up your father’s cabin, not letting me know about it, bringing me here yesterday. I think we talked ourselves through a couple of different plans, James added another option. My neck has settled down, once again thanks to you.” As Jean pulled back from him, Lucien held her chin in his hand, “Jean, I want to take you back to our bed. I want to love you, hold you, and make you happy. That was my plan for last evening, but we had quite a crew here, didn’t we?”

“Lucien, if you did not suggest going back into our bedroom, I was.” As Jean grabbed his hand, pulled him towards the bedroom, He swooped her into his arms and carried her across the entry way. “Jean, my love, I adore you, want you and need you,” as he placed her on the bed. Finally he noticed she had on his dressing gown over her nightgown. “Well, Jean, if anyone had any doubts about the two of us being together, you wearing my clothing pretty much eliminated that idea. No wonder I could not find it last night.” “Lucien, I didn’t bring a robe because it just was going to be the two of us, not our support system as well.” “Jean, off it comes and your nightgown, as well as my shorts and shirt and now I can get down to the business at hand. Lovin’ my gal. You ready for me?” “Always, my handsome boy, always.”

Lucien began with Jean’s fingertips, slowly kissing his way to her neck on one arm and then the other. He had her squirming, moaning, and wanting more of him, but he was on a slow pace this morning. “Not so fast, my love. You are going to have to let me have my way, at least at first.” Once he was at her neck line, he moved to her toes and began his meandering way up both legs, outside first, then inside. Once he reached her curls, he stopped and returned to her face. Deep passionate kisses were placed on Jean’s lips. “Oh my goodness, Lucien, what are you doing to me? I am about ready to grab you and Radcliffe and not let him go. I need you both. Please speed up.” “No, Jean, I am first today and if I want to drive you a bit crazy, you will just have to indulge me.” Moving to her breasts, he caressed them, kissed them, buried his head between them and continued kissing his way down her belly to her curls. Stopped again. “Lucien Blake, I am going to –” “What Jean, just what are you going to do to me?” Jean fell over on top of him, hugging his neck, kissing with a passion neither one knew she possessed, and settled on top of Radcliffe. “Oh, Jean, he is ready to explode with you on top and he is so – “ Jean could feel him moving, pulsating, twitching underneath her. Lucien rolled Jean off of him, began feeling her to see if she was ready for him, smiled at Jean, “Let me get ready to love you.”

As he entered, Jean began writhing, wanting more, Lucien responded by moving deeper, and then Jean grabbed him, wrapped her legs around his waist. As he began thrusting, she hung onto his neck and he began to slowly move both of them to a near fever pitch, then increased his thrusting, Jean arched off of the bed, and then he followed with his release. “Lucien, oh my darling boy.” “Jean, marvelous.” “Lucien, I am still holding on to Radcliffe for dear life. Are you alright?” “I did not tell you to stop did I?” They stayed coupled until he became soft, Jean released her grip on him, both were still trying to catch their breath. “What did we just do, Jean?” “Lucien, we made marvelous love. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I could do that for you, to you, for us.”

“Lucien, you have worn me down. I need to take a break. Can we just talk?” “Agreed. I have met my match in you, I realize that now. I need a breather as well. What are we going to talk about?” “Do you realize last Monday we were just starting on our trip to Melbourne and the beach cottage? Had not slept together yet? I was quite nervous about what we were planning.” “You do remember I was bluffing my way through it. We did have such a marvelous time, didn’t we? And now, here we are inaugurating “Jean’s Place” as another Beach Cottage get-a-way for you and me. I like it very much. But I like you a whole lot more,” as Lucien reached for Jean and they started kissing once again. “Got your second wind, my love?” “Yes, I do. Do you?” ”Always.”

After they ate some lunch, Jean and Lucien did the dishes, began packing the car with their gear, her camera, clearing out the leftover food in the kitchen, making their bed, doing a general straightening up, placing garbage in the boot. “Lucien, this looks pretty good. I imagine we will be back up here midweek. You know I really like our get-a-way place. Thank you again for getting it ready for the Blake Household to enjoy, share.” “Jean, it was my pleasure to direct this project, and I had some very talented helpers. Danny really took charge when we were in Melbourne at the beach. Doing this for his Auntie Jean was very important to him. Ready to close up shop and drive home?” ‘One more thing to do Lucien,” Jean said as she reached for Lucien and kissed him passionately. He looked at her and smiled, “Well, you took the lead on that kiss, didn’t you? I liked it very much. Want to continue that feeling tonight in our beach cottage on Mycroft Avenue, Jean?” “Yes, I most certainly do.”

Joseph was in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea. Mattie was on a quick trip to the meat market to get something for dinner. The doorbell rang and he got up, walked to the door and opened it. “Hello, I am Joseph McCann. Major Blake and Jean are not here yet – should be within the hour. Would you like to come in, drink some tea with me?” “Well, hello, what happened to you, young man? Your dark glasses do not hide much of that bruise.” “Does it look that bad? I have been keeping frozen vegs on my head most of the day.” “It looks to me like it hurts. Oh my, I did not introduce myself. I am Nell Clasby, and I have a 4:30 PM appointment with Lucien. I always come early to drink tea and chat with Jean. “Nell, I will be a poor substitute but come on in and keep me company. It appears that I am staying with Lucien and Jean for the week. I fell out of bed last night, up at their cabin, and split my head open. I did not know when Lucien stitched me up that he would order me to stay here. He thinks I may have a concussion.” “Lucien sounds more threatening than he is. You will have good food, conversation, and a chance to recover. He is a fine doctor. Very different than his father, but very caring.”

Mattie came in the back door with a chicken for dinner and prepared it for the oven, asking Nell several questions about how to do it along the way. “Mattie, you are asking me how to cook?” “I think you know more than Joseph and I do, right?” “Yes, I believe I do. I have watched Jean prepare numerous meals while I sat at this table, talking with her, drinking her tea.”

Joseph had Mattie a cup of tea waiting for her to drink. “Joseph, the chicken is in the oven. Tell Jean when I started it when she gets home. Let her figure out when you should take it out. I will drink this and then need to go to hospital. I have a shift starting at 3:30. I hope I do not wake you up when I come back about midnight.”

As Mattie walked out the front door, Jean and Lucien were parking their car. “Off to work, be home about midnight. Took care of the boys and their medical needs this morning. Danny is at work and Joseph is chatting with Nell in the kitchen. She helped us start dinner, chicken in the oven, Joseph wrote down when we put it in the oven. Welcome back. Gotta go,“ Mattie said as she moved quickly to her car and then drove away.

Lucien opened the boot and took out a load of gear to carry into the house. Jean emptied the back seat. They piled most of it in his bedroom. Jean walked to the kitchen, greeted both Nell and Joseph, “We are back. Put the kettle on for us, will you Joseph? We have patients in 30 minutes or so. I have some things to bring into the kitchen, will be right back.” Lucien slipped in the back door with another load of cabin items and said his greetings to Nell and then walked up to Joseph, and asked, “Anything new I need to know about - as your physician, Joseph?” “No, Major, I still have a slight headache. Been putting frozen veg on my head most of the day. Mattie got me some dark glasses and they have helped, but mainly I am staying inside, with the curtains drawn.” “Alright, I have hours starting in a few minutes. We will talk after dinner.” “Yes sir, we will.”

At 4:30, Jean walked down the hallway to collect Nell. “We are ready for you Nell.” “Joseph, I have enjoyed our conversation this afternoon. You are a fine young man, and well, you are not bad to look at either, well at least from the side that is not bruised and stitched up. Where were you when I was young?” Joseph turned purple and grinned back at Nell. “Nell, can I hug you? I enjoyed our time talking. Thank you.”

After Nell’s appointment with Lucien, she told him, “Lucien, I have one more thing to discuss with you. You need to talk to that boy, Joseph. He is hurting, a lot like you are. I think if you help him and you will help yourself.” “Nell, I will chat with him after dinner tonight. He is staying with us all week. You know me pretty well don’t you?” “Well Lucien, I have known you since day one. I was there when you took your first breath – you don’t remember that, but I do. Oh, those bright blue eyes and that blond curly hair - ” She stood up, tears in her eyes, gave him a hug and a kiss. “Nell, you have never kissed me before.” “Talking to Joseph just reminded me of how much you are carrying inside, never show it, and I want to let you know I care about you.” “Thank you ever so much, Nell. Come back to talk with Joseph and eat with us if you have time. Have Jean make you an appointment for next week.”

Jean walked Nell out of the office to the door and they hugged, said their goodbyes. Coming back into the office, she asked, “Lucien, are you alright.” “Yes, I am. Jean, I was thinking about Nell’s comments. I was in the same place as Joseph, when I was by myself in Hong Kong. I drank myself to sleep, sometimes I slept on the floor, that way I did not fall out of bed. It is terrible – not wanting to get in bed, being afraid to sleep. Being tired all of the time. Being hung over most of the time. You and the Blake household have made such a difference in my life. I know that and I hope you realize it as well. Thank you,” as he reached for hands and kissed them.

“Jean, any more appointments this afternoon?” “Yes, two more. But I need to check on the chicken in the oven. I will be right back.” Joseph was in the kitchen, smelling the chicken cooking in the oven. “Jean, this smells so good. You know I have unthawed two packages of peas on my head today. I put them in the fridge. Mattie told me we could fix them for dinner. When do you want me to take the chicken out of the oven?” “Joseph leave it 20 minutes more and take it out and put it here to cool. When I am back, we can start the peas.” “Jean, I saw some fresh carrots in the Fridge. Could we have some for dinner as well?” “Of course. Are you feeling any better?” “I think so. Thank you for taking me in for the week.” “Oh Joseph, one other thing, I imagine you do not have enough clothes, do you?” “I don’t Jean.” “We will take care of that in the morning for you.”

Matthew and Danny arrived about 30 minutes before the meal was on the table. They helped set the table. Jean and Joseph finished up the vegs and Lucien began carving the chicken. “Being by myself, I just grab what I can at the hospital or the local takeout, never fix a meal from scratch,” Joseph told them, as he eagerly devoured his dinner and asked for seconds. “What is for dessert, Auntie Jean?” “I got out some cake from the freezer. Should be unthawed about now.”

“Danny, got the call about the x-ray of your finger. It is indeed broken, but the way James and Mattie immobilized, the alignment is fine. We will take another x-ray in three weeks and see how it is healing. I would like to leave your finger the way it is for at least two weeks. If the bandage gets too disgusting looking, I will change it out before then.” ”Thanks, Doc, I am good with that plan.”

After the dishes were finished, Joseph and Lucien walked to the surgery, sat down in the two office chairs. “Joseph, I have the report of your x-rays back as well as the labs. No damage to the skull, no fracture of the zygomatic arch, just badly bruised as you can feel and will see in all of its glorious colors later this week, chest x-ray is clear. So that is all good news, right? Bloods and urine are within normal range as well. Get up on the examination table and let me do a physical exam so I have all of the data to start a record on you, as well as get you entered into the POW grant that we are working on. You will be our first Ballarat patient.” As Lucien was finishing up, the phone rang, Jean answered it and said, “Lucien for you – a Dr. Richard McCoy of Melbourne is on the line.”

“Lucien Blake here. Thanks for calling, Richard. Joseph is picking up the other telephone.” “This is Joseph, Richard. James asked me to call you and Lucien. How is your face and head doing this evening?” “Richard, I am really going to be bruised but my head doesn’t hurt as much as earlier today. Jean and Lucien are taking good care of me.” “I will come up to Ballarat tomorrow evening. There is a train that arrives at 6:30. Lucien, can you meet me?” “Yes, either Chief Superintendent Matthew Lawson or I will meet you. It will be good to see you. You can eat dinner with us. We have an extra bed and we will get you back to the depot for your return to Melbourne.”

“Joseph, I want to talk more with you before you hang up. Lucien, I will see you tomorrow evening.” “Yes, Richard, I will see you then. Joseph is on the telephone now.” Richard and Joseph talked for nearly 30 minutes. “Richard, thank you for coming up to Ballarat tomorrow. I am, um I am struggling. Never been like this.” “Joseph, stay busy tomorrow, put on your dark glasses, a hat and get out in the community, even if it is walking from one end of town the other. Don’t box yourself into a corner. We will talk tomorrow evening,” Richard said.

“Lucien, Richard wants another word with you.” Lucien walked down the hall and picked up the telephone. “Yes, Richard.” After ten minutes or so, he hung up the telephone. “Joseph, doing alright?” “Yes, Sir, Major, I am doing well – right now. I would like to take the mattress off of the bed in the room I will be using and put it on the floor. Is that alright with you?” “Yes, I will help you. I think that is a good idea.”

When Mattie came home from her hospital shift, she found Danny, Jean and Lucien up with Joseph. He didn’t fall out of bed but was very agitated from a nightmare, enough to awaken the three of them. “Lucien, I am so embarrassed with all of this. After I talked with Richard, I felt pretty good about tonight and now, I am an anxious wreck, worse than last night. Why now Lucien, why?” “Joseph, whatever is going on with you is not to be denied, any longer. We are going to help you manage it. Let’s get some tea and biscuits and talk.” Jean made some tea for all of them, Danny and Mattie walked with Joseph to the kitchen. Lucien disappeared into his surgery for a minute, came back and asked Jean, “Which cup will be Joseph’s?” “Why not this one, Lucien?” “Richard’s suggestion until he gets up here tomorrow evening,” as Lucien dropped a small pill into the tea. After finishing their tea, Lucien walked Joseph back to his bedroom, got him to lie down, and very quickly he was asleep.

“Everyone, Joseph is sleeping. I slipped him a mickey, with Richard’s permission. He should sleep through the night. Is not a fix but will let him – and all of us – get some sleep tonight. Richard will be here tomorrow and will devise a treatment plan for Joseph.”

“Lucien, I have a suggestion for you to think about. Joseph is not the only person in Ballarat dealing with this. There are two of my families that the husband is having serious nightmares as well. You are dealing with nightmares. Why don’t we offer as part of our satellite clinic – group sessions once or twice a week? Let’s ask your friend Richard if he would come up once a week for individual appointments and a group session with him? The facilitator in Ballarat could rotate among the participants. Our satellite clinic would be providing a huge service to the patients – they would all have to drive to Melbourne several times a week for this level of help.” “Mattie, an excellent idea. Jean do you agree?” “Yes, I do. Mattie, tell your families about the plan, and Lucien, let’s schedule the first group session one evening this week while Joseph is here. We could post some signs tomorrow around Ballarat as well. Mattie, take Joseph with you tomorrow on your visits and let him talk to the men who are dealing with the nightmares. If he promotes it, perhaps the group will get jump started very quickly,” Jean said.

Jean was finishing up breakfast, doing the dishes, before Joseph finally got up. He walked into the kitchen. “Good Morning, Jean. Is it really 9 AM? I just crashed last night after we had the tea and biscuits, didn’t I?” “Joseph, you did and perhaps that was a good thing, don’t you think? Do you want some eggs and bacon? I have some on the warmer for you. There is hot tea and I can make some toast. Anything else sound good?” “Jean, everything sounds marvelous.” Joseph walked up to Jean and gave her a hug. “Thank you.”

Jean continued talking to Joseph while he finished up his breakfast, “I will take you shopping for clothes today. Tell me what you need and I will figure out which stores to visit. Mattie wants you ready to go with her this afternoon after lunch. She will have you back by 6 PM for dinner. Richard comes about 6:30. Somewhere in there, we will do your laundry.”

“Jean, you have planned my day for me. I do need to stay busy, not thinking about myself. I should clean up this morning before we go shopping. Are Danny and Lucien here?” “No, the bathroom is yours. Danny is working the 8-5 shift, Lucien is at hospital, Mattie is visiting her patients. They will be back for lunch. Probably Matthew as well. Let me get you some towels. There is plenty of bath soap and shampoo for you to use.”

When Joseph came downstairs, Jean was sitting at the table. “Joseph, before we go shopping, I want to tell you about our conversation last night. Mattie brought up the idea of establishing group sessions for the POW patients we have in our clinic. We will talk with Richard about this tonight as well. She proposed a session each week with just the Ballarat folk and we hope Richard could come up one day for individual appointments plus lead a group session in the evening. She has several people in mind who might join this. She wants you to go with her this afternoon and talk with them. Think about it. She will ask you at lunch.” “Jean, it sounds like an excellent idea. Um, um it is so hard for me to discuss this right now, but maybe it will help me understand what is going on with me and be obvious to others that I am struggling just like they are.” “Now, Joseph, what clothing do we need to get for you?”

About noon, Joseph and Jean started putting out food for lunch. In a few minutes, Danny and Matthew showed up, then Mattie and Lucien. Matthew looked at Joseph and said with a chuckle, “Well, Joseph, I think you have some different clothes - finally. I was getting tired of seeing you look more disheveled each day.” Joseph, taking the gentle ribbing from Matthew in style, said “Matthew, I intend to leave some of my new duds up here, so I will never be in that predicament again – just the clothes on my back.”

“Joseph, did Jean tell you what I have in store for you this afternoon?” “Yes, Mattie she did. Do I look respectable?” “Of course you do.” Joseph began to talk to the group, “I want to thank you for your help last night. I hope tonight is not a repeat.” Lucien looked at him and said, “Joseph, if it is, we are here.”

Mattie told Matthew about the group session discussion that they had last evening. “Joseph, will you talk to some of the men this afternoon about the medical help that Lucien can provide as well as the group sessions? We are going to start the first session tomorrow evening at 8 PM. I think you will be a good proponent of what we want to do at our clinic.” “Mattie, it will be um hard to um admit where I am at this point in my life, but um um I need to. Yes, I will.” Matthew looked at Joseph, touched his shoulder, “You are a good man, Joseph. Remember that.” “Yes, Matthew, I will try. Thank you.”

Lucien looked at Mattie with a smile on his face, “What Lucien?” “Mattie, I am just so pleased you are a part of the clinic and grant. We will talk with Richard this evening about our plans as well. And Joseph, I will talk to my patients today about the group session tomorrow evening as well.”

After lunch Mattie and Joseph started on her visits. At first, he sat in the car waiting for her to complete her visit. The second stop, he got out of the car and played with the two dogs. The third stop was entirely different. Mattie ordered him to get out of the car and talk with Cliff, her patient’s husband, who was having nightmares as well. Joseph stepped out of the car, played with the dogs and the children, and introduced himself to Cliff. “Hey there, what did you do to your head?” Cliff asked him. “I fell out of bed, and I think I will have quite the shiner, don’t you? Still hurts and I have several stitches that are starting to itch.” “I can see that. How many colors do you think your bruise will have? Who stitched you up?” “It is going to be like a rainbow of a hundred colors, don’t you think? Dr. Lucien Blake helped me.” “Is he any good? I hear from my mates that he is one crazy bastard, is that true?” “Well, I think he is an excellent physician. And I don’t think he is any crazier than you or me.”

Cliff looked at Joseph, “Nightmare?” “Yes, it was a bad one, Cliff.” “Joseph, I still have them too. Scare the kids at night. Sometimes I sleep in the barn.” “Cliff, I am having um um serious nightmares since I moved to Melbourne from Scotland. Lucien is trying to help me understand what is going on.” “Joseph, do you think he could help me? I haven’t moved from anywhere but can’t seem to get much sleep at night.” Joseph told Cliff about the free medical care for POW survivors, and the group sessions that would start the next evening at 8 PM, at the Blake residence in Ballarat. “Join us. Tell anyone else who you think would want to come.”

Matthew kept his eye on the clock as he finished up signing off on reports at the station. He had promised Lucien he would pick up a Richard McCoy, a physician from Melbourne, who was coming up to Ballarat for the evening. McCoy was going to talk to Joseph. Matthew was thinking to himself, I like Joseph, seems like a good fellow, but so much of what happened Sunday evening was like Lucien’s nightmares. I think they were in the POW camp at the same time. But I did not see him drinking like Lucien did when he returned. Seems to me that Lucien has settled down since he and Jean are together. She really fell for him, despite all of his issues. Left me out of the ‘romantic picture’ entirely. But, I am still friends with both of them, eat many meals a week with them, do a lot of dishes for Jean.

Standing on the depot platform, Matthew began looking for someone in a suit, but before he could figure out who McCoy was, someone started walking towards him. “I see you are Chief Superintendent Lawson. I am Richard McCoy. Lucien said you might pick me up.” “Yes, I am Lawson, but most of the time - Matthew. Ready to go to the Blake Household for dinner?” As they walked to the car, Richard asked “How long have you known Lucien?” “We grew up together - when we were about 10, his mother passed and his father sent him away to boarding school in Melbourne. Lucien recently moved back to Ballarat and we have been working on re-establishing our friendship. He serves as my Police Surgeon now.” “Been years since I have seen him, talked to him. How is he now?” “Coming back to attend to his father Thomas during his final illness, learning to live with Jean, Danny, and Mattie – has proven a difficult challenge for him. But he is doing much better than the first few days he was back.” “Tell me more about Jean, Danny and Mattie.” “Jean served as Thomas’ housekeeper/receptionist for years and is now working for Lucien, Danny is her nephew and my Constable, and Mattie is the Visiting Nurse and boards at the house. I think those people are all very special.”

They were soon at the front door of the Blake house and Matthew opened the door and shouted, “We are here.” Lucien came out of his office, saw Richard, gave him a handshake, a hug and then Richard snapped to attention and said, “Sir, it is so good to see you again Major, Sir.” Matthew looked on, smiled, and as Jean walked down the hallway said, “Jean, I want you to meet Richard McCoy.” “Richard, welcome to Ballarat and the Blake Household. Danny, take his things to the bedroom in the back, next to the one Joseph is using.” “Hello, I am Danny, Jean’s my Auntie, I work for Matthew, and I live here as well,” as he shook Richard’s hand. Then Mattie and Joseph walked down the hallway. “Joseph, you are developing yourself one heck of a shiner. Quite colorful already. Good to see you.” “Thanks for coming up. I want you to meet Mattie.” “I understand you are the Visiting Nurse and live here as well.” “Yes, on both counts. Good to meet you Richard.”

Lucien jumped into the conversation, “Richard, this is a huge house, many extra rooms, we are an extended family, helping each other every day, trying to make life easier than it would be by ourselves. Jean is the manager of our house and my practice, a fantastic cook, and a good friend to all of us. Let’s go to the kitchen, continue our conversation and eat dinner.”

During dinner the conversation turned to the group sessions that Mattie had proposed. She explained them to Richard and he said, “Excellent idea, Mattie. I will support you in whatever manner makes sense. And yes, I will come up here one afternoon and evening a week, if that makes sense. We will talk more about this tonight.”

“Joseph, let’s find a quiet place and chat, get me up to speed on what is happening with you. Lucien, could we use your office?” “Of course. Let me clear off the desk, get you a patient record sheet, give you my notes from last evening.” After they had talked for nearly an hour, Richard asked Joseph, “Do I have your permission to talk with Lucien about our conversation tonight, your medication needs, my treatment plan?” “Richard, of course you do. I don’t know if James told you, Lucien is my physician. I am a ‘control’ in the grant.”

After Joseph had talked with Richard, he suggested he take a walk, “Take Mattie with you and talk to her, Joseph. She seems very level headed about all of this. Working with Lucien and Jean has her light years ahead of most people.” “Mattie would you walk with me? Richard is hooking us up – no, not really, I need to unwind before I go to bed. Will you?” “Joseph, let’s go. It is a nice evening. I won’t let you get lost,” Mattie said with a smile.

Richard found Jean in the sunroom, drinking a Sherry. “Where are Matthew, Danny and Lucien?” “Got a call out to Lake Wendouree while you were talking to Joseph. Don’t know when they will be back. Richard, would you like something to drink, wine, scotch, beer? I will get you something.” “I will get it, Jean. I saw Lucien’s scotch in the living room and will get myself some. Be right back.” “Jean, it is so pleasant here. You and Lucien seem happy, do you know that?” “Richard, we are. I am happy – I can’t remember feeling this way in so, so long. Lucien can be quite difficult at times, complicated, hard to figure out, but in my own way, I can be the same. When he first came back to Ballarat, I thought I would – ‘fight it out with him, right? James told me a little bit about his return, especially his back, his dark mood.’ Yes, you are right. We battled to a standoff – I was so stubborn, sassy, I just knew he would fire me and he just kept looking at me, staring at me, even glaring at me – when we finally called a halt to all of it, we found ourselves in love. Totally unexpected.”

“Richard, what about you?” “Similar story to James, Hugh and Joseph. Our Major kept us alive, focused, and surviving day to day. I was half way through my medical training to be a surgeon, when I was put in the army. I have nerve damage in my hands from POW camp and when I got out, I changed to psychiatry. Have a practice in Melbourne and just signed on to the grant with James and Hugh – and as I understand it, you, Lucien and Mattie will have a satellite clinic here. Seems like an excellent team in Ballarat, to me. The three of you will be in Melbourne next Friday and then you will be coming down one more time during the month, is that right?” “Yes, that is correct.”

Mattie and Joseph walked into the back yard, laughing, talking. “What will Jean say, Mattie?” “Hey you two, I am right here. What am I going to say about what?” Joseph continued, “Jean, we walked up on the police working a crime scene at Lake Wendouree. Then we heard a huge splash, followed by another one, then laughter, Matthew yelling, ‘Hey you two – this is a crime scene. Quit playing in the water.’ Do you have any idea who was in the water? Jean, it was Lucien first and when Danny tried to help him out, Lucien pulled him – yes, he pulled him – in as well. They are both soaked from head to foot and I assume they will be home soon.” Mattie told them, “I am going to get some bath towels for them. They are so wet.”

Five minutes later, Danny and Lucien did arrive home, trying to be quiet about their entrance to the back of the house. Richard and Jean sat quietly as they attempted to enter the sunroom. Jean scared them with a “Just what did you two children do?” “Bloody Hell, Jean, you scared me. Um, I can explain, I really can. Don’t be too mad at us. We found an entry point at the edge of the Lake. We were discussing how easy it would be to slide into the water. I went to that area and before I knew it I was sliding down into the water. When Danny came to help me, I grabbed his hand, and then he fell into the water. Don’t know how that happened.”

When Mattie returned with the towels, Lucien looked at her and asked, “Did you see our plunge into the lake? You know it was Danny’s fault.” “No Doc, it was you first into the water. And that is going to be my story.” Jean, who was laughing at the two of them, suggested, “Out of the wet clothes. Mattie has a towel for each of you. Let’s hang your clothes out here tonight and we will figure out what to do with them in the morning. I can’t leave you two together for any length of time, can I?” “No, Auntie Jean, you cannot. Doc is a very bad influence on me.”

Joseph noticed some of the tape around Danny’s broken finger was water logged and hanging loose. “Danny, when you dry off a bit, let Mattie and me re-wrap your finger. The wrap is suffering from your plunge into the lake.” “Thanks, Joseph, I was going to ask the Doc but don’t know how trustworthy he is tonight. After all, he did pull me into the water, deliberately, on purpose.” “Did not!” “Yes, you did!” “You two are as bad as my boys, arguing, fighting. And you are both supposed to be adults, right?” Jean said breaking up with laughter. “You both need to dry off and change clothes, now.”

When Lucien was out of his wet clothes and into dry ones, he poured himself a scotch and joined Richard in the sunroom. Richard asked him, “Lucien, tell me about you. I know from James that your return to Ballarat was very rocky.” “Richard, I returned to Ballarat as hungover as I have ever been. The nightmares, the anger, my drinking – the Blake household, well, um Jean, laid down the law and I finally fell into line. They still are keeping a nightmare log on me, showing me what I am doing at night, how they help me. Why did Jean put up with me? – I do not know – well, I have one explanation, she was working for my father and she was devoted to him. She helped me get straightened out on top of organizing the care for my father. We stared at one another, glared at each other until she fell ill from all of the stress – I was literally a huge pain in her neck. Add in the Army trying to get me back in the Far East in undercover intelligence, Richard, I am lucky she did not leave me. She should of. If she had, I do not know where or what I would be doing.”

“Lucien, why didn’t you call James or me when all of this was going on? You know we would have helped you and Jean.” “I didn’t know that all of you were in Melbourne – not until James showed up here. He saw me in hospital talking to the Police Surgeon and tracked me down.“ “I understand Jean is having ‘small town gossip issues’ – how are you two handling that?” “Trying to surround ourselves with good friends who support us, getting the old Blake cabin painted and recommissioned as ‘Jean’s Place’ and getting our passports ready for international trips. Trying to figure out if I am married or a widower. Being the best version of Lucien Blake I can be each day for Jean. Letting her know I am deeply in love with her.” “You know that either one of you can ask me for help, anytime, just let me know what I can do.” “Richard, thank you for your offer. I will let Jean know.”

Finding Jean in the living room, Joseph asked her, “Jean, do you have a notebook that I can use as a journal? Richard wants me to write each day, about whatever I want to,” Joseph asked tentatively. “Joseph, let me see, I think there are a couple of different options. Which one do you want?” “Jean, this one looks good. And I also want you to help me figure out a log to record my nightmares. Mattie said that the household is keeping a log of Lucien’s and it has been helpful.” “Yes, let me show you what we did in your journal. You can see if that would work for you.”

Richard walked into the kitchen and found Joseph writing in his journal. “Jean found me a notebook to use as a journal and I have started writing. She also had a good idea for a nightmare log so we have that prepared and I have started it. Lucien is so lucky to have Jean with him. He told me she has helped him in so many ways and I think he has made her very happy.”

“Joseph, I have been thinking about what type of medication for you at night. It is complicated because on any given night, you may sleep the entire night without a phone call or your phone may ring and you need to be alert, for hours and then work all day in your office. I want to get you used to it before you are back in Melbourne. It is a good idea you are here with Lucien while we see how you respond. While I am here tonight, let’s try this one. Take it now, alright.” “Richard, I will. I am glad you are thinking about my crazy hours. A full night’s sleep is a rarity for me.” “I will be in the next room tonight and if you need any help, let me know.”

“You know, Richard, I am afraid I probably will wake you up. I did that to the household the last two nights.” “I will also leave Lucien instructions on your meds and when you should take them. He will be talking with you each day and you are going to call me daily and report in as well. On Sunday, when I collect you from the train depot, we will decide what scripts to get filled. When we will talk on Sunday, I want to see your journal and nightmare log as well.”

Seeing Mattie coming into the kitchen for some tea, Richard said, “Oh, Mattie, I understand you are taking me to the depot early tomorrow morning. Is that right?” “Yes, Richard, it is. I need to be at hospital at 6 AM. I will drop you off at the depot about 5:40 or so. Set your alarm clock.” “Mattie, he will not have to, I will be up to fix breakfast for the two of you and will make certain you are out the door in plenty of time.”

“Jean, I want to talk with you about scheduling on Tuesday afternoon. I will start individual appointments at 3 PM, so that means catching the 12 Noon train. Someone needs to collect me around 2 PM or so. Finish appointments by 6 PM. If there are more than three people to see me, call me and we will talk about scheduling.” “Sounds good. I will line up someone to meet you, could be me or one of Matthew’s people.” “Also, Jean, I talked briefly with Lucien this evening, as well as with Hugh and James, and have a general idea of his rocky re-entry into this household, this town. If you need my assistance, at any time, you let me know. You have several of my cards – call me. I know about the dark mood that James’ visit triggered. You do not need to carry all of this on just your shoulders, you do not.” Jean reached out for Richard, touching his arm, “Thank you, Richard. The Melbourne crew seems so supportive of each other, and I am glad that I am meeting everyone, Lucien is reconnecting with you, that we will be working with all of you on the grant.” “And Jean, if you need to talk with me, take one of the Tuesday appointments, alright?” “Yes, thank you.”

“Jean, I know you have heard from the others about how strong Lucien was for us, how much abuse he endured for us. I will never forget how he kept us all centered. But, at what cost to him? When we got out of camp, he hid behind the Army counterintelligence work he was doing. This is the first time I know about where he is in the civilian world, just as Dr. Lucien Blake, country doctor. So many things could come bubbling up. Working with Joseph – don’t know if that will trigger anything or not. I am glad I will be up here once a week to talk with him and you, that Matthew and Danny will keep an eye on the both of you.”

True to her word, Jean saw Mattie and Richard out the door with sufficient time for his train and Mattie to be at work. As she sat at the kitchen table, drinking more tea, she was thinking how much of a ‘unit’ the POW camp members were, even today. Continuing to help each other, getting the grant organized with physicians who had first-hand knowledge. Then she thought about Lucien, if I had known about the Melbourne contingent, how would we have handled his nightmares? – differently, the same, would the two of us be where we are now?

She was deep in thought when familiar arms surrounded her, kissed on her neck, beard tickling her face – “Time for a lie down, my love?” “Good morning, Lucien. Yes, sounds good to me. She started to get up when they both heard Danny walking down the hallway. “Good morning. Got to be at work in an hour.” “Um Yes, Danny, Jean was just starting me some breakfast as well. Grab a chair,” as he smiled at Jean, wishing they had been out of the kitchen faster.

About the same time breakfast was finished, the phone rang, Matthew needed them both Danny and Lucien at the station, follow-up from the Lake Wendouree incident the evening before. So, Jean was left alone at the table and went back to her meandering thoughts, drinking tea, planning her day. First thing will be the clothes hanging in the sunroom. Lucien’s behavior last night – childlike, playful, did he ever get to act that way in boarding school? Thomas would never have allowed him to be so spontaneous. Well, sunroom it is. Probably to the dry cleaners for the suits and maybe the tailor?

Jean was wrapping up her work in the sunroom when Joseph walked in, carrying a cup of tea. “Good morning Jean,” as he walked to her and gave her a hug. “Thank you for letting me stay with all of you. I had one episode last night, short duration, Richard helped me, I went right back to sleep. Not as scary as the last two nights. I have written in my nightmare log, and I am hungry. Maybe I should have gotten a larger size pants yesterday as much as I am eating.” “Joseph, you seem a bit less intense than the last couple of days, feeling better?” “I think so, atmosphere here is - well, Mattie told me last night that you are why she boards here and does not stay with her parents in Melbourne. I just want to soak it up before I leave for Melbourne.” “Richard told me to remind you – to call him this morning. Talk through last night, journal today as well.” “Will do, Jean, right now. Which telephone can I use?” “Lucien’s office is fine. I will start your breakfast.”

While Joseph was eating breakfast, he started to talk to Jean, ”I have a question to ask you. Are Danny and Mattie seeing each other?” Jean looked at him and laughed, “No, Joseph, they see too much of each other every day, they are more like siblings, arguing at times, teasing each other. Mattie has friends at university but I don’t think anyone steady now. She is a strong, independent woman, scares some fellows away. But maybe not you?” “Maybe not me, but I am loaded with so much baggage, perhaps this is not the time – “ “Joseph, let it start slowly, talk with her, take your evening walk with her, let her help you, see where it goes. But be ready for a teasing from Lucien and Danny.” “Jean, what are we doing this morning?” “A run to the dry cleaners with two suits, laundry from last evening’s plunge into the lake, hoping we can salvage two pair of shoes.”

“What else do you have in mind this morning, Joseph?” “Where did Lucien buy his crazy, colorful shorts he had on at the cabin? I would like to get a pair. I will be back up to Ballarat and want something not so ‘stuffy’ as my Melbourne clothing. Did he get them here in town?” “Yes, he got them right here at Jean’s Design shop, made exclusively for him, by me.” “Jean, I didn’t realize that you made them. They are so smart looking.” “We could get some material when we are in town this morning. I need to get some measurements from you. No guarantee when they will be finished. Maybe by the end of the week, but definitely by the time we all are in Melbourne next Friday. “ “Really?” “Yes.”

After lunch Mattie and Joseph drove south from Ballarat and started on her visits. Four families were on her list, the visits were mainly for the children. But there two men that Mattie wanted Joseph to chat with. In the first stop, Joseph was able to chat with the husband for about 30 minutes before Mattie was finished. “Joseph, I will think about the meeting tonight. Never done anything like this, talk about me and my troubles. I just don’t know.” “Vincent, do you think I ever did anything like it either? As you can hear, I stumble around when I try to tell you what is going on with me. I want answers, maybe you or someone else there this evening can help me. Starts at 8 PM at Dr. Blake’s house.” “Yeah, I will think about it.”

Mattie drove to two other families, but the husbands were at work. He visited with the children, played with the dogs, and chatted with a couple of grandmothers, drank tea on the front porch. The last family they visited, the husband, Arnie, was not very responsive to Joseph’s suggestion he come to the session this evening. “Don’t need it. Just leave me alone.” “Arnie, I understand, but do remember that you can get free medical care from Dr. Blake – does not have to involve talking in the group session.” “There is the door. Leave. Now.”

“Well, Mattie, we POWs are a hard lot to convince we need assistance, right? Me included.” “Yes, Joseph, you and Lucien were - but I don’t see that now with either one of you. Ready to go home?” “Yes, I am. I wonder what Jean has fixed for supper for us? I have eaten so much food – I know I am gaining weight.” “Joseph, maybe so, but you are also beginning to relax, smile, and laugh. Seems perfectly fine to me.”

Jean set up some extra chairs in the living room in hopes that at least four men would show up. As the 8 PM time approached, a couple of cars pulled up and parked. From each car, three men got out and walked to the front door. Three were from Mattie’s rounds, Cliff, Vincent and even Arnie. The other three were from Lucien’s patients. Lucien let them in and walked them to the living room. Introductions were underway with Jean and Mattie joined them. Lucien told them about the new grant that provided free medical care for POWs and then described the group sessions that would start in the Blake house twice a week, once with Richard McCoy who would also provide individual sessions as needed.

Next, Jean described the paperwork that they needed to complete if they wanted Lucien to serve, free of charge, as their physician. She also told them about a possible second group session just for the wives, friends, children over 18 – have them contact us if interested. We could start that as well, free of course. Mattie told them about the areas she had covered in the last few days. Anyone else you know that might want to attend, let us know.

Then Jean and Mattie left the room and Lucien and Joseph took over. About an hour later, Jean could hear the group breaking up and was in the kitchen with all of the paperwork that needed to be completed. Much to her surprise everyone there wanted to sign up. She also was given more names to contact before the session with Richard next Tuesday evening.

Once all of the participants were on their way home, Jean, Mattie, Joseph and Lucien all sat down in the kitchen. “Oh my, an ‘unmet need’ is truly an understatement,” Lucien said. “I did not imagine we would have so many attend the first night. Mattie, you really hit on a need here in Ballarat. Several of them said that Joseph was key in them coming tonight. The fact that he was honest about what happened on Sunday, and stumbled through his explanation. When they found out he too was a physician, they could not believe it. Me – well my reputation preceded me, but his revelations sold them. I think we have a strong beginning.” “Everyone, here is some paper, each of us needs to write down our thought, concerns, good, bad, whatever. This will be important for our report on the satellite clinic in Ballarat,” Jean told them.

“Joseph, when we get done writing for Jean, let’s move to my office, talk, check your head, among other items.” “Lucien, I was going to suggest that as well.” Once they were in the office, Lucien asked Joseph to lay down on the examination table and he looked carefully at the stitches, felt the area around his eye, checked his eyes. “Tell me how you think you are doing.” “My headache is gone, my stitches are itching, the bruising is a rainbow of colors, and I am gaining weight. Jean’s cooking really agrees with me.” “I think a couple of the stitches on the edge of the gash can come out if you want. Your eyes are tracking fine now, much different than Monday evening. Thinking about Richard’s medications – Any side effects?” “I am sleeping longer in the morning – I would already be at hospital and seeing patients, here I am having a leisurely breakfast with Jean and it is 10 AM. That will be a problem next week. Last night’s nightmare was short in duration, Richard woke me up, we talked a while and I went to sleep on my own. I need to journal before I go to sleep and here is my nightmare log.” “Could you remove some of the stitches?” “Of course I will.”

As Lucien was finishing up, the telephone rang, Jean answered it. “Lucien, it is Richard.” Lucien handed the telephone to Joseph, “Here, you talk to him and also tell him what happened tonight. Then I will chat with him.” Lucien left the office for the kitchen and some tea with Jean and Mattie. “Lucien, I took your suit to the dry cleaners this morning. They will have it finished tomorrow. Your shoes – well, I don’t know about them. I have them stuffed with old socks but they may be too hard and stiff to wear. If they are, you will need to replace them.” “Jean, too much mischief in me last night. I am so sorry. No, not really, I enjoyed myself.” “ I am glad to see there is still some boy in you, Lucien Blake,” as Jean gave him a kiss on the lips. “Just what are you starting, Jean?”

“Lucien, Richard wants to chat with you about my medication for tonight. Oh my apologies, so sorry, I walked in on the two of you.” “Should have known you would have been back sooner rather than later,” Jean told him with a smile, but was not embarrassed that Joseph caught them passionately kissing. It seemed to her that Joseph was turning a bit purple around his ears. He looked over at Mattie, who was smiling at Jean and Lucien, not at all embarrassed at their lover’s behavior. “Gotta get used to those two, Joseph if you are going to stay here.”

Joseph and Lucien walked to the surgery, talked at length with Richard as they discussed his medication for the evening. After they hung up the telephone, Lucien went to his medicine cabinet and got out the two meds that Richard suggested. “We are in agreement with this right?” “Yes Major, one more morning sleeping late and then I need to back off of them so I can start getting ready for Melbourne.” “You do know that you can stay with us longer, if you need to. You are no trouble for either me or Jean. Mattie and Danny are enjoying your company. Just the fact that there are no leftovers for me to snack on should not influence your decision.” “Lucien, I do like Jean’s cooking, her company in the morning when it is just the two of us, and talking to you several times a day. You really are a very caring physician, with so many characteristics I try to emulate.” “We have truly enjoyed your stay. Oh, Joseph, remember to write in your journal and update your nightmare log.” “Yes, of course, I will do both.”

Danny, Joseph and Mattie walked into the kitchen where Jean was still sorting out all of the paperwork. Lucien had rejoined her, looking at when she had scheduled the appointments for his six new patients, Richard's appointments on Tuesday. Joseph said, “Um, Jean and Lucien, the three of us want you two to have the night to yourselves. Don’t worry about me. Danny will help me - if I need it. We want you two to be together tonight, without interruption,” Joseph told them, with a smile on his face. “Joseph, yes, Lucien and I will take advantage of your kind offer,” Jean told him. “Jean, my darling, let’s head to my bedroom before they change their minds or that bloody telephone rings,” Lucien said as he reached for her hand, and walked Jean down the hallway.

“Good idea, Joseph,” Mattie told him. “Yes, I agree too. My Auntie Jean and the Doc are really in love with each other, aren’t they?” “No doubt in my mind at all,” Mattie said, as she linked arms with both Joseph and Danny.

Chapter Text

Jean and Joseph were at the meat market on Saturday morning. Joseph accompanied Jean several times during the week, shopping for meat, groceries, clothing and to the library. The Ballarat gossips, well they were in a swivvet – Had Jean dumped Lucien? Does Jean have two handsome men living in the house now – with her? Who is that boy? Is she robbing the cradle? Joseph picked out a lamb roast while Jean was talking to Nell Clasby. Nell was never one to put up with the gossip about Jean and Lucien. She knew what other customers in the shop were discussing. So, she walked up to Joseph, took his hand, kissed him on the cheek. He saw Jean’s smile, so he played along with Nell and kissed her back. The murmurs stopped as everyone stared at the two of them. A couple of the ladies immediately left, undoubtedly to stoke the gossip fires.

After Joseph paid for the meat, Nell walked over to him, “Joseph, can I see your face? It really is colorful, and your stitches are about ready to come out, don’t you think?” “Nell, yes to both of your questions. Will you come eat with us tonight?” “Jean already invited me and I am coming. She said you are going back to Melbourne on Sunday. Now you take it easy, you hear, young man.” “Yes Nell, I have heard that from the entire Blake household plus my friends in Melbourne. I don’t have a choice but to behave.”

On the way home, Joseph asked Jean, “Well, that was interesting. Now I see how much you have to put up with here in Ballarat. Nell does seem to understand what is going on, doesn’t she?” “Yes, she does. One of the first days that Lucien was back she told me ‘He just needs looking after.’ I think she started me thinking about him, beyond my paycheck. Maybe she –” “Jean, I am glad you picked up on the cues she gave you. You and Lucien seem happy, enjoy each other’s company, you seem to know what the other one will say, and the looks you exchange, well they keep him in line, don’t they? But they also broadcast you love him, he is your man. Maybe someday I will find my special someone, who knows.” “Joseph, should I take on Nell’s role with you? Mattie and you seem to be developing a good friendship, you know that right?” “Yes, I do, Jean.”

“Jean, I want to make one more stop before we go home. I want to buy Lucien a journal, a special one from me, for all the help this week, as well as years ago. Where do you suggest I purchase it?” “Joseph, I have an idea, and it is on the way home. You have an excellent idea – he should be journaling like you are.” “And Jean, you will give it to him on Sunday when you two are at ‘Jean’s Place.’ I would not be able to give it to him without dissolving into a puddle of water. Is that alright?” “Of course. Joseph, what if I got him a ‘dedicated’ pen to write with. No overlap with day to day work, just to focus on his writing. What do you think?” “Sounds like a good plan to me, Jean. Thank you.”

After lunch, Richard called to talk with both Lucien and Joseph. They both picked up a telephone, the discussion revolved around familiar topics – how he was feeling, medications, Joseph’s nightmare log and his journaling. Joseph told Richard what train he would be on. Then Richard told Joseph he was staying with him for the next two weeks and could not take “Call” next week. “Richard, I can’t do either one of those. That will not work.” “Joseph, let me remind you of Lucien’s way of practicing medicine – be truthful and no arguing.” “You are arguing with me. Do you really think you should jump back into your normal schedule?” “Richard, Richard, I am, um yes – I am arguing with you and I will stop. And to be truthful, I am not ready for my normal schedule. I have to give myself more time, as hard as that is to admit.” Richard continued, “Joseph, let me talk to Lucien, you hang up your phone, and I will lay the law down to him.” After a short conversation, Lucien hung the phone up and looked at Joseph, “Do you understand his position? As hard as it is for you to accept, I think he is right. You need to take care of yourself. There are people who want to help you. Let them, Joseph.” “Yes, Major, I will.”

Jean fixed Joseph’s lamb roast, added some vegs, a dessert. She looked at him and thought he probably had gained five pounds in the short time he had stayed with them. She hoped his new shorts would fit him, but she was just using a tie around the waist, so they should be alright. Lucien opened two bottles of wine and Mattie and Joseph set the table. Matthew and Danny would be off shift at 6 PM so they would soon be at the Blake table as well. Nell had arrived at 4 PM, so she could talk to Jean, Lucien, Mattie and Joseph.

“Lucien, do you know that Nell kissed me this morning at the meat market in front of at least six people?” Joseph asked Lucien. “Nell, do tell, I know he is good looking, well, at least half of his face is, but what possessed you?” “Needed to quiet down the conversation from those ol’ biddies talking about you and Jean. Think I did it, several of them put their noses in the air and were off to find a telephone,” Nell told them, ending with a giggle. Joseph walked up to her, gave her a hug and said, “I thought it was an inspired idea, Nell.”

Dinner at the Blake household ranged from serious talk about a case that Matthew and Danny were working on, to the Group Session Lucien and Joseph held last week, to Joseph’s return to Melbourne on Sunday. “Joseph, you remember what I told you last week, right?” “Yes Matthew, I will try to keep it front and center.” “Matthew, what did you tell him?” asked Nell. “That he is a good man and not to forget it.” “And I will add, he is strong, a survivor, someone who is willing to share his experiences to help others,” Nell added.

“Matthew and Danny, I think your number is up for the dishes tonight, right?” “Yes, Jean, we will help you, of course.” Lucien asked Jean, “Any leftovers for me for later tonight?” Joseph answered, “Of course not Lucien. My appetite is um – all Jean’s fault. She is such a good cook and I cannot turn her down.” “Excuses, excuses!” Jean told the two of them, smiling at both of them.

After Saturday’s dinner, Lucien and Joseph retreated to his office. “I want to remove some of the stitches tonight, give you a script for some cream to put on your head. You will have to go to the Oriental Medicine shop to fill it. Wait until Wednesday to start applying it. Tell me if you have questions that Richard did not answer for you, alright?”

After Lucien had removed four of the sutures, they sat down and talked, “Joseph, I will remove the remaining sutures on Friday when we are in Melbourne for the grant meeting. I need to thank you for your involvement in the initial Group Session. You see, I am finally beginning to begin to deal with what happened in camp. You know, I have deliberately avoided it for years.” “Major, I have wondered so many times why we all survived – I know how we all survived. It was the strength of your will, day in and day out.” He started to tear up, Lucien reached for him and they both hugged and sobbed. “Joseph, we will get you through this, we will. We will help each other, we will, we must.”

About 10 AM Sunday morning, Mattie asked Joseph, “ Ready to go?” “Just about.” “Jean and Lucien, words will never be adequate to thank you both for your help this week. I appreciate you both so much.” He hugged them both, wiped his eyes, and looked at Matte. “Let’s go. Don’t want to miss my train.” When they got to the depot, Mattie parked the car, opened the boot and Joseph got his bag out. There was a second small bag there. “Mattie, what is this?” “Mine. I am going to Melbourne to visit my parents, have dinner tonight, take the early train back to Ballarat in the morning. Thought I would give you some company on the train. Is that alright?” “Of course, thank you so much.”

Richard met the train at the depot and was surprised to see Mattie with Joseph. “Mattie, that was an excellent idea. You do have good instincts. I will take care of Joseph for you this week.” “Richard, what are you saying?” “I think I might have started something, didn’t I? Mattie, will I see you on Tuesday for group?” “Yes, I will be late, have a shift at hospital until 9. And Richard, you did start something, with a simple walk with Joseph. Time will tell.” Richard gave Mattie a hug and walked away to let Joseph and Mattie say their goodbyes. “I will call you, Mattie.” “I hope you will. Remember to check in with Lucien and Jean. We will all miss you this week.”

Richard and Joseph drove to hospital, walked to Richard’s office to talk, determine a strategy for his medications for the first few days, look at his nightmare log and his journal. “Joseph, Lucien did a remarkable repair job on your head, you know that?” “Yes, I do. He took some stitches out last night and more will be removed on Friday. I have a script for the Oriental Medicine shop for a cream to put on it starting on Wednesday. Richard, thank you so much. You are making this situation somewhat easier each day for me.” “That is what I needed to hear. Now, we have an early dinner engagement with James and Hugh at the Italian place down the street. I will take you to your apartment afterwards to get some clothing for the week and then we are off to my place. Now remember, you need to keep the nightmare log current and journal each day. We will talk each evening. And you must call Lucien and Jean and keep them updated.” “And I will call Mattie and talk with her. Richard, do you have any idea what you started by asking her to walk with me? Do you?” “I think so, my friend,” Richard said as he put his hand on Joseph’s shoulder.

After Mattie and Joseph were on their way to the depot, Lucien and Jean packed the car with items for the cabin. Mattie and Jean had been working on a list all week, and now it was a car full of odds and ends. “Jean, what about taking one of my paintings up to the cabin, for the Y-room?” “Well, I um Lucien, don’t you think the lack of temperature control would be bad for it?” “Never thought about that, you are probably right. So where can I hang one of them here, in our home?” “Nowhere.” “But Jean –” Lucien replied with a grin, teasing eyebrows, and a hug. “That won’t work either, Lucien Blake.” “Even if I add a kiss or two?” “No.” “But it is my home, Jean, remember?” “The answer is still No.”

They left a note for Danny and were on their way. Jean wanted to take more photographs, they would cook food on the grill for dinner, and spend the night. Hopefully, it would be just the two of them this time.

Once the car was unpacked and they were sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch, Lucien began talking. “Um Jean, what do you think about Joseph? Give me your honest opinion, will you?” “Well, I know he will struggle on his return to Melbourne. He had the Blake support system staying with us and I think we jump started his recovery. Being by yourself, as you remember, can prove troublesome, problematic. I know Richard, James and Hugh will help him as much as they can. But he has to figure out a routine that works for him.”

Lucien reached for Jean’s hand, “Jean, Jean, I think I am in new territory – since the war I have never been what I would call ‘happy’ – until now. Never had a support system like I have here. Now, I have a home, not a house, a home, I have you – my best friend and my lover, and all of this is so, so – I don’t want to overanalyze my situation but it makes me somewhat uneasy at times. Nell told me she thought helping Joseph would help me as well. Of course, she was right. The Group will help me sort things and I am so glad that Richard will be in Ballarat once a week. I may need one of his Tuesday appointments as well.” “Lucien, what is wrong with that? Do you know he offered me a Tuesday appointment whenever I wanted one? Richard knows what we are going through, we have each told him enough for him to realize the issues we each bring to our new relationship. He is easy to talk with, suggests good questions to think about. We need to keep helping each other, talking to each other, loving each other. Don’t ever doubt that I love you, want you and need you.”

“Lucien, Joseph left a gift for you. I am to give it to you today. I think now is a perfect time. Let me go in the cabin and get it out of my bag.” Lucien sat on the porch, wondering what Joseph had purchased for him. Jean walked back onto the porch with a nicely wrapped package, handed it to him. He took it, opened it, and then looked at the leather-bound journal. “Jean, Jean, this is so – “ he stopped and stared into the distance. “Lucien, you should open it. If the journal itself brings tears, I think Joseph’s dedication will bring a flood of them.” Lucien opened the journal, read Joseph’s script:

For Lucien R. Blake,
For centering my life
Once again –
Thanks are not enough.
Joseph McCann

Lucien put the journal down and stood up and reached for Jean. As he hugged her, his tears flowed. “Jean, I am sorry about this.” “Lucien, do you remember what Mattie told Joseph last week? It is alright for the Blake men to cry? Lucien, it is.”

“And, Lucien, here is my gift to you.” Lucien opened her package and found a new pen. “So I can separate day to day work from my special time to journal, right Jean?” “Yes, my love, you are right. That was what I was thinking.” “Thank you, for the pen, for being with me, for caring about me, for loving me.” Lucien shook his head, “Jean I do not –” “Lucien, you deserve a new life, one that you and I create.” “Jean, Jean – “ “Lucien, do not say anything, not now. Just let me hold you.”

“Let’s take a walk. I want to practice more with my camera so I can get all of the film developed next week.” “Let me get the canteens of water, my hat and we are off.” “Do you know that last week was good for us? We helped Joseph, got the Group Session started, got Richard involved at our clinic, and I did better at ignoring all of the gossip about us. I have quite a bit of grant reading, organizing for our Friday meeting to work on this week. What do you need to do for the meeting?” “I need to report back on our Group Session participants and on the patients I have started seeing. We need to figure out the billing procedure to get reimbursed. I am going to run the Thursday session as well as be a participant. It is time – I have never felt like I could say that, it has only happened since you have become a major part of my life. Jean, I do love you. I want you to know that, every minute of every day.” The embraced, held each other for quite a while as they both became very emotional. “Lucien, can I have your handkerchief?” “Yes, here you are. When you are finished, let me have it to wipe my eyes. Joseph’s situation has triggered some issues for both of us, hasn’t it?” "Yes, and together, we will work our way through, with both of us being stronger, more reliant on each other. Lucien, I love you so much.”

After a couple of hours, Lucien told Jean, “You have walked me out. Let’s head back to the cabin so we can start dinner. What did you bring for me to cook? I know there were no leftovers from yesterday’s lamb roast.” “What about some chicken? I also brought some vegs, bread, biscuits, bottle of wine.” “Yes, I will start the grill.”

Sitting outside after the meal, Lucien got Jean on the step, between his knees and began working on her neck. “You are not as tight as last week, but let me still work on it, alright?” “Of course, no arguing. Lucien, I let the gossip and whispers get to me last week. I think our talking through options helped me to realize that if I need to leave Ballarat I will not be on my own. You would be with me. We are going to be together. Knowing that has helped me tremendously.” “Jean, yes, we are a pair. My life without you is not complete. Thank goodness, you were here when I came back to Ballarat. And you knocked some sense into my hard head – the Blake household works together, to help each other.”

“Lucien, I need to think about Friday’s meeting and you need to inaugurate your new journal. Let’s put the lantern on the table and each take care of those tasks.” “Um, Jean, I agree. Then I want to take my lady to bed, entertain her for hours. Jean, are you interested?” “Of course, I am.”

About 30 minutes later, Lucien closed his journal and smiled at Jean. “I had a lot to write, it came out like a flood.” “Are you ready for me, Lucien?” Lucien reached for Jean’s hand and walked her into the bedroom. “Stand still Lucien.” Jean began undressing him, slowly, in no particular hurry, kissing his exposed skin, trailing fingers up and down his chest, triggering goosebumps, teasing him and Radcliffe, until he was standing before her without a stitch of clothing on. He looked at her, grinning, smiling, “Is it my turn yet?” “I think so.” “As you can easily see, I am very needy tonight, help me get your clothing off, quickly love, so I can get you into our bed.” Lucien placed Jean in the bed and descended on her with kisses, caresses, and moving his hands up and down from neck to legs until she was squirming, moaning, and pleading for more. The first coupling was very quick as both arched off of the bed in unison. “Jean!” “Lucien!” “What just happened?” “I wanted you so much.” “Being together every night has not dissipated our appetites for each other has it, Lucien?” “Jean, let me catch my breath. Don‘t want it to be so fast, want to enjoy the buildup much longer.” “Lucien, neither one of us could hold back. Now if we can be more leisurely about this the next few times –“ “How many more times tonight, Jean?”

Jean and Lucien were slowly waking up, still in each other’s arms, talking, trading kisses, when Jean heard someone pound on the door. “Blake, are you up? I need you now.” “No, Matthew, go away. Leave us alone. Bloody Hell, it is only 6 AM.” “Not a chance - we need to talk. Get up and put some clothes on. Sorry Jean, but I do need my Police Surgeon.” They picked up clothes from the floor where they landed last night and quickly dressed. Lucien was dressed first and went to the door and let Matthew inside. “This better be good, Lawson.” “Danny told me where the two of you were. We found a body five miles from here, lying on the highway. Looks like a possible hit and run. I need you now.” “Oh alright, can I at least wake up first?” “Yes, you can have ten minutes.” Jean walked into the kitchen, “Morning Matthew,” as she walked outside to use the dunny. When she returned to the porch, Lucien asked her, “Jean can you get yourself back to Ballarat? I will go with Matthew and he can carry me home when we are done.” “Yes, but remember you have appointments starting at 2 PM this afternoon.” “I will have him back by noon, Jean, I promise.” Lucien walked to Jean and kissed her, told her he loved her, and she was left standing on the porch. It was just 6:15 in the morning. Jean sat down in one of the rocking chairs and thought to herself, no phone out here and we still cannot get away.

By about 9 AM, Jean had the car packed, the cabin closed up, garbage gathered up, and started on her way home. She saw a couple of police cars a short distance ahead of her, as well as an ambulance. Soon, a siren sounded behind her. She knew she was not driving too fast, but pulled over to the side of the road. She looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Lucien walking up to join her. “Let’s go home and fix breakfast before I go to the morgue. Glad to see you my love,” as he reached for her hand to kiss it. “Not what I had in mind to start off our week, I can tell you that.”

When Jean pulled into the driveway, Mattie’s car was parked in the usual place and another car was parked nearby. “Lucien, do you recognize that car?” “No, I do not. What about you Jean?” “Not a clue.” They gathered an armful of items from the car and walked into the house. Mattie heard them and walked into the hallway. “We are in the kitchen, drinking tea. Cliff, from the Thursday group and his wife are waiting for you two.” They both looked at each other, asking “Any idea what this is about?”

As they walked into the kitchen, Cliff introduced his wife, Allie, and continued, “We know we just showed up without calling. Allie and me, um had a discussion at breakfast and wanted to talk to you both.” Allie looked at Jean, “I want to ask about a group for the wives. Cliff said that might be a possibility. So, here we are. I know you are all better educated than the two of us. and um it is difficult to talk to you, but Mattie told me to just ‘spit it out.’ You could always tell me no and send us away.” Lucien looked at Cliff and Allie, “Yes, it is an excellent idea and we need to figure out how to make it a reality. But, my apologies, I need to grab some breakfast, change clothes and leave for the morgue.”

“Blake, what happened? We heard sirens early this morning near our place. Was that it?” Cliff asked. “Probably, Cliff, I can’t say any more about it.” “I will leave the initial planning in your hands, Jean and Mattie. I will be back by 1 o’clock so I can eat some lunch and get ready for surgery hours.” As Lucien walked out of the kitchen, Jean gave him a couple pieces of fruit and kissed him good bye. “See you at lunch.”

On Tuesday, Jean picked Richard up at the depot about 2:30. She handed him the paperwork for his three individual appointments that afternoon. During dinner Lucien, Jean, and Richard talked about the organization of his first Group Session - who was leading off, the paperwork needed, did they have enough chairs, enough refreshments, follow-up appointments needed to be scheduled. They were expecting ten participants that night. Richard looked at Lucien and smiled, “This is good Lucien, very good.”

Just before 8 PM Danny walked in with Joseph. Looking at the group, Joseph told them, “Richard is up here tonight, I do not have Call, so I took the train up. Wanted to be here for Richard’s first Group Session in Ballarat. And I can talk to all of you again.” The group of men who attended Thursday’s Group Session welcomed Joseph and he introduced himself to the newcomers.

After the session, Lucien, Joseph, Jean and Richard were sitting in the sunroom chatting. They heard a car pull up in the driveway. “Is that you Mattie?” “Yes it is.” “Joseph, what are you doing here?” “Mattie I came back for the first group with Richard in Ballarat. I am doing alright, staying with Richard, and with him gone tonight, I decided to return, get involved here. No Call this week.” As Mattie put her coat and hat down, Joseph got up, walked towards her and she hugged him, enveloped him. “Well, would you look at this? Not even embarrassed to grab her guy in front of all of us? Get out of here you two,” Lucien said with a chuckle.

Jean and Richard looked at his appointments for the next Tuesday. He told Jean, “Let’s make them 30 minutes apiece. Add Lucien in at the end. I know about the journal that Joseph gave him. I want him to write for a week and then we will look at it together. Jean, I will also want to see his nightmare log.” “Thank you, Richard.” “You are most welcome, Jean. I am alive only because of what Lucien did for me, what he endured for me.”

Lucien walked into the discussion between Richard and Jean. “Lucien, let’s look at your appointments for the next week. You have four new patients.” “How do you want to space them?” “Will one a day work? I know we have my regular patients already scheduled” “Yes, sounds good. I will call the four of them tomorrow and set the schedule.” “Have all of your group members asked you to be the primary physician, Lucien?” Richard asked. “Yes, they have. They have all signed release forms so Jean can request their records. We were hoping for 50% of the group to transfer to me. After all I have a ‘reputation’ in this town – an angry drunk who is sleeping with his beautiful housekeeper, whisking the said gorgeous housekeeper away for a week at the beach, a bloody crazy bastard. Guess they are not listening to their wives,” Lucien said with a grin. Richard put his hand on Lucien’s shoulder and looked at him, “The men are listening to you, following you, aren’t they? Just like we did in camp.”

“Lucien, have you journaled today?” Joseph asked. “No, I haven’t, not yet. I will put the kettle on and we can sit at the kitchen table. And Joseph, thank you so much. I need to do this, can’t keep ordering you to journal when I am not. Not going to say anymore because I will –” “Don’t Major, I know. That’s why I had Jean give the journal to you.”

While Joseph and Lucien were writing, Jean asked Richard to go with her to the sunroom. She told him what Allie and Cliff had suggested about a support group for the wives, older children, others. “Richard, I think this is important. What do you suggest about setting it up? I will talk to James and Hugh on Friday about this. What Mattie and I know about being a POW ‘wife’ started when Lucien stormed in here a few weeks ago. Mattie and I think that is hardly enough background. Some of these women have nearly 15 years of experience dealing with their men. We are thinking one of them should be the leader. But that could prove difficult. For instance, Allie apologized several times for her lack of education, inability to convey what she was thinking, trying to say. I barely have any more formal education than she does. Sorry, Richard, just rambling around with this as I try to get a handle on it.”

“Jean, it is an excellent idea. Let me add another thing for you to think about. I am going to work with Lucien, going to tell him in no uncertain terms to talk to me, share his journal and nightmare log with me. You will be dealing with him as he ‘fights’ me I am certain.” “Richard, I think you might be surprised at how receptive Lucien will be to your suggestion. Just this weekend we talked about how he feels about the two of us, how being ‘happy’ is making him uneasy, about Nell telling him if he helps Joseph, he helps himself.” “And Nell is –“ “One of the few people alive in Ballarat who knew his mother. Nell even told him last week she saw him take his first breath. She also talked with Joseph, helped me at the meat market last week –“ “Yes, I know now who we are talking about – she kissed Joseph, right?” “Yes, she did. She treats Lucien like her son, even told me ‘to look after him’ when he first stormed into this house. Helping Joseph has opened Lucien to talk to you. I am encouraging him to write each night and we still keep the nightmare log.” “Thank you Jean for telling me more background on you and the Major. Tell him on Monday he is seeing me on Tuesday before we eat dinner. If he balks at the idea, call me.”

“Returning to the new group - Bring it up on Friday at our meeting. Groups help each other - whatever their starting point. Once you and Mattie are back in Ballarat on Sunday, you should call the first meeting, see who comes, what their stories are, what they want to accomplish. Then talk with me again,” Richard told Jean. When he got up, he pulled her up from her chair and gave her a hug. “Lucien is one lucky man to have you Jean.”

Danny dropped Joseph and Richard at the depot on his way to an early shift at the station. After fixing breakfast for Lucien and Mattie, Jean continued her sewing on the shorts that Joseph wanted, did the book work for the practice, prepared for the first grant meeting on Friday, and was trying to figure out how it was Wednesday already. Her housework, which use to take up a substantial part of her day when Thomas was alive, seemed to be sliding further and further out of control. Lucien had not said a word about the state of his house. Thank goodness, he was not his Father, as he had told her so many times.

Mattie walked into the kitchen where Jean was working. “Um Jean, can I chat with you?” “Certainly, Mattie. What do you want to talk about?” “Joseph.” “That does not surprise me in the least, Mattie.” “Jean, I can’t believe I grabbed him last night in front of you, Lucien and Richard. It was like he was the only person on the sunroom, and and –“ “Don’t apologize to me. It was quite lovely. Two people discovering each other, enjoying each other’s company. Not expected was it?” “No Jean, I barely know him, we are both falling in love, I think, I don’t know, I have never felt this way before about anyone.” Lucien walked in, he had overheard the conversation, put his arms around Mattie, “Mattie, you don’t need to fight Joseph to a draw the way Jean and I did. Just love him. We all know that he did not fall out of bed just to win your heart, your affection.” “Oh, Lucien and Jean, what am I going to do?” “Why do anything? Just let it happened, enjoy each other, support each other,” Jean told her. Mattie reached to hug Jean and then Lucien put his arms around both of them. “What is in the air in this Blake household, Lucien?” Mattie asked. “Don’t know, Mattie. I certainly endorse it,” flashing a smile at Jean.

Lucien was busy enough with his established patients, but add in the new patients. It was a balancing act. Jean focused on keeping the paperwork and appointments under control. As long as Matthew did not need him, it all seemed manageable. But interject the hit-and-run case, and it was like a house of cards, falling apart. The list of new patients, mainly POWs, continued to grow. Many had not been to the Group Sessions but had asked for Lucien to be their physician based on talking to their mates. This will be a major concern to bring to the table on Friday. How many patients should they accept? Should there be a wait list? How to balance the established patients with the new ones? Unanticipated consequences of joining James and Hugh’s grant – there was a need, a huge need in Ballarat, and Lucien seemed to be providing the assistance the men needed.

On Wednesday evening after dinner, Jean reminded Lucien to journal, Then, she put lotion on his back, and kissed his bum several times. “Jean, you know the trouble you get in doing that, right?” She laughed at him and kissed him. “I do indeed, Lucien Blake.” Lucien exercised her leg with the scar, despite her complaints and grumbling. “Sometimes, I wish you had never seen that scar. It really hurts tonight.” “What about your neck? Did you do your exercises?” “Yes, while you were writing.” Once those tasks were completed, they beat a hasty retreat to the ‘Beach Cottage’ in his bedroom. Lucien told Danny and Mattie, “You two have phone duty tonight. Only disturb us if it is an emergency.”

Mattie answered the telephone later that evening and it was Joseph. “Mattie, I will see you tomorrow evening. Without ‘Call,’ I have the evening off and will attend the Group Session. I will need a ride from the depot about 7:30 or so. Can I talk with Lucien or Jean?” “Joseph, they are um indisposed. You will have to talk with Lucien tomorrow. Is that alright?” “Are they at the ‘Beach Cottage?’” “Yes. How did you know?” Mattie told him. “Your voice. So, then can we talk awhile?” “Yes, Joseph, we can. Tell me about your day.”

On Thursday, Jean finished the two pair of shorts for Joseph, had all of her questions and patient data organized for the Grant Meeting, their suitcases packed for the weekend. Lucien had made a reservation for Friday and Saturday evenings at the same Beach Cottage they used previously. Lucien was completing the hit and run case. He had discovered paint on the victim’s belt, Matthew had matched it to a Vanguard, and while Danny was searching the area near the accident picked up a damaged license plate. The plate belonged to the car, and the car was the correct color. They went to the owner and he quickly told them what he did. No explanation why he did not stop and help.

After dinner, Joseph arrived and assisted Lucien with the Group Session. Jean had additional paperwork available in case new participants attended and two more joined, wanting to be patients of both Lucien and Richard. They were definitely going to have to talk with Richard, James and Hugh about their needs in Ballarat.

Jean, Lucien, Mattie and Joseph sat in the sunroom and unpacked the Group Session. Jean was writing notes about what they all discussed and would add them to her materials for tomorrow’s meeting. Then, Joseph and Lucien retreated to his office. “Joseph, up on the examination table and let me see your head. After looking at the remaining stitches and feeling his face, he decided to remove them. This looks really good. I can tell that you are using the cream already.” “Yes, I am, Lucien. And I can tell a difference in the way my skin feels, the way my injury is fading. Thank you for doing such a good repair job for me. Several of the surgeons have admired my head – well, specifically your work – and asked what plastic surgeon did the suturing.“ “Thanks for telling me that. I thought I did a respectable job – considering it was on a kitchen table, in the middle of nowhere, by lantern light.”

“Lucien, have you journaled today?” “No, I have not and I need to. What about you Joseph?” “Same here. Let’s go to the kitchen, put the kettle on and get started.” Both had finished writing and Joseph was getting more tea for them when the phone rang. Richard wanted an update about the Session. Lucien announced to all, “Hey everyone, grab a telephone and let’s talk to Richard about tonight’s Group Session.”

After the debriefing with Richard was complete, Jean told Joseph, “Come into the living room, I have something to show you.” “Jean, my new shorts, perhaps? You told me you were aiming for Friday at the latest. Am I right?” Lucien looked at Jean and Joseph, “Just what is going on here?” Jean displayed the two new pair of shorts. “Well Joseph, what do you think?” “Oh Jean, you do have them finished. Thank you.” “You must model them for us. Go change now, Joseph,” Mattie told him. Joseph changed into his shorts in the spare bedroom and was walking out to whistles from Lucien and Danny, and Mattie’s smile. “Stop that you lot, let me look at them. What about the waist, the length, pockets deep enough, anything need changing, Joseph?” “No Jean. These are great.” “Try the other pair on.” “Lucien and Danny, you are embarrassing him, stop that.” Jean’s comments did not prevent Lucien and Danny from a repeat performance when they saw Joseph in the second pair of shorts. “Jean, these fit fine as well. Thank you so much.” “Auntie Jean, both Doc and Joseph have smart looking shorts – and I don’t. Why?” “Because you never asked me to make you a pair, Danny.” “Neither did the Doc, if I remember correctly.” “That is true, Jean. You should make your nephew some shorts as well, don’t you think?” “Danny, remind me when we get back, alright?”

“Everyone, we are leaving at 6 tomorrow morning for the trip to Melbourne. Get your clothes packed, be up at 5 and I will have breakfast on the table. Danny you are in charge of the house until Sunday evening when we get back,” Jean told everyone.

The group of four were off for Melbourne before 6 AM. As Mattie always told people, ‘Jean ran a tight ship’ at the house and this morning was no exception. Lucien drove the car, Joseph was in the front, Jean and Mattie in the back seat. The conversation revolved around the first meeting of all of the grant participants. They all wanted this enterprise to get off to a good start, with everyone on the same page, so to speak. If Jean was nervous about this first meeting, she hid it well. As they got closer to Melbourne, she was thinking – how in the world did I, a farmer’s widow with minimal formal education get into such highly educated company, such intellectual company, become so much more than a housekeeper/receptionist - sometimes I feel like an imposter, out of my league, but I know I am not, I have the skills to do this job, to lead, to be an important part of the grant team. Now, I just need to do it.

James and Hugh began unpacking the goals, required reporting procedures, with Jean a major presenter in this part of the meeting. She left no doubt that she was confident, organized, and knew what she would need for the reports. Then Hugh and James reported on their clinic in Melbourne. Their numbers were impressive already, but with a large city, in a military hospital, that was a given.

When Lucien reported the initial Ballarat patient numbers, Hugh and James just looked at him. “Really, Lucien?” Hugh asked. James told the group, “The number of patients who joined Lucien’s practice are beyond our year one projections for a satellite clinic. Our grant included a ‘generic’ satellite clinic, not one with the Major serving as the physician.” Richard interrupted James and said, “Lucien, you are like a magnet for your patients, when one sees the benefits, they tell a friend and now you are dealing with an increasing patient number. They are definitely following your lead, just like we did years ago. James and Hugh, these numbers – my goodness.”

Lucien looked at Richard, smiled, put a hand behind his head and pushed his hair down, in his typical nervous gesture. He gave Mattie, Joseph, and Jean high praise for an incredible recruiting job, getting patient appointments organized and keeping him on task. Then Lucien and Jean talked about ideas for billing their expenses, if they should limit patient numbers, create a ‘wait list’ for the new patients, their concern about his regular patients. Much of this was unanticipated territory and consequences – for all of them. A long discussion evolved as ideas were suggested, rejected, accepted.

Joseph, who saw patients all morning, returned about noon to accompany the group to lunch and to participate in the afternoon meeting. He walked up to Mattie and gave her a hug and a kiss. James and Hugh looked at the two of them. “Well, well, when did this happen? Joseph, you have her in your arms in lightning speed, don’t you?” Hugh said, with a grin. Richard looked at them and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you and James, this is all my doing.” Jean piped up, “No, it is my doing, Richard.” Then Joseph looked at all of them and said, “It is Nell’s influence.” Mattie finally had a chance to add to the conversation, “Blake household atmosphere - is contagious. Just look what happened to Jean and Lucien.”

After lunch, Joseph, Mattie and Lucien detailed the beginnings of the Thursday Group Session in Ballarat. Lucien said the initial idea was Mattie’s and that Joseph’s role was based on his ‘fortuitous’ fall off of the couch, spending the week with us in Ballarat. His willingness to recruit, talk to Mattie’s patients and then come back for the sessions certainly was a major reason the group got off to such a good start. Richard coming up on Tuesday afternoon and evening was an excellent addition and was again adding to their patient numbers. But we do need to regulate what we are doing. We are getting more participants each time. We are having similar issues as my patient numbers. Jean and Mattie told the group about the wives that wanted to form a group and what they were thinking. James and Hugh were pleased that this group was a possibility. Hugh said, “The satellite clinic in Ballarat is meeting such a need, one we did not fully appreciate. Thank you all for your willingness to provide such good care.”

As the meeting wrapped up, James and Hugh confirmed that Jean would be back in Melbourne in two weeks. The weekly phone calls would begin the next Thursday morning at 9 AM. Everyone agreed that if Matthew had Lucien busy with a police matter, then Jean or Mattie would cover for him. “Meeting called to a close,” James declared, with a huge smile on his face. “What a beginning, beyond my wildest expectations.”

“Jean, let’s get going. I want some beach time before we eat dinner. And I need to stop you know where before we get there. Do you need to purchase anything?” Joseph and Mattie were off to see her parents, have dinner with them. “Good luck Joseph,” as Lucien slapped him on the back, gave him a grin. “Lucien, my parents are not that bad. Don’t frighten Joseph.” “Mattie and Joseph, come visit us at our beach cottage. Joseph, it is the same one as before. Mattie has never seen it,” Jean told them. “Jean, we are coming Saturday afternoon. That is already decided,” Mattie told both Jean and Lucien. Joseph added, “I think Hugh, James and Richard are planning to come as well. Probably dinner on the steps like we did before. They are bringing food and wine.”

Lucien parked the car at the beach cottage, opened the boot and carried the bags inside. Jean picked up his medical bag and the package from the Chemist Shop. “Jean, you need to put those down, and come to me. I want to carry you over the threshold, this time. “Lucien, you are such a romantic, aren’t you?” “Jean, this trip I will properly deliver you to our beach cottage. I promise I will not fall asleep like I did last time either. I promise.” Once inside, Jean looked at the bedroom, smiled, and told Lucien, “If these walls could talk, or better yet if this bed could tell, oh my goodness.” “Yes, Jean, they would say that our romance was consummated right here. And we are off to a marvelous life, together, you and me. I love you, Jean.” They embraced, kissed, and laughed at each other. “Will we ever get enough of each other?” Jean asked him. “I certainly hope not.”

Their dress clothes were exchanged for beach wear, sunscreen, hats, and out the door they went. “Wait a minute, Lucien. Let me get some money so we can eat dinner. Remember, still no seawater on your back. But we can walk the beach and unwind from the trip and long day of meetings.” They slowly walked down the beach and found themselves at the restaurant. After a leisurely dinner with wine, they walked back to the cottage. Lucien got each of them a drink, scotch for him, sherry for her, and they sat on the porch for an hour, chatting, relaxing, holding hands. “Jean, this is so nice, just being with you, together, no telephone, no Matthew knocking on the door.”

“Lucien, let’s go inside. I want to put lotion on your back and I want you to work on my leg. It is still bothering me.” “Inside my love. Let’s take care of business first and then get down to makin’ out.” Once Jean had put the lotion on his back, she kissed him on his bum several times. “Jean, I love that routine you have with me. I always want you to do that – it is our special thing, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is.” “Now, let me have your leg. Let me figure out what is going on here.” After trying several different positions without causing Jean any issues, he hit on the problem area. “Oh, Lucien, oh my, that hurts, why?” “I think some more scar tissue just released. Let me massage it, put some of your cream on it. Jean, I am sorry I am hurting you, but we need to work on it. I have some medication you can take that should help.” Once he had finished, they got up, put on their night clothes. “Jean, you need to eat something with this medication or you will get a stomach ache. Lucien made them a sandwich to split, Jean put the kettle on, and they sat outside on the porch, talking. After 30 minutes, Lucien asked, “How are you doing, my love?” Jean reached for his hand, he got up, and they walked back into the cottage. “I am ready for you, Lucien Blake.”

Lucien walked Jean into the bedroom and slowly took her nightie off. He looked at her, smiled, and said, “I love you more each day, do you realize that Jean? I did not think it was possible, but it is the truth.” Then he picked her up and placed her on the bed, stripped his clothing off and was in the bed next to her, holding her, kissing her, caressing her, teasing her. He took the lead for the first round of love making, slowly driving her to the brink, backing off, and then starting again. “Lucien, you do know that turnabout is fair play, right? I will get my turn soon.” “Jean, you do remember Sunday at the cabin how fast we got it on. I don’t want it that way tonight. I want a slow-paced session, with my gal.” That may have been Lucien’s intentions, but Jean had a different idea. All it took was to fondle Radcliffe, begin massaging, holding him and Lucien had to deal with him as well as Jean. “Jean, this is not fair, you know that.” “So what are you going to do about it, my handsome boy?” “If you put it that way, I am going to love my gal right now.” He began at her toes, kissing them, triggering goosebumps as he wandered up to her knees, then back to her ankles, and then started up her legs until he reached her curls, skipped over and started on her belly, kissing, using his fingers to move up and down her skin, causing her to moan, sigh, and then she began to play with him, tease him, kiss him, until he shivered,. “My goodness, Jean, what are you doing to me?” “I am getting on top of you right now, ready or not.” She rolled over on top of him, smothering him with kisses, until he rolled her off and began caressing her breasts, kissing them, worked up to her neck, kissed her deeply on the mouth, as she hung on to his lips, wanting more. They were both needy, playing with each other. “Jean, can I come inside?” “Thought you would never get to this part tonight, Lucien.” After Lucien slipped into Jean, they began a magical dance only the two of them could do, of thrusting, of building up to Jean’s climax, followed by his release several minutes later. Lucien collapsed on top of Jean, with kisses and more kisses delivered to him. “Jean, you show me no mercy tonight, do you?” “You have a few more minutes before the next round, my love.” “Of course.”

They fell asleep sometime during the night and awoke to first light, holding each other. “Jean, did you have a good night?” “Yes, I did Lucien. You know how to please me, you do know that?” “Yes, I do.” “But, you know several times recently, you have surprised me. A bit bolder than before, more in control of me, and I like that. Don’t want our love life to become too predictable. Always want you to know that I care deeply for you, you are my life, you are my anchor.” Jean shed a few tears onto Lucien’s chest, causing him to hold her even tighter. “I love you, Lucien Blake.”

On Saturday morning, Jean and Lucien visited Larry’s photography shop to leave the exposed film. “Jean, I will develop it for you and have it ready when you are back in two weeks. Here is some more film for you. You are keeping notes, right?” “Yes Larry, Lucien is my scribe. We are walking the land at his Father’s cabin.” “We also took several group photos when we renamed the cabin last week – it is now known as ‘Jean’s Place’ in honor of this incredible woman. If you see any of the group shots that are exceptionally good, print them in a large format. We want to display a photograph or two inside the cabin,” Lucien told Larry. When Jean was not looking, Lucien slipped Larry a check – “Please, put it on our account.”

Joseph and Mattie arrived at the Beach Cottage after lunch. They came in beach wear, ready to enjoy themselves. The four of them sat on the porch chatting about the meeting yesterday, talking about the Group Session that Jean and Mattie were going to set up, what their initial plans were. Joseph talked to Lucien about how he felt, what Richard had planned for him next week. Both of them went into the kitchen to journal. Mattie and Jean walked the shoreline. “Jean, last night went very well with my parents. My father actually liked Joseph. We enjoyed the evening – I was so apprehensive at first. My parents can’t believe that we are all involved in the grant, have such increased patient numbers. I think they are proud of me – for the work I am doing in Ballarat and of course, for finding Joseph.”

Later in the afternoon, Lucien, Jean, Mattie and Joseph were walking and talking along the shoreline when the rest of the group showed up. Hugh, James, and Richard did indeed bring enough food and wine for dinner. When Joseph and Lucien returned to the beach cottage, they started the grill, and James and Hugh unpacked the seafood and vegs they were going to cook. Richard walked over to Joseph and they chatted about meeting Mattie’s parents.

Mattie helped Jean get the dishes onto the kitchen table, cutlery, glasses, napkins. Joseph and Richard opened several bottles of wine. Joseph offered Jean and Mattie a glass of wine and Jean toasted the two, “I am so delighted to be a part of the beginning of your love, Joseph and Mattie.” “Jean, thank you so much for letting me stay with you in Ballarat. I am so glad Mattie is living with you and Lucien.”

Once the food was prepared and everyone had a plateful and a glass of wine, Lucien tapped on his wine glass to get everyone’s attention, I want to propose a toast. “Jean, come join me.” He put his arm around her waist and began, “To all of our Melbourne grant colleagues, thank you for encouraging Jean, Mattie and me to join your team. For re-establishing our friendship – from years past. For accepting the two of us as a couple – without question,” as he kissed Jean. Richard piped up, “Thank you, Major for your leadership those many years ago. None of us would be here this evening without you. We all appreciate that fact every day.”