In the weeks since she first found Lucien rifling through her father's things, Jean felt like she could hardly get her bearings. She had been subject to nude paintings, loose women about the house, and nearly engaged in a gun fight with a member of the Queen's army. Initially she was pleased to think of having a man about the house again, a man to carry on the doctor's legacy and to tend to his much neglected affairs. Jean's life had been focused on Thomas for so long and she was apprehensive to face the future after him. Lucien was an intelligent man, well spoken, with an impressive professional pedigree. When he returned to Ballarat she felt her future situation might be in good hands after all. Jean quickly learned how wrong she was.
Jean wasn't a housekeeper so much as a nursemaid chasing after an unruly child. He was messy, undisciplined, and inclined to insult people. He smoked and his drinking was out of control. She never knew if he was coming home for dinner or if he would stay out all night. Angry phone calls from people he offended in town became a regular occurrence. Jean had even developed a sixth sense for knowing when he had got into some sort of scrape and kept the medical kit on hand. However despite this, there were flashes of such kindness in him that it was difficult for Jean to write him off entirely. He was always trying to care for others, especially his father's old patients. He had taken an interest in Mattie and Danny. He saw the good in people and did not write someone off as a friend simply because they were of a different station in life. When he wasn't being completely impossible Jean had to admit she enjoyed his company. He seemed keen to engage her on any number of subjects, especially when he was working with the police superintendent on a murder case. Lucien could be quite charming when he wanted to be and Jean was not beyond flattery. Every time Jean thought she could bear no more of his antics, some kind word or compassionate act would draw her back in.
She had gone through a difficult patch a few weeks ago, on account of a different man this time. The director of the church dramatic society had set his cap for Jean and he was serious about it. Jean felt like her heart was torn in two. She had always hoped to remarry, to make more of her life than domestic help while she filled her spare time with knitting and church committees. But Robert was so bland he was almost invisible. Jean did not love him, did not even fancy him, and she felt if she married him for convenience her world would be even smaller than it was now. But to say no might be to close the door on her last opportunity for marriage and all the benefits that entailed. In the end she rejected him, but it pained her to do so. Jean never told Lucien what was going on but somehow he knew. Jean thought she hid her emotions well but perhaps she was giving herself too much credit. After it was all over, Lucien surprised her by insisting on attending the play she was to perform in alongside Robert. She thought he was joking, but true to his word he was there on opening night. She did not need to find him in the audience. Jean knew he was there, and somehow just knowing that was enough to soothe her heart.
So Jean stayed on, even when she couldn't stand him. She hoped a firm hand and some discipline might put him on the right track. He all but fired Jean one night. It broke her heart, not to be rid of him but to realize she lost in her battle to keep the Blake name in good repute. Without her there would surely be disaster. Then suddenly a few days later he asked her to stay with such sweet sincerity Jean could not say no.
It was clear to Jean that Lucien's problems went beyond needing someone to keep his boorish behavior in check. Jean knew the signs. The old vets of the Great War called it shell shock. He was jumpy and hesitant to be left alone. When Lucien wasn't causing a great ruckus he could just as easily leap with fright at a distant sound. The worst part was the nightmares. Dreadful cries would escape his room at night. It broke her heart but she was powerless to stop them. More than once Jean stood outside Lucien's door, staring, imagining what would happen if she just slipped in and held him until his demons subsided. Jean turned back every time. It was a preposterous thing to do to a man she barely knew, and it was positively immoral. Jean suspected much of his drinking was to try to quiet a tormented mind. When he drank heavily the nightmares were usually held at bay, at least as far as Jean could tell. This didn't make him any easier to deal with. Lucien was not a mean drunk, and Jean was thankful for that, but his frenetic ways only became worse once he got going. He often would not make it to bed without Jean's help. Some days he never went to bed at all.
This particular evening, Jean knew well in advanced they were both in for a long night. A murder case he was working had gone spectacularly badly. Lucien's erratic behavior was catching up to him. He now had an entire asylum of doctor's writing letters of reprimand and the superintendent had threatened to sack him. Above all, Lucien was humiliated. He was trying so hard to prove himself to everyone that he made foolish mistakes, and those mistakes were hurting other people. Jean did not condone his behavior but she felt sorry for him. It did not surprise her to find him awake close to midnight slumped over the old piano, barely able to stand and banging away at the keys. Jean could smell the whiskey before she even entered the room. Jean was surprised at first to hear him. He didn't just play but played well. Jean wished he would choose to do so when he wasn't hopelessly drunk and told him as much. It didn't seem to matter. He was lost to self pity and alcohol. Jean was able to wrestle him off the piano and into his bedroom but not before he knocked a glass of whiskey all over the carpet. Jean left it behind in favor of getting him into bed. She knew there would be no rest tonight otherwise.
Jean pulled Lucien's arm over her shoulder and supported him with her other arm around his waist and together they staggered down the hall. She had needed to carry her husband off to bed this way on more than one occasion but Lucien was making her an expert in human balance and momentum. Jean wondered how they made it at all without upsetting any end tables. Lucien's room was cramped in the best of circumstances, and the dark furniture and small windows only made the effect worse. It was a tight fit for her to maneuver him onto the bed and lay him down. Carefully she removed his shoes and undid the first two buttons of his collar. She might have been embarrassed but Lucien was unlikely to remember in the morning. If she thought for a moment that he remembered nights like these then she would have been more distant. But he was such a sorry figure she could not help but pity him.
It was nights like these, in the brief moments of quiet between the chaos that she felt drawn to him. Jean wondered if she might be able to ease his burden some if only he would let her. Her feelings were at odds with the relationship they had most of the time. He seemed to revel in being hard to manage and watching her clean it all up. But now he lay on the bed mute, all the fight and the self-hatred run out of him. Jean pulled a blanket up under his chin.
"Sweet Jean," he sighed.
Jean could not help but smirk at that, and patted him gently on the chest. She would not have dared to take such liberties in broad daylight but it hardly mattered now, when he would never remember what happened in the morning. She turned to leave and felt his hand catch her wrist. His eyes were barely open but he was looking right at her.
"Sweet Jean...soulmate you know...words."
With that he finally passed out cold, his arms splayed out beside him. Jean wanted to dismiss this confession for drunken blather but it was such a peculiar thing to say. Careful so as not to disturb him Jean kneeled beside the bed where his arm hung over. She loosened his cuff and examined his wrist. Her breath hitched at the sight of the blue text asking "Who are you?" Alone in his room in the dead of night it almost felt like a challenge. Was it possible? She remembered demanding to know who he was when they first met but she didn't remember her exact words. Given his penchant for sticking his nose where it didn't belong, who knows how many people demanded to know who he was over the years? She had no idea what he had said to her when they first met, only that she was startled by his voice.
At the foot of the bed Jean spotted another mystery in the form of an elaborately decorated lacquer chest. She had seen Lucien huddled over its contents many times but he had all but forbid her to open it. Jean peered over the bed and saw Lucien was fast asleep. This might be her only chance to find out what was inside. If she was to understand him better, Jean reasoned a quick glance would not hurt. Jean carefully opened the lid and looked inside. It was mostly letters documenting his recent search for his wife. One envelope held photos. The photos depicted a happy family, Lucien, a Chinese woman, and a little girl. It was the sort of formal photo that could only be of his wife and child. Jean was shocked. She had always assumed his family would be British, he had never suggested otherwise. Of course he never spoke of them and neither did Thomas. Suddenly everything made sense. His estrangement from his father, his hatred of Ballarat, it was all for the love of a woman whom the world would never accept. Such a love could only have been borne of soulmates. Jean glanced briefly at the Script on her own wrist. She barely thought about it these days, but she remembered the little girl who was so sure she would meet her soulmate, believing her dashing prince was out there somewhere. Perhaps it was for the best. She would not have to spend her life caring for an impossible drunkard. If she was not bound to Lucien then she was free to leave at any time.
Jean jerked her head up, nearly slamming the lid of the box shut. He whispered her name again, but he was still asleep. Jean wondered if he was dreaming about her. She knew she should be horrified but a part of her wanted it. He occupied her thoughts so much of the time she could not help but wonder what he thought of her, or wonder if he thought of her at all. However it was a reminder that she had no business in his room at this hour of night. It was time for her to go up to her own room and go to bed. Alone.