Disclaimer: I am not LM Montgomery. Let's just get that straight. The characters (much as I'd like to steal them in the middle of the night with stealth and a black cap on) do not belong to me.

"This existence of ours is as transient as Autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky. Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain. "

-The Buddha

O&O&O&

Some nights they will sit beside the fire in their own minute castle, dreaming unfettered dreams. The fire crawls and curls in the hearth, and flashes warmth into their marrow.

"Valancy?" he will sometimes ask.

"Yes?" dreamy, because the reverie is so natural and not easily disbanded.

Tonight he will ask her a question that she did not expect.

"Are you happy still? After all these years?"

In a needle thin moment the stinging prick of being surrounded by pompous matrons who are clamouring to know a most unsocial Mrs. Bernard Redfern swarms through her, but it takes less time than that to know her answer.

"Yes. Very." Her head falls unto his shoulder, and the utter peace of the moment is beautiful.

O&O&O&

He will grab her hand at the oddest moments and rests it in his, as if this is the only comfort he needs. It is something away from the Montreal life, his father, her tyrannical family, forgetting everything but the exothermic feel of loved palm against palm in their own Palmer's kiss.

It is a comforting thought to her that he needs her. For, when he does that, she has no doubt he does need her. She will think of little wilted rosebud Cissy with a sigh, remembering the first person who ever did.

It was the kind of love that sprang in its step. It had all but knocked them both over unconscious with its power when it came whipping through their blood. It gave her the key to her freedom, and for that she considers it her salvation.

The key out of her Mother's prison.

O&O&O&

It has happened again. Hospitals, crying, and stale sheets rubbing her back. Why again? Why does this always have to happen, every time? What higher force has decreed that she shall always roll back here-into this? The questions are the most painful part of this sickening routine. The whys and wheretofores no one can answer haunt her dreams.

The sky has the compassion to remain dark and mutinously grey this time, for which she feels unreasonably thankful. It is mourning the loss of this almost-child with her. Barney has tried to instil in her the belief that she is not the only one who can comprehend this, but this grief is unfathomable-in all senses of the word. Endless depth and incomprehensible mystery.

Barney arrives with coffee, the wonderful antonym to all the sedatives they feel the malady of grief requires. Now, when he gropes for her hand, she has to programme herself not to cringe or recoil.

His eyes sigh-as though he has pierced into this thought. He is tired too. Tired of losing her was well as the spoiled fruit of his loins and her womb. She hadn't realized he lost more than she-he looses a wife and child.

Barney, she promises finally, I will not let grief take me from you.

O&O&O&

The first morning home is hard-harder than she had imagined. The thing she has learned about purple and crimson lives is that those colours give pain as well as beauty, that the price is just as often worth more than the reward.

She reads, and sits looking out to the window-framed street, and her being is in the physical state of happiness. This is some sickeningly rewinding film. It is as if it had never been. It should be so easy to let the pain slip out into the blue-sky air, but the memory must not be lost.

Someone must keep it safe and fresh. She must not let it go.

Mustn't she?

O&O&O&

Barney was nearly wild when he came home from the office later that afternoon. He sprinted down the hallways until he heard an answer to his shouted salutation. He burst open through the door like a tide crashing upon a sandy beach.

He clamoured through the room, cursing the furniture that separated the door from the window ledge on which she was sitting. Finally, he knelt down next to her and took her hand. No flinch, at least on the outside.

"Oh, darling, I'm so sorry I wasn't home this morning. I wanted to be here for you so badly, but those blasted deadlines are as moveable as Mistawis herself. How have you been faring, dearest?"

His eyes scan her face, looking for the ghost of tear tracks or the heartbreak in her eyes, wishing he did not find both.

"I've been reading. It is lovely sunny day." She pauses and cannot remember a time before when she did not know what to say to Barney, "There are children laughing and playing down the street."

Her traitorous lip trembles. Barney rises and enfolds her slight body into his arms. There is something comforting beyond words in the feel of her cheek against his steady heartbeat.

Maybe letting go is not the question, but moving forward. And she knows now why purple and crimson is always worth the price- because you can move on with your beautiful and painful memories intact.

"It's starting not to be bitter, Barney, but it will take time. And you."

"You have all you need of both." and his soft voice exudes mountains of relief.

Now that he has accepted and she has taken the first step to recovery, a huge weight seems lifted. She suddenly feels completely drained. The world and the pain are starting to seem strangely far away.

"Thank you, dearest of darlings. You are marvellous. But don't tell anyone. I don't want to have to share you. Or have you get too big of an ego."

He chuckles, the chummy rumble she always loved, and for the first time since it happened, she falls asleep with a smile.

O&O&O&

Barney knows the anguish of memory. He has spent sleepless nights over hoary events. He has learned the antecedent of melancholy is oftentimes worse than an event itself. Barney knows frugality of emotion is no process to prevent the pain of hindsight.

While some might wish to feel less, Barney know that is the only thing that makes the sorrow worth enduring. This fragile, darling girl-woman in his arms taught him many things, but mostly that. He has learned not to regret spending so much feeling on life again-for what else makes life able to be lived?

She stirs and he wishes he could invade her thoughts-invade and repair what torment her brain must be going through. He wishes he could suffer it all with her-feel every emotion with her.

He wipes the hair off her face with infinite care as her eyelashes flutter open.

"Barney?" she mummers.

"Right here" he reassures.

"Nice thought" she mumbles out sleepily, turning her face into his shoulder.

After a moment she says with more clarity, "Barney, thank you."

"Whatever for?" He is baffled.

"For bringing me back. You did before too, brought my soul back from Mother and Cousin Stickles, but you've done it again, and I wanted to thank you."

"Valancy, you brought yourself back both times."

"But I wouldn't have if you hadn't been there." His smile blooms across his face at that thought, and she pauses before she blurts out: "Barney, do you need me?"

"Of course. You know I do."

"I just needed to hear you say it" and her face shines with the victory of decisive battle. This war against her sorrow will be won soon.

O&O&O&

It does not happen overnight. It takes days and weeks. It happens in gentle little steps that guide her back to herself. But as long as he needs her-needs the before her she always was inside-back the bitterness has gone out of it.

There is no shame in moving past her not-quite-baby. Simply moving by doesn't mean forgetting. She doesn't forget. But she no longer has to make herself remember. A moment does not have to flash so bright as to blind the rest of her life. The crimsons and purples do not have to stain if they will turn her back to grey.

The power of the flashes, of moments, does not lie in the events but in the person's reaction to them. She feels as though she has been released from an anvil's weight on her ankle, dragging her. It is the person who controls the authority of nostalgia, of old agony.

Her prison has let her go home free.

O&O&O&

He knows she wholly and truly happy again when he steps in the door. The living room of their two-story heaven has a table rather romantically set for two in front of their fireplace.

He finds her in the kitchen and is too happy to shout or announce his presence loudly; instead, he wraps his arms around the small waist and slowly kisses the two palms that were in the process of preparing a dinner.

She eagerly turns around and her eyes shine with pure joy. No emotional flinching.

"Valancy" is the only word he can say without giving in to the impulse to cry in happiness.

He holds her tightly for five minutes before she complains that the roast will burn. He releases her, teasing her for her prudence. He gets out a bottle of champagne, and sets it next to the table, waiting until she comes out with the food to pop the cork.

The bubbles burst out vivaciously and life seems to be restored to every part of the Redfern home. Even the fire he lights dances as if partaking in his joy, the light reflected on the wall always coming and darkening-but never gone.

Memories of happiness and pain do not die, but, like the fire, flash for moment and then are left dark and out of sight, where they belong.

"Valancy, are you happy? Still?" Is it worth the pain? being his unvoiced question.

Her answer comes out almost like a cat purr while she slides her arms around his neck.

"Yes. Very."

It always is, he realizes as his love for this woman fills him up to the brim as if it were a glass of sparking water.

It always is.

O&O&O&

A/N: This one was for all the people who ever reviewed and told me to do a Barney/Valancy fic. If you hadn't asked, I wouldn't have gotten the motivation. Thanks!

Sorry this was such an odd and long-winded fic. I tried not to make it so. GAH! The words wouldn't do what I wanted them to. Parts this fic has been in storage for a long time, and so if it didn't seem cohesive that's probably why. Sorry about that. I felt I couldn't get a handle on Barney and Valancy's characters. : beats head against wall :

Hope you all had lovely holidays, and have a wonderful new year!

marzoog