Summary: Based upon the story The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Valancy has a heart condition and not much time left on this earth. Knowing that she will soon shuffle off this mortal coil, she proposes to rakish Barney Snaith, who agrees after expressing the fact that he finds her pleasant, but does not love her. By the end of the novel, of course, he realizes she is dearer to him than his own heart, but there are all those months... living together... sleeping together? What really happened on that night when Barney was lost in a storm but then returned?

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters from the novel The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. I'm writing this because it is one of my favorite novels and I think there are certain question raised in the narrative. This is one of my ideas of how a certain night mentioned in the story might have played out. I do not mean to in any way lessen the value or intent of Ms. Montgomery's brilliant and beautiful work, only to pay homage.

Disclaimer, pt. 2: This story gets blue, as in... not smutty, but certainly much, much more explicit than anything Ms. Montgomery wrote. If accounts of sexual acts disturb or annoy you, please don't bother with reading this.

Through the watches of the night, Valancy kept her vigil. In the empty space of the time, she had nothing to do or think except all that had come before- and what would happen next. Barney had married her for pity, but also a sort of affection, she knew. In their short time together, she was certain he had come to feel more for her, but to think such thoughts was a treacherous pastime. She knew this- she knew that she should not fool herself into thinking that certain gestures, certain looks, maybe even a particular gleam she caught in his eye on occasion, meant what she wanted them to mean.

He owed her nothing- nothing. He had never obligated himself to love her. But she read sometimes that look, and it seemed to promise… something. But she couldn't think that- his considerations were what anyone would pay to a woman with death looming over her head, or a dear friend with whom one lived.

After that first kiss with which he'd welcomed her to Mistawis, their lips had never touched. She assumed he'd been caught up in the moment, in an idea of what could and should happen when bringing a bride to her new lodgings, no matter the circumstances surrounding the marriage. Sometimes she longed to cross the room and settle herself into his lap, to caress his careworn face and have him tell her the story of that scar on his cheek as she peppered it with kisses to heal it. She longed to curl up against him in the night and could only wonder at the sensations it would cause for the skin of his back to touch her front as her arms met across his chest.

But she did not have that right, so she never took it. They had an easy, friendly companionship, the like of which she'd never known with anyone else, and never dared hope for in her previous existence as Valancy Stirling, dormouse. This present was so far from that past, it seemed like a completely different incarnation, as if her flesh had reknit and her heart rekindled into Valancy Snaith, wild creature of both wood and hearth.

Just now the clock rang out- four a.m., and in the blackest of the night, Barney was still not home. A wild, wailing wind had blown snow across Mistawis all evening, and Valancy felt as if their small home had slipped underground, but it was just the drifts at door and windows. She'd been faithfully venturing to the front door once an hour, to clear a path for Barney, against his return, and even in the space of those hours, inches and inches of snow would come to rest there. If it was so bad in this patch of trees, how bad would the snow and wind be wherever Barney had gone a-roving? Would it finally be that Mother Nature would feel a need to bat him down, prove her dominance over the indomitable Barney Snaith? Or would the skilled woodsman be more than capable of trekking back across the drifts to reclaim their Blue Castle?

Valancy knew it was foolish to keep every light in the place burning, but she imagined that it would warm his heart to return and find the warmth of home awaiting him. Whether he rejoiced at returning to her or not, she was determined their home, at least, should kindle his heart.

At that moment, Barney had finally decided it was time to let himself take a rest. He was loathe to admit, but he was beginning to feel, in the very marrow of his bones, all of his age and weariness. Though not old by most measurements, he was grudgingly beginning to admit that he might be a bit too old to be rambling through the wilderness of a small Canadian island in the midst of a horrendous storm. He'd been through much worse in the Yukon, but this time, after only a few hours that felt like ages and ages, his legs were weighing so much more, each time he picked them up and planted them once more atop the snow. Stopping to shake the accumulated wetness and ice from his snowshoes was beginning to take longer and longer, but the weight therein felt heavier and heavier.

It must be his age catching him, he reasoned. That must be why he'd consistently cursed himself for bothering out today at all, instead of staying at home. Or could it be something else? No, of course not- he was getting older. He was beginning to reach an age when sensible men would stay indoors and not leave so lovely a sight and feeling as a roaring fire, hearty stew made from the deer he'd slain a few days previous, and a sweet wife with a laugh like ringing chimes. It was the comfort of home, and not the wife- it must be. He longed for warmth.

But, as he got back to his feet and set out once again, part of him insisted that it was Valancy he longed to be near. It was her warmth he longed to feel wrapped around him, holding him safe and peaceful. For weeks now, perhaps longer, enfolding her in his arms had been his one desire. To answer the question posed by that first kiss- the one he'd never intended to bestow, but which had played over and over in his mind ever since. Night after night, in the same large bed, all he'd been able to envision was how it would feel if, divested of nightclothes, Valancy would roll over, into his waiting arms, letting him hold her as he kissed the delicious-looking nook of her collarbone. He could imagine the taste of sweet, milky skin, the way her eyes would close at the pleasure of his touch, the way her lips would look in an "oh" of surprise at sensation of his teeth gently nipping at her shoulder.

"But that is madness!" He suddenly bellowed into the wintery wastes around him. He had said he had no intention of loving her, and he still didn't. The rush of happiness each time her laughing eyes found his while telling a funny story- that couldn't be love, could it? The unspeakable happiness of returning from a day of tramping through the woods and returning to her ready smile and peaceful demeanor- that wasn't love. He'd been on his own for so long, surely if anyone had begun to share his home- and turn out to be such a splendid chum in the bargain- he would feel the same for them. No, it couldn't be love.

It could, he reasoned, be lust. While, at first, he'd found her merely fine-looking, over the course of their relationship, he'd found a hundred little areas of beauty in her body and face, and could scarcely believe it when he remembered the way the townsfolk spoke of her as a frumpy old maid.

Could they not see the dancing laughter that made her eyes sparkle like sapphires? Did they never take note of the way her lips twitched when an inner joke threatened to break out? Had they never seen her turn her head as if just to show off the beguiling curve from neck to shoulder? Surely no one could have missed the delicate perfection of her hands, they way they touched things and seemed to consecrate them with her own love and concern, even something as silly as the ice skates he'd bought for her on whim.

True, most people didn't respond by having to restrain themselves from showering her eyelids with kisses, stopping her smile with fevered lips demanding satisfaction, dragging a tongue across the base of that neck, or envision where on the watcher's body those hands could wander and bring happiness with every brush of fingertips.

He had to get a grip- she had said that any great shock could prove fatal. Rather, the doctor had explained that her heart was so fragile, any startling event could overwhelm it and result in death. And this was his death sentence as well as hers- to live in the near-constant agony of knowing that if he ever were to give in, were he to take his wife in his arms and render their union as true as it could be, it would be the death of her.

So, he never told her- how could he?

Just then, he cleared the bend in the path and saw the Blue Castle- ablaze with, seemingly, every light in the world. The thrill this sent all through him, especially to his heart caused a crystallization of his understanding and his desires as well. The truth shot straight to the core of him and in a blinding instant illuminated his own heart for him. He could no longer deny that he loved Valancy- it was love, pure and true. He loved the essence of her- the part of her that, with death hovering just overhead, blazed her own trail into the world and left behind all that had been familiar and acceptable. He adored her devotion to him, the freedom she had given him in absolving him of any obligation to reciprocate her feelings. Her honesty and steadfastness had wound her 'round his heart as surely as if he'd removed that organ and placed it in those slender, white hands he loved so much.

"Oh, Gods!" He would enter their house with this new knowledge burning like a brand on his brain and what could he do? He couldn't take her in his arms, not unless he finally gave in and embraced her, finally, only to take her to their bed. In the absence of that possibility, his stomach sank and twisted like a fist within him. He could do… nothing. And so he would do that, well as he could.

Author's Note: There is more, I promise, I'm working on it even now. Please review and let me know what you think!