A/N: I don't know why, but at some point this story was replaced by my other BC story. I can only assume dark wizards are to blame.
My apologies for the confusion, and here is the original back up again.
This story arose out of a conversation with my sister. We were debating when and whether Valancy and Barney would have had sex. She insists that Valancy would have waited until she had a declaration of love. I say that's crazy talk: I suspect the only consideration that would have prevented Valancy from sexin' her impossibly hot husband, whom she adored and slept next to every night, would have been the desire to avoid a pregnancy that might not come to completion. And even in the 1910's there were forms of birth control, not to mention Everything But. I also don't think for a moment that Barney was a virgin at this point, and while he probably would have held off from a desire to Do Right by her, I think that if the right moment presented itself, they would definitely et consummatin'.
Valancy loved pickle season more than any other. No, Valancy loved all seasons equally well, now that she had the enchantment of Mistawis to lend beauty and individuality to each; but she loved canning season very much, and pickles were her favorite preserves to make and to consume. Her first summer in her Blue Castle was such a riot of heavenly, almost criminal freedoms. Being a Deerwood Stirling, Valancy had learned how to pickle her own onions and beets and watermelons, but cucumbers were her favorite. Crunchy and crisp, with a biting taste and a heady aroma, Valancy had always wished she could just sit down and eat as many pickles as she liked. She had learned to make them from Second Cousin Sarah Taylor, whose pickles, like herself, were always a touch under-seasoned. And Mrs. Frederick would never change a recipe.
But cooking was an unexpected pleasure for Valancy "up back." Now that she had a kitchen all her own, she experimented with a good will. She knew the fundamentals of cooking, but had never before had much opportunity to develop any flair and her dishes, while nourishing and carefully-attended, were usually straight out of a cookbook. At Roaring Abel's she had enjoyed more freedom, but his "vittles" were a point of particular sensitivity with Abel, and with Cissy so delicate, Valancy rarely had dared to deviate much from written law.
But the Blue Castle was different. Barney could be sure to be fed every day, but Valancy's newfound love of the spice rack sometimes left Barney wishing he were still preparing his own meals. Nevertheless, Valancy experimented, and wrote down all her variations, and soon enough she began to really improve; and her preparations were almost always a success, as Barney's growing appetite attested. He even produced an exotic cookbook for her once. Indian and Chinese cooking were unheard-of blasphemy in the Frederick household, and Valancy beheld the little tome with awe for some minutes before opening it. She didn't even think of being offended. Barney and she had had an earnest conversation a few weeks before when she had tried to invent something Indian. The complex bouquet of spices was beyond her comprehension, and Barney had explained that it was because in Asian cooking, the whole was completely different from the sum of the means.
"You're an excellent little cook," he told her now, as he handed over the book. "I've never been so hungry in my life as when I come in off a tramp and you've got something on the stove. And you like the exotics so much, I thought you might like a little reference for the tough stuff." He pecked her on the cheek and vanished into Bluebeard's Chamber. If he had handled the delicate matter any differently, Valancy might have been vaguely resentful of the gesture, but this was Barney, and it was really a beautiful little cookbook. It was printed with brightly-colored illustrations, and full of fascinating passages explaining the histories and traditions and stories of each dish, and Valancy sat right down with it and read it all the rest of the morning. When Barney came out of his lean-to and beheld her curled up on the sofa, poring over a passage on rice-cookers, woks and steamers, he laughed out loud. "Only you, Moonlight, would peruse a cookbook as if it were the Ramayana. Sometimes I don't think I deserve you."
Valancy smiled up at him and said, "I don't suppose you'd planned to go into town this afternoon. I think a trip to the farmer's market would benefit us both."
So that night they had a teriyaki stir-fry of fresh summer vegetables, somewhat more eastern Canada than southeastern China, but delicious nonetheless.
But pickles were a passion. As soon as the first little cucumbers were ready, Valancy bought baskets of them and pickled them sweet. And a little later, when the big fat summer fruits were ready, she spent several mornings slicing them and packing them into jars full of boiled brine and dill vinegar, with both windows and the door open wide to let the hot air escape and the cooler air wash in off the lake. Today, when Barney emerged from Bluebeard's chamber, he entered the steaming kitchen and leaned against the counter in his sockfeet, watching Valancy. Her hair was sticking a little to her forehead from the heat, and there was a cucumber seed on her cheek. With the sleeves of her cotton housedress pushed up past her elbows and her cheeks red from steam, she hardly looked like the chatelaine of the Blue Castle now. But Barney watched her all the same, hardly even aware that he was watching her, saying nothing.
After a time he observed, "You've got a seed on your face," and plucked it off delicately with two fingers. He had ink on his hands, Valancy noticed, but she didn't care much as long as he didn't transfer it to her beloved pickles. And in the concerned moment that followed this thought, Valancy's big knife came sharply down upon her thumb and sliced deep through the skin.
"Oh!" she yelped and jumped backward, darting her wounded finger to her mouth. Barney immediately pulled her hand away from her face and inspected it for a second.
"It's all right," he said soothingly, "There's gauze in the bedside stand. Come on." He pulled her into the bedroom, sat her firmly down upon the bed, and rapidly began to dab iodine on the cut, then to wrap it in a scrap of clean white fabric.
"It looks worse than it is," he said, looking down at her, holding her little hand in both his. And he lifted her hand to his lips and placed a little kiss on the injured digit, as if in so doing he could magically heal it. Perhaps, Valancy thought, he could.
Without thinking, Barney planted a kiss on each of Valancy's finger's. Her eyes slid closed, and her face grew pinker, though the bedroom was much cooler than the kitchen. Her chest and stomach suddenly acquired that queer, tight feeling that she had felt increasingly often these months—a feeling totally unrelated to her condition.
In the hour that followed, Valancy and Barney did not spare a thought for what effect their activities might be having on her poor wrecked heart. It wasn't until he lay with his head pillowed on her white breast that the erratic thumping of the afflicted organ made itself again known to Barney, and guiltily he inspected his wife's face for signs of pain or distress.
But Valancy had already drifted off to sleep, a contented smile hovering about the corners of her mouth.