A/N I realised recently that I made a boo boo. I've interchanged Johnny & Jacob. I'll revert from now on. Johnny ran away to sea leaving Jacob at home. Teach me not to use the same initial, too confusing.


Fall on the prairies was presaged by shorter days. Rather than the reds and golds the island displayed in all their glory, a distinct lack of trees meant the differences were more subtle. But it was hard to ignore the cooler weather and increased rainfall. School returned after the long summer which Gilbert was pleased about, it had been a long break without his friends. John for his part keenly felt the passing of the seasons for each one was a reminder of time spent without Marilla and the young ones.

Dinner eaten John watched the fire as Gilbert completed his latest assignment.

"Gilbert."

Gilbert looked up from his homework. The village school wasn't much, but it was better than nothing and he worked hard to keep up with his study, as much as anything it helped wile away the time. "Hm?"

John hesitated, "it's just," he paused studying his son intently. "It's just, well. You're getting on alright aren't you?" he finished lamely, deciding at the last moment to keep his cards close to his chest.

"I miss home, you know that. But 's'right here I suppose. While we have to stay, I'll be fine."

"Mm."

"Why'd you ask?"

"Nothing."

It was barely more than the suggestion of a feeling, but John believed he was on the mend, rather than dashing the boy's hopes he held out for a while longer until his lack of cough at night came even to Gilbert's attention. Finally, John felt able to make his grand announcement and he wrote to inform Marilla that they were packing up.


Looking back Marilla always felt as though one moment John announced his recovery and the next, she was enveloped in his strong and steady embrace. It wasn't like that really, several weeks went by before their return but those days were insubstantial in her mind.

Despite being able to weather the tempests, the ebbs and flows of family life, Johnny running away, Anne and Matthew going off to find him, the worry of all that, childbirth, and the daily grind of family life. Despite all that she realised that while she was perfectly capable of surviving tempests without him; she never wanted to, again.

But it was odd, rather than being overwhelmed with joy when Gilbert and John walked into the house and set their luggage down Marilla had a sense of intrusion. This had been her space and she the mistress of it and now here was John walking in as though he owned the place, that he did wasn't the point. She had been in charge and in some odd way the power shifted, and Marilla wasn't sure how she felt about it.

As for John he had dreamed of this moment for so long that it hardly seemed real when it finally happened. Trying not to look suspicious he glanced around the kitchen. It looked different in some indefinable way, items moved from their regular spots and extra chairs for his growing brood. The children had grown, naturally and filled the room so that their spacious kitchen felt smaller. And Marilla, his darling, his love, she looked older, more tired but she had some new undefinable strength about her, a confidence that had been lacking when they'd left. Not surprising he thought, considering.

The younger boys were shy around their father. To Johnny and Jacob John had become a shadowy figure and Johnny in particular had cause to be worried about their reconciliation. However, John was just so relieved to be home. Marilla had cautioned him in advance, "he really is very contrite, John. Best leave it alone now. I've dealt with the situation. I'd hate to drive him further away." As a result, all John did was give his son a great big hug and murmur that he loved him. Time enough to discuss it all afterwards.

And Lilly. Strange to think that John had never met his youngest daughter. He took her in his arms and stared at her entranced. Tracing her cheeks with his finger he said, "my stars, she's beautiful." Marilla looked on fondly.

That night after he had tucked the children in and bid Anne goodnight, they sat on the sofa together watching the embers die down. "So proud of you, darling."

"Mm?"

"You kept the family together. That had its challenges, I know."

"I had help."

"Of course you did, we can all do with that sometimes, but it came down to you. Everyone's healthy and happy, it seems."

"I pray so. Little Hugh…"

"But he's not ours," John reminded her.

"No."

"And Matthew seems to have him in hand."

"He's a good father."

"I always knew he would be, given the chance. Shall we go to bed?"

She sighed when she settled down into the heat of him feeling his heart beat against her, "I've missed you."

He said not a word, letting his body reply in its own way and as she drifted off Marilla understood the depth of his regret at leaving and joy at his return to her side.


The next morning John groaned when Lilly woke at cock crow. Marilla laughed sardonically, "I know, I know."

When the baby had nursed John said, "you rest, I'll take them down. Bout time I started looking after my babies." Marilla smiled up at him gratefully and settled back against her pillows. It wouldn't last, he wouldn't do this every morning, but she relished it in the moment. Closing her eyes, she let herself drift off only waking to raised voices sometime later. "No, Dada, no!" Marilla raised her eyebrows, Susanna was at it again, that child…

The scene that met her was amusing only because she wasn't involved. Standing over Susanna was her father trying and abjectly failing to placate her. He looked up at Marilla with deep regret in his eyes.

"Mammmaaaa," wailed Susanna.

"Mm?"

John looked up at her approach, "I think I put my foot in it."

Marilla smiled wryly. "What did Dada do?"

Hiccupping, Susanna tried to explain the issue. "He, he…"

"Apparently I don't know how to make toast." Susanna burst into fresh tears. "See, I cut her toast into quarters," John pointed at the offending slice, but…"

"He cut the jam as well," Susanna wailed.

"Oh," Marilla struggled to keep a straight face.

Later when the children were happily playing with blocks in the parlour, Marilla embraced John. "Oh my," he sighed.

"I tried to tell you."

"You did. I'm sorry to say I thought you were exaggerating."

"So I expect, but as you can see."

"Were the boys this bad?"

"Don't recall, don't think so."

"Maybe it's because she's a girl."

Marilla glanced into the parlour and let out a breath, "I hope not. I don't need another one."

John laughed. "I thought I was losing my mind. How was I supposed to cut the bread and not the jam anyway?"

"You must understand, you're not supposed to succeed. She sets us up for failure."

"Manipulative little minx."

"I'm not sure if its deliberate."

"Damn effective, though."

"Anyway, thank you," Marilla leant over to kiss his cheek.

"Mm?"

"For giving me a day off. It's so much easier to witness it, rather than…"

"Endure it?"

"Exactly."

Marilla escorted John around the neighbourhood, pointing out the changes. "Good old Green Gables, looks the same as ever." Matthew emerged from the barn and warmly shook John's hand, "good to see you looking so healthy," he remarked.

"Fit as a fiddle."

Rachel and Thomas were pleased too. "I said you'd be fine, that's what," said Rachel emphatically as the men shook hands. "Marilla will be pleased to have you home." Marilla nodded, that sense of unease still extant but fading.

John examined the barn; their neighbours had helped out but the thought of taking up the farm chores once more did not appeal. He would, because what choice did he have, but it was not where his passion lay. Images of the great prairie and then the ocean came to his mind's eye, but that was a foolish aspiration. The family needed him, Marilla needed him; the last thing he could do now was run away again.

Gilbert certainly noticed that Anne had grown up while he'd been gone. Whereas she had kept her despised red hair in braids before they had left, now she left it out so that she was followed by a golden halo that rang out like a sentinel wherever she went. Despite their ongoing correspondence while they had been parted, now that they were reunited they found themselves somewhat tongue-tied in each other's presence, as if the distance apart had loosened their tongues. Gilbert resorted to watching and admiring her from afar, unable to express himself fully when in her proximity.


"You must be relieved to have John home again," Rachel said one afternoon as they took tea together.

"Mm," replied Marilla somewhat non-committal.

"What does that mean?"

Marilla sipped her tea and sighed, "I don't know. I just…" Rachel for once was silent wondering where this was leading. Marilla took another sip, thinking. "It's just," she said eventually, "you know I longed for him for so long and managed all our challenges. I love him, don't question that for a moment, but…"

"I can't imagine what it must be like, but I expect."

Marilla overrode her, her mind fixed on the problem and thus unwilling to give Rachel the space to share her opinion. "No, but it's just that I've been in charge for so long and while I understand that he had to leave us for a little while, I suppose I rather resent him for it. I know it doesn't make sense," she added anticipating Rachel's response. "But you asked and that's how I feel. I love John, I'll never divulge this to him for fear of hurting his feelings. My head knows, but my heart is still coming to terms with it, even after all this time. You are my confidant, I have relied upon you, Rachel. I feel you have a right to know and um, I need to air my feelings." She took another sip needing the space to let her confession settle.

Rachel took out her handkerchief and wiped her nose. Marilla's admission upset her, but she realised that a woman needed to speak her mind at times. They changed the subject, but Marilla's words stayed with Rachel, she was so shocked by the sentiment of Marilla's confession that she did not feel fully able to share it with anyone, even Thomas. She loved Marilla and would do, had done, anything to support her. The thought that anyone else might judge her for this reaction was too alarming, for she did not know how she might defend her.


Still getting used to another body in her bed Marilla edged closer to the edge before John gathered her into his arms. "Trying to escape already?"

She tensed then relaxed, "no, not like that. I…"

"Mm," he said his voice muffled due to his mouth being pressed against her hair inhaling her scent. Marilla was silent, she had missed this part of married life, but she did not have the energy to do it every night. Still a man had his desires, and she could hardly deny him after all this time. Tonight, she found her mind wandering and it fetched up in the ocean, those thoughts had been intruding every now and then, she expected they'd subside with John in her arms but no, apparently not. Now was not the time to bring it up, if ever there would be a time he'd have to be listening not swept away in a fit of passion or falling asleep on top of her.