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we can leave the christmas lights up 'til january

Chapter Text

Gilbert scrunches up his nose as she picks up her order.

“I will never understand how you can drink that monstrosity,” he grumbles.

Anne huffs, looking down at her peppermint vanilla mocha with whipped cream and an extra shot of espresso (which is delicious, by the way, Gil doesn’t know what he’s talking about). The barista had written Ann again. She felt like screaming. They’ve been coming to this Starbucks for months now, and she had made a point of telling the dude that her name was Anne, with an E for weeks. He had never learnt. Stupid Billy Andrews. She couldn’t understand how he had gotten this job even though he apparently couldn’t spell. Or listen at all.

“I’m getting into the Christmas spirit,” she tells Gilbert with a smile.

“Yes. I can see that,” he replies with a pointed look to her outfit, eyes roving from her torso to her face. So what if she was wearing a black and gold sweater patterned with snow and Santa Claus and reindeers? It was cute and it looked great with her skinny jeans and ankle boots. Anne didn’t regret it.

She shrugs as an answer, her shoulder brushing against his chest, and he chuckles next to her ear, a deep sound that sends a shiver down her spine. Anne rolls her eyes, turning away from him so he can’t see the blush that takes over her cheeks.

Okay, so she might have a slight crush on Gilbert Blythe. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s purely hormones. Gilbert happens to be extremely cute, with his crooked grin, cutting jawline and curly hair. His broad shoulders and lean arms also don’t help. So, she’s attracted to him. It’s nothing to be alarmed of. It’s fine, really. She can handle it. It’s not like she blushes profusely whenever he’s around her or as if her mouth runs away from her until she says something stupid and rash in an attempt to not show him that she’s attracted to him and ends up making him think she hates him instead.

Except, you know, that totally happens.

It’s fine either way. Anne will get over this stupid crush and then she’ll go back to being normal around Gilbert and everything will be okay. Even if it seems to be going on for a while now, it’ll go away. It has to. They’re friends, nothing more, and Anne won’t let a feeble attraction ruin the friendship they’ve worked so long for. She just needs to get through the party and then they’ll all be apart for the Holidays and by the time they come back it will be alright.

Anne doesn’t know whose stupid idea it was to have their group throw a Christmas party at the boys’ apartment before they all leave to spend the end of the year with their families (who is she kidding, it was definitely Cole’s). Honestly, she’s just glad they didn’t even consider the possibility of hosting it at the place she shares with the other girls. It would have been utter chaos. She’d rather they trash the boys’ apartment, since it’s pretty much trash already. Either way, the party is the next day and Jerry had already acquired large quantities of alcohol and promised a wild night to all of them.

Suffice to say, Anne was kind of scared.

It was widely known by her friends that Anne couldn't really hold her liquor. Ever since the raspberry cordial event with Diana when they were barely teens, she hasn’t been able to take on more than a couple of drinks before getting completely drunk. It’s not all bad, though. She quite likes the feeling, actually, being looser and freer and bubbly with alcohol in her veins.

Except, you know, drunk-Anne is also honest-Anne. She starts saying everything she’s thinking without absolutely any filter (which already happens quite often when she’s sober and only gets a thousand times worse with alcohol). It can be quite entertaining and she normally doesn’t mind it much, but being at the same party as Gilbert with a loose tongue could mean blurting out her feelings without wanting to, which could mean ruining her entire relationship with him and then she’d start the new year with one less friend.

So, she’s determined to stay sober for the entirety of it, no matter how much Jerry and Josie try to annoy her into drinking.

“Honestly, peppermint is not an acceptable flavor for coffee,” Gilbert continues, voice still betraying his disgust.

Anne elbows him on the side. “You’re the only one who thinks so, you Grinch, so whatever.”

She goes to their apartment in the early morning to help them set up. None of them are awake, but Cole had given her a key a while ago. God knows the boys are completely hopeless, and Anne’s told them that if they want to have a Christmas party, the least they have to do is have a proper Christmas tree set up.

For all her complaining, Anne loves Christmas. And she loves doing the whole Christmas shebang. Also, she’s the best at it, so it’s really no question that she’d be the one to set up the most amazing Christmas tree (plus all other decorations) so they could throw an unforgettable Christmas party.

The boys, obviously, had accepted it immediately.

Gilbert comes out to help her with assembling the fake tree Moody had gotten at Walmart. It’s crappy, to say the least, and it feels entirely too cheap to use it instead of a real one, but all of them had agreed it would be too much effort (and money) to get a real pine tree that would get demolished within a few hours of the party. So, cheap plastic tree it is.

He doesn’t stay for the decorating part, though, tasked with borrowing the sound system from one of his colleagues. Anne is grateful for it, the proximity to him too much for her when she’s already feeling extra sensitive. She can’t focus with him around, and she’s got a lot of work still before she has to go home and get ready, so Gilbert Blythe needed to stay away.

Anne hangs the ornaments on the tree in the best way she knows how — extremely over the top. It’s a colorful Christmas tree, to say the least, and when she adds the tinsel and the string lights, it’s bright enough to illuminate the living room. Anne loves it. Sure, it doesn’t look like it would fit in a fancy decorating magazine, but it’s cheerful and Christmas-y and she’s looking forward to see her friends’ reactions to it.

She proceeds to decorate the rest of the apartment, or at least some of it. Cole was still going to add some of his artist touch to it, but Anne had all the Christmas regulars with her, so she puts up the stockings (she had had one for each of them made, and they’re the cutest) on the kitchen cabinets, since they didn’t have a fireplace in the apartment, then adds wreaths on the doors and string lights wherever she can manage to hang them.

And then, she reaches the last box of decorations. The only one with stuff she hadn’t been the one to buy. With a deep, suffering breath, she opens it and grabs the branches inside.

Anne blushes the entire time she’s hanging the mistletoe. Jerry had heckled her for days, insisting they should fill the apartment with it. We need to make it fun, he had said, waggling his eyebrows like an idiot. Anne had relented, even if she knew he was only doing this because he hoped to get Diana under one of them. He was right, in some way. Christmas was not Christmas without mistletoe. Besides, if they were throwing a party for a bunch of college kids, they might as well have mistletoe to spice things up a little bit.

That doesn’t mean the thought of it doesn’t make her nervous.

She tells herself that by being the one to hang them up she’ll at least know where they are so she’ll know how to avoid them.

It’ll be fine.

It hasn’t even been five minutes and she’s already been offered a drink by every single one of her friends. Even Ruby had tried shoving a cup with some red-something in it with a hysterical laugh that told Anne everything she needed to know about how much her friend had had already. She politely declines everyone, making up some lame excuse about how she needs to get up early the next day to travel home and can’t afford to be nursing a hangover when she sees Matthew and Marilla for the first time. Diana and Cole see right through her, but it gets them off her back at least.

She is not letting alcohol ruin everything tonight.

Anne wanders into the growing crowd, everyone decked in some kind or other of Christmas-themed outfit. She sees reindeer antlers and Santa hats and red and green everything. It’s quite cute, actually. Maybe the party had been a good idea after all. She greets the people she knows from the university, but it’s not many. The guests were mainly the boys’ acquaintances (Cole’s, really). Anne wasn’t one to know this many people, but she talks to the ones she does know, making her way to try and find one of her friends that have already gone missing.

That’s when she finds Gilbert.

It’s not technically an ugly Christmas sweater party, but Anne had thought that if they were doing all of this, she might as well go all out. So, she did. She’s wearing a red sweater that definitely clashes with her hair with a huge Rudolph the Reindeer printed on the front, its antlers wrapped by string lights that actually light up. It’s hideous, but Anne loves it. It had taken her ages to find the perfect sweater, but once she had seen it, she had known it was the one.

Anne had not expected Gilbert to have the same idea. She definitely hadn’t expected him to basically match with her, real flashing lights and all.

She’s not sure how it’s possible, but Gilbert Blythe manages to make a light-up dark green Christmas sweater with cartoonish elves dancing over it look good. Maybe it’s the way he’s matched it with the dark grey jeans that are specially tight on his butt (not that Anne’s paying it any special attention). Or how his curls are flopping perfectly over his forehead in a way that looks very casual but she knows is actually extremely deliberate. Or maybe it’s how the sparse lighting makes his jawline look even sharper than usual in a way that causes a heat low in her belly.

Jesus Christ, she is not getting out of this party alive.

Gilbert smiles when he sees her, moving away from the two boys he was talking to and making his way towards her. Anne also quickly ends her conversation with Charlie Sloane, a classmate from her Gender and Diversity class that the more she talked to the less she understood what he did there, considering his seriously warped views, and walks towards Gil, sinking into his hug the second his arms come up around her.

Even in the middle of the crowded, loud room, she can smell his orange and cedar scent. It’s more inebriating than any alcohol could ever hope to be.

They separate and he looks down at her and Anne’s taken aback for a moment by their height difference. Had he grown even more since the last time she had seen him? They’re still standing quite close, and Gilbert’s hand comes up to fidget with one of the lights on her sweater.

“An ugly Christmas sweater, huh?” he says, crooked grin in place.

Anne shrugs, her own hand nudging the top of the hat of one of the elves on his shirt, a white pom-pom that pops out of the sweater. “Great minds think alike, I guess.”

He laughs, low and true, and she feels his chest vibrating against hers.

“I guess,” he replies, Anne catches it more by reading his lips than by hearing what he’s said. It’s slightly worrying that she’s sober but her eyes can’t seem to move away from his lips and they’re still standing too close together and her thought process is starting to slow down.

Anne takes a hurried step back, bumping into the person behind her as Gilbert’s hand falls from her sweater. His grin lessens a bit. Her heart is racing too fast on her chest and her cheeks are definitely red.

“You want to grab a drink?” he asks after a beat when she can’t muster up any words.

Anne shakes her head. “Nah, thanks. I need to find Diana,” she tells him and leaves as soon as she sees his nod, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

It’s too much. He’s too much. And Anne had to come out sane of this.

She was not going to lose him.

It’s one hour into the party when Josie grabs Anne’s arm and drags her to a corner of the party where Diana and Cole are waiting for them. Ruby and Moody were apparently off somewhere making out while Jerry and Gilbert were not supposed to participate in this conversation. Or at least that’s what Josie hisses in her ear.

She props Anne in front of them and glares at her in a way she hasn’t since high school. It’s a bit scary and a lot aggravating, because she had fought to get into Josie's good graces and she refuses to believe it’s suddenly all been for nothing.

“Is everything alright, Josie?” Anne asks, glancing at Cole and Diana behind her and trying to figure out if anything had happened in the last few hours that she was supposed to know about.

“No,” Josie growls. “This is an intervention.”

Anne blinks, gaping at her. The other two behind her seem to be fully in support of Josie Pye's insanity, which is not something that happens often, to say the least. She has no idea what is going on or what her friends mean to do with her, but she does know they had set her up.

“You're too damn slow, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert,” Josie adds before she can say anything. Her eyes are glaring and judging.

Anne clears her throat, fidgeting, still clueless but getting more nervous by the second. How hard would it be to run away and evade them for the rest of the party, she wonders? “What do you mean?” she says instead, shrinking into herself.

Josie huffs, rolling her eyes, “I mean that it’s been literal years and you and Blythe still haven’t resolved all that sexual tension with a heated make out against the wall and I’m tired of it,” she says, a frown between her eyebrows and her hands on her waist. There is not an ounce of doubt in her voice or stance.

Anne feels like she might die. Her face is already burning like never before and she’s glad the room is dark enough her redness won’t be completely obvious. She glances at Diana and Cole standing behind Josie and they both seem about to burst out laughing at the same time they apparently support what she’s saying. She can’t believe this is happening. Not today.

What?” Anne hisses, louder than intended, but she’s horrified enough she doesn’t mind it. She’s not wary anymore, she’s angry. Josie Pye tends to have that effect on her.

“Come on, Shirley, this is your chance. Grab the boy, kiss him and get it over with. It’s not like you haven’t hung up a ton of mistletoe around the entire apartment for exactly that reason.” Josie arches an all-knowing eyebrow, and Anne’s mouth falls open in disbelief.

“That’s not why—”

“Besides, we’re all getting tired of waiting for you two to get your act together,” it’s Cole that says it this time, interrupting her attempt to defend herself, a mischievous smirk on his lips.

Anne feels utterly betrayed. And by her best friends, of all people.

She’s mad in a way she’s never felt before. Especially not towards them. Tears are starting to burn in the back of her eyes, and she tries to blink them away. This was a Christmas party, after all, you were not supposed to cry at Christmas parties. Except this is a little too much and she’s a little too angry. No matter how much she loves her friends, they have no right to intrude in this. It’s her relationship with Gilbert and it’s important. She isn’t going to let it all go because some of her friends think she should simply “make out” with him at a party as if it’s a simple problem with a simple solution.

They don’t have that right.

“Listen,” Anne starts, and she thinks they realize she doesn’t find any of this funny by the way her voice wavers and their eyes widen. “This is none of your business. Gil is my friend, and that’s all. I’m not going to push him against a wall or whatever it was just to get rid of an attraction. He means more to me than that, and I wouldn’t ruin my friendship with him for something as stupid as that. Besides, none of you have anything to do with it, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to get in between us again.” She’s breathing heavily by the time she’s done, her friends looking properly chastised by her speech. It doesn’t make her feel good, though. She’s just tired. And worried.

If they knew, did that mean that Gil had noticed too? Did he know how she felt? God, the mere thought of it makes her want to puke.

“Anne, we’re sorry,” Diana says, then, taking a step forward and grabbing her hand. The tension in her shoulders immediately leaves at the touch of her bosom friend. “We just wanted to help.”

Anne bites her lower lip to stop herself from saying something rude. Like, you know, how she didn’t need that kind of help. Not with this.

“It’s fine. Just leave it be,” she says instead, shrugging.

“Anne,” Cole calls, softly. With a deep breath, she turns to him. “We just thought—”

He trails off, freezing in place. She frowns at his widened eyes and gaping mouth. Diana, in front of her, soon takes on the same stance as him, both of them looking at a spot over Anne’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a—” she starts, turning to follow their gaze, and trails off as well.

She can’t speak, can barely breathe, caught too much by surprise by all of this. It was not something she had expected. Not one of the things she had imagined that could have gone wrong today and, somehow, it’s worse than everything else that could have happened.

Josie is the one that voices what she's thinking.

“Who in the holy hell invited her?” she asks, twisting her nose much in the same way Anne’s stomach is twisting inside of her at the scene unfolding in front of them. They fade in and out of view as the people on the improvised dance floor move to the beat of some electronic music Anne can’t bother to pay attention to. They’re still there, crystal clear, and she can’t look away.

Winifred Rose is smiling up at Gilbert, her luscious blonde hair up in a fancy up do so different from the messy ponytail Anne had thrown her hideous red hair in and paired with a Santa headband. She’s not wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, but a pretty red dress with a sweetheart neckline and a flaring skirt that reaches the middle of her thighs and fits her like a glove. She’s beautiful, as always. They look like a perfect couple together.

Winifred lays her hand on his arm as she laughs, and he looks delighted. Anne feels like she’s about to vomit. They’re moving through the living room, closer and closer to where she and her friends stand. Then they stop, Winifred leaning closer to say something to him. Gilbert looks up. So does Anne. There’s a branch of mistletoe hanging over their heads, right where she had hung it. He looks back down at the blonde girl and it’s too much for her to take.

Anne turns around and leaves before she can see something that will make her sick. The last thing she hears from her friends is Diana’s irritated jab:

“Gilbert Blythe is the biggest idiot I’ve ever met.” Anne can’t say she disagrees.

She makes a straight line for the drinks table where Jerry is gleefully restocking the heavily spiked eggnog. She grabs one of the red solo cups on the side and fills it to the brim. Honest-Anne could screw herself, because she was not getting through this wreck of a party sober.

Chapter Text

Gilbert had met Winifred Rose at the beginning of the semester. They had a class together, some Advanced Bio thing Anne could barely understand, choosing to stick to her English Literature courses instead. Winifred was beautiful, one year older than him, and more charismatic than it seemed humanly possible. They had become fast friends, but it was easy to see that wasn’t all that it was. As time went along, the happier Gil seemed, the more he talked about her and the jokes she had told him and the cafés she had taken him to and how smart she was at class. It was so easy to see that even Moody had taken to teasing Gilbert about it, asking him about his girlfriend whenever he got the chance.

Gil had rolled his eyes and refused to answer every single time. It was a non-answer that said more than any words ever could. It had made Anne sick to her stomach.

Winifred had arrived right around the same time Anne had realized she was into Gilbert. It was all incredibly stupid, really, just thinking how much of a bad timing she had. It had taken her ages to understand that being hypnotized by Gilbert’s eyes or staring at the movement of his arms for five minutes straight or wishing constantly she could run her fingers through his hair were not exactly the behavior of someone who was “just friends” with someone else.

Having an answer, though, had felt wonderful. And scary. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to think about falling for one of her best friends, or what that would entail in the long run for them, but Anne had mostly felt relieved she could finally explain why things were changing. And she thought, maybe, it would all be okay at the end of the day. It was just Gilbert, right? They could work this out. And who knew, maybe…


There had always been talks around it. Comments about how the two of them were different than, say, Anne and Jerry. That maybe their relationship was a little more like Jerry and Diana’s. She had always thought that was a bunch of crap, of course. He was just Gil, just her best friend, the boy she could always go to, who would listen to her craziest ideas and would never make her think she was crazy herself. She had never wanted to believe her friends when they told her he liked her in a different way. She had never wanted to believe when they said that she felt the same for him.

And yet, here she was, halfway in love with just Gil.

Anne had decided to open up about it, then. She remembers first talking to Diana about her crush on him, being glad that she could finally talk about all the confusing feelings she had been having around Gilbert, imagining if, in some hypothetical, wonderful world, he reciprocated her feelings, and going over all kinds of scenarios with Diana. Then having all her hopes crushed by watching him arrive with a beautiful blonde girl on his arm to the Queen’s College Gala a couple of days later.

And that was that. Gilbert was dating someone else.

It had hurt more than she could explain the distance that had developed between her and Gilbert at that time. She had watched as he turned completely towards his career and studied and hung out only with his new friends, who were also Pre-Med students, focused on charting his future with professors and advisors, while getting farther and farther away from them. Weeks would go by where even the boys, who shared the apartment with him, would only see him at night when he arrived home to sleep. To top it all off, Winifred Rose came from a family with connections, a family that loved him as soon as they met him (as it was hard not to), and was willing to help him get into Med School in the Sorbonne, which had always been his ultimate goal.

Winifred Rose was every single one of Gilbert’s dreams come to life. Anne could never compete with that.

They had started fighting again, stupid things that wouldn’t have shaken them a few months before but suddenly felt like huge reasons for her to yell at him and storm away. It was as if they were back to their early teenage years, bickering and competing all the time, from the moment they had met in 6th grade and she had been unable to forgive him for pulling on her braid and calling her Carrots.

Their friends had been taken aback by the sudden change, and Gilbert probably had too, but while Anne could barely stand to be in his presence, just like back then, this time it had been for such different reasons she couldn’t find it in herself to feel sorry for it.

This time, Ruby and her years-long crush on him had no play in it. Not when she and Moody had just started going out, the name Gilbert had all but been erased from her vocabulary, and the couple was acting so in love it was kind of sickening. This time, there was no school competition as their completely different majors meant they had no more classes together. This time, it wasn’t Anne’s pride or thick-headedness keeping her from listening to his apologies for some stupid nickname that had never truly mattered as there were no apologies.

This time, it was just about Anne being too hurt to be around him and then acting in the best way she knew how — attacking him. This time, it was Gilbert being completely clueless as to why she was behaving that way and then reacting in the best way he knew how — snapping back.

(She had cried way too much in those months. Every single time, Diana had gotten her to lay down on her lap, held her hand and listened as Anne ranted and complained and teared up over a boy in the way she had always claimed wouldn’t happen. Her best friend never uttered a word to anyone, only being there for her whenever she needed. It meant more to Anne than she could find words in the English language for.)

At some point in between all of that, she supposes some of her other friends had caught on. Cole had seen her crying once after a particularly harsh encounter with Gil and his apparent beau and had then become one of her most trusted confidants, bashing Gilbert and his stupidity often and loudly, without ever betraying the real reason behind his harsh comments towards the other boy. Josie, on the other hand, had always been too perceptive for her own good, so it made sense that she knew as well — especially as Anne remembered how she had never been too fond of Winifred, though Anne had initially awarded that to the fact Gilbert wasn’t around them as much anymore due to his new relationship and also that Josie was naturally not very fond of many people.

It had all come to a halt a few weeks ago, however. Gil had never properly explained it to them but talk of Winifred Rose had ceased completely. She hadn’t appeared to have lunch with them anymore, no one else had seen her around with Gilbert and the Sorbonne had apparently become a no-go once again. The only reason Anne allowed herself to indulge in her selfish feelings and be glad about it was because Gilbert himself had never seemed too sad about it.

After that, Anne and Gilbert had gradually gone back to their usual routine. Grabbing coffee together at the campus Starbucks in the mornings before class, study sessions when they had free periods together, Movie Night Fridays with everyone else in one of their apartments. Anne had had her best friend again, and, feelings or not, it was the best thing in the world.

With their recent alleged break-up, however, Winifred Rose was not supposed to be at their Christmas party. She was not supposed to be talking to Gilbert in the middle of their improvised dance floor. She definitely was not supposed to be standing with him underneath the mistletoe, possibly kissing, as tradition demanded, rekindling their relationship right before the Holidays.

She was not supposed to be the reason Anne broke her decision to stay sober and got drunk off bad eggnog in the boys’ kitchen, trying to hold in her tears.

Jesus, it was like the nightmare never ended. It’s not like Anne wanted to confess her feelings to him — actually, that was exactly what she didn’t want — and she probably shouldn’t even be mad at him for getting back together with Winifred. He had been happy with her, she supposes, and there was so much she could offer him, Anne supposed she could even be happy for him. Eventually. Just not right now. She had to get over him first.

And she would.

Anne was so tired of feeling sad and hopeless and conflicted around him. She just wanted to be best friends with Gilbert Blythe again, the way they’ve been for almost their entire lives. No romantic anything involved and making things complicated.

Anne snorts out a laugh to herself, grip tight on her cup as she fills it up again. Honestly, that was so unlikely to happen she might as well continue drinking.

Anne’s not sure how much time has passed, but she is sure that she’s drunk. Properly wasted, really. Her thoughts are fuzzy, her steps wobbly, her face flushed. She’s even discarded her ugly Christmas sweater, the crowded apartment getting warmer by the second. She feels sad without the blinking light on her torso, though, her green cropped top not nearly as festive as she’d like it to be.

But there’s a drink in her hand and good music playing and she’s pretty sure she’s kissed Diana, Josie and Cole under the mistletoe (just them of course, since Moody and Ruby were in a relationship and Jerry’s kind of her brother and her other friend is unthinkable of right now), so Anne’s okay. She’s not happy, which is all stupid Gilbert Blythe’s fault, but she’s okay. And if she can drink more shots than Jerry now that he’s challenged her, she’ll be even better.

Everyone’s chanting them on as they near the table on opposite sides, a line of tequila shots lined up neatly paired with lime and salt for each of them. Jerry’s smirking at her and she does it right back at him, adrenaline pumping her blood and her competitive trace spiking. She can barely remember why things were bad before, all that matters is winning.

Moody is at the corner of the table, hand poised in the air and ready to give them the go-ahead signal. Anne reaches for the first glass, shoulders tense in preparation. Moody yells, and she’s about to lift the shot to her mouth when a big hand clasps her wrist and stops the motion. There’s a general booing from the crowd as the game is interrupted before it can even start, and Anne turns with a groan of frustration to whoever thought it was okay to stop her.

She finds Gilbert’s eyes sternly looking at her.

Her anger spikes even higher.

“What are you doing?” she yells over the loud noise of the room.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Miss Shirley?” he says, a hint of amusement in his tone that only makes her angrier.

“Actually,” she replies, with a bitter grin. “I’ve had none, thanks to you.” And she quickly remedies that by grabbing one of the other shots with her free hand and quickly downing it before he can try to stop her again. Gilbert’s jaw sets and his eyes flare up with something harsher than amusement.

Anne couldn’t care less.

“Come on, Blythe,” Jerry exclaims drunkenly. God, Anne so would have beat him. “Stop intruding in our game!”

Gilbert looks briefly to him. “Game’s over, dude,” he tells him before turning back to her and forcibly dragging her away from the table, his other hand holding onto her upper arm.

She tries to disentangle herself from him, but the levels of alcohol in her blood have impaired her motion capabilities, so she settles for yelling and slapping him with her free hand. A lot.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she exclaims, still hitting him as best she can. She’s not normally big on swearing, and the fact she just did betrays how angry and drunk she is right now.

“Sparing you from the worst hangover of your life,” Gil answers simply. She rolls her eyes at his stupid excuse, struggling to keep up with his fast footsteps.

He stops suddenly, stunning her so that she finds herself unable to slap him for a brief moment, then he opens the door to the balcony and pushes her outside into the freezing cold and Anne lets out a high-pitched yell before going back to slapping him, this time because of the shock of the low temperature on her heated, bare skin.

What. A. Stupid. Idiot.

“What is wrong with you?” Anne shouts, both of her hands free now so she can slap and punch his chest as much as she wants. It’s only now she notices he’s also divested himself from his ugly Christmas sweater, wearing only a light blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The fact they don’t match anymore makes her even angrier at him, in a crazy, twisted way.

Gilbert chuckles, which is outright disrespectful to her efforts to hurt him. Then he grabs her hands and pulls them against his chest to stop her. There’s not much of a distance between them now and that does things to her rational mind.

“I’m trying to help you,” he tells her in a low voice, crooked grin in place. She hears him perfectly, the closed balcony door enough to block the sounds coming from the party inside.

His words bring her sadness right back, for some reason. So much that Anne feels for a brief moment like she’ll start crying right there in front of him. How dare he do this to her? Sound worried and fond when she’s mad at him?

“I don’t want your help,” she blurts out, Honest-Anne kicking in so suddenly even Gilbert reels back a little bit.

He breathes out a laugh, but it’s a weak, fake one. “Anne, you’re completely drunk already. Having a drinking competition with Jerry, of all people, would be a terrible idea,” he tries reasoning with her. She doesn’t want to listen. “Besides, didn’t you say you were staying sober tonight?”

Oh. Yeah. She did.

“I thought you didn’t want to be hungover in front of Marilla and Matthew when you arrived home tomorrow.”

At that, Anne can’t hold in a snort. That’s right, Gilbert didn’t actually know the real reason she needed to be sober.

When she looks up at him again, he’s frowning.

“What do you mean the real reason?”

Shit. She had said that out loud.

Anne giggles nervously, trying to play it off by using her other drunk, silly side. “Nothing,” she tells him. “There’s no other reason besides, you know, my parents.”

Gilbert peers at her, eyes roving over her face in the way he does when he’s searching her for a lie. Unfortunately, he’s always been way too good at spotting them.

“So why did you drink?” he asks her and Anne has to physically bite her tongue to stop that answer from escaping her mouth.

She shrugs. “Just, you know, felt like it.”

“Anne,” he starts, in an almost reprimanding tone. It’s like he’s talking to a child and it makes her angry all over again. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she replies in her best innocent voice.

“Anne,” he repeats, letting her hands go to put his own on his hips. He looks like he’s questioning her.

“Nothing’s going on, I swear,” she lies, in a tremendous effort to hold back the filter-less words that are dying to escape her mouth.

You know, like how he was the thing that was going on. About how being near him now felt like being underwater, beautiful and magical but hard to breathe, as if she’s on the brink of drowning. About how Anne really wishes she hadn’t seen him and Winifred earlier because she’s fallen for him way too hard and it’s way too difficult to get over him (and she knows this because she’s tries) but it’s worse to be away from him, so she prefers to suffer being around him knowing they’ll only ever be friends than stay away from him and not even be that. About how he’s always just so—

She stops herself. She can’t afford to even think about it. Because thinking about it just increased the chances of her saying something she’d regret, and she can’t afford that either.

Gilbert, because he’s Gilbert, doesn’t believe her and also isn’t deterred by her inner turmoil. She wants to hit him again.

“Come on, Anne,” he insists, hands grabbing her shoulders and his eyes back to staring deep into hers. “You can tell me.”

Those words are the last straw. She’s suddenly angry again, because he’s wrong. She can’t tell him, not when all of this is his fault in the first place, when he’s the one standing underneath mistletoe with Winifred Rose and not letting Anne enjoy the party the way she wants to. When he’s the one being way too perfect that she can’t help but have feelings for him even though it’s still going to ruin everything.

She pushes him away in a burst of drunken strength. He stumbles, his back hitting the balcony rail and face contorting into a painful expression. Anne can’t find it in herself to feel bad about it.

“Goddamn it, Gilbert, why don’t you just leave me alone and go find your girlfriend?!” she exclaims before whirling away from him and exiting the balcony, leaving him outside.

Ironically, it’s only once she’s inside the crowded, hot room that she feels like she can breathe again.

No matter how angry Anne is at Gilbert, she doesn’t drink more once she’s inside. She’s pretty sure if her alcohol levels were higher than they had been, she would have said stuff she shouldn’t and ruined everything in that balcony.

Also, that last tequila shot has kind of screwed her up.

So, instead, she joins Josie as they dance and sing until their voices are hoarse and there’s sweat running down their faces, while Moody and Ruby are dancing together close by, Anne swears she sees Jerry and Diana kissing underneath some mistletoe (he did it!) and Cole has apparently gone missing with some boy from his Psychology class. Thankfully, she doesn’t see either Gilbert or Winifred Rose.

They’re probably off in some corner making up for the time spent apart.

That is, if they had ever broken up in the first place.

The thought of the two of them together almost causes her to throw up in the middle of the room. Or cry. She can’t figure out which one would be worse.

“Josie!” Anne yells suddenly, trying to get the image out of her head and throwing her arms around her friend — who immediately scrunches up her face in disgust, still trying to pretend she doesn’t like affection after so many years. Anne knows better, so she doesn’t let her go.

“What is it?” Josie exclaims in her ear, somehow being able to showcase her dry voice perfectly even amidst all the noise.

“Do you know that I love you?” Anne says, not quite aware of the words coming out of her mouth but letting Honest-Anne do her job.

Josie actually chuckles. It’s so different from what Anne was expecting, she giggles. “Oh, God. Are we already in the sentimental drunk phase?”

“Yes!” Anne yelps, hugging her tighter. “You’re so pretty and smart and a good friend! I love you so, so, so much!”

Josie laughs again. “Don’t tell anyone I said so,” she starts, and Anne waits expectantly for what’s coming. “But I love you too.”

Anne gasps at her friend’s admission, wishing she was less drunk than she is so she had thought to record it. It’s definitely never happening again. Damn it, she hopes she remembers this tomorrow. She tightens her grip on her.

“Josie, I can’t believe you said that!” she exclaims, unable to help herself. “Does this mean you’re actually capable of human emotions?”

(She’s well aware she’s yelling a lot, but there are too many feelings churning inside of her right now and she has to externalize them somehow.)

“Hey!” it’s Josie that yells this time, pushing Anne away and glaring at her. “That’s rude.”

The only reaction she can muster is laughing at Josie’s expression, who rolls her eyes but is soon laughing alongside her.

Anne’s laugh dies in her throat as someone bumps into her from behind. She turns, an apology ready on the tip of her tongue, but Winifred Rose is there, with a sour look on her face. Josie’s hand is immediately holding hers, in quiet support, and Anne squeezes it in thanks.

“Hey, Winifred,” she says, feeling awkward.

The thing is, no matter how much she wants to, she can’t hate Winifred Rose. She’s nice and funny and intelligent, and the two of them have had some quite wonderful conversations. In any other situation, Anne would have likely considered her a kindred spirit. Either way, it’s not her fault that she feels for Gilbert the same thing Anne does, or that only one of them was brave enough to come clean about it. None of it is on her, and Anne is too much of a feminist to ever hate on a woman because they both like the same boy.

Even when she can feel envy blossoming in her stomach at the sight of her, still looking perfect after hours in this party. The slight flush on her cheeks from the heat only makes her more lovely, and it’s quite frustrating when Anne knows how terrible she must look right now. Winifred doesn’t look like she’s tripping-on-her-own-feet-drunk either, which could come to bite Anne in the ass later.

Anyway, no, she doesn’t hate Winifred Rose, and she’ll be nice to her whenever they see each other, whether she’s with Gilbert or not.

Winifred, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to share the sentiment.

“Oh,” she says, sounding entirely too displeased about it. “It’s you.”

Her tone makes Anne feel like she’s a bothersome cockroach, just waiting to be squashed under her shoe. It’s not a feeling she appreciates, or one she’s felt since the hellish years of middle school. Anne feels, more than sees, Josie squaring her shoulders beside her as if readying herself for a fight. She squeezes her hand again, asking her to stand down. No matter how grateful she is for her friend’s support, she does not need a fight right now.

“How are you?” Anne says, trying to sound cheerful and composed and sober. Winifred’s eyebrows fly up to her hairline.

“Well, I suppose you can imagine,” she replies haughtily. Anne blinks, not quite sure what she means. “Especially as you seem so cheerful and happy.”

“Um, yes,” Anne starts, unsure, sending a wary glance Josie’s way. She seems as lost as Anne is, which makes her feel a bit better. At least this conversation isn’t befuddling only because she’s drunk. “I suppose I am happy? And I hope you are too?”

Honestly, she has no idea of what words are coming out of her mouth anymore. There’s too much alcohol in her blood and too much rationalizing for her to do. The two things apparently don’t mix well.

Winifred snickers bitterly. “Please. Stop acting so nice,” she says, taking a step forward while Anne instinctively takes a step back. “We both know that I’m not and that you—” She raises a threatening finger in Anne’s direction but before she can say anything Josie steps in between them.

“Hey,” she says, voice loud and clear in her best commanding-Josie way. “You don’t talk to her like that, do you hear me? I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re not going to take it out on Anne.” Josie sounds like an avenging angel, her shoulders back and chin high and hands poised on her hips. It’s a far cry from the girl that tormented Anne in the first few years of their acquaintance. Anne has never felt gladder that she hadn’t given up on conquering her friendship.

Winifred visibly deflates, raised finger falling to the side of her body. She casts one last glance at Anne over Josie’s shoulder before leaving with a muttered, “Whatever,” and for a moment, she can swear the girl’s eyes are shiny with tears.

It’s only when Josie turns around to check on her that Anne realizes she’s shaking. She falls into her friend’s comforting hug without another thought.

She’s still dizzy from the confrontation with Winifred when the party starts to wind down. Her friends have not wandered far from her side, clearly enlisted by Josie to make sure Anne was okay until the end. It’s sweet, if a little overbearing, but she decides not to comment on it.

Far be it from her to embarrass Josie Pye in one of the rare moments she’s allowed herself to publicly show she cares about someone.

As people start leaving, Anne doesn’t see either Winifred or Gilbert. That might be Cole’s doing, since he keeps pulling her from side to side, apparently finding interesting things and people to entertain her every five seconds. Even if it isn’t, she appreciates his effort to keep her happy and cheerful and with her mind away from troubles related to curly-haired, nice boys.

Anne supposes that’s what makes it all worse. Gilbert is too much of a good guy for her to ever resent him. Even the anger she had felt earlier is fading away. In the end, he’s not at fault either. None of them are. It’s not like Anne can control how she feels or like Gil knows how she feels or like Winifred has any kind of responsibility towards her feelings. It’s just a crappy situation, in which Anne is the one coming out at the bottom.

She’s starting to believe all the drama of the night is over, sitting on the couch with one last cup in hand (she had only accepted it because it was some cheap champagne that Ruby had found stashed in the boys’ cupboard and, even though it was barely chilled, it sounded way better than bad eggnog) and feeling a nice buzz settling over her again, but then Diana sits down in front of her with a determined set to her eyebrows and Anne has a feeling she’s in for more. When Cole joins them, she’s certain of it.

“What’s going on?” Anne asks, wearily, when it takes them too long to start talking.

Cole squints at her. “Are you drunk?”

She watches him for a moment.

“No.” Yes.

Diana hums in disbelief, but her condition doesn’t seem to stop them. “We need to talk about Gilbert.”

Anne is already shaking her head in denial before they can continue. “Nope. I’m not doing this.” She immediately tries to get up, but Cole wraps his hand around her wrist and brings her back down.

“Sorry, love, but you don’t really have a choice,” he tells her with a shrug.

“Why?” Anne whines, trying to send them a pleading look.

Diana only gives her a sympathetic smile. “We already convinced Josie not to join us so this could be a bit more pleasant for you, but we’re doing it either way.”

Anne stares at them for a moment, trying to see if they’ll somehow change their minds, then groans when all they do is stare right back. Why couldn’t she just have one moment of peace? Now, here she was, thrown back into the whole Gilbert problem. How many times would this come back to haunt her tonight?

“Fine,” she sighs. “Get on with it, then.”

“Right,” Diana starts, clearing her throat. “So, we know you’re hurting.”

It doesn’t even occur to her to contradict that. Anne was hurting. Because of Gilbert Blythe. It was the truth and she was drunk and it was a whole lot easier to admit it now when she’s not sober.

“We also know Winifred’s appearance hasn’t made things any easier,” Cole continues, wincing slightly as if he had intended to be a bit less crude about that. Even then, Anne shrinks a little into herself.

She feels like her champagne buzz is already wearing off.

The two of them share a look. Anne knows the hit is coming.

“But don’t you think maybe you should tell him?” Diana says, her voice low and hesitant. Anne’s eyes widen.

“No!” she blurts out. “Are you insane? We’ve talked about this. I’m not ruining my friendship with Gilbert over nothing.”

“But it’s not nothing, Anne,” Cole tries to insist. She’s already shaking her head.

“He’s my best friend. I’m not going to ruin things for stupid feelings that will eventually go away.”

There’s a beat of silence.

“How do you know it will go away?” Diana asks, leaning forward. Anne stares at her, tears springing up in her eyes. Jesus Christ, alcohol really was the worst.

“It will,” she says, “it has to. I’m not going to lose him.”

Cole leans forward as well. “Why are you so sure you’d lose him over this?”

“Are you kidding?” she lets out with a bitter laugh. “With Winifred around? What do you think he’d do if I told him I liked him?”

They share a look again.

“Anne,” Cole starts, “have you ever imagined that Gilbert may like you back?”

She stares at them then lowers her head.

“I’ve imagined all kinds of things, Cole,” she tells him, her voice tight as she tries to hold back the tears. “And I know what you used to think, but it’s useless and it only hurts more. He’s got someone else, doesn’t he? I’m not getting in the middle of that. I’m not risking it.”

“Anne, they broke up,” Diana says with a sigh.

“And now she’s here with him again,” Anne replies simply. “It’s time to face the music. It’s never going to happen, and I’m fine with that.” She’s ready to get up and end this conversation, but both of them hold her down this time.

“First, no. You’re not fine. We’re your friends and you don’t have to pretend that you are to us.” Diana grips her hand tight in hers.

“Second, let’s not jump to conclusions,” Cole tells her. “They might not be together. In fact, I don’t think Blythe is so stupid that he would get back with her suddenly like this,” he grumbles the last phrase, more to himself than to her, but she’s heard it and she’s not letting it go.

“And why would that make him stupid?” Anne asks, shoulders falling. She’s tired, she realizes. Tired of this conversation and these problems and these feelings. She wants to go to sleep and wake up in the new year with Gilbert Blythe as her best friend who she doesn’t have to walk on eggshells around.

“Because she’s not the one he’s in love with,” Cole blurts out, eyes widening immediately as if he’s realized what he’s said, and Diana whirls her head around at him.

Anne barely notices she’s shaking.

“Please, don’t,” she breathes out, her voice failing her.

“Anne, just listen,” Cole says, seeming to want to go with it now that he’s started.

“I really don’t want to,” she tells him, shaking her head as she tries to figure out how she can extricate herself from this conversation.

“Why do you think they broke up in the first place?” he insists.

“I don’t know. And I don’t care.”

“Well, you should. Especially if it was because of you.”

Anne feels like everything stops in that moment. All the noise from the remaining guests muting for a second where the world shifts and hope blooms in her chest before she pops her own bubble. No. She isn’t going to do this to herself again. She is not going to put herself through the same pain and heartbreak again.

“Why would Winifred snap at you otherwise?” Cole is still talking and she tries not to listen, but it’s impossible.

Anne looks up at them, confused. He shrugs guiltily.

“Josie told us,” Diana informs her.

Of course.

“Look, I appreciate your effort,” Anne manages to get out with some difficulty. “But Gilbert isn’t in love with me. No matter how much we want to imagine it, he just isn’t.”

“Anne, you’re not listening,” Cole says with frustration. Diana lays a pacifying hand on his shoulder and turns to Anne.

“Do you remember how Cole said Gilbert had a crush on you? Years ago?” she says and Anne lets out a snort.

“Yes,” she tells her derisively. “I also remember how that gave me just enough hope to think something could happen between us right before I found out he was dating someone else.”

“Cole isn’t the only one who noticed,” Diana continues, ignoring Anne completely. “It’s not that hard to see. Not after all these years.” Anne stares at her hands, closed in tight fists over her knees, as her bosom friend continues. “It’s always been the two of you dancing around each other. We all thought it was just a matter of time.”

With a shuddering breath, Anne looks up at them. Deep down, she knows they have her best interests at heart, they’re her best friends after all, her kindred spirits. But it still hurts. Every word out of their mouth is a pretty picture feeding her already wild imagination and it hurts. It hurts because, no matter how much she loves the worlds she can conjure up in her head, this one time she wanted it all to be real.

But it can’t.

“Look, I appreciate what you guys are doing,” Anne starts, unfolding her hands slowly. “And I love you for it. But whatever Gilbert felt when we were kids or a few years ago or at the start of the term, it doesn’t matter. He’s made himself pretty clear that he’s with Winifred now, didn’t he? If it was a matter of time, I guess ours ran out. Maybe I took too long, maybe it was never going to happen, I don’t care. All I want right now is some distance so I can forget all of this by the time school starts back again.”

With a sigh, she gets up and stares at them with a self-deprecating smile.

“Who knows,” she tells them, a forced laugh escaping her lips. “Maybe Roy Gardner will still be interested after the holidays.”

And then she leaves them there, each step a bit easier, as she heads for the kitchen. Maybe there was a little champagne left somewhere for her to drown her sorrows in.

Jesus, this was getting repetitive.

No matter how much she wishes it won’t happen, Gilbert finds her again when almost no one is left in the emptying apartment. Anne is nursing her last cup, filled with cheap wine she had found in Jerry’s bedroom after a not-so-thorough search (the champagne had run out and she could not handle anymore of the bad eggnog). She hasn’t noticed if Winifred’s already left, but she’s not around. He’s alone.

Anne still can’t hold in an aggravated sigh at his insistence. She is drunk, after all, and tired of dealing with all of this.

She’s especially tired of his utter obliviousness and the fact her mind is racing, and her heart is hurting, and he has no idea it’s happening. Or that it’s happening because of him.

“What do you want now?” she whines, eyes raised to the ceiling as she silently pleads to whatever deities are out there to save her from this misery.

“To talk,” he replies darkly and it’s the worst possible answer he could have given her. Anne wants to run away and hide in a closet for the rest of the party. Looking at him, though, and the determined set of his jaw, she knows he won’t let her even try.

This was happening.

Chapter Text

He’s wearing the sweater again, the silly lights blinking at her. So is she. The temperature had started dropping alongside the number of people inside, and Anne had wanted to put herself back into the Christmas mood. Seeing him matching her again thaws something in her chest, just enough that he’s able to pull her along without her struggling to get away.

This time Gilbert doesn’t try to shock her into talking by freezing her to death. He brings her to his room instead. It instantly brings a flush to her cheeks as they walk through the door, which is stupid, because they’ve been friends for years and, before this whole mess, she had been in his room hundreds of times. They would spend hours in there studying or watching a TV show or simply hanging out together. Ever since Winifred, though, Anne hasn’t gone inside it.

Also, you know, walking into the bedroom of the boy she has a crush on does something to her.

(Sometimes she regrets having such a wide scope of imagination.)

Gilbert, oblivious to her troubles, as usual, sits her down on the edge of his bed before dragging his desk chair over and plopping himself right in front of her. He’s closed the door behind them, whatever noises lingering inside the apartment completely muffled by it. He stares at her, hazel eyes a little dark and wild.

And then it’s just the two of them.

“What girlfriend were you talking about?” is his first question, and it’s so stupid Anne almost walks out of the room right then.

Jesus, was this how he wanted to start? Did he have to remind her of this?

She rolls her eyes. “Honestly, Gilbert, I saw you and Winifred together,” she tells him, already feeling a little tired.

It’s not often she stays up this late, especially with large quantities of alcohol in her blood, and having an emotionally draining conversation wasn’t helping with that. Plus, wine makes her sleepy. She’d really rather be in her own bed right now.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Gilbert says in a confused tone, eyebrows dancing above his eyes.

Did he think she was dumb? Or blind? Honestly.

Anne glares at him.

He licks his lips. It’s distracting and she hates it. “Not anymore,” he finishes, glancing away from her with a slight blush on his cheeks.

Anne sighs. “You were together. You were standing underneath the mistletoe with her,” she says, wondering why she even bothered. It’s not like it would change anything. “I saw you. Everyone did.” Her voice wavers and she takes in a shaky breath to calm herself. “Either way, I really don’t want to do this right now. It’s none of my business. Can I go?”

She’s about to get up but his hand is on her forearm before she can even try.

“Anne, come on,” he pleads, eyes searching hers. She looks away. “I’m not with Winifred. That ended over a month ago. You know that.”

“I also know you kissed her under the mistletoe a few hours ago, so—”

“But I didn’t,” he interrupts her, voice rising in volume as his eyebrows jump up to his hairline.

Anne leans back, blinks, searches his expression for a lie. She doesn’t find it.


“Me and Winifred are done,” he repeats. “I saw her here and we were talking and, yeah, we ended up underneath some mistletoe, but I didn’t kiss her. I don’t know what you think you saw but—”

“I didn’t,” she blurts out. Gilbert’s eyes snap up to her. “I didn’t see you kiss her, only… The mistletoe bit.”

“Jesus Christ, Anne,” he huffs, his shoulders sagging as his hands run through his hair in frustration.

He’s angry now, she realizes, but she doesn’t know how to fix it.

“I thought—” she starts, not sure how she’s going to continue, but Gilbert doesn’t let her.

“Why does it matter, anyway?” he asks, voice cutting, eyes staring deep into hers. God, why did they have to be such an enchanting color? It’s amazing how they’re not just simple hazel but hints of golds and greens and browns that make up a kaleidoscope of shades she could spend days trying to figure out.

Anne is definitely too drunk for this.

“Anne,” he repeats, when she doesn’t say anything. “What’s going on?”

She groans. Not this question. “Nothing,” she tells him, whining.


She sinks her face into her hands. She knows that tone of voice, has heard it many times over the years. She knows how insistent he can be.

“Come on, I know you,” he says. “And I know something’s wrong. Let me help.”

The sentence is so ironic Anne has to laugh, the sound coming out muffled from behind her hands.

“Just leave it alone, Gil,” she tries, hoping the nickname will ease his worries.

There’s a moment of silence where she swears he actually will.

She’s wrong, of course.

“Would it matter?” he asks suddenly, his tone changed so completely even she can’t understand what it means.

She drops her hands and looks up at him.

She can’t read the emotions in his eyes either. She’s never seen him like this before.

“Would it matter if I was back together with Winifred?” Gilbert asks, then, his voice breaking a little in the middle.

And then Anne can read him. Just a little. Just enough.

He’s vulnerable.

She still doesn’t understand.

“Why would it?” she manages to croak out.

“You tell me,” he says, then stares at her.

It’s too much. Way too much. And she’s drunk and one second away from saying something she’s not supposed to and this was not the plan and she really, really needs to leave.

Anne stands up and walks towards the door as fast as her unstable feet can take her. Gilbert is there before she reaches it, hand closing over her wrist and pulling her back.

“Anne, stop!” he exclaims, his grip on her unwavering, eyes roving wildly over her face. She needs to get out of there.

“Gilbert, let me go!” she replies, her voice matching his in volume, struggling as she tries to disentangle herself from him.

Then both of his hands close around her forearms.

“Why can’t you just say what’s going on?” he exclaims, frustration tinging his tone and she wants to scream at him, tell him that she’s the one who’s frustrated and hurt and he doesn’t get to turn this around on her.

“Because I’ve lost you before!” she yells instead, exhaustion taking over her body and unshed tears pricking at her eyes. All the air leaves her chest and she sees the surprise appear on his face. “I’ve lost you before and I can’t afford to lose you again, Gil. Not again.” Her words are a whispered confession, one she shouldn’t be making, but she can’t take it back anymore.

The damage is done.

Gilbert’s silent for what feels like hours, simply standing there and staring at her. It’s taking everything in her not to burst into tears right there in front of him. Then he opens his mouth and she braces herself for it.

“And why—” he starts, voice failing. He clears his throat before continuing. “Why would you lose me?”

Anne lets out a shaky breath, panic gripping at her throat.

“Please don’t make me do this,” she whispers, her voice shaking.

“Anne, what’s wrong?” he asks, worriedly.

She closes her eyes and shakes her head, and then she doesn’t seem able to stop, the movement turning frantic. She tries to tune him out. Gilbert calls her name, but Anne ignores it. She needs to stop and get out of there, she can’t ruin things right before the holidays, she can’t lose her best friend.

She just needed some time away and things would be fine.


“Hey, Anne-girl, look at me,” he asks, the softness in his voice something she can’t reject. That, and the nickname, that wretched one he had come up with in their late teenage years, when she had accepted his friendship whole-heartedly and he had become one of the most important people in her life. The two words she hadn’t liked at first, but had learned to love as she noticed the care he put into them every time he said it.

She can’t say no to that nickname. Not even now.

So, she opens her eyes. Slowly. Wary of what she will find once they meet his again.

He’s standing close to her. Too close.

“You’re not going to lose me,” Gilbert tells her in a soft whisper.

Anne feels like she’s about to cry.

“You don’t know that,” she breathes out, her voice cracking.

“Of course I do,” he says, crooked grin in place. “Nothing, not a single thing in this world, could ever make you lose me, do you hear me? You’re my best friend. My kindred spirit, right? And that’s forever, Anne. No getting out of it now.”

My best friend. It’s ridiculous how the words hurt a little bit at the same time they warm her from the inside.

“Gil—” she starts, but then can’t quite manage to say anything else.

“Listen,” he continues, eyebrows scrunching up in determination. “You were never going to lose me in the first place, I don’t know what gave you that idea. And you’re not going to lose me now.” His eyes shift between hers. Searching. “Please, tell me what’s going on.”

The first tear runs down her face then. Anne wants to scream. She was not supposed to be crying now. Not in front of him. But she can’t hold it in anymore. There are too many feelings overwhelming her and he’s looking at her with something in his eyes that brings a chill down her spine and she’s too drunk for this.

Anne looks at Gilbert, then, and imagines. What if she did tell him? What then? In the worst possible outcome, he’d reject her after knowing how she felt. Or things would get awkward between them. Or he’d decide to stay away from her so it wouldn’t. No matter what, she’d lose him. In the best possible outcome, he’d return her feelings and they’d live happily ever after. Or they wouldn’t, and they’d have a couples’ fight at some point and she’d lose her best friend either way.

Maybe there wasn’t any best possible outcome.

“I can’t do this now,” she tries, one last time, because she has to. She can’t risk it.

But Gilbert groans loudly. “Are we going to stay on this back and forth forever? Since when do we keep stuff from each other?”

Anne almost laughs again. She’s pretty sure they’ve been keeping stuff from each other for years.

“This isn’t something I can just tell you when I’m drunk and crying in the middle of a Christmas party!” Anne doesn’t know when she’s started yelling. “Stop trying to make me do this, I can’t. And I’m not going to. I don’t care if you want to satisfy your curiosity or whatever it is, okay?”

“My curiosity?” Gilbert leans back, offended. “I’m just worried about you!”

“Well, don’t be,” she replies. “Just leave me alone. I don’t need your worry right now.”

There’s silence. Tense, painful silence, and then—

“Fine,” he snaps, bitterness imbuing his tone. He turns in a flurry, swiping something from his desk before shoving it at her. “Merry Christmas,” he says tersely.

It’s a Christmas present, tidily wrapped in a muted gray paper, flourished with a perfect dark green bow. The elegant tone of his is a stark contrast from the over-the-top way she had wrapped her own, with colorful patterns and huge bows and flowers she had taken a long time finding in the winter embellishing the present. Anne wonders if that means something for the contrast of their personalities as well.

Before she can get herself together enough to thank him, he’s already out of the room, banging the door closed behind him.

With everything that had happened, Anne had kind of forgotten about the Christmas gift. Hers was still safely stored in Cole’s bedroom away from peering eyes. They hadn’t planned on exchanging presents with everyone (it was a quite large group, after all, and they were still broke university students), but Anne hadn’t resisted buying something for him. She wasn’t expecting Gil to do it as well.

She wonders what he would think of his, when she gave it to him.

She wonders what he got for her.

Anne sits down on his bed, holding the present as if it’s fragile. He probably wasn’t coming back into his room any time soon, anyway, so she supposes she could just open it here. With a care very much unlike her, Anne unwraps the gift, trying not to tear the paper.

It’s not a large package, and when the wrappings fall away they reveal a jewelry box. Gilbert had never gotten her jewelry before. There had been a mini dictionary, back when they were still kids, then countless books, a planner and even some fancier pens, but never jewelry.

There’s a knot in her throat before she even opens it to see what it is. With a deep breath, Anne lifts the lid and her breath rushes out of her.

It’s a necklace. A delicate chain with a silver running fox pendant. It brings tears to her eyes. It’s one she had seen in a store months ago, while hanging out with Gilbert, back before the whole Winifred thing had gone down. She had gushed over it, mesmerized by how delicate and pretty and utterly her it was, before walking away because of the price.

Except Gilbert had remembered.

Blinking the tears out of her eyes, Anne notices, tucked into the corner of the jewelry box, a small carrot charm that will fit perfectly on the bracelet Matthew had given her on her sixteenth birthday and that she had worn every day since. She had been collecting charms for years, and the sight of this one brings an irritated laugh out of her. Carrots. Of course.

She wonders when the revolting nickname had become endearing to her.

At last, there’s a note. She takes the envelope tucked into the inside of the box’s lid. Anne, it says, in flowery writing. She opens it with shaky fingers and, with one final, deep breath, starts reading it.


Dear Anne,

For a long time, I have struggled on how or when I would say these words to you. I feel like the time has come, for I can no longer hold it all in. This necklace, as you said when you first saw it, signifies how you see yourself. A fox, a free spirit, constantly in search of another adventure. The carrot (and please don’t kill me for this) is a small representation of how I saw you. But not in a bad way, I promise. The carrot signifies the moment when stupid, fourteen-year-old Gilbert thought it would be a good idea to get a pretty girl’s attention by pulling on her braid and calling her a vegetable and then having her (rightfully) smack him over the head for it. What followed were painstaking years trying to earn your forgiveness. And then wonderful, happy years having your friendship and company. It is, I hope, but a small token of how much you mean to me.

(In the end, I guess I’m a little bit thankful for young and foolish Gilbert being brave enough to try and talk to the new enchanting and smart red-headed girl in class. At least now it means I get to have you in my life.)

You are, as you like to say, my kindred spirit, the most important person in my life. You know the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, and you’ve never judged me for them (most of the time, at least). I am thankful every day that I get to experience life with you in it. You make my days brighter with the enchanting way you look at the world, more interesting from the manner you speak with words that are always beautiful, more mesmerizing with your radiant smile and your flaming hair and your shiny blue eyes. There is no one in my life that could ever replace you, as you are the keeper of the key to my heart (sorry if that was cheesy, it’s the truth). I’ve loved you since I was a boy, and I’ll continue to love you for as long as I shall live.

It’s always been you, Anne. My Anne with an E.



P.S.: Please believe me when I say I don’t expect anything from you. I’ve known for a while that you would never feel for me the same way I do. I’ve just been holding in these words for so long, and it seemed about time to get them out. Merry Christmas.


She’s crying by the time she’s done reading. The tears fall even harder when she’s done the second way through. And the third. And the fourth. And then the fifth.

God, she had really messed things up, hadn’t she?

But she wouldn’t do that anymore.

With a determined sigh, Anne dries her tears, gets up and leaves his bedroom, heading for Cole’s. Ignoring the complaints (and the things she didn’t want to see) from him and some other boy, she grabs the gift she had bought Gilbert from under the other boy’s bed and tries to find him.

Except she can’t. He’s not anywhere in the apartment.

She ignores the pang of concern that realization causes her and heads to the living room, taking a seat at the couch. He’s bound to come back at some point. And so, Anne sits and waits.

Ruby finds Anne still sitting on the couch. Everyone’s left the apartment besides their group, and it’s all silent, everyone having turned in already. The girls were sleeping over, too tired to go to their own place right now. Ruby and Diana would be staying with Moody and Jerry either way and Josie had demanded to be let into Cole’s room while kicking out the boy he had been with in the process. There had been some yelling following that scuffle that had ended quickly because they were all too exhausted for it. She hadn’t bothered checking what was going on.

Anne’s waiting in the living room. She might spend the night there, even.

She doesn’t know where Gilbert’s gone off to.

But she knows he’s coming back. He has to.

“Anne?” Ruby says, in a soft, careful voice.

Anne looks up at her, feeling a little dazed. The alcohol hasn’t completely worn off yet, and she’s in the distracted, mind racing a million miles a minute stage. It takes her eyes a few seconds to focus on her blonde friend, standing in front of her with a concerned smile.

“Are you coming up to sleep?” Ruby asks, her hand laying on her shoulder.

“I’m waiting,” Anne replies, eyes shifting back to the apartment door. It’s still closed. She feels as if it’s been closed for hours now.

He’s been gone forever and she’s worried. Super worried. Is he wandering around the dark, cold streets alone? Is he not alone? She doesn’t know what option is worse. What if he’s getting wasted at some dingy bar downtown all by himself? What if he’s been kidnapped? Anne’s fingers tighten around the cellphone in her hand. Gilbert isn’t answering her calls, either.

Leave it to Anne Shirley-Cuthbert to mess things up this badly when her whole intention was to not mess things up.

“Waiting for what, sweetheart?” Ruby says, sitting down next to her.

“Gil,” she breathes out.

She feels her friend take in a sharp breath as she grabs her hand.

“And where is he?” Ruby’s tone is delicate, as she always is. No matter how passionate the girl could be (really, there was no one that could dramatize a situation like Ruby Gillis, exaggerate theatrical tears to match), she was always careful when it came to these moments.

Anne shrugs. “I don’t know. But he’s coming back.”

There’s a moment of silence where both of them wait. She’s not sure what for.

And then.

“That’s a pretty necklace,” Ruby says.

Anne had put it on, of course, her hand coming up to play with the fox charm every five seconds as she tried not to freak out too much. The carrot was also already in place on her bracelet, but this one was hidden by her sweater’s long sleeve (the one that matched Gilbert’s even though they hadn’t planned which just felt like a message from the universe or some really ironic coincidence, she wasn’t sure which was better yet). She was almost as in love with them as she was with the boy who had given them to her.

“It’s my Christmas present from Gil,” she tells her.

Ruby hums in response.

“You two are finally working things out, then?” she pipes up, tone way too nonchalant to be truly casual. Anne’s eyes snap up to her.

Her friend has a small, mischievous grin on her lips. Her eyes are twinkling with something she can’t identify. It’s a far cry from the moony eyes she used to give Gilbert whenever he walked into a room. Things had changed so much recently that Anne sometimes forgot Ruby had been in love with him up until the start of the term (there hadn’t been a very long grieving period, it was basically one day she was picturing what having Gilbert’s last name would be like and the next Moody was all she talked and sighed about).

She had been happy that her friend was finally letting go of her unattainable and slightly obsessive crush, and not just because Anne had started feeling something for the same boy around that time. Ruby had become so much more herself since letting go of her delusions over Gilbert Blythe. She had finally realized how amazing she was without needing some boy to give her any validation. Besides, she and Moody made an unimaginable but cute couple, and he was always up to showering her with compliments and making sure Ruby knew just how amazing she was even if she didn’t need it as much anymore.

“What do you mean?” Anne asks, a little hesitantly, trying to understand the weird look on the other girl’s face.

Ruby sighs, looking away from her and shrugging. “Well, you guys have been dancing around each other for years,” she chuckles. Anne’s pretty sure her eyes are so wide they might pop out of her head at any moment. “I was hoping you had finally gotten over yourselves and talked it out, you know? Especially since there’s nothing stopping you anymore. No Winifred confusing things. No Roy bothering you at every chance he gets. No Ruby with a ridiculous crush.”

Her tone is so self-deprecating, Anne isn’t quite sure what to do. Her entire face is burning from embarrassment. Fuck. She’s a terrible friend.

“Ruby, I swear I’ve never—” she tries, although she’s not really sure what she can say to look like she’s any better than she actually is.

“Oh, no,” Ruby interrupts her, shaking her head and smiling. “I’m not accusing you of anything. I know now that I was stupid.” Anne tries to contradict her, but she doesn’t let her. “I also know you don’t think that. But listen, I was blind, okay? I couldn’t see what was right in front of me because I kept imagining my white picket fence life with Gilbert Blythe, when, really, he’s been in love with you this whole time. If anything, I’m the one who should apologize for intruding in your relationship with him all these years.”

Anne gapes at her, still in shock.

“But how did you know—”

“How did I know you were in love with him?” Ruby snorts. “Please, Anne, everyone does. Except for him, of course, but that’s because when he looks at you he’s only thinking about how in love with you he is and he can never see that you love him back.”

Anne blinks. She’s completely speechless. Her mind has gone blank.

 “Listen, I’m happy with Moody,” Ruby continues, smiling, and it’s such a genuine one that Anne finds herself smiling as well. “I truly am. In a way I could have never been with Gil, especially considering I’ve only managed to have a proper conversation with him after I was no longer obsessed with him.” They both chuckle at that. “I know I was in the way, for a while, and I’m sorry. You were always too good of a friend to me, better than I deserved. But I need you to know, now, that the path is free, Anne.”

She’s pretty sure she’s about to cry.

Ruby sighs and turns to her on the couch, grabbing her hands and looking into her eyes.

“This is your time,” she says. “Finally, you guys can make it work. Forget everyone else, okay? You’ve been waiting for this for too long. You’re allowed to be happy, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, and you’re allowed to be happy with Gilbert. So, do it. Tell him.”

Her arms are around Ruby’s neck before her friend is even done talking, and then they’re both cry-laughing into each other’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” Anne mutters, her voice muffled against Ruby’s shirt. “I didn’t know I needed to hear all that, but I did. So, thank you.”

Her friend laughs. “Hey, you don’t have to thank me, okay?” she says as they separate. “But,” she adds, mischievous grin back in place. “If you truly want to, you can do that by kissing Gilbert Blythe until he forgets his own name. Making up for lost time and all that.”

With that, Ruby leaves her with a teasing wink and flaming cheeks.

She’d never admit this out loud (especially not to Gilbert), but that sounded like a great idea.

Anne’s almost asleep when the doorknob turns.

She’s on her feet before he even walks in, though. Surprise takes over his expression as he opens the door, crosses the threshold and finds her there looking at him. Gilbert is wearing a winter coat over the sweater, cheeks flushed from the cold and hair tousled from the wind outside. With a wary look, he takes off the coat, eyes glued to her.

Anne feels like she can’t breathe properly.

“Hey,” she blurts out, when he doesn’t say anything.

“Hey,” he replies, gingerly.

The lights on his sweater are not on anymore. She feels a bit silly in hers then, multi-colored lights blinking on the edge of her vision. They feel a little too cheery for the serious conversation she intended to have.

“What are you doing still up?” he asks, voice intentionally casual, and Anne knows he’s giving her a choice. She could tell him upright what she wants or she could let it go, use the out he’s offering and make up some lame excuse that he won’t question. Gilbert’s just that nice, even in the middle of one of their fights.

But Anne’s tired of running and his letter is gripped tightly between her fingers.

“Waiting for you to come back.”

His eyes snap up to hers, completely unreadable. Then they flutter down, snagging on the gap between her collarbones where the necklace rests and then on her hand. He looks back up at her, nodding.


It’s vague, but she accepts his answer. They stare at each other for a moment, silence brewing between them in the uncomfortable way it hasn’t been in years. Anne’s rehearsed this in her head, but all the words are suddenly gone, her mouth dry, so she does the second-best thing. She turns, grabbing the package from the couch, and hands him his present.

“Merry Christmas,” she croaks out, heat creeping up her neck.

“Oh,” he breathes out, slowly reaching out for it.

There’s a soft smile on his lips when he looks down at the gift, wrapping paper a little crinkled, wildflowers tucked into a red bow that’s a bit wonky. He unwraps it much like she did, slowly and carefully, unfolding the paper to reveal the present inside.

It’s a journal. Leather-bound, his name engraved in the front with gold lettering and in his handwriting. It’s simple, especially compared to what he had given her, but it had required some digging to get it done. There’s no card, of course, outside of the simple ‘Merry Christmas’ note she had left on top of the wrapped present. Anne had tried her best to stay away from anything that could possibly hint at her having feelings for him.

Well, it seemed like that had been all in vain, considering what she was preparing herself to do.

He’s still smiling as his fingers run over the cover of the journal. “I love it,” Gilbert says, eyes fluttering up to hers, honesty dripping from his words.

Anne shrugs even as her lips twitch into a small smile. “It’s nothing much, really, but I remember you saying that—”

“Anne,” he interrupts her, then repeats, “I love it. I mean it.”

“Good,” she replies, with some effort to muster up any words at all. “I— I loved my present too.” Her fingers touch the silver fox touching her sternum. Gilbert’s eyes follow the movement.

“Did you?” he asks, his own voice failing. Anne can only nod.

There’s a beat, one where she tries to figure out if he meant something more in his words about his gift in the same way she did, a hidden meaning she guesses won’t stay hidden for much longer. Then his hand jumps up to his hair, running through his curls the way it always does when he’s nervous. Color starts appearing at the tops of his cheeks.

“Gilbert, I—”

“I’m sorry.”

They both speak at the time, then stop, staring at each other wide-eyed. It’s the kind of awkwardness Anne’s been trying to avoid in the fear that it would surface when unrequited feelings interfered in their friendship. Too late for that now, apparently.

 Except Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is as stubborn as they make them, and she’s determined not to let this ruin their relationship. Not ever.

But she’s still a bit confused as to why he’s apologizing.

“What for?” she asks.

Gilbert clears his throat, looking away from her for a moment. “What I wrote,” he starts, his entire face reddening, from the tips of his ears down to his neck. He doesn’t look at her. “I know you’re probably uncomfortable, right now, and angry at me, because of what I said. And that you… Don’t feel the same, so. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to throw it all at you like that, I just needed to… Get it out, I guess.”

He’s breathing heavily by the time he’s done, shoulders tense with embarrassment but also something else. It’s like he’s ready, poised to receive an attack. Anne frowns.

It’s from her, she realizes. Gilbert’s ready for an explosive reaction from her, for shouted words or maybe even a slap. It shames her, that he would imagine that’s how she’d act after reading his letter. That she’d be mad at him for what he feels for her. It makes her wonder just how awful she’s been to him all these years that this is what he expects from her.

It makes her wonder how he’s even stayed friends with her for so long.

“Gil,” she calls, softly. “I’m not angry at you.”

His eyes snap up to hers, hazel irises sparkling, pupils dilating, eyebrows flying over his forehead in confusion. She swallows dry, gathering her strength, before speaking.

“Open the first page,” she mumbles, nodding at the journal in his hands.

Her hands are starting to sweat, anxiety climbing up her throat and every single instinct she has is telling her to bolt, but Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has finally decided to stop running from her own feelings and so she stays. She watches as realization and fragile, vulnerable hope fills his eyes and Gilbert looks down at the journal and slowly, hesitantly, pulls back the cover.

She takes in a sharp breath and holds it as his eyes rover over the words written on it.

It had hurt a little to open the carefully done wrapping paper, and cost some of her pride to re-do it again, slowly and painfully, but still not nearly as perfect or pretty as it had been before. As Gilbert’s eyes clear and start reading it all over again, though, Anne decides it was worth it.

She had drunk a lot tonight, mixed more different alcoholic drinks than she can care to remember, tried to drown her sorrows too many times for only one party. And yet, as she watches him read the words on the first page of the journal, Anne’s never felt so sober. All the haze of the alcohol has left her, replaced by a sharp focus on the one boy that matters to her more than anyone else. And her feelings for him.

She can recite the words she’s written there, if he asks. It’s a small note compared to his letter, even though she had always enjoyed large, fancy words to encompass great feelings. This time, as it turns out, all she had needed were simple ones. There was no point in complicating things further.


Dear Gilbert,

I’m sorry I was scared before and I acted out.

I’m not anymore.

I love you.



Five, ten, fifteen seconds pass. Gilbert’s eyes continue glued to the page. She knows he’s reading it more than once, just like she had with his letter. She understands the need to do so, to make sure the words are real, that the feelings are.

And so, Anne waits.

When he finally looks up at her, his hands are shaking and his eyes are wild, shifting between hers. Searching.

“Is this true?” he whispers, his voice wavering, and her heart breaks as she sees the vulnerability in his expression. “Do you truly—”

“Yes,” she breathes out, before he can finish the dumb, obvious question.

There’s one more second of silence where Gilbert continues looking at her and Anne tries to remember how to breathe normally as they’re both breathing heavily like they’ve just run across town to get to each other. This silence is completely different from the one before. This time, Anne can practically feel the tension that fills the small space between them.

And then it snaps.

Gilbert surges forward, hands coming up to grab her cheeks at the same time her hands reach for his shoulders, and his lips land on hers in a glorious, miraculous kiss. Anne melts against him, one of his hands travelling down to her waist as he pulls her against him and it’s like every single one of her dreams are coming true at the same time she realizes that this reality is a thousand times better than anything her imagination could have ever come up with.

Gilbert Blythe is kissing her and she feels like her heart is about to burst out of her chest.

She’s warm all over, the places he touches her burning like he’s pure fire. It’s a desperate, needy kiss. Anne can’t tell if it’s because of her or him or both of them. As his lips move over hers in a heady caress, she remembers the months of hopelessly pining, of hurt, of fear, and of imagining this moment with the certainty that it would never happen.

And yet, here she is. Gilbert Blythe is kissing her because he has feelings for her, just like she does for him, and it is glorious.

Then Gilbert’s tongue enters her mouth and she stops thinking altogether.

Anne only notices things are getting out of hand when they stumble back and the back of her knees hit the couch and they fall onto it in a tangle of limbs. It’s a mess, and it takes them a few moments to properly settle themselves, but once they do Gilbert’s hovering over her, his hands supporting him on either side of her head, their faces inches from each other, one of his legs between hers.

It’s definitely the most intimate position they’ve ever found themselves in, and it makes Anne blush until she probably looks like a tomato. She’s not in any rush to get out of there, though.

“Hey,” he says, lips crooking into a flirty grin that makes her want to kiss it off (although she’s pretty sure she’ll forever want to kiss him now, no matter the situation, because, God, was Gilbert Blythe a good kisser).

“Hi,” she replies, pretty certain she’s not capable of mustering anything other than that, since his lips seem to be very bad for her brain functions.

“You love me,” Gilbert whispers, delighted. Anne can’t hold in her own smile at that.

His curls are flopping messily over his eyes, his cheeks are flushed and his lips are kiss-swollen. He’s never looked more beautiful. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to act normally around him again, now that she knows what he looks like after she’s gotten her hands in his hair and her lips on his. She had never thought a boy could turn her into this much of a wanton mess, and yet, here she is.

She’s always known Gilbert Blythe would be the death of her.

“I do,” Anne agrees, a smile appearing on her lips. “But do you? I mean, you haven’t actually said it yet.”

It’s a joke, kind of, because he’s said it, if not in those exact words. She almost laughs when he gapes at her as if she’s said the most absurd thing in the world. But still, although she’ll never say it to him and it’s probably stupid, Anne kind of needs to hear him say it out loud, after so long believing this moment would never come. She’s spent years fighting against her insecurities and the deprecating thoughts that had been drilled into her head during her time in the system, training herself to believe that people can love her, but it’s still hard sometimes.

Especially in this way, she thinks, where Gilbert is looking at her like he wants nothing more than to kiss her again, like she’s the most precious thing he’s ever held in his arms. Until not too long ago, Anne Shirley had believed she would never find someone that would look at her this way, that no one would ever want to marry her, that no one could ever love her. It’s frustrating how these feelings stick with her, but they do.

And she just… She needs to hear it. Just once. Just so she can believe it.

Gilbert apparently understands that, expression softening as he looks down at her, one of his hands cupping her cheek and making her stare back at him.

“I love you,” he says, and it’s so certain, so honest, his voice so sure of this feeling that Anne can’t find it in herself to doubt him.

Gilbert Blythe loves her.

Anne’s kissing him again before he can get any other words out. He kisses her back eagerly a second later, the hand on her cheek travelling into her hair to pull her face against his as he lowers his body on top of hers. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. His warmth seeps through the layers of their clothing and into her body, his weight pressing her down into the couch, and somehow what maybe should feel stifling only feels safe. It feels like home, even.

Anne thinks she might be living in the fictional universe of some young adult romance novel, because there’s no way this is a feeling that exists in real life, right?

She could stay here forever, kissing Gilbert, relishing the feel of his hand spanning across her back, of his fingers tangling into her hair, of his lips pressing down on hers, of his teeth biting lightly onto her lower lip and pulling it towards him until she let out a soft gasp. Her nails sink into his shoulders and she feels his lips curve up into a smile before his tongue sweeps into her mouth and she’s lost to his kissing abilities once again.

Jesus Christ, where had he learned all of this?

They separate when the need for air grows greater than the need to keep their mouths glued together. Gilbert lays his forehead on hers, and they breathe together.

“You have no idea,” he starts, before pecking her on the lips. “How long.” Another one. “I’ve been waiting.” And another. “To do this.” This time, the peck turns into a longer, chaste kiss. Then he pulls back, eyes glittering and smile blinding, and Anne is smiling just as much as he is as all that is happening hits her. His hands cup her cheeks again, thumbs caressing her skin. “How long I’ve wanted to say it. I love you.”

Anne’s pretty sure she’s about to cry.

“I love you too,” she whispers, voice hoarse, and he presses her lips to hers again as if he’s incapable of keeping them separated. She understands the feeling. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before, I just…” Anne swallows, and then, looking at his open, honest eyes, the words escape her mouth, everything she’s kept bottled up for months, years even coming out in a rush. “I was scared and I thought throwing my unrequited feelings onto you would ruin our friendship forever and I couldn’t lose you. Not again. Not even if that meant watching you marry some blonde model while I went forever being your best friend and hiding my true feelings. It would hurt but it would be okay as long as I had you in my life.”

Gilbert stares at her for a moment before he shakes his head, breathing out a laugh.

“Unrequited? Jesus, Anne, I’ve been in love with you since you smacked me over the head with your notebook,” he says, still laughing, while she gapes at his confession. He kisses her cheek and speaks the next words so close to her face she can feel his breath on her skin. It’s almost like a prayer. “I’m sorry I made you hurt, I swear I had no idea you felt those things. There was never, and there will never be anyone for me but you. I could never get over you before, and now, knowing that you feel the same for me, I can’t even—” He shakes his head again, and Anne thinks, for a moment, that she sees tears in his eyes. “I can’t believe you love me too,” he whispers, the words coming out in a quiet confession.

Anne kisses him again.

“Well, I do,” she says against his lips.

Gilbert’s the one that kisses her this time.

They don’t talk again for a while. There would be time for that, later. So much time. They’d be able to put it all out there, all their feelings, the pain, the jealousy, the pining. But now, laying on the couch with his body over hers and their mouths pressed together, Anne wants nothing more than to stay like this with him, for as long as they can, no talks of misunderstandings and hurt feelings getting in the way. From time to time, she whispers the three little words to him again, and he says them right back.

It’s enough for now.

The next day, Anne wakes up tangled together with Gilbert on the couch, her ears ringing and her head aching as their friends yell excitedly and way too loudly at the scene they’ve walked into. She ignores the hangover threatening to come in, and only snuggles closer to him, pressing her face into his chest, a smile on her lips she’s pretty sure will never leave.

She can take all the teasing in the world. All that matters is that Gilbert Blythe is her boyfriend now, and he loves her just as much as she loves him.