A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter, I really do appreciate your feedback. Perhaps because I'd read the books before seeing the movies, it never occurred to me that Gilbert might actually die... The way they abruptly ended the deathbed scene does make a little more sense now. (Thank you, Vero :P)
Anyway, I had a heck of a time ending this chapter. I really hope you like it. Enjoy!
"Oh! Ah!" Anne yelped as the wind suddenly gusted, nearly allowing one of Marilla's best bedsheets to escape from her. She tripped and caught the flyaway sheet between her fingers at the last moment, ashamedly glancing toward the main road to make sure no one had witnessed her unladylike slip.
To her dismay, she found a buggy winding down the lane to Green Gables. Her heart leaped into her throat as she recognized it: it was John Blythe's.
Anne suddenly felt cold all over. Was Mr. Blythe bringing news about Gilbert? It had only been two days since her visit and her soft confessions, and the last she had heard, Gil's condition was unchanged... but she had assumed that, as Rachel Lynde always said, no news was good news. She hastily rolled up the sheet and dropped it into her basket, haphazardly snatching the rest of the wash from the line and depositing it into the basket in a similarly unceremonious manner. It took her several minutes to collect all of the laundry, the typically mindless and not-unpleasant task suddenly seeming to stretch on for hours before she finally hefted the heavy basket and ran anxiously toward the house, nearly stumbling over her skirts in her hurry.
Bursting through the kitchen door in a truly unladylike fashion, she found John Blythe at the table with Rachel and Marilla, partaking of a glass of lemonade. Anne took one look at the pleasant expression on his face and nearly went limp with relief—clearly this visit did not signal the bad tidings she'd feared.
"Anne Shirley!" Rachel admonished, one hand fluttering to her bosom. "Are you trying to scare us all half to death?"
"I'm sorry Rachel." Anne apologized, without taking her eyes off of Gilbert's father. "I was only afraid that-... I was worried about..." she was slightly out of breath, and she trailed off helplessly, setting the basket of laundry down and turning to Mr. Blythe. "Hello, Mr. Blythe... how are you this morning?"
Mr. Blythe gave a booming chuckle, and that was how Anne knew that Gilbert was truly out of the woods. "Why, I'm just fine, Miss Anne." he told her, a twinkle in his eye as he added, "But don't think I don't know that you're really just asking after my boy!"
She was at his side in an instant, her gray eyes pleading. "Please... How is he?"
"Well now, he's on the mend." John said with a smile, "The fever broke yesterday, and he's awake and talking. Doctor says he's out of danger now. Matter of fact, he took the turn soon after you left, Anne. I don't know what you said to him, but somehow, I can't help thinking it's you we should be thanking for it."
Marilla spotted Anne's trembling hand on the tabletop and gently rested her own over it. "It's Providence we should thank." she said quietly.
"He finally just made up his mind to live, that's what." Rachel put in. "That boy's done everything he's ever put his mind to." She looked meaningfully at Anne, who couldn't stop a blush from rising to her cheeks. "Longest case of scarlet fever I ever did see, though."
"Mr. Blythe came to ask if you would accompany him back to the farm." Marilla said to Anne.
"That's right." John said. "Gilbert's been asking to see you since he woke up."
Anne didn't need to be asked twice, and she immediately rose and began fluttering around, collecting her hat and sweater. Her eyes fell guiltily on the basket of clean laundry, and she turned to Marilla appealingly. "May I go, Marilla? I'll fold the laundry just as soon as I get back, I promise."
"Don't be silly, Anne." Marilla said, shaking her head. "Go ahead, go on."
"Don't you worry about the laundry." Rachel chimed in. "Sure we handle it just fine on our own while you're off at school, don't we?"
Anne smiled, bending to kiss each woman quickly on the cheek. "Thank you. Thank you."
She turned expectantly to Mr. Blythe, who quickly swallowed the last of his drink in preparation for their imminent departure. "All right," he said as he rose, with a knowing smile at the two older women. "Well it looks like I must be going. Thank you for the lemonade."
"You're welcome, John. Thank you for coming." Marilla said, rising as well. "I know it means a lot to Anne."
They shared a long look before John replaced his cap on his head and nodded courteously to both women. "Goodbye then, Marilla. Mrs. Lynde."
It was only a short ride to the Blythe farm by buggy, but Anne soon found herself restless, both excited and anxious at the prospect of seeing Gilbert again, now that their feelings for each other were at long last out in the open. She blushed at the mere memory of their last meeting. She'd been dreadfully forward—why, she'd practically proposed to him!
But then she remembered why she'd been so forward, and she was swept away in a flood of relief and happiness. Perhaps nothing less than his near brush with death would have induced her to overcome her stubbornness—not to mention her stupid, half-baked preconceptions of love!—and admit how much she truly cared for him, but she would never be so foolish again. She would never spend another horrible night sitting by her window and wondering whether he was still alive, whether he knew she loved him, whether she could bring herself to carry on without him... He had gotten the turn! He was going to live, and she was going to have a second chance, and she was going to spend every moment from now on not wasting it.
"Nice day, isn't it?" Mr. Blythe commented from the seat beside her, and Anne started, realizing that she was so lost in her thoughts that she was rudely ignoring him.
"It's beautiful." she agreed with a smile. If her emotions were a landscape, her surroundings would mirror them exactly. The sky was bright and blue, and the grasses and trees by the roadside swayed in the warm breeze. "Like a scene from a painting." Immediately she corrected herself. "But no, a painting could never capture anything as beautiful as this. Not truly."
Mr. Blythe laughed, and Anne smiled. She knew she was notorious in Avonlea for her flights of fancy and her rapturous love of nature, and that many of the elders thought she was odd and impractical, but she got the feeling that John Blythe was laughing with her, and not at her. Besides, he must be as mirthful as she was, today of all days, now that Gilbert was sure to live!
When they reached the farm Anne scrambled out of the buggy even before John had a chance to help her down. Yet when they were finally standing outside of Gilbert's bedroom, he looked back at her to find her eagerness apparently abated, her face the picture of maidenly restraint. "What's the matter?" he asked her curiously.
Anne looked down at her hands, her fingers intertwined in a knot of anxiety. "Nothing." she answered falsely. How could she explain to Gil's father that she was suddenly filled with doubts? Two days ago, when she'd spoken to Gilbert, he'd been ill, feverish. Perhaps he hadn't meant the things he said to her then, perhaps he wasn't aware of what he'd been saying. Perhaps he wouldn't remember the conversation at all.
Perhaps he truly was still engaged to Christine Stuart!
Mr. Blythe rapped gently on the door, then held it open for Anne to go in.
The curtains were open, and sunlight and fresh air flooded in, transforming it completely from the dark and dire room of two days ago. Gil was sitting up in bed. He was still thin, still pale, but his hazel eyes were clear and warm, a stunning change from the cloudy, fever-bright gaze he'd possessed then. His hair was clean and combed, and her book lay open in his hands.
He closed it gently and set it on the nightstand. "I haven't read very far in it yet." he said. "I get tired out too quickly."
Anne stepped inside, and the moment she saw him, her doubts flew away as suddenly as they'd come. "Gil... you should be resting, not reading, you goose." she said fondly.
"Well, you wrote it for me; I figured I at least owed it to you to read it." he smiled back.
"When you're well." Anne insisted, blushing a little, but not denying his teasing remark. "Then you may read it, and critique me as harshly as you please."
Gilbert laughed a little and shook his head. "Don't think I'm going to fall into that trap again, Anne Shirley. I learned my lesson the day I told you what I really thought of Averil's Atonement."
Anne dropped her gaze with a rueful smile. "I suppose I deserve that. I was very proud that day, wasn't I?" she said. Today there was a chair by the bed, and she pulled it up behind her and sat down. "You must believe that the past few years have humbled me... if only a little."
"A very little, I hope." Gilbert told her. "I'd hate to see you change, Anne."
Anne's breath caught in her throat. At one point, hearing him say such things, hearing that ardent tone slip into his voice, would have sent her fleeing in the other direction. Now she had no impulse other than to stay and listen... forever, if she could. "The- the worst of it is," she stammered slightly, her face pinkening, "That you were right."
Her gaze dropped to her hands, folded primly in her lap. "About everything."
Gilbert smiled a relieved smile, reaching over to place one of his hands over hers. Startled, she looked up at him as their fingers entwined. "...So it wasn't just a dream." he said softly, reading her heart in her eyes. "When I was sick... you did come."
"Of course I did!" Anne said fervently. "Oh, Gil, I was desperately frightened for you. I hadn't even known you were sick, and then when I did find out... that's when I realized. But I thought it was too late." She shuddered with the memory.
Gilbert squeezed her hands gently, and all at once she was foregoing propriety yet again and throwing herself into his arms. He didn't seem to mind; indeed, he pulled her in and held her against him as though it were the most natural position in the world. "It was the most terrible night of my life, Gil, the night I thought you were dying, without ever knowing how I cared." she confessed quietly. "I wanted to die, too."
"Anne!" Gilbert breathed, horrified by the idea that Anne, his Anne, who found beauty and joy in everything, could ever have such bleak thoughts. "But it wasn't too late, my love." he whispered into her hair. "It isn't."
"I don't see how you kept on loving me, when I've acted like such a fool!" Anne mumbled into his chest.
He chuckled a little, still holding her close. "I never could stop, although I tried." he confessed. "Not because I thought you were foolish; I was just convinced that there was no chance for me. When word got back to me about your beau in Kingsport..." He shook his read ruefully. "I'd loved you for so long. The idea of you being engaged to anyone but me... you can't imagine how it felt."
Anne allowed herself a moment to secretly thrill over his anyone but me... and then turned the tables back. "I think you underestimate me, Gilbert Blythe." she said haughtily, pulling away from him and joining their hands once more. "I can imagine a great many things... for example, I can imagine how it might feel to be madly jealous of Christine Stuart. When I thought you were dying, Gil, you have no idea how I wished I was her, so that I would have the right to come be with you."
"Not that that stopped you from coming," Gilbert pointed out with a soft smile. "For which I shall be forever grateful."
"There are some situations," Anne told him gravely, "When you just have to hang propriety."
He spotted the telltale sparkle in her eye and chuckled. "What would Marilla say if she was here to hear that?" he teased. "As for Christine..." Gil grew serious, pausing for a moment before continuing. "Anne, nothing mattered to me for a time there, after you told me that you could never love me. And then I met Christine. I thought I could be happy if I could only fall for her instead... Of course, I could no more make myself fall in love with her than I could make you fall in love with me, but I certainly tried. I almost had myself convinced, until that day in Kingsport, in the pavilion, in the rain. Five minutes with you was enough for me to know I'd only been fooling myself, that it was still you that I loved, and it always would be."
"I think I knew then too..." Anne mused shyly. "Or rather, I felt something. But I didn't know until three days ago." She smiled self-deprecatingly. "For the girl who tied for top scholar on the Queens' pass list, I can be rather dense, can't I?"
Gil lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them, one after the other, setting her heart fluttering madly. "Not dense." he said, hiding a smile. "Stubborn."
"Well!" Anne exclaimed, offended but for the fact that it was unquestionably true. "...I did come to my senses eventually, didn't I?"
"You did, Anne-girl, with not a minute to spare!" Gilbert told her. "Both of my parents are convinced that it was you who saved my life, you know."
Anne shook her head. "Really, Gil! I should think the trained nurse had more to do with it than I! Or at least a combination of that and Providence, as Marilla would say... Although Rachel Lynde is convinced that you beat the disease all on your own, just by putting your mind to it."
"They're probably both right in part." Gil said seriously. "But it was only when you came that I had something worth fighting it for." He raised his eyebrows teasingly, as if just beginning to consider something. "You did promise to marry me when I got well, didn't you? Because if that was only a dream-"
Anne cut him off by leaning forward and pressing a short, wonderful kiss to his lips. She pulled back, and lowered her eyes demurely, shocked by her own daring. "It wasn't." she said, rather needlessly.
There was a long moment of silence before she was able to look back into his face. When she did, she found him smiling. "...Then you will?" he finally asked, in a low, steady voice.
"I will." she said simply, happy to finally be able to give him the answer he wanted.
Wordlessly, he lifted one hand to cup her face and kissed her again, and she closed her eyes and allowed herself be overwhelmed. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Anne knew it was wildly improper for her to be here—in his room, on his bed, in his arms!—but she couldn't find it in herself to worry about that now, when Gil was kissing her at last!
When they separated, Anne was truly and uncommonly speechless. Gilbert took the exceptional opportunity to murmur a vow of love into her ear, smiling when she flushed... and then boldly made him a vow of her own. They lost themselves for a time in soft conversation and caresses while the golden afternoon slipped away between them, until Anne noticed Gilbert stifling a yawn and remembered herself.
"But you're exhausted, Gil!" she exclaimed, somewhat embarrassed for forgetting that he was still recovering from a serious illness. "Whyever didn't you tell me to leave, so that you could rest?"
He smiled tiredly, leaning his head back on his pillows. "Because I was afraid you would actually go." he said.
Anne rose from her perch on the bed, smoothing her skirts. "Gilbert Blythe, you are positively incorrigible." she said with a shake of her head. "I'm sure you'll be a wonderful doctor someday, because you are such a terrible patient."
The smile faded from his face at the reminder of his three years of impending schooling. "Anne... I won't be a doctor for a long-" he began, but Anne cut him off, smoothing back his hair and placing a kiss on forehead.
"Later, my love." she promised. "We can talk when you've recovered... and that goes for reading as well." she reminded him mischievously, nodding at the book on the nightstand.
Gil kissed the back of her hand before regretfully releasing her. "At any rate, you'll make an excellent doctor's wife."
"I mean to." she said solemnly. "And Gil, after all this time... you needn't worry that I won't wait for you."
After a last light kiss, she slipped out and into the sunshine with an equally light heart, leaving her intended with a smile on his face.