(I have been overwhelmed by the reviews on that first chapter. Thank you all so much, and I hope I can live up to that praise! This took me a little longer than usual to write, but I think I made it work.

As always, thank you to L.M. Montgomery for creating such lovely characters.)

Saturday, Sept. 3, 1887

Light streamed through the kitchen windows and into the eyes of the raven haired woman sitting at the table. She dropped her weary head into her hands and looked at the empty tea cup in front of her.

Diana Wright had dreamed of motherhood most of her life. And the dimpled little boy who had entered her life only months earlier had been every bit as delightful as her dreams, his toothless smiles filling her with a joy she never imagined. But mornings like this, preceded by nights of crying and constant feeding and only minutes, so it seemed, of rest, a little part of her wished she might have followed her bosom friend's path to higher education.

She remembered, in the months awaiting little Fred, how the older mothers had told her about the weariness she'd feel, but she supposed they were being dramatic. Hadn't those same women told her of the perils of marriage?

Someday, Diana thought as she rose to pull shut the curtains, she'd warn her friends just the same way. As if on cue, her eyes alighted on a red-haired woman in the distance.
Diana smiled. If a visit from Anne Shirley couldn't pull her out of her daze, nothing could. She watched the slender form as she got closer and realized that her dearest chum looked to be nearly skipping as she approached Lone Willow Farm. And she had the most radiant look on her face that Diana had ever seen her wear.

Diana gasped with joy, surmising at once the reason for Anne's unexpected visit. Oh, she had known this day would come eventually — had known it, in fact, far longer than anyone would have suspected.

She knew it as she watched Gilbert try in vain to enter Anne's good graces in their childhood, and she saw it in the flush that crept to Anne's face when she heard his name. She saw it in their rivalry and in the stolen glances she saw them give each other when they thought no one else was watching. She noticed it in the way they went overnight from reluctant acquaintances to the best of friends — such good friends that she had to stifle a little jealousy until she realized she shared a similar connection with Fred Wright.

She read it in their letters from Redmond, sprinkled with each other's names and in the way Gilbert never failed to escort Anne to any event in Kingsport or on the Island.

Even when Anne rejected Gilbert's first proposal, Diana still held out hope. Gilbert wrote Diana still, and she knew his feelings for Anne would never change. He wrote of how it was easier to be the faithful escort of a woman betrothed to another than to let everyone know he was still pining for Anne.

Diana's belief that her friends belonged together never wavered even as Anne indicated she would marry the man she met in Kingsport who matched her childish dreams. Because Diana had seen the look on Anne's face when she spoke of Royal Gardner and it was nothing compared to the look when anyone mentioned Gilbert and certainly nothing compared to the way they had looked together at Diana's wedding.

As Gilbert's despair became apparent in his letters that spring, Diana urged him not to give up hope. And then she prayed she was right. She breathed a sigh of relief when Anne returned with news not that she was getting married but that she had come to her senses, at least in part.

The relief was short lived as news of Gilbert's fever traveled through the town. Diana felt helpless, unable to trek to Echo Lodge with a newborn in tow to tell Anne the news.

But when Anne's return to Green Gables coincided with Gilbert's recovery, Diana again believed. She hoped, by the look in Anne's eyes, her friend had finally realized what everyone else knew all along. And when Anne, with tears in her eyes, had confessed to Diana her feelings for Gilbert, she knew it was only just a matter of time. Diana couldn't betray Gilbert's confidences, so she let Anne find out for herself just how deep his love for her truly was.

And now at the sight of Anne tripping merrily down the path toward her house, Diana felt tears sting in her eyes from the fulfillment of knowing all had been made right.

Diana threw her arms around Anne's neck as she came in the house.

"Oh, Anne, I'm so happy for you!" she said.

Anne looked wide-eyed at her friend. "Who told you?"

"No one, dearest, I just know you too well. I can see it on your face. Tell me everything."

Anne told Diana about the walk to Hester Gray's garden and how Gilbert had told her about the dream he hadn't been able to give up. But for maybe the first time, Anne didn't tell her everything. She remembered how left out and inexperienced she had felt at the news of Diana's engagement and realized now why that was. Just as Diana had Fred to tell her secrets and share her thoughts, Anne had Gilbert. And nothing had ever felt so natural.

"Diana, even I could never have imagined how gloriously happy I am. I can't believe I ever thought I didn't love him. And last night was so beautiful, so perfect. I don't think I've stopped smiling."

"You're going to be so happy together, I know it," Diana said, a beaming smile on her face. But the smile disappeared at the squalling she heard coming from the bedroom.

Anne grinned. "Can I get him?"

"Of course," Diana replied, trying to hide her relief at not having to be the one to go get the child swaddled in the bassinet.

Anne reemerged from the bedroom with little Fred, who had stopped crying and was giving Anne his gummiest of grins.

"Oh, hims is the happiest wittle fellow, yes hims is," Anne cooed. Without another word, Diana knew Anne was imagining her future as she never had before. With a quiet smile, Diana tucked away all the well-meaning tales of sleepless nights and exhaustion and worry, seeing no sense in dampening her friends hopes just yet.

"Would you like to stay to lunch?" Diana asked.

Anne shook her head, her smile still lighting her face. "I'm going to meet Gilbert, but maybe another time."

And Diana grinned back at her with the smile of someone who had seen that coming, too.

Half an hour later, Anne ambled back down the path from which she had come. She pondered how it could be possible that her whole world had changed the night before but nothing looked any different. Shouldn't the sky be a little brighter, the water a little clearer, the flowers a little more joyful than the day before?

She made her way to the Dryad's Bubble where she sat down among the ferns and waited to hear Gilbert's footsteps coming over the old log bridge. Her mind wandered as she gazed at the spring. She thought back to all the times she had sat there with him in the past without realizing why her heart beat a little fast when he smiled at her. And then she smiled at the memories, thankful for everything that had brought her to that point.

So lost was she in her thoughts that she missed the anticipated footfalls, and Gilbert found her there, her arms wrapped around her knees, her head leaning against a big white birch. She was staring into the spring, and just as she had been the day he met her, she was completely oblivious to his existence.

He stood there for a moment, watching her lost in her daydreams. He let out a soft laugh at how similar she looked to the little girl who would not pay any attention to him in school and wondered at his luck.

The sound of his laugh pulled Anne out of her dream world, and she sprang to her feet and scampered to his side. He slid his arms around her waist and gazed down into her eyes.

"So, yesterday really wasn't just a beautiful dream?" he asked.

"If it was, I had the same one. So we might as well just go on as if it was real," she said with a smile as he stooped to kiss her.

Anne's mind went blank for a moment as she lost herself in the still-unfamiliar sensations of Gilbert's lips on hers, his arms holding her close.

"So, what do you have there?" Anne asked, nodding toward the basket at their feet after catching her breath moments later.

"Ahh, well, let's see," Gilbert said as he spread a blanket from the basket onto the ground. "Lunch for my queen."

"Did you prepare all this?" Anne asked, eyeing the sandwiches and cookies and other delicacies Gilbert was setting on the blanket.

"Of course I did … some of it," he answered with a grin.

Anne laughed as she sat down next to him on the blanket and kissed his cheek.

As they ate and talked, Anne noticed Gilbert fidgeting with the edge of the blanket. She had been doing most of the talking, which wasn't unusual, but he had been carrying far less of the conversation than usual. She wasn't used to seeing him nervous; even the day before, he had seemed as confident and sure of himself as ever.

When the remains of their lunch had been placed back in the basket, Anne slid closer to Gilbert and laid her hand on his forearm.

"What's wrong?" she asked as she looked anxiously into his eyes.

He smiled and put his arm around her, pulling her closer. "What could be wrong? I finally have my Anne-girl," he said, laughing as she looked at him in surprise at his use of Diana's aunt's old name for her. "I told you I liked it."

She cuddled into his side. "I like it when you call me that. But, darling, I can tell something is wrong. Won't you tell me what it is?"

Gilbert sighed and nodded. "I should have talked to you about it yesterday, but I didn't want to ruin anything. I just don't know what you'll think."

"You can tell me anything."

He turned to face her then, taking her hands in his. "It's just … while I was sick, or actually after I began to recover, I had so much time to think and I realized being a doctor would be more than just helping people. The doctor had to tell my parents he didn't think I'd live," he said, taking a deep breath before he continued. "Anne, I don't know if I can stay in Avonlea after I'm through with school. I can't imagine having to give that kind of news to friends and family and people I've known my whole life."

Anne squeezed his hands sympathetically but remained quiet. She could tell he wasn't done talking.

"I'll understand if you don't want to leave here," he said. "I just don't know if I can stay."

Gilbert looked at her hopefully, terrified at what she might say. Green Gables and Avonlea had been her first real home after years of being cast off by the world. What if she didn't want to leave or wouldn't go with him? Even if she truly loved him at last, would it be enough to leave her home and all she loved?

But Anne didn't make him wait long. She rose to her knees and slid her arms around his neck. She kissed him quickly before pulling back.

"The past two years without you were some of the loneliest times of my life, even if I didn't realize it at the time. But that night, when I thought you were going to die," Anne stopped, her eyes closed as she remembered the helpless, hopeless way she felt that stormy night. She opened her eyes and stared into his. "That night I knew for sure I couldn't live without you. I love it here, but I love you more. And I'll go with you to the ends of the earth if that's what you want."

Gilbert pulled her toward him and settled her onto his lap. He gazed into her eyes — the eyes he had realized from the first weren't like the eyes of any other girl he'd ever seen — and grazed his hand along her jaw line. He lowered his lips to hers and kissed her softly before trailing kisses down her white throat. He had never before really noticed women's fashions but found himself appreciating whomever had decided to make it stylish to leave the high, stiff collars off their dresses. He felt Anne's fingers running through his hair and heard her soft sigh at the new sensations. When he raised his eyes again to meet hers, Gilbert saw something he had never seen in those gray orbs before — a hunger or desire that made him catch his breath. The kisses that followed were less gentle and more frantic, each moment more passionate than the previous.

They finally separated after what seemed an eternity to them, chests heaving and breathless, and their eyes met again. Neither said a word at first, as they continued to stare in awe at each other.

Finally it was Anne who found her voice.

"I would prefer to stay on the Island, though, if we can't stay in Avonlea."

Gilbert's usually sharp mind had been lost in Anne's touch and it took him a moment to understand. He helped her to her feet then knelt before her.

"Anything for you, Queen Anne," he said as he kissed her hand.

Hand in hand, they wandered all their old haunts until the sun began to sink in the sky. They found themselves back at the old gate at Green Gables, where Gilbert would leave Anne for the night.

"So I suppose we're the talk of the whole town by now," he said, nodding toward the house.

Anne giggled. "Not yet. Remember, Mrs. Lynde sprained her ankle yesterday. I don't think she could hobble house to house when she couldn't even make it around the kitchen this morning."

"Oh, I just assumed our news would be to her recovery would be something akin to what the news that you weren't engaged was to mine," he said, the handsome grin Anne loved spreading across his face.

"I never thought about it that way," Anne replied, kissing his cheek.

Gilbert clasped her hands. "I did have another question for you. My parents are going to White Sands tomorrow to visit some friends. I'll be quite lonesome sitting all by myself at church, so I was wondering if I could accompany you instead of being all alone."

Anne pondered for a moment how the two of them walking into the church would accelerate the spreading of the news of their engagement without Mrs. Lynde's inevitable spin on it. "I would be delighted. And of course, you'll have to come to dinner here afterwards."

"I would be honored," he said as he kissed her softly again.