AN: Surprise! Another update. You all got me so thrilled with your reviews that I just had to pick the pen right back up! And if that wasn't just a wonderful outpouring of love for my T-ness! My face was as red as Anne's hair when I sent that bit out; it was by far the most sensual thing I've written (those two just seem to bring it right out of me). So thank you!

Alright then… where, exactly, did we leave those two?

Chapter 9: The Trouble with Love

Anne was not quite sure what woke her, for the sun had not yet risen above the horizon and the room was still rather dim. Her mind was still clouded with sleep, but she was conscious enough to know that it was Saturday morning, and she needn't rush off to the schoolhouse today. Her mind vaguely registered that things felt different this morning… the feather mattress felt a little softer, and she did not feel the usual pressure of Mrs. Lynde's apple leaf quilt upon her. Yet still she was warm—unusually warm—and she felt so supremely comfortable that nothing could induce her to open her eyes. And so she let out a contented sigh and snuggled further into her pillow, pulling it closer to her body with her arm. It, too, felt different. It was too wonderfully warm, and somehow she felt not as if she was holding it, but rather as if it was holding her.

Anne's eyes shot open as she suddenly came to the realization that the pillow she was resting upon was not a pillow at all; it was Gilbert. Familiar pale-blue walls came into focus; the oil lamp still flickered atop his desk, which was cluttered with remnants of last night's studies. And that shoe lay innocently in the door.

Oh no, Anne thought. Oh no, oh no, oh no.

She had stayed the night—somehow amid their quiet conversation they must have fallen asleep. It was morning and she was still at Hart House. Oh no. Bells of alarm began to ring in her head, and she began to wonder frantically what might happen if she were discovered here.

Yet despite this, Anne could not bring herself to move a muscle. How many times had she dreamt of this? How many times had she lain awake, fingering the tousled sheets, staring at the spot where Gilbert might lay, if he were there with her? More than once she had left her bed in a hurry, so as to keep from dwelling upon that empty bit of mattress next to her. More than once, she had longed to experience that quiet closeness that would come with waking up next to him.

She sighed as she felt Gilbert's chest rise and fall beneath her. She adjusted her head ever-so-slightly and his arm tightened unconsciously around her side in response, sending a quiet thrill through her. His shirt was still unbuttoned—a memory of what had passed between them the night before. What had she been thinking, unbuttoning it? Yet he had let her, and she smiled as she remembered the feel of his smooth skin beneath her fingertips. It still felt just as smooth now, pressed under her cheek, and her arm lay gently across his stomach, which was firm and warm as well.

She hadn't seen Gilbert sleep since the fever, and she wanted more than anything to look upon his face. Would he wake if she lifted her head just now? She decided to take the risk, and carefully she shifted, propping herself up on an elbow. The first thing that struck her was how peaceful he looked. There was no crease of worry in his eyebrows, no mischievous twinkle in his eyes, no lips pressed together in concentration. He was simply Gilbert—vulnerable in his unconsciousness.

She ought to wake him now, for it was growing later with every minute, and she simply could not risk being found up here. What would those sweet landladies say if they saw her? She felt badly for taking advantage of those dear, trusting souls. Would they evict Gilbert immediately for disobeying the rules of the house? Anne shuddered at the thought of it, and cursed herself for allowing such a thing as this to happen. There was nothing she wanted more than to not wake Gilbert, but wake him she must. And so she sat up and ran her fingers back and forth across his chest, trusting the movement to draw him from sleep.

He swallowed and lay his hand on top of hers, hugging it tightly to his chest, before finally allowing his eyes to flutter open. A soft smile tugged at his lips as he gazed up at her through half-raised lids, figuring surely he must still be dreaming. But a second later the smile disappeared and his eyes opened wide as saucers, as realization struck him.

"Wha—Anne? Oh, no." Gilbert sat up quickly and leaned back against the bed frame. The sleep added a husky quality to his voice, and Anne shivered delightfully at the sound. "We must have fallen asleep. Oh Anne, I'm so terribly sorry, I—"

Anne put a finger to his lips to quiet him as she motioned towards the door, which was still propped open. "It's alright, Gilbert. It's still fairly early; I should be able to slip out unnoticed."

Gilbert blinked at her again, as if perhaps this really was a dream. Then he brought his fingers to his face and wiped the sleep from his eyes. Anne smiled at the sight of a groggy Gilbert.

"Do you suppose so?" he asked, unable to stifle a small yawn.

"I certainly hope so. What time do Miss Lottie and Miss Blanche usually arise?"

"Around six. What time is it?"


Gilbert's raised his eyebrows, and so did Anne. They stared at each other a moment, distressed face into distressed face, until Anne burst into strained laughter.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Shirley—is this supposed to be comical?" Gilbert inquired, his head cocked to the side.

"I'm afraid this is one such situation where all one can do is laugh," Anne reasoned through strained breaths. "That, or despair. Although I've always found the former the more preferable option."

"Well, I daresay you've always been rather good at both," Gilbert said with a wink, before adding, "Always getting into trouble, aren't you?"

"Now that is true, although as such, I've gotten rather good at getting myself out of it."

"Well I'd like to see you get yourself out of this one, Anne. It may be your worst predicament yet."

"My predicament! I think you mean our predicament!"

"Well isn't that the truth," Gilbert muttered with a chuckle. "Now put on your boots, little miss; we'd best get going."

Anne smiled at Gilbert and he kissed her on the cheek. Yet despite the way he teased her, she could tell that he truly was concerned. She hoped he didn't feel too guilty, for she was mostly to blame. As she tied her laces, she began to grow nervous. What if someone was already awake downstairs? What would happen if she were discovered here? Surely then she would not find their situation so amusing.

"Alright then, Anne," Gilbert said practically, after poking his head around the door to see if the coast was clear. "I can hear Dennis snoring from his room, so that's a good sign. But stay at the top of the stairs and I'll check the second landing. Ready?"

"Not just yet, Gilbert," Anne said as she reached out and tugged on his arm.

"You can't be serious, Anne," Gilbert replied in bewilderment, thinking that it was those very same words, uttered the night before, which had gotten them into this situation in the first place.

"Oh come now, Gil," Anne said with a laugh, "I only mean to point out that your shirt is still unbuttoned."

Gilbert looked down and sure enough, there was his chest, bare as ever. His cheeks flushed momentarily as he remembered how it had gotten that way. He reached for the bottom button but Anne batted his hand away.

"I did the unbuttoning, so it's only fitting I do the rebuttoning," she whispered matter-of-factly. He wasn't one to refuse such an offer and so he consented, watching her narrow her eyes and bite her lip in concentration, and shivering each time her delicate fingers brushed against him.

When she had finished buttoning and smoothing out his shirt, he led her into the hall. She waited at the top of the stairs, as instructed, until Gilbert signaled that the second landing was clear. Then she stopped once again as he checked the bottom floor, and again he motioned her forward. She felt herself relax as she realized she truly was going to escape unseen—or so she thought. She was halfway down the second flight of stairs when something made Gilbert turn away. She saw his body tense as he called down the hall, loudly and pointedly, "Why good morning, Miss Lottie! I hope you slept well?"

Anne's heart jumped into her mouth as she scurried back up the stairs, tripping over the last step and landing with an undignified thud on the floor. She immediately clamped her hand over her mouth to keep from yelping aloud. Gilbert flinched as he heard her fall, yet resisted the urge to glance up at her and took several steps out of sight.

"Good morning, Gilbert," came Miss Lottie's sweet voice from downstairs. She, too, spoke loudly, although this was more due to the fact that she was incredibly hard of hearing, and seemed to think everyone else was, too. Anne thanked herself for this fact, for it seemed the commotion she had caused had gone unnoticed. Yet still, she tried to make as little noise as possible as she scooted backwards across the floor, out of sight of anyone down below.

"I discovered this coat hanging on the stand this morning… it belongs to Anne, if my memory serves me well? I didn't realize she paid a visit last evening!"

Anne's heart was beating wildly as she waited for Gilbert to respond.

"Thank you, Miss Lottie, I'll take it. I'm afraid she went home without it," came Gilbert's calm voice from below.

"I'm sorry? You'll have to speak up, dear. My hearing isn't what it used to be."

"She left without it, that's all."

"I sure hope you didn't let her walk home in the cold without a coat!"

"Oh, no-o…" Gilbert paused for a moment and Anne felt that for sure, they were about to be discovered. Yet Gilbert was quick on his feet, and so he quickly replied, "She wore mine. This little thing is a bit light, don't you think? There was the nastiest chill in the air and I insisted she wear mine—it's much thicker."

Gilbert inevitably had to repeat his story twice before Miss Lottie got the gist of it. Anne felt uneasy in the pit of her stomach—how very much she hated to deceive Miss Lottie! She would never set foot in Gilbert's bedroom again, if only to avoid this shameful feeling. She waited on baited breath as all was silent for a moment.

"How thoughtful… well aren't you the sweetest young fellow, Gilbert. That Anne is a lucky girl."

"Oh, I can assure you, Miss Lottie, I am the one who is lucky."

"I'm sorry, dear, did you just say you're hungry? Well you're up a bit earlier than usual but I've a batch of biscuits in the oven. I'm afraid I'm out of those apple preserves you love so much. Tell me, would you prefer cherry or strawberry?"

"Cherry will be fine, thank you."

"Strawberry, you say?"

"Yes, Miss Lottie dear."

"Right then… just ten minutes, they'll be out in a jiffy…" and Miss Lottie's voice faded to silence as she bustled back to the kitchen. Anne let out a sigh of relief as Gilbert leapt up the stairs and took her hand, leading her noiselessly through the living room and out of the house.

"Oh, I was so nervous Gilbert, I felt I might faint!"

"I thought you did faint, for a moment, when I heard that terrible racket upstairs. What happened, Anne?"

"I… um… tripped," muttered Anne sheepishly. Gilbert only shook his head and smiled, before kissing her lightly and helping her into the aforementioned coat. "I do feel badly for lying to Miss Lottie," Anne added.

"As do I," Gilbert agreed, a frown creasing his forehead. "But nothing was to be done. No more close shaves, Anne-girl," he ordered. Then he leaned into her ear and whispered, "although that was some way to wake up!"

… … …

Anne was thankful to find the streets of Kingsport deserted at such an early hour. It certainly would have been humiliating to run into an acquaintance at a time like this! As she scurried home, the rush of their recent predicament began to subside, and Anne began to dwell upon what had happened up in Gilbert's bedroom. She felt, not for the first time, as if she barely knew herself. What had she been thinking? She was the one who pulled Gilbert onto the bed, she unbuttoned his shirt, she had lain his hands upon her. And when he had offered to walk her home, she was the one who asked if they might lay there awhile.

What sort of hungry creature was she, and when had she given herself up to such impropriety? Surely Diana had never made such rash acts with Fred. Surely Phil, albeit bold and brash by nature, never succumbed to such a wave of feeling. But that's just what it was, a wave, and each time it crashed down upon her, Anne was pulled helplessly under, merciless to fight the current. Was something wrong with her? Would she ever learn to swim, or would the ocean take her instead? Why was she not strong?

Anne was nearly out of breath by the time she reached Patterson Street. She felt relief wash over her as she crossed the garden of Hallow's End. What a close call that had been! All she wanted in that moment was to tiptoe up to her room, pull that apple leaf quilt over her head, and try to sort out her confused thoughts. Yet she was not destined to do so, for no sooner had the door clicked shut behind her than a voice cut through the air.

"Fancy seeing you home, Anne Shirley." Anne gave a start at the sound. She looked up to find Phil, just visible upon the living room sofa, with something that Anne assumed to be The Lady's Magazine in her lap. "Out for a morning walk, were you?"

Anne stepped across the entryway and into the room, all the while focused on the presumptive look in Phil's eye. There had been an edge to her voice which implied her inquiry was not so innocent as it appeared. Phil was naturally perceptive, and after all, six thirty was a very odd time for a walk.

"Of sorts," said Anne. She didn't entirely mind telling Phil the truth, but her mind was so overwhelmed, she wasn't sure she had the strength just now.

"Hmm…" was all that Phil replied, before glancing nonchalantly back down at her lap. Wondering if perhaps by some miracle Phil was going to let the subject lie, Anne excused herself and began to make her way towards the stairs.

"You know," Phil said slowly, flicking absently through the magazine's pages, "it's funny, but if I didn't know any better, I'd say you wore that blouse yesterday." Anne froze with one hand on the banister and looked over at her friend, who wore a wicked grin. "Yes, I remember now. I complimented you on it, and lamented the fact that I can't fit into anything nearly so fashionable these days." She gestured to her swollen belly.

"Yes, well, I…" Anne stuttered. She looked longingly up the stairs, thinking of her yellow-papered room, then back at Phil, who clearly was going to take no prisoners today. She might as well get the thing over with now. But what to say…

"Oh, you can save yourself the trouble, Miss Anne. I know you were out all night. I've been up since four… this baby seems determined not to let me sleep a wink. He—or at least I'm fairly certain it's a he—has been kicking up a fearful storm. So then, spill the news. You were with Gilbert, that much is certain. But what were you doing with Gilbert? That's what I'd like to know."

Anne shook her head and let out an exasperated sigh, followed by a small smile. "You are truly insufferable, Philippa Blake." Phil flashed her a grin and patted the spot next to her on the sofa, as Anne crossed the room to sit beside her.

"Well then?" Phil asked, her big chocolate-brown eyes wide and eager for a good tale.

"There isn't much to tell," Anne said sheepishly. "I fell asleep. I'd been helping Gilbert with his presentation. We were in his bedroom…"

"Studying that entire time, surely," Phil said sarcastically.

"Well…" Anne hesitated, not out of embarrassment, but because Phil was gaining entirely too much pleasure from the exchange. "Not the entire time..."

"Aha!" Phil cried. Anne needn't say another word—her cheeks were growing a shade brighter each second, and did the talking for her.

"Anne Shirley, you saucy little thing!" And immediately Phil leaned forward—rather awkwardly considering her sizable stomach—to brush Anne's hair away from her neck. She then began to examine it intently.

Anne leaned backwards and batted Phil's hand away. "Whatever are you doing, Phil?"

"Checking for marks. I'll bet anything, Gilbert Blythe's lips have been all over that neck recently."

"Philippa Blake!"

"Well, am I wrong?" Phil asked archly, this time attempting to peer under the sleeve at Anne's wrist. Anne jerked her arm backwards and scooted out of Phil's reach. She could feel her cheeks burning.


Phil's eyes lit up, and Anne began to laugh. "I'll bet that's not the only place they've been…"

"You are quite presumptive, aren't you, dearest of Phils?"

"Oh, come now, Anne. I've seen the way the two of you stare at each other, as if you are about to tear each other to shreds, and I don't mean menacingly." She gave a wink before continuing, "And Gilbert's such a man's man… I'd be surprised if he didn't have his hands all over you behind closed doors…"

Anne let out a peal of laughter at Phil's frankness. Phil's was simply scandalous, and her straightforwardness was entirely disarming. Anne felt her guard quickly coming down. Phil was a married woman, after all, and as such she was more than able to lend some insight to Anne's troubles.

"It was almost frightening, Phil!" she burst forth suddenly. "I know I ought to do right by myself, by God, by the world… but then when he's that close, I don't know what comes over me… it's as if I'm breathing in him, rather than air. All thought goes out the window and I can't reign myself back in." Anne buried her face in her hands. "Is something wrong with me?"

"Pfh!" Phil snorted, while throwing her hands up into the air. "You think you're alone in that feeling? Oh honey, you always were so naive…" She patted Anne on the knee. "I never thought of myself as particularly sensual—that is, until I met Jonas. One look at those thick kissable lips and bewitching sea-green eyes, and I'm searching desperately for a window to prop open."

Anne resisted the urge to laugh here, as she remembered how Phil had once described Jonas as the ugliest man she'd ever seen. That hadn't taken long to change.

"Now then," Phil continued, "all this to say that nothing is wrong with you, Anne, you merely suffer from the woeful burden of being desperately in love. And I know a thing or two of that sensation." Phil looked dreamily off into space, while subconsciously stroking her large belly.

Anne breathed a little sigh of relief upon hearing Phil's words, although they did nothing to help reassure her about the years to come.

"Didn't you find it exhausting sometimes, Phil?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," Phil said without hesitation. "Now, I won't say it's this way with everyone. Not everyone is attracted to their men the way we are attracted to ours. But by the end of our engagement, the only thing that kept my hands off of Jonas was the knowledge that we'd be married in a few short weeks. By the end of that year, I was so charged I felt certain my clothes would just burst into flame around me and turn to ashes! Which would have been fine with me, for then I wouldn't have been to blame in the least," she added with a wink.

"You exaggerate, Phil!" Anne cried with a laugh. Phil merely shrugged and continued.

"But if I'd had two full years left ahead of me, well…" Phil let out a low whistle, and Anne got the feeling she was being dramatic simply for the fun of it. "Needless to say I sympathize with you. I did say it's you who will stand the true test, didn't I?"

Anne thought back to Phil's wedding day, and the conversation the two of them had shared in Phil's bedroom. How innocent she had been all those months ago!

"I haven't even told you the worst part, Phil," Anne said, as a still more troubling thought crossed her mind. She leaned forward, pressing her thumbs against her temples. Phil said nothing, yet gazed at her expectantly.

"I keep waiting for it to feel wrong. I know I ought not to be alone with him—I ought not to let him kiss me or touch me the way he does. I know these things, yet I don't feel them. And I feel so very wrong for not feeling wrong, if that makes any bit of sense at all." Anne looked down at her lap; the truth was out, and it sounded positively immoral.

"It makes all the sense in the world, Anne-dear," Phil said reassuringly. "That's the trouble with love, isn't it? It's so powerful, it just turns everything inside out."

Anne glanced back up at Phil, relieved by her friend's understanding. Could there have been a better explanation for the way she was feeling in that moment? Inside-out, indeed!

"You mean to say it's not just me?"

"Don't be silly, Anne. I think it's that way for many people. It must be; as I've said before, I know plenty of girls who were eating for two at their wedding breakfast, if you catch my meaning. And that's only the instances I know of, yet you have to imagine how many others there were that I didn't know of."

Anne pondered Phil's words a moment. She wondered if Phil really did know of so many impure brides, or was she merely being scandalous? She certainly didn't carry such a tone about her voice.

"I never imagined this would be an issue, Phil," Anne said quietly. "I never knew that things could be like… this."

Phil's response was simple. "Well, you'd never been in love before, had you?"

Anne shook her head slowly—never had she imagined the existence of these strange new feelings. Yet she was glad to discover them—and to think she was once prepared to marry Royal Gardner, with whom she had shared no bond of passion at all! To think of the world she might never have discovered! To think of a world without Gil—now that thought was truly chilling, and Anne was glad when Phil interrupted her rumination.

"To put things frankly, I'm glad I wasn't made to stand quite the test that you will, dearie. As I've said before, I've always found my Jo irresistible. My ray of hope was always the wedding on the horizon. That, and the fact that Jonas is so inherently good, I don't think he had it in him. But your Gilbert… now there's a man that could be wicked, but won't."

"Well I should hope not," Anne said with a smile, "for I'm desperately counting on him not to be."

Phil laughed as she squeezed Anne's hand, before giving a sudden start and bringing her hand to her belly.

"Oh, my… she really has some power in those legs, doesn't she!"

"She? I'm certain you just told me you thought it was a he?"

"Oh yes, but that was several minutes ago, Anne. I go back and forth—it's a miserable habit with me. Right now I think it's a girl, for surely any son of Jonas' would be more calm and collected than this little one seems to be at the moment."

Anne grinned and shook her head, while Phil twitched once again.

"Would you like to feel her?" Phil asked.

Anne's eyes lit up at the question. She had been away at Redmond while Diana was pregnant, and only once had she gotten the chance to feel her pregnant belly. Anne scooted closer to Phil on the sofa.

"Just here," Phil said softly, and pointed to a spot on her stomach. Cautiously, Anne laid her hand upon it. All was quiet for a moment, and then there it was, a tiny thump against her palm, followed soon by another. Anne's lips broke into a wide smile.

"Oh my, Phil! Isn't that the most precious feeling in the world!"

"It is," sighed Phil, and the content was written on her friend's face. "You know, the first time I felt her moving inside of me… that was the first day I felt like a mother. I'd been so fearfully worried over the prospect, thinking that surely one of heaven's angels couldn't have chosen me to bring it into the world, but once I felt that little kick, well then I knew I was one. Because, well..."

"Because you have a sweet little being living inside of you, and it belongs to you, and needs you," Anne finished sweetly, and she bent down to kiss the spot where that little foot was still hammering away.

"You do think I'll be a good mother, don't you Anne?" asked Phil, and when Anne looked into her face, she saw it as a desperate plea for reassurance. The dramatic, all-knowing Phil of minutes before was gone, replaced by one full of doubt. "One day I'm papering the nursery in yellow and I feel ready to take on the world, and the next I've spent an entire afternoon ripping it off, and thinking that surely the rightful choice ought to be green! How am I supposed to decide how to raise a child, when I can't even choose a wallpaper color?" Phil's eyes were wide—imploring. Anne's heart went out to her.

"Oh Phil, dear. You certainly have a knack for being indecisive, but I also know you will be the most wonderful of mothers. And if I know anything about you, this little one will grow up to be beautiful, fashionable, and enormously clever. She'll have to be, if she is to keep up with you." Anne looked earnestly at her friend. Phil looked doubtful at first, but finally she smiled at Anne's sincerity.

"So long as some of Jo's goodness rubs off… I'm far too devilish for anyone's good, no less my own."

Anne laughed and nodded her head in agreement, and the two women spent the next ten minutes debating over just what qualities the baby might inherit, before Jonas emerged from the stairs and Anne got up to make them all a cup of tea.

When she reappeared from the kitchen, she found herself standing mesmerized in the door frame. Jonas was now sitting next to Phil, one arm around her while the other stroked her stomach. He had leaned in very close and Anne realized that he was singing softly, not to Phil but to the baby. His voice didn't have any wonderful quality to it, yet Jonas didn't care one bit, which made it all the more endearing. And next Anne looked at Phil, who wasn't looking down at her stomach, but rather was staring lovingly at her husband.

And suddenly, Anne's problems seemed so small and inconsequential. What was a bit of a moral struggle compared to this? A new mother, a new father, a new life on the verge of coming out into the world, and most importantly—goodness and love. Above all else, these were the things that truly mattered.

AN: A lot of tweaking went into this one, so I'll trust you all to tell me if and when I've gone wrong! I wanted to include the type of girl-talks that for obvious reasons we couldn't get in canon. While it is true that some Victorian-era women married more out of convenience than love, I also think that a great many had passionate romances, especially due to the fact that a whopping 1/3 of brides in that era were supposedly already pregnant on their wedding days! (Hence Phil's bold statement is not nearly so far-fetched as Anne may have thought.)

Thank you again for the kind words and support. It means so much to see that you are all still following along!

And in case you were wondering, LinaOso, I threw in the rebuttoning tidbit just for you ;)