This story begins with the opening of Chapter 37 in Anne of the Island and takes it to another place with a dance, a brawl, a tower, a smattering of Keats, and loads and loads of bonking. Yes, it's OOC, yes it's OTT, yes I had the time of my life writing it!

Happy Holidays, Anne-girls, I'll be back in the New Year with more Anotherlea, but until then...

...

'If you lose your way tonight

That's how you know the magic's right.'

...

'My chain hits my chest when I'm bangin'...'

...

GRADUATION DAY

The days flew and examinations were over. Anne took High Honours in English. Priscilla took Honours in Classics, and Phil in Mathematics. Stella obtained a good all round showing. Then came Convocation.

'This is what I would once have called an epoch in my life,' said Anne, as she took Roy's violets out of their box and gazed at them thoughtfully.

She meant to carry them, of course, but her eyes wandered to another box on her table. It was filled with lily-of-the-valley, as fresh and fragrant as those which bloomed in the Green Gables yard when June came to Avonlea. Gilbert Blythe's card lay beside it.

Anne wondered why Gilbert should have sent her flowers for Convocation. She had seen very little of him during the past winter. He had come to Patty's Place only one Friday evening since the Christmas holidays, and they rarely met elsewhere. She knew he was studying very hard, aiming at High Honours and the Cooper Prize, and he took little part in the social doings of Redmond. Anne's own winter had been quite gay socially. She had seen a good deal of the Gardners; she and Dorothy were very intimate; college circles expected the announcement of her engagement to Roy any day. Anne expected it herself. Yet just before she left Patty's Place for Convocation she flung Roy's violets aside and put Gilbert's lily-of-the-valley in their place. She could not have told why she did it. Somehow, old Avonlea days and dreams and friendship seemed very close to her in this attainment of long cherished ambitions. She and Gilbert had once pictured out merrily the day on which they should be capped and gowned graduates in the Arts. The wonderful day had come and Roy's violets had no place in it. Only her old friend's flowers seemed to belong to this fruition of old blossoming hopes which he had once shared.

For years this day had beckoned and allured her; but when it came the one single, keen, abiding memory it left with her was not that of the breathless moment when the stately president of Redmond gave her cap and diploma and hailed her B.A; it was not in the flash of Gilbert's eyes when he saw her lilies, nor the puzzled pained glance Roy gave her as he passed her on the platform. It was not of Aline Gardner's condescending congratulations, or Dorothy's ardent, impulsive good wishes. It was of one strange, unaccountable pang that spoiled this longed for day for her and left in her a certain but enduring flavour of bitterness.

The Arts graduates gave a graduation dance that night. When Anne dressed for it she tossed aside the pearl beads she usually wore and took from her trunk the small box that had come to Green Gables on Christmas day. In it was a thread-like gold chain with a tiny pink enamel heart as a pendant. On the accompanying card was written, With all good wishes from your old chum, Gilbert. Anne laughed over the memory the enamel heart conjured up, of the fatal day when Gilbert had called her Carrots and vainly tried to make his peace with a pink candy heart. She had written a nice little note of thanks but she had never worn the trinket. Tonight she fastened it about her white throat with a dreamy smile.

She and Phil walked to Redmond together. Anne walked in silence; Phil chattered of many things. Suddenly she said:

"So where was Prince Charming this evening? I expected Roy to fetch you in his coach and white horses."

Anne's hand went to her chest as she remembered the conversation in the atrium that afternoon. Roy had wanted to know what became of his violets, and Anne blushed so prettily he almost spoiled his carefully planned arrangements and proposed to her on the spot. The impulse died, however, when she gently informed him that she had given into sentiment and decided to wear flowers from home instead.

Roy had frowned at the offending lilies. It never occurred to him that Anne had done this on purpose. Mother had selected those violets, and Mother had duly noted when they were absent. This was a worrisome development. Roy hoped a taste of her own medicine would bring Anne to her senses. With a curt bow he apologised for keeping her in so shabby a corridor, and informed her that regretfully she would have to find her own way to the dance.

"I believe Mrs Gardner required the carriage at the last moment," Anne explained, her brows arching suggestively.

Philippa snorted.

"Surprise me, why don't you? The sooner poor Roy is free of his mother, the better. You're not too disappointed I hope?"

Those last words hardly needed saying. Anne looked the opposite of disappointed. She wore her magenta silk and, at Philippa's insistence, had removed the chiffon overdress so that her throat and arms were bare. Her thick red hair was piled up with curls that fell around her brow and nape, in a style Aunt Jimsie had called wanton. For the rest she dressed simply; her hands in white gloves, her feet in white slippers, and her lip and cheek coloured with the faintest berry stain. Her eyes were huge; deep pools of colour that looked more green than grey.

Philippa knew what that meant, and a glance at Anne's chest confirmed her suspicion; rising and falling far more quickly than an evening stroll should warrant. A fine gold chain hung about her neck and disappeared into her collar. Philippa had never seen this piece of jewellery before, but it clearly held some significance because Anne could not stop touching it.

"Not at all," Anne said, caressing the shimmering thread between her fingers. "You know how much I love to walk, especially on a night like this. I feel full of midsummer mischief. It must be the lilies," she continued, adjusting the sprig tucked into her hair. "They fairly sing of summer, and now it's as though they are singing through me!"

"I know that feeling," Philippa said. "Like a page under a paperweight, caught in the wind and flickering madly!"

Anne gripped her chum's arm.

"Exactly! But how could you know? If I had said such a thing you would have rolled your eyes and laughed."

"I most certainly would. You couldn't possibly know such a feeling – well I hope you don't!" Philippa said, nudging Anne's ribs. "Whereas I am engaged to the man I love, so I know all about it."

There was nothing Anne could say to that. They paused at the stone stairs that led to an oval of mossy lawn surrounded by trees strung with garlands and lanterns in Redmond colours. To the right band members were tuning their instruments, to the left was a long trestle table loaded with bowls of punch. It was here that Philippa went, on the arm of that man she loved. Jo Blake towered over her, his great arm around her back. His hand was so large Phil's tiny waist was almost concealed – but the heat that came off them was evident. Anne knew she was in danger of becoming a gooseberry and told the happy couple to go on without her. She would wait for Roy by the stairs

And wait.

Where was he? They always had the first dance together. The band was about the begin the second number and Roy was nowhere to be seen.

Anne stood on the bottom step running her hands over her bare arms, mindful of the murmurs of students passing by.

"My, my," she heard one say, "what happened to bookish Miss Shirley? Why, she looks like a –"

"Hello dryad," said a warm, familiar voice.

Anne spun around and found herself nose to nose with Gilbert. She rose another step in surprise, and he looked up at her with a crooked half-smile.

"Trying to get away from me?"

"I – I didn't recognise you."

It made no sense when he was inches away from her. Yet it was true. Gilbert was wearing a perfectly tailored suit, but not one Anne had seen before. He was every inch the gentleman in a wing tipped shirt that accentuated his fine jaw. His tail coat was an inky black with a cut away that fell just short of his narrow hips. This he left unfastened, revealing a white silk shirt that hugged his broad chest. A top hat was held in his hand. He brought it to his head and tipped it at her, teasingly.

"It wasn't my idea. The faculty demanded it. I've come from my first sitting – for my portrait," he explained, when he noted Anne's puzzled expression. "All the Cooper winners must be painted for posterity."

Anne laughed. Not because his imitation of Professor Woodleigh was especially good, but because she needed time to collect her thoughts. She was out of sorts, anyone could tell by looking at her. And Gilbert had been looking a good long while. Ten minutes passed before he got up the nerve to say hello.

He'd never seen her so... With her bare, white arms, such a low cut collar, all that glorious, touchable skin... The way her fine gold chain fell like an arrow-head straight into it. He blinked hard and forced himself to look up again.

Anne wasn't laughing anymore, she wasn't even smiling. Her full pink lips were parted slightly and her eyes were almost sad. The auburn brows above them tilted sweetly, and a dent appeared above her nose.

"Dance with me?" she asked him.

But I'm supposed to ask you – and the music's already started – and I don't trust myself to touch you – to lead you – to remember all the steps...

Those were the jumble of words that went through Gilbert's head. Somehow he managed he take her hand and lead her to the dance floor. If a slow waltz had been playing, Gilbert might have suggested a cool glass of punch. But as soon as he became aware of the music, he understood why Anne asked him to join her for this particular dance.

The concert master had put his violin aside and was belting out a song that used to have them both in stitches. Back in the days when they were friends; when he hadn't thrown it all away and begged her to be his wife.

Gilbert tossed his top hat onto a table and pulled Anne so close she could feel his breath in the curls by her ear, as he sang to her, playfully.

"Adam and Eve were simple in their way

Like a little pair of kittens, so they say

Wore nothing but their skins

From their head down to their shins

And walked around the garden all the day-"

Anne was not to be bested, and after a faltering twirl she laughed self-consciously and finished off the verse.

"Though strangers to each other at the start

They began to love each other bye and bye

And ever since that day

There has been hell to pay

Such funny things are done upon the sly!"

At the final word she was flung outwards and collided straight into Phil and Jo. Unlike Anne and Gilbert, they didn't seem to have noticed the music, or even that they should be dancing a one step instead of whatever that slow rocking movement was they were making.

Philippa batted Gilbert's shoulder, crossly.

"Royal Gardner! Now I know why you don't like comical songs. It brings out your second left foot – Oh!" she uttered. Even in red light of the lantern it was obvious she had paled. "Gilbert?"

With an expert glance she appraised her chum. Gilbert Blythe was the sort to look wonderfully handsome in a homespun sweater and cheaply made coat. In tails he was almost embarrassingly good looking. No wonder Anne couldn't take her eyes off him, when she should have been looking out for soon-to-be minister's wives. Phil cleared her throat till she had Anne's attention, a quizzical look on her face.

"Blame it on midsummer mischief," Anne said to the question Phil was dying to ask.

The music was too loud for conversation to continue. But the tone in Philippa's voice as they said their farewells was one that Anne could not ignore. Gilbert noticed it too.

"Is there some reason you and I shouldn't be dancing?" he asked, taking Anne's elbow and leading her out of the throng.

Anne shrugged to show she didn't know. What she did know, was that tonight for the first time in what seemed like an age, she felt like herself again. Like a sprite, a dryad, a nymph.

Like Anne.

She breathed in deeply and drank down the glass of cold apple punch Gilbert brought to her. He watched in a fascination as the liquid pulsed down her throat, before she wiped her lips with the back of her hand in the manner of Davy Keith.

"Did you want more?" he asked.

"Mmmmm... so much more," Anne said. "Ask me to dance now!"

Gilbert sniffed the punch and wondered if Harvey Walsh had made good on his promise and loaded it full of rum. Anne was acting as though she was intoxicated. But that was impossible. The only thing that explained it was that she was drunk on life. And why shouldn't she be? He knew the work it took to make High Honours. Now she had her pick of teaching positions – though why that mattered when it was likely she would never work again. Tomorrow, perhaps even tonight, Gardner would turn up and ask for Anne's hand and she would finally get her castle in the sky.

Gilbert chose not to dwell on that eventuality. He had his own successes to celebrate, and in Anne's company he felt the effort it took to accomplish them sheer away like old skin. He was newly made like Adam, and just like Adam he couldn't take his eyes from the parts of Eve he'd never seen before.

Anne had a beauty that was all in her face. Certainly the rest of her was superbly made, but in her face was a rare loveliness that fussy, faddish clothing diminished. Anne knew this and dressed to suit, in muted colours and simple styles with long sleeves and high collars that framed her ethereal features. Gilbert used to wonder if she hid elfin ears under her heavy red hair, and how it was, when she spent each summer hiding under hats, the same seven freckles magically marked her nose. Those freckles were the only proof that the girl before him now, and the girl he knew, were one in the same. In every other particular they didn't match at all. The jewel coloured dress she wore, the cut of it, her hair worn in a massy pile that spoke not of evenings out, but mornings after. This was an Anne he had never known before...

Gilbert breathed in deep and held it for a moment, trying to bring some stillness to the excitement he was feeling. If she was drunk of life then he was drunk on Anne.

They had walked to a clearing surrounded by birch trees. The music filtered through the leaves on a soft warm wind. Gilbert bowed, and peered up to see that instead of making a curtsy, Anne was doing the same. The deep V of her gown fell open to reveal the creamy swell of her breasts. Under all her buttoned up blouses she possessed a body that Venus would envy.

"For goodness sake, Anne, cover up, you're making a spectacle of yourself!"

Gilbert swivelled round to where the woman's voice had come from. Aline Gardner stood at the edge of the clearing with her hands on her hips. Royal's were obscured by his velvet cape. His brilliant black eyes were icy.

"Good evening, Roy," Anne said, trying to keep her voice even.

"Let me guess," Royal said, stepping forward to take a sprig of lily-of-the-valley from Anne's hair. "The lilies you chose to wear this morning, they were his."

He dropped the blooms on the lawn and stepped upon them. Gilbert's hands balled into fists.

"I didn't lie to you, Roy," Anne explained. "They were from home. Gilbert is home –"

"Told you so," Aline said, sharply. "I said all along she couldn't be trusted. She's nothing but a gold digger!"

"Aline, please."

Royal held out his hand out to silence his sister, but he should have given more thought to the woman opposite him. Anne approached them both, her eyes blazing with green fury. She had no plans to remain so meek.

"Gold digger? You think I won High Honours on a whim, applied to schools around the world for sport? I'm travelling to Boston tomorrow for an interview with The Latin School!" Anne noticed the flicker of recognition on Aline's face; The Latin School was one of the most prestigious academies in the States. "Suppose you save me the trouble, Aline, and inform Dr Price that my sole ambition is to become The Next Mrs Gardner!"

Aline reeled in amazement. No one dared speak to her like that.

The men, however, seemed of one mind. Both took a step toward Anne. Both uttered the word, "Boston?"

Gilbert was immediately conscious of his tone. What was it to him if Anne went to Boston? They were old friends, nothing more. Roy, on the other hand, had been courting Anne for nearly two years. Gilbert winced inwardly, sure that such news must have felt like to blow to Gardner. He almost felt sorry for him, and made a quick nod before leaving.

"You should go, too," Anne said to Aline.

Aline stamped her foot. Anne felt like laughing when she saw it. To think she had been intimidated by this spoiled child; had bit her tongue, played nice, demurred to Aline's every whim. And to Mrs Gardner's. And for what? So that Anne might prove how worthy she was, how docile, how malleable?

No more!

Anne suddenly understood the reason she had tossed those insipid violets aside. Those flowers weren't from Roy. Roy would have given her roses. Violets had been his mother's idea, and Roy had acquiesced the way he always did. Today Anne had decided to provoke him, to discover if it came to a choice between herself and Mrs Gardner, exactly who Roy would choose. Not for worlds could Anne have guessed what Royal Gardner would do next. He fell to his knees and began to sob.

"Get hold of yourself," Aline said in disgust. "People will see you!"

Anne marched up to Aline and slapped her hard on the face.

"Go away, leave us, you horrible, horrible girl!"

All Aline could do was stand there, her hand on her reddening cheek. Anne decided to ignore her and knelt down next to Roy.

"Oh Roy, I had no idea this would upset you so," she said tenderly, mopping his tears with her gloves. "I'm so sorry."

Royal was moved by her pained expression. He never desired her more than when he'd made her feel she had disappointed him in some way. Her luminous eyes had captivated him from the day they first met. Anne was such a spirited girl, so candid and open when everyone else assumed a façade. Her sincerity was what he most prized in her. But it also made her unpredictable, and Royal Gardner could never have a wife like that.

He wrenched his hand away and stood up.

"Stop it. You mustn't, Anne, stop," he said, as she attempted to brush the grass from his cape.

"Roy, what is it, I don't understand?"

"We've enjoyed each other's company during our time at Redmond, but now it must come to an end. You deceived me, Anne. You are a capricious, violent, unchaste woman and I never want to see you again."

"B-because of the violets?" Anne stammered, stepping back.

Roy wouldn't look at her. He didn't dare. If he saw that look in her wild grey eyes he might very well take it back. His eyes were focused on the ground. Aline's were glaring at Anne. Nobody noticed Gilbert appearing from behind a large birch trunk.

He walked up to Roy calmly, spoke calmly too.

"Apologise to Miss Shirley."

"I beg your pardon, this is none of your business!"

"Apologise to Miss Shirley right now."

Roy pretended to look bored. He turned away and began to yawn, then pivoted quickly to land a blow on Gilbert's cheek.

If he had hoped to fell the man and escape when he was down, Royal was to be sorely disappointed. Gilbert merely shook his head, touched his cheek, and then most frightening of all, slowly removed his tail coat.

"Oh, Roy," he said quietly, "I've wanted to do this for the longest time."

Anne stood there mesmerised by the blood drawn by Royal's gold ring. She knew she must place herself between them, but her feet wouldn't move.

A small group had gathered in the clearing. One of them called out, "Give it to him, Blythe!"

Roy looked to his sister.

"Aline, do something!"

In the next moment Aline called out, "Help us! Hello! Help, this fellow is threatening my brother!"

Gilbert felt a slender hand grasp his and pull him away from the scene. It was some minutes before he realised Anne was leading him to the bell tower by the river. It was six stories high, the fifth being barred by an old wooden gate that bore the names of many who had used this place for refuge. The planks that made it were hewn into points at the top and the bottom, which was many inches short of the ground.

Gilbert leaned against it, straining to catch his breath. Removing his collar and tie, he said, "This is as far as we go."

He bent down to peer through the lock, when Anne got onto her hands and knees and wriggled under the gate. The middle picket loosened her hair and caught the back of her dress, slicing through the red silk with one clean sounding tear. She pressed her head against the cool stone floor and muttered words unmentionable.

"Oh dear, oh Anne," Gilbert said, trying not to laugh.

He bent down and carefully removed the fabric from the picket, and tried stuffing it under the gate. In the dim light afforded by a small tower window, he could see that her petticoats had survived unscathed.

"I think you might pass through now. Though I don't know how I will."

In the next moment he found out. Anne carefully stood up and gathering her tattered dress in one arm, loosened the bolt that was on her side of the door.

"You see," she said, quite proud of herself, "even if we are pursued no one will be able to get to the sixth floor. All we have to do is go up to the belfry and watch to see if we are followed. Let's give it an hour, shall we? Royal's not the most athletic sort."

"Did you used to come up here with him?" Gilbert asked thoughtlessly.

"Roy? Never. No one comes up here that I know of. Only me."

They clambered up the last flight of the spiral staircase, questions circling Gilbert's head; about Boston; about what had happened between her and Roy; about what was happening between the two of them right now. It was the last question that most interested him, but he knew better than to come at Anne directly.

"Your gown, is it holding together?" he asked.

Anne had her back to him and had removed a garter from her stocking in order to make a belt. She stood up to secure the ribbon about her waist, then smoothed her hair over her shoulders.

"How do I look?"

Gilbert allowed himself a good long stare and felt his face grow hot.

"Like a fairy's child," he murmured.

"Then you'll understand if I do this."

Anne's hands went to his temples. Instinctively Gilbert lowered his head, and he closed his eyes as she pressed her lips to each lid, before moving to his swelling cheek. As her mouth brushed over the cut, he caught his breath and froze.

"O what can ail thee Knight at Arms?" Anne said softly.

Gilbert shook his head. This wasn't real, this was some fantasy Anne had longed to play out. He drew his hands to her own and urged them downward.

"Anne, I'm no Knight. I didn't defend you, I didn't lay a hand on Gardner –"

"Will you lay your hands on me?"

"Sorry?"

"I want you to make love to me, Gilbert. Here, now, in this tower."

Gilbert looked down the stairs to where sanity would be found, but his feet refused to move. At the merest sound of her words he felt his body respond. He screwed up his eyes and tried to clear his head. He must be concussed. This wasn't real. None of this could be real, and yet... Here she was moving toward him. He felt the softness of her breasts against his chest, watched them rise and fall excitedly, saw moonlight glinting on her chain. It had tormented him all evening, the way it fell into her collar. Since the moment he had seen her, there hadn't been a minute when he didn't ache to follow that golden trail. Not only with his fingers, but with his lips and his tongue...

Anne looked up at him with her big grey eyes – more – she looked into him, as if she could see what he wanted, and longed for it too.

"Anne, you can't mean this..."

"Tonight, just tonight," she whispered hotly.

Her hands roved up his back sending tingling chills to his core, then she clasped them behind his neck as though she never meant to let go.

"Tomorrow I go to Boston, Gilbert. I might never to see you again and I –"

That was it. He didn't need to hear another word. The girl he'd loved for half his life wanted him and he wasn't about to say no.

With one swift movement Gilbert scooped her up in his arms and and sat her in a deep stone sill. Dusty diamond panes glowed around her, and her eyes glowed too, as she widened her thighs to admit him. He murmured her name as though he was in pain, then his lips fell upon her neck and her chest. His hands quickly followed, cupping and squeezing her exquisite breasts until they were pushed up from the confines of her corset. The ribbon at her waist gave way and her red silk dress fell from her shoulders, revealing a delicate petticoat straining to cover her nipples. With his teeth he released a tiny bow, and there, gleaming in half moonlight, was his pink enamel heart.

Unrelenting love for her burnt inside him, and showed itself with a deep low moan. He thrust against her firmly, and Anne lifted her hips to meet him. He could feel the heat of her body through her petticoats, and his hands trembled as he hitched up her skirts. One white stocking had fallen to her ankle, revealing a rounded thigh that she wrapped around him. The other soon followed; her slippers hitting floor as she crossed her ankles around his back.

"Are you sure, please Anne, tell me now that you're sure."

Her hands left his neck and ran over his shoulders. He felt his suspenders fall, and his trousers fall with them. Anne then learned what had been digging into her. He wanted her. He had always wanted her, and she was irrationally happy that it would be Gilbert and no other, who would be her first.

Their movements became more deliberate as a nervous anticipation took them over. Gilbert grasped Anne's bare shoulders as she slipped his underwear down and guided him past her remaining garments. She felt soft, slick and hot against his hand, and his touch was adoring. Gilbert would have been content to remain like this for hours, but Anne yearned for more. She gripped him firmly, and then in tender increments they slowly joined together.

Gilbert rested his forehead on hers and tried to stop shivering. Anne's eyes were closed, her mouth half open as she surrendered to each new sensation. Bittersweet pain had given way to raw pleasure and it overwhelmed her in a way she had never expected. She always knew Gilbert would know how to love her like this. Love her enough to give her this night and his body, even though she could make no promise to him. It was the thought of never again knowing such bliss that made her cry out loud. She opened her eyes to see his hazel ones boring into her.

"Hello," he breathed.

"Hel- oh, I..."

Anne closed her eyes again as his hips drove against her more quickly. Seeing this, Gilbert slowed.

"Look at me," he rasped, then watched with a chest bursting happiness as her lashes parted and those unforgettable eyes smiled straight into him. "I've wanted you for so long, Anne-girl. I need to know this is really happening."

Anne tried to respond, but whenever she opened her mouth the only sound that came out was a low moan. Their movements quickened again, their mouths feasting on each other, though no kisses were shared. It was as if they knew that the romance and innocence of a kiss had no part in this moment. His mouth was worshipping the rosy tip of her breast when she was finally able to speak, her voice thick with desperation.

"Oh Gilbert, please don't stop."

Gilbert lifted his head.

"We'll have to stop soon, if we go any further I..."

He swallowed hard, and looked at her pleadingly. Anne kissed his nose, relishing in the wonder of so powerful a man brought to the brink.

"It's all right," she said, "I know what to do – after. But we cannot stay here. The moment it happens I must go home."

"No, you're not leaving. I couldn't endure it. Anne, please..."

His voice cracked and he begged himself to remain in control; it was the only way he could stay with her. Anne pressed her hands into the small of his back, willing him to continue. And he wanted to. Every cell in his body craved it. But for Gilbert Blythe the needs of his body were no match for the strength of his will.

"I'm sorry, I can't," he muttered.

He pulled away and bent down to draw up his trousers. He was afraid to look at her, unsure of what she would do.

Again Anne surprised him. She had pulled her petticoats over herself and moved along the window sill; patting at the large stone slab and inviting him to sit.

"If you can sit," she added, with a small smile.

"Give me a minute," Gilbert said, and then, "You're not disappointed?"

"Disappointed? Gilbert, what you've given me tonight..."

I want to give that to you every night, Gilbert thought.

He yanked his suspenders over his shoulders and jumped up onto the other end of the sill. They leaned against the walls surrounding the window and crossed their legs. Gilbert began working the dust out of one of the diamond panes.

"Do I look any different?" Anne asked him playfully.

Gilbert studied the girl opposite him. Sweat gleamed on her brow, her magenta dress lay in a useless pool on her lap, while her long red hair had been arranged to cover her mostly uncovered breasts. She looked exactly like what she was: a woman who had just been ravished.

"You looks miles away from any Anne I've known, but there are a million Anne Shirleys contained in you, so I don't know why I'm surprised."

"Are you angry at me, Gilbert?"

"I'm angry at myself."

She inched her stockinged feet toward him. He was wearing his old brown boots and had worked black boot polish over them in order to wear them with his suit. One he must have hired, that now missed a top hat and tails. Anne thought of Roy then. Had she done this to get back at him? No, the question was barely worth asking. He might have come to her with a thousand roses, he might have never come at all. Roy Gardner had no bearing on this. She knew what she was doing the moment she placed that pendant around her neck. For too long Anne had yearned to give into impulse, be her heedless, reckless self again. If only for one night. She assumed Gilbert would revel in this freedom too. It stung her to see him so glum, when moments before he had bucked with life. Another thought occurred to her, and she made herself ask though she dreaded his reply.

"This isn't... you're not thinking of Christine, are you?"

The question snapped Gilbert out of his gloom. He looked at her sideways and almost laughed.

"Christine's gone. Her fiancé performed at Convocation. He's quite a figure in the Arts circles. Conducts the Toronto Philharmonic, I thought you might have heard about it."

"No. I didn't. People said you were in love with her."

"People said you were in love with Gardner."

"I know they did," Anne said simply. "I thought I was. He's so sensitive and tortured and... needs a lot of reassurance. I thought that was love. But now I wonder if it wasn't the thought of losing Dorothy that made me resolved to stay with Roy. I treasure her friendship, Gilbert, I'm sure I've lost it forever..."

Where Anne had been clear eyed and cool as she spoke of Roy, her tears for his sister proved the truth of her words. She bent her head into her knees and cried.

Gilbert wished he could do the same. Everything about this was wrong and it hurt his heart so deeply he felt he couldn't breathe. He stood up and handed Anne his handkerchief, his fingers only inches from her face. If he touched her again... but he wouldn't, he mustn't. All focus must be on getting her home without being seen.

After deliberating over the impossibility of their situation, he began to release the remaining buttons on his shirt.

"What are you doing?" Anne asked.

"It's for you. To wear over your dress, I don't know what else to do. My place is close by. We only need to get to Drummond Street, then you can wear my winter coat."

"There's an oil slicker up in the belfry," Anne said, pointing to the narrow wooden staircase. "I can wear that."

Gilbert grinned at her, admiringly.

"Always one step ahead of me, aren't you, Anne Shirley?"

Anne shrugged. "Of course, if you wanted to keep your shirt off..."

The shirt remained where it was, and the two hastened away to the river. Anne had never been to Drummond Street. She expected to be told to wait on the porch and was surprised when Gilbert lead her inside.

"Won't they mind?"

"There is no 'they'," Gilbert said.

He fished a key from his pocket and worked it into his door.

"This isn't a boarding house. I live here alone. Apparently there's a man upstairs, though I've never seen him. I leave my rent money in this locked box," he continued, pointing to a tiny coffer nailed to the wall by his door. "It's not much, but it's cheap and close to school. I nearly gave it up last month and moved into the library."

He handed Anne some black coffee that had been sitting in a pot on the edge of a rusted stove. The fire was nearly out, the coffee thick and bitter, but she drank it gratefully and settled on the only thing that wasn't a bed. Next to her stool was a table strewn with notebooks, charts and texts.

Anne picked one up.

"This is a reference book. What's it's doing here, you thief?"

"You're a fine one to talk," Gilbert answered, as he took the oil slicker from her shoulders.

Anne sighed contentedly. It was so good to be here with him like this. With coffee and books and a joke or two. This was all she needed, this was what she'd missed. And she told him so.

Gilbert turned his attention to the stove.

"I missed you too," he told the fire. "Though I'm sure you don't need telling."

"You don't... you don't regret what we did, do you? Please say you don't. I couldn't endure the journey to Boston thinking you despised me."

He wouldn't dignify that with a response. Instead he asked about The Latin School. She asked him about Medical School, then the flames of the fire lit upon her chain and it glimmered in the coppery light. Gilbert realised he had stopped listening to Anne. He was remembering that only an hour before he had been her lover, that she had begged him not to leave her body. The unsatisfied ache began to throb once more, and he went to open his window.

"Gilbert, are you quite well, you look like you might faint?"

"I'm fine. We should get you home."

"Of course... If you want me to."

He turned around, his face angry.

"You know I don't want you to! You know I love you... But when has that mattered?"

"Don't you say that, don't you dare! You wanted to be with me just as much as I needed to be with you. I know it – I felt it."

Gilbert slid down the wall and sat forlornly on the unswept floor. He brushed at his eyes, impatiently, and Anne wondered what unnatural thing about her made the men in her life break apart. She went over to him and sat by his side. Even through his tears Gilbert couldn't help notice the glow of the firelight on her soft bare skin. His hands still held the memory of her thighs, her breasts, her neck, while his head rang with the sounds she made. Secret sounds that he knew would haunt him forever. Maybe everyone was wrong and it was better to have never loved at all. But he was lying to himself. Gilbert knew if Anne asked him, he would take her in his arms in a second. He kept them locked around his knees just to be sure.

"I made a mistake... that day at the orchard," Anne said abruptly.

Gilbert's mouth fell open; Anne placed her finger there, and shook her head.

"Please let me say this... I shouldn't have refused you the way that I did. I panicked. I wasn't ready to marry you, Gilbert, I wasn't ready to marry anyone. Truth be told, I'm still not. But if I did, if I was, then – I would want it to be someone like you."

"Someone like me?"

"No – that came out wrong. This is hard for me to say, because I don't want you to think that I expect your love to be there forever. It won't be, it can't. If it's not Christine, it will be someone else. And I'll be so happy for you, Gilbert, because that's what you want for people you love. You want them to be happy –"

"Wait a minute – you love me?"

Anne nodded.

"You love me?"

"I'm wearing your token, aren't I, isn't that what you do for the man you love?"

Gilbert sprang up, bringing Anne with him, and spun her round the room. By the third turn they had bumped into the bed. In that other life, Gilbert would have done everything to keep his balance and stop them falling. But not now. Now, he leaped upon the sagging mattress and pulled Anne on top of him. The pink heart pendant rested in the hollow of his throat, while his eyes took in the undreamed of sight of Anne laughing as she lay upon his chest. He couldn't remember the last time he felt this ecstatic. The next words were out of his mouth before he knew what he had done.

"Don't go to Boston –"

"Of course I'm going. Positions like this are never offered to women."

"There are a dozen schools in Kingsport that would have you in a minute."

"There are medical schools in Boston who would promise you the same!"

"But the Cooper..."

Gilbert didn't go any further. A quick glance at Anne's glinting eyes told him she was teasing, but there was truth in what she said, and they both knew it. They had protected and cherished each others dreams when everyone else told them to settle for less. It wasn't in either of them to ask the other to give up on what they had worked for. No one else understood, nor could they. In this understanding Anne and Gilbert were bound to each other alone.

They were bound by something else now, and it showed itself as they knew it must. He could have walked her home a long time ago.

The bed springs squeaked as he rolled Anne onto her back, and he sighed as her long red hair spilled over his pillow. He might have wished that pillow was a little fresher, that his bed was a little bigger, that he had years with her instead of hours. But if tonight was all he'd ever have than it was more than enough. It was a miracle. And he held Anne in his arms as though she was the living, breathing embodiment of one.

Slowly, the rest of her clothing came undone, and she lay bare skinned in the light of a dying fire, while he lay his mouth all over her.

She writhed, she moaned, then giggled as he nuzzled the soft hair under her arms.

"Stop, I'll go mad!"

"That's the plan," he said.

And it was. There was still some part of him that hoped if he made this moment perfect, she might decide to stay. He took his time acquainting himself with every inch of her body; every breath he took taking in the delectable scent of her skin. If she was set on leaving then please, please, let her petal-soft musk remain upon his hands, his hair, his sheets. Let a minute last an hour. Let the sun never rise...

"Gilbert, where are you?"

He looked up and grinned.

"In heaven I think," he said, nuzzling her inner thigh.

Anne pushed herself up. Gilbert soon followed, and they sat before of each other, naked and content. She brought her hand to his face. The cut had congealed and his cheek was beginning to bruise. Anne leaned forward and brushed her lips over it softly.

"I'm sorry he did that to you."

"I don't want to talk about Gardner."

He took her hand and studied it, running his thumb over her palm to the fine veins at her wrist.

"When is your train?" he said suddenly.

"I knew it," said Anne. "You're not here at all, you're thinking about tomorrow."

"I can't help it, I'll miss you. I would have missed you anyway. We've always been at school together – I've gotten used to it."

He was attempting to sound light-hearted and it made Anne want to cry. But she wouldn't show it, she tried to be as blithe as he was.

"I know what you mean. My excitement at winning the Avery was unaccountably lessened when I heard you wouldn't be going to Redmond with me."

"Unaccountably?"

"All right, there was something that may have accounted for it."

Gilbert grabbed her other hand, studying it as intently as the first. He cleared his throat and asked shyly:

"Did you love me then?"

The question pierced her. There was no way for her to pretend anymore.

"I love you now," she whispered.

Anne got onto her knees and with trembling hands took the pendant from around her neck, and placed it over his head.

"I'm in love with you, Gilbert."

She cupped his face and kissed him softly on his mouth. Seconds passed before Gilbert realised what she'd done. This wasn't a fantasy, nor was she trying to make up for past hurts. This was Anne giving herself to him.

Gilbert clutched at the heart for a moment, then he seized her in his arms and flung himself on her body with such vehemence, the sagging mattress grazed the floor.

Anne could not say when he entered her again. His lips touching hers and the feeling it gave her became her whole world. Sometimes she could scarcely breathe, or she needed to cry out, or taste his neck, his shoulders, his ears, every knuckle and fingertip. Yet each time she came back to his mouth. His low moans went straight into her, and she quivered as though she could feel what he felt. The joy it gave her made her laugh.

"Wha- what's funny?" Gilbert asked.

He lifted himself higher and she felt the pink heart round his neck brush between her breasts.

"I'm just happy," Anne said.

She wrapped her legs around him tightly, and Gilbert closed his eyes the way he had at the bell tower.

"We'll have to stop soon..."

"Please not yet –"

"If I don't, you'll go, I don't want you to go."

"Are you Gilbert Blythe?" He frowned with curiosity and nodded. "And do you love me with all of your heart?"

"Anne, I'm so in love with you I can't think straight. I'm happy, I'm terrified, I don't ever want to leave you."

"Then don't. Stay. Love me."

A tortured sound came from inside him. Then Anne brought the pendant to her lips and took it into her mouth, and he was lost. He wrapped his arms around her and they moved together urgently. At the last moment their eyes squeezed shut, and their breath came out in hot short bursts.

When their shudders subsided he lay his head on her breast. Anne kissed his damp curls and he loosened his arms so that she might rest on the pillow. That was on the floor. The mattress half off the bed. What remained held a tangle of limbs, and a quilt made by his mother. With her free hand Anne began tracing her finger over the diamonds and imagining.. They were on the Island... Down the hall their child was stirring... Through the window was a view of the sea...

Gilbert woke to the feel of Anne kissing his brow as she tried to slip out from under his leg. He grabbed her waist and held her close.

"Not yet, don't go yet. Please," he said huskily.

"Sweet love, I have to. All I need is a basin of water and some apple vinegar. You have those I suppose."

"How do you know all this? Don't tell me. Stella."

"I should have done it immediately. Please let me go."

"Do you want any help?'

'No – hands off," Anne said, as she attempted to wrap his quilt about her.

She picked up the flimsy screen he had by his window, and carried to his makeshift kitchen.

"I won't be long."

"Come straight back," Gilbert called to her, sleepily.

"I promise you, Gilbert. I'll always come back."

...

* lyrics from Doin' It Right by Panda Bear + Daft Punk

* lyrics from Bad Girls by M.I.A.

* the opening of this story till 'Suddenly Phil said,' from chapter 37 Full-fledged BAs, Anne of the Island

* 'Such funny things are done upon the sly' was a smash hit in 1885

* 'O what can ail thee Knight at Arms' from La dame sans merci by John Keats

THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING, LOVE k