The eve before his wedding, Gilbert Blythe stood on the back porch of his parents' house, looking out over the garden. This was a garden steeped in memories. Here was the place he had fallen out of a tree and broken his wrist when he was six, nursed a bruised head (but mostly ego) when he was thirteen, chopped a winter's worth of kindling out of frustration at fifteen, and studied Euclid with Anne when he was eighteen. Even here, Anne's presence could be felt.

A buggy rattled its way into the yard, and he saw Fred Wright climb out, illuminated by the almost-full moon in the sky. There would be a full moon tomorrow night, if he wasn't mistaken. Fred came up the steps, a satchel in one hand, and a grin on his face.

"Mr. Wright," Gilbert greeted him, "to what do I owe the pleasure? We weren't expecting you until tomorrow morning."

"Just dropped Diana off at Green Gables," Fred sat down in the rocker across from his, pulling a pipe and tobacco pouch out of his vest. "She and Anne's friend Phil are giving Anne a bit of a hen night," he chuckled, "and I know you said you didn't want a stag do, but I thought why give our wives - wife-to-be, in your case - all the fun?" With that, he pulled a bottle of amber liquid out of his bag, along with a couple of glasses.

Gilbert gave a low whistle. "I thought the Wrights weren't drinking folk, Fred."

Fred poured a generous two fingers into each tumbler. "Everything in moderation, my boy, everything in moderation." Handing him a glass, he raised his own in a toast. "Cheers, Gil. Good luck."

Gilbert took a sip, then leaned his head back and sighed. "Oh, that is good. Far better than the stuff I give to patients."

"And have nip of yourself from time to time, I wager?"

"I have my own stash for that, Mr. Wright. You don't expect me to douse wounds in Talisker, do you?"

There was silence then, only broken by the rustle of the trees, and the occasional hoot of an owl. Then Gilbert chuckled.

"Remember the first time we drank, Fred?"

Fred groaned. "Don't remind me."

"Do you even remember what it was we drank?"

"My memories of that day are understandably vague. I do remember that the world spun around terrifically, though."

"Two eleven-year-old boys stumbling into the house, roaring drunk - and right into the minister's visit," Gilbert grinned wickedly. "The minster departed soon after, I might add, having been thoroughly scandalized, and my mother gave both of us a good thrashing - one which I, however inebriated I might have been, remember to this day. How don't you remember any of this? You were definitely there - I heard your yells when she walloped you."

"I don't remember any of it - although I do remember waking up with the most colossal hangover the next day. I can tell you, however," Fred took a rueful sip of whisky, "that I haven't been drunk since."

Gilbert was suspiciously quiet.

"Once," he said quietly, after an interminable moment. "I've only been drunk one time since then."

Fred raised his eyebrows, prompting him to continue.

"It was the night after Joy was born and Christine…" he shook his head, letting the unspoken word hang in the air. "Her parents had taken Joy for the night, the coroner had already come around for Christine, and it was just me, all alone in that big house. Me, and a bottle of whisky.

"When you're a doctor," he changed the subject, "you see people die. It comes with the territory. And people blame you, thinking you could have saved them, thinking that if only you'd tried harder, their loved one would still be with them. It's part of grief, and I try to remember that every time I can't save someone. But that night was the first time I'd had those feelings...and there was no one to blame but myself. She'd gotten pregnant - my fault. She'd haemorrhaged - my fault. And she'd died - also my fault. I blamed myself for it all...and there were so many emotions - grief, anger, shock, and - though I'm still ashamed to admit it - a little relief. I just wanted it all to go away, and it seemed like an easy way out. I drank," he admitted, "with the intent to get drunk - and maybe never wake up."

Fred had by this point discarded his whisky, and simply listened, the weight of the story settling over them both.

"Thank God I didn't," Gilbert continued. "They found me the next morning, splayed out on the floor of my study. Shortly thereafter, I woke up in bed with a hangover like I'd never had before or since. Twenty-four hours later, I decided that Toronto wasn't for me or Joy, and wrote my Uncle Dave that I would take over his practice in Glen St. Mary just as soon as Joy was old enough to make the journey with me."

They sat in silence on the porch, as the moon rose from its place over the horizon further into the sky. The rockers squeaked, the grass rustled, and they sat, the evening enveloping them in its darkness.

"Are you worried, Gil?" Fred finally asked, "that it's going to happen again?"

"Terrified," Gilbert admitted. "Not so much that it could happen again, although if Anne ever bears children, I can assure you I'll be a complete wreck until everyone's safe. It's that feeling of powerlessness I'm afraid of, that feeling of seeing Anne or my child dying, and not being able to do anything about it."

"Wives and children," noted Fred, "they look to us as the heads of the family, never knowing they're our strength - and that if anything happened to them, we'd be as hopeless as the next man."

Gilbert looked at him strangely. It was rare that something quite so philosophical came from Fred. "You're not wrong, Mr. Wright," he admitted, a grin hiking up the corner of his mouth at the old joke between them. "You ought to have come to Redmond with us - you'd have made an excellent psychologist."

"And speaking of wives and children," Fred drained the last of his glass and stood, "I really ought to get going. Diana's mother is looking after the children tonight, and while little Jack was deemed old enough to spend a few hours without his mother, he's bound to be clamoring for supper by now." He collected the glasses and bottle, setting them aside before reaching into his bag one last time.

"Oh, and I was supposed to give you this," Fred pulled an envelope, his original reason for visiting, out of his satchel. "Anne says to read it tonight - and the postman doesn't work this late, so it was decided that I bring it over."

Gilbert reached for it, smelling the hint of lilies-of-the-valley coming through the envelope.

Fred gave him a knowing grin. "Anything you'd like me to ferry to Green Gables, while I'm going in that direction?"

"Well," Gilbert pulled an envelope out of his pocket, "I was going to ask you to take this over tomorrow morning - but since you're going over there tonight…"

"I should give up farming and become the postman," Fred tucked the letter into his pocket, turning back towards his buggy. "G'night, Gil. See you bright and early."

"'Night." The farewell was a distracted one, as Gilbert sat down on the porch swing, took a deep breath, slit open the envelope, and began to read.


The evening at Green Gables had progressed in a slightly more feminine manner. Phil had come to stay the night, while Jo tended to the twins at the boarding house in town. Fred had dropped Diana off around twilight, and the three had turned the Green Gables parlor into a warm, bright room, filled with laughter and merriment. Davy had given then door a queer look as he passed by, hearing the latest gale of laughter, only slightly muffled by the door, before Marilla shooed him to bed.

Inside the parlor, the three women sat, a tray with tea and various biscuits and cookies sitting on the side table. Anne and Diana were currently listening to Phil recount a tale from her early days as a minister's wife, with tears of mirth coursing down their faces.

Phil did her best to look indignant. "Well, how was I to know the woman was in mourning for her dog? I thought her husband had died, the way she acted and dressed! No, Anne, you really can't blame me here." She leaned back comfortably in her chair, reaching for a lemon cookie and nibbling on it. "Oh, those were the days," she sighed, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes, "the wedding, the honeymoon…" here, she and Diana shared a look that could have only been described as conspiratorial.

A look which Anne did not miss. "What exactly are you trying to hint at, in that thoroughly unsubtle manner?"

Phil turned to look at her with an expression of glee. "Your wedding night, Queen Anne." Relishing Anne's slight cough, she grinned. "That's what we're referring to."

Diana chimed in with, "I had a lovely nightgown for mine - not that it ever saw much use, of course…" she trailed off, a teasing look on her face as she saw the tips of her bosom friend's ears turn slightly pink.

Twisting the knife where she saw Diana would not, Phil put a hand to her chest in realization. "Oh, but of course you have no idea what we're talking about, do you?" Her eyes gleamed wickedly, and her mouth twitched where she fought valiantly to keep a smile from bursting out.

"One does not make it to the age of twenty-eight without knowing what it is you are talking about Phillipa," Anne said in her best schoolmarmish tone.

Phil looked at her with frank curiosity. "What, exactly, do you know?"

Anne rolled her eyes. "Well, just this morning, I sat through Mrs. Lynde's "wedding night" speech."

"I never sat through that particular speech, but knowing Mrs. Lynde, Anne," Phil rolled her eyes as well, "I would recommend forgetting everything she told you."

"I did sit through it," Diana shuddered. "And it was possibly the worst fifteen minutes of my life that I've been trying to forget ever since."

Phil nearly snorted into her tea before shaking herself. "Before we move onto pleasanter matters, Anne, is there anything you'd like to ask us?" It suddenly struck her that Anne looked very young, curled up in her armchair, her hair loose and cheeks flushed.

Anne raised an eyebrow. "Instead of asking any questions, I'm simply going to ask if you have any advice." She let her gaze travel between the two of them.

"Well, honey," Phil drawled, "don't worry. Too many brides spend the entire day terrified of what's to come - likely because the "lie back and think of England" speech they received has caused them unnecessary terror - and have a simply awful time of it later on. My piece of advice is not to worry too much. And not to fall asleep," she added as an afterthought.

Diana stared at her. "You fell asleep?" she choked back a laugh at Phil's abashed grin before turning to Anne with all a motherly look on her face. "Anne," she said seriously, "I want you to trust Gil. You've known him for seventeen years, since he pulled your braids in the schoolhouse - and that one day aside, you know he would never do anything to hurt you. My piece of advice it to trust your husband. He loves you."

Phil sighed. "Nicely put," she said. "Now," she clapped her hands, "I just arrived this afternoon, and I have no idea what you'll be wearing tomorrow, Anne. Put me out of my misery, will you?"

"It's white and has lace," Anne answered succinctly.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Diana sighed, "It was originally storebought, but Gilbert walked in on us during a fitting, and it's unlucky for the groom to see the dress before the wedding, so we had to make it over completely," here she began to give a list of all the ways in which the dress had been altered to make it unrecognizable.

"Does it have puffed sleeves?" Phil's eyes twinkled, remembering Anne's love of them.

Anne laughed. "Of course! I wouldn't have it otherwise. I have to admit, I do rather like it in its new incarnation."

"Your wedding dress is a dream, anyhow," sighed Diana rapturously. "You'll look like a perfect queen in it—you're so tall and slender. How DO you keep so slim, Anne? I'm fatter than ever—I'll soon have no waist at all."*

"You will always be beautiful, Diana," Anne informed her serenely, "far more beautiful than I, anyway; I've come to terms with my hair, but I will always envy you your raven black hair and dimples."

"You are going to wear a veil, aren't you?"* asked Phil, steering the conversation back into fashionable waters.

"Yes, indeedy. I shouldn't feel like a bride without one* - oh, there's a knock at the door, Diana. It's bound to be Fred, come to ferry you back to hearth and home."


On the porch at Windy Orchard, Gilbert Blythe slowly sat down on the porch swing before slipping a finger under the flap of the envelope and, and pulled out a sheet of cream-colored paper covered in Anne's handwriting.

Dear Gil,

I've been thinking, you know...about a girl and a boy, seventeen years ago in the Avonlea schoolhouse. We had such a terrible start, with your 'carrots' and my slate; and yet here we are, marrying on the morrow.

So many things have happened in these last years, Gilbert, and I have to wonder what sort of amazing coincidence (Providence, if we were to ask Mrs. Lynde) saw to it that we found each other again.

And another thing, Gilbert - do you remember that day at the beach in August, the one where we took Joy and a picnic basket down the cliffs, and I came home with the most terrific sunburn? The sunburn has since faded, thank goodness - I should hate to have a sunburn on my wedding day (although - you would still marry me if I came down the aisle sporting the worst sunburn known to man, wouldn't you? After giving me a prescription for some ointment, if I know you) But sunburn aside, you said something to me that day - about regretting our eight years of estrangement - and I've been mulling it over ever since.

Your exact words were, "We will never know what might have happened." On the contrary, darling: I can tell you one thing that would have happened. We wouldn't have Joy. And it occurs to me now (as I knew in my heart then) that if given the chance to make up these last eight years, I wouldn't take it. Because I would be robbing both you and me of the joy that comes with Joy.

There would have been other children - and there will be other children - but I wouldn't exchange Joy for any of them. Nor would I exchange you for Royal Garder or Owen Ford (good heavens, Gilbert, how could you have ever thought that? Tall, dark and handsome men with dreamy eyes are all very well and good, but they have one rather large failing: they aren't you.)

With that, I'll bid you goodnight, and I'll see you tomorrow, shortly after noon (it's fashionable for the bride to be late, Phil tells me). I'll be the one in the white dress walking down the aisle toward you.

Love today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that,

Anne

(Oh, very well…"Carrots".)

Gilbert smiled, then went inside, where he tucked the letter into the pocket of the vest he would wear the next day. Looking out of the window of his boyhood room, he could see the faintest of lights coming from the East gable at Green Gables. Thinking back to the thirteen year old boy who had stared at that light many times over the years, he grinned. That boy had to be dancing a jig right now. As to the eleven-year-old girl of his dreams? Gilbert chuckled. He had a feeling she would have been less pleased about the proceedings.


Had Gilbert followed the light from Green Gables, he would indeed have found it to be coming from Anne's room. She was curled up on her bed, toying with the letter Fred had handed her when he had come round to fetch Diana. He had told her that Gilbert had meant for her to read it the next day, but that he had said she could read it tonight.

Hence her quandary: did she read the letter now, or wait for tomorrow morning? She stared at the envelope, with her name scrawled across the flap in Gilbert's doctor's hand. How did it come, she wondered, that doctors were unable to write neatly? She brushed away the thought - the schoolmarm was having one last laugh, it seemed. Deciding that the letter would be best read now, instead of wondered over all night, she opened the envelope, pulling out Gilbert's letter. Turning her bedside lamp lower, she rolled onto her side and held the letter so that just enough light spilled across it.

Dear Anne,

My father wrote to my mother before their wedding, and I thought I might do the same for you. I don't have your way with words - most of my writing these past years has been limited to casebooks and prescriptions - but I'm going to give this a try. Forgive me if it all ends up sounding rather unpoetic.

While wracking my brain for subject matter appropriate for this letter, it occured to me that you don't know the story behind your ring. It starts out as an amusing anecdote - I forgot a rather crucial part of my proposal: the ring. I know, Anne...I very nearly asked you to marry me without a ring handy. To this day, I wonder what on earth caused me to forget one.

But my father, having heard from either Joy or my mother (whoever was louder or found him first) came out with the pearl that you now have. At first, I intended it to be a stand-in, to be replaced at the first opportunity, but the pearl looked so beautiful on your finger, and I remembered you didn't like diamonds, so I decided to keep the pearl.

After that slightly embarrassing and not at all romantic confession, the story takes a bit of a turn. Once upon a time, as you say, my father was in love with a woman who is not my mother. When she turned down his proposal, he put away his ring, and used another one when he proposed to my mother some years later. He told me that he hoped the ring would bring me better luck.

You and I both know that the girl John Blythe was in love with was Marilla, Anne. So I suppose that, in a roundabout sort of way, I asked you to marry me with a ring that was originally intended for the woman who raised you. Somewhere, I think the gods are laughing - as you say, we've never done anything conventionally.

But one thing I can promise you (after all my love) is this: the ring that will be on your finger soon will never have been intended for anyone but you.

I'll see you soon (in that fetching dress you were wearing during that fitting I unfortunately interrupted)

Love,
Gilbert

Anne chuckled, placing the letter and envelope on her bedside table. This letter was pure Gilbert, and she had restrain herself from taking a moonlit stroll to Windy Orchard to tell him exactly what she thought of it. Time enough for that tomorrow.

Turning back towards the table, she blew out the light, and was soon asleep.


Anne wakened on the morning of her wedding day to find the sunshine winking in at the window of the little porch gable and a September breeze frolicking with her curtains.* She also wakened to the sight of Phillipa Gordon sitting in the rocking chair by the window, nursing both her twins. At Anne's mumble of a good-morning, she looked up, her crooked smile spreading over her features.

"Oh, good, you're awake! I thought I might have to let one of these young men scream," she informed her. "Jo brought them over in the wee sma's - they were hungry and he didn't know what to do with them, the poor dears." Seeing that the previously starved babies were now full and once again asleep, she stood. "I'm going to go hand them over to Dora - the girl's a wonder with babies - and we'll start getting you ready."

Anne swung her legs off the bed. "Breakfast?"

"I think they were going to send you a tray," Phil opened the door, only to find Dora standing there with the promised tray. "Oh, wonderful! Thank you, dear - I'll trade you the babies for the breakfast."

Green Gables was a busy and joyous house that forenoon. Diana arrived early, with little Fred, Small Anne Cordelia and little Jack, to lend a hand. Davy and Dora whisked the babies off to the garden.*

Looking out the East Gable window, Phil shook her head. "The twins are looking after five babies now! If any more arrive, we'll be veritably overrun. I'm rather glad I left my older boys with my mother this time." She turned back to Anne and Diana, who had just gotten Anne into her underthings. "All right - let's see that dress, Queen Anne!"

The dress was indeed lovely - puffed sleeves and all. It hadn't suffered too much during its remaking, and Anne privately thought that it looked better now than when it had originally been bought. Finally, once she had been buttoned into her gown, Diana and Phil stood back, admiring their handiwork.

A knock sounded on the door, and Mrs. Rachel poked her head in. "I'm here to see the bride - oh, Anne, you look beautiful, that's what. So tall and stylish; Gilbert's going to be hard-pressed not to stare when he sees you."

A throat cleared from behind her. "Rachel, if you don't mind…"

Mrs. Lynde disappeared, and Marilla entered, carrying a froth of white lace. Slowly, the other occupants of the room slipped out, leaving only Anne and Marilla standing in the East Gable.

Marilla cleared her throat. "Matthew would want to be here, I think."

"I went to visit him yesterday," Anne said softly. "I told him about everything. He would be pleased."

"He knew all along that Gilbert was mad for you," Marilla chuckled, shaking out the veil before pinning it to Anne's hair and stepping back. "There. The first bride of Green Gables. There's never been a wedding in this house, you know. When I was a child I heard an old minister say that a house was not a real home until it had been consecrated by a birth, a wedding and a death. We've had deaths here—my father and mother died here as well as Matthew; and we've even had a birth here. Long ago, just after we moved into this house, we had a married hired man for a little while, and his wife had a baby here. But there's never been a wedding before.*"

"Even without a wedding, Green Gable's always been home to me," said Anne, tears welling up in her grey eyes as she looked around her little room for the last time. After today, it would be Dora's.

"There, now - won't do to cry on your wedding day," Marilla patted her on the cheek before opening the door. "It's a happy day, after all."


And it was a happy and beautiful bride who came down the old, homespun-carpeted stairs that September noon—the first bride of Green Gables, slender and shining-eyed, in the mist of her maiden veil, with her arms full of roses. Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her with adoring eyes. She was his at last, this evasive, long-sought Anne, won after years of patient waiting. If he failed her—if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood—then, as she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid.

They were married in the sunshine of the old orchard, circled by the loving and kindly faces of long-familiar friends. Mr. Allan married them, and the Reverend Jo made what Mrs. Rachel Lynde afterwards pronounced to be the "most beautiful wedding prayer" she had ever heard. Birds do not often sing in September, but one sang sweetly from some hidden bough while Gilbert and Anne repeated their deathless vows. Anne heard it and thrilled to it; Gilbert heard it, and wondered only that all the birds in the world had not burst into jubilant song; Joy heard it, from her vantage point next to her beloved Miss Shirley - now Mama. The bird sang until the ceremony was ended and then it wound up with one mad little, glad little trill. Never had the old gray-green house among its enfolding orchards known a blither, merrier afternoon. All the old jests and quips that must have done duty at weddings since Eden were served up, and seemed as new and brilliant and mirth-provoking as if they had never been uttered before. Laughter and joy had their way; and when Anne and Gilbert left to catch the Carmody train, the twins and Joy were ready with rice and old shoes, in the throwing of which Charlotta the Fourth and Mr. Harrison bore a valiant part. Marilla stood at the gate and watched the carriage out of sight down the long lane with its banks of goldenrod. Anne turned at its end to wave her last good-bye. She was gone—Green Gables was her home no more; Marilla's face looked very gray and old as she turned to the house which Anne had filled for years, and even in her absence, with light and life.*

The elder Blythes, with Joy between them, also stood by the gate, watching the buggy disappear around them bend. Joy clasped her two books to her chest, which now bore a slightly different inscription on their covers. Sometime during that gay afternoon, she had handed them to Anne, along with a pen, and the signature inside had been changed from "Miss A. Shirley" to "Mama". As she turned toward Windy Orchard with her grandparents," Joy looked back. She would miss her Papa and new Mama, but her grandmother had explained that she would be staying with her for a few weeks before going back to Glen St. Mary to live with them. And she would be so glad to see them when she did.

The night winds were beginning their wild dances beyond the bar and the fishing hamlet across the harbor was gemmed with lights as Anne and Gilbert drove up the lane to Ingleside. The door of the little house opened, and a warm glow of firelight flickered out into the dusk. Gilbert lifted Anne from the buggy and led her into the garden, through the little gate between the ruddy-tipped firs, up the trim, red path to the sandstone step.

"Welcome home," he whispered, and hand in hand they stepped over the threshold.*


*Anne's House of Dreams

Well, here follows what MrsvonTrapp calls the 'Oscars acceptance speech'. I am so very grateful to everyone who's followed, favorited, or reviewed this story, which originally began as a little "what if" during the middle of the might last year. Thank you to those who have been here since the beginning: Kim Blythe, MrsvonTrapp, caprubia, elizasky, oz diva, kslchen (for the many, many PMs involving ironing out plot points, torturing characters, and getting out grease stains); and those of who came a bit later: OriginalMcFishie, Excel Aunt, NotMrsRachelLynde, NovemberRainbow, and FishingForLakeTrout. You are all Anne-girls to the core.

This story, I am sorry to say, is now completed. I may come back with a sequel or a couple of one-shots, but I'm going to let this AU rest for a while.

I'll be back soon, though (next week-ish, maybe) with a couple of new long stories - promise! I've found a wonderful community here, and I'm pretty sure I'm here to stay.

Love,

Anne