First of all, I'd like to dedicate this installment to Emma, who endures/suffers through English Lit and chemistry and math and Portrait and yearbook with me and also manages to find time to write hilariously funny (did that make sense?) fiction and poems. She also came up with the tying the shoestrings together idea that I used in the last part, so you all can thank her for that. :)
Secondly, I'm sorry this part took so long, but I do have good excuses. And because I'm in a mood for self-pity, you're going to hear all of them. :) Well, there was the week where I was sick. I even missed a day of school (if you knew me personally you'd realize how shocking that is). I had a sore throat and my voice took on that horrible hoarsey quality (you know, where all you have to do is begin to talk to someone and they immediately say, "Awww...I'm sorry. Why are you in school?"). Okay. And then there's yearbook. ::begins to scream insanely:: Final deadline in less than a week! Aaah!
Okay, I'm done with my rant. All usual disclaimers apply (as in, you can *dis* me if I *claim* anything that isn't mine).
Gilbert, elbows propped on the handrail of the bridge, stared meditatively at the sun setting over the Lake of Shining Waters. Tea had been a success, he reflected, as David would be going back to his three-day-a-week job teaching the summer term at White Sands with his ego brought down a peg.
Suddenly he spotted a reflection in the glossy surface of the pond beside his own. He lifted his head and straightened his posture to face Anne.
"Blythe," she said, responding to his gaze with a curt nod, "I wanted to extend congratulations on the spur-of-the-moment concoction of such a wonderful plan this afternoon." She offered him her hand solemnly.
He shook it, just as soberly. "And I wish to commend *you* for the brilliant execution of the plan, Shirley," he responded.
Anne burst out laughing, well aware of (but not acknowledging) the fact that the handshake had lasted much longer than was normal. "I don't know, that moniker just sounds funny," she said.
Gilbert changed his tone slightly. "Would you rather you had a different last name?" he asked in a failed attempt at nonchalance.
Anne's heartbeat started to increase exponentially, but she just turned toward the sunset and tried to change the subject. "Isn't the world beautiful?" she asked lightly, resting her hands on the bridge. "Everything just seems beautiful to me tonight."
Gilbert too placed his hands on the rail, but his eyes remained fixed unblinkingly on Anne. "Yes."
Seeing this, Anne protested. "But you're not even looking at the sunset."
Anne blushed. Could Gilbert Blythe, the former constant companion of the belle Christine Stuart, really think she was beautiful?
Seeing that his point had hit home, Gilbert turned again toward the water. "I wonder if Mr. Barry's dory is still down there?" he remarked, seemingly out of the blue.
Anne laughed a little. "Well, I would imagine so," she responded. "Unless it's disintegrated or something." She peered down into the pond, not to search for the long-lost dory, which the murky depths would have hidden even *if* it was still there, but to look at her and Gilbert's watery reflections. Three years ago she would have avoided any situation that put them alone together in such proximity-now she welcomed it. She then raised her eyes to her hand, which seemed to be sliding of its own accord toward Gilbert's on the rail.
Gilbert cleared his throat. "You know I didn't mean what I said last night, right? Of course I'm glad I saved you that day in the boat, I just-"
"Oh, don't worry, I know-"
Their hands touched, sending a spark through both their bodies. Gilbert swallowed audibly, then continued. "And I never, ever, thought that you were going to marry Roy for his money, I don't know what possessed me to say that."
Anne met his eyes briefly, then looked away, thrilled by the intensity in his eyes and half-scared that she was so thrilled by it. "I said worse things to you," she replied in such a low tone that he could barely make out the words, "I made you suffer more. I don't think you should have to apologize."
Gilbert lightly placed his hand on top of hers, exerting the same gentle pressure reminiscent of a similar situation four years ago, only this time she didn't snatch it away.
"In fact," she went on, almost bitterly, "I think I've said only things I didn't mean to you ever since you've gotten well."
Gilbert started to speak, but the expression on her face made him stop. He allowed her to continue, realizing this was something she had to say.
"You certainly didn't-didn't *beg* to marry me," Anne said, voice breaking and unable to look him in the eye. "I can't believe I said that. I-"
Gilbert shook his head. "No, no, that was Josie's fault, she can inject poison into anything."
"And that's another thing. Why did I fall for Josie's stupid trick? And then lower myself to her level? And Roy! I managed to mess with his feelings again!"
"Well, that wasn't your fault, it was your ears," Gilbert began to protest, but was interrupted by an impassioned Anne.
"I just-I bungle up everything! I make all these mistakes, and-"
"And *everyone* does, Anne. I do, certainly."
Anne let go of his hand and turned to face him directly. "Fine. What's the biggest mistake you've ever made?" she challenged.
A smile slowly spread across Gilbert's face. "I asked you first," he responded simply.
Anne shot him a baffled looked. "What? You don't make any sense. No, you didn't, I just..." A sudden realization dawned upon her. She thought back to two weeks ago, at Echo Lodge, when she had accidentally mentioned her-
"Your second greatest mistake," Gilbert finished the thought for her. "Roy was your second greatest. But you wouldn't tell me what was first." He took a step closer to her. "Will you now?"
Her cheeks burned under his fervent gaze. She abruptly turned her head, not wanting him to see the tears that were forming in her eyes.
"Well, I think if I said no, it would be my new biggest mistake," she answered wryly. "But-I think you know what it is, Gilbert."
Gilbert smiled, then softly cupped her chin in his hand and gently turned her face back toward him. "Do I?" he asked slowly, raising his eyebrows.
Finally she spoke again. "I was just so, so stupid, Gilbert. I don't know how on earth I managed to delude myself for so long-I guess I got really good at it. But that day-and the look in your eyes...I wish I could do it over again, I wish I had never made you look like that."
He smiled at her and stared deeply into her eyes. "Does how I'm looking at you now make up for it?" he asked softly.
Anne allowed herself a small smile. "Wait. You still haven't answered *my* question. What was *your* greatest mistake?"
"Having this conversation right now instead of kissing you immediately upon sight," he responded straight away.
Anne rolled her eyes and lightly pushed him away. "No, really."
He sobered. "I always think I should have waited," he began, deliberately. "That you weren't ready and I knew it. Maybe if I had waited until summer, or the next year..."
Anne looked up at him thoughtfully. "I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference. This might sound odd, but maybe-maybe you *had* to ask me before I knew."
He nodded slowly, warming to the idea. "And maybe you *had* to say no. Maybe all our mistakes happened for a greater purpose."
"Almost like they were destined to happen," Anne added, drawing closer to him.
"So, Anne," Gilbert said softly, pulling her tightly against him, "will you fulfill that purpose, and make your mistakes together *with* me from now on?"
Eyes grey and shining, she stroked his cheek in a sudden show of tenderness and pulled him into a kiss. It was all the answer that he needed.
::sobs:: And that's the end! Well, it was fun while it lasted, but...it's time to move on to other and greater things. Which I will do, and which I will be better equipped *to* do if all the readers tell me what kind of L.M. Montgomery stories they'd like to see in the future. I've read every single one of L.M. Montgomery's books, barring none, and I'm open to any fanfiction ideas. Do you want more Anne, or maybe Anne's children, or would you like an Emily story, or Pat, or the Story Girl? I'm open to all suggestions, people!
Also, since this is the final part, I do entreat all of you who've been reading this story but haven't reviewed for one reason or another (even the best of us do it) to please review this part either to tell me what you thought of the story, what other LMM characters I should consider writing about, or both! Thanks for reading!