Sometimes, things don't go according to plan.
This is NOT the third in the One More Day With You Trilogy. I tell you frankly, that story doesn't want to be written right now. And I know- because I bloody well tried.
And one day while I was working on some terrible lines that will never appear in ANY story, this idea just made me laugh out loud. Now, to be perfectly honest, I had no plans to ever write a new full-length story on here- I really didn't- but then Catching Moonlight just happened.
Catching Moonlight is based on a popular trope across Fan Fiction- but it's not done in Anne. It's cheeky to even attempt, and I freely admit that it's a huge risk, but I theorise that you can get away with just about anything if you can only write it well enough. So I wanted to see if I could make this work. I won't tell you which trope it is- trust me, you'll see soon enough.
For all returning and new readers, thank you. Since you trusted me through hurricanes and rocky shores, I hope you can do it with this one. I hope it makes you laugh a lot, and that it touches you a little bit too. Special thanks go to Katherine-with-a-K and HecalledmeCarrots for plentiful encouragement and laughs through the planning stages- I couldn't do this without you.
One final note before we begin- the inspiration for the title of this story comes from Anne herself, in Anne of the Island-
"See, it was twilight three minutes ago and now it's moonlight. What a pity we couldn't have caught the moment of transformation. But such moments are never caught, I suppose."
LMM is never clear just when Anne begins to love Gilbert Blythe. We know exactly when the moment of revelation happens, but it's left to us to decide how it all began. So, I would like to offer you a very different pathway for Anne and Gilbert- may it make you smile like it did me.
Junior Year, Redmond College
As the shrill sound of the referee's whistle echoed across the field, Gilbert Blythe swung around easily to jog to the tents, narrowly missing being knocked over by his teammates.
"Eyes off the grandstand, Blythe," Timothy Peterson yelled, turning to smirk at his captain.
Gilbert shoved him off with a grin, unable to prevent himself from turning to look. She was there with Phil and Stella and Priss, accompanied by a gentleman whom Gilbert did not recognise. He saw her red head turn toward him, and he lifted his hand in a slight wave before turning to join his teammates. He pushed himself in through the white flap and was handed a towel and a cup of water, sitting down in a quiet corner to catch his breath.
He was relieved- far too relieved that Anne was there. He'd not been home over the summer- and he'd hoped that she would miss him. And it appeared that she had- she found him on the first day of classes, talking animatedly about the changes to the Debating Club, and the news he had missed from home. His mother had asked her to come for tea before she returned to Kingsport, and had sent along apple preserves in her trunk for the Patty's Place girls- greatly vexing Mrs Lynde, who had already sent several jars ahead of her into Aunt Jimsie's care. Gilbert had watched her sunny expression, almost faint with relief that the odd distance she had been creating between them had dissipated over the summer. He had tried to listen, his own thoughts running riot.
So stepping back from her had been the right thing to do.
Gilbert rubbed his heated face tiredly. He'd been on the verge of speaking- he'd gone to her in late April, determined to end his uncertainty. Instead, he'd found himself thrusting mayflowers into her hands, telling her he wasn't going home for the summer- only to hesitate, and agree to go on some fool hunt for white violets with her. For a fleeting moment, he had seen something in her grey eyes at his nod- a curious fear that was replaced by relief, and a warmth that made him take heart.
Nevertheless, he'd watched over thought and action fiercely since then. For years he'd kept his feelings guarded, and for years he had asked himself if waiting forever was really the best option he could come up with. He'd been sure to write her over the holidays this time, and then lingered over the long, newsy letters she had sent him in return. Telling him tales of Dora and Davy, her concerns about the year to come, and that she missed the girls terribly. She and Diana had gadded about the woods like schoolgirls, and Mrs Barry had scolded the pair of them for not behaving in a manner befitting their age.
"And how could I explain it to her, Gil? To say that we were playing at being children because we are only too aware that childhood is long behind us. Diana will marry her Fred in a year, and then I will be only a year away from decisions that will affect my future life. To think of hard and sober work, of legacy, of making the most of the opportunities that we fought for. How could I not want just one more summer of childhood?"
He sank into a seat against the side of the tent now, accepting the fruit and water the assistant offered him with a nod.
It had been a long summer. Cooped up in the airless city on streets that burned with unrelenting heat, shaking his head as Anne's letters described being caught in a summer storm that had drenched her. He'd chuckled too, with the description of the chill she'd taken, and Mrs Lynde's rather morbid prognosis. He'd read her letters over and over, finding himself wondering again what she could do if she tried to write something other than her high-brow romances. Her letters were extraordinary- clever, and warm and evocative, and whenever he folded one up he would thank God that he'd somehow managed to stay in her world.
There was a soberness in his thoughts then. With the leisure to reflect on it, he now had to ask himself what he had expected to happen that day. A deep flush flooded his cheeks at the picture of what he had hoped would happen. She would blush, look up at him shyly- and then Gilbert frowned. Anne wasn't shy- although she had certainly avoided being alone with him enough of late to give that impression. What was going on with that? He sighed now, his eyes closing. Surely she could see how he felt for her- surely she knew that he loved every hair on her glossy head. He'd been bowled over as a lad of mere fourteen by her, and he didn't see that changing anytime soon.
Reality had hit when he went home alone that night, a white violet in his pocket as a symbol of their success- a white violet with purple streaks in its heart. He flung himself onto his bed as cold, merciless reason flooded him. Two years to finish their arts course. While he'd only imagined escorting her proudly on his arm, his ring on her hand and a smile on her lips, now he saw the glaring hole in his idea. Three more years to finish medical school- assuming he could finance his way through with the scholarship that no one had been able to take in years.
How did any man have the gall to ask someone to wait five years for him? What was she supposed to do in the meantime? Teach school again? Sit embroidering cushions? Gilbert exhaled, imagining the look of scorn on Anne's face at that suggestion. How on earth had he meant for this to work? The fact was, he thought disgustedly, there wasn't really a plan- it was merely about securing her. A faint nausea hit Gilbert then. He knew perfectly well that it was his fear that made him want to speak now. Fear of losing her to a faceless man who could offer her so much more.
When the whistle blew again, Gilbert snapped back to attention, shelving dangerous thoughts. He pulled the team up with a well-practised shout and stood at the head of the line ready to go out again. As they jogged onto the field he looked up to see Anne and Stella talking animatedly, when she stopped and turned to wave at him cheekily.
He grinned, taking heart as he moved into position again. Plan or no plan, it wasn't over.
He wasn't dead yet.
Up in the stands, Anne wrapped her scarf around her neck with a shiver. She leaned into Stella once again, her voice loud over the sound of the crowd. "I'm just saying that there are a thousand things I would rather be doing right now."
"Then why aren't you doing any of them?" Stella retorted, her eyes lighting up at the entrance of the other team. She suddenly squealed, clutching Anne's hand. "There he is! Look at him, he's taller than everyone else on the field."
Anne snorted. "And how would your brother feel about you coming just to watch his friend play against Redmond?"
"What my darling brother doesn't know won't hurt him," she said brightly. "James told me that he would keep an eye out for me if he did come- so it's clearly my duty to make it easy for him to see me."
Anne looked down at the big fellow with a smile. "Well, he is quite- robust."
Stella rolled her eyes. "Anne, he's gorgeous- and gentle as a lamb, too."
Anne couldn't help but tease her. "Stella Maynard! So this whole Arts degree is really just the search for a man? How cliche of you."
Stella's black eyes twinkled, and she pinched Anne's rosy cheek. "Well, there have to be perks to this single university life. Besides- I just heard that Redmond admitted its first married woman this year. They didn't tell anyone though- they were worried about it setting a precedent."
Anne's eyebrows flew up in surprise under her green cap. "Really?"
"Bessie O'Connor- she's in one of my classes."
The red-headed woman shrugged. "Well, that's lovely for her," she said thoughtfully. "I can't imagine how you could do it easily though- what does her husband do?"
Stella tucked her skirts in to prevent them from blowing in the breeze and chuckled. "He's a solicitor- and apparently has to travel a lot. She was terribly lonely and wanted to fill her time productively- and so the faculty agreed to let her come. Her father gives a lot to the college, I believe."
A roar interrupted the conversation, and Anne turned to briefly scan the field. "What happened?"
Phil grabbed Anne's hand from the other side. "You need to pay attention if you don't want to miss anything, Miss Shirley. Gilbert's fine, by the way- it was a glancing blow."
Worried grey eyes darted around, finally finding his curly head as the cluster of people surrounding him thinned. She saw him lift a hand, and smiled slightly, only to be nudged by Phil again. "You were worried."
Anne gave her an exasperated look. "Phil, everyone is worried- look how indignant his fan club is."
Phil turned to look at the group of girls down on the lower steps, and rolled her eyes. "What geese," she muttered. "He's not interested in them."
Anne's voice was tolerably cool. "It wouldn't concern me if he was- although they are hardly going to attract him with that behaviour."
One girl, in particular, caught Phil's attention, a tall blond in the centre of the group who was calling out and waving to the men as they ran by the stands. "Do you know Claire Hallett?"
Anne frowned. "Only in passing."
"Well, she rather has it in for you."
Anne looked at her friend in some surprise. "Me? Why? I hardly know her."
Phil leant closer, her brown curls bouncing in the breeze. "She's got her eye on Gilbert- she's in the advanced mathematics courses with us. Her father is someone in the teaching staff. And she was the one you trounced so disgracefully in the debate last year."
Anne's expression was sceptical. "I hardly think that worth holding onto a grudge, Phil."
"You'd be surprised," Phil said dryly, before turning with a devastating smile for the awkward young man beside her, her brown eyes twinkling. "You know, you were awfully brave to escort four young ladies to a college football game, Jonas- with varying degrees of interest in the game, too." At this, she poked Anne.
Phil's young minister friend grinned, moving when Priscilla slipped between Anne and Stella on the bench. "You don't wish to be here, Miss Shirley?"
"Oh, Anne wanted to go for a walk in the park-" Priss commented airily. "As if you don't get enough of that!"
"And I changed my mind after the hour Phil spent persuading me that it was a lovely day for a game," Anne commented, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. "How do you enjoy football, Mr Blake?"
His wide smile was boyish, and he pushed his tow-coloured hair back from his eyes. "I used to play a little- never at this level, though."
Anne scanned the field, noting that the game was growing more intense. She was having trouble keeping track of what was going on, and couldn't help smiling- how Davy would adore this. Over the summer she had been quizzed by him on how the colleges did it, only for him to grow frustrated at her vague descriptions. "Girls don't know enough of the game," he had grumbled.
Perhaps she would ask Gilbert to explain it to him instead.
Meanwhile, down on the field, a winded Gilbert picked himself up from the ground for the second time and reached down to pull a teammate up. He cast an eye on the dark clouds above, wiping muddy hands on his shirt. The coach had warned them that the other team was strong, and he could see why- he rubbed his shoulder with a wince; a large fellow had barreled into him, leaving him rather inelegantly sprawled on the grass. He turned as he saw the line swinging to head in his direction again, and for a brief moment, he lifted his eyes at the sound of her laughter in the distance. He had time for a slight smile to cross his face, and then with a sudden impact that seemed to echo through the stadium, everything went black.
Consciousness was slow to return, and he shut his eyes against the sharp pain thudding through his head. He groaned and tried to move, only to find himself on a narrow stretcher in the medical tent. He blinked at the afternoon light coming through the flap, a hand coming up to touch his head gingerly.
"Don't- you'll knock the bandage."
Gilbert turned his head at the sound of Anne's subdued voice, wincing at what the movement did to his head. "Anne? What are you doing in here?" he muttered. "Surely they didn't let you-"
Anne stood up, her face unusually pale, blazing green eyes raking over his body. "What were you thinking, participating in this blood sport?"
He tried to sit up, groaning under the effort. "Anne; it's football, not sword fighting."
"Do you have any idea what your mother would do to me if I had to tell her that you got trampled on and killed for a game?" Anne said furiously. "Your professors are outside right now asking how your coach could let their star pupil get injured like this. You were knocked out!"
Gilbert held his hand up, causing Anne to nearly choke with indignation. "If you could not yell right now, that would be wonderful. But I do appreciate you worrying about me." This last was slyly added, and Anne's cheeks flushed in anger.
"It isn't worrying so much as trying to talk sense into your addled brain," she grumbled.
He shifted on the bed with a wince. "What happened?"
Anne huffed. "What happened is that Charlie wouldn't find out if you were alright- and I couldn't find anyone else who would check on you. So I came in here to find out why you hadn't been released yet. Why would they leave you alone in here after the accident?"
Gilbert grunted. "It's just as well they did- this wouldn't look good if anyone caught you in the medical tent."
This made the girl scowl. "And what if you have a concussion? Did anyone medical actually check you?"
He gave a dry chuckle. "Well, I don't know, did I? I just woke up. And I meant, what happened to me?"
Anne's cheeks were crimson with embarrassment- of course that was what he had meant. "You got ploughed down by a runaway elephant from the other team."
He put his hand to his head again, and Anne frowned as she pulled it away. "You have a cut on there- and Stella thinks he might have stepped on you as well. It's a mercy it wasn't any worse. Gil, aren't you supposed to be able to dodge the other team?"
Gilbert glared at her as best as he was able. "So you'll come and see if I'm alright, but then you'll blame me for not avoiding injury?"
Anne sighed, giving a twisted smile. "I blame you for scaring m- everyone."
"Then I'm sorry about that." He tried to move then, and Anne moved to help him up. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, only to give a cry of pain when he leant heavily on one shoulder. "What on earth-" he lifted a shaking hand to tug the collar of the soft jersey he wore, and Anne only prevented her exclamation with a hand over her mouth.
"Gilbert, they need to check that!" she hissed angrily. "You might have broken something- look at the bruising over your shoulder-" She turned away suddenly as Gilbert grimly yanked the neck of the shirt over his head. "What are you doing?" she asked, her voice several octaves higher than normal.
"Calm down, I've got a vest on. I can't tell what I've done unless I see the bruising- it's probably just a strain," he said stubbornly, reaching around with a wince to see how far it spread.
The voices outside the tent suddenly grew louder then, and the two of them froze in horror, a startled Anne somewhat hypnotized by the sight of Gilbert's bare arms. His eyes changed then, darkening with foreboding as he heard them approach. "Gilbert, you need to get your shirt on right now," she gasped.
"Then would you give it to me and get out of here?"
Anne looked down in horror to see that it lay innocently at her feet. She fumbled to pick it up, cursing herself for her impulse to come to the tent, and then several things happened at once. As a voice called from the entrance, Gilbert lunged for the shirt just as Anne straightened up- the resulting collision of heads made her see stars, and she whimpered as she tasted blood on her tongue; Gilbert lurched awkwardly to the floor, and as both parties were still hanging onto the badly abused sweater Anne lost her balance and fell to the ground, collecting Gilbert's injured shoulder squarely. There was a tangle of limbs and language that neither Marilla nor Mrs Blythe would have approved of, and then an awful voice echoed through the small space, halting all movement.
"What is the meaning of this?"
There was an infinitesimal moment when frightened grey eyes met hazel- and both turned to the source of the sound, to greet no less than three of Redmond's academic heads.
Anne scrambled to her feet, her face a ghostly white. "An- an accident, sir-"
Gilbert stood up slowly, tugging the shirt from her hands. "I got off the bed- er- stretcher- before I was ready- Miss Shirley was making sure I was alright."
A pair of cold eyes turned to Anne then, and she realised with a shiver of terror that this was one of the most prominent members of the teaching staff, second only to the dean of the school. "You must know that no female student is allowed near the tents, Miss Shirley."
A glassy-eyed Gilbert turned to see that Anne's colour had returned in a flash, and the look that had landed a slate on his head was on her face. "Sir, Mr Blythe was left unattended with a concussion after the game. He has injuries that were not attended to at all, and there seems to be no one is present who will do so."
"Bumps and bruises are not what concerns me, Miss Shirley," he said coldly. "This is behaviour I would not have expected of my students. You will be in my office at eight in the morning to deal with this. Is that clear?"
"Jerry, there's no need for such dramatics," another voice growled. "Mr Blythe's fiancee has a right to see if he is alright." He pushed past Anne, giving the pair a look of warning. "No law against an engaged couple being concerned for each other, is there?"
"Sir-" Anne choked in shock, and he shot her a warning look.
"Now it was foolish of her to come, I grant you, but women will respond emotionally when those they love are injured," Professor Daniels said gruffly. "Look, Miss Shirley is correct- Mr Blythe needs attending to. I'll take him to the hospital myself, and you can chat with them both in the morning."
Professor Hallett looked at them with suspicion. "Engaged? For how long?"
Gilbert could see that Anne was utterly frozen, and he jumped when Professor Daniels jabbed him from behind. "Two months, sir." He could see Anne's red head turning to him in disbelief, and prayed she would stay silent.
"If I find I am being lied to, I assure you that neither of you will remain in this college another day. Eight o clock. I do not tolerate tardiness."
He swept from the tent then followed by the other gentleman, and Anne's knees shook as she faced Gilbert's grim-faced teacher. "Why- Professor, why?"
The older man turned to her, his look fierce. "Not here. The pair of you, in my office, in ten minutes time."
Gilbert emerged from the changing rooms, cradling his bag in his uninjured arm, as a nightmarish feeling swept through him. Anne was standing stiffly before the entrance to the teaching offices, her eyes wide and frightened. She flinched when he touched her arm, and he moved away from her carefully. "Anne, it's a misunderstanding. We'll be alright, I promise."
She drew herself up, however, he shook his head, a muscle in his cheeks jumping. "Just- save it for when we get in there. We're going to need all the fire we can get."
Professor Daniels was at his door when the white-faced couple arrived, and Anne stepped inside on stiff legs, almost stumbling when she saw the other gentleman in the room.
"Pp-professor Winston," she said faintly.
He nodded at her as Roger Daniels closed and locked the door behind them. "We don't need any visitors," he said tersely, ignoring the look of dismay that the young couple exchanged. "I thought it wise to consult Emile about you, Miss Shirley. We need to contain this, and fast."
Anne's breathing was shallow, and she lifted her head at this. "Professor, it was an accident-"
"Do you want to know how many students I have lost to 'accidents'?" he said angrily. "It won't matter now that you've been seen together by the Head of Staff."
Anne choked. "Then why would you tell him that we were engaged?"
"To save the two of you from academic suicide," he shot back angrily. "Miss Shirley, Mr Blythe, what were you thinking? Are you aware of what you were risking?"
Gilbert's jaw was set. "Sir, the two of us are old friends, we grew up together- I can attest to Miss Shirley's honour."
"And none of that matters a bit," the older man said bluntly. "The fact is that you were seen- and by Jeremy Hallett, no less. Mr Blythe might survive the scandal- you, Miss Shirley, would not."
Anne's eyes sparked in sudden fury. "And why not, Professor? Why are there different rules for women?"
"If the rules won't stop Anne from being blamed for a mistake that belonged to both of us, then I won't stay either," Gilbert said angrily.
"Then you would both lose your chance to finish your degrees here," Professor Winston said quietly. "Anne, the way the university interprets its own laws isn't up for debate. You won't win by fighting them on this."
Anne rose to her feet, staring at the professor she had idolized. "Then I'll just leave." She turned to Gilbert, her look hard. "I leave, and you can keep fighting this."
"I won't let you do that!" Gilbert snapped, when the professor's voice cut through their argument.
Professor Daniels raked a hand through greying hair and gestured to the seat behind her. "Miss Shirley, I'm sorry, but it's not that simple. You are both recipients of scholarships this year, correct?"
Anne cleared her throat unsteadily. "Yes, sir. The- the Parker prize in Literature."
"And Mr Blythe won the Jacob McAllister award," he said crisply. "By an enormous margin, by the way. If word were to get out about this, and it will, even assuming you both survived tomorrow, both of those would be stripped from you under terms of academic misconduct. You would have read the conditions on your letters."
Anne and Gilbert both nodded silently.
"You would be ineligible for all further prizes including-"
"The Cooper," Gilbert said dully. "That's what this is about, isn't it, Professor? That's why you're getting involved."
Professor Daniels pushed back from the desk in frustration. "Your grades are near perfect, Blythe. You would qualify without trouble- all you would have to do is maintain them for the next year and a half. It hasn't been taken for the past three years. You could have done it easily. But this little episode will put paid to that if we do nothing."
Neither of the older gentlemen missed Anne's hand clutching the wrist that was beside her on the hard sofa. They watched with interest as the girl turned to Gilbert bleakly. "Gil, medical school-"
He shook his head, his voice resigned. "The Cooper was never the only way, Anne."
Professor Winston cleared his throat, and all eyes fell on him. "Anne, losing the scholarships is a blow- but your reputation will take the hardest hit. Yours, not Gilbert's." She bridled at this, however, he raised his hand. "You know what gossip is like in a college like this- and for women, there is no recourse. You would be presumed guilty. This will affect your social standing, your financial standing- your relationships with your peers. Unattached, your expulsion from Redmond is almost certain. Jeremy Hallett won't bend the rules for anyone- and if a college wrote to him about your application in the future, he would tell them everything. Anne, you don't want to throw away the time and effort you have invested here- not when it cost you so much personally to come."
"It cost us both," she said, her eyes glittering. "We both worked for this."
"Anne, you would need to start again to avoid this," he said simply. "At a different college, far from here- and even if you began your degree again, you would still need to list where you had been for the past two years on the application form. An incomplete degree will do you no good out there- how many years of your life could you potentially lose to this misunderstanding?"
Professor Daniels exchanged a look with the other gentleman, and his voice was unusually gentle. "The college doesn't want to lose such promising students- but we will if we don't act now. You have a chance to stay, and to prove them wrong. I suggest that you seriously consider that alternative."
Gilbert's heart broke at the lack of hope on Anne's face, and his jaw tightened as he faced the older men. "All that may be as you say- but help me to understand: how would our being engaged alter the perception of what happened? If it's morally wrong for us to be found as we were, as innocently as it as was, surely an engagement would only mean that we had behaved inappropriately before vows were spoken- how would a betrothal change the outcome for us?"
"It won't," Anne's professor said slowly. "You would need to actually get married."