Author's note: Hey, so remember when I said that the good thing about this story is that I can actually finish a chapter in a single day? Well, not this one, apparently. I am sorry for the delay - trust me though, no one is more vexed with how long it took than I am.

I really hope you'll enjoy this chapter as much as the other two. I must say you've surprised me with your enthusiasm both times; but it was in the most positive way. I can also announce that there is only one chapter left after this one and hopefully, I'll manage to have it done soon and then move on to some other projects (as if working on eight fics simultaneously wasn't enough).

Either way, it's here. Thanks to all that have supported me so far and I hope you have fun!

Love, annewithagee

Part 3

"A fucking idiot, that's what I am!" she cried out with exasperation, tears still glistening in her grey-green eyes as she glared at her loyal friend, who had been trying so unsuccessfully to comfort her for the past quarter.

Gilbert could do little else than sigh wearily at the performance.

"You know this isn't true, Miss Highest-Score-On-The-Island-Last-Year," he said firmly, rubbing his temples, slowly losing hope that his reasoning could be of any help after all. "You made a mistake, and that's true; it could have been avoided and that is true as well. But for the last time, Anne, it doesn't make you a fool."

"Yes! Yes it does!" she objected instantly. "Oh, don't you understand anything?"

"I understand that you have accidentally put one customer's coffee on another customer's tray and then rushed towards their table with a speed of lighting as soon as you'd realised the mistake. You made it right long before either of those girls realised that there had been any mistake at all, not to mention that even if you hadn't, there would be next to no consequence – except maybe having to remake the order this once. Don't you think that maybe it's time to stop making it sound as if you'd killed someone in cold blood today?"

"You're impossible," Anne exclaimed again, burying her face in her hands, and nearly knocking her own tea with her elbow in the process. Gilbert reached out and moved the mug to a safer position, but said nothing. "And this whole situation is unbelievable. How can you not see that it was absolutely, entirely, doubtlessly my fault, all caused by my own cursed tendency to daydream? And that it shouldn't have been possible to even make such mistake, because the task was so silly, so simple. And goodness, Gil, consequences or not, can't you really see how stupid that makes me feel?"

For a few moments Gilbert did nothing but stared at her, carefully weighing his next words. His arsenal of good reasons was still quite well equipped, even with so many of them already presented to his miserable, slightly hysterical best friend. There were many things he could still tell her, remind her of: how she had been working in that shop for more than a month now and yet, it had been the first time when she'd made such a mistake; how the shop had been at its busiest, with students running in an out, ordering the strangest and most complicated drinks when she eventually had; how she herself had spent most of the preceding night studying, ending up with next to no sleep to keep her going through the day that followed after it.

And yet, knowing Anne Shirley as well as he did, Gilbert realised that none of those arguments would be of any meaning to her. She was too damn stubborn for them to be.

"Is that what you would say to me if the roles were reversed?" he asked suddenly, making her look up at him, surprised with this new approach. "Is that how you'd react if I had come here today and told you that I'd made such a mistake myself?"

Anne's eyes were round with shock when she said, "You know this isn't -"

"You know what, forget that," he interrupted her with a wave of his hand, taking her aback again. "You and I have argued enough times for me to imagine you actually saying something of the sort, so it doesn't really take us anywhere. But Diana? What about her? Would you treat her in the way you're treating yourself now?"

Anne took little time pondering over his question. As soon as she had comprehended the real meaning of it, she snorted impatiently, looking away with a scowl on her already wrinkled forehead.

"Well, first of all, Diana never would have made a mistake so dumb," she answered sharply, turning towards him once more to bestow another glare on his face. "The very notion is absurd, so I really don't think your example is a very good one."

"Alright then," Gilbert didn't give up. "What about Phil?"

"She might do something of this kind, I suppose; but I can hardly imagine her coming here to cry on my shoulder because of that. She's too strong – or too careless – to have a need for that."

"And you're not?"

"No!" Anne's voice was audibly higher this time, as she put down her mug with a clank, only narrowly avoiding spilling the beverage inside it on the table before her. "I'm not like her. I'm not used to people ignoring my mistakes thanks to a sweet smile I give them the next moment. I'm not having fun pretending I'm sillier than I am to appear more innocent or appealing. And I'm definitely not ready to take it calmly that my wit, my only good trait, turns out to be so much weaker that I thought it to be."

Silence fell on the room when she had finished her tirade, or at least this first, angry part of it. Gilbert, who had long ago learnt Anne's habits, knew that there was another part to come, probably even more serious than the one he'd just heard.

As impatient as he was growing, he knew he had to allow her to speak the rest whenever she choose to do so.

He watched her slump wearily and hide her face in her hands, his heart cracking with sorrow that mirrored the one that had so suddenly reflected on her. Careful not to startle her with his movement, he leaned forward and reached his hand to cover her wrist and hopefully drag it away from her face.

"I'm not Phil, Gilbert -" she said weakly a moment later, after she had eventually allowed him to do just that. "and I'm certainly not Diana, either. I'm me. Just me."

A sigh escaped Gilbert's lips, but he didn't let himself forget of the matter at hand. Easing his grasp on Anne's wrist, he slid his hand towards hers and covered it, giving her the little squeeze she undoubtedly needed. She looked up at him then; but it was clear she had no desire to speak anymore.

"Well, first of all, I really don't get that need to add the 'just' before talking about yourself," he said gently. "You're you, that's true; but it doesn't make you any worse than either of your unquestionably fantastic friends. And Anne, your wit really isn't any poorer than you think, as each of your tests and assignments confirms. Not to mention, there really is a lot more to you than your intelligence, you know."

She could hardly bring herself to do more than grumble at him. "Like what?"

"Like that incredible imagination of yours. No, Anne, you don't get to complain about it now, and even less so to blame that cursed coffee shop mistake on it. It is a gift; and like almost everything else, those also tend to be inconvenient at times." He fell silent for a moment, as if weighing his next words, even though he was perfectly sure of what he wanted to say. With a quick glance to her heavy bag that now lay in the corner of her room and the stacks of books that covered more than a few spots in it, he resumed, "You are hard-working and consequent, both in your studies and any other jobs you take upon yourself. You can be determined to the extend no one I know is -"

"I believe you meant to say stubborn, coach Blythe -"

"Even if, then it is in the utterly positive way," he refuted her argument easily, finally letting go of her hand and reaching out for her abandoned mug instead. "It made you catch up and outshine everyone at school and now it's pushing you to do the same here. And yet, even that isn't all. Because you know what else you are, Anne?"

"I can't wait to find out," she muttered under her breath.

"You are kind."

The look she gave him was full of disbelief at first, and was now starting to border with derisiveness as well. It was a look Gilbert had expected; he held it calmly, aware of how much depended on his own show of certainty, of his belief in what he was saying now.

"I'm under a strong impression you no longer know whom you're talking to, Gil," she grumbled eventually, taking her mug from him and resting her lips against its rim. "Either that, or you're just quoting some great motivational speeches without thinking; to be fair, I'd prefer the former to be the case. I would be severely disappointed to find you so utterly unprofessional."

"You can call me whatever you like, Carrots. You know that, unlike some people, I'm immune to name-calling, especially when done by you," he answered her lightly, before saying, "Now if you just let me do what I'm trying to do here, it would be greatly appreciated. Will you?"

"Will I what, exactly?"

"Will you humour me and answer the question I asked you before? About Diana?"

That request earned Gilbert another glare on Anne's part, but she did not protest this time. Swallowing the last of her tea she muttered a quiet "Fine," before she put the mug away and breathed in deeply.

"Okay," she spoke up eventually. "Assuming that by some great disturbance in the Force or another miracle Diana Barry actually managed to mix up her orders and serve the drinks to wrong consumers, and that she would care about such a mishap enough to come to me looking for comfort -"

"You know that she would -"

"In such case, I believe I would tell her to put it behind her and not to worry too much," Anne finished with a roll of her eyes. "I suppose I'd tell her that everyone can make a mistake and that it doesn't make her any less competent, especially as no real harm was done, and that, knowing how well-organised and skilled in the field she is – because honestly, I've never seen a barrister more talented than her – we really must agree that there was some external powers at work for her to make any mistake in the first place."

"Powers like a night spent with Shakespeare?" Gilbert suggested with a smile.

"I was thinking of witches and charms but I guess the Bard is closely enough related to those," Anne admitted with another roll of her big green-grey eyes.

"Good. Now pray tell me: why do those arguments are enough to justify Diana's error but not to justify yours?"

To that Anne had no ready response. She had expected the conversation to head that way, of course; she'd known what Gilbert's plan was all along and could not claim to be surprised by this final question of his.

And yet, she could not answer him, either.

Meanwhile, Gilbert went on. "Why can't you be kind to yourself in the same way you are to her? Why are you so unforgiving towards yourself when we both know how understanding you're always trying to be to everyone around you? They say you can't really go through life happy if you're not your own best friend – so why are you so determined not to be yours?"

For the first time that day Anne laughed quietly with a mischievous sparkle returning to her eyes once more.

"I suppose I'm too spoilt by having you and Diana occupy that post with such fervour," she admitted with a smile at last. "To be fair, I'm not even sure if I could beat you if I tried."

"Well, I dare say Di won't mind stepping down for such a noble cause," came Gilbert's ready answer. "And as much as I hate not coming in first, I certainly am used to you outrunning me by now. So? Do we have a deal, Miss Shirley, or should I really call Diana to support me in that final strive?"

"There's no need for that. At least, that's what my best friend thinks."