Anne Shirley-Cuthbert was definitely a little bit crazy. That didn’t change the fact that Gilbert Blythe was completely in love with her.
He’s loved her for years now. Years feeling the warmth that bloomed in his chest whenever her red hair glowed under the sun as if it was live flame. Not being able to hold in a smile that would inevitably make its way to his lips when he saw her forehead scrunched up in concentration when she struggled with a difficult equation. Having such a pure, undeniable love inside of him whenever she started speaking about the wonders of the world and the beauty of it in ways only she could see.
Gilbert had learned to deal with it, to hide and fake it so Anne, or anyone else, really, wouldn’t realize just how gone over her he was. After so long trying to get her to at least stop hating him and achieving that with difficulty, he figured it would be best if they stayed friends and he ignored the feelings for her that ran within him. He’d rather have her as simply a friend than not have her at all, after all. He had even tried getting over her, which had been a complete failure, of course.
There was no one else for Gilbert Blythe but Anne Shirley-Cuthbert.
And then there had been a train ride and an angry Diana and a love letter from Anne that he hadn’t read. Gilbert had run across town until he got to her and somehow, someway, after all the time he had spent believing she’d never feel for him the way he did for her, she had kissed him like she loved him.
Now, here he was, back in Avonlea for the summer, on the porch watching Anne traipsing around his house’s yard under the rain. And trying futilely to get her to just come inside so she won’t catch a cold. It had started pouring between the time Anne had arrived to bring them some of Marilla’s plum puffs and Bash had gone with Delphine and his mother to Carmody, a sudden, heavy summer rain that had come without warning and would keep the Avonlea folks from navigating the roads for a while.
It had been a welcome surprise, getting to have this brief and unplanned moment with her without their families (or Mrs. Lynde) breathing down their necks and talking about propriety. Not that Bash did that very much, of course. He was so delighted with the fact the two of them were together that he mainly sent them suggestive looks and left them conveniently alone whenever he could.
But Anne had become too enchanted by the rain that would lower the warm temperatures and had strutted out barefoot to the grass almost immediately, so their time together wasn’t going exactly as Gilbert had hoped it would as he watched her spin around.
“Anne,” he tries calling her once again, unable to keep the fondness out of his voice even as the worry grows inside his chest. She doesn’t hear him, eyes closed and face raised to the cloudy sky to take in the feel of the cold raindrops falling on her heated skin, as she had said.
It was an image that had brought heat to his own skin, but he preferred not to think about that when the love of his life was soaking wet and risking getting a cold and being bed-ridden for days.
Anne opens her eyes and turns to him, a smile so blinding on her face it takes his breath away. Her hair has long fallen out from the complicated updo she keeps it in now that she’s old enough for it, her long red locks framing her face and resting over her shoulders like a fiery halo. The hem of her long dress trails on the ground, getting dirtied by the grass and the mud, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
“Isn’t the rain beautiful, Gil?” she asks, the wonder in her voice making him unable to keep a smile from surfacing. He had always been amazed by her ability to see the world as if it was a magical landscape. It was like Anne, with her wide imagination and inspired words, could make the world shine around her like she was the sun itself.
“You’re beautiful,” he says, louder this time so she can hear it, because it’s the truth and he’s always known it and now that he no longer has to hold it in, he physically can’t.
He says it because she needs to know, as she stares up into the dark sky and the pouring rain, that even soaking wet her flaming red hair and blue eyes and pale skin glow. She needs to know that, if she asked, he’d get on his knees and worship her for the rest of his life. That if she allows it, he’ll tell her for the rest of his life every single thing that makes her as wonderful as she is until it gets her to believe him, to believe that Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is the most beautiful thing in the entire planet, and Gilbert Blythe is lucky to live in the same world as her.
God, he loves her. He really, really does.
She looks up, having heard him, momentarily distracted from her moment of wonder over nature, and rolls her eyes good-naturedly. He can see, though, in the darker shade of her cheeks and the slight tension on her shoulders, that she’s embarrassed by his words. She hasn’t gotten used to getting compliments from him, yet.
He plans on changing that, too.
“Come on, Gil,” Anne says, holding out her hand towards him. He laughs, shaking his head in disbelief. She tilts her head to the side. “Join me,” she adds and laughs, and it’s the most beautiful sound he’s ever heard.
He hesitates, knowing it’s not a good idea and he’s supposed to be the rational one between them.
Gilbert steps down from the porch and into the rain.
Yes, it doesn’t take much, and yes, he’s rendered completely helpless by her, and no, he is not ashamed to admit it.
She smiles bigger as he nears her, and it’s completely worth the cold feel of the water seeping through his clothes.
“Marilla is going to kill me for not stopping you,” he tells her over the sound of the rain, encircling her waist with his arms.
Anne shrugs. “I’m pretty sure she knows by now that it’s impossible to stop me when I’ve set my mind to doing something slightly reckless,” she says, pressing her body to his with a mischievous grin on her lips that betrays her intention. Gilbert yelps when her sodden clothes soak his own, but then she giggles happily and he can’t even bring himself to feel annoyed by it.
“I’m pretty sure she still hopes our recent courtship will mean I’ll be able to put some sense into you,” he replies, chuckling. He lays his forehead on hers, because he’s incapable of keeping his distance.
“Poor Marilla,” Anne says, her voice dipping lower. “If only she knew that what happens is exactly the opposite.” She leans away from him a bit and wiggles her eyebrows. He’s mid laugh, fingers playing with the end of her wet curls, when she shoves her hands in the back of his shirt, laying her cold fingers on the bare skin of his back.
The laughter chokes on his throat when he yelps again.
Suffice to say, it’s not something he would ever expect her to do.
“Anne!” he exclaims, stepping away from her, and she laughs again.
She radiates joy, in that moment. Her blue eyes sparkle with mirth and her lips tilt up into a huge smile and her skin is glowing and, really, Gilbert can’t help himself. With her melodious laugh ringing in his ears and her standing so close to him and the fact that they’re completely alone, it would be too much to ask of him to resist her, the impossible, beautiful vixen that she is.
And so he steps forward and kisses her, cupping her face between his hands. Anne melts against him immediately, her hands holding onto the back of his shirt as she leans up onto her tiptoes and presses her lips harder against his. He really loved the fact he was taller than her, sometimes (but he’d never tell her that, because he also enjoyed being alive).
No matter how many kisses they had shared, it still felt like a dream every single time. It seemed too good to be true that he got to do this with Anne Shirley-Cuthbert. That this amazing woman allowed him to touch her and kiss her and love her. That out of all the young men in Prince Edward Island — hell, all the men in the world — he was the lucky bastard who got to have her.
They separate when the need for breathing grows too big, but he doesn’t allow her to go far. His hands continue to hold her face close to his as he looks at her breathing heavily. This is the version of Anne he loves the best. When her cheeks are flushed and her pupils are wide and her lips are swollen. When she looks at him dazed and hungry and like she wants to go back to having her mouth on his. When, this close to her, he can see every single one of her freckles that dust a constellation over her skin and every shade of blue that makes up the irises of her eyes. It’s the version of her that’s just for him.
A raindrop lands on her lower lip, reminding him that they’re still standing in the rain. Her mouth is hanging slightly open, and Gilbert uses his thumb to wipe it.
He can’t look away. The feel of her soft lips under his finger is too much for him to handle and he needs. Needs to kiss her again and needs to hold her in his arms and needs to never let go because he’s in love with her. He wants to spend the rest of his life with her, wants to be her husband and grow old by her side, watching as she becomes the remarkable woman he knows she’ll be, and yet there’s medical school to think about and the fact that they can’t get married for years still and moments like these will be rare and far between so he needs to make the best of it.
Anne kisses him again before he can do it himself, her hands coming up to lace themselves around his neck. He responds by wrapping his arms around her waist, both of them pulling the other closer, pressing their bodies together, completely ignoring the fact that the rain continues to pour and their clothes are soaking wet and that they should definitely not be doing this right now. Gilbert can only focus on the sensations her lips and her hands and her body bring him as the rest of the world fades away.
That was another one of Anne Shirley-Cuthbert’s superpowers. Making nothing else matter but her.
Their kiss grows a little more frantic, as if they both realize this isn’t an opportunity they have very often. Gilbert hugs her closer to him until he’s lifting her up off the ground so he can reach her lips more easily. Anne giggles against his mouth and he can’t help his own smile. He feels like they’re in a cheesy romance novel. Even so, he does not put her down.
He knows how much Anne loves her tragical romances, after all.
What could have been seconds or hours or weeks later, she pulls away from him. He hasn’t let her go, so she looks down at him, her hands on the side of his neck. She’s smiling and the rain is kind of falling in his eyes since he’s looking up at her so it’s hard to see her properly, but Gilbert can swear she shines in his arms. She leans her forehead on his, nudging his nose with hers.
“I love you,” she says, just loud enough so he can hear her over the rain.
“I love you more,” he replies, a smile on his lips he thinks will never leave.
He puts her back on her feet and she’s shaking her head. “That’s impossible, Gil,” she teases, her hands travelling up to his wet hair and pulling him down to her.
“Is that a challenge?” he asks, because that’s just who he is and who she is and who they are.
“You think you can beat me?” she replies, arching an eyebrow and then, slowly, teasingly, tilting her head to the side as she starts distributing kisses from the edge of his mouth to his cheekbone and then down to his jawline. She ends the provocation with a small bite to the place his jaw meets his neck.
His hands tighten on her waist involuntarily. His body is covered in goosebumps, but he won’t let her notice it.
When she leans away to look up at him again, he pulls her closer. “I’m sure I can,” he tells her, then, mainly so he can hear the annoyed squawk she lets out at his claim.
“Listen here, Gilbert Blythe,” she starts, in the angry, know-it-all tone that first made him fall in love with her. He’s smiling already. “It is not humanly possible for you to love me more than I love you, you hear me? There’s too much feeling inside of me. So much it’s like I’m going to burst most of the time. So, don’t even try to compete with me. You’ll lose.”
Words he never thought he’d hear coming from her, words he should be used by now because Anne is everything but shy of her feelings, words that make him want to yell for the whole entirety of Canada that Gilbert Blythe loves Anne Shirley-Cuthbert and Anne Shirley-Cuthbert loves Gilbert Blythe and that he’ll spend the rest of his days making sure she’s the happiest woman on Earth.
“Now, you listen here, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert,” he fires back, grin still in place. “I have loved you since you were a hot-tempered thirteen-year-old hitting idiotic boys with slates over their heads. I love you now, when I’ve seen you grow into a beautiful, outspoken woman who fights for what she believes in and never wavers in the face of adversity. I will love you forever, no matter what version of Anne comes next, and so I will definitely try to compete with you. Always. Because I L-O-V-E you. I love you so much more than you’ll ever know.”
When he’s done, Anne has tears in her eyes. From the way his own vision is blurry, Gilbert’s pretty sure he does too. They kiss again, because they can, because time is running out, because they’ve both just let out impromptu declarations of love for each other and they need to let out this tension somehow.
A crackle of thunder interrupts them.
“Okay,” Gilbert says, pushing away from her and grabbing onto her hand. “You’re coming inside now.” He starts pulling Anne along before she can even think to complain. “I’ll draw you a warm bath and get you a dry set of clothes and you’ll have some soup. Then I’ll check your temperature and make sure you do not get a cold so Marilla won’t kill me when the rain stops and you can ride back to Green Gables.”
He senses more than hears the frustrated huff she lets out.
He’ll never tell her this because, again, he values his life, but Anne could be quite predictable sometimes.
“I’m not a child, you know,” she says, a little put out.
He doesn’t bother answering until they reach his porch. “And yet, you still stood in the rain for at least half an hour because you think it’s pretty.” He raises his hands in surrender the moment he sees her expression shifting into outrage. “Not that I don’t agree with that, but it was slightly irresponsible and reckless so excuse me if I allow myself to coddle you as if you were a child for a while.”
He’s bringing her inside when he hears her annoyed reply.
“You joined me!”
“I have a very hard time saying no to you. And you know that.”
Gilbert turns to her and presses a kiss to her lips. “You’re impossible,” he tells her in a low voice. Anne huffs and slaps his arm, muttering something under his breath about him being ridiculous, but he only chuckles.
And then she continues.
“Whatever. It’s not like we engaged in childish actions when we were in the rain.”
It brings an intense blush to his face and he silently thanks the fact that Bash, Delphine and his mother are not here to hear it. Or that Mrs. Lynde hadn’t decided that now would be a good time for an impromptu visit, rain or no rain. Or that the Cuthberts hadn’t decided to pick her up because of the rain.
She was quite impossible sometimes.
Yeah, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert is definitely a little bit crazy. But even with reckless kissing in the rain and comments that would make the minister of Avonlea wash her mouth with soap, he really can’t help but be completely in love with her. In fact, he’s pretty sure those are the exact things that make him love her even more.