The knock on the door sounds unfamiliar and Anne startles awake from her sickness-induced midday nap. It sounds too vivacious for Marilla, so who else could it be? Diana never knocks.
Anne feels a little disoriented. She wraps her blanket tightly around herself, rubs her face, and hopes she resembles a presentable human being at least in some ways. “Yes?” she finally says. Her voice is hoarse. She should probably get another cup of tea.
That’s… okay, well… interesting. Surprising. It takes Anne a couple of long-stretching seconds to process that Gilbert Blythe stands in her door frame with a mug in one hand, and a suspiciously steaming Tupperware bowl in the other.
“What’s up, Shirley?” Gilbert asks.
Anne blinks, and stares at him.
Gilbert doesn’t seem to be too perplexed by the lack of reaction. Instead he gesticulates towards Anne with the mug and says, “Marilla told me to bring you this umm, I think she said mullein tea? And my mum made you some chicken soup when I told her you were sick, Marilla already heated it up for me, so you better eat it quick. May I come in?”
Anne, still blinking drowsily at him, eventually nods. Gilbert immediately crosses the room, puts the bowl and the mug down on Anne’s nightstand and sits down next to Anne on her bed.
“So…” Anne begins, finally getting her sluggish brain to work. “When you texted me last night, asking if you could drop by my house unannounced now that we’re friends… you actually meant ‘now’ as in ‘right now’?”
Gil looks at her over his shoulder while he takes off his shoes, and shrugs. “Well, yeah. I had to go to school today, obviously, but I thought, being sick sucks, and I know how easily you get bored, and that Diana is busy with piano practice this afternoon, so I thought why not?”
He smiles at her charmingly, then puts his messenger bag on the floor next to her bed, pulls his laptop out and makes himself comfortable. Which, okay. Anne’s bed is somewhere between a single and a double size, and her mattress is bumpy and way too soft, and there’s an Anne-shaped dent in it – but miraculously, Gilbert actually manages to at least appear comfortable, leaning against the wall next to her. He also manages to sit close enough so she can look at the screen of the laptop that’s resting on his legs, but not too close – she doesn’t feel uncomfortable or crowded.
Once Gilbert seems to be content with his sitting position, he reaches for the mug on the nightstand and asks, “Tea?”
Anne, still not entirely sure what’s going on, nods slowly and takes the mug he offers her. “Are you here to entertain me, then?”
Gilbert beams at her, his smile lighting up his whole face. “One hundred points to Anne Shirley, who is finally catching up!” He seems to notice that she’s not too amused by his condescending tone, even if it’s a joke, so he quickly adds, “I also brought you the stuff you missed at school today, thought you might want to keep up. We can go through everything together later if you want.”
“Why later?” Anne asks, suspiciously eyeing the laptop.
“Because,” he explains, “the entertaining part is way more important. Or, should we say, your cultural education?”
When she sees the amused gleam in his eyes, it begins to dawn on her. “Oh no,” she groans, “you’re going to make me watch some Monty Python or A Bit of Fry and Laurie or some other pretentious British comedy, aren’t you?”
Gilbert gasps dramatically. “First of all,” he says, “nothing about either of these is pretentious. They’re the peak of British humour, that’s what they are, and one day, I will make you watch all of them. But no, today we’re going to watch something different.”
“Do I get a say in it?” Anne asks with a sigh. She doesn’t think she stands a chance.
Gilbert raises an eyebrow. “Listen, Anne,” he says in a mock-serious voice. “I’m too smart to underestimate your strong will and your determination to spite me. But we’re friends now, and believe it or not, but I have only your best intentions at heart. So, do you trust me?”
She squints at him and takes a sip of her tea.
He keeps on looking at her expectantly, and when she doesn’t say anything, he repeats, “Do you trust me?”
Anne sighs in exasperation, rolls her eyes and finally says, “Fine, I trust you. What have you got for me?”
A smug grin spreads on Gilbert’s face, and Anne almost wants to take back what she said. But he nods and says, “Have you heard of Brooklyn Nine-Nine?”
It’s a known fact that Anne barely knows any tv shows at all. She watched the first season of Pretty Little Liars because Ruby gave her the DVDs, and Diana repeatedly forces her to watch Game of Thrones with her, but other than that, she knows nothing – pun intended. And well, of course she’s heard of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, she knows it’s one of Gilbert’s favorite shows. But even though they’re friends now, it’s still a reflex for Anne to mistrust the things that Gilbert loves.
So, yes, she’s wary when they watch the first episode.
Yes, she can’t help but scoff at the fact that the lead is a white guy.
“He’s Jewish though,” Gilbert immediately replies.
“Oh,” says Anne, and then she shuts up and watches.
And turns out, she wasn’t ready.
It takes everything for her not to burst out shouting “that’s amazing!!!” every few moments. She should at least pretend that she has to be won over, shouldn’t she? Her pride is at stake, and she can’t let Gilbert win that easily.
But the longer the show goes on, the harder it gets to not lose her shit over how friggin’ awesome that show is. For one, there’s the black gay police captain, and the black Sergeant, who are both fully fleshed out, multidimensional characters right from the beginning of the episode. There’s two awesome Latina ladies Anne immediately loves, there’s a dorky guy called Charles and a weirdly confident, cool woman called Gina, and Anne decides she likes all of them. And it’s hard to admit, but she even likes Jake, despite her efforts to be sceptical of him and to only call him ‘straight dude’ in her head.
As unbelievable as it seems to Anne, Gilbert Blythe actually seems to have a great taste in tv shows.
After the first episode, when Gilbert looks at her from the side and asks her how she likes it, she still manages to put her game face on and mumbles, “I suppose we can watch one more.”
After the second, her eyes are so fixed on the screen that Gilbert doesn’t even ask, he just clicks on the next one.
Hours later, they’re more than halfway through the first season and Anne has caught herself laughing out loud or clapping excitedly more than a dozen times. There’s no point in playing it cool anymore, and they both know it. They have long forgotten about the homework, and they have forgotten about the chicken soup as well. Even Anne’s tea has gone cold, and she barely even notices her sore throat and her blocked nose and the fact that she’s supposed to be completely miserable and feverish. In a weird way, it makes her nervous, and somehow self-aware.
“So, you like it,” Gilbert says. He doesn’t even make it a question, just states it like the smug bastard he is.
Anne rolls her eyes at him. She decides that he doesn’t deserve a real answer, because he already knows anyway – Anne is good at a lot of things, but containing her excitement has never been one of them. Instead she says, after a few moments of consideration, “So… I’ll still be sick tomorrow probably, and I doubt Marilla will let me go to school. Any chance you’re gonna come by my house unannounced again so we can finish the season?”
Gilbert is practically gloating. “Hey, if you can admit that I have a good taste and that I know your taste as well, I might even consider giving you my Netflix password so you don’t have to wait for me.”
Anne considers that. “Hmm,” she makes. “Tempting. You would trust me with your Netflix password?”
Gilbert raises an eyebrow, but nods. “You trusted me with your wifi password, it seems only fair.”
“Tempting,” Anne repeats. “But I think I’ll rather watch with you. You always make such adorable noises whenever Amy and Jake even look at each other.”
Gilbert seems very close to blushing when he says, “Hey, they’re the OTP to end all OTPs!!! You said they were cute together as well.”
“They are,” Anne admits. She was pleasantly surprised by their dynamics, and how they actually support each other, and honestly, she thinks whoever writes their dialogue deserves several awards.
Gil meanwhile has gone from gloating to genuine joy and excitement. “I can’t wait until you see – oh, but I won’t say, I don’t want to spoil anything. Just you wait, it’s going to be so great! You’re going to love it!”
Anne laughs, even though it hurts her throat and eventually makes her go into a coughing fit; but she can’t help it – Gilbert gets too adorable when he talks about Amy and Jake.
It makes Gilbert mope a little. “You’re laughing now, Shirley, but just you wait,” he mumbles.
There’s something awfully fond in the way he says “Shirley”. It makes Anne hyper-aware of the fact that they’ve been sitting really close for hours now. What must Marilla think, she wonders. A boy coming up to her room, not coming out again until late in the evening? Anne is surprised that Marilla hasn’t even checked on them once by now. Not that there would be any reason to, just…
Anne’s brain is going down some really strange paths that she doesn’t really want to explore, so to kill the tension inside her chest, she blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind. “Is it because you have a crush on Amy?”
Gilbert stares at her. “What?” he asks. His voice sounds a little croaky as well – Anne hopes he didn’t catch her flu.
“Amy,” Anne repeats, frantically searching her brain for a reason she said that, to come up with any kind of further explanation. “You know, is that the reason why you ship them so much?” Her brain is going a thousand miles per hour, but she’s not sure if she’s actually going anywhere with this.
“Umm,” says Gilbert.
“I mean,” Anne adds hurriedly, “I wouldn’t blame you. No one would blame you, probably, Amy is very crush-worthy.”
Gilbert still gives her a puzzled look, nods, shrugs, and says, “Well yeah, but honestly, my crush on Jake is way bigger.”
“What?” Anne stares at him. She waits for a grin, for a sign that it was a joke, so she can raise an eyebrow at him and inform him how that’s not funny.
Gilbert doesn’t grin.
Instead, he turns very, very pale. “Umm,” he says again. “What just happened?“
Anne takes a couple of moments to take in this whole situation. Then she decides she needs clarification, just to be 100% sure. “Gil?” she says softly. “Did you actually mean that?”
Gilbert looks everywhere but at her. He throws his hands up and lets them drop into his lap, helplessly. “I- I guess? I mean I’m not sure what it means yet, it could be anything really, but, you know? I guess I like guys. And other folks. I guess gender doesn’t really matter in that way? I don’t know.” He awkwardly scratches the back of his neck as he continues. “Jeez, Anne, I have no idea, it’s not like I planned to tell anyone yet, I’m still figuring stuff out! I’m just… yeah.” He doesn’t seem to know what else to say, so he just shrugs again and presses his lips together.
Anne breathes out. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Slowly, Gilbert raises his head. He looks at Anne, his face is hard to read; it’s complicated. Not uncomfortable though, and Anne is glad for that.
“Thanks for telling me,” she quietly says. She wants to hug him, but she’s not sure if he’d be ok with that. They’re in an awkward position for a hug, anyway, with the laptop still on Gil’s legs.
Gilbert manages a wobbly grin. “So, this is what coming out feels like,” he says, his tone joking. “I guess I suck at it, I should practice more next time.”
It breaks the tension a little, and Anne has to giggle, which makes Gilbert relax as well.
“For the record,” he says, his grin now genuine and wide, the way Anne knows it, “Jake Peralta isn’t straight either, at least according to the fans.”
“Interesting.” Anne raises an eyebrow. “Tell me more.”
And Gilbert does. He tells her about the bisexual Jake headcanons, and she promises to pay closer attention to Jake’s interactions with guys. He also shows her an interview with the actress of Rosa, where she discusses her bisexuality and strongly advocates for Rosa to get a girlfriend.
Anne can barely contain her joy, clapping her hands and shouting “Amazing!” every now and then.
And Gilbert grins at her and shares his headcanons with her and Anne decides that headcanons make watching tv shows even better, and she jokes around with Gilbert and laughs and laughs, until there’s suddenly a knock on the door and a rather stern looking Marilla crosses her arms at them.
“Anne, what is this nonsense?” she scolds. “You need rest, it’s late! I thought that Gilbert was long gone!”
Anne has never seen anyone get up from a bed as quickly as Gilbert. He clutches his laptop to his chest, grabs his messenger bag and his shoes from the floor while already taking two steps away from the bed, and stammering, “I’m very sorry, Marilla, we didn’t realize how late it was, it’s all my fault, I’m sorry!”
Anne has to press her lips together not to laugh, and she can see that Marilla is secretly amused as well, though Gilbert certainly wouldn’t be able to notice – there’s just this hidden glint in the corner of her eyes, like she’s very pleased with the fact that Gilbert is apparently scared of her.
“Alright, alright,” Marilla says in her grumpy voice. “You better leave now, I don’t want your parents to worry.”
Gilbert nods frantically, gives an apologizing look to Anne, shrugs, and asks, “See you tomorrow?”
Anne grins. “You know where to find me!” Her cheerful tone earns her a judging look from Marilla.
Gilbert says goodbye with a little, awkward wave and squeezes past Marilla in the doorframe, keeping a respectful distance from her as much as he can.
Once he’s gone, Marilla turns back to Anne, her face softer now. For all her graveness and her morality, Anne has long realized that Marilla is much kinder than she herself would like to admit. “Anne, I don’t like this,” she says. “The Blythe boy is a fine young man, bringing you soup and helping you with your missed schoolwork. But make sure he goes home at a more sensible time tomorrow.” That, apparently, is all she has to say to the situation, because after feeling Anne’s temperature and bringing her a hot water bottle and another cup of tea – “Sweating out the germs is the best way to get rid of the flu, Anne!” – she says goodnight and leaves Anne alone with a whole lot of emotions and thoughts piled up inside of her.
So, Gilbert is not straight. Gilbert is into guys, and “other folks”, and says that gender doesn’t really matter. That’s a lot to process, especially after months of Anne thinking she was the only queer person her age in Avonlea.
But, she supposes, this feels right. Being friends with Gilbert has been surprisingly easy – well, after they got over their pride and made amends, that is – and Anne thinks that this maybe has something to do with it. She read somewhere on the internet that often, queer people find each other without knowing, that they ‘huddled together like penguins for warmth in this cold, heteronormative world’ or something like that, and maybe that’s true. It feels good to know she’s suddenly not alone in this anymore, and an unexpected wave of new fondness for Gil rolls over her.
Does it change anything? She wonders about that for a while. Not really though, she decides, because they’re still the same people, it’s just that Anne got to know Gilbert a little bit better. And it also makes her feel more connected to him, which seems like a good thing in a friendship.
Her phone screen lights up, showing her two new messages from Gilbert – and a few from Diana as well, and Anne realizes with a pinch of guilt that she hasn’t talked to her bosom friend all afternoon; but that has to wait until later, Gilbert’s seem more urgent.
“sorry for making things awkward” , and “with Marilla, I mean. also with accidentally coming out. i hope you’re not weirded out now lol” . The nervous tone of the texts is kind of endearing, and Anne can’t stop herself from smiling at her phone.
“no worries about either,” she replies, and then adds, “i'm not weirded out and Marilla actually called you a fine young man after you left, it’s all good” . Usually, she wouldn’t have told him about what Marilla said – she doesn’t want to get his head any bigger than it already is – but she guesses that Gilbert needs all the reassurance he can get right now.
He seemed so nervous, Anne thinks. It makes her feel proud that he trusted her with it, the whole confusing sexuality thing. She knows how hard it is to try to figure yourself out all alone.
While she’s replying to Diana’s messages ( “school was horribly boring without you” and “how’s being sick? ”), Gilbert sends a single smiley face.
Anne is not sure what it means; if Gilbert is still nervous or uncertain, or actually thankful, if he regrets telling her or if he’s glad. Usually, he’s a man of many words, and that’s one of the things Anne likes about him – talking to someone is just so much easier when they let you know what’s going on in their head. So this single smiley face makes her a little nervous.
“thanks for telling me,” she writes after a while. “I’m glad we’re in this together now”
There’s no reply for a long time.
Anne chats some more with Diana, brushes her teeth and watches a few youtube videos, before her phone screen finally lights up again with another message from Gilbert.
“me too, Shirley”
Anne smiles, warmth spreading in her chest.
This is a good thing. She’s sick in bed, and the boredom of this would usually kill her, but she keeps on forgetting about it. She’s so busy being happy, and when it’s not that, then she’s thinking about Brooklyn Nine-Nine and bisexual headcanons and ‘Peraltiago’, as Gilbert fondly calls his ship.
And tomorrow she’s going to watch more of that show with him, and talk more about headcanons, and maybe about sexuality as well, because they can do that now. Just thinking about that makes her so excited that she feels like she won’t be able to fall asleep; but there’s also an underlying sense of contentment and rightness with it all, that makes her happy in a calmer way.
“good night, Gilbob” she texts him, puts her phone aside, and closes her eyes, cuddling the hot water bottle.
Just to think how much has changed since the last time she was asleep, only a few hours ago. It’s almost like she can feel the world underneath her, turning, turning, the movement of the planet slowly putting her to sleep.
This , she thinks just before she drifts off into her dreams, this is me clicking into my place in the universe. My own constellation on the sky.
She’s not completely sure what she means by it, but she decides it would make some lovely poetry. She can’t wait to tell Gil about it tomorrow.