Disclaimer: I still own nothing regarding The Sound of Music.

A/N: This is likely the last variation on this theme. Yes, this is earliest time-wise, but since there isn't really a timeline it doesn't matter. Enjoy.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTP!

The buzz of the electric lines going down was the last thing Maria heard before the entire von Trapp villa was plunged into darkness. She jumped in surprise, in the process dropping the books and toys she'd brought with her from Gretl and Marta's room all over the floor.

Drat, how will I ever see to pick these up? She dropped to her knees, feeling her way along the floor to pick up the things she'd been returning to the nursery. She briefly considered leaving them, but feared one of the girls waking and tripping over them in the night.

When she was sure she'd found everything she'd dropped, Maria sat in what she believed to be the middle of the hallway. It was completely black, the Captain insisted on all doors being closed at night. Even if they weren't, the inky blackness of the nighttime storm wouldn't have shed any light at all, anyway. She stood up, and feeling her way along the wall, tried to orient herself and make her way to the nursery door. She touched the door immediately in front of her and started counting, not realizing she'd traveled too far-and the door she began with was not the door to Gretl and Marta's room. Nor was she headed toward the nursery as she intended, but in the opposite direction.

A loud crack of thunder made her jump again, but this time she held tightly to the items in her arms. It was the sound she didn't recognize, that sounded like something slamming behind her in the hallway, that caused her heart to stop and made her open the door she had her hand on and run inside. She quickly shut the door behind her and leaned against it, as another flash of lighting made the room she'd entered bright as day for a moment. And her heart stopped a second time as she saw, directly in front of her, the Captain. Dressed in nothing except his undershorts. Tight undershorts that left very little to the imagination. She was most definitely not in the nursery.

"Oh, my." Maria could barely breathe at the image of her employer that had now permanently etched itself into her brain. The surprise of the sight, and the heat that was creeping through her, had caused her to drop her armload of playthings again, and to speak her thought out loud.

"Fraulein? What are you doing here? Are you all right? Is one of the children sick?" she was surprised to hear concern in his voice, rather than annoyance, as she expected.

"No, I, uh, oh, I'm so sorry, sir, I seem to have lost my sense of direction in the darkness."

"I should say so. What were you doing wandering the hallway in the dark?" This time he sounded closer, and Maria stayed where she was, leaning against the door.

"I was putting away some toys from the...well, anyway, I dropped them when the lights went out and I guess I got turned around and um, there was a noise and..." she sensed him very close to her now, before the next flash of lightning revealed just how close he was. The thunderclap at nearly the same instant that made her jump, right into his arms. She could feel his body heat even through the thick cotton of her own nightgown, which flustered her.

"Never mind that now," he leaned forward, his face nearly touching hers. "Does anyone know you're here? Did anyone see you come in?" his voice was low and husky, which sent a wave of feelings she hadn't experienced before course through her. She put her hands up, as if to keep him at bay, but the feel of his warm skin and the cool silk of the robe he'd donned did nothing but rattle her further. A more perfect example of a man she couldn't imagine, as he stood so close she could feel his breath on her cheek. Oh, help she thought, as her body responded to him.

"No, Captain, I don't think anyone saw me come in here," she sighed, trying desperately and failing miserably to keep her voice even. The children had been fast asleep when she'd checked on them, even with the storm raging. The doors to the two occupied guest rooms, housing Herr Dettweiler and Baroness Schraeder, had remained closed. The rest of the staff was in the other wing. Where you should be, you foolish girl.

As Maria tried to steady her breathing, she couldn't help but notice the fragrance of brandy, sandalwood, and lavender, which mixed with the Captain's own musk and tantalized her senses. His warm breath on her skin make her weak in the knees, and she was very glad she was propped between the door and his body, or she'd collapse in a heap on the floor. "I didn't...umm...see anyone. There was a loud noise in the hall, though, that's when I...when I..." Maria could no longer continue speaking, as all coherent thoughts left her head the Captain grazed his mouth against hers. She braced herself for his kiss, which never came. They stayed that way-poised for contact, without actually touching- for a long, luscious moment before he pulled back to regain his composure. Maria exhaled and opened her eyes.

"Well, come in and sit down, please." He took her hands in his, and led her to the settee between the balcony doors and the fireplace. The storm continued to rage outside, but Maria was no longer aware, and the Captain did not care. He prompted her to sit down on the rich, navy fabric, then sat beside her. He put one arm across the back of the settee, behind her shoulders. He was close enough that his leg rested against hers, and she shivered in response to his warmth.

"I'm not sure I should be in here, sir," she tried to sound firm, but her voice wavered. She wasn't the least bit afraid of him, and the fact that she wasn't was what was making her nervous.

"Nonsense. There's no need to stand on ceremony. I'd like to congratulate you again, Fraulein, on the magnificent job you did with the puppets, and teaching the children to use them, and singing so beautifully. I really am very much impressed." He reached out, and took her hand in his, and kissed it. As he looked up, his eyes meeting hers.

"I was quite impressed by your own performance this evening, Captain. The children were right, you have a wonderful voice," Maria said softly.

"It's been a long time since I sang like that, I was afraid I'd forgotten," he admitted. He wanted to add that he'd agreed to it for her, solely for her, when he'd looked into her eyes. The temptation was great, yet he hesitated.

Maria continued, "The younger girls told me they'd never heard you sing, until the day you returned from Vienna," It was a statement, not a question. Yet he felt compelled to explain.

"That is probably true, or at least they'd have no memory of it. We would sing in the evenings, as a family. Their mother loved to sing, and had quite a bit of talent. She always had music in the house. She sang all the time, happy songs, little tunes that would capture the children's attention. They followed her everywhere, singing along with whatever she sang." His voice betrayed a wistfulness at the memory that Maria couldn't help but notice. She squeezed his hand, still linked with hers, and he looked at her and smiled. "Much the way they do with you now, Fraulein."

He looked down, his voice became quieter. "When she died, I couldn't...I just...well, I just needed to feel in control again. And the only way I knew to feel in control, was to be a commander." The Captain turned back to Maria. "It was familiar, and comfortable, but it was wrong. I was wrong. Can they ever truly forgive me?"

Maria looked at him, carefully weighing her words. "I think they already have. They all are hungry for your time, for your attention, for your love. They are just so happy to have all that back. To have you." What remained unsaid was that Maria herself would be happy to have all of that as well, though she would never dare voice that dream. She blushed red at the thought, and was quite glad it was too dark for her employer to have noticed.

"They are still your children, and honestly, all they want is to be with you. It's rather simple, really, all you need do is spend time with them and ask them what they'd like. They're very open about what they like and don't like." Maria smiled, hoping that what she was saying would make him feel better.

"That's it? That's how you did it?" his deep voice was soothing, and his tone so gentle, Maria thought she would melt right into the cushions.

"Did what, sir? I'm not sure I understand."

"Got them all to fall in love with you. And I know from how hard you fought me the day I returned, that the feeling is mutual. You wouldn't have done that, if you didn't truly care for my children, and I thank you for that."

He realized that the he was still holding her hand, their fingers threaded together, and his thumb running back and forth across her knuckles. She relished his gentle strength, and responded with a soft caress of her own.

"You're welcome, sir, they really are wonderful children." She paused. "Captain, I... I really should go. What if one of the children wakes up ..." she let her voice trail off. She didn't want to finish what she'd started to say, because she didn't want to go.

"Didn't you just check on them? Is there cause for concern?" A flash of lightning, then a delay before the thunder that followed, reminding them both of Maria's first night at the villa.

Maria replied, "I did, and they were fine. I'm glad the storm has come through. It was much too warm; all of the children, except Liesl, had kicked off their bedcovers when I checked on them."

"Hmm, I do remember Kurt never could never keep his covers on, even as a toddler. Most mornings he'd be found on the bed, with all the bedclothes piled on the floor." The Captain adjusted his position on the sette a bit, his arm falling down to rest across Maria's shoulders. Neither seemed to mind. "And I do remember that Liesl barely moved throughout the night."

Maria smiled, he could hear it in her voice, even if he could barely see it. "They are still that way, Captain. What other things have you noticed about them, that you remember from when they were little? If you don't mind sharing those memories, that is."

"Well, let's see. Liesl was always a little mother, fussing over the new babies. She was always so good with them, and quite helpful. Friedrich enjoyed puzzles and maps, much like he does now. Louisa was always a tomboy; I think partly because she was between her two brothers. Kurt, well, Kurt was always hungry!" At this, the two shared a laugh. "I do remember Agathe being frustrated because she had to nurse him so frequently. Brigitta was quite curious about what she saw. Always asking questions. In fact, 'why?' may have been her first word." He stopped, and looked out at the lake. "Marta was much more dainty and petite than the others, quiet as a baby, but with beautiful eyes and the sweetest smile. And Gretl..." his voice became quieter, and Maria had to lean in to hear him. "I'm ashamed to say that I don't really know. Most of my time was spent with the older children then; and she was not quite two years old when..." his voice trailed off. Maria instinctively her placed other hand atop his, and pressed it between both of her own. Georg looked at her, and she could see the sadness in his eyes.

"It's all right, Captain, really. Gretl knows you love her very much." Maria's voice was soft and comforting, and Georg squeezed her hand in return.

"Oh, Fraulein. Without you, your help, I still wouldn't know them."

"I don't know, sir. I think you'd have come around. You just needed a little encouragement."

"So that's what you call what you said to me that day? Encouragement?" he smiled, and the laughter in his voice told Maria he was teasing her. Her heart soared at the idea she'd made him feel better, perhaps even a bit more confident, regarding his relationship with his children.

"Well, of course! What better way to get you to come back to your children than to dump them into the lake, and then chastise you until you fired me?" Her eyes danced as she smiled at him, so unlike the day in question. Then, she had shot daggers at him. But tonight he recognized in her clear, blue eyes a warmth and affection which completely captivated him.

"Ha! At least I was wise enough to recognize that mistake and rectify it in time. This household would have revolted if I'd actually made you leave," he admitted. "I'm so glad you agreed to stay on with us, Fraulein," his voice barely more than a whisper. "There is simply no way for me to repay you for what you've done for me...for my family."

Maria could barely breathe, she was closer to him-to any man-than she'd ever been in her life. She loved the warmth of his hand in her own; her senses were filled with him, his scent, his closeness, his touch.

"Captain, you were a family all along. You simply needed a reminder," she struggled to get the words out. I'm just so happy you've found each other again."

"As am I, Fraulein," he stated simply. The captain cleared his throat, knowing that if he didn't change the subject he was likely do something slightly scandalous. "So, tell me, what were you like as a child? Were you always so, ah..."

"So much trouble?" Maria smirked at him, remembering their first meeting. "Yes, I'm afraid so. I was a very active child, and was quite exasperating to my parents. Then when I went to live with my uncle...well, he simply wasn't prepared to have to raise a bold, rambunctious girl," her voice trailed off, leaving a sense of sadness behind, her face turned toward the floor.

"I know it isn't my business, but what happened that you went to live with your uncle?" Georg asked softly, absently stroking her shoulder with his fingers. Maria instinctively nestled a bit closer into him.

"My mother and father both contracted the flu, and died within a week of one another. I was seven years old," she answered. Maria closed her eyes, then was surprised to feel the graze of the captain's fingers leave a fiery trail on her cheek. She sensed him leaning closer, then felt his lips on her forehead, giving a tender kiss. When she heard his voice, she opened her eyes.

"I, I..ah, I hope you don't think that was too forward of me, Fraulein," his voice dark and husky. "It kills me to see someone as beautiful as you are so sad. You don't deserve to be."

"Oh, sir, " Maria interrupted his apology. "There is no need to apologize." Her blue eyes once again fixed on him, at once comforting and questioning. Beautiful? Did he just say...? Oh, foolish girl, you are going to be a nun. Aren't you?

As if he could read her mind, his next question was just that. "What was it that made you want to join the sisters at the abbey? Forgive me, but you don't seem the sort of woman who'd be fulfilled living a cloistered life."

Maria thought for a moment. "I suppose it was the sense of peace, and of belonging. When it became too much at my uncle's house, I'd escape up into the mountains, or if I didn't have enough time, over to the edge of town. One day I heard singing. I followed the sound, and climbed a tree, and saw the sisters over the wall to the abbey. I found it fascinating, and decided I'd like to be a part of that." As she finished, Maria idly rested her head on the Captain's shoulder. I could get used to this, though. She quickly brushed away that thought, he was practically engaged to the Baroness, who was just across the hall in her own room. He's just being kind.

For a few more moments, they sat together quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, as the storm died off in the distance, the Captain spoke.

"Well, it's getting late. I suppose I should let you return to your room now. After all, I did promise your Reverend Mother that I would take good care of you while you are here." He stood, and helped Maria to her feet. They walked to the door of his room, his hand on the small of her back. The intimate gesture was not lost on either of them.

"Goodnight, Captain. Thank you for the lovely conversation."

"The pleasure was all mine, Fraulein. Do yo think you can make it back to your room, in the dark?"

"Yes, thank you, I think I'll be fine." The governess smiled at the father of her charges, unsure of what she was feeling, but knowing she enjoyed it immensely.

The End