Georg von Trapp leaned back in his chair, tossing the pen he held onto the mess of papers on the top of his desk. The deadline for the consulting work he'd accepted for the British Royal Navy was fast approaching, but he couldn't think. What was worse, he didn't care. For the past 12 days - yes, he'd been counting - he'd stopped caring about pretty much everything. Except her.

Maria.

When he woke the morning after the ball with a wicked hangover, he'd never expected to be nearly assaulted by his children, the older ones worried, the younger ones crying, that their governess was nowhere to be found. After shooing them away, he'd showered and dressed, cursing Elsa and that blasted champagne she'd plied him with all night. The pounding in his head was like a hammer, reminding him why he had stopped drinking it years ago in favor of the Scotch he preferred.

By the time he got down to the dining room, the children were seated and there was a note on his plate. The envelope simply read 'Captain' in a feminine script, and the last letter appeared smudged or smeared, as if it had gotten wet. He picked it up, then looked around the table.

"What is this?" Seven faces looked at him sadly, Gretl's and Marta's cheeks still reddened and tear stained.

"I found it on the table in the hall, Father," Liesl explained. "It looks like Fraulein Maria's writing. Perhaps it tells where she is?" The hopeful tone in her voice was belied by the crack of emotion, and she looked from her father down at her plate.

"Well, let's see." He opened the envelope, noticing it hadn't been sealed. Removing and then unfolding the single page inside, he scanned the words. He blinked several times, read it again, then tried desperately to swallow past the lump that was now lodged in his throat.

"Father?" At the sound of Brigitta's voice he looked up, startled, having forgotten the children were there, waiting for word of their beloved governess. Brigitta could tell you…..she notices everything.

"She…...ah, she says she misses her life at the Abbey too much and has returned there," he replied evenly, leaving out the rest. "And to say goodbye to all of you."

The emotional outburst from them all would have broken his heart, if it hadn't been broken by the note itself. He had indeed known how much she meant to the children. He had simply not fully appreciated how much she meant to him.

XxXxXx

Thanks to Maria's example, he hadn't tried to escape the sadness that pervaded the house in the first few days after she'd gone. On the contrary, he'd tried to keep up a good face to the children, spending as much time with them as he could. The only outward sign that Georg von Trapp, brave and strong naval hero had any reaction to the young postulant leaving his employ was on his face. Since her note had been found, he had stopped shaving.

He hadn't thought about it until it had been over a week. After Elsa had accepted his proposal, she touched his chin with one finger, and expressed her desire that he 'clean himself up' so people wouldn't think he was some sort of a vagabond. He'd assured her he would, and she didn't mention it again.

But when he'd tried, he couldn't. He simply couldn't stand to look at himself in the mirror. It was his fault. It was all his fault that she was gone. He should never have danced with her at the ball; he hadn't been able to rein in the urge to be close to her, to touch her, to move together with her. She had to have seen his attraction to her in his eyes; felt the chemistry between them just as he had. That had to be why she had gone, without a word to anyone. He placed the razor back in the stand and went to his bedside table. He removed the note for what seemed like the hundredth time.

Dear Captain,

I apologize for doing this by letter rather than in person.

Now that you are ready to become a family with the children and the Baroness, by staying I am simply standing in the way of your happiness.

I am returning to the Abbey, I do miss my life there. Please tell the children good-bye.

God's blessings to you always.

Maria

Later when he and Elsa had told the children she was to be their new mother, he was disheartened further by their less-than-enthusiastic response. It was then that he finally admitted to himself that it wasn't going to work. As much as he was grateful to Elsa for all she'd done for him, he couldn't marry someone he didn't love, especially when he was in love with someone else. It took him another two days to find the words to let Elsa down easily, and her quiet acceptance left him grateful to her once more.

XxXxXxXx

On this twelfth day, when he couldn't concentrate on his work, he suddenly realized he hadn't seen the children all afternoon. Usually he could count on one of them to come in, asking again why their Fraulein had gone, and couldn't he get her back. Or he'd see them trying to occupy themselves playing a game, but one of the little ones would invariably dissolve in tears, requiring Liesl to offer comfort, and thereby ending whatever activity they'd tried.

He pushed his chair back from the desk and walked to the window. A beautiful blue sky, white clouds and sunshine greeted him, and the grass was vivid green after a rainstorm the night before. It hardly mattered, as none of it raised his spirits. What did interest him was the sight of his children-all seven of them-now gathered by the landing near the boat launch. Wondering where they'd been, he went outside to ask them.

After giving as explanation a ridiculous story about going berry picking, and eating thousands of supposedly blue strawberries without bringing a single one home, Georg knew without a doubt his children had walked the long way to the Abbey to try and see their governess. He'd had the suspicion when they started they berry picking yarn, but Liesl's pointed look to him about where he thought they'd gone verified it.

Back in his study, he was still chuckling about telling them they could go without their dinner when he heard-was that what he thought it was? Were they singing? Moving again to the window, he saw his children were no longer on the landing but over in the grass, surrounding her.

Maria.

He could barely see her in the center of a squirming circle of his children, all vying to hug her first. If he'd been out there, he'd have shamefully pushed them all aside to wrap his own arms around her. As it was, though, he walked purposefully out the the terrace, and stood at the top of the stairs. Watching as they continued to greet Maria, he waited patiently for the frenzy to die down.

Friedrich noticed him first, and he and Louisa began shouting to him that Fraulein Maria had returned. The rest of the children turned to look toward the him, but Georg only had eyes for the one his heart yearned for.

Her words were simple and softly spoken. "Good evening, Captain."

"Good evening." Trying to suppress his joy in seeing her again gave his voice a strange lilt.
"All right. Everyone inside for dinner."

A clamor of hungry children called out gratefully. "Dinner!" The boys picked up Maria's belongings and brought them into the house as they ran to the dining room.

Georg walked slowly toward her and down the steps. "You left without saying goodbye. Even to the children." It was a statement not of accusation but of fact.

"It was wrong of me. Forgive me." She looked into his eyes, and he decided he could forgive her anything.

"Why did you?" He slowly continued walking toward Maria, until he was standing directly before her.

"Please don't ask me. Anyway, it seems the reason no longer exists." Maria smoothed nonexistent wrinkles from the skirt of her dress, as an awkward silence descended upon them. Georg was about to tell her how things had changed, but she beat him to it.

"The children tell me the Baroness has returned to Vienna." Suddenly, the outspoken young woman seemed almost shy as she waited for him to respond.

"They are correct. Elsa and I have parted company. It seems unwise to marry someone when you're in love with someone else, don't you agree?" The intensity of his feelings for her were obvious in his eyes, he knew this when her own gaze reflected the same to him.

"I love you."

When Maria opened her mouth to reply, Georg could no longer resist, gathering her in his arms and kissing her. He began softly, chastely; and as she responded his kiss became more urgent, insistent. She melted into him, and as he moved to kiss her cheek she began to laugh.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"That tickles." She pulled a bit away from him, and ran her fingers down his beard. "It's, um, an interesting new look for you. More like a sea captain, actually."

"Do you really think so? Do you like it?" he brought his hand up to cover hers, bringing her fingers to his lips.

After considering his face from a few different angles, she offered her answer with a grin. "Mmmm, not really," as he captured her mouth with his again. He felt drugged, as the tension and guilt of the past twelve days melted in the sweetness of her kiss. His passion for her began to overwhelm him, and before he lost all sense he pulled away. Maria's eyes were still closed, a look of rapture on her face. When he took her face in both his hands, she opened them, gazing at him adoringly.

"Marry me?"

Her answer was in her kiss.

XxXxXx

"Come with me, love," he whispered, as the said goodnight to the last of the children. They'd immediately forgiven Maria for having left, and were overjoyed that she was to be their new mother. It had been difficult to settle them, but now the newly affianced couple was ready to enjoy some quiet time together.

"Where are you taking me? And why are we whispering?" she asked.

"Well, I don't want anyone to hear us," he said simply.

They stopped in front of the door to the master suite. Maria looked at him, her eyes wide with surprise. "I'm...Georg…do you really think…"

He rushed to reassure her. "No, darling, I would never ask that of you. I just need your help." Georg opened the door, and waited for her to enter. After turning on the lamp, he walked through the room to another door. Maria followed him and looked inside as turned the key for the lights.

"I need to help you bathe?" She looked at him as if he'd lost his mind.

"No, I want you to help me shave." Now she looked intrigued.

As he laid out the cream and brush, scissors, razor and lotion, he explained to her how he'd wound up, unintentionally, with the beard. Already in shirtsleeves, he opened the top few buttons of his shirt.

Georg got a small chair from the secretary in his room, and began talking her through the steps of trimming as closely as possilbe with the scissors, applying the hot cloth, showing her how to create and apply the lather, and finally using the razor. Maria proved a quick learner, her hands quick and sure. Georg's imagination ran wild with what other things those hands could do.

She was so absorbed in the task at hand that as she maneuvered to get better angles, she was unaware that before long she was straddling his leg. The gentle sway of her hips affected him deeply, and with great difficulty he waited until she was finished. He gently grasped her wrist to still her ministrations, and removed the razor from her hand.

"Did I hurt you?" she questioned him, as he set the razor on the sink's edge.

"Quite the contrary, my love," he replied, as he pulled her down onto his lap, and kissed her passionately once again. After long, delicious moments kissing and caressing one another, Georg prompted Maria off of his lap. Grabbing the cloth from the counter, he gently wiped the lather from her face, then wiped his own before rising and and leading her toward the door to the hallway.

He paused in the doorway, and Maria gazed at him before stroking his freshly-shaved cheek. "Oh, that's better. Much, much better." She kissed him again, first his lips, then across his cheek to the side of his neck. Georg moaned, then separated from her.

"I'm sorry, darling, but I think it's best if you go now, as much as I don't want you to leave."

Maria kissed him sweetly. "I'll never leave again."