The next morning Georg practially ran down the stairs, eager to begin the day and talk to Maria. He arrived in the dining room to find six children and two empty chairs. He tried to mask his disappointment. He wasn't quite quick enough.

"It's all right, Father, Fraulein Maria is taking breakfast with Louisa upstairs, so she won't be alone." Brigitta announced. "I helped Liesl get Marta and Gretl ready," she added, none too proudly.

Taken aback for a moment, he realized his most observant daughter assumed he feared Louisa had gotten worse overnight. "Oh, of course," he said. "And thank you for helping your sisters, Brigitta." He looked at each of the faces around the table. "I expect all of you to be extra helpful, until Louisa is up and around again. She will need Ma - more of Fraulein Maria's attention."

"We will, Father," Friedrich reassured him, as the rest of his children murmured in agreement.

XxXxXx

After the morning meal, the children were excused to the schoolroom. Georg went directly to Louisa's room, where he found Frau Schmidt just leaving with the tray she'd brought up earlier.

"Good morning, sir. Fraulein Maria is with Louisa, she seems in a bit of pain this morning," the housekeeper offered.

"Thank you, Frau Schmidt." Georg placed one hand on the doorknob, as he knocked with the other. He entered the room without waiting for a response. "Louisa?" he called, but she didn't answer. Maria had a finger to her lips, telling him to be quiet. He almost missed that message, remembering the taste of her mouth.

Walking to Louisa's bedside, he looked down at his third-born child. Her face was pale, and her eyes closed. Georg looked toward Maria with alarm. She was quick to reassure him.

"She's fine, just very stiff and sore. She ate some breakfast, and the chamomile tea Frau Schmidt made for her should help her sleep a bit. The second day is always the worst after a fall, you know that," Maria told him. "She's still awake, just resting."

Georg smoothed Louisa's golden hair, and she opened her eyes. "Good morning, Father," she said, the aches and pains clouding her eyes and her voice.

"Good morning, darling. Perhaps after you rest this morning, your Fraulein can get you into a warm bathtub to help you feel better." He smiled ruefully as he gently touched her cheek. "I'm sorry you were hurt, Louisa."

"It wasn't your fault, Father," she consoled him. The light brightened in her hazel eyes, which were so like her mother's. "And I'll show Daisy who's boss the next time I get to ride her."

Maria saw the Captain's shoulders tense, and before he could speak she touched his arm. He glanced at her, the raised eyebrows and pursed lips both telling him now was not the time to argue with his daughter. He visibly relaxed.

"All right, now, Louisa, you rest, and perhaps after that bath later we can join your brothers and sisters downstairs for lunch." Maria moved to smooth the quilt covering the girl, when she felt his hand softly touch her shoulder. A warmth which threatened to buckle her knees flowed through her, rendering her mute.

"Yes, Louisa. And I'd like to speak with your Fraulein now, downstairs," he bent down and kissed his daughter's forehead.

"Will she come back soon?" It wasn't like Louisa to be anxious or crave company, so he knew how much she was hurting. He reassured her that her governess would return shortly, asked Maria to meet him in his study, and left the room.

XxXxXx

Maria kept him waiting just long enough for him to begin wondering if she would join him, or would try and avoid speaking with him of the turn of events the night before. He'd left the door open, and when she appeared his heart swelled.

"You wished to see me, Captain?" she asked, and waited for his reply before entering the room.

"Yes, please, and do close the door behind you," was his request.

"Of course, sir," Maria answered. She pushed the door shut quietly, and walked across the floor to where he stood, leaning against his desk, arms and legs crossed in a casual fashion. Pausing just out of his reach, she looked up at him nervously. He could tell she was trying to avoid looking at the spot where they'd made love the night before.

"And how are you feeling this morning, Maria?" The smile he gave her nearly melted her, and a vivid blush colored her face as he moved to meet her where she stood. Georg took her hands in his and brought them to his lips, kissing each of them in turn.

"Just fine, Captain," hoping her voice didn't sound as unnatural to him as it felt. Just fine? Oh, Maria!

Georg smiled at her with his eyes. "Perhaps you should use my given name. I think we're past formalities, don't you?" She blushed and looked at the floor.

"I'm sorry, I, um, I'm not sure what, ah, what I'm supposed to do, or say, or…" Maria stammered. I just want to fall into your arms again, and stay there the rest of my life?

"There isn't an instruction book, Maria. And I meant what I said last night. I want you to stay." He dropped her hands in an effort to pull her into an embrace. His warmth of his hands on her waist was enough to start her heart pounding; the sound of his voice and the look in his eyes almost made her forget how to breathe.

Maria turned away from him and walked slowly to the window, knowing Georg was following closely. Looking out over the lake was a good way for her to avoid looking at him. "I will have to stay, at least for a while, since I won't be returning to the abbey."

Georg behind her, she could feel the warmth of him through the fabric of her dress. "That's not what I meant. I want to..." Just as he was to clarify, a loud knock on the door interrupted him.

"Yes?" he called, as he went to answer the door. He opened it to find Kurt on the other side.

"I'm sorry, Father, but Louisa needs Fraulein Maria."

Before Kurt had finished his reply, Maria was standing next to Georg. "What is it, Kurt?" she asked, as she moved past his father. Georg grabbed her hand as she tried to slip past.

"We need to talk about this later, Fraulein." She nodded an acknowledgement as she followed his son out the door.

XxXxXx

After Maria had helped Louisa in the bathroom, she sat in a chair in the girl's room as she dozed. Having forgotten to grab a book or some mending to do while she kept watch, she indulged her thoughts.

The discussion the Captain had tried to have with her a little while ago confirmed what her own soreness told her; that the night before had not been simply an overly imaginative dream, but real. Maria had fantasized about such things as she and the Captain - Georg - had become better acquainted, and then friends, and somewhere along the line she knew she had fallen in love with him. There was no doubt in her mind as to her own feelings. No other word could explain how her stomach would flip, her heart would pound, her breath would hitch the minute she was in his presence. How she could sense him nearby, even when he was out of sight. The way she would find reassurance in his smile; how he valued and respected her thoughts and opinions about his children's education, their activities, their discipline.

Maria had finally found a place where she was needed, wanted, loved. She'd longed for a family of her own; first as a little girl missing her parents while living with the uncle who never wanted her around; then later, as the girls in her teaching classes became engaged and married. She'd entered the abbey after finding solace in God, believing the least she could do in return for His love and mercy was to dedicate her life to doing His work.

And yet she'd had to admit, almost since the day the Reverend Mother had sent her here to care for the von Trapp children, that her dream to be part of a family had never truly gone away. Yes, the sisters had become like a family, the elderly nuns as aunts with watchful eyes, her fellow postulants as sisters and cousins, the Reverend Mother the closest thing to a real mother that she could remember having. She had been so afraid of leaving the abbey, of leaving the safety of the stone walls, perhaps losing what she'd come to have there.

Now, she loved these seven children as if they were her own. She couldn't imagine ever leaving them. Even if she did want to go back, after last night they'd more than likely refuse her for the novitiate. Not for committing the sin, but because she knew that while she could confess to it she could never repent for it. Repentance would mean regretting what she'd done, and she couldn't imagine that she ever would. In her head she knew her happily-ever-after as the Captain's wife would not be possible; marrying not only his children's governess, but her lack of social status made it all just a fairy-tale dream for her. He would instead marry the Baroness Elsa Schraeder, a titled lady in his same world. He hadn't said so, but the entire household staff talked of nothing but when they thought he would propose to the woman.

No, Maria would cherish the one night they had shared as long as she lived.

She was interrupted from her daydreaming as Louisa began to stir, awakening from her nap. Maria stood, smoothing her skirts, and went to draw the girl a warm bath.

XxXxXx

Downstairs in his study, Georg stared at the plans before him. Thanks to the influence of his late wife's father, he'd been hired as a consultant to the British Royal Navy. With the expectation of being drawn into the war, they wanted his expertise in redesigning the cockpit of their submarines to be more efficient. Yet the more he stared, the further away from the thoughts of his work he went.

The discussion the he had tried to have with Maria had simply confused him. Maria had seemed very comfortable with him in Louisa's room, but quite anxious here in the study. He fervently hoped it wasn't because she had regrets over their having been intimate the night before. There was no doubt in his mind as to his own feelings. Upon his return from Vienna when she had set him straight with an honest appraisal of his relationship with the children, they had quickly become better acquainted. They had soon become friends, and somewhere along the line he knew he had fallen in love with her. No other word could explain how his pulse would race and his heart would pound the minute she was in his presence. How he could hear her gorgeous voice, even when she was out of sight. The way she would reassure him with her smile; how it pleased him that she had become a mother figure to each of his children, learning about them and coming to love each of them as individuals. How much he desired her, and wanted to have more children with her.

Last night she had come to him with comfort, and he made a plea to the Almightly that she knew how much he cherished her, and she not feel he had taken advantage of her. And on the chance that perhaps she did regret it and would not welcome a relationship with him, he knew he would cherish his one night with her for the rest of his life.