So I wrote this last night. Its based on a series of prompts I read long ago where you "slip" something into or out of a story. In this case, I slipped the Captain into the scene just a touch sooner and viola! instant AU that changes the course of the story. Plus I always wanted to see a scene where the Captain found out what Little Miss Elsa said the night of the party.

I'm not really sure I succeeded but this fandom is just so much fun I came back for more.

"Children I'm so glad to see you." Maria beamed at the familiar faces, truly grateful that her worst fears of the children's rejection upon her return hadn't come true. A second chance for her. A chance to find out where and who she was supposed to be.

"We missed you!"

"I missed you too."

"Kurt, how are you?"

"Hungry." Some things never change.

"Gretl, what happened to your finger?"

"It got caught!"

"Caught in what?", Maria asked as she placed a kiss on the bandage.

"Friedrich's teeth."

Noticing the oldest daughters smile wasn't quite making it up to her eyes Maria turned to her and said,"Leisel, you all right?"

"Just fair."

"Any telegrams been delivered here lately?"

"None at all, but I'm learning to accept it... I'll be glad when school begins."

And some things never stay the same. A first heartache, Maria thought. She and Liesel would have to spend some time together soon for a talk. But before that there were other conversations to be had. Drawing a breath and projecting confidence she wasn't feeling she stopped walking.

"Oh Leisel, you can't use school to escape your problems. You have to face them! Oh, I have so much to tell you." I ran away because I'm afraid I'm in love with your father...probably shouldn't lead with that, she thought.

"We have things to tell you too."

"I'm sure you do."

"The most important thing is that..." Brigitta trailed off and looked up at the steps onto the terrace.

"Oh Father look Fräulein Maria has come back from the abbey!" seven times over rang in her ears.

"Good evening."


Maria almost dropped the little girls hands, certain she would need to place her hands over her heart to help it start beating again. Nights on her knees in prayer till they bruised and hours agonizing over her return and its consequences, all her plans shattered by only his voice.

"Good evening Captain," she said softly, pleased that she had managed to sound calm and not at all as though she might bolt for the abbey.

He clapped his hands together startling her out of her escape scenario.

"Alright, everyone inside go and get your dinner." The "except you Fräulein" remained unspoken but clearly heard.

The stampede cleared and once again the two of them were left alone. Beginning as staring and rapidly melting into gazing. Her words to the Reverend Mother echoed in her ears, "...sometimes we would look at each other, oh Mother I could hardly breathe…". The air seemed heavy and still as if it too we're holding its breath waiting to see what might happen next. Maria found she had trouble drawing it in, her lungs felt sluggish. He seemed so cool and unaffected to her.

He was not.

He was a man in his forties who had commanded sailors into battle with courage and distinction-and he was clutching the railing of his own terrace.

She had returned. For the children? For the Reverend Mother? For him? Why now? Most of all why? The questions with no answers tumbled in his mind and he simply blurted the first that came to mind.

"You left without saying goodbye...even to the children." He felt safer making her a exit seem more of a blow to them. He'd told himself repeatedly that he was disappointed in the loss of a governess with staying power, nothing more. Liar. He brushed his hands against his lapel pocket and felt the paper of her letter crinkle reassuringly. Unable to part with last physical evidence of the joy and laughter that she had brought with her. Afraid that if he threw it away the spell would be broken and things would return to the way they were before, cursed.

"Well it was wrong of me. Forgive me?"

"Why did you?" He murmured, unable to help himself ask the question he most wanted too.

"I...well you was the night of...but it started before that, oh! This was much less complicated in front of the Reverend Mother. Honestly Captain, I'm not sure this is the time or place for this discussion..." She tailed off again looking anxiously past him.

The children, Herr Detweiler, or worse yet the baroness might be wondering where they were. She, no they, needed to have this conversation but the here and now of a terrace with no privacy seemed foolish. Surely he could see that she was desperate for an ending to this. Her confidence was failing her at the worst possible moment.

He turned to look behind him trying to see what it was she might be looking for. No one and nothing. She was visibly uncomfortable, wringing her hands, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He took a step toward her, then three. Slowly, stopping a few steps from the landing.

"You've never been afraid to speak your mind to me Fräulein," he chuckled. A picture of her swaddled in her hideous abbey issued nightgown defiantly asking for material flashed thru his mind causing his smile to widen.

"I, uh we, would have understood if you had missed the abbey. The children and I. But you seemed...content. To leave and say nothing... were you protecting them? Did they..."

"Oh no! No they would never, well not after that first day." She gave a half smile at that. She'd checked her pockets for days after though she would never admit it.

"Was it, were they too much to handle, the staff were unkind, or someone from the party? Max perhaps?" he pressed. He needed an answer.

"No, it wasn't any of those reasons. Do you really not... I had thought we were both...well clearly I've imagined or you've forgotten," she huffed.

"Enlighten me then," he interrupted. What could he have forgotten? The whistle fiasco, the truthfully angry words by the lake, the weekly meetings that turned into cozy conversations far afield from the subject of his children, or was it singing to her in a crowded room? How damn inconvenient finding himself drawn to her was, peeking around corners to watch her with his children?

How he had woken, gasping and twisted in his sheets with her name on his lips?

He had forgotten nothing.

His irritated tone had clearly gotten her hackles up as she was mumbling under her breath at him. He wasn't catching it all but he found himself amused. A smirk tugging at his lips. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leant against the stone pillar at the bottom of the steps, rather enjoying the show.

"...all that worry...look for your life?...Men do you know...I guess the Baroness was right to try and warn me..." She was pacing now in tight little circles in front of him.

The mention of the Baroness caught his complete attention and his smile dropped. He reached out a hand and gently held her arm to still her pacing. She startled but his eyes insisted on holding hers in place.

"The Baroness warned you?" He asked curiously.

She nodded. "At the party, after the children had performed and I went to change for dinner...could have used a bit of help there," she glanced at him pointedly. She thought he might have looked sheepish for a second or two. "Anyway she... she offered to help me find a suitable dress and then pointed out that I had, well, blushed while we danced."

She was blushing now in front of him but he wisely kept quiet on the matter.

He'd enjoyed it. The dance they had shared. How his pride had swelled when she blushed. How delectable she had felt in his arms as their hands slipped and stroked in the intricate dance. She turned and walked towards the lake and he let his fingers glide down her sleeve as he released her.

Was she embarrassed he wondered? That she had been caught out dancing with her employer, a man, and she was to become a nun? Perhaps they had broken a rule and she felt she needed to leave and confess. But she said that Elsa had "warned" her. He followed after her.

"You said she warned you. What else did she say?"

Something inside her just wanted to blurt it out. Grab him by the hand and press it against her breastbone so he could feel her heart pounding. This, right here beneath your skin. It happens every time you come into a room, every time you speak, every time you glance my way. Please understand what I am trying so hard not to say. Whether or not she was ready this conversation was happening right now. Maria forced herself to turn around and face him. Face this, whatever the outcome. Deep breath.

"She told me that nothing is more irresistible to a man than a woman who is in love with him," she stated. Almost as though reciting it from a book, purposefully cutting her heart out of her head lest it lead her astray. She'd said it. And she was still standing though breathing as if she'd run a mile. She looked at his face but he gave away nothing. She had just cut herself open at the heart in front of him and all he could do was watch her. Oh, what if he felt nothing? Or worse yet was hiding pity?

He realized he was just standing there, floored by her painful honesty. He wiggled his fingers in a nervous habit as he watched all her emotions parade across her face. Despite his inability to move he was churning inside, unsure it was possible to feel everything he seemed to be feeling all at once. Confusion, sadness, and hope.

Reigning in his emotions he gathered his iron will and calmly asked, "Was that all?"

"No," she said as turned to walk a few more steps toward the water. She kept her back to him, not brave enough to say the final words to his face, to continue to watch him remain passive as if her words held no impact. "No, she said that you were in love with me too. But I didn't want to believe it!," she exclaimed. "Then she told me that men get over it soon enough, girls like me soon enough."

He reached for her arm again to spin her around to face him.

"What?," his tone was low and dangerous. He was suddenly the man she had encountered after capsizing his children. He was oozing barely controlled rage.

Georg was livid. Elsa. How dare she? He had made no promises to her that night or any other before it. Her careless words had caused his children pain and confusion. Had caused an utterly wonderful woman to question her feelings and had shamed her into leaving.

The anger at Elsa allowed him to push away thoughts about the veracity of her statement that he was in love with Maria. There had seemed little use in entertaining thoughts about her after she was gone. She was never meant to stay with them, with him.

Seeing the angry storm brewing in his eyes she tried to diffuse, "I...I told her I'd never done anything to..."

"You don't have too," he murmured. He raked his hand thru his hair and rubbed the skin behind his ear.

"And that's why you left."

She nodded. He reached out a hand and ran his thumb across her cheek then yanked it back clenching his fist. He had no right to touch her, but he wanted to. "Maria, you must know that.."

"Fräulein Maria! You've returned." Elsa Schrader glided down the steps, eyes on the confused governess.

"Isn't it wonderful Georg?" She asked as she snaked an arm thru his. He stiffened underneath her touch but she seemed not to have noticed. "The children are hardly able to eat with all the excitement. They were quite lost without you, my dear. And so convenient for you to return now, it will be such a help."

"Uhm, help Baroness?"

"For the wedding of course. Didn't the children tell you? We are to be married," she beamed at the Captain and the turned her smile on Maria.