An epilogue with Max and that bottle of scotch Georg promised to split with him after he drove an angry Elsa to the train station.

Special thanks to augiesannie and charleybec!

Georg was standing in the fading light of his study window watching his children merrily chase fireflies. He chuckled to himself as Kurt overreached and stumbled into Friedrich who tripped over Louisa who looked on with disgust at her brothers. Months ago the scene from his window would have appalled him, the chaos and noise sending him for his whistle. His gaze landed on the lovely blonde whispering with his oldest daughter and he watched her turn to look right at him. Like magnets, always feeling the pull of the other. She waved and blew him a kiss. As much as he loved seeing her amongst his children he selfishly wanted her all to himself. She had only been his for less than a day, he frowned. He was pouting but it was his turn, he'd been patient today.

He sighed.

They had decided the night before to drop little hints to the children rather than tell them their news straight away and see how long it would take them to notice. For once, the children and Maria where seated around the breakfast table before him. Entering the dining room he was suddenly struck by the scene before him, how right it seemed, how peaceful he felt about his family's future. A peace he had not felt in years. Instead of trying to play it cool in front of the children and drop subtle hints as planned, he improvised. He simply walked into the room, bade the children good morning, strode over to a wide eyed Maria and kissed her on the mouth, whispering his good morning in her ear. Chaos ensued as he calmly took his seat and picked up the paper, letting the questions and exclamations and whoops of joy surround him.

Hours later he found himself in the library trying to find an engineering volume he had misplaced. So engrossed in his search he hadn't heard footsteps behind him and gave a rather unmanly little jump when Maria called his name.

"Oh, I didn't hear you." He leaned back against the table behind him and crossed his arms, smiling at her. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

She just stood there for a moment, realizing that she had never seen him without his jacket on. The beginnings of stubble on his cheeks, his tie was missing and he had undone a few buttons at the throat. He looked rather earthy to her, tumbled, as though she had caught him undressing. She was endlessly fascinated by him.

"We missed seeing you at lunch and I just…," she shook her head, deciding whether or not to say what she was feeling. "Its silly really. I just wanted to make sure that all of this was real." She ran a fingertip down his chest, almost unconsciously. She seemed to be grounding herself. He stood completely still and watched its progression, jaw clenched, his body burning as though she was touching his bare skin.

"It's all happening, did happen," Maria corrected. "I'm not dreaming again am I?," she asked. She abruptly withdrew her finger as she realized she had reached the bottom of his shirt but she met his eyes without embarrassment.

She never said what he expected her to say or did what he thought she might. It was one of the joys of loving her he supposed, waiting to see what she brought to life next. He brushed the back of his hand against her cheek, "Its real," he assured her crossing his arms again at the temptation of her. Lightening the mood he asked, "Now what's this about dreaming, again? Been having dreams about me then?," he teased and watched as she flushed deeply but gave him a saucy little smile.

She shook her head at him, "I'll never tell…" she teased back.

"Oh ho, well then, I won't tell you about the dreams I had about you."

"You dreamt about me? Really?" They hadn't had a chance to talk much about the where and why and how of the start of their feelings for one another and she was more than curious. She wanted to hear it all.

"Mmm hmm." He smiled to himself, the only betrayal of the thoughts swirling through his mind that he allowed. "And someday I might relent and tell you all about them."

"When?" she asked eagerly, her blue eyes sparkling with innocent interest.

Georg leaned forward until they were only inches apart, breaths mingling, and he watched her eyes dilate. In a low voice he answered, "When I am free to touch you anywhere. Not having to keep my arms crossed for fear of violating the rules only one day into our engagement."

"Promise me you'll tell?" she whispered, intrigued by whatever it was he was unwilling to confess but had made his eyes darken.

"Yes," he whispered back.

"Good," she quipped jauntily as she bounced back a bit from him. "Then I'll promise to tell you mine and hope I won't offend your maidenly sensibilities!"

Laughing, she popped onto her tiptoes and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and turned to leave. He reached out, grabbed her hand, pulled her into his embrace and kissed her sassy mouth, letting his passion for her seep out carefully. He had been alone for so long, to suddenly have this woman he loved in his arms felt surreal. A part of him wanted to push. To rush everything and everywhere. The rest of him didn't want it to be hurried but savored as he discovered her. She daringly deepened the kiss as she licked into his mouth and he groaned in approval. He craved her touch, soaked it up, the soft caresses against his neck and the sting of her nails on his shoulders as he found a sensitive spot behind her ear.

"I had it first! That's not fair!"

"You set it down, that means you don't want it anymore! Fair game Kurt!"

Maria pulled back slowly and gave a reluctant smile. "I had better go and arbitrate before the bloodshed starts." He simply watched her walk towards the door as though she was unaffected by his kisses while his own heart hammered and sweat pooled at the small of his back.

He ghosted his fingertips across his mouth absently at the memory of her. Those stolen minutes in the library had done nothing to help the situation and he had a feeling a thousand more such moments would only scratch the surface.

"Yes," he called out after a sharp knock on his door pulled him from his thoughts.

"It's only me," said Max, waltzing into the study and draping himself onto a high backed leather chair in a dramatic slump.

"Max! We missed you at dinner. When did you get back?," Georg asked, crossing over to the cabinet and searching about for a bottle of scotch and a couple of glasses.

"Oh, half an hour or so, I had a few appointments in town. Congratulations man! You were, uh, very busy while I was away, or so I hear," purred Max, eyebrows wiggling with anticipation.

Georg raised an eyebrow at Max in response but said nothing. He took the seat opposite and simply set the glasses and the full bottle on the table between them. Max picked up the bottle and scrutinized the label before opening it with a little flourish and inhaling deeply.

"I do love rich people...," he sighed as he poured out well more two fingers worth into each tumbler. He handed the Captain a glass and took up his own, swirling it a bit.

"Cheers, " Max said, tapping his glass against the Captain's. "Now which of us shall go first, mm? How about me? That way we can save the, uh, more provocative details for last shall we?"

"I'll not be providing details, provocative or otherwise Maximillian," but there was no sting in Georg's tone.

"Oh, if I remember correctly you'll sing like a canary if I can convince you to pour enough of this down your throat," Max took a deep sip and raised his glass in Georg's direction.

"To your lovely governess..."

"Max…," the Captain started to warn him.

"Ah ah ah, let me finish," he cleared his throat dramatically, "to your lovely governess, may she always help you see the error of your ways."

Georg raised his eyebrow again but crooked a grin at his friend. They took simultaneous sips before Max added under his breath, "Especially as regards a certain outdoor singing festival..."

Georg snorted at his and glanced out the window again to see that the children were gone, probably gathered up for bed. Turning back to his companion he simply sat back and waited. Max never needed convincing to talk. And talk.

"Right then, my evening was ghastly as you well knew it would be. Whilst you were locked in your study, brooding or mooning or writing love sonnets," he teased as he rolled his eyes in mock disgust. "I was trying to figure out how I was going to squeeze all eleven, eleven trunks and boxes Georg, into the boot of your car. I considered renting a donkey and cart but felt it was the wrong time to ask dear Elsa if she wouldn't mind traveling by hay... She had commandeered all the maids in the house and Frau Schmidt to help her pack," he chuckled. "Hmm, come to think on it they were all working very fast, and grinning, you don't suppose they wanted to be rid of her do you?"

"Ha! She didn't manage to convince Franz to lend a hand?"

"No, he was hiding in the cellars."

"Really? How on earth did you know that?"

"I ran into him trying to find a place to hide!"

Georg laughed and refilled their glasses. Though he was not proud of his part in Elsa's abrupt departure from his home he couldn't help but laugh at Max. He had a wonderful ability to turn any story into a long suffering tale all about him.

"Finally, Frau Schmidt came down to let me know we could load the car. It was already getting dark by then you know and I knew we would have to hoof it if we wanted to make the station in time for the last train. I felt that there was some urgency on your part, and hers, not to be a guest in this house at breakfast," he paused to take a sip and enjoy the rare bashful expression on Georg's face.

"Anyway, as we were stuffing her final pieces of luggage into the car, uh, incidentally one or two might be missing...one of the lads was having trouble making a few fit and I may have, uh, tossed them into your bushes... Perhaps we can have them sent along?"

"Max, for heaven sakes!"

"I know I know, anyway... Just as Elsa was coming down the staircase one of the maids raced up to Frau Schmidt and started whispering rather madly into her ear, for an older woman she surely can move when she wants too. She gave some sort of elaborate signal and all the doors and rooms with any view of the lake starting slamming shut...odd wasn't it?"

"Hmmm, oh yes very, uh odd."

"I think we should drink to Frau Schmidt for her quick thinking!" exclaimed Max, giving his companion a look that said he knew exactly why the order had been given.

They raised their glasses and toasted the good lady, twice for good measure.

"Needless to say we left and she rather blistered my ears all the way into town. All the way." Georg started to open his mouth to offer an explanation but Max held up a hand.

"There is nothing you can say about your conversation with the Baroness that hasn't already been repeated ad nauseum. Reading between the lines I'd say you made the right choice. I heard all about your "little affair" with that know nothing nun who, according to Elsa, will probably ask you to make love to her thru a hole in the sheet." Georg choked on a mouthful of scotch.

"On and on. The humiliation of being thrown over for a servant.. How much you'd regret her, how Fraulein Maria was uncouth and uncivilized and don't get me started on the way she dresses. Although now that your affections are engaged, perhaps your lady can stop wearing the curtains?," Max chuckled at his own cleverness.

"Touché, I'll put it on my list of things to spoil her with."

Max loosened his tie a bit before continuing his tale of woe.

"When we reached the train station I almost wept with relief. But I managed, well three porters and I managed, to get her 'auf wiedersehened' onto the train and back to Vienna. Elsa can be a wonderful companion when she wants to be but scorn her and ooh, watch your back Captain. I did exact a rather hard promise out of her, she won't say a word about Maria in polite circles. I assure you. She's hurt but she isn't that cruel... Anyway, I had an early appointment today in town and so decided to stay there instead of drive back."

"Max, I do appreciate it. You know I do. There is no one else I could have asked," he raked a hand thru his hair a sullen expression on his face. "It would have been unfair to her, to drag things out, to pretend something I don't feel. I am sorry for the trouble I've caused you."

Max shrugged, "I feel partly responsible you know. I pushed you two together, all that lovely money aside, you were both lonely and I...I should have stopped it once I realized. I could see how you looked at Fräulein Maria, I hadn't seen that look on your face in a very long time." Both men sat in silence as they remembered the Captain's first wife.

Max cleared his throat. "Think nothing of it. I'm still in your debt and you know it. Now!" Max clapped his hands and rubbed them together with glee.

"What do I get when I come home from doing my duty for my commanding officer? Surprise! Surprise! You're engaged, to your delightful, beautiful and potentially lucrative, for me of course, governess!"

Max held up his glass in a toast and Georg tapped his in response. Grinning over the rim Max watched as a faint blush covered Georg's cheeks. Flushed, but not from the alcohol if he had to wager a guess. Wayward thoughts more like. Better and better for old Maxie!

"Come now, tell Max every teensie weensie disgusting little detail. And go slowly so I can savor it."

Georg shook his head. "There are no disgusting details. I asked her to marry me and she agreed. The wedding is in eight weeks, I do hope you'll be able to attend," Georg quipped dryly.

"Well, I like the version I made up in my head much better."

"I'll bet you do."

"That was the most utterly unromantic 'how I got engaged story' in history and if I didn't know you better I would be fooled by your nonchalance."

Georg held up a hand. "No Max. Some things are meant to be private."

Max waited a moment to see if he would continue but the man was a bloody stone. He poured more scotch into both glasses and then pretended to give up.

"If you won't talk about it then fine. Let's talk about that blueprint for the new submarine Wilhelm sent over, I'd love to take a look at it."

Several drinks later the blueprint was laying over the desk chair, drying in front of an open window having had a bit of drink sloshed over it. Both men had lost ties and jackets and Georg was missing a shoe.

"Max, I love her, you know."

"Yes I know," Max sighed. "You won't stop saying that."

"Let's toast to her," Georg lifted his glass.

"But we've toasted her already, her eyes and her ears, and her voice... I can't feel my face. At our age is it the drink or am I having a stroke?"

Georg leaned in and peered at him with eyes that wouldn't focus. "I don't think it's a stroke. A toast to my bride!"

"Mmm, what's left to toast? Her mouth?," Max giggled.

"She has a lovely mouth...delicious kisses…" the Captain trailed off and Max perked up immediately.

"To delicious kisses then," and they drank, again.

"She smells so wonderful...she has only to walk into a room and I.. Did you know I had a dream about her once," Georg held up a hand and started silently counting his fingers, "...eight, nine, well more than once, after that puppet performance, a very risque dream..." Georg began to blush and Max leaned in for the kill.

"Really? Do tell dear Maxie all about it."

"Well, you see it started out..," Georg stopped talking when he heard a light knocking on the door.

"Oh for God sakes, he was just getting to the good part! Go away!, Max shouted, falling forward a bit in his chair and catching himself on the table. The empty scotch bottle toppled to the ground.

The door to the study opened and revealed a very austere looking Frau Schmidt and a very curious Maria peeking around her.

Frau Schmidt entered the room and tried to block the worst of the view from the innocent Fraulein's eyes but she wasn't having much luck. She could hear the young lady snickering behind her, having obviously assessed the situation for herself.

"I was just coming to see if you and Herr Detweiler would require anything else for the evening, sir. Perhaps some coffee or sandwiches to help absorb the contents of the bottle on the floor?" Maria laughed even harder behind her and she had to admit it was rather funny. Finding the Captain deep in his cups for a celebratory reason was a refreshing change from the dark times after Agathe's death. She supposed he was due a good time, and knowing what a rascal Herr Detweiler was he was probably mostly responsible.

"Uh, no, well, yes maybe some sandwishes, I mean sandwiches. Yes that would be very nice."

"Very well then, sir. I'll just go and see to that." She turned and winked at Maria leaving her to take her place at the door.

"Ahh," said Max spying the lady waiting at the door, "Your lovely governess is here to say goodnight to me I presume," he teased.

"She's not my governess," Georg replied, wiggling his eyebrows, but the effect was more comical than lascivious and both men burst out with laughter.

"I hadn't come to say goodnight actually," Maria confessed, trying hard not to laugh. "I wanted to tell the Captain that the children and I would be taking a picnic to the mountain tomorrow and he was welcome, both of you are welcome, to come along with us. If your schedules permit of course," she was trying to remain stoic but the sight of the two of them was ridiculous. "Georg darling, where is your shoe?"

"Oh, that. It's in the waste basket," he replied matter of factly.

"Of course, I see. And, uh why might it be in the waste basket?"

Georg dug in his trouser pocket and brandished a crumpled bill in the air, "Max bet me I couldn't get it into the basket from here. I won," he grinned proudly at her.

"That's very nice darling," Maria said, using the same tone she used when Gretl showed her a piece of her artwork.

"Your very nice too," slurred the Captain, he was rewarded with an eye roll.

"Herr Detweiler, is there something wrong with your face? I only ask because you keep poking about your cheeks and nose and…"

"I can't feel it..," and with that he lurched himself to his feet and reached out a hand to the back of the chair to steady himself. "I think I'll just head to bed, Georg won't give me any details about your engagement anyway..." he took Maria's hand in his and kissed it gallantly. "My dear, you must call me Max, we are family now after all."

"Thank you, Max. You must call me Maria." Max started turned to leave when Maria interrupted him, "Um, Max, aren't you meant to be our chaperone?"

Max turned to look back at Georg and grinned, "Trust me my dear, I am being a very good chaperone right now," Georg laughed from his chair.

Max leaned in and whispered into Maria's ear, "You're quite safe. I'm not sure he can walk anyway. Best to leave him there to sleep it off. Not what he used to be in the drinking department," he said, shaking his head sadly at the parties of the past. He patted her on the head and took a step before turning back one last time, "You know my dear, he loves you, so very much. I want to thank you for bringing my friend back. Saved my life more than once...always wanted to return the favor." Drinking always made him maudlin.

Maria smiled warmly at him and leaned in to whisper conspiratorially to him, "Perhaps tomorrow, if you make it down to breakfast I could give you a few details…"

"Ah, I knew you and I were going to get along famously. Good evening my dear," he tossed over his shoulder as he toddled down the hallway.

Maria walked into the study and retrieved a blanket from the chest to cover up her now sleeping future husband and dug the shoe out of the waste basket. She bent to press a kiss on his forehead and he murmured, '...really delicious kisses." She shook her head at him and pulled the blanket up.

She turned out the light and shut the door before she burst out laughing.

It's rather ridiculous but that's what happens when you have insomnia...hope you enjoyed!