A/N: I'm back! Here is the penultimate chapter. I hope it's a treat to you all.


Maria and Georg walked through the doors to the house, and chaos erupted, the children shouting their congratulations with wide smiles and sparkling eyes, and Axel and Klara standing behind them, expressions equally as joyful. The children rushed towards the newlywed couple, and hugs were exchanged excitedly and clumsily. The Captain turned over to Klara and Axel, and Brigitta looked up at Maria.

"Mother?" she asked timidly. Maria looked at her. "Um, we, all of us, would really like to call you mother if that's alright with you."

"Oh, sweetheart, of course," Maria wrapped her arms around them, "But I am not trying to replace your mother. She has a very special place in your hearts, and that will be a part of you to hold onto and treasure the rest of your lives."

"And now you hold a very special place in our hearts too," Liesl said.

"And you all in mine, but you already know how much I love you," Maria laughed.
Gretl smiled widely. "This big!" She spread her arms as far as she could, and everyone laughed. Maria kissed her forehead.

Kurt asked, "I'm so happy, but I think the food is ready?"

Brigitta grinned. The Captain came to them, ruffling his son's hair, "Yes it is, Kurt." Georg held out his hand to Maria and she slipped her hand in his. He gazed at her and brought her hand up to brush his lips against her fingers, and Maria's heart swelled with affection.

Settling down at the dinner table, an absolute feast in front of them, the newly complete family held hands as Maria led prayer. "Dear God," she smiled as Georg squeezed her hand, "Thank you for blessing us with the gift of coming together as a family today. Amen." Her face hurt, she had been smiling so much!

Liesl cleared her throat and announced, "I, we, would all like to say a few words."

Georg intertwined his fingers with Maria's under the table. "That's lovely, Liesl," Georg said, nodding for her to continue.

Liesl took a deep breath. "We were lost before you. Our mother had died, and we were lost. Nothing could come close to helping us. Nothing came close to making us feel light and hope. And then came you. You showed us light and hope. You embodied it and instilled it in us. More importantly, you showed us true love. You showed us, and you brought it back out in father in the best possible way. Words aren't really at all enough to express how much we are grateful for you, mother, and how much we love you. So we hope that we can spend our whole future as a family showing you our gratitude and our love. And, we could not be happier that you are marrying father. It's a dream come true for all of us."

Maria's vision was blurred with tears. "Oh, Liesl, children," she said, overwhelmed with emotion. "And I am so grateful for you all and have so much love for you, too, you know that."

Georg realized tears were threatening his eyes as well. "Thank you, Liesl, I am so happy that you all feel that way."

The children were all smiling in agreement, emotion clearly at its height.

Dinner continued, conversation joyful and plentiful. Eventually, everyone's hearts and stomachs were full, Gretl being the last to lick the remaining bit of chocolate cake off her fork.

"We must be off! Your honeymoon awaits!" Axel announced eagerly.

"Why must you go to a cabin and not a castle?" Gretl asked, eyes wide.

"Because being in the middle of nature is what they wanted and because a cabin is cozier than a big castle, silly," Liesl spoke to Gretl.

Georg smiled. "We'll be at a cabin and hiking and boating each day in the forest and mountains and across the beautiful lakes, yes, it's exactly what your new mother and I wanted."

Liesl sighed, "That's so romantic." Louisa rolled her eyes at Liesl's comment but said, "Have fun, we'll miss you!"

"And we'll miss you as well!" Maria replied.

They all stood up, pushing in their chairs, and Maria and Georg went to gather their belongings. Moments later, Georg and Maria gathered by the door with the children and Axel and Klara.

"Now, no mischief!" Georg looked pointedly at all of them.

"Mischief from us?" Klara asked, her voice dripping with feigned innocence, "absolutely not!" She snuck a wink at the children, who dissolved into conspiratorial giggles.

Georg unsuccessfully hid a smile, and Maria laughed quietly.

They exchanged hugs all around, and then Axel, Maria, and Georg were off, Axel driving them up to the cabin in the mountains and then returning home.


"Alright, this is it," Axel said as the car rolled up the last of the dirt path in the middle of the imposingly, beautifully tall pine trees. "Now, behave, you two," Axel laughed, "or, actually, don't."

Maria blushed and Georg laughed. "Good riddance to you, my friend," Georg patted Axel on his back.

Hand in hand, each lugging a small suitcase, Maria and Georg walked up the path to the visible cabin, a quaint log cabin with a wooden door and a cobblestone chimney. Before they knew it, they were walking inside and making themselves at home, Georg constructing a fire in the fireplace and Maria putting away clothes in the bedroom.

She came up to him crouched on the floor and wrapped her arms around his neck, coming down to plant a kiss on his cheek. "I love you," she said simply, and he smiled, turning his head to tell her, "I love you too, Maria."

"Why don't I make some hot chocolate?" She asked, standing up again.

"Darling, that sounds lovely," he replied.

Moments later, Maria curled in next to Georg on the couch, sitting with her legs tucked in and her head on his shoulder. Both nursed their steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands. They sat there for a while in silence, both reveling in the moment.

Georg whispered, "This reminds me of those late nights we'd run into each other in the kitchen in Aigen."

Maria smiled. "I treasured those moments. It felt like we were the only two in the world, and we could talk about anything and everything over a mug of tea or hot chocolate."

Georg nodded. "Me too. And now we get to have moments like that for the rest of our lives."

"The rest of our lives," Maria echoed, gazing into his eyes. "Do you know how much I dreamt of this, just able to be in your arms," Maria asked, "as your wife?" She smiled at him.

He kissed her gently and entwined their fingers, stroking her hand with his thumb. "Me too, darling, me too. I love you."

She stroked her fingers through his hair. "I love you too."

And then the air between them shifted and they fell silent, looking at each other, the sound of the crackles of the fireplace around them. His gaze knocked the air out of her lungs and squeezed her heart in a tight embrace.

"Dance with me?" Georg asked in a low voice. Maria's heart raced, and she smiled. "Always."

They stood up, hands not parting, and then began to sway, bare feet on the soft, warm carpet and bodies touching, Maria's arms coming around Georg's neck and his around her waist.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, their faces centimeters apart.

"Like I could fly," Maria smiled.

"Good," he responded, placing a kiss on her forehead.

"And like I'm on fire," she quietly added. He looked into her eyes.

"When you look at me, and when I think about what is to come, I mean," her eyes flickered to the bedroom, "and right now, I feel like I'm on fire. My heart is on fire for you, Georg."

Georg's heart started racing. "And my heart is on fire for you, Maria."



Next chapter will be out soon!