A/N: I have lemacd from the Proboards to thank for giving me a prompt which evolved into this story. I was desperately wanting to write another TSOM story but just couldn't come up with any ideas. So thank you :-)
Disclaimer: I own nothing… unfortunately.
The Accidental Pianist
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres
The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white stone
The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy.
The first time she heard the melancholy notes floating languidly on the heavy evening air, she was sure she was dreaming and quickly drifted back to sleep without a second thought. Upon waking the following morning, Maria sat up tentatively, feeling uneasy. Her body was drenched in sweat and her nightgown clung to her, just as her dress had done the day she and the children had fallen in the lake.
As the shower water cascaded over her head and down her shoulders she became aware of a tune replaying slowly in her mind. Then it came to her. This was the reason she felt uncomfortable, although she wasn't exactly sure why. Whilst the music was certainly very sad, it was also beautiful and the manner in which it was being played, resonated painfully within her heart. She could tell that whoever was playing the tragically enchanting music, was troubled. But why had she had this dream?
Arriving predictably late, Maria apologised as she passed the Captain on her way through the dining room to her seat at the far end of the table. She heard his mumbled reply but he remained buried in his newspaper as the children continued their usual energetic morning chatter.
Baroness Schraeder was nowhere to be seen, which in itself wasn't unusual. She rarely made it down to breakfast, preferring to meet the Captain on the terrace for mid-morning tea. However, this particular morning it wasn't only the Baroness that was conspicuous by her absence, Herr Detweiler was also missing.
Maria looked across to where the Captain was still engrossed in his newspaper. She caught Liesl's eye and the young girl smiled nervously before asking to be excused from the table.
Taking the opportunity, when the Captain had finally folded up his paper so that he could answer his eldest daughter, Maria looked across at him and enquired as to the whereabouts of his two friends.
"Elsa has decided to return to Vienna whilst arrangements for the ball are being made. She has friends to see and wants to invite some of them to Salzburg. Max has accompanied her," the Captain replied wearily, as he looked at Maria through tired eyes.
Maria was sure that she had never seen him quite as disheveled as he appeared that morning. It wasn't that his attire was any less immaculate than it always was but there was just something about the dullness of his eyes that made her heart sink.
The following few nights, Maria was awoken at the same time by the same strange dream. Although she could remember nothing of the details, she could clearly remember the same sorrowful music and the strange feeling of emptiness that seemed to invade her very being. Each time she woke, the music stopped and eventually; although it was becoming harder each night, she returned to a fitful sleep.
After noticing a continued decline in the Captain's appearance as the days went on, by the end of the week she was getting concerned by his behavior. Yes, she knew he was unpredictable but this was something much different, it was as if he was withdrawing from his children and from his life.
Maria bumped into Frau Schmidt on her way into the breakfast room as the Housekeeper glided across the hall towards the servant's stairs.
"Good morning, Frau Schmidt," Maria said pleasantly. "I suppose the Captain is waiting to reprimand me once again for being late." Maria laughed as she turned the handle of the door.
"No my dear. I'm afraid the Captain isn't joining you and the children for breakfast today. He asked for it to be taken up to the Master Suite," the Housekeeper replied, openly.
"Oh…oh I see," Maria couldn't disguise the disappointment in her voice. This was the first time that he hadn't been there at breakfast, apart from when he had been away from the Villa.
"Frau Schmidt," Maria turned to the kindly Housekeeper. "Is the Captain unwell? It's just that… I've noticed he hasn't seemed himself for a few days now." Maria was worried. Ever since he had sung with his children, both he and Maria had seemed to have reached an understanding, a mutual respect and trust and the thought of anything happening to him made her feel distressed, much to her surprise. The way he had looked at her as he had sung to them, it was as if there had only been the two of them in the room and Maria found herself thinking about him far more than a postulant should be thinking about any man other than God.
"I shouldn't really be telling you this," Frau Schmidt looked around to see if anyone was near enough to overhear them. "But I've seen the Captain like this before. Just after his wife died and then a little later whenever any of the children were ill. He doesn't seem to be able to deal with situations very well and he becomes restless. I suppose that's why he was away from the Villa so often," Frau Schmidt smiled towards Maria who was lost in her thoughts.
"Fraulein Maria," the housekeeper gently touched Maria's arm to gain her attention. "Please don't worry about the Captain. There is obviously something troubling him, but he'll overcome it soon enough, he always does."
"But how can he be worried about anything?" Maria raised her arms in confusion. "From what I've come to understand he will soon be married. Shouldn't that make him happy?" She was puzzled, but not being au fait with affairs of the heart, perhaps there was something she didn't understand.
"Why yes, if the Captain is indeed to marry Baroness Schraeder one would assume that he would be very happy. She is beautiful after all, but perhaps…"
"Yes?" Maria enquired as Frau Schmidt hesitated.
"Oh, it's nothing," she shook her head and as she did so a loud crash could be heard from behind the breakfast room door. "I think perhaps you should see to the children, Fraulein Maria."
"Oh my goodness," Maria's hands flew up to her face and she quickly turned away from the Housekeeper to see what mischief the children had managed to get up to in the short space of time they were left alone.
That evening, as Maria knelt by her bed to say her prayers she felt strangely bereft that she hadn't seen even one peep of the Captain that day. He had either stayed in his room all day or he had used the back stairs that joined his suite to his study, to make his way downs to do some work. Either way, Maria and the children had spent the day alone and none of them had been particularly happy about it.
She clasped her hands in front of her and closed her eyes.
You alone can ease my troubled heart. Only with You I am at peace. As you do for me, please also bring peace to Captain von Trapp. Please allow him to overcome his troubles and to see the love that his children have to offer him, once again. Please let him be happy and let him find his true path in life. Amen."
As Maria rose and walked towards the window she looked out over the tranquil lake which was showered in moonlight. The delicate ripples glinted and sparkled like diamonds on the surface. There was hardly a breeze and the air hung heavy around her. She drew across the drapes but left the window open a touch.
Sleep, it seemed, was alluding her but no sooner had she drifted into a light slumber than she found herself woken once again by the sound of piano music. Instead of the music stopping, this time it continued and Maria realised that she wasn't dreaming after all. She threw back the covers of her bed and made her way over to the window. She quickly understood that the music was in fact coming from within the house.
She snatched up her dressing gown and wrapped it around herself. She slid her feet into her slippers and stepped out into the hall. The whispering notes glided up the staircase like a ghostly symphony. Maria followed the delicate music to the ground floor. It could only have been coming from the music room but she knew all too well that the Captain didn't allow anyone to play his piano.
Looking around to see if anyone else had been disturbed by the unexpected performance, Maria crept quietly towards the door of the music room which stood ajar. She pushed it gently and stepped inside.
Moonlight streamed through the large windows and bathed the whole room in a bright, blinding light. Maria winced as her eyes became accustomed to the glare. When they did, she glanced over toward the piano and couldn't quite believe what she saw. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of Captain von Trapp who sat, shirtless, hunched over the keys. He had clearly changed into his night attire as he wore pyjama bottoms and nothing more. His back glistened with sweat as the notes flowed like an electric current from his tense shoulders down his muscular arms, through his hands to his fingers and ultimately the keys of the piano.
Hardly daring to breathe, Maria walked towards where he was seated at the piano. She stood within a few feet of him and could clearly see that although his eyes were open, he was staring right through her, as if she were invisible. He was totally unaware of her presence and absorbed in the music that was fashioned in the depths of his heart.
His hair was messy and ungroomed as if he had been running his fingers through it. His chin was rough with stubble and it gave him an almost dangerous appearance. As Maria watched, allowing herself to become immersed in the music, she felt oddly guilty, as if she was intruding on some sacred and extremely personal ritual.
Just as she decided to leave him alone, the music suddenly stopped. He sat rigidly still as tears began to stream down his cheeks. Maria brought a hand up to her mouth to stop a shocked gasp from escaping and waking him from his unconscious state. Still sleeping, he gently closed the piano and pushed back the stool. Without acknowledging Maria's presence, he stood and walked towards the door. Maria watched incredulous as he made his way back up the stairs until he was out of sight.
Wiping a tear that had trickled down her cheek, she quietly shut the music room door and returned to her room where she spent a sleepless night brooding over her alarming discovery.
Once again, the following morning, the Captain stayed in his room for breakfast. Maria pondered over whether she should broach the subject of his nightly sojourns with him but after much contemplation she decided it would be best not to.
In the afternoon, Franz imparted the news that Max and the Baroness would be returning to the Villa the following day and whilst the children seemed genuinely pleased that they would see their "Uncle" again, they were less enthusiastic about their potential new mother, returning. Maria also noted with interest that the Captain seemed subdued and distracted after learning of the news.
Dinner was spent in silence with the Captain making it clear very early on that he had a headache and couldn't abide the sound of the children's incessant chatter. He excused himself from the table as soon as he had finished and retreated to his study where he shut and locked the door behind him.
Maria began to think that she had invented their newly discovered understanding of one another. Perhaps she had just imagined all the stolen glances that they had shared. Maybe the many times that she had looked up to find him staring over at her had merely been because he was checking up on how well she was looking after his children.
After settling the children down for the night, with a heavy heart, Maria went to her bedroom. She repeated her prayer from the previous night in the hope that it would bring a more settled sleep to both her and the Captain.
For a while it seemed to have worked but before long, Maria sat bolt upright when she heard the unusual intermingling of musical notes along with the large Grandfather clock in the hall striking two. Gone was the slow, melancholy way in which the music was played, replaced instead by something almost frantic and haphazard. Maria wasted no time in making her way silently to the music room once again. This time the sight that she found beyond the door broke her heart into a million pieces.
The Captain sat shirtless again, his desperate movements betraying his tormented soul. As his fingers pounded the piano, tears streamed down his face, collecting on the ivory keys. Eventually, exhaustion appeared to overtake him as his long slender fingers slowed. He began to stroke the keys lovingly, teasing the notes from the piano making the music melancholy once more.
Having made her way to the head of the piano she watched silently as he finished playing, breaking down in sobs as he did so.
Maria hesitantly joined him on the piano stool. Sitting by his side, she softly spoke his name.
"Captain… please, Captain. Let me help you." She reached out and tentatively touched his arm which was warm and slick with sweat.
Slowly his sobs subsided and his heaving chest stilled. He turned to look at Maria as he awoke from his sleepwalking state. His eyes were red and bloodshot and they pierced deep into her soul. She stroked his arm softly as he continued to stare curiously into her eyes.
"I'm worried about you," she whispered. "Do you know where you are?"
"Yes… but I don't remember how I got here," he answered quietly. Looking down at Maria's hand and his state of undress, he glanced at her once again. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have to see me like this… I… I apologise."
"There's no need. It doesn't matter, truly." Maria could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as her eyes glided over his bare chest.
"You were playing the piano," she stated. "A very beautiful tune as it happens… but oh, Captain, you were so sad."
The Captain sighed as he placed his fingers on the keys and began to play. Maria hummed along softly to the music and shuffled a little closer to him on the stool.
"Is this the tune that I was playing?"
"Why, yes. How did you know?" Maria asked.
The Captain looked at her again as he continued to play. "The music is called "Clair de Lune", it's by a composer called Claude Debussy. Have you heard of him?"
Maria nodded her head as she sat silently listening to the music.
"This isn't the first time that I've done something like this. Apparently, according to Frau Schmidt, I did it quite often after…" Maria could see that his eyes had begun to glisten once again with unshed tears as his voice faltered, "…after my wife died."
Without thinking, Maria placed her hand tenderly on the top of his thigh. He jumped slightly at her touch but then smiled, sadly. Maria wasn't exactly sure what she could see in his eyes. Sorrow certainly and perhaps regret.
"How did you know that you were playing that tune though, is it one of your favourites?"
"I do like the tune but it wasn't my favourite, it was Agathe's. She used to ask me to play it to her all the time."
"It's beautiful," Maria said, trying hard to keep her composure even though she could feel her chest tighten with sorrow for this immensely brave man.
"Agathe always liked to make up stories to go along with the music. She imagined that it was about two star-crossed lovers who shared a forbidden love, one that eventually led to heart ache when they were torn apart." The notes trailed off as the Captain's unspoken memories came flooding back to him.
Tears fell once more as his hands stilled. Maria reached out and covered his hand with her own. "You don't have to say anything more. We can just sit here."
"No… I need to tell somebody… to tell you," he sobbed.
Maria nodded in silent recognition of his needs, as she sat and waited for him to gather himself enough to continue.
"She asked me to play it for her on the day that she died." Maria tightened her grip on his hand. "I carried her down from our bedroom and lay her on the chaise longue. I covered her with a blanket and played to her. She looked so happy, so at peace. Even then she made up her story…"
Grief overcame him as his tears flowed in uncontrollable waves of remorse. He leaned into Maria as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders.
"I should have been able to do more," he wept, as Maria stroked his back in an effort to soothe him. Gradually he gained control of his emotions and his heart stopped racing. Once he had regained his composure, Maria dipped her head to look into his eyes.
"I know that I haven't known you for very long, but what I do know is that you loved your wife very deeply." The Captain nodded as he weaved his fingers through Maria's own. "There is no man on this earth that would have done more for his wife than you. You mustn't feel guilty."
The Captain brought her hand up to his lips and softly kissed the smooth silky skin. "Thank you for listening. It means a great deal to me."
Maria smiled as she looked at his lips which were still hovering over her hand. She could feel the warmth of his breath and a fluttering in her stomach but she scolded herself inwardly for such inappropriate feelings.
"Frau Schmidt says that something must be troubling you. That's why you are so distant at the moment."
"Well, I do seem to have a habit of sleep walking when things are getting on top of me," he gave her an embarrassed shrug.
"Oh, I'm sorry, if there's anything I can do to help. Erm… is it because the Baroness is away? I suppose you must miss her terribly," Maria asked innocently.
The Captain smiled knowingly. "Noooo, that isn't exactly the reason why."
Maria cocked her head inquisitively. There was certainly a lot she had to learn about love and relationships.
"Um… but why did you say I'd been distant. What exactly do you mean?" The Captain now brought their hands down on top of his thigh once again as he traced featherlike circles on her skin with his thumb.
Distracted by his touch, Maria stuttered, "Well, I haven't seen… err – I… I mean we haven't seen all that much of you in the past few days."
"I know, I'm so sorry. It's better for everyone if I just shut myself away when I feel like this. I would never forgive myself if I did anything to hurt you… or the children."
"The children have missed you," Maria whispered, her voice shaky and uncertain.
"Only the children?" he looked at her closely.
Maria's cheeks flushed with a delicate pink hue as his question sent her mind and emotions spinning into confusion. Sensing her discomfort and realising that he had overstepped the mark, he let go of her hand and closed the lid of the piano carefully.
"All I seem to be doing this evening is apologizing to you." He stood and walked to the window of the music room. Clouds partially obscured the moon and the room became darker along with his mood.
"There is something troubling me, but it's very difficult for me to tell you what it is." Maria stood and walked up behind the Captain. She put her hand on his arm.
"You don't have to tell me anything, It's really none of my business."
"No, I want to tell you, in fact, I need to tell you but I'm afraid of what you might think of me," the Captain turned to look at her and he could see the kindness and understanding that her crystal blue eyes exuded.
"I'm quite sure I shall think nothing bad of you." Maria said confidently.
The Captain laughed, "Oh, my dear Fraulein, you are so refreshingly naïve."
Maria screwed up her nose as her expression became stern in a warning to him not to patronize or make fun of her innocence.
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you," he shrugged. "To fully answer your earlier question - No, I don't miss the Baroness, as a matter of fact it is the very prospect of her return that is troubling me."
Maria's eyes widened as he continued to explain.
"I've come to realise that I can't marry Elsa," he said, bluntly.
"But why?" Maria gasped in an astonished whisper.
"Ahhh, there are too many reasons for me to go into."
"I... I don't understand. I thought that you were in love with the Baroness and that was the reason you were arranging this party. I thought you would be announcing your engagement."
"Yes… and so does Elsa. Now perhaps you understand my problem."
Maria stared at him blankly. For once she was lost for words. Part of her felt so sorry for the Captain. He wasn't going to be able to provide his children with a mother that they desperately needed, but on the other hand she felt surprisingly glad that he wouldn't be marrying the Baroness.
"Do you mind if we sit?" he asked, gesturing across the room. Seeing no objection from Maria, he guided her over and waited for her to sit before he joined her on the small settee.
"When two people talk of marriage, it can only work if they truly love one another. Oh I know that there are many marriages of convenience, particularly within our social circles but when I married Agathe, I knew that she was the only woman that I would ever love…" he looked at Maria who was staring intently at her clasped hands. "… or at least, I thought she was the only woman that I would ever love."
The Captain reached out and found her trembling hand once again.
"The reason that I've been thinking of Agathe so much recently is that I've come to realise that perhaps I can love again."
Maria glanced up at him, "But I thought you said you didn't love Elsa?"
"Noooo, I don't…" He moved to within inches of Maria as he gently took her chin between his fingers and raised her lips towards his.
"I've fallen in love with you."
Sensing no resistance from her he closed the gap between them and pressed his lips softly against hers. Maria sighed as she felt the warmth of his touch spread to parts of her body she wasn't even aware of. She trailed her hand across his chest, her fingers weaving through the coarse hair and up his neck until it came to rest on his cheek.
Pulling away, the Captain looked into Maria's eyes which confirmed the love that she also held for him.
"Somehow I think I've found the cure for my sleepwalking," he laughed and pulled Maria towards him into his arms.
"What will you tell the Baroness?" Maria asked, as she rested her head against his shoulder.
Pushing her gently away from him, he rested his forehead against hers. "I don't want you to worry. That is my problem to solve. Now… I think that it's time that we both got a good night's sleep.
Maria's heart was practically bursting with joy and excitement and although she knew that she should be feeling ashamed of her actions, she also knew that what she felt was natural and true and that in the instant that the Captain had declared his love for her she had suddenly realized her true path in life.
"Captain…" she whispered lovingly.
"I think it's time you called me Georg," he laughed.
"Georg… will you play for me?"
The Captain smiled as tears of joy stung his eyes. He led Maria silently back to the piano and they sat side by side. As he began to play, she rested her head against his shoulder and hummed along, this time to a new, hopeful tune.
Thank you for reading. I would really appreciate it if you would like to leave a review.