A/N: in the stage version of the Sound of Music, there isn't a gazebo. Georg and Maria become a couple on the terrace. I wondered if it would be possible to write that into the movie's scripting with just a couple of (ok, major) changes. This is an alternate take on Maria's return scene with a narrative of her thoughts and determinations, with just a little bit braver of a Captain waiting for her.
The sun shone on her face as she all but skipped on the path along the river back toward the villa. She didn't need to sing about her confidence now. She knew exactly what she needed to do, and to have the blessing of the reverend mother in her endeavor was a great gift.
Maria had never doubted that the Captain loved her. She felt it as strongly as she felt her love for him. The only barrier standing in her way had been removed - No, not the baroness, she would contend with that as best she could - but her mission to the villa in the first place had been for the children, and for the abbey. It was not for her personal wish fulfillment, and that guilt had eaten at her for several days. Had she been there not to perform her duty for the Abbey, had she been there on her own merits or under her own authority, she would not have hesitated to give the baroness a piece of her mind. She wouldn't have waited, she would have leaned forward and kissed that infuriating, wonderful man, the way she was supposed to at the end of the laendler.
But saving the Captain was not what she had been sent to the VonTrapp house to accomplish. And so she had fled once it was clear she could not in good conscience ask Georg VonTrapp to be honest with his love for her. She wouldn't have ever bothered with her doubts about being a good nun, or her worries about being outspoken. Oddly, she had tempered her loudmouth personality out of respect and honor for the abbey, even at her own personal sadness. She knew, in a different circumstance, she would have been able to tell her truth, to lay bare her soul and encourage….even demand the man she loved to throw away his charade of propriety and duty and embrace her.
She had never felt unworthy of his love. She had never felt scared or ashamed of her love or desire for him. She was never nervous of being near him or in his arms, only ever worried about what the reputation of the abbey would have been had she disregarded their instruction. Maria had understood the truth of the matter - she no longer wanted to be a nun, and she had told him so, with every look, with every action - she had brought her habit to the villa, but once she felt his gaze upon her she knew, with a delicious shiver, that she never wanted this man to see her in one. She cherished his delighted chuckle when she mentioned, offhand, that she didn't think she'd make a very good nun. She rose to his every challenge - had all but courted him, and the last step she needed him to be bold enough to take on his own.
He hadn't. He had let his inhibitions, his sense of duty, his place in society, perhaps his respect for what he thought was her chosen path get in the way. And she had fled, and despaired of having another chance.
The reverend mother was surely a blessing from God, she thought to herself. Understanding that what Maria needed most was to be given freedom from the abbey's expectations of her. It had turned out she could not expect them of herself, but in realizing this she had also found something that delighted and inspired her- a path that was meant for her. The love of seven children and their devoted father, a love she had encouraged and coaxed and struggled to understand, and finally, a love she had nurtured, cherished and brought to life in herself as much as in any of them.
She heard them now, her children...and they were hers, as much as she was devotedly theirs. She had heard each and every one of their private heartaches, had counseled and loved each one of their worries and wounds, superficial or deep. They were singing together the song she had tried and failed to get them to sing the first night in the villa, a song to make them happy when they were feeling scared and alone. A song to be sung together.
She raised her voice with theirs, heard them pause to listen and then rejoin her, happier, before she even saw their shining faces racing toward her on the path. In an instant, the little ones were in her arms, clutching her skirt, the older children no less excited, crowding around her, boisterously finishing the tune they had started as a dirge. Her children, her family, a better one than she had ever known. She excitedly was brought up to date on their lives, they always wanted to share everything with her. Holding the little ones' hands, they made their way to the terrace.
"The most important thing is that the Baroness has gone back to Vienna. For good!" Brigitta, as always, had the knack of telling her what she desperately wanted to know, cutting through the rest of the delighted chatter.
"Oh, I see." Maria whispered, looking up to see the man she had come for appear on the top steps of the terrace. The children around her shouted to their father, but she was beyond hearing. Her eyes found his, and she steeled herself for what she was about to say. This chance had been given to her, and she was going to take it.
She was vaguely aware of the children being dismissed, and felt their absence as they ran to get dinner. Yet their love, enthusiasm and the warmth of the two little hands in hers remained. Her heart and her resolve were strengthened by them, as much as they were by the man in front of her.
He was just as much of an idiot as he had been the day he met her. Blowing his whistle at seven confused and scared children, when what he really wanted to do was to sing with them. Hold them on his lap and love them. Teach them everything he knew, run and laugh and enjoy them in their youth, before the hardships of life made them into young men and women. Learn to let himself go.
He might as well have been blowing the whistle at her now. The clipped, flat way his voice sounded when he told her how she left without saying goodbye cut through her just as piercingly. He was used to being hurt, and she had hurt him.
"It was wrong of me, forgive me."
"Why did you?"
She let out a sigh, walked towards him. She almost smiled to herself as he walked down the three remaining steps until they were on the same level.
"I came here, the first time, for your children. I came here on God's errand, to help and nurture these little ones who had no mother, who were sorely in need of love and guidance, more than they ever needed rules and discipline. But...eventually I realized I had lost sight of God's errand….of the reason I was here in the first place. I found a new reason, a new inspiration. I realized I couldn't continue being your children's governess. I had to return to the abbey."
"To be a nun, I see. It's what you wanted…why you couldn't stay."
She did smile then. This infuriating, obstinate man. Her Georg, as she had already begun to call him in her private thoughts.
"No. I returned to the abbey to seek the counsel of the reverend mother. She released me from the abbey's expectations of me. I am here now, on my own errand."
The way he looked at her! Suspicious, apprehensive, like a kicked dog. Still his body leaned toward hers, his hands fidgeted nervously at his sides. Despite his grief, his shuttered expression, and his withdrawn posture, she saw hope in his eyes, desire in his clenched fingers. Had he forgotten that she knew him, that she saw right through him from day one? She loved him more than she thought possible, was aching with the need to take him in her arms, console him, and tell him she had always been his, and that she would love him all of her days on earth. But first she had to make him understand that it had always been this way for her. That despite her seemingly fickle and unrestrained nature, the love she had for him was as constant and as dangerous as the undertow of the ocean. She knew how he loved, saw it in his grief for his lost wife, saw it in the way he struggled to show his children how much he cared. She felt it in the way he had danced with her, capricious, joyful, and yet with a profound, almost intimidating intensity. Though she had seemingly run away from it, she had to make him understand that she had only done so because what she wanted to do, what she needed to do, was to be swept away with him.
But he had left her, adrift, without a course or heading, alone. Invited to be a part of his party, a part of his life, in such an offhand manner she was for a moment doubtful if he really meant it. She wanted to yell at him, like she had after the canoe tipped, tell him exactly how he was doing the opposite of what they both needed. She wouldn't take him, she couldn't stand him when he closed himself off, when he put on the polite facade of society, when he brushed her aside, the way he had treated his children. If he loved her, and she knew he did, he needed to understand that this was the one thing she couldn't abide. She would not watch him retreat into his shell. She would not watch him hide behind what was expected - to be a strong man, to be a disciplinarian, to manage his children and household with a firm hand, to marry a woman he did not love.
But loving him had not been her instruction. Saving him had not been why she was sent there, and so she could not stay when every fiber of her being was reaching toward him, to right his capsized heart.
Now, free of the obligations that had restricted her, she was finally able to tell him.
"Because of me?"
"No, for you. I can tell you now, what's been true for me for a very long time. I love you. And I know I have your love. I'm not here for the children, I'm here for you. If you push aside your love for me- and you have, Georg, whether it was because you felt guilty over your first wife, or Elsa, or perhaps my being a postulant, know that I will not push mine aside. But you have to choose. Are you brave enough to choose me, to love me, knowing that I will never be what is expected of you?"
She watched his body jolt as she said the words, his shock at her frank declaration, the wonder dawning in his eyes. The mask of chosen loneliness, of given-up dreams, fell away with each word. This was the man she loved, she thought, this wonderful man who was moving toward her with long strides until he was no longer there, but here in her arms, his lips on her forehead, the warmth of his tears in her hair.
"I never dared to dream…" he murmured
"My Georg…" she whispered into his neck, holding him as tightly as she could, smiling against his shoulder. "You didn't have to dream. I was right here the whole time."
She pulled back, slightly, a soft smile on her lips.
"Open your eyes, Georg."
She saw his answering smile as he gazed down at her.
"I should have done this a long time ago" She whispered, taking one of his hands from around her waist, lifting it over her head. She mirrored it with her other hand, her eyes never leaving his. Leaning forward, she met his lips with her own, under the canopy of their pressed palms.
She felt him smile against her mouth, and hold her tighter, spinning them together in the completion of the dance. He felt so right against her, and she felt his laugh rumble through his chest before he broke their kiss to let it free. All of a sudden she was aloft, lifted in his strong arms, being spun faster as her hands braced against his shoulders. His handsome face was glowing, his smile wide and unrestrained. He let her down slowly, and she savored his hands gliding smoothly across her back. He pulled her hands into his own, his lips a soft brush against her knuckles.
"You asked if I was brave enough to choose you, Maria" he said, his voice low, his mouth serious again, but his eyes still gleaming with joy.
"I don't know if i would have been. I certainly wanted to. But now that I know, now that you've chosen me…"
The way he looked at her melted her heart, forged it anew, and she knew he was hers forever.
"I will be as brave as I need to be, for you" he whispered. "Because with you at my side, I finally can be."
He led her over to the steps, patting the space next to him as he sat down, looking out over the lake. "You missed quite a bit while you were at the abbey"
"The children filled me in. Friedrich bit Gretl, everyone was unhappy, no telegrams, and the Baroness went back to Vienna."
Georg turned to look at her. "Yes. That was something I should have done a long time ago. So you would have understood how I loved you. I wasn't expecting to, and couldn't be sure you would have me. It was cowardly of me to not do it sooner."
"Why did you do it now?"
"Even if I couldn't have you, my love for you made me realize that I would have only been unhappy with Elsa. At the start, I was hoping to find a companion, and a mother figure for my children, who could give them what I couldn't. But Maria, you helped me realize...I COULD give my children what they needed. And as I loved my children more, Elsa and I had less and less in common. I found myself wondering what had drawn us together in the first place, and coming up empty. Even if i had been willing to marry her through a sense of duty, though it meant I had to live a life without this love, I would have done it if it was the right choice for my children. But they had no love for Elsa, nor she for them.
So, though I had no hope of you returning, I realized I couldn't marry Elsa. She was upset but in the end, I think, relieved. I could never be the man she wanted me to be."
"I only hope I can be the man that you deserve"
"You know," She took his hand in hers, leaning against his shoulder. "I think you just might be"
"Maria" he murmured, wrapping his arm about her, "this is all so fast yet, I think we both know that it was inevitable. I don't have a ring for you. I didn't plan this, but I'll be damned if I spend another minute without you knowing your place in my heart. I want to marry you, I want to spend the rest of my life with you and our children, who already love you as a mother." He pressed a kiss just above her ear, then reached to her jaw, tilting her face to his. "But is that what you want? To go from nun to wife, with no time for yourself, no courtship? I...confess that as eager as I am to start our life together, I feel that I'm rushing you into things."
"Have you ever known me to be patient, Georg?"
He laughed, fingertips brushing down her neck "Never once, darling"
She smiled wide, both at his endearment and his humor.
"It will, of course, take some time to plan a wedding, and get those rings. And in the meantime," She stood up, brushing her skirt, and extended her hand to him.
"You can show me everything I've been missing."
She finally met his eyes, and there was no reticence or innocence in her gaze. He nodded, slowly rising to his feet, and wrapped his arms about her, backing up until he was leaning against the railing of the stairs, pulling her as close as he dared. She stepped closer, pressing against him, tilting her sweet mouth to his eagerly.
How on EARTH had he gotten so lucky, he thought, kissing her, relishing her hands on his forearms, then as she got bolder, her fingers sliding through his hair. He couldn't believe he was suddenly allowed to touch her, to kiss her, and that she had overcome his heartache and loneliness, overcome his utter solitude, just by loving him, by walking straight into his heart and not letting go. His kisses grew deeper, tongue sweeping over her lower lip, and then he gasped as he felt her hands grip the back of his head and pull him in. Oh, you wonderful woman, he thought, as he felt his entire body respond to the weight of her against him, one hand idly tracing the curve of her hip, the other splayed over the small of her back, nearly spanning the breadth of her waist. She looked deceptively delicate, yet there was nothing delicate in the heat of her mouth against his, the grip of her hands in his hair. She bit down on his lip, and he actually whimpered. Oh, he was definitely going to enjoy her impatience.
Kissing Georg, Maria thought, was something she could happily spend the rest of her life doing. It seemed like everything she did made him hold her tighter, and every new way he touched her made her bolder, made her want to touch him more. She knew she was getting carried away, and yet somehow the realization didn't scare her. On the contrary, it emboldened her, gave her confidence. Wasn't it right that she should feel this way, after wanting him for so long? Shouldn't she feel relief as he kissed her neck, the heady exhilaration of finally being able to run her hands down his chest, of wrapping her arms fully around him and pressing against him? Could she resist kissing the hollow of his throat, the underside of that strong jaw, the scar on his chin? She was as incapable of holding back from her love for him in all aspects, it seemed, having started by returning to him and demanding his love, now it was her physical desire that she couldn't keep hidden. Feeling him against her, his mouth on hers, how could she ever be content again if they were separated? Oh help, she thought, I will never be able to stop wanting him.
As if by mutual accord, they both pulled back, their foreheads touching, taking several breaths together.
"I confess I'm loathe to go inside and share the news. We will never have a moment's peace once the children know."
"Oh, I hope they're that excited!"
"Maria, my love, can you doubt it? They already adore you. You heard how they cheered when you returned. They'll deafen us when they find out you'll be staying forever"
"Well, they have to go to bed sometime! Then…"
"My dear, they will never sleep again. They will be in your room singing about their favorite things all through the night."
"Then I shall have to sleep in yours."