SoM slight AU - what if The Captain had accepted his feelings for Maria before she returned from the abbey (after she left at the end of the party). One-shot
A/N: The world is a shit show inside of a dumpster fire right now and The Sound of Music is my happy place. Enjoy!
As dusk faded into night on that warm summer evening, Captain Georg on Trapp ascended the stairs above the foyer with less precision than usual. His gait was uneven, his arms hung sloppily at his sides, and he simply felt...off. Perhaps it had been the Wiener schnitzel. Or the wine. Or the fact that he'd had too much of both, but the more he focused on eating, the less his mind focused on the other things he did not particularly want to think about.
In addition to his internal distractions, his children had also been atypically quiet over their evening meal. Hardly a word was said between them, which hadn't happened for several weeks if not longer if he recalled correctly. In fact, the last time they dined in near silence probably would have been before-
He should have appreciated the break, for surely silence was better than bickering, but somehow he'd become accustomed to their disagreements. They were almost always good-natured and resolved quickly. Especially when Maria would coach them through their squabbles with her soft, endlessly kind demeanor that always made him... Well, nevertheless, he'd hoped that they continued to emulate her teachings even now that she was gone.
As Georg approached the hallway leading towards the nursey and the older children's bedrooms, he could hear sounds of excited chatter, perhaps even plotting. He had never been able to get a truthful answer as to where they had been earlier that day. He doubted they'd gotten up to very much trouble as not one of them had returned dirty or disheveled. Still, he wondered what the had been doing, particularly since they all seemed to have the same somber mood.
Curious to learn what he could, he tip-toed on his approach to the hall and stopped just at the doorframe so that his body was out of view just in case any of them were facing the direction of the foyer and could see him eavesdropping on them. Then, he braced his shoulder against the doorframe and turned his head bringing his left ear as close to the door opening as possible.
"We could go back tomorrow and the next day," he heard Friedrich say.
"That's silly. If she didn't see us today what would be different about tomorrow? And it's such a long walk," replied Louisa.
But she didn't know we were there today," Fredrich continued. "If they tell her we visited like they promised, then she might expect us to come back. And if she expects us to come back, she might tell the other nuns that we're approved visitors so they know for next time."
"That's pretty smart!" Brigitta observed.
"But what's to say she'll see us even if she knows we've turned up again? She's the one that left us," Kurt added in a sullen tone.
"Father said she left because she missed the abbey, but if we go and tell her we miss her too, maybe she'll visit," Liesl pointed out.
"But what good would that do? She'll only leave again…" Kurt said.
"It's worth trying, isn't it though?" Friedrich said determinedly.
Without realizing, Georg had been leaning into the doorframe with such intensity that his shoulder slipped against the smooth wood and he ended up needing to quickly plant his feet more firmly. His shoes ended up making a tapping sound against the wood and he shut his eyes tightly, annoyed that he had inadvertently revealed his position.
Several of the children gasped.
"Sounds like father is coming to check on us. We'll talk about this more tomorrow," Liesl told the group. With that, he could hear their feet scampering through the hall as they continued with their bedtime routine.
The captain leaned his back against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. So that's where they had gone—to the abbey to see Maria. Their endeavors hadn't been successful, which certainly explained their solemn attitudes. At least that mystery was now solved, but he could also tell that they missed her quite dearly, which certainly added to his internal conflict.
The captain gave his children a few minutes to settle themselves before walking down the hall to make sure everyone was in bed with the lights off, except for Liesl and Friedrich, who were allowed an extra half hour to read. As he turned and headed back the way he came, he found his feet stopping automatically in front of the governess's room; the room Maria had occupied just a few days earlier. The door was shut, and he lifted his hand to hover over the handle, almost daring himself to crack it open so he could peer inside and perhaps catch one last whiff of the scent of her, but no—no! What was he doing? He was a betrothed man! Thinking in such a manner was entirely inappropriate and he needed... he needed...
He needed some air.
Almost breaking into a run, Georg hurried down the stairs, across the foyer, and out onto the back terrace where the cooler, yet still slightly humid air hit his face. He continued down the stairs and walkway until he'd almost reached the gate separating the walkway from the lake. It was only then his feet began to slow to a walk and then a shuffle.
As the moonlight sparkled off the water, he was reminded of the day he'd returned from Vienna. Though it felt a lifetime ago, it had only been three weeks. Maria and the children had been in a boat—a boat!—rowing towards him, so eager to say hello they'd all toppled into the water. He'd been shocked, then concerned, then returned to shocked one he was no longer concerned anyone was in danger of drowning. The incident had been absurd and, at the time, thoroughly annoying, but though barely twenty days had passed, he'd been a different man back then.
He reached out his right hand and curled his fingers around the top of the gate. He shut his eyes and remembered the image of Maria, soaked to the skin, stumbling out of the water, excitement and joy upon her face. The hairs on the back of his neck pickled and he let go of the gate as suddenly as if it had turned to flame. He spun around intent on walking off his feelings elsewhere when he was struck once again by a memory of the same day, when they'd argued, and he'd realized the way she shouted at him was confusingly alluring. As a result of his shock and fear he'd carelessly dismissed her moments before discovering she was the best thing that had ever happened to them.
Feeling a bit shaky on his legs, he sunk down on the closest bench and placed his hands at his sides. There were echoes of her everywhere, practically in every room, and every corner of the garden. How long would it take for those memories to fade? Would they ever?
Did he even want them to?
Georg gripped the concrete bench tightly with both hands and tapped his toes anxiously against the walkway. He sucked in a deep breath through his nose and then pushed it out slowly. The tightness in his gut did not abate, so he did it again. And then a third time. Then, finally, he lifted his head towards the sky and asked softly, "What am I doing?"
He knew; deep down he knew the answer. The right answer. Deep, deep down where he'd hidden the truth to protect himself from the pain he'd experienced several years earlier when his wife had died unexpectedly. He had cared for her deeply. They had shared joy, laughter, music, and seven children. He'd buried those things along with her, even the children he was ashamed to admit. He'd distanced himself from them so he wasn't reminded of the hurt he felt when he saw her smile in theirs, but he knew that was wrong. Worse yet, he'd closed himself off to any level of joy they or anyone else could bring them. He'd led a cold, steely existence until a lovely tornado had blown through his life and upended all of it.
In that moment he first acknowledged the fact that for the prior three weeks he'd gone back to the man he once was—laughing, playing with his children and, god help him, singing. The reason for the resurrection of his former self was not, in any way, the woman to whom he was currently engaged. Yes, Elsa made him smile and made him feel cared for, but she didn't make him want to break out in song. She didn't make him want to dance with her, just for the excuse to be that close...
Maria made him feel those things. Maria's smile was the one he saw in his dreams. Her hand was the one he wanted to hold in the evenings as they sipped wine on the terrace and gazed up at the stars. It was finally time he started being honest with himself and the truth was: he was in love with her. Because of his denial of that fact, he'd made quite a mess of his life—and it was time he started to fix it.
Driving down the streets of Salzburg towards the abbey, Georg felt no small amount of nerves in his belly, but he hoped they were short lived. He realized there was no guarantee that Maria would see him since she had refused to see his children the day before, but he still had to try. And, even if she would not see him in person, he would write her a note and leave it. Now, what he was going to say inside that note, he was not yet sure, but he'd come up with something in between a causal invitation and a dramatic profession of love. Easier said than done, of course, which was why he hoped to speak with her in person as he felt that would give him a much higher chance of successfully convincing her to return to his home, which was his first step on the path of writing all the wrongs of the prior few days.
His plan had kicked off the night before, when he'd walked inside the house, found Elsa relaxing in the parlor, and broken off their engagement. Elsa had surprised him by saying she had a feeling their engagement wouldn't last, but that she had enjoyed their time together. She wished him well and told him she'd be gone by the morning, and she had been. At breakfast, he'd told his children that she'd departed and that their engagement was over. They'd seem confused and he couldn't blame them for that; it had certainly been quite a quick turn-around of events, but it was the way it had to be. After their meal, Max had pulled him aside and asked him if he was feeling unwell, but Georg assured him that for the first time in days he was feeling like his old self. His old-old self; not the shell of a man he'd been for the prior few years.
With his household settled, he paced the grounds for a while until he felt it would be an appropriate time to call at the abbey. Then, he'd gotten in his car and begun the drive, hoping that by that afternoon all would soon be right in his world.
He was still about ten minutes away from the abbey when he noticed a woman walking along the opposite side of the street. Due to the fact that a large-brimmed hat obscured most of her face, he would have driven right past her, but then he saw what she carried: a guitar case and a striped carpet bag. His heart leapt up into his throat and his foot mashed on the brake pedal. His car kicked up a cloud of dust as it came to a halt, but he barely noticed the stinging in his eyes. He slammed the car in gear so it would not roll away and hopped up over the door to the convertible without even opening it. "Maria!" he called out.
The woman's head jerked up and within half a second a smile was spreading across her face. Georg felt his heart swell inside his chest, and he hurried across the street without checking for other traffic. Fortunately, there was none, for his thoughts were not on other vehicles; they focused on the woman before him who, somehow, appeared even more beautiful than she had before—breathtakingly so. How had it taken him so long to realize just how lovely she was? He supposed he would have realized it sooner had he not been so determined not to recognize any of his feelings, but that was all in the past now. He was moving forward a better man.
"Captain…" She stepped towards him, notable surprise in her voice. "What are you doing here?"
"I was on my way to the abbey to see you. Where are you going?"
"To see you. Er, everyone—the children."
A laugh escaped his lips. "What a delightful coincidence! Please, allow me." He reached out for her bags, and she handed them to him with a thank you. He placed them both into the back seat of the car and then waited for her to climb into the passenger seat, before putting the car into the correct gear and pulling slowly back out onto the street.
"You're—you're coming back to us then?" he asked, glancing over at her briefly.
"Yes, I…I felt terrible about leaving so suddenly, not saying goodbye to the children. Also, I left before the end of summer; I didn't follow through on my obligation and I apologize for that. I hope you can forgive me."
"Of course, I can" he assured her. He then made a left onto a side street so that he could turn the car around and return home now that he didn't need to go all the way to the abbey. Once the car was traveling in the correct direction, he continued, "I am curious as to why you left so abruptly."
"You didn't receive my note?"
"I did receive it…it just seemed quite unexpected."
"It was. And…complicated."
Georg almost laughed. That certainly was a good descriptor for the way his life had felt over the prior week. "Ah, I understand that. I've had a few complicated days myself."
He nodded. "Yes. And made some decisions I'm not proud of. I think I may have even gone a bit mad," he confessed with a light laugh as there was hardly another way to explain his behavior.
From the moment someone asked "Where is Fraulein Maria?" over breakfast and he found the note she'd left on her nightstand he'd felt like he was a stranger inside his own body. His chest had tightened, and his vision had grown narrow until he'd taken several deep breaths. His initial reaction had been crushing despair, but his body had rejected it outright. Unsure of what emotion he should have been feeling he simply overcompensated by loudly promising that everything was fine—especially him. He was definitely fine and not at all upset about Maria's departure. True…every time he thought about her his heart raced and when he entered a room half-expecting to see her only to find it vacant of her lovely face, he'd struggle to catch his breath for several moments, but that was all fine—totally fine. At least, that's what he told himself for several days until his aggressive attempts to pretend he wasn't in a tailspin only made him spin out even more.
"You seem quite all right to me, Captain."
He turned, giving her a soft smile. "Now, yes. A few days ago, not as much. I…I found myself asking Baroness Schraeder to marry me."
He heard a sharp intake of breath from her, and she was quiet for several seconds, before ultimately saying in a confused tone, "But…but I thought that was your intent all along. That is, I heard it was expected for you to propose by the end of summer."
He was unsurprised she'd heard that rumor, probably from one of the house staff, but it could have even been from the children as it was such a terribly kept secret. Then again, what rumors did he expect when he spent so much time visiting an unmarried woman. Even with Max as chaperone his repeated visits were the give-away.
"Yes, so it seemed. The Baroness has been a good friend to me for several years and during our visit this past spring I had decided to ask for her hand, but out of obligation, out of expectation. Love was never part of our arrangement."
Elsa was kind and very entertaining. She was the first woman he found appealing since exiting the shroud of grief he'd encased himself in after his wife's death. Elsa was attractive and gregarious and certainly a woman that many men desired. He liked her, certainly, but love…even in time he wasn't sure he could ever love her. She was a bit too materialistic and not at all motherly, but she would have been a companion to spend his days with. That had seemed a good enough reason for marriage at the time, but now sitting beside someone who made him feel so utterly complete, the notion was absurd.
"And then the morning after the party things began to feel quite topsy-turvy. I tried to right myself by going back to my plan, back to what was expected, but as it turns out you can't…you can't ask someone to marry you when you're in love with someone else."
The words that spilled out were unplanned, but Georg didn't regret them, as they were one hundred percent truthful. The realization of his feelings for Maria were his reasoning for breaking his engagement to Elsa—and for trying to get his life back on track. The prior evening, he had thought through all his interactions with Maria, wondering if she could possibly have similar feelings for him. She had, after all, intended to become a nun before she came to them, which certainly was a strong indicator she did not expect to had romantic ideations for anyone. But then…there was their dance.
When Georg caught Maria and Kurt dancing in the garden, he'd found it to be the perfect opportunity to dance with her. He probably wouldn't have asked otherwise, but watching them struggle due to their height differences was the perfect moment for him to step in. He truly hadn't expected anything more than an interesting encounter, but seconds later he'd found himself utterly captivated by the way they were able to move together and by the warmth of her hand he could feel despite the gloves he wore. Then, when they were face-to-face, he saw reflected in her eyes the same desire in his own: a completely irrational but unabating need to be closer—for the dance to never end, for the music to never stop. Had Elsa not interrupted them he couldn't be certain he would not have done something foolish—like try to kiss her, as he'd completely forgotten that his children were looking on.
That moment alone might not have been enough to persuade him, but the fact that she disappeared almost immediately after was. The more he thought about it, he wondered if the dance had startled her. Certainly, it was the most close interaction she'd had with a man in quite some time—perhaps even since her school days. That was certainly a plausible explanation for why she'd scurried off, claiming to miss the abbey, which may have been true, but if it was the sole reason for her departure, wouldn't she have shown some sadness in the days leading up? Would she really have shown such robust joy with the children and crafted their delightful singing routines if her heart longed to leave? He didn't think so.
Georg knew he had to test the waters somehow—he had to try and determine her feelings, without asking directly, which of course would not have been the most appropriate method. When they reached a straight part of the road, he glanced over to her and saw that her left hand was resting against the bench seat in between them. Her fingers curled around the edge of the leather, but not too tightly. Seeing it as an interesting opportunity, he shifted his grip on the wheel so that he could move his right hand to rest beside hers. He walked his fingers across the seat until his pinky tapped against hers. He held his breath as he gently lifted his pinky and placed it atop hers. One, three, five seconds ticked by until finally she lifted her hand and allowed his to slide under hers. It wasn't until their fingers came to rest in a laced position that he let out his breath and a smile played against his lips. So, she did feel the same. Well, that was simply lovely, wasn't it?
They drove only for a few minutes with their hands linked for Georg had to (regrettably) put his hand back on the wheel in order to make the tight turn onto the street that led to his home. This more secluded road did, however, present to him an interesting opportunity to actualize one of his more pressing desires. He pulled his car off to the side of the road, put the car in gear, and then turned to face his companion, who understandably looked slightly confused. Smile on his face, he slid over so that he sat in the middle of the bench seat in close enough proximity to her to be able to brush his fingers gently across her cheek, down the side of her neck, and then curl them around the back of her head to gently tilt her head up to his. He touched his lips to hers for only half a second, just to test her reaction. He watched her eyes drift shut and felt her body tilt slightly towards his so he kissed her again, more purposefully. As his heart swelled with joy, he knew for certain that he was experiencing once of the purest and most perfect moments of his life to date.
When he pulled back, her eyes fluttered open, and he saw then what he'd longed for over many lonely years: someone to share his life with.
"Maria…I love you."
"Is that what you were coming to the abbey to tell me?" she asked softly.
"Mmm well I thought I might start by telling you that nothing felt the same when you were gone and that I hoped you would come back to us. Then perhaps after a bit of time I would have told you how I really felt."
Her brow raised, curious. "What changed your mind?"
His thumb skimmed over her jaw and then up to tap the edge of her lower lip. "You smiled at me, and I realized just how much I loved that smile…and the woman behind it."
The slightest hint of pink crept into her cheeks and she briefly averted his eyes from his, though on her lips remained a gentle smile. After a moment she confessed, "I…I was afraid. That's why I left. Afraid of how I felt a-after we danced. The Reverend Mother convinced me to come back."
Pleased that his suspicions about the night of the party had been correct, he grinned a little wider as he quipped, "I'll have to remember to write her a thank you note."
Maria laughed, but then her expression turned serious. "She told me that I had to look for my life; to look for the place I'm meant to be."
"And have you found it?"
He kissed her again briefly, then slid back into the driver's seat and said, "We'll tell the children straight away, I think," before continuing to drive down the road.
"Tell them what?"
"That we're to be married. Sooner than later. Before the end of summer?" he suggested. In his mind, there was no need to wait. He loved her then, he'd love her in a month's time, and many years into the future. What point was there in waiting? Besides, as much as he was loathe to admit it, war was looming around every corner and ignoring that fact would have been a fool's error. For them, waiting could mean not marrying at all.
"Oh, but I…I don't believe I can make myself a dress that quickly," she said, concern notable in her voice.
"Darling, you don't have to make your dress."
"Oh yes, I suppose I could wear something I already have. I do have-"
"No, no," he said to correct her misinterpretation. "I mean: we'll pay to have it made."
"But I haven't…oh."
He glanced over to see a mixture of surprise and confusion on her face. "What is it?"
"I was going to say I haven't the money, but you said we'll pay."
He reached over, grabbed her hand, and brought it to his lips so he could kiss the back of it. As he did this, he made himself a mental note to be more mindful of monetary concerns in the future. Not once in his life had he needed to worry about finances, but he knew that was a luxury she had not experienced to that point in her life. From that point on, however, he would make sure any and all of her desires were fulfilled. "There's no need to worry about expenses, darling. Paying for the dress is of no concern to me. Of course, if you'd rather make your dress that is perfectly alright. You can think about it; you don't have to decide now."
She nodded and thanked him. He gave her hand a squeeze and continued to hold it for the next several minutes until he needed to let go of it to use both hands on the wheel to turn in through the gates of their home.
Georg pulled the car around to the side of the house before getting out and walking around to open Maria's door, but she had already done that for herself. Instead, he gave her a smile, intent on brushing his fingers against her cheek once more, but she surprised him by throwing her arms around his waist and giving him a tight hug. He, of course, had no complaints about this. He was all too happy to hold her tightly for the very first time. He nuzzled his cheek against the top of her head for their minute-long embrace. Then, she pulled back, gave him a little smile, and reached for her bag in the back of the car. Naturally, he did not want her to carry her own bags, so he grabbed them before she could, gave her a wink, and then led the way to the front of the house.
Inside the foyer, he placed her guitar case and travel bag against the wall by the stairs and then followed her down the stairs to the main foyer. When he heard her chuckle softly he asked, "What is it?"
She gave a little shrug. "Oh, it's nothing…I just can't walk through this hall without thinking of the day we me when you first blew that silly whistle. I think that's when I started loving you."
More than pleased to hear such a confession from her, he walked over, grabbed onto her hand, and gestured towards the dining room. "I started loving you the moment you sat on that ridiculous pinecone."
She gasped and he immediately started laughing. She joined a moment later asking, "What? You knew?"
Still giggling he said, "Of course I knew! My children aren't nearly as clever as they think they are. Speaking of…I believe they're out on the terrace with max. Want to surprise them?"
"All right." She agreed with a grin.
He instructed her to wait where she was then scurried out onto the terrace. Trying to keep his expression neutral, he strolled out casually then switched his expression to one of pleasant surprise when he found the children playing ball on the terrace with Max watching from several feet away. "Oh good, children, you're all here. I was just thinking…that party we had the other week was so much fun. What if we were to do it again?"
"You had fun at the party, Father?" his daughter asked, her expression dubious.
"As a matter of fact, I did, Liesl. Only this time I was thinking perhaps we could have something more like a ceremony. Where everyone would sit in rows and watch two people—say: a man and a woman—exchange promises. Well, no—not promises. More like…vows. Yes, vows. What do you think about that sort of party?"
The children exchanged suspicious glances before Louisa pointed out, "That sounds like a wedding."
He gasped with faux surprise. "You know what, Louisa? You are correct! That does sound like a wedding!"
"Is Uncle Max getting married?" Brigitta asked.
"Heavens no!" Max replied.
A grin spreading across his face, he gestured behind him and said, "Why don't you go into the foyer and find out?"
The herd of children rushed past him and into the house, where he almost immediately heard squeals of delight.
"Oh, you came back!"
"You came back from the abbey!"
"We went to see you!"
"We wanted to see you yesterday but they told us-"
"They said we couldn't!"
"We wanted to say we missed you."
Georg found his children all crowded around Maria, most with their arms around her. She smiled at each of them in turn saying, "I missed you all, too. Very much."
After they each had the chance to hug her, Kurt circled around the foyer and then walked back to Maria, asking, "Did you come with someone?"
"No, Kurt; it's just me."
His brow knit with confusion. He looked over towards his father and began to ask, "Then what-" but he was interrupted by Louisa's loud gasp.
"Oh! Oh, it's her—it's them."
"What are you saying?" Kurt asked.
"Father and Maria are getting married," she said. Several children gasped, but Kurt only looked more confused; Georg couldn't help but laugh.
"When did he say that?!"
"Is it true?" Liesl asked, clasping her hands together as she gazed at him hopefully. "Is it really true?"
He looked at each of his hopeful children before giving the smallest hint of a nod. The explosion of joy that followed was almost deafening as all seven children rushed to Maria once more. She stumbled backwards from the force of their hugging, but took it in stride, laughing and brushing her fingers against each of their cheeks as they all expressed their joy and excitement.
He allowed the revelry to go on for several more moments before walking into the fray himself and saying calmly, "All right, all right, give her a moment to breathe." Of course, this only resulted in the herd turning their excitement on him, but he didn't mind as it at least gave her a chance to right herself. After she smoothed down her dress, she caught his eye, still grinning. He grinned back, excited for them to start their lives—together.