Georg's/Maria's thoughts throughout the day she returns from the abbey; from before he announces his engagement to Elsa through the gazebo. A story exchange gift written for Skittlesmaltesers

The room was dark, the heavy damask drapes drawn closed against the late morning sun. Georg sat in the chestnut colored leather chair behind his desk, eyes closed, trying to rid himself of the headache he'd had for the past three days by the sheer force of his will. Unfortunately, the thoughts that were running through his head on a constant loop had no intention of allowing him any relief.

Why had he done it? Why had he proposed to Elsa, when he knew in his heart it was wrong? And if he hadn't known then, in a moment of alcohol fuelled weakness, his reluctance to share the news with the children surely had brought it to his attention. But what the hell was wrong with him? Elsa was one of the finest women he knew. She'd been patient and kind, drawing him out to at least the appearance of living again. She was beautiful, sophisticated, amusing. A confident woman, she would make a fine wife. The children weren't terribly fond of her, and Georg feared Elsa wasn't very comfortable about her maternal skills. but with a bit of time and patience they would be happy. They would all be very happy.

The room was dark, only the small square window allowing a shaft of sunlight to slowly make its way from one corner of the stone chamber across to the other. Marking the hours passing, evidence that life was moving on, though Maria could swear time was standing still. Or was she wishing it so? Perhaps if it were, she could will it backward; change the things she'd done.

Had she been too familiar with him? Since venting her anger not five minutes after climbing soaking wet out of the lake, Maria had overstepped her bounds repeatedly. Letting him know when his words were too harsh with Kurt, when he reverted to treating Liesl no differently than Gretl, when he was impatient with Louisa's stubborn streak. But rather than rebuking her for her impudence, the Captain had seemed to welcome her observations, insights, opinions. For the first time in her life, Maria felt accepted for who she was rather than constantly falling short of expectations. She'd liked that; yes, she knew she'd liked it, much too much. The Baroness had certainly thought so.

Georg exited the villa onto the terrace, the strong sunlight causing him to squint, making his eyes look swollen. Anyone thinking he was the sort of man who cried would swear that he'd been doing just that. He blinked against the brightness, and when he caught the mournful sound of his children attempting to sing he exhaled deeply, in an effort toward shaking off their shared sadness. He hated seeing them upset, which in part had led to their previous estrangement. This time, he would not push them away.

He was mildly irritated when Brigitta pestered him about why the governess had stolen away that night a week ago, but it wasn't until the pointed question from Gretl about who their new governess would be, followed by an expectant look from Elsa, that he felt forced to reveal the news. Georg barely heard his oldest daughter wonder aloud, "A new mother?", but after a simple gesture from him, she led the others in greeting their 'new mother'. His thoughts again circled around.

They are right-Elsa was all wrong. For them. For him. He was just now admitting to himself the one who was right. The one who had slipped away into the night without a goodbye. And there wasn't anything he could do get her back.

Maria awoke to a knock on the door of her bedchamber, "Maria? Dear? The Reverend Mother would like to speak with you." Though she was supposed to be undisturbed during seclusion, Maria knew well enough that when summoned by the Reverend Mother, you didn't refuse. She splashed water from the washbowl on her face, swiped the moisture half-heartedly with a linen cloth, before silently following Sister Margaretta down the dark hallway, their steps echoing off the stone. Her mind wandered in an effort to avoid thinking about what the Abbess wanted to say.

She caught herself more than once hoping the Captain would share a look with her, letting her know with only his eyes, a small smile, or just a slight nod, that he approved and appreciated her efforts. When she would meet his eyes, it was as if the air suddenly was too heavy for her to inhale. Now she was terribly ashamed that the Baroness had noticed. There was only one thing for Maria to do.

After the lackluster reception to the news of Elsa becoming his children's new mother, Georg once again claimed imminent deadlines for retiring, alone, to his study. It wasn't until Frau Schmidt knocked several hours later that he knew the children were gone. She expressed her concerned, as they hadn't appeared for afternoon tea, and now dinner time was fast approaching. He was surprised, but instantly knew where they must have gone. Dismissing her with instructions not to worry, he walked to the windows and opened the heavy drapes for the first time in several days.

He knew exactly where they had gone, and if he was a braver man he'd have gone himself. Maria Theresien cross and other medals and awards be damned, he was a coward when it came to matters of the heart.

"Captain von Trapp? Are you in love with him?"

Those were not the words she expected to hear from the Reverend Mother. Nor was the refusal to allow Maria to take the vows of the novitiate. Least of all had she imagined being told she had to return to the villa, to find out where and how God wanted her to spend her love. Only once she was off the bus and making her way down the road toward the wrought iron gates of 53 Aigen did Maria permit herself to wonder if this, indeed, was where she was meant to be. She loved the children, she'd known that since her first week with them. Lovely, charming, funny, each of the seven with their own quirks and gifts and needs. When had she begun to love their father? When he apologized and asked her to stay, giving her the chance to help him come to know them again? When he'd been so excited after their puppet show, looking into her eyes with such gratitude that she didn't know what to say? When he had later gazed at her as he sang a love song to Austria? The old folk tale had never meant as much as it did that night in the drawing room. She remembered retiring that night and the memory of his eyes burning into her dreams. Or could it have been any of the dozens, hundreds, of tiny moments in between. Sitting up with Gretl the night her dinner didn't agree with her, refusing to let either her father or her governess leave her side. The time he gently cradled Marta as Maria cleaned and bandaged her scraped knee. A knowing look they shared, when Liesl asked to be excused yet again when a telegram was delivered.

Upon arriving at the gates she paused. It must be dinner time by now. Not wishing to cause a disturbance, Maria decided to around to the back of the house, and perhaps put her things up in her old room before revealing herself.

She could hear their voices, sad and plaintive, not the cheery, exuberant ones she remembered. As she walked closer, she began singing along, and before Maria knew it they were charging at her, jostling for position to give and receive a hug or a kiss.

The Reverend Mother was right again. This was home. This was where she belonged. She could hardly wait to see the Captain, and tell him the reason she had disappeared, and why she was back. Maria couldn't help looking toward the large dwelling, perhaps to get a glimpse of the man she loved. Realizing the children were speaking, she turned her full attention to them only to wish she hadn't.

The Captain listened as hungry children singing sadly suddenly began laughing and cheering. He only got up to look out the window when he heard her voice, and needed to see if it was simply his ears playing a trick on him.

She's home.

He went outside just in time to see her expression change, the smile and the shining eyes being wiped away by something the children had said. Then Friedrich noticed his father standing there, and all Georg could think to do was send them in to get their dinner.

There were so many things he wished to ask her, yet he was afraid he would scare her off again. He began with the obvious, but what did she mean, '"the reason no longer exists'"? He was taken aback when Elsa appeared; she was the last one he wanted to see. He felt sick. He watched as Maria went up the steps and he couldn't stop himself from calling out to her, only to be disappointed when she said she wasn't going to stay.

Maria ran up the stairs and into the villa, glad for the children to be at their evening meal so they wouldn't witness her tears.

She was a fool. A fool to think someone like him could ever want someone like her. Allowing her imagination and her feelings to run away with her mind, just as he'd taken her heart. Perhaps a quick wash-up and a change of clothes would refresh her enough to get through the rest of the evening. Without a second thought she got out her favorite dress, still hanging in the wardrobe where she'd left it.

Dinner was a quiet affair. The children having eaten earlier, just four adults sat at the table. Max and Elsa chatted amiably. Georg barely touched his food, preferring to drink wine instead, swirling the ruby liquid in the bowl of the goblet in between sips. Maria pushed her food around on her plate, never taking a bit, though the schnitzel was one of her favorite things. She excused herself immediately after the main course, claiming a promise to Gretl and Marta to read an extra story to make up for the time she'd been away.

Georg's eyes followed her from the room, much the way the rest of him wanted to. He'd stolen glances at her throughout the meal, trying to get her to meet his gaze. She hadn't looked at him at all, and he really couldn't blame her. If what he'd been thinking was correct, she'd left because of him. Had she returned because of him, too? She'd looked so...pained, when she'd congratulated Elsa and himself. He'd wanted to call after her, to tell her he'd make it right. And he would.

Gretl and Marta had fallen asleep in the middle of the third story, but Maria kept reading until the end. The older children had all bid her goodnight, then gone off themselves, leaving her to the little o ones, knowing that they'd missed their governess the most. On any other night before she'd gone, she would go to the kitchen to make herself some tea, before turning in, or meeting briefly with the Captain about any issues concerning the children. Tonight she would do neither, and instead go outside and walk the grounds until she was sure everyone had gone to bed.

Ridiculous ninny, you can't avoid him forever. At least not while still living here. She desperately hoped the Reverend Mother would take pity on her, and send one of the other postulants straight away. Then she could...what? She supposed she could find a teaching position, but certainly not in Salzburg; it would hurt to much to see any of them. But where? She'd had a home at the abbey, and felt at home at the villa. Now neither one was a place where she belonged.

Georg escaped to the quiet of the second-floor balcony as soon as dinner was finished. Telling his guests he'd join them in a moment, he had really gone upstairs to see if he would run into Maria. She wasn't there, but as he stood gazing out onto the moonlit grounds, he could see her strolling forlornly toward her favorite spot.

He had to tell Elsa the truth. Now that Maria had returned, he just had to know if she returned his feelings. There was no denying it anymore-he loved her, deeply. If there was any chance that she would have him, he had to know. But not until he was a free man.

"There you are". Elsa appeared and began speaking, very quickly and without much pause to allow him to get a word in edgewise. He waited patiently for a break, but when none came, he simply said her name, followed by the words no woman wants to hear.

He was astonished at her reference to Maria. Had his feelings been so obvious? Had she known all along? Elsa had always been kind and gracious, and here she was, giving him the way clear to be with the woman he loved. He had told her she was, in a way, his Savior, and in this way, she was once again.

"I thought I just might find you here." Georg hoped he had not frightened Maria, though the way she sat ram-rod straight on the stone bench said otherwise. He once again questioned her about why she'd run away, and why she'd come back. His heart warmed when she slipped and said she hadn't simply missed the children. Nothing had been the same, would she change her mind and stay?

The sass and fire he loved so much reared its head. "I'm sure the Baroness will make things fine for you."

Maria wasn't listening very closely to his next words, just enough to give the socially appropriate response. How could he think I would, or could, stay, when he's marrying her? Though to be fair he doesn't know how I feel about him.

"You did?"

"You are?"

They finally realized what the other had said. He wasn't marrying the Baroness. She wasn't sorry about the broken engagement.

"You see, you can't marry someone when you're in love with someone else, can you?"

Georg gently lifted Maria's chin, moving in slowly before touching his lips to hers. As they shared their first kiss, they shared a single thought.

I love you.