Author's notes: Since the last chapter ended where the ball scene starts in the film (and the film can do a much better job of telling that part of the story than I could ever hope to!), that's almost it for this fic. I just included this little epilogue to tie some loose ends together and because I wanted to leave Maria and Georg in a happier place than I did at the end of Chapter Seven! This is set a while after the ball, between the gazebo scene and the wedding.
A couple of months later
"Let's sit for awhile," Georg said as they reached the gazebo, pulling off his jacket and spreading it out underneath one of the trees.
Maria smiled at him, releasing his hand as she leant back against the tree trunk. He frowned for a second, clicking his tongue against his teeth before dropping to the ground himself and turning to lie with his head resting on her lap.
She laughed as he settled himself comfortably and immediately began running a hand through his thick dark hair. He smiled at her caress, taking her other hand in his and causally running his fingers across her own before lifting it to his lips to kiss. The two midnight blue sapphires of her engagement ring glinted as he lowered her hand again.
They sat for a moment in peaceful silence and Maria found her mind wandering back to the last time they had sat underneath that particular tree.
"Do you remember the last afternoon we sat out here… when the children were playing in the lake?" she addressed him at last.
"Ah, yes!" he exclaimed immediately, fixing his eyes on her, "I remember it very well!" he paused, "Do you know how close I came to kissing you that day, Maria?"
She laughed merrily.
"You were utterly bewitching in the heat, my dear..." he sat up a little, shifting to lie on his side, "And with your eloquent little remark about how difficult God could make it to resist temptation…" he rolled his eyes as she laughed again, "… or whatever it was that you said... You have no idea how apt those words were – or how much they came to torture me!"
"Oh, I think I may," she interrupted him.
He raised an eyebrow in amused curiosity.
"Having you sitting so close to me… and with your shirt..." she trailed off, feeling herself beginning to blush again – although she had been an engaged woman for over a month, Maria's shyness about some subjects was still yet to be completely vanquished.
"Yes?" he teased, lifting her chin with his thumb and forefinger and forcing her to look him in the eye. Despite her embarrassment she still could not resist smiling.
"Well, it was the first time that I realised that I wanted to... that I wanted to..." she trailed off again and he laughed.
"Wanted to what? Fraulein?" his tone was much more flirtatious now and she could see a dangerous gleam in his eye.
"Well I don't know, Captain," she retorted, hitting him playfully on his upper arm, "You confused me... I don't know what I was feeling, I-"
"Then permit me to refresh your memory."
He sat up and offered her his arm, unbuttoning his shirt cuff.
Maria lifted her eyes back to his and he shrugged playfully, his lips twitching into a smirk and his eyebrows rising slightly, as though he were daring her to accept his invitation.
She reached out slowly, supporting his arm with one hand, and beginning to roll up his sleeve with the other.
He watched carefully as she folded it over just above his elbow, and then silently unbuttoned the cuff of the other sleeve so that she could do the same.
"There," she whispered softly as she rolled that sleeve up too. Her eyes met his and he saw something pass across her face, as though she had just thought of something.
"Anything else?" he asked her softly.
She did not reply, but instead her gaze dropped to his top button. He silently gave her permission to continue, and felt her hands deftly loosening the knot of his tie, and then slowly undoing both that button and one below it.
It was torture - sweet torture, feeling her beginning to undress him, and knowing that she could not continue. Not yet.
"And... and your hair, Captain," she continued, bolder now, reaching her hands up and running them through his dark hair.
They looked at each other for a long moment. There was intensity in his eyes which she knew she would never get used to.
"If you will indulge me," he whispered at last, leaning towards her and running his palm across her cheek, "I never like to leave things unfinished..."
His lips met hers, softly at first, and she melted into his embrace.
"Well..." he began when he had at last forced himself to pull away, "Perhaps it's a good thing that we were interrupted that afternoon, after all…!"
She laughed, closing the gap between them with another quick kiss to his lips.
"I think you probably know the answer to your question now, Captain," Maria went on a few moments later, now tightly snuggled in his arms.
"Georg," he corrected her for what felt like the millionth time, "And what question was that?"
"The question which your daughter asked me… and which you later seemed very interested in the answer to…." she reminded him, squeezing his arm teasingly, "About whether I had ever found a man handsome before..."
He laughed, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head.
"I hope the answer is, 'yes', then?"
"Most definitely, Georg."
"Anyone I know, my darling?"
She pretended to consider for a moment.
"I would think so," she quipped back at last, "He was, after all, the most handsome man in the Navy."
He raised an eyebrow, "I believe, my dear," he replied, "That those were my daughter's words, and about Lieutenant Steiner, if I recall the conversation correctly..."
"Ah, but he was most certainly not the man who came to my mind!" she answered.
He chuckled and kissed her softly again.
"I wonder what he makes of all this," Maria mused, "A Captain marrying his governess..."
"O-ho! I am sure that it has provided him with enough scandal for many more entertaining stories!"
"I don't recall you being so entertained..." she teased him back, shifting in his embrace.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"Borrowing military titles... Parisian dancers..." she tut-ted playfully, knowing that her fiancé was now far above any of that sort of behaviour.
He laughed again, and then fixed her with another of his intense stares. He could flirt and tease just as well as she could, and Maria knew it.
"Well now..." he whispered, his voice suddenly deeper, "I think, my darling..." he sank down, grazing his lips gently across her cheek, "That it is… you... who will very soon..." he slid his lips slowly down to her neck, punctuating his words with kisses, "... be experiencing the benefits of their... instruction..."
He whispered the last part in her ear and watched as she flushed bright red. Suddenly he wondered if he had gone too far and moved his lips a millimetre away before hearing her reply.
"I look forward to it... Captain," she breathed, this time using his title on purpose.
He took a deep breath at her words and instinctively dropped back to her neck, kissing along her jawline and finally meeting her lips. She arched in to him as he deepened the embrace, and it took every ounce of his self-will to pull back.
Unmarried and beneath a tree in the grounds was not a good place to consummate their love for the first time.
Her eyes fluttered open questioningly as she felt him break the contact.
"My love, if you kiss me like that…" he ran a hand down her arm, "Then I'm afraid I will not be able to take responsibility for my actions…" he smirked, "And you may see some of the long-lost scoundrel returning!"
She laughed, leaning forwards again to give him a disappointingly chaste kiss on the cheek.
"Georg…?" she began again a few minutes later, "I was wondering – what did Lieutenant Steiner mean about your track record with nuns?"
"I was hoping you might have forgotten that," he answered looking suddenly rather abashed.
"You promise you will not leave, my darling, even though your fiancé was once rather a rogue?"
"Never," she smiled, kissing him again.
"Well umm…" he moved in a little further, "I didn't actually know she was a nun at the time," he explained awkwardly, "It was not until afterwards when she…" he laughed at the memory, "When she donned her wimple, thanked me for 'introducing her to God'," he smirked broadly, "And then went to tell the whole bloody lot of it to some priest at confession…!" he shook his head.
"Oh the poor woman!" Maria once again took him by surprise.
"I daresay she did not find the experience thoroughly unpleasant my dear…" he winked again, "In fact there were moments when I would say she enjoyed herself quite marvellously-"
"Oooh you are insufferably arrogant!"
"All men are when it comes to that," he retorted carelessly, "And any man who isn't is not worth you wasting your time on!"
"One of your valuable pieces of advice, Captain?"
They shared a laugh.
"No, I only meant that she must have been so confused about her faith," Maria went on a minute later, "The poor woman must have felt so distanced from God – I do hope she found her way back…"
"Ah, you haven't a single cynical bone in your body, have you my dear?" he smiled affectionately.
"Georg, what if..." Maria began, suddenly sounding concerned, "I mean you've had lots of experience in..." she flushed, "I mean some experience in..."
He took her hands, immediately knowing what she meant.
"Look at me," he said softly. Their eyes met.
"Being with you is so wonderful..." he trailed off, his voice catching, "I never thought that I could ever find..."
Her eyes filled with tears.
He kissed her palm gently, "I will never ask you to give me anything that you do not feel completely, wholly comfortable with..." he whispered.
"I never doubted that for a moment." She kissed him gently.
"And to be quite honest..." he paused for a second, "I'm a little nervous myself."
Maria frowned in surprise, "But..." she trailed off and he shrugged, suddenly embarrassed.
"Well you know I... uh... haven't, um..." he began again a second later but trailed off, "I haven't been intimate with a woman since um... well, since Agathe really..."
"You and Elsa...?"
He shook his head, wrapping his arms around her again. "No. It never felt right."
"It would hardly have mattered now anyway," she declared a second later, though he could hear a distinct tone of relief in her voice.
"Well, maybe not..." he smirked, "After all, as you pointed out, I obviously do have some experience in that area... otherwise, ironically, I would never have met you, my dear!"
They shared a smile.
"Nevertheless, I just wanted you to know," he kissed her forehead again.
They held each other in silence for a couple of minutes.
"But if it doesn't..." Maria began again awkwardly, still troubled, "I mean if it doesn't live up to... if you..."
"My love, if this..." he inclined his head towards the tree, reminding her of what they had been doing just a few minutes earlier. His lips twitched into a smile which she returned, blushing, "Is anything to go by... then I think..." he leant forwards to whisper in her ear, "That it will be quite... incredible."
He kissed her once more.
A huge thank you again to everyone who has read this, and particularly for the reviews! Please do let me know what you thought of this story – good or bad! I'm pretty new to writing fanfic and always keen to improve :-)