For all their profusions of generosity and repeated requests that their guests fully avail themselves of all available hospitality, it appeared that after their speech, Baron and Baroness Eberheld were in fact quite eager to bring the celebrations to a close. Suddenly the cruise ship was cutting its way back across the ocean at a much faster pace than the sedate one it had adopted on the way to the Cote D'Azur. It appeared that they would be home by nightfall then, Georg considered, and he could quite understand the need for hurrying. With the bar drunk almost dry, all of the fine food consumed, and the casino nearly out of revenue, the decadence was running far too thin to occupy such aristocratic elite for even a few more hours, let alone another evening.
The Eberhelds' generosity did not quite extend to funding any more extravagance, it seemed.
For his part, Georg was highly relieved when the ship set down its anchor once more. Although they had been away for just three nights, it felt like much longer since they had made the journey to the coast from Salzburg. He was sure that he was not the only one of such a mind either – although Elsa and Max would evidently have been very happy to spend a whole week – maybe even two – aboard the ship, and the Von Trapp children equally keen to spend more time by the sea, one member of the party seemed just as eager as he to be back on dry land.
Perhaps they were both hoping that they could leave the 'incident' behind them.
After all, Georg had heard the old line: "What happens at sea stays at sea" many times from comrades in the Navy, usually as a defence for some extra-marital affair they had been shamelessly conducting whilst away from home. Certainly it had never before had any bearing on him, but in this instance he joined in with the former wishes of his compatriots and hoped that the sentiment would come to hold true.
They disembarked at around six o'clock, and in fact were one of the first parties to leave the ship after it had docked. This was entirely necessary, Georg had assured Elsa, for they had a very long way to go and almost certainly another very uncomfortable journey ahead of them.
"O-ho! Maybe for you!" Max exclaimed as they walked back to the waiting car, "But for me, I am sure it will be nothing but the greatest motoring pleasure!"
He beamed at the Harley Davidson as Georg let out a grunt of disbelief.
"You're growing old before your time my dear friend!" Max went on, patting the saddle, "What is life but a bit of a risk, eh? An adventure!"
At that, Georg suddenly made a decision.
"Alright then, Max," he replied, cutting in front of the impresario, "I'll take you up on that challenge!"
And with that, Captain Georg Von Trapp swung his leg over the side of the motorcycle. A second later the engine had roared into life.
The look of surprise on Max's face was very evident, as was the similar look of alarm painted across Elsa's.
"Oh darling you can't be serious!" she cooed, "What on earth do you know about motorcycles?"
"Absolutely nothing," he replied briskly and very truthfully. He had ridden such a machine before, competently enough to be sure that he could make the trip quite safely, though not for many years.
But then what did any of them – himself included - really know about anything, he asked himself in a sudden moment of profoundness.
No, Georg suddenly wanted some risk and adventure – far too much of his time recently had been spent looking backwards, contemplating and regretting, and he was tired of it.
And he would certainly not allow Max to accuse him of being old before his time…!
Georg Von Trapp had plenty of life left in him, and he would prove it to everyone – everyone, and himself.
"Friedrich, Kurt!" he beckoned his sons into the sidecar and they scampered in quite readily, beaming smiles covering their faces at the thought of riding on a motorcycle with their father.
As soon as they were safely inside he turned his attention back to the rest of the party.
"See you at home, then!"
He heard a muttered comment from Max as he revved the engine, some remark about not knowing Georg had such daring still left in him, followed immediately by another about missing out on the ride he himself had gone to the trouble of finding.
Georg saluted him. A second later they were off, Georg sparing only one glance back in his mirror.
He made eye contact with Maria immediately. She was watching with a slight smile on her face, standing serenely behind Elsa and Max and surrounded by his daughters. His own lip twitched.
Soon they were out of sight of the rest of the party, speeding along one of the coastal roads back above the harbour. Georg chanced another look back down at the ship and the procession of ladies and gentlemen now disembarking: this time he smiled again. It had been a rather cathartic trip in the end, he decided as he looked ahead to the open road, and perhaps there were more things than just the incident with his children's governess which could remain out at sea.
His smile broadened. With the wind in his face, his two sons clapping and cheering from the side car and suddenly not a care in the world for the next couple of hours… well, it was better than risk or adventure.
It was freedom.
Just over a month later
Maria had not been in a boat with Captain Von Trapp since their holiday to the French Riviera, and indeed, the difference between the two vessels could not have been more pronounced. From the huge glittering and elegant salons of the luxury liner to the smallest of rowing boats, and from room enough for over three hundred people to a bit of a squash for two, the setting was as different now as their relationship had become. Some things remained the same though – the gentle rocking motion of the craft – though now just from gentle ripples across the lake -, the patchwork of stars strung haphazardly across the sky, that elusive feeling of being both at one with nature and uniquely separated from it… and of course, Maria decided with a smile, her companion.
He returned her smile with one of his own, squeezing the hand he was holding and kissing her forehead gently.
"What are you thinking?" he murmured.
She shifted slightly in his embrace, bringing her cheek down to lie on his shoulder and resting their joined hands on his chest.
"Just about the last time we were in a boat together," she answered contentedly, "In the French Riviera."
He chuckled into her ear.
"Good heavens, yes, I suppose it was!" He laughed again, "I uh… I must say, that was a rather more interesting trip than I had bargained for…"
"You didn't seem to enjoy it very much."
"Oh I don't know…" he traced a hand lazily across her back, "Parts of it were very pleasant…. Our trip to Nice… my afternoon swimming with the children…"
She hissed slightly at his tone and he laughed heartily.
"You were detestably awful that afternoon!" she chastised, lifting herself up a little to look into his eyes. She watched as his lips twitched into a smirk.
"How so, my dear?"
"Oooh! You knew very well what you were doing, and you loved every minute of it!"
He laughed again, "But as I recall, you were thoroughly engrossed in Great Expectations, my darling, so…"
She hit him lightly on the arm.
"In fact you had me quite worried that you didn't like what you saw at all…"
He was still teasing her, though she was sure that she suddenly heard a slight waver in his voice. She met his gaze, and was amused to see the question hiding in his eyes.
"I knew you weren't quite as arrogant as you seemed to be…!" she replied.
"Ah, only for the right woman," he replied with a wink, "And I must confess, I was very uh… keen to uh… well, to see if you approved, I suppose…"
It was her turn to laugh.
"Oh Captain, I'm sure that was quite obvious to you…"
She leaned in and gently kissed his cheek, just in case there was any doubt remaining. He smiled.
"But no, I can't say I really enjoyed the trip," he went on a second later, "It was far too nostalgic… and far too confusing…"
"Um hmm. Yes – you were exquisitely confusing, my dear!"
He chuckled again, "There I was surrounded by all the gaiety of Austrian aristocracy," he explained with a shudder, "With women pushing me and Elsa together at every opportunity… surrounded by all the decadence, pomposity and nonsense I was supposed to love… and all I could think about was how much I missed our quiet evenings in the gazebo..." he flicked his eyes onto hers, "And then you were segregated away with the children, as though you were forbidden from joining us…" his lip curled in distaste, "When really you were the only woman whose company I at all desired…" she squeezed his hand, "And I knew I shouldn't – more so when you stopped our… well, whatever they were for the day!" he leant back in the boat suddenly, groaning slightly, "But if you hadn't been a postulant my dear…" he chuckled again, perhaps wisely leaving the sentence unfinished.
"Well, suffice it to say, I can't abide reunions-"
"Yes, I remember you saying that…"
He suddenly groaned again, "Oh don't remind me, my dear," he ran a hand over his face, "I can't imagine what I said to you that evening. I wonder that I didn't just confess my love for you right then and there!"
She laughed softly.
"You don't remember then?"
"I remember the important parts," he sat up again suddenly, looking her in the eye again. She nodded carefully, knowing exactly what he meant and he leant forwards to kiss her forehead once more, "In fact I think I can remember almost everything you said to me… but as for what I said to you…!" he went on a minute later, sounding amused, "It's rather a fug, I must admit…"
She ran her hand down his cheek.
"I think I fell in love with you that evening," she whispered, "Completely I mean."
His dark blue eyes melted as he kissed her again.
"I must have said something good then…" he teased softly, pulling her more firmly into his embrace.
They sat in silence for a moment.
"I do remember the following morning," he suddenly went on, sounding both amused and contemplative, "I think that was one of the most exquisitely alarming moments of my life, my dear!"
"Well I would have thought it more alarming for me," she replied, "Waking up to find myself on your bed and-"
"O-ho!" he interrupted with a laugh, "Thank heavens you did not wake up any earlier, my darling…"
His expression suddenly became rather sheepish.
"I was uh… not entirely honest with you about that night…" he went on a second later. Maria shifted a couple of inches away to look him in the eye, "… I uh… well… I didn't exactly sleep on the couch…"
Maria blinked in surprise, her eyebrows rising. If he hadn't slept on the couch then where had he slept?
"You mean you… you slept…"
"On the bed. Next to you," he declared suddenly, "In fact I awoke to find you uh… cuddled in to me actually…"
She gasped, covering her mouth with her hands and he could not help but laugh at her expression of horror.
"I can assure you I remember none of it – I have no idea how you even ended up on the bed my love, let alone why on earth I decided it would be appropriate to join you!"
She began to giggle now, her hands still pressed over her mouth.
"Oh goodness, if anyone had ever known," she breathed, beginning to lower her hands.
"Yes, we had a lucky escape there," he laughed again as she settled herself back down, "I did feel terribly about it though… And what on earth was I thinking even taking you to my cabin in the first place…?"
"You were rescuing me from Werner," she reminded him, smiling into his shirt. He caught the slight jibe in her tone and laughed.
"Hmm. Yes – I'm sure that is what I told you," he laughed, "Truth be told my dear, you could have been talking to the Pope himself and I would still have suspected his intentions towards you!"
"Agathe used to say that jealousy could drive a man to a unique type of madness," he remembered, "And she was absolutely right!"
"So had you really seen Werner persuade three women to… well, you know…"
He laughed heartily, "Goodness, is that what I told you my dear?" he shook his head, "No… I'd certainly seen him talking with several other women over the course of the trip but uh… well I would imagine my exaggeration was a rather lame attempt to cover up my drunken anger in finding you talking to another man…" he paused, "Never again, my darling! I promise you that!"
"You really are quite the scoundrel you know…"
He laughed heartily, "You would rather I were more of a Romeo then…?"
She pretended to consider.
"No," she decided at last, "He would be rather a bore I think."
"Yes I always thought that. Hardly the most interesting of Shakespeare's heroes is he?"
"Well certainly if he had lived now I doubt he would ever have ridden a Harley Davidson… and beaten us all back to Salzburg by an hour…!"
He squeezed her tighter and laughed again.
"And you are a good man," she went on more seriously, "The very best. Regardless of what happened uh… after our conversation that evening, you certainly showed me that."
He kissed her cheek gently.
"I must admit though," he went on playfully a second later, his voice low in her left ear now, "That there were many occasions in the weeks that followed when I wished that I were perhaps uh… not such a 'good man'…"
As usual she felt herself shiver. This time however she accompanied it with a smile, and the frivolous concerns of how close he was lying and which cologne he was wearing seemed suddenly not so frivolous after all.
"Whatever do you mean?" her eyes sparkled.
"Well…" he ran a hand lazily across her cheek and dropped his lips to the left side of her neck, "I have to say, waking up next to you in the morning to find your head on my chest…" her cheeks flushed red, "… I'm afraid my thoughts were not of a wholly honorable nature, my dear…" he kissed her again, "As I said before, if you had not been a postulant…"
He kissed his way around to her lips, capturing them suddenly.
"… and thank heavens that I don't have to exercise so much restraint now…"
He mumbled the last part against her lips, hardly breaking contact with them at all. With a soft sigh she felt her arms go around him and lifted her hands carefully to run through his hair. A minute later he had pulled away again and they smiled blissfully at each other, faces just a fraction apart.
"Do you think we could come out here every evening?" she whispered a short while later.
"I would love to, my dear," he whispered back, closing the gap between them with another kiss to her cheek, "But it seems that our villa will soon be invaded by half of Vienna to act as our chaperones…" his displeasure was evident even as he kissed his way gently back along her jawline, "… and I doubt very much that they will let us…"
"But… well, we're in a boat…" she trailed off frowning.
"Hmm?" he had reached her right ear now, and she could practically feel him smiling against it.
"Well… um…" she could hardly concentrate on what she was saying any more, "I mean… they can't think that we could…"
She felt his laugh rumble through her and he pulled back again.
"My dear you are marrying a… sailor…" he raised his eyebrows.
"Oh! You mean you..?" she blushed furiously as he winked.
"That did not come out during those night time revelations then hmm?" he sat back again, a smug smile playing across his face. She wondered if he was being serious or just teasing.
"But..." she started again, casting her eyes down into the bottom of the boat and thinking how small it looked. Mercifully she swallowed her question.
"Yes, my dear?" he teased.
"Oh, no, never mind… I just…" she trailed off, blushing again.
"O-ho! Well, I could show you, my darling, but…" she did not dare meet his gaze, "…perhaps such things would be better off uh… after we are married…"
He winked again, seeming quite delighted by how easily he was flustering her.
"Oh, I don't know, Georg," she retorted briskly, her competitive streak most annoyed to have lost the upper hand in their conversation again, "I don't think it looks at all comfortable…"
He arched an eyebrow, silently accepting her challenge.
"My dear I don't think you will be worrying about that at all…"
He moved in an instant, suddenly tipping her backwards to lie flat along the bottom of the boat, and before she had time to say a word more had lain himself on top of her, most of his weight supported on his elbows, but with a delightful amount still pressing against her. Maria felt her breath catch as she watched his eyes darken – she had never seen him quite like this before.
Silently she gave him permission to continue, trusting in him completely that he would stop anything before it went too far. He was kissing her again an instant later and once again she felt her arms snaking around him, pulling him closer against her as she lost herself in that addictive, sweet intoxication of his lips moving across hers.
"Still uncomfortable?" he whispered against her ear a while later.
He laughed, smirking down at her with a gleam in his eye and once again she hit him lightly on the arm, this time grinning back at him. Yes, her fiancé could be most insufferably arrogant at times, Maria decided, but then, she added as she pulled him closer again, he most definitely had good reason to be.
That's the end for this story! Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck with it to the end, and an extra special thank you to everyone who has reviewed – it means an incredible amount to me that you would take the time to let me know what you think, so thank you again! Any other thoughts, comments or suggestions for how I could have improved upon this story or on my writing in general are very much appreciated – I am very keen to get better!
A couple of reviewers have asked whether I will write anything for the period between the gazebo scene and wedding or the honeymoon. Personally my favourite time to write about is the post-Edelweiss-pre-ball (as evidenced by this and my other stories!) as I love writing about Maria and Georg getting closer together and the tension developing between them. I have however been working on a story which starts just after the gazebo scene and fills in some of the moments I would have loved to see in the film up to the wedding, so keep a look out for this appearing soon!
Thanks again for reading :-)