A/N: Just an idea that I've had in mind for a while. Please forgive me taking some of Shakespeare's most beautiful poetry and changing it to fit my story; I literally went line by line. This is just something I wanted to try, and I hope you just take it for the sweet ball of fluff that it is. Please read and review!
Thy Love's Faithful Vow For Mine
Georg and Max walked out of the Bristol Hotel smiling and laughing. It was a refreshing sensation for Georg, to be able to laugh and feel almost carefree again with his oldest friend. Max had practically dragged him out of the house for a late dinner in town and an evening of good music at the Bristol Hotel. Combine that with Max on his best behavior, and Georg had the first really good evening he'd had since…
Feeling restless, Georg said, "Max, go on and drive home. I want to walk around for a bit and then I'll take a cab home."
Max looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "Gotta burn off some energy and brooding in a healthy way, huh?"
Georg chuckled. "You know me too well. Thank you for tonight, Max. I really needed it."
Max smiled in response, clasping Georg's shoulder. "I had to do something to prevent you from falling into another melancholy. Though you have good reason to be in one, what with you and Elsa breaking your engagement, I really cannot watch you go down into the black hole of self-pity again."
Georg merely nodded and returned the shoulder gesture. "Well, see you in the mo...I mean, the middle of the afternoon."
They shared a laugh before they parted ways, Max walking to the car and Georg walking along the sidewalk in the opposite direction.
"He refers to a wound that was never inflicted," Georg muttered to himself, remembering Max's comment about him and Elsa. But Max had been right to save him from a potential melancholy; he'd just been wrong about the reason.
As Georg walked, Georg reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out two pieces of paper, one smaller than the other. This smaller one he looked at first, even though he had memorized practically everything about it. It was the note he had found after the grand and glorious party had ended, the note from Maria saying she had left, that she was sorry but missed her life at the abbey too much. The note had sent him into such a state of heartbroken shock that Georg barely heard both Elsa's proposal to him or his own acceptance.
Dear Captain and Children,
I'm so sorry to leave like this without saying good-bye, but I find that I miss my life at the abbey too much and have to leave. I will never forget the time I spent with all of you, and will pray for all of you, that your lives will be nothing but blessed.
How often had Georg looked solely at those last two words and dreamed that they were for him?
The next morning, Georg had firmly resolved to not let Maria's departure affect him, and go ahead with this marriage to Elsa as he had planned to do months before he had ever met Maria. But the children's reactions were something that broke the resolve of both him and Elsa. Though they never directly objected, they showed no enthusiasm about Elsa becoming their new mother. They were already so heartbroken about their beloved Fraulein's unexpected departure, and Georg knew that his attitude only made it worse for him.
So he and Elsa had parted ways mutually, just twenty-four hours after they had become engaged. Truthfully, it relieved him, knowing he would not have to marry a woman who could, not only never be the mother his children needed, but a woman he did not love. Her departure had only made it all the more clear: the only woman who could fill the hole in his family, the holes in his children's hearts, and the hole in his heart…was Maria. He was in love with her, hopelessly and passionately. But there was nothing he could do about it, because Maria had chosen her life. And, as much as Georg disagreed with her choice, he had to respect it.
But over and over again he had thought of their moments together between the rowboat incident and her departure, and Georg knew that she had to care for him at least a little. Even if it was nothing more than friendly affection, Georg had to know. After Elsa had left, the first thing Georg had wanted to do was to write to Maria. But after many tries he gave up, realizing that all he wanted to say to her could not be put on paper; it wouldn't be fair to her. So he decided to try a more subtle approach: he'd written to the Reverend Mother two days after Maria had left. He inquired after Maria's state of mind and well-being, since she had left so early and without warning. He also – casually – slipped in the fact that the Baroness had returned to Vienna after the party, and that they were no longer romantically involved. So Georg had waited and, three days later, had received a reply from the Reverend Mother.
Georg, still walking down the sidewalks of Salzburg, having no idea or care where he was going, looked at the second, larger piece of paper he had pulled out of his jacket pocket: the Reverend Mother's reply. He read through it again by the light of the streetlamps.
Dear Captain Von Trapp,
Thank you for your kind words and for inquiring after Maria. We were just as surprised to see her so early as well, and I can assure you that she is in perfect health. At least, physically. I have spoken to Maria since she has come back. While I cannot break the confidence she has shown me, I believe I am permitted to tell you certain facts.
Two days after coming back to us, I spoke to Maria. We had a very long, deep talk and she has made the decision to no longer be a postulant with us. While I have suspected for some time that the life of the sisters was not quite right for her – though her faith and devotion is stronger than even some here – this was a decision that she came to completely on her own. She is going to stay with us until she has found her life – wherever that may be, Captain.
I feel I can also say that Maria is in a very confusing place right now, for she has many decisions to make. She is quieter than she once was, and more restless, for often she goes to her mountain during the day or walks around the gardens at night. There is a touch of melancholy and sadness about her as well, which concerns me. So, as for your question of whether or not the children could come and visit her, I believe that would do her worlds of good. She loves them all very much.
Also, if you would like to speak to her yourself, I would not be against you contacting her directly, rather than going through me, Captain. While I know that you have questions for her that you would like answers to, after showing her the letter you sent me, I believe she has questions for you as well.
May God be with you.
Georg had received this letter two days ago, and he still did not know what to do. The knowledge that Maria was somehow sad or melancholy broke his heart, and he had a feeling that it was somehow his fault. Or perhaps that was only wishful thinking, because that would mean she cared as much for him as much as he for her.
Yes, he had to find out some answers. And it seems his feet knew that too, because when he looked up from the papers he was holding, Georg found that he had walked straight to Nonberg Abbey. He wanted to laugh at himself for doing it, but kept quiet, lest he should draw attention to himself from anybody.
Suddenly, looking at the building, Georg remembered one of the Reverend Mother's sentences from her letter. Looking at the letter again, he found it: …often she goes to her mountain during the day or walks around the gardens at night. At night…it was nighttime now…so there was a good chance that…
Even though his mind was screaming for him to think about this and how foolish he was being, before Georg knew it, he had walked around the huge abbey, come to the garden wall and stopped by a tree. It was just like the tree Maria described herself climbing as a girl, in order to look over into the garden.
He only hesitated for a moment. Georg, you've really lost your mind, was his only thought as he climbed up the tree (which was easy to climb) and peeked into the garden.
There was no one there.
Georg's heart sank, and he felt as if he had been watching for the sunrise and it never came. An accurate metaphor, he thought, for Maria has really become the sun in all of our lives, especially mine. How could I ever think to marry another, even if Maria would not have me? How could I ever be worthy of such an angel?
Then, in the night breeze, Georg heard another sound. Soft footsteps. The branches of the tree disguised him well, so all he need do was hope it was the sun he was looking for.
It was. Georg's heart rejoiced as he watched Maria come into the garden, her golden hair and white robe reflected in the light of the full moon and stars. Oh, my love! he thought, making her all the more beautiful in his eyes. And you will know that somehow, even if you reject me. You deserve to know. Looking more closely at her as she slowly walked, Georg saw from her face that she was lost in her thoughts. An impulse to climb over the wall overcame him for a moment, but he stopped himself just in time. You're too bold, Georg. You want to scare her to death? And who says she's thinking of you, anyway?
So he stayed quiet, content to just watch her for now. Even though it had only been a week, it felt like a lifetime. He watched as she sat on a bench that was at a certain angle that her big blue eyes reflected the moonlight. Her eyes became two beautiful stars, too beautiful for the skies or even the heavens. He watched as she leaned forward, rested her elbow on one knee, and leant her cheek upon the adjoining hand. Oh, what I wouldn't give to touch that cheek.
Then, Maria gave a deep sigh and, looking up at the sky, said, "Oh, God…"
Georg's heart filled even more, if it were possible, at the sound of her voice. Speak again, my angel. He leaned out of the tree and supported his hands on the stone garden wall.
Her next words made him nearly lose his breath. "A captain with seven children…Captain…what's so fearsome about that?" She heaved a frustrated sigh and got up, beginning to pace again. "Oh, God, why did it have to be him? I wish he could somehow deny his fortune and his titles…No, that's selfish of me…But no more selfish of my equal wish to be born of some fortune or status so that I could at least try to be worthy of him."
The most joyous smile Georg had given in years spread across his face as he registered her words. Again, his body moved according to his heart, and carefully, quietly, climbed down the garden wall by the ivy that grew there. Should I keep listening or make my presence known? he thought as he climbed down, hidden by the shadows of the trees and the sound of the night breeze.
Maria continued to speak, crouching down to stroke the petals of a violet. "The only thing that keeps me from him is his social status, his class, so much higher than mine, and that's not fair. A person's class does not define who they are! It's not any part that can belong to a person, to their body, their mind or heart. Oh, why can't our situation be different? I can't even call him anything other than Captain because of it! I don't feel worthy enough or good enough? Oh, I'm a fool to think he could ever look at me differently, the way I want him to…Oh, God, put us on equal ground, so that there could be some chance he would want my heart…for he has it."
Georg had, by now, reached equal ground with her, so to speak, drinking in every word like a starving man drinks water. If he could die of happiness right now, he would. She cares for me! She may even love me, too! This happiness could no longer keep Georg silent. Still in the shadows of the garden, Georg said, "I'll take you at your word. Call me anything you want, and I'll be anything you want me to be, if it would mean I can keep your heart."
In response to hearing a voice, Maria gave a yelp and backed away from the shadows rapidly, frightened beyond wits. She didn't recognize his voice, so she grabbed the gardener's rake and held it before her, ready to strike. "Who are you and what are you doing here? How dare you even come here, let alone eavesdrop on private thoughts!"
"Well, you don't like my title so I hardly know how to answer that," said Georg, wanting to laugh at her weapon but stepping out of the shadows so she could more clearly see him. He also used his own title for her so she would have no doubts. "Since my title, Fraulein, is so hateful to you, I would tear it up were it written down."
As he came into clearer view, Maria dropped the rake in pure shock, looking petrified before her cheeks flooded in mortification and disbelief. "I know that voice…" she muttered to herself. Slowly, hesitantly, she stepped over the rake, towards him, but only one step. "Captain?" she said, a shocked whisper. "Is that really you?"
"Well, since you do not like my title, dear Fraulein, how can I answer that question truthfully?" said Georg, still high on happiness, but taking a step closer to her so she could see it was him, beyond a reasonable doubt.
"What in the world are you doing here?" said Maria in a loud whisper, taking another step closer to him. She was in too shocked of a state to tease him back. "And how did you get in here, I should ask? Those walls are not easy to climb, and for heaven's sake this is a cloistered abbey! Grown men are not exactly wanted guests here!"
Georg took another step closer to her in turn, in too happy a state to consider the facts Maria stated. So he said, in a softer, more tender tone: "You'd be surprised at the things a man in love is capable of doing, to the point where stone walls and forbidden sanctuaries are no stop to him."
At his words, Maria's eyes widened even more if that were possible, sparkling in the moonlight. Georg saw her breath catch in her throat. When a particularly strong breeze hit them and rustled the tree branches loudly, it seemed to snap Maria back to the reality of their situation. She grabbed his forearm – a strong grip, Georg thought, for his little Fraulein – and took him back to the shadows of the trees by the garden wall, so they became invisible to anyone who could be looking out into the garden.
"You'll be in a lot of trouble if someone finds you," said Maria quietly, looking up at him, her hand still on his arm to keep him hidden.
Georg chuckled almost silently. "Truth be told, I find more danger in you than any outside threat. One of your smiles causes my heart to melt, and that's the truth."
Maria, not used to hearing such loving words – and still in a state of shock – would not be swayed in her worry. "The last thing I want is to get you in trouble."
"I'm well hidden in the shadows and with night hanging over everything," said Georg, trying to reassure her so she would really hear what he was telling her. He let his hands rise and settle on her shoulders. "And if what I heard you say is true…I don't care if I am found. I would rather die now, when I'm the happiest I've ever been, than live the rest of my life wishing you could love me, too."
Maria was slowly letting her guard down, he could see, but she still had one more question for him. "Who told you how to come here, anyways?" Her voice was considerably softer, less worried and more in awe. His warmth, closeness and scent were beginning to go to her head.
"Technically, you did, when you told me how you loved to watch the sisters in the garden. And you could say love too, for my feet seemed to bring me here of my heart's accord tonight. As I've said before, a man in love is capable of many things, Maria." He spoke in his most tender tone, and fulfilled his wish by raising one of his hands to her cheek. Her skin was as soft, smooth and warm as he'd dreamed it would be, and his heart rejoiced when she closed her bright eyes and leaned into his caress in surrender.
Again, a powerful breeze came through the garden, ruffling every branch, and once again, it spooked Maria to reality. She took a step back from Georg, breaking all contact, and covered her cheeks with her hands. Looking at him again, she chuckled self-consciously and lowered them again. "Thank God it's dark so you can't see how red my cheeks are right now. There are plenty of reasons for that right now, most of all for what you overheard me say if you overheard it all…I wish it didn't happen this way, but you can't change the past." Her eyes became both vulnerable and hopeful, and she stepped back to him. "You really love me?" she breathed.
Georg raised his hand to her cheek again, but she took his hand and lowered it. "If you answer in the affirmative, I would gladly believe you, believe me. But please be careful about what you promise. They say God laughs when people make everlasting promises." Now Maria took both of his hands tentatively and held them. "Oh, Captain, please don't say you love me unless you mean it with all of your heart. I don't think my heart would take it if you didn't mean it." She looked down at their hands. "Oh, I've never experienced anything like this! If I'm supposed to be more coy or am too quickly won, I'll back away and be more indifferent so that you won't lose interest."
Maria attempted to do just that but Georg, firmly holding her hands, pulled her back to him, looking into her eyes with a powerful gaze. She gave a breathless chuckle and again looked down at their joined hands. She never thought such a simple act could feel so wonderful. As she raised them up slightly, still looking at them, she said, "In truth, dear Captain, I'm afraid I'm too fond…" She looked up at him again. "So, if you, in turn, think my feelings are so light they could fly away with a breeze, then forget all you've heard me say and I'll be more cautious. For believe me, I wouldn't have said anything I didn't mean…"
"Maria," said Georg, squeezing her hands in compensation for his urge to take her in his arms. He badly wanted to reassure her that his feelings were, indeed, serious and substantial. "I'll swear my heart by anything you deem right to swear by. The moon, or the –"
Maria groaned, cutting him off. "Oh, the moon? Really? That changes shape every night and that clouds can easily cover? Don't swear by that unless that really is the nature of your feeling for me."
"I won't then, for it isn't," said Georg. "Then tell me what to swear by that you will believe me?"
"How about not swearing at all," said Maria, and then she suddenly became shy, taking a small step closer to him so she could look better into his eyes, lit by a shaft of moonlight. "Or, if you really want to reassure me in speech, just give me your word, as Captain Von Trapp, the only man I will ever see, and that's more than enough for me."
She'd finally let her guard down, laying herself vulnerable and willing before him. It shook Georg to the core, and he brought her hands up to rest against his chest, over his heart which was accelerating rapidly. "Is this enough, Maria?"
Maria closed her eyes and sighed at the wonderful sensation. She leant forward in surrender, and rested her head on his shoulder while he pressed his cheek to her temple, inhaling the sweet scent of her hair.
But then an owl hooted nearby, and Maria jumped a little bit, looking spooked again now that she had returned to reality. "All right, forget about swearing by anything now." She looked around the garden and back up at the abbey before looking again. "Look, I'm so glad to see you again, but I take no joy in meeting like this. It's too rash, too sudden, and I don't like the fact that you could get in trouble and have taken me by complete surprise, unprepared." Maria gently took her hands back, looking at him more beautifully than she ever had. "Good night. This could be the beginning of something really wonderful, if this isn't a dream, which is probably more likely. Let's pray we both sleep well tonight and prove that theory wrong." With that she turned around and headed back into the moonlight.
But Georg was not ready to let her go just yet. "Maria, wait! Please don't leave me so unsatisfied!"
Maria came to a halt in her tracks, and turned around to look at him with a wary expression. "Oh? What satisfaction do you expect from me tonight?" She finished with her hands on her hips.
Georg cringed at the word he had used, but did not waver. He stepped into the moonlight so she could see him clearly, see that what he was going to say was absolutely true. "I'm in love with you, Maria, completely and truly. What would satisfy me is if you feel the same way, please tell me, but only if you truly mean it like I do." He smirked. "And, if you do, don't call me Captain."
His words had the intended effect: Maria's hands dropped from her hips and the wary expression melted off her face, replaced by one of hope and then joy. A smile fighting to break free, she approached him and again pushed them back into the shadows of the trees and wall. "I believe I said something along those lines before I knew you were even here, and because of that I wish I could take it back."
For a moment, Georg felt uncertainty that threatened to mount to panic. With her hands on his upper arms, Georg placed his hands lightly on her waist, afraid she would run away. "Take it back? Why?"
Her smile, visible by a shaft of moonlight, bloomed to a full one. "So I could say it again, with you right here in front of me…I'm in love with you, too…dear Georg."
Now Georg's face broke into a joyous smile that matched her own, and finally gave into his impulse to hold her in his arms. She offered no resistance and wrapped her arms around his neck, resting her head on his chest as he held her there. "Oh, can this be happening to me! I feel like the richest woman in the world, even though I've already given you my heart."
Georg just held her closer in happiness, feeling like they could both rise off the ground out of love.
A sound of a door closing from inside the abbey made them both jump, but they were still alone in the garden. "I heard something inside," said Maria, gently extricating herself from his hold, though he tried to keep her there. "Now be true, and stay right there. I'm going to make sure no one is coming; I'll be right back!"
With that, she ran back inside the abbey, and Georg leaned back against the stone wall, a hand to his heart, which felt fuller than it had in years. "Oh, God, you've blessed this night, and my life! I understand her fear that all of this is just a dream. This is too wonderful to be substantial!"
A minute later, Maria quietly came back into the garden. She ran back to him, but though he opened his arms to her, she only took his hands. "All right, I really must say good night now." She took a deep breath before speaking again. "If your intentions towards me are as honorable as your love, I'll come to the villa tomorrow so we can have a proper reunion where we don't have to fear the wrath of Sister Berthe." They shared a tiny laugh before her expression became vulnerable again. "But if your intentions aren't," she said, taking her hands away, "then please tell me now and don't give me any false hope."
Georg nodded, understanding where she was going with her words. Of course she would still be spooked, considering the way he had surprised her tonight after everything that had happened between them. So he did what felt natural to do without hesitation: Georg got down on his right knee and, after padding his pockets theatrically, took off his own military ring and held it out to her.
The gesture brought tears to Maria's eyes, making them sparkle even more. Wordlessly, she held out her hand, and Georg put the too-big ring on the proper finger, smiling like an idiot. Gently, Georg led her to sit lightly on his bent leg, like seating a queen on a throne, and wrapped his arms around her again. She returned the gesture and let out her happy tears onto his neck.
Eventually, she brought her head up to look into his eyes again, and gave a watery smile while her cheeks flushed. "I will come tomorrow."
Georg pressed his brow to hers, his eyes closing in ultimate relief. "My dearest love…"
But then a light appeared in one of the upper windows, which Maria caught sight of in the corner of her eyes. "Oh, no, not again!" she groaned, getting up from his hold and stepping back out into the moonlight.
Georg watched her casually walk below the lighted window and wave reassuringly up to it. Oh, this night is going to be torture…How easy it was for me to come here tonight…It certainly won't be easy for me to leave her…
The light in the upper window went out, and Maria hurried back to Georg, and this time gladly went into his open arms. "Oh, I hate speaking and meeting you like this, in secret, where we have to be so quiet and unseen. All I want to do is shout and sing and dance with you, and say your name with all of the joy I feel right now."
Georg laughed, and pulled her head back so he could look at her. "You saying my name is the most beautiful sound I could ever dream of. Better than the sweetest music any instrument could produce."
Maria smiled up at him sweetly. "Georg?"
"Yes, my love?" he said just as sweetly back.
"What time tomorrow should I come?"
Georg chuckled at her practical question. "How about nine o'clock?"
Maria nodded. That was after breakfast and before the children's study hours in the afternoon. She was just as excited to see them again as well as their father. "I'll be there; it just seems years away now."
Georg nodded in understanding, and both knew silently that it was really time for them both to part for the night. Gently, Georg broke their contact and began to climb up the ivy. "Georg!" Maria suddenly said, stopping him and causing him to look back around. Maria's mouth opened and closed a few times before she seemed to give up, looking quite sheepish. "I…I forgot why I stopped you."
Georg laughed, jumping back down on the ground and leaning casually against the wall, arms and ankles crossed as if he were ready for a long wait. "Then I'll stand here until you remember."
Maria chuckled, covering her cheeks. "I don't think I'll ever remember, because it means you'll stay right there, in my sight."
Georg's mischievous smile widened and shrugged. "No matter; I'll stay right here, because it keeps my life in my sight."
Being called his life touched a very deep place in Maria's heart, and it reflected on her dimly lit face. Georg could still see it, though, and the sight entranced him. Their hearts pulled each other together, and soon they were standing very close. Slowly, gently, Georg lifted his hand to cup her chin. Maria's eyes closed in complete surrender as he brought her face closer to his. Their lips met in their first kiss; Georg kept it gentle yet firm, and Maria responded sweetly; though the kiss was fairly innocent, it held all of the love they felt.
Their lips parted and both smiled shyly at each other. Maria was the first to speak, in a breathless voice, "It's really late, and you need to get home. I wish the villa were right next door, so I could call your name and you could still hear me. You could come to me like a faithful bird, whenever I wanted."
"I certainly would not object to that," Georg responded in a husky voice, his hand rising from her chin to stroke her cheek.
"But it's probably best you aren't that small, I would probably coddle you too much." Maria wrapped her arms around his back and rested her head on his chest once more for a comforting embrace. "Good night, Georg. This is a bittersweet experience, knowing I'll see you tomorrow but still having to let you go now."
Georg embraced her gently back, and kissed her forehead in farewell when she raised her head again. They exchanged one more look, one more smile, before Maria turned around and disappeared back inside the abbey, holding the hand that wore his ring to her heart.
And so Georg climbed back up over the wall and into the tree again, taking one final look back into the moonlit garden that had changed his life for the best. "Sleep peacefully, my dear heart, tonight and every night of our lives," he whispered before making his way home.