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Author's Chapter Notes:

Unabashed fluffiness now. I hope you all have strong stomachs. I'm not very good with romance and softness, it makes me feel all icky, but it's Christmas and Sarah wanted a happy ending, so I let her have one.

Thank you for reading, and welcome to the last chapter - well, the last one until the alternative ending...

May I just take this moment to reiterate that this is NOT T&M canon :D


The end of the day - almost midnight

“Where’s Tris?”

Sarah looked up at Matty, who had strolled back into the room after having had a smoke and a think in the kitchen.

“Not sure,” she said. “He disappeared about half an hour ago and I’ve not seen him since. And Susie went almost immediately after him.”

“Oh.” Matty pulled a dissatisfied face. “I suppose they’ve gone to bed. They might have said goodnight.” He sighed, which turned into a yawn. “Oh, well. I’m giving up for the day. I'm well and truly done in. Night, both. Don’t call me till at least eleven.”

He turned and drifted out of the room, pulling the door to behind him. Sarah heard his footsteps receding up the wooden stairs, and then they were definitely alone.

“Last men standing,” said Ted with a smile. He was seated beside the dying fire, a brandy glass resting on the arm of his chair. Robin had been sent back with the Russells, but Ted had stayed on, initially to help with clearing up, then because he claimed he’d drunk too much, and was far too comfortable and happy in the company, to make the walk back to Die Rosen.

Now he smiled at her and Sarah smiled back, a little tremor fluttering within her. Alone at last, and though she was too tired for real conversation, it was pleasant just to be in the same room as Ted, to smile at him and see him smile back. She wished the evening did not have to end, but she realised as she suppressed another yawn that she would soon have to make her excuses and evict him.

Still, they had a little time left.

“It’s been a lovely Christmas,” she said wearily. “Manic, at times - a bit frantic with all the cooking, and the guests, and the children…” She widened her eyes and he laughed at her expression. “But it’s been lovely. It’s so nice to have friends.”

“Isn’t it?” Ted nodded fervently. “When I lived in Cologne…”

He broke off, and his expression said that he felt he had made a mistake. Sarah felt a small dart within her at the thought of Marya, of his happy marriage and sad widowhood, but Ted shrugged and continued.

“Our social circle was small, very small,” he said. “Marya had no relatives living nearby, and most of our German neighbours were not anxious to be friends with an Englishman and his Polish wife. No, we didn’t have much outside the home.”

“But you were happy,” said Sarah faintly, for she was trying not to be jealous.

“I was.” It was a simple statement; he was not going to deny the fact. “But I am happy again now, in a different way - and that’s to do with the people here. The Chalet School, and the San, they aren’t just businesses. They’re a home for stray dogs like Robin and me.”

“And for my brother and me,” said Sarah. “We’ve not had a home for so many years.”

Ted smiled and gave a faint chuckle.

“Where is he, by the way?” he asked. “Has Miss Smith spirited him away to her lair?”

“I’ve no idea where he is,” said Sarah, glad to step away from the contemplation of Ted's former happiness and onto more domestic concerns. “Susie’s terribly forceful with him. Poor soul - he’s not used to it.”

“I think she makes life very jolly for him,” said Ted, and added, unexpectedly, “and I fancy she’d like to make it even more jolly, if she could.”

Sarah looked at him, intrigued.

“Do you think?” she said. “I’d not really thought of it like that. Though now you say it…I mean, she’s always been very fond of him…”

“I ‘spect so,” Ted said, parroting Rafaela’s current favourite phrase. “I do ‘spect so. She teases him something rotten, but underneath that she’s really very fond of him.”

“Well, that would make life easier,” said Sarah, mostly to herself, but Ted heard her and leaned forward, his expression interested.

“How do you mean?”

“Oh!” Flustered, Sarah hurriedly cast around for an acceptable explanation. “Only that if they got married he’d be off my hands and onto hers.”

“Leaving you free for…other things?”

Sarah’s treacherous cheeks flushed.

“Something like that,” she muttered.

Ted saw her embarrassment and his eyes lit up briefly.

“I suggested to him that we could move onto Christian name terms,” he said in cheerful tones, “but he does seem to be struggling with it.”

“I can understand that! Why did you suggest it?”

“Because I was hoping that he and I might become better acquainted over the next year or so.”

Sarah frowned.

“In what sense?”

Ted was smiling and shaking his head affectionately. He got up from Tristan’s armchair and came to sit down on the sofa beside her. Sarah’s heart flopped pathetically as he took her hand in his and she willed herself not to lose her grasp on her self-control.

“Because of you,” he said simply. “I do hope you’ve noticed that I’ve been courting you for the last six months.”

“Um…” Rather embarrassingly her voice seemed to have shrivelled into a squeak. She cleared her throat. “I suppose so.”

“I’m not the sort of man to court unnecessarily, Sarah,” said Ted. “I took my time because I wanted to be sure…but I am sure, and there’s no sense prevaricating. I love you, and I want you to be my wife. I want you to come up here and live with me and Robin, and I want you to bring Evelyn with you, and I want us to be one big family. I won’t say a happy family, because families are too dynamic for simple emotions like happiness…but you would make me very, very happy at this moment if you’d accept me.”

“I…” Sarah realised she was gaping like a dead fish, and she tried vainly to pull herself together; but her heart was beating rather too furiously for coherent thought. “I…”

“Yes?” asked Ted, smiling hopefully and rather nervously.

“Yes!” The word came out as an explosion, and then Sarah clapped her hands to her mouth and stared at him, before laughing suddenly. “Yes! I will! I will…”

She took a deep breath to steady herself and dropped her hands.

“I never thought I’d say yes,” she said in a much more normal voice. “I’d planned to turn you down gently. But when it came to it…”

“I’m irresistible?” said Ted, who was smiling hugely.

“You are!” The delight sprang back into Sarah’s face and she laughed.

Ted reached out and took her hand again. He couldn’t stop smiling and his cheeks were dimpled with pleasure.

“You’re a wonder, Sarah Denny,” he said. “The only thing I’m amazed about is that someone hasn’t snapped you up before.”

“There wasn’t anyone to do the snapping,” said Sarah, ever honest. “Not after the War. I was always one of the ‘superfluous’ women.”

“Well, you’ve never been superfluous to me,” said Ted, and then there was a confused fumble and somehow he got his arms around her and she found herself cuddled against his shoulder. He kissed her hair and she closed her eyes, her heart thundering like a runaway carriage.

“I want to wake up the whole house and tell them,” she said after a few moments. “I want to shout it from the rooftop."

"You'll cause an avalanche if you do," said Ted.

"I don't care. It's worth it. Oh Lord, how am I meant to sleep tonight?”

Ted laughed and she heard for the first time how different laughter sounds when you are cradled against someone.

“Before you do - if you do - there’s something I want from you,” Ted said, his voice resonating deeply through his chest.

“Oh?”

Ted released her briefly and reached behind him, then brandished something above her head.

“Is that Matty’s mistletoe?”

“It is.”

Sarah smiled gently.

“Oh, Ted, you silly,” she said. “You don’t need mistletoe to get me to kiss you.”

“I didn’t think so,” said Ted. “But then I got worried. I wondered if you might need some persuading. Actually, I was going to wave the mistletoe at you first and then ask you to marry me, but I seem to have got it all in the wrong order.”

Sarah pushed the mistletoe aside.

“Not in the slightest,” she said, and kissed him.

“Ever kissed a man with a moustache before?” asked Ted a minute or so later.

“No, I haven’t, actually.”

“What’s it like?”

“Rather fun. A new experience, anyway.”

“Want me to get rid of it? I would, you know, if you wanted.”

“Don’t change yourself for my sake,” said Sarah. “I love you just as you are.”

Ted’s eyes lit up brilliantly.

“So you do love me.”

“Haven’t I just agreed to marry you? What does that mean, if not love?”

“It could mean anything,” said Ted honestly. “But I didn’t doubt you, not really. I doubted myself, but not you - never you.”

“Will Robin mind having a stepmother,” asked Sarah suddenly.

“How can she,” said Ted warmly, “when it’s you? No, she won’t mind.”

“I won’t try to take Marya’s place.”

“You couldn’t,” said Ted, then added swiftly as he registered the sudden hurt in Sarah’s eyes, “because you’re not the same person. Marya was a simple soul - sweet, yes, beautiful, and I loved her very much - but not a scholar. I married her when I was a young man, when youth and beauty made the most impression on me. Now I am older, hopefully wiser, and I appreciate that there are far finer things than a delicate face. Not that you’re not beautiful, Sarah - you are, but in your own way. You have a beauty that comes from within, that shines through everything that you are and do, and it comes from your wisdom and your intelligence, not just from the structure of the bones in your face. I hope you understand what I mean and that I haven’t just made a complete fool of myself and dug myself into a terrible hole.”

“If you’re a fool, you’re an eloquent fool,” said Sarah shakily, and her eyes were brimming with tears, “because I think that is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” She swallowed and blinked. “Oh, now I’m the fool - I said I wouldn’t cry, I was bloody determined I wasn’t going to cry…”

“I’m rather pleased you are,” said Ted, and pulled her back into his arms.

Sarah hid her tears against his shirt, much to her relief. They cuddled companionably until the clock on the mantelpiece chimed midnight, and then, reluctantly, Ted straightened up.

“They’ll be wondering where I am,” he said.

“Don’t go back,” said Sarah, her voice muffled against his jacket. “Stay here tonight. I’ll make you up a bed. It’d be so nice to come down to breakfast and have you sitting there at the table.”

“Much as I’d love to, I really think I ought to go back,” said Ted. “Robin will wonder where I’ve got to when she comes running into my room tomorrow morning.”

He kissed Sarah’s hair, then her lips as she turned her face up to him, and then he kissed her again, and quite a few more minutes passed before either of them moved. Eventually Ted pulled away and smiled down at her.

“Well, come along, Frau Hauptmann Humphries-to-be. I must be off, and I think you ought to go to bed after such a long and busy day.”

“I won’t sleep,” said Sarah, letting him pull her upright with considerable reluctance.

“I’ll come over tomorrow, bright and early,” he said, “and we’ll announce the news.”

“I’ll see you then, then.”

“Till then, then, then.”

“Oh, stop it!”

But she was laughing, and then she kissed him again.

The clock was ticking loudly in the darkened hall as Sarah waved Ted goodbye and closed the door. The house was quiet, the girls asleep, the others presumably in their rooms if not asleep themselves. She heard a rather strangulated cry, quickly muffled - Susie’s voice. Probably a nightmare, and no wonder, after all the cheese they'd eaten. She pondered going to check on her, but though she paused in the hall for a moment there was no further sound. Hopefully she had gone back to sleep.

Poor old Tristan, Sarah thought as she mounted the stairs to bed. I hope he doesn't take it too badly. I wonder how he’ll manage without me. But I can’t take it back now, even if I wanted to. And if Ted’s right about Susie…

She was passing Tristan’s door now, and she paused there for a moment. He was probably not asleep yet - he seldom slept before midnight. She could go in and tell him - break the news gently before they told everyone else tomorrow morning. She raised her hand to knock on the door, but then she heard her brother’s voice from within, speaking urgently but quietly.

“Are you alright? You’re not…you’re not crying?”

“Oh, God, no. I’m laughing, you idiot! I can't quite believe this has happened. Oh, Tristan, darling, I’m pathetically happy!”

Susie’s voice. Evidently it hadn’t been a nightmare after all. Well, that was unexpected! But it made things a little easier, at least.

Sarah smiled to herself and stepped away from the door, then carried on down the landing to her own room. Her mind was all a daze, but a very happy daze.

Pathetically happy. That makes two of us, my dear! Tristan and Susie - well, that solves some of my worries, anyway. I can get married in peace, now. Married! Imagine me, married! Whatever would Mother say? Oh, I do hope she can see me now. Wife and mother in one step. But it’ll be alright, with Ted there. Dear, dear Ted. Oh, I shan’t sleep a wink - I’m too excited! What a Christmas! What a jolly, happy, wonderful Christmas!




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