A/N: Thank you for reading! Thank you also for possibly favoriting or reviewing this story. I really appreciate feedback on my stories. This story takes place in 1942 and Nancy is eighteen. Although there was a Nancy Drew book written in 1942 (The Quest of the Missing Map), none of the books written during World War II actually take place during the war, so technically this is an AU. I hope you enjoy!
A thin mist hung over the small town of River Heights. It made the light from the gas lamps look a sickly yellow. It was cold for May, too. It didn't feel like it would be summer in just a few short weeks.
Nancy Drew pulled her coat collar up to her chin. Her father had already asked her if she wouldn't rather wait inside, but she couldn't. That would mean that her dad and Hannah Gruen, the Drews' housekeeper, would try to talk to her, and right now, Nancy didn't want to talk to anyone. Besides, this was the last time she would get to do this for a long time - possibly ever - and she didn't want to miss a minute of it.
A tan sedan pulled into the long driveway that led up to the Drews' colonial-style home. Its headlights barely pierced the mist and so it came slowly. Nancy swallowed hard. She couldn't quite believe that this might be the last time she would see this car coming up the driveway...But no, she wouldn't believe it. There was no sense thinking things like that. For tonight, she would forget all about the War.
The sedan finally stopped by the front door and Ned Nickerson - a tall, handsome young man of nineteen with newly-clipped brown hair and an Army uniform - stepped out. He smiled at Nancy, the same easy smile he always had as if tonight was no different than any other night.
"You're going to catch cold, standing around outside on a night like this, Nancy," Ned said as he bounded up the front porch steps.
Nancy managed to smile even though she still felt like a mess inside. For that matter, she felt even more like a mess now than she had before. "Hello to you, too."
Ned kissed her. "Is that better?"
"Is your dad in?" Ned asked. "I figured if he was, maybe we should take a few minutes to talk."
"Okay," Nancy agreed. "I'm sure Dad would like that."
She led the way inside the house. Carson Drew was sitting in the front room, reading. He stood up to greet Ned, and his handshake was a little heartier than usual.
"Do you have a few minutes?" Carson asked. "Why don't you sit down for a bit?"
The three of them had barely taken seats when Hannah Gruen came rushing in with a plate of cookies and three cups of tea. "Would you like something, Ned?" she asked.
"Those cookies must have taken half your sugar ration," Ned protested.
"We still have sugar from before the rationing started," Hannah said. "Anyway, I couldn't think of a better cause to put it to."
"Thanks." Ned took a cookie and one of the cups of tea, as did Nancy and Carson as well. Although anything Hannah baked was always delicious and the rationing that had started only a few weeks earlier was going to make sweets like this rare, Nancy could only barely nibble at the cookie. Her stomach was tied up in knots, and the thought of eating was more than she could take.
"You're shipping out tomorrow?" Carson said after a pause. He really didn't have to ask about it; he already knew, but every other subject he could bring up seemed unimportant and a waste of time to talk about.
"That's right," Ned replied. "I'll take the ten o'clock train to Chicago, and then from there it's on to New York, and after that I'll be sent to England. Somewhere in there, I'll find out where I'm being sent after that. I'll write Nancy as soon as I know."
Carson nodded. "Good. Well, I guess the two of you have a plan for this evening. I won't keep you any longer. I just wanted to thank you for what you're doing, Ned." He stood up and held out his hand again.
Ned shook it. "It's no more than anyone else is doing, Mr. Drew."
Once he and Nancy were settled in the front seat of Ned's car, Nancy turned to him. "What is our plan for this evening?"
"I don't know." Ned held the steering wheel with both hands, but he hadn't turned the ignition yet. "I thought about dinner and dancing, but that sounded loud and crowded. I'd rather go someplace quieter and just talk."
"Me too," Nancy agreed. "How about the Everly Bridge? If the mist rises, it will be beautiful up there."
"All right." Ned turned the key and started back down the driveway.
The Everly Bridge was a wooden footbridge that spanned the Muskoka River, the river for which River Heights had gotten its name. It was in one of the parks in town and was a popular place for couples to walk.
When Nancy and Ned arrived, the mist was still hanging thick around and the air was still chilly. They paused in the middle of the bridge, and Nancy shivered.
"With all this fog, it looks more spooky than beautiful," she commented.
Ned put an arm around her. "I've never known something spooky to bother you."
"No." Nancy rested her head against his shoulder. "I guess I'm not really myself tonight. I just wish there was some way to keep this night from ever ending and tomorrow from ever coming."
"I know," Ned agreed. "But even if there was a way to do that, we'd always have tomorrow in front of us. The only way to get through this is to let time pass normally."
"Yeah. It wouldn't be so bad if I at least knew how it was going to end."
Ned squeezed her shoulders a little tighter. "I'll tell you how it will end. Before very much time passes, you'll read in the paper that the Germans have surrendered and the war is over. Then you'll get a letter from me saying when I'll be home, and you and my parents and your dad and probably a whole lot more people than I want will meet the train, and it will all be behind us."
Nancy smiled softly. "And then what?"
"What do you want to have happen after that?" Ned grinned.
"You can't guess?"
"All right. Then we'll plan the biggest wedding River Heights has ever seen."
"It doesn't have to be big." Nancy's eyes unexpectedly became teary. "I wouldn't care if we got married in the backyard with just our parents there. Just so long as you're there."
"You can't very well get married without me there."
"Oh, Ned, be serious," Nancy protested. "You don't know whether that's really how this is going to end. We don't know how long this war is going to last. And even if it does all turn out all right, we'll still have to live day to day not knowing."
"Are you all right, Nancy?" Ned asked. "I didn't think you ever worried about anything. It's not like you've never gotten into some danger yourself, but I've never even seen you scared."
"This is different," Nancy said. "You're the one that's going into danger this time, and it's not just to investigate industrial espionage or look for some lost treasure that someone else wants, too. This is...different."
Ned paused before he replied. "Don't sell your cases short, Nancy. You've always done everything you could to see that justice gets done and make this world a little bit better to live in. You can't ask me to do anything less."
"Ned, this is something much bigger than anything I've ever done," Nancy told him. "It makes all my cases look pretty pitiful in comparison."
"I wouldn't say that," Ned replied.
Nancy still disagreed, but she didn't want to argue. "You know, it's funny. Usually I'm the one who leaves on one of my cases, and I know that whatever happens, you're going to be here waiting for me. It doesn't seem right being the other way around."
"It won't be this way forever," Ned told her. "And when I get back, neither of us will have to wait at home while the other leaves anymore. We can be together then."
"What about your college?" Nancy asked.
"I'll just let that be," Ned replied. "I'll miss a year at least, for sure, and maybe more. I can get a good job working for my dad, or I can try to find something that would let me travel a little more than that would. Either way, I don't think I'll want to take the time away from you to finish college."
Sometime while they had been talking, the mist had begun to rise. Now they noticed for the first time that it was gone. Even the clouds had partly cleared away, and they could see the stars up in the sky and reflecting on the water below. The eerieness that the fog had produced now gave way to a soft and gentle beauty.
Nancy took in a deep breath. It was such a foreign experience for her to feel so afraid and vulnerable. She wished she didn't. She wished she could be brave for Ned, but she couldn't right now. For a long time, she had always felt so grown-up, solving cases and working with the police, but now, for the first time, eighteen was sounding very young.
Ned was looking up at the stars, lost in his own thoughts. He stirred himself and then pointed at the sky. "Look. You can just see the North Star through the clouds."
Nancy glanced up at the dim star that for centuries had guided sailors through the trailless seas.
"You know, the North Star never sets and it's always in the same place all year round," Ned said. "I'll be able to see it wherever I'm sent. It will help, looking at it and knowing that you can see it, too."
Nancy nodded. "I suppose we wouldn't be the first ones to use the North Star as a way to feel a little closer to each other, but it is the best star for the job."
As if by one accord, they turned so that they were facing one another. Then they kissed one another and then embraced.
"I'll come back, Nancy. I promise," Ned said without letting her go.
"And I'll be the first one to meet you at the station when you do," Nancy replied, trying to hold back her tears, but she wasn't successful. "I'm sorry. I told myself I wouldn't cry tonight, but I don't know that I have any courage left."
"Sh. It's all right. Everything will be all right."
He continued to hold her close, and whether they remained like that for a moment or an eternity, neither could ever quite be sure, for it felt like both at the same time. Yet, it must have only been a moment, for it eventually came to an end.
The next morning found Nancy at the railroad station, surrounded by a large group of friends who had come to see Ned off. Yet, as the train disappeared from view, Nancy had never felt so alone.