author: ae
email: besslaurence@flash.net
rating: G
category: general/romance
summary: Nat and Nan take a midnight fishing trip. Written for the "Perfect Outing Contest" in August of 2002.
disclaimer: I own neither of the characters presented, though embarrassingly enough, the actual story is of my own 'creativity.' And in the case that you should decide to sue for some reason, I'm certain you'd probably be paying far more for the process itself than what you would receive in return as I don't have much to offer. :) But the Spanish books are always up for grabs...
author's comments: please R/R!
Waiting for You

Fall 1878

Minutes of baiting. Hours of watching. Eternities of waiting.

And then, without a second of warning, it happened.

"Nat!" Nan shrieked, loud enough to wake the entire sleeping town of Concord, "Look! I caught him!"

Throwing his pole to ground, Nat bounded up the planked bridge, arriving at her side within a few seconds. But, as suspected, the blond-haired tomboy had everything under control. Or so he thought.

"He's a monster!" she exclaimed, while wrestling the slimy catfish.

Nat grinned at her child-like enthusiasm. "Yeah, he i - "

The distinct SNAP of a fishing line echoed through the clearing by the stream, now dark as the golden sun had long past retired for the evening. "He's gone," Nan said, too shocked at the moment to be disgruntled. Big Charlie II, the catch she had been after since discovering him a couple of months before, had evaded her once more and landed in the water below with an artful splash.

"I thought you had him for sure that time," he said, hoping to make her feel better.

She managed to pull her jaw from the footpath of the arching bridge. "I was so close," she lamented, shoulders slumped. "So close..."

"You'll have other chances to catch him," Nat assured her.

"But school starts in two days," she protested with a frown. "Mrs. Jo ain't gonna let us come out in the middle of the night again - 'least not 'til Spring Break comes around. And that's another six months from now."

Sitting down beside her, Nat let his long legs dangle over the edge. "C'mon, Nan. I know you're disappointed, but it's not the end of the world. Besides," he reasoned, "Christmas break will be here before you know it. And Nick said it was better to fish at night in the cold." He nudged her in the ribs and grinned. "'member?"

Nan brightened a little. "Yeah, that's right. Maybe Mrs. Jo will let us come out on Christmas Eve. Want to come with me?" she asked, forming the entire event in her mind. She liked to plan in advance.

"Sure."

"Good, it's settled. Christmas Eve, then. Just you an' me."

Just you an' me.

"Nan?" It was Nat who broke the prolonged moment of silence.

"Um-hmm?" she murmured in response, while gazing up at the star-dappled sky with wonder.

"'member when we were trying to get Dan and Bess to kiss?"

Her pale cheeks warmed at the question, the memories it stirred, and she was ever so thankful for the darkness. Do you remember... How could she forget? One certain kiss, shared between the "wrong" two people, had flittered through her mind more than once, bringing along with it a storm of befuddling thoughts.

She would never forget that kiss, quick as it had been. "Yeah, an' they caught us sittin' in the trap door."

He laughed. "I don't know why I ever let you drag me into that."

"It was fun," Nan protested, "An' look at them now. We didn't fail at anythin'. Those two will be walkin' up the isle in no time."

Nat snickered. "You said that last time, Nan."

It was her turn to poke him in the ribs.

Silence lingered.

Nan sighed and rotated slightly, resting against him, back to back. "It's pretty, ain't it?" she mused, watching the stars, twinkling like diamonds against a fold of rich velvet. "Bet it's nicer from the middle of the ocean."

Nat blinked, studying the same expanse of blue with the same intrigue as the girl sitting close to him. "Yeah, it's amazin'. And amazin' to think that God created it all."

"Yeah."

Crickets chirped in the distance, adding to the wistfulness of the moment. For weeks the two of them had been planning this midnight fishing trip, ever since Nick had told them about his experience with an old friend some years ago, a long time before Plumfield.

"Do you wanna get married, Nat? I mean, not now. But sometime?"

He was surprised at her question, but did not hesitate to answer. "Yes, I'd like to... I want to have a family. Don't know if there's a girl out there who would want to marry a poor writer who like to play the violin, though." He grinned easily, half-kidding.

"Lots of girls would," Nan said, being blunt. "You're nice, an' sweet, an' kind, an' thoughtful, an'...an'..." Her sentence came to an awkward halt. "Well, lots of stuff," she finished, feeling foolish.

Nat glanced at his palm, his elbow resting on his drawn up knee. "Thanks," he said at last, his throat tight. "Well, uh... what about you?" he asked then, attempting to side step another bout of uncomfortable silence. "Do you want to get married?"

"I want to be a doctor," she replied quickly and with great confidence, her true feelings buried deep. "There won't be time for courtin' durin' medical school. I'll be too busy studying."

"What about after?"

Nan shrugged, mustering ease and nonchalance. "No one would wait that long, and I'd be an old maid." She grinned. "'sides, who would want to marry a female doctor?"

I would. "What if someone did wait for you? Would you get married then?" he prompted, curious.

"I dunno." She shifted, and he felt it. "I- I might."

There was a lull in the conversation then.

"Do you ever think about that time in the loft?" Nat asked quietly.

All the time. She did think about it - too often for her own good - and she could never admit that. It was much easier if he did not know. Her father, the one person whose love she longed for the most, had abandoned her. And though things were, oh so slowly, coming back to together, she did not want to be hurt again. Did not want that pain. And thus, those feelings, the ones she tried to fight against, to ignore, to forget, would remain her secret, never to be told.

"No." Her response was quick, short, concise.

"I do," he admitted, his tone still quiet, thoughtful. "But I guess that's another theory dis - "

"I- I'm scared," she confessed, close to tears, her chin pressed to her skirt-clad knees. "I ain't ready for courtin', or love letters, or- or flowers." Nan bit her lip. "I- I don't know if I want t-to be ready," she whispered. "And even if I am, ever, it might be too late for anythin'."

Nat listened, part of him wishing he was facing her so that he might brush the tears from her cheeks, but part of him knowing she would not have said what she had should they be sitting any differently. "Well if... if you ever are," he said, his words tender, gentle as the May breeze, "I- I'm here." Waiting for you.

Nan's heartbeat quickened. Did he mean...? Was he...? But she was at a loss, could not find, could not grasp the words to form a response. And so, both sat for a long time, listening to the gentle lull of the gurgling stream.

Then, cautious, tentative. Ever so slowly, her hand moved towards his. She was not ready for marriage - not quite yet. But perhaps... perhaps they could be special friends?

A shadow of a smile touched Nat's lips, and he tightened his fingers around hers. It was enough.

THE END