A/N: Still here, still writing Mary Poppins fanfictions! XD

So, here is the *totally original* idea of Bert being sent off to fight in the first world war. If you want to have some fun, take a shot every time I reference poetry, propaganda or music from the First World War! XD

Anyway, as always, I REALLY hope you enjoy this! x

Keep the home fires burning
Chapter One

25th May, 1916:

Mary

I hoped that I would never have to write this letter to you, not just for my sake, but for yours too. But I guess there are some things in this world that we just can't run from – at least not forever. Some things will always catch up with us and now something has caught up with me.

You've probably guessed it by now Mary. Nobody can avoid conscription anymore, not even me, as I'm writing this I have been officially recruited as a soldier in the British army. I will leave for France on the 30th.

I'm truly sorry Mary, truly, truly sorry. I know how desperately you wanted me to stay and if I could've avoided it forever I would've; I could've lived with the occasional glare or white feather being thrown my way because I knew that you were happy. But as you know Mary, I can't run from this anymore.

Mary, you're my dearest friend and the thought of returning to you will keep me fighting, but if something should happen to me, do not weep or mourn, carry on and be happy. You're the only light left in this darkened world Mary; don't let your spark die. I know I seem awfully downhearted, but this is something I can't be happy about…not this time.

Mary, I don't think I ever truly expressed just how much you mean to me – something that I regret now more than ever, so if it's my last chance to say it, Mary Poppins, I love you, I have loved you for so long and I'm going to keep on loving you for as long as I live. Maybe when this lousy war is over I'll have the courage to tell you face to face.

I wish it could all be different.

Always,

Bert.

30th May, 1916:

Mary could barely see where she was going as tears began to well in her eyes, but she pressed on with fearful and determined steps – the sounds of her boots were drowned out by the endless array of heartbreaking conversations occurring around her. The docks were overcrowded with departing families and loved ones who refused to let go – that's exactly why Mary was here, she needed to find Bert; when she initially read his letter she had had no idea how to respond, at first she simply cried and then came silence, as if his news hadn't quite sunk in. Now there was fear, fear that she had left it too late and that she would not see him before her left…which could potentially mean that she would never see him again.

The crowds were suffocating, but she kept fighting he way through just hoping, begging that she would at least catch a glimpse of Bert. As each moment passed her hopes seemed to be slipping further form her grasp, but she refused to give up, not until everyone around her had vanished, not until that dock was bare…only then would she abandon her search. She continued to fight her way through the crowd until finally her eyes fell upon a sight that made everything else invisible, Bert was stood alone, a bag over his shoulder and a sombre expression painted on his face. He didn't notice her – in fact, he was staring down at his boots.

"Bert!" she called out desperately.

His eyes lit up as he saw her and Mary practically flung herself into his arms and buried her face into the crook of his neck. He held her tightly – making it clear that he would hold her forever if he could. In fact, he held her for what seemed like an eternity, just so that he could savoured the feeling of having her in his arms; eventually she moved her head so that she could look up at him, but his arms remained firmly around her waist, whilst Mary rested her hands timidly on his chest.

"Oh, Mary, aren't you a sight for sore eyes" he said softly.

"I got your letter -" she told him as tears began to shamelessly spill down her cheeks, "—and I just couldn't bear to let you leave without saying goodbye"

"I'm so sorry, Mary" Bert whispered – tears staining his own cheeks.

"There's no reason why you should apologise, you didn't exactly have a choice in the matter"

"That doesn't stop me from feelin' sorry"

Every single word they uttered was a struggle; although they had treasured their friendship for many years, neither of them truly realised just how much they cared for each other until now - when they possibility of them never seeing each other again was painfully real. Mary could feel her heart crumbling like weakened rock, Bert was such a central part of her world – she didn't know what she'd do without him – it was like she was losing a piece of herself. She found herself clinging slightly to his shirt.

"I'm going to miss you so much" she whimpered.

"I'll be back before you know it" he said with force positivity.

"Two years ago they said it would all be over by Christmas…but we're still fighting, Bert"

"And I'm gonna keep fightin' too, because I know that you'll be 'ere when all of this is over"

They seemed to see into each other's souls that day, they knew the fears that they both held – their oh, so powerful fears – but they also knew that they were the only supports for such fears. It kept them bound together. There is no stronger bond in the universe than love and they seemed to recognise that – even if it was a silent recognition.

They found themselves clinging to each other for as long as they could, whilst trying – and failing – to stop tears from slipping down their cheeks, but they simply couldn't hide their devastation, not now, not even in the middle of a war. They had said goodbye to each other before, but this was on an entirely different scale; for this time, they could lose each other forever. They were heading down a path of endless possibilities and whilst many of those possibilities held happiness for them, Mary couldn't stop herself from thinking about the arsenal of tragedies that they could run into. It made her tremble.

"Listen to me…" Bert said softly, "…when I'm gone, I don't want you stayin' up all night worryin' about me… an' I don't want you thinkin' about all the bad stuff, I want you to do what you do best: focus on the good in the world, Mary, focus on all the good thing that could 'appen…" he paused for a moment and with a bittersweet smile he finally sang, "…a spoonful of sugar goes a long, long way"

"You're far too good for this world, Bert…and you're far too good to deserve being sent into a war" she tried to smile – but her eyes revealed her heartbreak.

"There's nothin' special about me" he says almost grimly.

"Herbert Alfred, I never want to hear you say such nonsense ever again"

She looked up into Bert's eyes and although his are also convey his melancholy, miraculously, there is still a glimmer of happiness in there; he really was amazing, a man who even when staring into the face of a war, could remain positive. She knew no one else like him.

They crowd began to shuffle around them and they knew that they had mere minutes left together. Bert seemed to tighten his hold of her.

"I'll write to you" she said desperately.

"An' I'll write back"

"Take care of yourself, Bert" she whimpered.

She took another moment to gaze up at him before she leant forward and placed a soft kiss on his lips; it may have only been brief, but it was like electric. Bert rested his forehead against hers once their lips broke apart.

"I promise you I'll come home safe" he whispered.

"That's a piecrust promise"

"No it's not, it's a sweep's promise, a soldier's promise…a Bert Alfred promise"

This was it, their last few seconds together…but neither of them could bring themselves to utter the word 'goodbye'.

"See you soon, Mary Poppins" were Bert's eventual words – but they caught in his throat and brought on a few more fresh tears.

Mary tried to respond, but the words didn't leave her lips. Bert reluctantly let his arms fall from her waist and flashed her a saddened smile before eventually walking away. That was it. Bert Alfred – her Bert – had gone to war.

What happened after that became nothing more than a torturous blur in Mary's memory, but soon the only people left on at the docks were those the men had left behind. There was a ghostly silence that was overflowing with palpable heartbreak; for those that stood there on that day never knew if they would see their loved ones again. Wives could be left without their husbands, children without their fathers or others without their sons…and if Bert didn't return, Mary would be left without a piece of her own heart.

But there was one moment that Mary could recall, and that was when she found herself singing through her tears; her voice was as angelic as ever, but carried a broken tone as it echoed through the docks.

"They were summoned from the hillside,
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found the ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardships
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking,
Make it sing this cheery song…"

Faces gaze upon Mary as she sang the tune, and through their tears mothers and wives began to smile. When it came time for the chorus, Mary was not alone in her singing.

"Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There's a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining.
Turn the dark clouds inside out
Till the boys come home."

*!*

So, there you go, that was chapter one!

These are only going to be very short chapters and there probably want be more than three or four.

Chapter two will be up soon!

I really hope you enjoyed this...I would love to know what you thought! xxx