Because I am foolish, I am attempting to write 100 fanfics, based on 100 one-word prompts, for a challenge on livejournal. So, voila: what should (I hope) become 100 Nancy Drew fanfics. Each will be an ongoing chapter in this saga.

The premise is that Nancy and Ned don't meet until they've both graduated college. Because this will loosely follow the Nancy Drew Files universe, just without Ned in it, some events and people will seem familiar.

Also, I'm rating the entire series M for (at least) language. Individual chapters will list their own disclaimers, including further cautions and spoiler warnings.

He was nodding in agreement with whatever Kent was babbling about when he felt a finger poke him in the back. Not some accidental brush, either; three stabs of a finger into his shoulder blade, over the harsh din of female laughter and male swagger.

He didn't care for the bar. He didn't care for the bachelor party going on in the back room, because unlike everyone else in that room, he didn't want to see a stripper in what appeared to be a skintight rubber red-and-gold bikini lick every inch of Miller's face. Maybe he would if he wasn't sucking down nonalcoholic beer and wondering what, exactly, Belinda was doing right now.

More like who. More like which.

So his brow was furrowed when he turned, his face already arranged into a pleasant version of the what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you're-doing expression. Then he dropped his chin, which ruined the whole effect, because the owner of the finger was nearly a foot shorter than he, even in stilettos.

She was giggling, the surface of her martini gleamed, and from the way her eyes had to shift twice to finally find his, he knew it wasn't her first. "Oh," she said. "You're not. Oops."

She was petite, straw-blonde and curvy, her hips already swinging to the music. When he glanced back, Kent gave him a shrug.

You saw her first, but if you don't want...

By the time he turned back, she was a bare back heading away from him in the crowd around the bar. She still had the martini at shoulder height, though, the liquid swirling dangerously brilliant at the frosted lip of her glass, and he followed that until she was weaving through the bank of dimly-lit pool tables. She pulled up short at one girl who lounged at a high stool, but their conversation paused when he came to an awkward stop behind the blonde, unsure of quite what to do or say.

The girl on the stool flicked her eyes up and down over him, a wry smile twisting her lips as she said, "So, you bring somebody back with you?"

The blonde turned around so fast that a small wave of vodka and sour apple dripped over her fingers. She made a face, so brief he almost didn't catch it, before she found his eyes again. "I'm sorry," she said. "I thought you were-- someone else."

"Bess, he's not gonna show," the girl on the stool said, shaking her head.

The blonde, Bess, frowned, which looked utterly out of place on the rest of her elaborately made-up face. He hadn't even been aware that a shade of violet that deep existed. Then she smiled up at him, offering her fingers, still vaguely sticky with apple pucker. "Well, if he's not going to show... hi, I'm Bess."

"Ned," he returned, shaking her hand.

The girl on the stool shoved herself to the floor, and he noticed the pool cue she was bouncing in her loose left fist. "Now we need a fourth. You wanna go find George?"

Bess sighed. "Do we have to play pool?"

"Hey, you force me to drink virgin strawberry daiquiris, we play at least one game of pool."

Bess sighed. "Fine," she said, taking a gulp of her martini before she began to maneuver her way through the crowd again, pausing to give him one long significant glance before she was entirely out of sight.

"You're not just another asshole, are you?"

Ned turned back to the other girl. Her hair was up in a sleek ponytail and was almost pure red in the dim light, but she was taller, dressed in jeans and a black tank top. No bracelets, no rings, no necklace, no earrings. She had a boyfriend, he decided just then; but he hadn't come along and she hadn't felt the need to dress up. Plus, she was playing designated driver, just as he was, and nothing could put a person in a bad mood as fast as seeing everyone else on the planet get drunk.

"I'd like to think I'm not."

The redhead racked up the balls and lifted the triangle. "Bess... she just seems to attract that type. You don't look like one, but neither have most of the others."

Ned laughed, briefly, before he walked over to the pool cues and selected one. "You cut right to the chase, don't you."

"She's one of my best friends. I just don't like to see her get hurt."

Ned nodded, studying her for a second before he walked up beside her. He stuck out his hand. "Let's start over. My name is Ned, and I'm usually not an asshole."

"Nancy," she said, returning the handshake. Her grip was firmer than Bess's, and she met his eyes steadily, without blinking or fluttering her lashes at him. Definitely already has a boyfriend, he thought. Or girlfriend.

"So this George guy, he your boyfriend?"

Nancy stared at him for just a second too long, and he was just beginning to feel uncomfortable when she burst into laughter so hard that it shook her shoulders and made her cheeks flush pink. She took a long time to recover, and when she finally did, her eyes were gleaming. "Not-- no. No."

Bess came back to the table, leading someone else, but Ned just kept staring at Nancy. "What is it?"

"Ned... this is my other best friend, George."

A third girl. Her dark hair was cut short, she was an inch taller than the redhead, but she was definitely a girl. She exchanged a glance with the other two before her dark eyes met his, and she stuck out a hand. "Ned? Yeah, my parents had a weird sense of humor, but it sounds like yours did too."

"Old family name," Ned said, shaking her hand. "Sorry."

George shrugged. "It's a mistake everyone makes," she said. "Including the Selective Service. I think I'm still on a list somewhere as a conscientious objector."

Bess was chalking up a cue. "George, you want to break?"

"I would love to," George said, her eyes dancing as she turned away from Ned. "I don't know how good you think you are at pool..."

"I'm not great, but I'm pretty good," Ned said, with a false modesty that Nancy recognized, and laughed softly.

"You have to be more than pretty good to beat those two," she said, coming over to stand next to him, and he could almost feel the heat radiating from her skin before she realized herself and pulled another inch away. "The cousins always play together."

"They're cousins?"

George gave him a wicked smile from the head of the table before she broke, and he heard the low thunk in the pocket just below his waist. "Yeah. And we're stripes."

Ned shook his head, watching the dark-haired girl line up her next shot. "If anyone had been related... I thought maybe Bess was your sister or something."

Nancy pulled her ponytail down and tossed her head, letting her red-gold hair fall loose around her face. "Wrong on all accounts, Ned."

"I can't get anything right tonight, can I."

"Well, not being an asshole is a good start," she said, moving around the table to line up her first shot. "You mind if I take the first turn?"

He opened his hands in an expansive gesture. "Be my guest."

He figured out that George was a stronger player than Bess, as the four of them circled the table, lining up shots. He figured out that Nancy cared deeply about both of them but was involved with neither, and they had known each other forever, based on the number of rapid and complicated comments which seemed to inspire laughter but otherwise made absolutely no sense to him. After the third, Bess, happily buzzing on a fresh martini, managed to give him a mostly unobstructed view of her cleavage as she lined up her next shot, and from the deliberate way she met his eyes after, he knew it was intentional.

Nancy slapped him five after he made an especially impressive banked shot.

He couldn't shake the feeling that she did have a boyfriend out there, one who just happened to not be able to come tonight. Even though she was the most casually dressed of the three, he couldn't take his eyes off her, off the inch of warm tanned flesh that showed just above her jeans when she leaned over to line up another shot. She shot him a smile when she made it, and he smiled back immediately.

Something changed in Bess's glances at him after that. When the waitress came by to take their next orders, giving him a knowing smile at his request for another nonalcoholic beer, she asked for a diet soda. George had barely begun gloating over their narrow win when Bess, with a brief but genuine smile in his direction, began to drag her cousin toward the dance floor.

Ned nodded in their direction, George's laughter floating above the other noises of the crowd. "You don't want to go dance?"

Nancy shrugged. "Any other night," she said, and he mentally snapped his fingers, wishing he could confirm that she would look incredibly sexy on the dance floor. "Besides, what makes you think I'd want to dance with you?" her eyes laughed up at him, as she retrieved the balls and racked them up again.

He gave her an elaborately casual shrug. "Oh, I don't know," he teased her. "Maybe because you look like you need to relax."

"I'm fine," she said firmly, then sighed. "I'm fine."

"One drink won't hurt."

She glanced up at him. "Oh, you just want to win this game so badly you don't care what you have to do."

"We playing again?"

Nancy shrugged. "If you think you can handle it."

"Oh, I can."

He waited until she had just made a very difficult shot and was smiling in self-satisfaction before asking casually, "So what's his name."

She glanced up at him, startled. "Whose name?"

"The guy you've been wishing was here the entire night." Ned walked around to her side of the table to line up his next shot, but she didn't move from his side.

"I wouldn't," she began, then shook her head. "His name's Frank."

"And you went out looking so damn sexy tonight just to get back at him for whatever it is that he did?"

She burst out laughing, and shook her head. "Smooth, Ned."

"Nickerson," he corrected. "'Smooth, Nickerson.'"

She dipped her head in acknowledgement. "He didn't do anything. And if you think this outfit is sexy..."

"I know it is," he said, his voice low but firm. "And he had to have done something, or he'd be here right now."

"He's-- he has work," she said. "A lot. A lot of work."

Ned spread his arms triumphantly as he sank another ball. "It's Saturday night," he said, turning to her. "Work is no excuse."

She shook her head. "And who are you here avoiding," she replied.

"I'm playing pool with you because the alternative is going into a back room where every guy from work that I know is probably already trashed, and one in particular is having very unsanitary things done to him by a stripper."

"I'm surprised. The stripper must not be that hot."

"Oh, she is," Ned said. "But I'm sure you could go back there looking even hotter, and make a few quick bucks if you're wearing something lace under that."

She laughed softly. "I should smack you," she said. "Besides, I'm not wearing that much under this."

He missed his next shot, which was entirely inexcusable, and when he stood a slow faint blush was making its way up his neck. "Your turn," he said, stepping back. "Although it shouldn't be. You play dirty, Nancy."

"Drew," she corrected him. "'You play dirty, Drew.'"

"You hear that a lot?"

"Not too much," she admitted.

He stared at her again, hard, his every nerve ending registering every millimeter her tank top slid up her back. "Nancy Drew," he repeated. "You're."

She nodded, raking her hair back from her face. "Nancy Drew."

"I'm from Mapleton," he explained. "You were in the newspapers practically every other week."

She ducked her head. "Yeah, well," she said. "That was a long time ago."

"Not really," he said, moving around the table to take another shot. "I remember something, just last month, kidnappers and a hostage situation..."

She shrugged. "It was nothing," she mumbled, a matching blush creeping up her neck. "Where do you work?"

He nodded to himself. "Oh, it's boring," he protested. "But if you want to be bored, I won't stop you. I work at one of those huge firms downtown, Massey & Stern, doing desperately tedious things to individual retirement accounts and money markets."

"And is that what you wanted to do? What you want to do?"

Ned shrugged. "You want the truth? That when I was ten I thought I'd be a doctor, at twelve a lawyer, and at sixteen a professional ball player?"

She laughed at the look on his face. "Something like that," she said. "If it's so boring..."

"Why don't I get out of it?" he completed, and she nodded. "Because I'm good at it. It gave me a nice car and a great apartment, and in a few years when I retire, I can do something I'm not only good at, but something that actually makes me want to get out of bed and go to do it in the morning."

"Professional ball, then."

"You're teasing me," he said.

She shook her head, then pursed her lips. "Maybe just a little," she said. "Maybe just because I want to believe that you were telling the truth when you said you weren't an asshole, and being a pro ball player... in my experience, anyway..."

"Why am I even slightly surprised that you've met pro ball players," he said. "Maybe I'd be the first. Non-asshole."

Bess found them again, when he could see Nancy almost starting to relax, and this time she had Kent's arms wrapped around her waist. "Nan, Kent knows about this great little club..."

Kent gave him a faintly smirking glance, but Ned smiled as he glanced over at Nancy, who reached for her purse. "I'll go get the car," she said. "Ned..."

"It was really nice to meet you," he said, and she nodded her agreement before walking out through the crowd, their eyes meeting once before then she was gone. Kent gave him another loaded glance before saying he was going to tell a few people he was going, and Ned had to take a deep breath before he leaned over to Bess.

"This is going to sound-- would you mind giving me her number?"

Bess stared up at him for half a minute, a fresh martini haze over her. "Always," Bess finally said, with a flourish. "She always gets 'em. You know she has a boyfriend, right?"

"I know," Ned said, feeling a little defensive. "It's just her number."

Bess gave him a skeptical glance before finding a ripped half of an envelope in her purse and scrawling a number on the back. "Actually, we split an apartment, so it's all our numbers," she said. "You want to give me yours?"

Ned looked down at the envelope, which she was ready to rip in half again, and shook his head. "No," he said. "She-- like you said, she has a boyfriend."

Bess nodded, as Kent approached. "She does," Bess said. "But... call her."

"You think I have a chance?"

Bess shrugged as Kent kissed her temple, and she laughed. "I don't know," she admitted. "But you're not like the rest."

"The rest?"

"Nancy has guys after her wherever she goes," Bess said, and turned to return Kent's kiss. "You want to come with?"

Ned shrugged. "Wish I could," he said, slipping the number into his pocket. "But I'm the DD, and..."

"Yeah," Bess said. "I know how it is. It was nice meeting you."

"Nice meeting you, too."

"And if she asks, I gave you my number, and you were just incredibly surprised when she picked up," Bess tossed over her shoulder with a wave, laughing as she and George followed Kent to the door.