Babylon: A Daria Fan Fiction

By: Sam Lincoln (sam@cosmic-hippo.org)

Disclaimers: Don't own Daria, never have probably never will. The song Babylon was written by David Gray, lyrics copyright owned by Iht Records, reprinted without permission.

Soundtrack: David Gray 9/24/2000. David Gray is an awesome singer/songwriter definitely check his stuff out, email me and I'll B&P a copy.

"Let go your heart/let go of your head and feel it now."

Babylon

London, 2011

Friday

Tom Sloane made his way out of the subway station, walking against the crush of people as he continued on his trip home from his job at a London-based software design firm. It wasnÕt where Tom had expected to be ten years after high school, but then again he was good at what he did, and he was a whole continent away from his father, away from being a Sloane, and away from Lawndale and all the memories that resided there. He frowned briefly as an overly ostentatious punk bumped him. The one constant in any city he found was that people were always at their worst around subways. He went to cross the street only to be nearly mowed down by an oncoming Land Rover; he wasn't hit but did get soaked by the puddle the car drove through as it sped by.

"Damnit!" Tom swore. He'd been living in London for two years and still hadn't adapted to the traffic patterns. He tried in vain to dry himself and gingerly crossed the street, this time paying closer attention to what he was doing. Tom arrived at the other side of the street without any further incident and walked towards his apartment. Moving through the crowd he saw a face that shocked him out his reverie, Daria Morgendorfer. Or at least someone who looked exactly the same as his old high school flame. He had to look again to make sure he wasn't seeing things, and to his amazement it was indeed Daria. Tom pulled up short in surprise, but just as he was about to say something the person walking behind Tom collided with him, not expecting Tom's sudden stop. Tom turned to apologize and by the time he had disentangled himself she was gone.

"Damnit!" he cursed again. He cast his eyes through the crowd, trying to spot her, "Not a sign of her, damn!" He said to himself, "Was that really her? I must have been seeing things, there's no way that could have been Daria. Why would she be in London?" Tom pondered the matter as he walked up the steps to his apartment. He walked into his residence his eyes caught sight of an opened letter sitting on the coffee table. It was his invitation to his ten-year class reunion at Fielding.

"That must be it," he thought, "I got that letter and it got me thinking about Lawndale, so I predisposed to thinking that anyone who looked like Daria actually was Daria." He chuckled, "I mean, what are the odds that in a city this large the two of us would walk past each other on the street?" Even if, out of all the other places in the world, she was even in London." Having assured himself that his former love had not just walked past him, Tom busied himself in his kitchen, preparing dinner. He was draining the pasta when the phone rang. Tom sighed as he put down the colander and reached for the phone, only one person would be calling now, assuming it wasn't a telemarketer, "Hello?"

"Tom! How the hell are you?" A booming British voice said.

"Hi Ian, actually I was just about to eat my dinner..."

"Let me guess, your usual spaghetti with runny tomato sauce? Or maybe that American delicacy, the hot dog?"

"No, it's err...spaghetti and store bought Alfredo sauce."

"Well, well, somebody's fancying a night of haute cuisine. Tell you what, why don't the two of us go grab a few other folks, go out for a bite then hit a few clubs."

"Ian..." Tom said wearily.

"For god's sake man, it's a Friday night. Would it kill you to live a little?"

"Your definition of living a little is what most people term extreme sports Ian."

"At least when I punch out I won't have wasted my life."

"It all depends on your definition of waste."

Ian laughed, "That's the spirit, so are you in or out?"

Tom sighed, "The first round's on you?"

"Of course."

"Fine, I know I'll regret this in the morning."

"That's how all the good evenings go my man."

"So when do the festivities commence?"

"Right now," and on cue Tom heard a knock on the door.

"You fucker," Tom told the phone as he hung it up. He walked over to the door and opened it. "You've timed how long it takes you to convince me to do these things haven't you?" Tom asked Ian as the Brit entered the apartment.

"Doesn't say much good about you now does it?" Ian replied. Ian was about Tom's height with close-cropped brown hair and cheery blue eyes. He was a former aspiring professional rugby player who still managed to find his way into a scrum from time to time. Tom met Ian early in his stay in London. Ian ran a record store Tom liked to visit. They started talking and soon Ian was dragging Tom around the club scene in London. Ian was convinced the solution to all of Tom's problems could be found either at a party or by getting laid, and not necessarily in that order.

"Ok man, here's the plan. We're going to go to this new club, The Albatross, apparently it's a Coleridge theme nightclub. Anyway, we're going to check this place out, toss back a couple, ok, more than a couple," Tom looked at him dubiously, "Ok, we're going to get pissed and probably get into an argument with some random stranger about football which will lead to a brawl. There, is that stereotypically British enough for you?"

"Considering that's exactly what happened the last time we went out..."

"That ass had it coming. As I was saying, we're going to go out and get pissed, and if we're lucky wake up tomorrow next to a beautiful woman."

"And if we're not lucky?" Tom asked dryly.

"I'll wake up with you in my bed."

"Hey now, I'll have you know I'm a fine catch."

Ian punched Tom's arm playfully, "Oh shut up you little shit. Are we going to go or are you just going to stand there and come on to me all night?"

"Can't we do both?" Tom asked innocently, "I mean you're just so manly, I can't contain myself."

"Shove it you fucker, are we going or not?"

Tom chuckled, sometimes it was easy to push Ian's buttons, "Ok, ok, let me grab my shoes and jacket." As Tom gathered his things he called out to Ian, "Hey, you ever think you've seen an old girlfriend when you were walking down the street?"

Ian shrugged, "Sure, all the time, who hasn't? I mean that time after Eleanor dumped me I even thought some fellows were her."

Tom walked back into the entry room, "I mean really old girlfriends, like from high school, or whatever the hell you Brits call it."

Ian shook his head, "No, can't say that I have. You must have been pretty hard up about her if you still think you see her."

Tom shrugged, "I don't know, it was a fling really, you know, one of those high school romances. The mind does funny things sometimes."

Ian nodded, "Yes, it does," He could tell there was more to the story, but he knew that now wasn't the time to pry, "Now let's go numb the fucker with some beer." Ian grabbed Tom and pulled him out the door. Down on the street Ian hailed a cab for the two of them.

"So, who are we meeting at this place?" Tom asked after Ian told the cabbie where to go.

"Oh, nobody special, just Martin and Rob."

"Wonderful, now my evening is complete." Martin and Rob were two of Ian's friends. Rob owned a comic book shop adjacent to Ian's store, and Martin worked for Ian. Both were charitably described as deeply committed to their jobs; another valid description, which Tom preferred, was obsessed losers.

"Come on Tom, Martin and Rob are both fine guys, sure they're wound a little tight, but that's just because neither of them are getting any. A condition you share with the lads I might add."

"Why does everything revolve around my sex life with you?" Tom asked, a little too loudly if the cabbies raised eyebrows were any indication.

"Because it's so damn lacking. My god man, you sped all day in your office typing out code, and then you go home to an outrageously posh flat...and spend your nights watching bad American television. A place like yours is a veritable chick magnet. If I had a place like that I wouldn't be lacking for female companionship. Not that I am now mind you, but if I had your place, man the chicks would be all over me."

"But what if that's not what I'm looking for? I mean I am looking for women, but not like that." He hastily added with an eye towards the cabbie.

"Then I'd say you've already picked out a lady and the rest just don't match up...and unless I miss my guess it's that old school sweetheart you were talking about earlier."

"Who, Daria? No, no, no, not Daria, that's a piece of my past that's firmly in the past. Besides I don't even know if it wasn't her."

"If it was her then look her up, start checking out all the hotels in the city. You know hackers, it wouldn't be too hard. And if it really wasn't here then maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something."

"Well I'd say you're fully of shit. But I suppose you won't give up on this until I tell you the whole story." Tom proceeded to describe the history of his relationship with Daria, starting with Jane.

"So, you broke up with the art chick, who you really have to introduce me to sometime, and moved right on to this Daria girl? Wow, you were a player back in the day."

Tom frowned, "Don't remind me, it wasn't my finest hour as it were. Anyway, Daria and I went out our senior year of high school and stopped seeing each other when we went to college." He shrugged, "nothing more to it than that."

"Was she hot?"

Tom winced at his friend's bluntness, "She wasn't what you'd call a conventional beauty, but she had a way about her. Daria was brilliant and totally convinced that most people were stupid..."

"A sad fact I'd tend to agree with."

"Don't get too attached, she's the sort of person you couldn't stand. She had this tendency to suck the joy out of almost anything. And that doom and gloom outlook got to be sort of grating after a while."

"Then why'd you go out with her for so long?"

Tom sighed, "Because she didn't care that my family was rich." He paused, "No, it was more like she wasn't in awe of that fact. Plus she had a wicked sense of humor, provided you weren't on the receiving end. And it wasn't like we lacked conversation topics, like I said she was incredibly intelligent. I'll give her this, for someone who was so anti-social she sure made life interesting."

"Sounds like a perfect match for you. What went wrong?" The cab pulled up to the club before Tom could answer. While they were standing in line for admittance Ian returned to the subject. "So, what went wrong between the two of you?"

Tom shrugged, "Oh, someone might have said something, the other might have blown things way out of proportion and here we are, you know how it goes."

Ian looked at Tom dubiously, "Yeah, sure. Look man, if you don't want to talking about this just tell me and I'll just shut the fuck up."

Tom sighed, "No, that's ok, I don't mid...it's just this really isn't the place to be talking about my love life." He waved an arm to indicate the people milling around them.

"Pish, like anyone else is paying attention." He turned and addressed the line. "Excuse me, are any of you good people listening in on the conversation my friend and I are having?"

A few people shook their heads, most watched disinterestedly, "Thank-you. You see," he told Tom, "these people don't give a bloody rat's ass about your miserable love life. Now if we were talking about mine," he grinned, "we'd have to sell tickets for admission."

Tom smirked, "Sure, everyone loves a good comedy. But seriously, Daria and I went out in high school, we helped each other grow as people. We broke up on slightly bad terms, and that was that. It happens all the time, it's no big deal."

Ian frowned, as he shuffled forward with the line, "Ok...but..."

Tom sighed, Ian wasn't going to give up, "But what?"

"But if she really was so inconsequential why haven't you had another serious relationship in the intervening ten years?"

Tom opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to form a reply, "He looks like a fucking small mouth bass." Ian thought.

"What do you mean? I've had plenty of relationships."

"Oh, sure, plenty of brief dumb ones."

"Says the world renowned ladies man."

"Fuck, so I like to go out with a wide range of women. I'm looking man, I'm trying to find just the right one, and when I do," he shrugged, "I won't have to go looking around anymore. But until then I've got to check out as many as possible to be sure I get the one that is just right."

"Or it might just be a convenient way to avoid commitment."

"Hey, when I go out at least I'm considering the long term with them. Which is more than I can say for you. And if you're fresh with me I'll bash your head in." This last warning was directed at the very muscular bouncer who was patting Ian down.

"Whatever, I still say you're full of shit." Tom said as they entered the club. "Whoa, check this place out." The interior of the club was decorated with a decaying sailing ship motif. Tattered sails hung from the ceiling, the walls were covered with netting and seashells. The room was lit with diffuse bluish-green light that filtered through the sails and the portholes that dotted the walls. And of course, since it was a club, loud dance music pounded throughout. "It's like an Under the Sea Dance gone horribly wrong." Tom said, dumbfounded.

"I'd say it'd make one question the existence of a loving God, not to mention driving a man to drink, which I could really use right about now."

"Ok, we've been, it sucks, can we go now?" Tom asked moving for the door.

"Not so fast there buddy," Ian said, catching Tom by the arm. "We have to fully experience the local ambiance before we can go. Besides I reserved a table for us. So come you cowardly bugger, I need a drink, a dance with a beautiful woman and a good screw afterwards." He dragged Tom over to the maitre de's station.

"Yeargh gentlemen, welcome to 'The Albatross,' I'm glad ye could join me on my accursed voyage." The maitre de was dressed up like an old sea captain, complete with a grizzled beard and squinty eyes. Fake seaweed was liberally strewn across his carefully tailored torn clothing. The final touch to his outfit was the large, stuffed albatross dangling from a lanyard around his neck.

"Uh, yes, reservation for four, the name's Williams, um, the rest of our party is not with us at the moment."

The costumed maitre de looked at his reservations book, "Ah yes, Mr. Williams, the rest of your party be waiting for ye in the bar."

"Those bastards, starting without me. Lead on accursed Mariner, bring me to these two delinquents."

"Yeargh, right this way sir." The actor motioned for Ian and Tom to follow him. While they walked towards the bar Tom looked around to further acclimate himself to the club. The space seemed to be divided into two general areas, along both walls were bar and dining spaces. While the middle of the building was dominated by a large dance floor, and even at that early hour there were people dancing. The DJ was pumping a fast dance track to counteract the quiet nature of the room's lighting. Tom also noticed that the rest of the staff wore costumes similar to the maitre de's.

Tom leaned over and spoke into Ian's ear, "This place is pretty bad, I wonder if the people who run it have even read the poem."

Ian glanced at Tom and grinned, "Who cares so long as the beer's good and the women are hot."

The maitre de stopped just short of entering the bar area, "Here ye are gentlemen, your table will be ready shortly, yeargh." He walked back to the front of the club, leaving Ian and Tom to fend for themselves.

"Ok, I'm going to get a drink, while you find Rob and Martin, want anything while I'm over there?"

"The usual."

Ian made a face, "How can you stand drinking that Canadian piss? Really, you're in England for god's sakes, drink good beer."

"Just buy me a damn Moosehead, I'm not in the mood to hear your beer theories again."

Ian shrugged, 'Ok, ok, it's not my body you're going to be poisoning with that rotgut."

"The world does not revolve around a pint of Boddington's you know."

Ian waved a hand in a dismissive fashion as he walked towards the bar, "So you say Yank, so you say."

Tom shook his head and started wandering around, looking for Martin and Rob. He found them sitting at one of the tables scattered around the bar, they appeared to be in the middle of a heated discussion.

"Hey guys," Tom said in greeting, "What's up?"

"Oh, hi Tom." Martin said. Martin Willoughby was a small, nebbish man. At times he resembled a mouse, ready to flee at a moment's notice. Although when truly pushed he had a tendency to stand his ground. Martin was an audio genius, he could diagnose a problem with a stereo system after the briefest listen. He also tended to channel all of his energy into his work and as such lacked a good many social graces.

"Yeah, pull up a chair Tom, maybe you can help us sort out a little disagreement Martin and I are having," Rob Goodin was practically the archetypal comic book store owner. His physique ranged from corpulent to overweight, his receding hair was pulled back in a half-hearted ponytail and he maintained an air of superiority because he could recite from memory the current street value of every issue of Cerebus.

Tom sighed, "Sure, fine, what is it this time?"

"Well," Martin said, while adjusting his glasses. "We're trying to decide which Doctor acted most like a real Time Lord would."

"Huh, run that by me again?"

Rob sighed, "It's a simple question Tom, out of the seven unique incarnations of Doctor Who, which one acted in a way that best fit a real Time Lord."

Tom frowned, "But there are no real Time Lords."

Rob shook his head in exasperation, "Well duh, I know that. I mean as they explained Time Lords in the show."

"Ahh," Tom replied, still not really getting it, but not wanting to continue.

Martin, sensing Tom's lack of comprehension chimed in, "See it's pretty straight forward. Look at episode..." He launched into a long winded and convoluted discourse on a particular Dr. Who episode. Tom's eyes quickly glazed over and he began to look around, hoping to spot Ian. "...and so because of that we know that the Doctor's actions fly totally in the face of everything we know a Time Lord is capable of."

"Oh, well, if you two would excuse me I'll go see what's keeping Ian." Tom hastily got up and walked over to the bar.

"Dummy," Rob said to Martin, "Why did you have to use that episode as an example, now episode..." The rest of the conversation was mercifully swallowed up by the ambient din of the room.

Tom sighed as he made his way through the crowd, "Why does Ian get so worked up about my love life when he's those two losers to work with?" he thought to himself, "Then again, I suppose his odds are better with me than with those two." He spotted Ian by the bar talking to a brunette. "I should have known he'd be hitting on some chick." Tom angled his way over to the bar to get himself a beer. He indicated his preference to the bartender and leaned against the bar, watching Ian do his thing. From where he was standing he couldn't see the woman's face or make out what the were saying. However based on her body language Tom could tell she was far from receptive to Ian's advances. Tom chuckled into his beer when the woman gave Ian a resounding slap and walked off. Tom straightened and walked over to greet his now solitary friend. "What the hell did you say to her?" Tom asked by way of greeting.

Ian looked up and saw Tom, "So you watched that little incident?" He handed Tom a full bottle of Moosehead,. Tom held up the bottle he was currently working on. Ian shrugged and put the bottle back on the counter.

"I saw some of it but couldn't overhear anything."

Ian took a swig from his beer, "Well I didn't suggest anything vile. Just that she'd have a more enjoyable evening with me, opposed to whoever else she was with. You should go find her, she was a fellow Yank, I'm sure the two of you would hit it right off."

Tom nodded at the fading red mark on Ian's cheek. "Hit is right. I'm not a rugby player like you, pain doesn't excite me."

Ian shrugged, "Suit yourself, she did seem like a pretty feisty girl, probably a tiger in the sack. I thought that was your type."

A dim memory of a self-styled teenaged lady-killer flitted through Tom's mind, he shuddered, "Do me a favor, never call a woman feisty around me again, ok?"

Ian quirked an eyebrow, "Can I still talk about breast size, spits or swallows and overall performance in bed?"

"Oh sure, it wouldn't be a date post-mortem if you didn't tell me that stuff, just don't call them feisty like that"

Ian clapped Tom on the shoulder, "Atta boy, I was worried you were going soft on me. Ok, the adjective feisty is out of my vocabulary."

"Thanks, now can we get some food?"

"I suppose, hey barkeep, one more for the road if you please." Ian held up his mostly empty beer mug. After getting his refill Ian followed Tom away from the bar. "Since you're already on your second beer of the night I assume you found the boys."

Tom nodded, "Yes and they were debating Dr. Who this time."

"Not that Time Lord argument again." Ian groaned, "How many times have I told those twits that it's the fourth Doctor..."

Tom winced, he just remembered why Ian hung out with Rob and Martin; they were all sci-fi aficionados. Tom took a long pull from his beer.

Ian strode up to the table where Martin and Rob were sitting. "Hello boys," Ian said as he set his mug down on the table. "Arguing over Time Lords again?"

"You're not going to bring up that fourth doctor theory again are you?" Rob sniffed.

"Hey now, be careful there, my fourth doctor theory has a lot more weight than your..." Ian was interrupted by the arrival of their server.

"Hello there gentlemen how are you doing this evening?" The server was a pretty blond whose too small T-shirt reveled a pierced belly button.

"To be honest things were looking pretty grim, but they're picking up now that you've arrived." Ian was beside himself, all thoughts of Dr. Who were instantly forgotten.

The waitress laughed, "I'm glad to hear that. Now what can I get you gentlemen?" She took a pad and pen out of her pocket in her apron.

"Well I'd say 'You when you get off work.' But that's such an old line there's no way it'd work on such a gorgeous creature like you."

The waitress laughed again, "And you'd be right, now what do you want to eat?"

Ian considered the menu the club had thoughtfully placed on the table under a sheet of Lucite, "I'll take the chicken sandwich, fries, an order of your cheese sticks, and another one of these," he held up his glass. Rob and Martin both placed their orders as well.

"And for you sir?" the waitress asked Tom.

Tom looked up from the menu, "It says here you import all your beef from the States?"

The waitress nodded, "Yes sir, direct from Nebraska."

"Ok then, I will take a chance and order the bacon cheeseburger, medium well, with the fries, onions rings, a salad, and another Moosehead."

"Sure thing, I'll be right back with your appetizers and drinks." The waitress put her pad back into her apron and turned to leave.

"Hey miss," Ian called out, "I didn't catch your name."

She looked back and smiled, "The name's Kristen, and you are?"

Ian smiled broadly, "Ian, pleased to meet you."

After Kristen left Rob looked at Ian in astonishment, "Dude, she was flirting with you!"

Ian nodded, "Settle down there boyo, it's been known to happen, I am the epitome of smooth after all." Ian buffed his nails on the front of his shirt. Martin simply stared in awe. Tom rolled his eyes and took another swig of beer. "So as I was saying the fourth doctor..." Ian picked up his discourse right where he left off.

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Tom interjected, "Could we please talk about something other than Dr. Who? I know it might be hard but could you just try, for once?"

Ian shrugged, "Sure Tom, no need to be so cranky about it. So, who here saw the Leeds/Manchester game last night?"

Tom sighed, "Why do I even bother hanging out with you guys."

"Because we're the only people who'll take you." Martin said, so quietly that the rest of the group almost missed it.

When Ian realized what Martin said he erupted with laughter, "Would you look at that, Martin ripping on Tom. Way to go little man, a point for you." He and Martin exchanged high fives.

"Hey Tom, what's up, you seem to be more grouchy than usual." Rob asked.

Ian spoke up before Tom had a chance to reply, "Oh he's just pining for the lost love of his life."

"No I'm not."

"Okay, fine, you're just cranky cause you haven't had sex in ages."

"How about I'm cranky because my friends are being overly pushy about my private life..." He paused, "Okay, you're right I am a bigger grouch tonight. I don't know I guess that class reunion letter really threw me. I suppose there's just too much baggage associated with Lawndale."

Ian snorted, "Baggage, what fucking baggage?"

"You know, the baggage of being a Sloane in Lawndale. The expectations of your parents to carry on the family traditions. The pressure from the community to be a civic leader. You just wouldn't understand."

"I wouldn't understand huh? Just like I wouldn't understand having more money than God? Bloody Americans and your 'issues.' Blowing all these minor inconveniences in your life out of proportion. Tom, if you wanted you could just sit on your ass all day and still make money. You came into this world a millionaire and that's how you're going to leave it. You've never had real 'issues' like being hungry or cold and having to decide which was more important."

"It's different," Tom said flatly, "I'm not imagining things, nor am I trying to get anyone's sympathy. I'm just saying that for me Lawndale holds a lot of bitter memories because of who I am and who my family is."

"So it's different, fine, but that doesn't change the fact that you've got less to gripe about than the average person."

"See," Tom said, "That's exactly what I'm talking about. This assumption that everyone has about money lessening all the other shit in life that can drag you down."

"But doesn't it? I mean you have a bad day at the office can't you just hop in your get and fly to Cancun to blow off steam?"

Tom shook his head, "A bad day is a bad day regardless of your tax bracket. You don't see me jetting off to the French Riviera at the drop of a hat."

"No, you just sulk in your flat..." Their argument was cut short by the arrival of Kristen with their drinks and appetizers.

"There you go boys, the rest of your food will be along shortly."

"Thank you Kristen," Ian said, smiling warmly. "Say do you think you could help me prove something to my friend?"

"Well I really should get back to work..."

"This will only take a minute, maybe less."

Kristen looked around, then shrugged her shoulders, "Ok, but just for a minute."

"Great, thanks. Now my friend here, who is very wealthy, is saying that being rich carries a lot of additional emotional baggage. I say he's being a whiny bitch, after all, he's rich."

Kristen looked thoughtful for a moment, "Is this true? Are you really rich?" She asked Tom.

"I'm afraid so," he replied, "I've got more money than I really know what to do with, so it just sits there, getting bigger."

"I'll have to agree with your friend then, you should consider yourself the luckiest guy on the planet and move on."

"I don't believe this, just because I have a bit more cash in my bank account than most people I can't feel angry or sad, or anything?"

"No, I didn't say that." Kristen replied, "just don't go around whining about your problems to people who have to work for a living. Now if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have to get back to work." The waitress waved goodbye to Ian then walked over to another table.

Ian watched Kristen's departure with rapt attention, "Isn't she great? I think I'll ask her out."

"Sure, why not, she's your ideal woman, two breasts, two legs and a mouth." Tom commented dryly. Martin and Rob snickered.

Ian chuckled, "Oh, that was a good one Tommy-boy, did your girlfriend tell you that? Oh, I'm sorry, that's your left hand." Martin and Rob broke into raucous laughter.

Tom shook his head, "Ok, I can't beat masturbation references, you win."

Ian nodded smugly, "Of course I do, I am the master after all. Oh hey, Martin I almost forgot, they announced the ship date on the 'Kid A' re-release today."

Martin's eyes grew wide, "They did? When is it coming out?"

"Two months. I think we need to promote it heavily."

"Kid A re-release? What's that?" Rob asked.

"Radiohead went back into the studio and re-mastered Kid A to celebrate it's tenth anniversary. The only thing is it took them another year to do it. Apparently they actually re-recorded whole portions of the album. And the only way you can get it is in physical form, no downloads."

"Sounds like quite the collectable," Rob was always on the lookout for another investment.

Tom shrugged, "I don't know, how can you improve on the original?"

"Does it matter, Radiohead hasn't released anything for three years, this is huge. So, I was thinking we put the display right in the front..." Ian and Martin talked shop until Kristen returned with their food.

"Well gents, what new social concern are you talking about this time?"

Ian smiled at Kristen, "Oh nothing nearly as entertaining, we're just talking business. I own a little record shop, 'Mended Record.' If you're into good music come check us out." He handed Kristen a business card, "We have a wide range of stuff so I know you won't be disappointed."

Kristen took the card, a small smile played across her lips. "Oh, I might just do that, enjoy your meals."

Tom chuckled, "Very slick, you gave her your number, pimped your business, and set up a meeting outside the club all with one little card."

"Like I said, I'm the master." The group began eating their meals. Over dinner the good natured banter continued. Eventually the conversation again drifted to science fiction.

Tom sighed, "Well the search for the perfect burger continues. What is it about this country that makes it impossible to properly cook ground beef?"

"I'm not even going to get into this again, you're in England. Stop trying to find American food. Expand your horizons."

Tom looked down at the remains of his burger. "All I wanted was a hamburger, is that too much to ask?"

"Apparently it is," Ian muttered. He went to take a pull from his beer, but found it empty. "Hey Tom, would you mind getting me a refill? I see you're dry too."

Tom shrugged, "Sure, anything to get away from 'Red Dwarf.'"

Ian chuckled, "Admit it , you're a fan too."

Tom stood up, "Sure, before I moved here and started hanging out with you guys." He walked over to the bar and placed his order. He collected the beers and paid the bartender. As he walked back to the table he accidentally bumped a woman was facing the other way.

"Hey watch where you're going asshole." The woman said, turning around.

"Oh, I'm sorry...Daria?" Tom said in disbelief. And it was in fact Daria Morgendorffer. Her hair was a littler shorter, she was wearing different clothes, "Well obviously her clothes would be different," Tom thought to himself, "It has been ten years." Her glasses were also conspicuously missing, but it was Daria.

"How do you know my...Tom? Is that you?"

"I was going to say the same thing." He looked around and spotted an empty table. "Are you here with anyone?"

Daria shook her head, "No, you?"

"Well, yeah, but they can wait, come on let's go get caught up."

Daria shrugged, "Ok, sure." Tom led her to the empty table he had noticed earlier.

"So," Tom asked, "What brings you to London?"

"Business, the magazine I work for assigned me to write about literary travesties, this place fit the bill."

"You're a journalist then?"

Daria nodded, "For now, it's pretty boring though. I'm thinking about either working on a novel or going into teaching."

"Teaching, really? I never saw you as a teacher, honestly."

"Neither do I, but it would be something to do until the movie deal."

Tom smiled, "Nice to know some things stay the same. By the way, what happened to your glasses?"

"Eye surgery," Daria replied evenly, "Pragmatism won out over vanity." She shrugged, "I had them done a couple years back." An uncomfortable silence descended on the table, both Daria and Tom waiting to say something, but neither of them quite knowing what. "So," Daria said after clearing her throat, "Did you get all your grandfather's money?"

Tom nodded, "Most of it at any rate, I only graduated summa instead of magna," He shrugged, "It's still more than enough money for me."

"I suppose so..." She searched her fingernails for some hidden truth, "Keep in touch with anyone from Lawndale?"

Tom shook his head, "Not really."

"I can understand that, how's your family?"

"Well, Elsie's doing well enough for herself. She finished business school a while back and is working at one of the firm's branch offices. My mom's heading up her committees as usual, and my dad..." he shrugged, "We haven't spoken since I came here. He wanted me to form my own company or something, I didn't. 'Sloanes are leaders of industry, they don't work for a company, they own it.' Or something other bullshit." He sighed, "But I'm being an inconsiderate ass, how's your family?"

"Well, after Dad's second heart attack my mom convinced him that retirement would be a good idea. So now he's the terror of the golf course. Mom finally made partner, and still spends more time at the office than anyone else. And Quinn...she's doing well enough I suppose."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means she's about this close to breaking out in her acting career, and that bugs the hell out of me."

"Is this a given?"

Daria shrugged, "She's been getting great reviews from her most recent play. It's only a matter of time before somebody casts her in a film."

"You know what, you should write something for her."

"Why? Sure we're getting along better than when we were kids, but why should I help her achieve her inevitable fame and fortune?"

"Because you could use her to spring-board your career as a writer. Sort of like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck."

"So write a killer screenplay that showcases her talent as a way to get my foot in the door...Tom you're an evil genius. Why didn't I think of that?"

"You were too consumed with irrational sibling rivalry to know what's good for you."

"I guess so, thanks for straitening that out for me." She reached over and patted Tom's hand, "You know, it actually is good to see you again Tom."

"Yeah, it's good to see you too Daria," he paused, "So, how's Jane doing?" he muttered into his beer.

"Jane's doing well enough. She moved back to Lawndale after living in New York for a while. She claimed the eclectic nature of the city inhibited her creativity." Tom chuckled, "So she's still living at the old Lane house, and runs a little paint shop/house painting operation to pay the bills."

"House painting? Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

"Not really, she requires complete creative control over the project and any murals she does over the course of the job are extra."

Tom laughed, "Ok, that sounds more like Jane."

Daria nodded, "Of course it goes without saying that the color scheme of Lawndale has become more...eccentric."

"It's good to hear she's doing well. Though I am surprised to hear she's still living in Lawndale."

Daria shrugged, "I think she likes the thought of having someplace permanent to call home, what with the rest of her family scattered to the winds."

"I suppose, I never thought of it that way." They settled back into silence. "So, uh, are you seeing anyone?"

Daria shook her head, "Not really, nobody special at least. How about you?"

"Despite the best efforts of my friend Ian I remain unattached."

Daria raised an eyebrow, "Sounds like you have a few stories to tell."

Tom shrugged, "When you get set up on as many blind dates as I have they start to blend together."

Daria reached into her bag and took out a small notebook and a pen. "Come on, just a couple, I'm sure there are some that standout."

"I thought you were a journalist. Why would anyone want to see this reported?"

"Well if I'm going to write a 'killer screenplay' I'm going to need ideas."

Tom sighed, "So long as I get a percentage of the gross." He finished off his beer. "Ok, there was this one time when Ian set me up with this acrobat..." Tom launched into his story, "...and then she put a cantaloupe on top of that. It was the damndest thing I ever saw."

"Hmmm, so the human body can bend like that, good to know."

Tom looked at his empty beer bottle thoughtfully, "Hey Daria, have you ever thought about us, you know, maybe getting back together?"

"Why, so you could fuck my life up again?" Daria was instantly on edge.

Tom sighed "I suppose I had that coming. Ok, I'll admit it, I fucked up back then, and I'm sorry for that."

Daria stared at Tom coldly, "Oh, that makes me feel so much better now that I know that."

Tom held up his hands defensively, "Hey now, I said that in good faith."

Daria shrugged, "So, did your therapist recommend you apologize to all your old girlfriends to get some sort of weird closure?"

Tom shook his head, "No, it's nothing like that. I just wanted to apologize to you. I guess I felt I owed you considering all the grief I caused.

Daria shook her head, "I should feel grateful, or something. But since your dumping me hardly rates as one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, you'll have to excuse me if I don't hand you a humanitarian award."

Tom chuckled sadly, "It's comforting to know that you're still firmly ensconced behind your wall of cynicism and distrust."

Daria scowled, "Well pardon me if I seem a little distrustful of my ex-boyfriend. Who has on multiple occasions proven that he is not worthy of any trust."v

"Here's what I think, I think that you're just afraid to open up again simply because of one bad experience."

"Oh bullshit!" Daria exclaimed, "In the first place, why should I 'open up' to the person who burned me the first time?"

"Because I've grown as a person..."

Daria held up her hand, "I'm not finished. Second, where do you get off diagnosing what may or may not be wrong with my love life? Tom you haven't seen me in ten years. How do you know anything about me? Isn't it even remotely possible that I've changed? Maybe I am a more open person these days. Did you ever think that I might have a more active social life, with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Hell, I'm here in a London night club aren't I? Isn't that proof that I've changed and that maybe, just maybe the world doesn't revolve around the needs of Mr. Thomas Sloane?"

"Uhm, didn't you say the reason you're here is because you're on assignment for your magazine?"

"That's beside the point," Daria said, frowning, "Just because I'm on assignment doesn't invalidate what I said."

Tom sighed, "No, it doesn't. And you're right, we haven't spoken in a long time, and you could've had this big personality shift. But on the other hand, something tells me that's a load of shit."

"What, I'm an anti-social loser who's incapable of change?"

Again Tom refused to rise to the bait, "Stop trying to goad me Daria, I know you well enough to see through that at least."

"Then help me out here, what did you mean?"

"I meant you're a very closed off person who tends to maintain a small, but close-knit, circle of friends and who doesn't see the need to go out clubbing every night just because that's what everyone else is doing. It's a quality about you I've always admired."

Daria paused, "Oh, well, that's nice of you to say...but don't think that means I'm accepting any apologies from you."

"Oh Christ, now you're being stubborn. Did I really hurt you that much?"

Daria sighed, "Yes and no. It's not like I locked myself in my room and cried for hours on end; but I was upset and mad at you, after all you're the one who wanted us to have a relationship in the first place."

"Now in my defense I'd like to point out that I did not technically dump you. All I did was mention that since we were attending different schools exclusiveness might be a problem. I was just stating the obvious."

"Yeah, I know that...now." The emphasis Daria placed on that statement made Tom raise his eyebrows questioningly, but Daria continued on, ignoring him, "But to an eighteen year old girl it sounded like you were breaking up with me...then there was Emily..."

"Oh great, here we go," Tom sighed in exasperation.

"Here we go? You were going out with her."

"Only after I thought you had broken up with me." Tom shot back.

"I showed up to apologize to you asshole, only when I got there I saw you cavorting with some other woman. That's what hurt, and that's why I won't accept your apology now."

Tom leaned back in his chair, rubbing his forehead slowly. "Oh hell Daria, I never knew that."

Daria nodded, "A friend drove me to Dartmouth and I was all set to say I was sorry, let's have another try at it. But the first thing I saw was you swapping spit with that girl. I went right back to Williams and that was that."

"I thought you were up there for a lecture, at least that's what you told me."

Daria shrugged, "I was planning on doing both, and ended up doing neither."

Tom nodded, "Well that explains a lot, but Daria, you have to understand that Emily truly was a transitory fling, there were no deep feelings on either side of that relationship."

Daria shook her head, "Tom, we've had this argument before, I don't want to repeat it."

"Then we don't have to." Tom said, seizing the opening, "Daria, I've said I'm sorry, if this is such a non-issue for you then why won't you accept a simple apology?"

Daria sighed, "Ok, it was a big deal for me, and you did hurt me." She paused, "Oh what the hell, apology accepted, you were just being you, I can't hold an irrational grudge against you this long for just that reason."

"Hey now...I guess I had that coming to me, didn't I?"

"That and so much more."

"Revenge served at Arctic temperatures?"

"Damn straight."

Tom chuckled, "What do you say we start from scratch? Hi, I'm Tom Sloane, can I buy you a drink?"

Daria smirked, "No, I don't think we can start from scratch there's too much history between us for that, but you can buy me that drink."

"Ok then." Tom signaled for a waitress to come over to take an order. As they waited the two lapsed into idle small talk.

While the reunion played out Ian grew more and more concerned about the location of his beer, "What's taking that asshole so long?" He muttered, "It's a simple task, go to the bar, get two beers and return, it's so simple even Martin could get it right."

"Hey, I'm sitting right next to you!" Martin protested.

"Sorry man, didn't see you sitting there."

At that moment Kristen came by to collect their plates, "And how was everything gents?"

Ian turned and smiled at Kristen, "Oh quite lovely thank you."

She noticed the place Tom had occupied, "Where'd your rich Yank friend go?"

Ian scowled, "He appears to have gotten lost somewhere between here and the bar, with my beer."

Kristen laughed, "I can go get you a fresh one."

"Only if you get one for yourself too," Ian said invitingly.

"Well, my shift is pretty much over...alright, just let me get out of this uniform and you've got yourself a deal."

"Excellent, I shall eagerly await your return."

"I'll be right back then." Kristen smiled at Ian as she walked off with the group's empty dishes.

Ian leaned back in his seat and sighed, "Ah, you know what lads, life is good."

"But what about Tom and your beer?" Rob asked.

"Tom who?" Ian asked momentarily bewildered, "Oh, him. He can keep the beer for all I care, but I guess we should find out where he went. Martin, be a good lad and locate our American friend will you."

"Why me?" Martin protested.

"What else are you going to do?"

"I don't know...why don't we have Rob go look for him."

"Capital idea, Rob, go help him out."

"What?" Rob shouted, "You're just trying to get rid of us aren't you."

"Perceptive lad, I knew there was a reason I liked you. Now get going, you two are cramping my style."

"Come on Martin, we need to give the 'Master' room to work." Rob dragged his friend away from the table and into the throng of people surrounding the bar.

As Martin and Rob searched for him Tom continued chatting with Daria. "...so it was about then that the cops broke through the door, and of course I was the guy holding the plantain."

Daria raised an eyebrow, "That's quite a tall tale."

"It's all true though, I have the pictures to back me up."

"Even the part with the midget?"

Tom raised a sleeve to reveal a faded scar on his arm, "Especially the midget, unfortunately."

"Well I'm impressed, you've certainly had an interesting time in London."

"Too interesting, I haven't even told you about the soccer game we went to last year."

"I can imagine."

"So tell me, how does the average day in the life of Daria go these days?"

Daria shrugged, "I wake up, write some stuff to make my editor happy, then go back to bed. How about you, beside the drunken bacchanalias I mean?"

"Pretty much the same. Subway to work, type code all day, go home and practice Zen meditation while Ian rains chaos down on everyone surrounding him. It's not much, but it's a living."

"That's what I keep telling Quinn. And yes," Daria said, answering Tom's raised eyebrow, "Quinn and I are sharing an apartment, for now." She added hastily.

"Now that I never would have guessed, how did this come to pass?"

"A couple years back my roommate at the time moved out and Quinn just happened to show up about the same time looking to start up her acting career. I needed someone to share the rent with and she needed a place to live." She shrugged, "It made sense at the time."

Tom nodded, "So, how's it working out for you two?"

"It's kind of like living in a sitcom." Daria commented dryly. "Thankfully it's only a temporary situation since she's going to be moving in with someone else soon. So I'll be rid of her and all her inane friends, hopefully."

"Still, it must be comforting to have your sister right there."

"It is, I guess...don't get me wrong, Quinn's grown up a lot, but she's still Quinn, and every now and then she does something that really sets me on edge."

"I wouldn't expect it to be any other way."

"Oh and you'll never guess who she's moving in with."

"A safe bet considering I haven't seen Quinn in ten years and never knew her very well even then."

Daria shook her head, "No, you know him it's..." She was interrupted by Martin and Rob's arrival.

"There you are Tom, we've been looking all over for you," Martin said breathlessly.

"That's great guys, now can you two get lost, I'm talking to someone here." Tom nodded in Daria's direction to emphasis his point.

Rob's eyes grew wide as he examined Daria and her retro-alternative outfit. "Whoa, why hello there, I'm Rob, and what's your name?" He extended a hand to Daria.

"I'm Daria." She replied, not shaking Rob's hand.

Tom sighed, "Martin, Rob, meet Daria. Daria, Martin and Rob. Now guys Daria's an old friend of mine from the States, can we have some time alone to catch up?"

"But Ian told us to find you." Martin complained.

"And you did, so go tell Ian where I am."

"Actually, Ian was just getting rid of us to put the moves on the waitress." Rob said sourly.

"And now I'm getting rid of the two of you so I can talk to my friend. Now get lost." Tom told the pair forcefully.

Rob sighed, "Come on Martin, no rest for the righteous. The pair stalked off somewhat dejectedly.

Daria watched the twosome leave, "You know, they really remind me of those two guys who used to hang around you at Fielding."

Tom nodded, "I know, it's like I'm this big geek magnet or something."

"Maybe they think you're their king or something." Daria commented dryly.

Tom shook his head, "Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. You were going to tell me some startling revelation about Quinn?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes. She's going to be moving in with Dave Wylie."

"You're kidding, Dave, from Lawndale?"

Daria nodded, "That's the guy. He and Quinn just kept hanging out after all these years. So they figured they might as well live together. I think Quinn says they're in love...or something I don't know." Daria shrugged, "I still think Quinn's just after his money and Dave's after her body."

"What's he up to? We were never as close we should have been."

"Well, he went to medical school, got his M.D., then became a paramedic. Something about wanting to help people, I don't know, altruism is a foreign concept to me."

"So he went through with that. I remember this one time the two of us got absolutely shit-faced, this was right after you broke up with me. Anyway he started going off on how he wanted to go into medicine, and something about giving people chances, it's all kind of hazy in my mind. But I'm glad to see he's doing what he wants to do."

Daria nodded, "We all kind of lucked out there didn't we."

Tom chuckled, "Having affluent parents sure is a handy thing." They lapsed into silence. "So, uh..." Tom began, "do you have any good stories to tell from living with Quinn?"

"Most I can't discuss since they're part of ongoing investigations, but there are a few, like the time one of Quinn's old high school cronies showed up for a visit."

"Which one was that?"

"Stacy, the one without a spine."

"Has she grown one?"

"Not that I noticed, but Quinn says she was worse in high school. Well she came out to visit her 'wild, single girlfriend braving the big city.' From what I gathered, the rest of the Fashion Club realized they didn't have any viable life skills so they got married as quickly as possible. Anyway, one night I come home and find Stacy hitting the bar hard."

"You have a bar?"

Daria nodded, "Yes, a fully stocked we bar, it came with the apartment. So I came home and found Stacy absolutely blitzed, and she saw me and just started bawling her eyes out. She was going on and on about how her marriage sucked, being a house wife is boring and that her life was just generally awful. I managed to get her settled down, until Quinn came home, which set her off on another crying jag. Only this time she threw in how much she envied Quinn and wished she could have a life like that. This freaked Quinn the hell out and she started screaming we had to call the cops, because Stacy was going to kill us in some freakish obsessive manner. Honestly, for a while I thought she was going to kill us too; either that or pledge her undying love for Quinn. It was a very strange scene."

"Sounds like it, how'd you resolve things?"

Daria shrugged, "I told her she'd find the answers she was looking for at the bottom of the tequila bottle."

"Ouch, and that didn't kill her?"

Daria shook her head, "If only we had been so lucky. No, Quinn called Dave and he took Stacy to the hospital where she spent the night."

"Christ, now that's a story."

"Oh, but it doesn't end there. After she sobered up at the hospital I voted to dump her on a bus, but Dave and Quinn outvoted me. I guess over the course of the night Stacy had let slip she was prone to have these little incidents..."

"She was a drunk?"

"Isn't that was I said?" Tom motioned for her to continue, "Yes, she was a drunk."

"And you wanted to dump her on a bus?"

Daria shrugged, "Her life is none of my concern, besides, like I said, I was outvoted. So Quinn helped Stacy dry out. She divorced her husband and is now doing something. All in all a victory for the forces of goodness and light."

Tom whistled, "I'm impressed, that doesn't sound like Quinn."

"The only reason she ever gave for her actions during the whole affair was a muttered, 'Could've been me.' I guess it hit close to home."

"Mmm," Tom agreed, "When was all this?"

"About a year ago or so."

Tom nodded as the conversation came to a lull. He was about to say something when Martin rushed up to the table.

"Hey Tom, come quick, we need you."

"Whatever it is, it can wait," Tom replied, testily.

"This can't, Ian's about to get into a fight with some Marines."

Tom rubbed his forehead in a vain attempt to ward off an oncoming headache, "Ok, I'll be right there. Wait right here, I'll be back in a few minutes." He told Daria, then left following Martin.

Daria played with her drink as she waited. After a few minutes the normal din of a nightclub was interrupted by the noise of a brawl. Bottles, furniture and even bodies were flying through the air. Daria watched disinterestedly as the melee spilled onto the dance floor. She stood up and calmly made her way to the exit when the police sirens could be heard. As she picked her way through the crowd Tom was nowhere to be found.

"Well that was a sufficiently weird enough evening for me. I think I'll call it a night before Trent, or any other romantic interest from my past, shows up." Daria said, deadpan, as she stood on the street. She bent over and picked up a piece of paper that brushed up against her. It was a flyer advertising an old fashioned rave being held the next night. She shrugged, stuffed it in a pocket, and hailed a cab to take her back to her hotel.

Several hours later, Tom, Ian, Kristen, Rob and Martin were back at Tom's apartment nursing their injuries. They managed to elude the police with Kristen's help. After a brief trip to the hospital to make sure no one was seriously injured the group went to the closest apartment to recuperate. They were all sitting in Tom's living room, Kristen and Ian were on the couch, Tom occupied his leather recliner, and Martin and Rob were each collapsed in overstuffed easy-chairs.

"Ian, I want you to answer one little question." Tom asked as he adjusted the cold compress bound to his aching ribs.

"What's that?" Ian asked from behind the raw steak placed over his left eye.

"Do you have to start a riot at every club we go to?"

"What was I supposed to do? Those dumb Marines insulted Kristen. I couldn't let that stand."

"You ninny, I told you, I don't need anyone to protect me." She batted Ian on the arm, he winced.

"Hey there, careful, that part of me is a little tender. I know you don't need help, but I wanted to be of help. Besides we all need someone to provide assistance from time to time."

"Oh that's so sweet of you. In a very Neanderthal sort of way." She kissed him on the lips. "I hope that part's not too sore." She added, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"Not at all, in fact I'd say it's one of two spots that aren't sore."

"Where's the other?"

"Ask me again when we're alone and I'll show you." He replied with a playful leer.

"I can't wait."

"Ok, knock it off you two. I'm trying to be mad at Ian remember?" Tom said testily.

"Eh, what? Oh yes, right, right, go on."

"Your little antics interrupted a very pleasant conversation I was having with a very interesting person."

"So Rob said, who was she and did you get her number?"

"It was Daria Morgendorffer, and no, I didn't get the chance."

"Daria? As in the Daria?"

Tom nodded, "The one and the same."

Ian chuckled, "Christ, isn't that funny."

Tom frowned, "Oh yeah, a real laugh riot. As opposed to the real riot we were just in." He added, somewhat lamely.

"Who's Daria?" Kristen asked.

"Oh, she's Tom's long lost love. He spend the entire drive over to the club moping over her and then bam, there she is. And I'll be you don't even know where she's staying or for how long."

Tom looked down at his feet, "Uhm, well, not exactly."

"Figures, that is your style after all."

Tom shrugged, "Not like it really matters, she was still pretty pissed at me."

Ian nodded, "Ahh yes, woman scored and all that. That's the problem with women, they carry a grudge," Kristen smacked Ian on the back of his head. "Ow, hey watch it, I've got a concussion, remember."

"Don't worry," Kristen replied sweetly, "I'll make sure you don't fall asleep tonight."

"I can't wait," Ian said lecherously.

"Again, this isn't something I want to hear." Tom said annoyed.

"And you think I want to hear you mope about your missed opportunity with some chick who dumped you ten years ago?" Tom didn't bother responding since the answer was obvious.

An uncomfortable silence hung over the room, which Kristen finally broke. "Look, uh Tom, I can tell you're pretty down right now, so may I make a suggestion?" Tom shrugged. "There's going to be an old-fashioned rave tomorrow night. You know, abandoned warehouse, lots of music, ecstasy, and glow sticks. You should go, it might cheer you up."

"A real rave?" Ian asked, "Outstanding, I haven't been to one of those in years. Martin, Rob, you boys up for a little booty shaking?"

Martin shook his head, "Sorry Ian, I already promised to run sound for this band tomorrow."

"As you well know Ian, I do not 'shake my booty' as you so urbanely put it. Besides I have to update the value of my inventory tomorrow night."

Ian sighed, "And the two of you wonder why you don't get chicks. Well Tom, how about it?"

Tom rubbed his sore ribs, "I'm not sure I could survive another evening with you this weekend."

"Ah, come on man, Kristen will be there to keep an eye on me. You know you want to. It'll be good for you. Out on the dance floor, with all those sexy, hot, sweaty, horny women. You can't miss."

"And you'll be sure to keep him out of trouble?" Tom asked Kristen.

"Don't worry about a thing. I'm sure I can keep him occupied."

"So you'll go?" Ian asked pressingly.

Tom shrugged, "I suppose so."

"Excellent, you won't regret it." Ian gave Kristen a questioning look and nodded in the direction of the door. She responded with an emphatic nod of her own. "Well then, it was an outstanding evening and I shall see you all later. Tom, thank-you for the steak, do you want it back?"

"No, no, you can have it."

"Well then, thanks for the steak, and see you tomorrow." Ian and Kristen waved goodbye to the rest of the group and left.

Tom stood up and yawned, "Well, you two can crash here if you want, I'm going to get some sleep."

Rob also got up, "No, that's quite alright, I'll get Martin home and make sure he doesn't die overnight or anything." He caught Martin by the arm, "Come on buddy, we're going home, take it easy Tom."

"Good night, and good luck." Tom waved to the pair as they left the apartment. He went to bed and slept soundly.

-to be continued-