Synopsis: While waiting for the results of a pregnancy test, Daria and Jane recall the events of the previous two months. Warning : Reader discretion is advised

Author's Forward: I am rating the following story PG-13 for content. The subject matter deals with teen pregnancy. I am not an advocate of teen pregnancy, and firmly believe that common sense should prevail in such cases. However, real life being what it is, this is not always the case.

The following story was written for entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as educational material. I do not claim that the "technical" aspects of my story are even remotely accurate. If you have any questions, go to a responsible adult knowledgeable in the appropriate areas.

Other Notes: The author assumes that the reader is familiar with "Daria" and the characters therein. This story takes place over the six to eight week period concurrent with the episodes "Sappy Anniversary," "Fat Like Me," and "Camp Fear."

Legal Drek: Daria and her cohorts are property of MTV and Viacom.

This story is Copyright April 14 2003.

Daria

in

empirical evidence

By Greystar

~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

Daria stared down at the small plastic device she held in her hand, waiting to see what it foretold for her future. Her eyebrows knit together as she swallowed for what seemed to be the sixtieth time that minute. Her heart and stomach seemed to be fighting for a place inside her throat. She was acutely aware of an egg shaped timer ticking rapidly away on the on top of the television set. It might as well have been counting down to the end of the world.

This can't be happening, one part of her mind was shouting at the top of it's lungs. This can't be happening! Not to me! And now of all times!

The logical and analytical parts of her mind knew, of course, that it had all actually happened some weeks ago. It all started fairly innocently, really. All they were going to do was watch an old movie and scarf Quinn's candy . . .

~~~~~~

"Happy non-anniversary," Tom had said to her, handing her a chocolate from one of the heart-shaped boxes they had purloined from Quinn.

"Happy non-anniversary to you," Daria had replied, handing tom a chocolate from the box she held on her lap.

"Are you sure Quinn won't mind?" Tom asked as he exchanged the candy he held for the one Daria offered.

"Nah," she replied. "Celebrating anniversaries was her idea."

She popped the piece of chocolate into her mouth, savoring the caramel center of the candy and favoring Tom with a Mona Lisa smile. Tom returned it with a soft smile of his own. Every now and then, Jane had commented how she could get lost in those green eyes of his, and now Daria could see it was true. She blushed ever so slightly at that random thought.

Too damn much sugar, she thought. Making my brain go fuzzy.

Absent mindedly, she brought her hand up to her lips and removed some chocolate from the tip of her thumb. Tom's smile turned mischievous as he reached out and took Daria's hand in his before she could remove the chocolate form her fingertip.

"What are you doing?" Daria asked as Tom gently pulled her hand towards him.

"Being helpful," Tom said as he brought her finger to his lips. "What kind of boyfriend would I be if I weren't?"

Daria winced slightly, turning a little red and closing her eyes as Tom gently removed the chocolate from Daria's fingertip under the guise of a kiss. She felt the tip of his tongue glide over the tip of her finger, aiding in the procedure, and flinched slightly.

"Tom, that's gross," Daria said as he released her hand. Actually, it tickled, but there was no way she would say that out loud.

"Really? I thought that I was being romantic." Tom said, lifting his hand to his mouth to remove the chocolate from his own thumb. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to be unpleasant."

"Well, it was," Daria said with her own smirk. "And I'll prove it to you."

She reached out and took Tom's hand before he could protest - not that he would have to begin with. Not taking her eyes off his, she gently pulled his thumb to her lips and, in the same manner Tom had, placed hers over the small smear of chocolate on his skin. The tip of her tongue tickled the tip of Tom's thumb between her lips, actually savoring the taste of the chocolate against his skin for a moment, before breaking the kiss.

"See?" Daria asked, releasing his hand.

"Yeah, that was pretty gross," he said.

"Disgusting."

"Revolting."

"Gave me the willies."

"I liked it too," Tom whispered.

Tom took the box from his lap and set it aside, turning and leaning into Daria and starting a long, gentle kiss. Daria responded by taking Tom's face in her hands and kissing back in reply. After a long moment, the two finally came up for air.

"Your folks aren't going to come walking in are they?" Tom asked quietly, not wanting something to wreck the mood.

"Mom's working late at the firm, Dad's working late trying to make up the business he lost working at that dot-com place, and Quinn's out on a date," Daria replied. "I figure that we've got the place to ourselves till about eleven or so."

"Cool," Tom said as he took the box from Daria's lap and put it on the coffee table in front of them.

Tom reached around her waist and pulled Daria in a little closer and began to kiss her once again. She reached behind him, placing her hand on the back of his head, her other arm going around his waist to steady herself. Daria absently noticed how his breath tickled her cheek, the softness of his hair between her fingers, and the slight taste of the chocolates they had been eating on his lips. Daria decided that she could get entirely too used to this, if she let herself.

Tom was a little surprised at Daria's reactions. He knew her well enough to know that she didn't let her passions out at the drop of a hat. Her passions usually came out in the form of their discussions about movies, books, and various other intellectual pursuits. Oh, sure they did the usual boyfriend-girlfriend things too: held hands, smooched in public, a little quick necking once or twice when they thought no one was looking. There was one steamy make-out session at the beginning of their relationship as well. Maybe this was going to turn into another. Though he'd be loathe to admit it to anyone other than his bathroom mirror, Daria had Jane beat in the kissing department, hands down.

Tom started to sit back, not releasing Daria from his embrace and pulling her with him as he moved. Daria hesitated for a second, but reacted quickly enough not to get dumped off of the sofa. She tucked one knee underneath herself and slung the other leg over Tom's lap, so she was sitting on his knees. Her other knee had bumped the box on the sofa, spilling it onto the floor, but neither of them noticed. She wasn't willing to break the kiss just yet, vaguely curious to see what he was leading up to.

Whoa! Dammit, Daria, slow down, she started shouting to herself in her mind as she felt Tom's hand began sliding around to the front of her jacket. You don't need to add this to the pot right now! We just got this stupid anniversary thing straightened out! All this will do is cause more problems down the road. There's graduation to think about and college and. . .and . . . Wow. Oh, wow. A little more to the right . . .WHOA HOLD IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Whoa, Tom, hold it," Daria panted, breaking the kiss and stopping Tom's hand from exploring her chest with her own.

"You want I should stop?" Tom asked, a little out of breath himself.

"Uh . . ." Yes I want you to stop and get your hand off my chest and get your ass the hell out of my house so I can board myself up in my room and figure out where the hell all of this is coming from!! "Look, Tom, I don't want to spoil the mood, but maybe we're going a little fast here?"

"What do you mean?" Tom asked, removing his hand. He had a good idea exactly what she meant, but he also knew that Daria would need to put it into words for herself.

"Well," Daria said and paused again. She couldn't believe she was about to bring this up now. "I never really asked Jane, but . . . Did you and she . . .?"

"What? How far did we go?" Tom asked, interlacing his fingers behind the small of Daria's back. He had to wonder if they were comparing notes on him or something.

"Well . . . yeah," Daria said, looking a little guilty.

Oh, Lord, they are comparing notes! Tom thought with a chuckle.

"Well, Jane and I did do some experimenting," Tom said. "And we have seen each other in less clothing than would be considered appropriate by most of polite society. And we did talk about trying some things from time to time. And we've --"

"I get straight A's in Biology, Tom," Daria said in her classic deadpan. "I don't need all the gory details."

"Sorry," Tom chuckled again. "What I'm trying to say is Jane and I have never gone beyond a certain point, and I've always tried to be a perfect gentleman about what we did do. We've talked about it, but we both decided that we wanted to see where our relationship took us."

"So you two have never . . ?" Daria started to ask, but couldn't finish.

"No," Tom said with a shake of his head.

"And you're not sorry that you never . . ?"

"No," Tom said with another shake of his head, then thought Tom, you lie like an oriental rug.

"And you wouldn't be sorry if we never . . ?"

"No," Tom answered, then continued to answer the next questions that he knew was coming hard on the heels of his answer. "I wouldn't be, because it meant that we weren't ready for it."

"Oh . . . Okay," Daria muttered, looking slightly down at him from her perch on his knees.

"If you don't mind my asking, what brought this on?" Tom asked.

"Well, it's been kind of rolling around in the back of my mind for a while now," Daria said, starting to look a little embarrassed. She was also starting to feel a little ridiculous, holding a conversation like this while sitting on his lap. She began to turn red. "You kind of confirmed it when you said that you and Jane have done a little . . . well, experimentation . . . and I was always pretty sure that you and she didn't just sit around watching Sick Sad World all the time. And, since we really haven't done much more in our relationship than, uh, make out, I . . . Well . . . I have some theoretical evidence of certain things, but . . ."

"And you wanted some empirical evidence as well?" Tom asked, smiling some at Daria's blush. He always thought she was cute when she blushed. "The kind that you find through . . . experimentation?"

Daria just nodded.

"What would you like to do?" Tom asked.

Daria slid back off of Tom's knees and stood up, breaking the grip around her waist easily. She took Tom's hands in hers and gently pulled him to his feet.

"Come up to my room?"

"Lead on."

~~~~~~

Jane walked in and sat down on her bed next to Daria. She took in the look on her friend's face and racked her brain for something to say. The last time she had seen Daria this stressed out was over the last week or so of school last year, when she and Tom had split up and he had gotten together with Daria. It had taken Jane and Daria a big chunk of the summer to work through that one, primarily because Jane was spending the summer at an art colony, and Daria was "volunteered" to work at Mr. O'Neill's day camp. But, after everyone had a few weeks to calm down, they had gotten together and worked it through, with a hefty amount of thanks going to Trent and his mediocre song writing skills.

Jane reached out and took Daria's hand in her own, closing her fingers around the white knuckled grip that Daria had around the pinkish-white gizmo that she held. That thing held an answer that stood to radically change a couple of lives around Lawndale. She could feel Daria's hand shaking in her grip.

"Hey, kid," Jane said quietly to her nervous and scared friend. "What ever the answer is, it's going to be okay. Okay?"

Daria didn't answer, but the shaking in her hand subsided some.

"Not too much longer now," Jane said, glancing at the egg timer on top of the television.

~~~~~~

Jane had started noticing something screwy was going on about the same time that Sandi Griffin was out of school for a while because she had taken a tumble down the stairs in her home and broken her leg. She and Daria had gone over to Pizza King for their usual after school slice. Daria had been acting a little evasive on the subject of Tom over the last couple of days. True, talking about Tom was still a sore subject at times, but Jane had always made a good sounding board for Daria when she had a problem that she couldn't think her way through, and she wasn't about to stop now.

"So," Jane said as the two of them sat down with their sodas and Jane pulled a couple of boxes of candy out of her backpack and placed them on the table. "You've been ducking the subject of yours and Tom's little anniversary situation pretty neatly the last couple of days. When are you gonna tell me what happened? We're not going to have to incinerate body parts in my Mom's kiln, now are we?"

"No, it's just --" Daria started to say, but was interrupted by Kevin, Joey, Jamie, and Jeffy nosily walking past their table to take up a booth only a few feet away. "Dammit. Too many ears around here."

"Huh?"

"Quinn's three stooges," Daria said with a nod in their direction as she poured out her box of ZooZoo Drops onto the table. "I just don't want this conversation getting back to her, or getting spread all over the school."

"Well, we'll just have to kill some time then till they leave," Jane said.

"Yeah, I guess," Daria said, looking down at the candy. "Bet you I've got more ZooZoo Drops than you have Juicy Joes.

"Not possible," Jane said, pouring out her own box of candy on the counter.

"Bet you five bucks," Daria said with a smirk.

"You're on," Jane said as she started counting.

It took twenty minutes of time killing, while Kevin amused the Three Js with pepperoni slices on his eyes and various other idiotic antics as they ate their pizza. Daria and Jane slowly ate their candy and made various bets on the four boys tomfoolery. Jane was down ten dollars by the time the four of them left.

"About damned time," Jane said as she watched them head out the restaurant door. "So, talk already, woman! What happened?"

"Well, Tom and I talked it over, and we came to the conclusion that remembering anniversaries is nice and all, but you don't have to go overboard with celebrating them," Daria said as she pushed the remaining ZooZoo Drops around in a small pile.

"Uh-huh, nice sentiment, I have to agree," Jane said, popping a Juicy Joe into her mouth. "So then what happened?"

"Well, everyone was gone the next night, so we swiped a couple of Quinn's candy boxes and we were going to watch a movie, but we, uh . . ." Daria stopped and turned a little red around her Mona Lisa smile. "We started feeding each other the chocolates instead."

"Oh, how cute!" Jane exclaimed with a grin so wide the space shuttle could have landed on it with room to spare. "For a twisted little cruller, you've got a gooey sweet center too!"

"A little louder, Jane. I don't think they heard you over in Oakwood!" Daria threw a couple of her candies across the table, causing Jane to flinch and block with her hands as she laughed.

"Next thing you're going to be telling be is that you two started making out on the couch and your folks walked in!" Jane said, still laughing.

"Well, you're partly right," Daria said, turning as red as Jane's jacket. "But nobody came home till almost midnight, and they wouldn't have caught us anyway, we were up in my room.

"Oop!!" Daria covered her mouth with both hands when she realized what she had just blurted out.

"What??" Jane asked, slack jawed and wide eyed.

"Oh, God, I can't believe I'm telling you this," Daria said, putting her head on the table for a moment. When she looked up, a ZooZoo Drop was stuck in her bangs, and she tugged it out with a wince. "We went up to my room . . ."

"And?" Jane prompted.

"And . . ."

"And??" Jane prompted, getting impatient. "Dammit! I hate it when you do this!"

"And we were . . . experimenting," Daria finally finished with a fierce blush.

" 'Experimenting?' " Jane asked, her grin seemingly getting wider. "As in you found your Dad's old chemistry set and went out and blew the door off of the garage kind of 'experimenting?' Or as in put two teenagers in a room with a gallon of boiling hormones and see what gets cooked up kind of 'experimenting?' "

"The second one," Daria mumbled, hiding her face in her hands.

"Well, good God, girl! We just might get you to join the human race yet!" Jane almost crowed.

The subject of what transpired between Daria and Tom on their six month anniversary had never really came up again until almost a month later. Daria had just scored yet another ten dollars off of Jane, betting on DeMartino's next insult. Jane had bet on 'imbeciles', and Daria had taken 'morons.' Jane thought that it should have been a draw when DeMartino came out with 'imbecilic morons,' but Daria argued that imbecilic was an adjective to morons, and Jane couldn't find anything to contradict that argument.

"You know, these little bets have cost you forty clams so far," Daria was saying as they walked passed Quinn and Tiffany in the hall. "If I had a self-image, I'd think you were bribing me to be your friend."

"Bet you the whole forty I'm not," Jane retorted. She'd have to win a bet soon, here. This was starting to get expensive.

"Nice try," Daria replied.

"Wait," Jane said with a sudden shake of her head and a confused look. That was the fourth reference to seafood that she had made since that morning. " 'Clams?' "

"Ooh," Daria groaned as Stacy Rowe walked passed them and started in on someone bad shoe choices with Quinn and Tiffany. "I swear, I've had seafood on the brain all day for some reason. It's getting ridiculous."

"How come?" Jane asked. "I didn't think you liked sea food all that much."

"I don't, but I am getting well and truly sick of lasagna at home," Daria replied.

"There's always pizza," Jane chipperly suggested.

"I don't know," Daria said, putting a hand on her stomach. "The last couple of days, pizza seems to have lost it's allure too."

"Are you okay?" Jane asked as they arrived at their lockers.

"I'll live," Daria said as she opened her locker. "Tell you what, let's skip lunch and hit that fish fry place across the street."

"Okay."

It was easy enough to get out of school during the lunch period, since a fair number of kids hit the restaurants in the small strip mall. A few minutes later, they were sitting at their favorite spot outside the library munching on a large order of breaded whitefish, popcorn shrimp, and fries.

"So what brought on this sudden craving for seafood?" Jane asked, scooping up some cocktail sauce on a bit of shrimp.

"I just needed to avoid the lunch room for a while," Daria replied. "That place is starting to make me nauseous."

"Oh, okay, I'm convinced," Jane replied in a tone of voice that indicate exactly the opposite. She popped the shrimp into her mouth, chewed three times, and swallowed. "Come on, Daria. What's on your mind?"

"Jane," Daria said with a sigh. "Can I ask you something very personal?"

"Of course."

"Very, very personal?"

God, here we go again. I hate it when she does this, Jane thought. "What, Daria?"

"Have you ever been . . . well, late?" Daria asked quietly, hiding her embarrassment by taking a bite of her piece of whitefish.

"You mean late for class?" Jane asked. When Daria shook her head, Jane knew exactly what she was talking about. "Well, yeah. Last summer, but I was pretty stressed out there for a while too."

"Mmm." Daria said around a mouthful of fish.

"You know, you should be talking to your mother about something like this, right?" Jane asked.

"I wish. She got pulled into this great big case her firm's been working on and she's been pulling sixteen hour days again," Daria said after she swallowed.

"I won't even suggest your dad," Jane said. "What about your Aunt Amy?"

"Wish I could, she's been out of touch for about a week," Daria said. "Her last e-mail said something about New York, but I haven't been able to get a hold of her."

"So, why would you be late?" Jane asked, resigning herself to the position she was in.

"Well, remember that I told you that Tom and I had done some . . . experimenting?" Daria asked.

"Yeah, your six month anniversary," Jane said, popping another shrimp, and smirking to herself.

"Yeah, well," Daria muttered, nudging the small pile of fries on her napkin. "We did a little more than . . . just experiment."

"Oh," Jane said, popping yet another shrimp into her mouth.

Then the light dawned.

"Wait one pea pickin' minute," Jane said as her chewing slowed. "You mean you and Tom . . . did --"

"The 'Big Experiment,' " Daria said, turning fiercely red. "Yeah."

Jane's head whipped back and forth as she quickly scanned the quad around them, making sure that none of the school gossips were within ear shot. If the wrong ears got wind of this, it would spread through Lawndale High like a wildfire through a drought ridden forest. Thankfully, it was all clear.

"Daria!! That's great!" Jane exclaimed as quietly as she could, leaning in towards her friend. Her voice was a mixture of shock, disbelief, and amazement. Then a thought struck her. "Please tell me you used protection!"

"Yes, yes, of course we used protection!" Daria said, turning slightly red. "The damn thing was neon pink. I could have killed him!"

Jane burst out laughing, and nearly choked on her shrimp in the process. Jane waved off Daria's look of concern and washed down the remaining sea food with a slug of cola. It took a few moments before Jane was able to breath again.

"So it was neon pink? So what? So what are you worried about?" Jane said, catching her breath. Then another thought struck her. "It didn't break or something?"

"No no, it didn't break, at least not that we could tell," Daria said.

"Daria, you need to relax," Jane said, placing a hand on her friends shoulder. "You've had your first roll in the hay, with hopefully many more to follow. The you-know-what worked the way it was supposed to, so who cares what color it was!"

Daria just looked at her lap.

"So," Jane asked quietly, a smirk evident her voice, as well as on her face. "Did you guys repeat the Big Experiment at all since then? You know, it's the hallmark of a good researcher to repeat her experiments and compare the results."

"Jane!" Daria whispered, mortified that someone would hear them. She speared Jane with a dirty look, before it softened in to an embarrassed smirk. "Well, a couple of times since then. It's not like we do it every time we're together."

"Are they still neon pink?"

"Jane!!"

"Okay, okay!" Jane backed off under the harsh glare that Daria was blasting her with. "So what's the problem?"

"Well, what if Tom's only in this for the, um, physical aspects of the relationship now?" Daria asked. "I mean we still talk about a lot of things, but sometimes I wonder what he really thinks about after we, well, you know."

"Wait. You're worried about what Tom thinks of you since your relationship has gotten physically intimate?" Jane asked, and got a nod in reply. "Well, there's why! You've probably been wound tighter than your mother on her worst day for three weeks or more, so it's no wonder you're late. Give yourself a couple of days to chill out, talk to Tom, and everything will be fine."

"Well, I suppose that would make sense," Daria replied, picking up her cola. Jane knew that she would be looking that information up the first chance she got.

"Either way, there's definitely one good thing that will come out of this," Jane said with a smirk.

"What's that?" Daria asked, starting to take a long drink from her straw.

"I can now officially never say that you've never had 'it' in you," Jane said with a deadpan.

It looked to Jane that Daria must have passed half her soda through her nose. Pity most of it had landed on the fries. They weren't half bad.

~~~~~~

Jane had been right, Daria remembered. Once she had convinced her self that nothing was wrong and relaxed some, things once again returned to their normal timetable, albeit delayed a few days. Daria still amazed herself, from time to time, that as smart as she was, she could overlook something that relatively simple. She had confirmed it, of course, first by cutting out of Ms. Barch's science class and having a quick conversation with the school nurse, then by referring to a couple of medical sites on the internet.

Her conversation with Tom a couple of nights later had also gone pretty much as she had expected, after her talk with Jane. He had assured her that, just because their relationship had advanced in the sexual department, it didn't mean that they were losing any ground in the intellectual side of their relationship. The two had talked long into the night about that, as well as the other things that they usually ended up talking about. Daria remembered thinking that it would have been a simple enough thing to bring that particular subject up in her room that night, but she admittedly had other things on her mind.

Of course it would have been just as simple to keep your skirt down where it belongs to begin with, Daria chided herself. Then you wouldn't be in this mess.

But part of her refused to believe that she was actually in any mess until she saw some kind of proof, one way or the other. And in her hand, wrapped as it was in Jane's, she would soon be holding that proof.

"Dammit, this is taking too long," Daria said quietly.

"Daria, we just have to be patient," Jane replied.

"What if we screwed up and this thing doesn't work?" Daria asked, then thought 'We?' God, I'm acting like Jane has a stake in this too. It'd be easy enough for her to find a new best friend. It's not like she's . . .she's. . .

"Hey, we both read the instructions four times. Pee on the stick, put it in the cover, and wait five minutes," Jane said. "I'm pretty sure we didn't make a mistake,"

"We didn't. I did," Daria said blackly. "I should have punched him in the mouth instead of kissing him on it."

"Hey now, none of that," Jane said, putting her free arm around Daria's shoulders. "Yes, Tom's a schmuck, but I think he'll do the right thing when the chips are down."

Daria just sat and looked at the Early Pregnancy Test device clenched in her hand for a long minute.

"Dammit, this is taking to long," Daria said again.

"Patience, kid," Jane said, squeezing her friend's shoulders. "Only a few more minutes."

~~~~~~

A couple of weeks after Daria and Jane's conversation out on the quad, Daria had found herself in the kitchen in search of a snack. After a thorough search of the cupboards and refrigerator, Daria could find nothing that looked even remotely appetizing. In fact, a fair portion of what was there gave her a bit of a knot in her stomach, until she came across a box of chocolate ice cream. That was the only thing that her stomach didn't rebel at the thought of eating, which surprised her a little. Deciding against a bowl, she simply fished a spoon out of the silverware drawer, sat down at the table, and began to eat.

Before she had managed to eat more than a couple of spoonfuls, Quinn came walking in with the telephone perched on her shoulder. Ignoring Daria, she went straight to the refrigerator and pulled out a plate of carrot sticks.

"Well, of course I don't mind that you're looking for new members, Stacy," Quinn was saying as she went over to the island and began slicing them. "Who were you thinking of?"

Daria looked on in silence as her sister listened to the roster of Fashion Club hopefuls.

"You can't let Gina into the Fashion Club. Her teeth are thick," Quinn said, then listened for a second. "Heidi?! With the clogs?!"

Okay, that's obviously a negative, Daria thought as she continued eating.

"Gee, I guess there really aren't any suitable girls at school. Maybe the club should break up," Quinn mused. Evidently that wasn't the right thing to say to Stacy, but it did get the wheels in Daria's mind turning. "Stacy, stop crying. Stacy...! "

Either Quinn didn't want to keep up the conversation with Stacy crying her eyes out, or Stacy decided that it was too painful a subject, because Quinn hung up the telephone with a sigh a moment later.

"Ice cream out of the carton?" Quinn asked as she walked over to the table. "You're going to end up like Sandi!"

"I suppose your friendship is over now that she can't squeeze into a size zero," Daria said as Quinn put her plate down.

"Daria, I am not shallow." Quinn said, putting her hands on her hips. "Besides, it's not like Sandi's gotten ugly or anything."

Gotcha, Daria thought as an idea sprang to mind.

"Wow, I've really misjudged you," Daria said in a faux impressed tone. "I never realized you'd be willing to sacrifice your own popularity for the sake of friendship."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you and I both know how society discriminates against the overweight, even to the point of shunning them," Daria said. "The old Quinn might even have done it herself. But this new Quinn? Willing to stick by her friend no matter how heavy she gets, even if it costs you your own status? Wow. Simply wow."

"Um... yeah," Quinn said slowly, looking not a little guilty. That look told Daria that she had Quinn right where she wanted her.

"Some more shallow friend might try to make Sandi lose weight so she could rejoin the Fashion Club and return life to normal, but not you," Daria continued, pressing home for the proverbial kill. "You accept her as she is. Kudos to you, Quinn Morgendorffer."

"Uh... thanks!" Quinn said as a plan of her own formed, just as Daria expected it would. "Got to go!"

Quinn hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs. She had a few things to get together before heading over to Sandi's. She knew how to get the Fashion Club back on its feet again. It would take some time, and some work convincing Sandi, but she could pull it off.

Wait a second, Quinn thought as she got to the door of her bedroom. Daria's allergic to milk fat. Why is she eating ice cream?

Quinn quickly collected a her back pack, spare house keys, and a few other things before heading back down stairs. She was going to tell Daria that she was heading off to Sandi's, but when she started to turn the corner to the kitchen, she came to an abrupt halt. Daria was still at the table, talking on the phone to someone and eating her ice cream. Quinn, unnoticed, watched in fascinated disgust as Daria picked up one of the abandon carrot pieces, swiped it through the ice cream, and popped the whole thing in her mouth.

EEWWW! Quinn thought with a sickened wince as she backed up around the corner and headed for the front door instead. She left the house quickly, before the thought of what she'd just saw gave her away.

Why would Daria be eating a disgusting combination like that!? Quinn thought as she headed down the sidewalk. The only people who eat stuff like that are gross-out geeks and pregnant people.

Quinn came to an screeching halt as she realized she had put "Daria" and "pregnant" together in the same thought. She looked back at the house for a moment.

"Oh God, Quinn, get real!" Quinn said to herself as she turned again and continued on. She had more important things to think about than something that ridiculous.

Another week or two would pass before the subject of Tom and Daria's adventures in experimentation would come up yet again, and rather suddenly. Daria and Jane had been sitting in O'Neill's class listening to his lecture on modern day remakes of classic Greek and Roman legends. Daria's stomach had been bothering her all day, not that she'd been trying to let on, but Jane had noticed that Daria's color was definitely off. She had also seen Daria put her hand to her mouth a couple of times that morning in order to conceal a burp that Jane would get a whiff of, much to her chagrin.

"...Now, take for example, the legends of the Greek god Hercules, and television series 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,' " O'Neill babbled on. "How do the more modern representations compare to the original legends, and the messages they deliver?"

"Oooo, that Kevin Sorbo is so dreamy," Brittany was heard to comment, absently twirling her hair around her finger.

"Aww, thanks babe," Kevin Thompson replied, clueless as usual. "But you know my last name's Thompson."

"Not you, that Hercules guy on T.V," Brittany said, giving Kevin a goofy look.

"Twenty bucks says O'Neill's 'mystified,' " Jane whispered to Daria, continuing their ongoing betting contest.

"My money's on 'befuddled,' " Daria replied with a sidelong glance at Jane.

"Oh, yeah!" Kevin exclaimed, finally getting a couple of brain cells firing. "He's got that cool space ship, and that hot robot babe! You mean he's the guy those geek dudes were talkin' about? Cool!"

"Oh, Kevin," O'Neill said with a mixture of disappointment and confusion. "I really must say that your almost criminal lack of an ability to absorb anything from this class, even after all this time, has left me completely . . ."

"Say it," Daria whispered.

"Starts with an 'm,' " Jane whispered.

" . . . Stymied!" O'Neill finished.

"Damn," Daria and Jane whispered simultaneously.

Jane looked over at Daria as she once again put her hand to her mouth, to try and stifle a belch. Jane cocked an eyebrow at her friend as she raised her other hand.

"Kevin, you and I need to talk after -- Yes, Daria?" O'Neill said, noticing her hand.

"Mr. O'Neill, can I be excused," Daria asked from behind her hand. "I don't feel well, all of a sudden."

"Oh dear, of course, Daria!" O'Neill said as Daria stood up.

"Thank yo-oop!" Daria sprinted for the door at a pace that Jane was rather impressed by, for about a tenth of a second.

"Daria?" Jane said as her friend beat a hasty exit. She then grabbed her friend's backpack, as well as her own, and took off out of the door after her.

"Oh, my," O'Neill said, watching the two girls run from the room. At that moment the bell rang and brought him back to more important matters. "Oh, yes. Now, Kevin, we really need to talk."

Jane caught up to Daria as she was finishing emptying the contents of her stomach into one of the Girl's room commodes. Jane heard the telltale sound of flushing, and saw the soles of Daria's boots poking out from under the door of the last stall in line.

"Daria's boots? When Daria's finished tossing her cookies, would you let her know I'm out here?" Jane said as she walked up.

"Ha ha, Jane," Daria quipped back from behind the door. She sounded a little hoarse.

"You okay there, amiga?" Jane asked as she watched Daria's boots stand up.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Daria replied as she opened the door and headed for the sinks.

"Oh, yeah, I just figured you missed your morning puke session at home, and decided to get caught up here in school," Jane said as she followed her friend, setting her back pack on the shelf above the sinks. "I brought your pack."

"Thanks," Daria said as she turned on the water. She leaned over and scooped a couple of handfuls of water into her mouth, sloshed it around, and spit, then repeated the procedure. After the fourth repetition, she decided that the taste in her mouth was back to something approaching normal. Then she reached into her pack and pulled out a bottle of pink stuff.

"What's that for?" Jane asked as Daria took a swig straight from the bottle.

"My stomach's been upset for that last few days, " Daria said, recapping the bottle and replacing it in her pack. "Either school's giving me an ulcer, or it's my Dad's cooking. He got a new book on Malaysian Cuisine, if it can be called that."

"Now, those are two reasons that I can actually believe," Jane said, leaning against the sink. "However, I don't think either of them have a damn thing to do with why you just tossed your breakfast. Your folks know?"

"It hasn't been that bad," Daria said, starting to wash her hands. "This is the first time I've thrown up, though."

"So, you and Tom been doing the 'Big Experiment' again?" Jane asked with an evil little smirk. "Thinking about going out and finding some more 'laboratory' space?"

"No!" Daria immediately replied, then smirked a little. "Well, yeah. Not that it's any of your business."

"Hey, you were stressing yourself silly over it before," Jane said as she turned on the water and started to wash her hands for lack of anything better to do. "I was just wondering if you were doing the same thing over it now."

"Well, I'm not," Daria said as she hit the soap dispenser with the heel of her hand. "Besides, we haven't, uh, recreated the Big Experiment for the last few days because my stomach's been acting up, so that has nothing to do with it. Besides, we've found . . . other things to do to keep our minds occupied."

"You mean he can do other things besides go at it like a horny rabbit?" Jane asked, looking at Daria in the mirror with feigned disbelief. "Damn, if he's that talented, I shoulda jumped that boy when I had the chance!"

"Now I really am going to be sick," Daria said as they both started to chuckle.

Both girls clammed up quick and concentrated on their hands as Stacy Rowe stormed in to the bathroom and took the sink furthest from them. She yanked her pack partway off, snatched a brush from it, and flipped it back onto her shoulder. Then she violently grabbed one of her pigtails and started yanking the brush through the end. All the while she was grumbling and growling to herself. It was obvious to Daria and Jane that she was pissed about something.

"Do you think we should tell her it's easier to speak if you open your mouth?" Jane asked as she dried her hands.

"Stacy, what time is the Fashion Club meeting today?" Tiffany asked as she walked up to the sink

"There is no meeting," Stacy grumbled back.

Oh ho, here we go, Jane thought. Here's where Daria and I settle this little bet, and I got eighty big ones riding on this!

"How co--" Tiffany started to ask, but was cut off by Stacy.

"How come?!" Stacy fired back, clearly having had enough. "Because I can't take it anymore. I'm sick of doing all the work while you just sit there. I tried my best, and even if it wasn't as good as Sandi's or Quinn's, a chain is only as strong as its weakest round thingy, and you refused to lift one freakin' finger!"

Go, Stacy, go! Jane silently cheered behind a deadpan look.

"I'm through running the Fashion Club all by myself while you stare... in the mirror... and talk... about yourself... and I - I - I quit!"

"Hmm, maybe I should quit, too," Tiffany said slowly, not getting it as usual.

Cha-Ching!

Stacy shrieked in frustration and stormed out of the bathroom. Tiffany watched her go as though nothing had happened, then she pulled a pair of silver tweezers out of her handbag, looked in the mirror, and began plucking her eyebrows.

"You saw it here first," Jane said triumphantly. "The Fashion Club is dead. Pay me my eighty smackers."

Daria had to admit that it certainly looked that way. She pulled out her money and, as she counted the eighty dollars out, she began to figure a way to win it back.

It turned out that she didn't need to. Two minutes later, they were walking down the corridor towards lunch as Jane counted her winnings, where they came across a small crowd of students gathered in the middle of the hall.

"Don't look now, but I think the guy with the balloon animals is back," Daria said, noticing the two girls who were at the center of the small group

"It's Sandi!" Stacy was heard to exclaim. "And she's... thin!"

Spotting Quinn and a newly slimmed down Sandi in the center of the crowd, Jane tossed her winnings in the air with a groan and let them flutter to the floor at Daria's feet.

I give up, Jane thought in disgust.

It was the week that Daria's invitation to the Camp Grizzly reunion had arrived that Daria had finally decided to talk to Tom about some of the things that had been happening that she felt he ought to know about. They had planned on an evening of pizza and television before she, along with Quinn, was whisked off to Camp Grizzly by Trent and Jane, who were going to spend a day in the sticks trying to relight Trent's creative fire. Meantime, the two were killing a little time by driving around in Tom's beat up Jag before hitting Pizza King.

"Actually, camp was a lot like school," Daria was saying. "Simply add blisters and the occasional bout of poison ivy, and replace an empty headed football star with a sadistic dictator wannabe and there's really very little difference. And, like high school, they organize reunions so that you can remember the humiliation with those that heaped it upon you."

"Wow," Tom said. "My folks always took us up to the cove for a month with my aunt. Doesn't really compare to something like that. But then, watching my aunt try to play matchmaker for Elsie and then watching them clash over it has an entertainment value all it's own."

"At least your sister isn't bringing home a different date every other night, like Quinn is," Daria replied, looking out the passenger side window

"There is that," Tom said, looking over.

"Mmm," was all Daria said in return.

"Daria, is something wrong?" Tom asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it's obvious that you're not thrilled about going back to your old summer camp, but you've been acting something else is bothering you ever since I picked you up," Tom said.

Damn, he's getting to know me too well, Daria thought, not answering.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Tom asked.

"Not really, but . . ." Daria shifted in her seat so she could face Tom. "This is not going to be the easiest subject in the world to talk about with a guy. Are you sure that you want to hear this before we eat?"

"Daria," Tom said patiently. "You can talk to me about anything. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, well," Daria said, than hesitated for a second as Tom waited patiently. "You know how we've started getting more, um, physical in the last couple of months?"

"Daria," Tom said with a smile. "I told you before. I don't think any less of our relationship just because we've started getting 'physical.' "

"That's not it," Daria said. "When we had that conversation, I didn't tell you that I was, well . . . acoupledayslateformyperiod."

"What?" Tom asked, not sure he heard right.

"Please don't make me say it again," Daria replied with a plaintive look.

"Oooo-kay," Tom said with a cocked eyebrow.

"Anyway, it finally came after I relaxed a couple of days, so there's nothing to worry about," Daria assured him. "What I'm trying to get at is that I'm not very used to this intimacy thing. I, uh . . ."

"Are you saying that you want me to lay off for a while?" Tom asked as they pulled into a space in the Pizza King parking lot.

"Well, not completely," Daria replied, blushing slightly. "But I do think that we should, well, wait a couple of weeks before we go all the way again."

"I can live with that," Tom said with a small smile.

"Thanks," Daria said, leaning over to give Tom a quick kiss, which he met her halfway on.

"You know," Tom said as they sat there for a moment, foreheads touching. "I said when we started being physical that I was willing to go as fast or as slow as you wanted to. That still applies. I don't want you to be uncomfortable with the prospect of being intimate with someone."

"Thanks, Tom," Daria said, before they kissed again.

It was that weekend that Jane finally gave voice to a suspicion that Daria's mysterious stomach ailment had planted in her mind. It had come up when Jane and Trent were driving Daria back from the reunion, which they had delivered her and Quinn out to that morning. Thankfully, Quinn had found a ride back with someone else that evening. That left Daria and Jane in relative peace and privacy with Trent, who was in the process of composing the next Mystik Spiral hit, thanks to an old couple and their backwoods country store.

On the way back, Daria's stomach had started acting up again, but she figured that it had more to do with Skip Stevens' lousy hamburgers than anything else. Trent wanted to stop by the country store again, but a couple of not so thinly veiled threats from Jane convinced him to continue on to someplace a little more modern to pick up gas and provisions on the way back. As Trent refueled the Tank, Daria and Jane ducked into the restroom of the highway side mini mall that the gas station was part of. Jane remembered thinking that the place was surprisingly clean, considering.

"Dammit," Daria muttered from one of the restroom stalls as Jane washed up.

"What is it?" Jane asked. "Someone put 'For a Good Time Call Quinn Morgendorffer' on the wall before you could?"

"No, I'm --" Daria mumbled something that Jane couldn't make out.

"What was that?" Jane asked as Daria exited the stall.

"I said I'm late again," Daria repeated, looking embarrassed and angry at the same time.

"What, again?" Jane asked, certain seeds of familiarity with the situation growing in the back of her memory. She'd been through this once before, long before she met Daria, Jane was certain of it. The pieces were just now beginning to fall into place. "You and Tom performed the horizontal mambo before we left on this little trip, didn't you?"

"Gee, Jane, thank you for asking," Daria grumbled, heading for the sink. She was starting to wish that Jane would let the subject drop. "We got together for a few hours, but we didn't do anything, alright?"

Daria turned on the water and began to wash her hands, while looking at Jane in the mirror.

"Since the last time I was late, I went back and did some figuring," Daria said as she washed her hands. "It should have started yesterday and it . . . Ohboy urp!"

Daria clamped her hands over her mouth for a second, then vomited in the sink.

Jane supported her friend as best as she could, keeping Daria's hair out of the way, and grabbing her glasses before they fell into the vile mess in the sink. The putrid smell in the room was immediately forgotten as those seeds of a memory suddenly burst into full bloom -- with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb.

Summer! Jane immediately remembered, her stomach dropping into her boots. Oh, hellfire and damnation! That's why this seems so familiar all of a sudden! Summer had a false period the first month she was pregnant with Adrian! And Daria was late last month, but had a period, and is late again this month, and . . . Oh my god, she could be --

"Son of a bitch!" Jane exclaimed out loud.

"Jeez, Jane, I'm sorry," Daria said crossly, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "If this bothers you, you can leave you know."

"No no no, Daria, that's not it," Jane said, trying to explain as Daria moved to a clean sink. "When you said you were late again, I ..It sparked a memory."

"What memory is that?" Daria asked, washing her mouth out with cold water.

"My sister Summer," Jane started to explain as she handed Daria back her glasses.

"What?" Daria asked when Jane didn't continue.

"When she was pregnant with my nephew Adrian," Jane said slowly, not wanting to think what she was thinking. "The first month of the pregnancy, she had a false period. She didn't find out she was pregnant until she'd missed the next one by almost two and a half weeks."

"Wait," Daria said, shaking her head and taking a step backwards. "You can't be suggesting that . . ."

"Believe me, Daria, I wish I wasn't but it fits," Jane said.

"But we used a condom!" Daria replied, a little fear evident in her voice. "The damn thing was neon pink, for God's sake! I put . . . Omigod I'm not even going to go there!"

"Wait . . . " Jane said, another memory coming back in a slightly smaller mushroom cloud. "This neon pink condom you used the first time wouldn't have been in a gold wrapper, would it?"

"Yeah," Daria gulped. "Why?"

"Because," Jane said, screwing her eyes shut at the memory. "The night Tom and I met at McGrundy's and left you with Trent, we went to Cluster Burger and started joking around. He bet me dinner that I wouldn't go into the Men's room and buy a condom from the machine in there. He didn't think I would do it, but I did it, and he put it in his wallet."

When she opened her eyes and looked at Daria, her friend looked like she didn't know whether to cry or scream.

"Oh God! You mean --?" Daria stammered.

"That condom was probably over a year old," Jane said morosely. Jane leaned back against the bathroom wall and thumped the back of her head against it a couple of times. Why the hell didn't I remember this a month ago?

"I could be . . ." Daria couldn't finish the sentence. "It could have . . ."

Jane just nodded.

"Oh God. What do I do?" Daria asked Jane helplessly.

~~~~~~

Jane had been the more level headed one of the pair. The two girls went from the restrooms to the pharmacy and purchased a home pregnancy test kit. If the cashier there had any thoughts as to why two eighteen year old girls would be getting such a thing, he wisely kept those thoughts to himself. They stuffed the kit into a plain brown bag so as not to arouse Trent's suspicions, then the two of them piled back into the Tank and all three of them returned to Lawndale. To say that the tension filled silence that dominated the rest of the trip back was stifling would have been a monumental understatement.

Trent dropped Jane and Daria off at the Lane house, and continued into town in order to return the van to Max, and pick up his own car. Daria and Jane immediately locked themselves in Jane's room and poured over the instructions and various bits and pieces in the test kit. It was indeed fairly simple. Urinate on the end of the test device and slide it into the cover, then wait approximately five minutes. When the time is up, check the clear box. Plus sign means pregnant. Minus sign means not.

The problem was that Daria was so nervous and scared that she couldn't have gone to the bathroom if she wanted to. To that end, Jane went down to the kitchen and brought up a pitcher of juice and rubbed Daria's shoulders in an effort to get her to relax, while Daria sipped Kool-aid in an effort to calm her nerves and kick start her bladder. Half an hour, and three glasses of juice later, Daria finally had to go. It was a good thing too, Jane's hands were getting tired.

Now they both sat, hands around the E.P.T. device, waiting for the egg timer to run out and science to tell them . . . something.

"I can't be pregnant, Jane," Daria said, her voice shaking. "I don't care what this freaking test says, I can't be pregnant."

"Daria, it's going to be okay," Jane said, hugging her friend.

"Like hell it is. Do you know what my Dad's going to do if I'm pregnant?" Daria asked. "Assuming he doesn't have a massive heart attack this time, or a stroke, he's going to kill Tom and lock me up somewhere till I'm old and gray. And that's only if he doesn't disown me outright. Mom will probably sue the Sloanes for every penny they've got and, if she gets to Tom before Dad does, she'll probably put you, me, and him up against a wall and have us shot or something. And if they don't, I'll definitely show him what these boots are best used for."

"Why me?" Jane asked. "I didn't do anything."

"Guilt by association. You went out with Tom first, so you should have been the one to get knocked up," Daria replied sourly. She leaned into Jane, putting her head on Jane's shoulder. "I can't do this, Jane."

"Yeah, you can," Jane said. "I'll help, and so will Trent, and Tom will, too."

"Mom won't give him a choice," Daria said. "Dammit, Jane, I wanted to sit in my Montana cabin and read and write and thumb my nose at the idiots that make up normal society. I don't want to change diapers for four years. I can't stand kids. I couldn't stand kids when I was a kid! Hell, I'm still a kid!"

"Daria, you are not going to go through this alone, I promise." Jane said, pulling her friend close. Daria and Jane just closed their eyes and waited.

CHRRRING!! the timer finally went.

"AAH!!" both girls jumped slightly at the sudden sound. It took them a moment to get their breath back.

"I guess it's time to see," Daria said. She looked down at the device in their hands, silently wishing that she could wake up from this nightmare.

"I guess," Jane said, looking down at their hands as well. "How about I go first, hmm?"

"Okay," Daria said quietly. It was a silly question for Jane to ask, since she was holding Daria's hand closed around the pinkish white E.P.T device, but it made Daria feel better. Jane slowly opened her fingers an moved her hand so that she held Daria's in her open palm.

"I guess it's your turn now," Jane said to Daria.

"I guess," Daria replied.

Daria she tried to open her hand, but couldn't quite get her fingers to work. She took a deep shuddering breath.

"Ya know, Jane," Daria said, her voice cracking. "I keep thinking that this is some big, terrifying dream and any minute I'm going to wake up."

"It's okay, Daria," Jane said, tearing up a little her self. She had never seen Daria so scared.

"Okay," Daria said, taking a one last deep breath and letting it out. "Okay. Here we go . ."

Very slowly, very shakily, Daria unclenched her fingers, revealing the small clear window on the testing device, and the answer it held.

[+]

Daria bit her lip, her eyes almost as wide as her glasses. Her brain refused to process the information that her eyes were sending to it. Daria's mouth opened and closed a couple of times, but no sound came out. The only things she was conscious of were the sound of blood rushing in her ears and the suddenly enormous weight of the small plastic device in her hand.

Jane looked at Daria as, after a long minute, Daria finally tore her eyes of the testing device and slowly turned to face her. For the moment, the smart, sarcastic young woman that had been sitting there a minute before was gone. In her place was a scared, eighteen year old girl whose life had just been turned upside down and shaken by the heels of its boots.

"I'm pregnant," Daria whispered, breaking down quickly. "I'm pre . . . I'm preg . . .

Jane wrapped her arms around her friend and held Daria close as she began to cry.

"It'll be okay, mi amiga," Jane said as Daria wept. "I'm right here."

It was going to be a long senior year.

to be continued

Author's notes:

First of all, thanks and credit where it is due.

A special Thank You to Roger, Tafka, Robert, Nomad, and Deref for beta reading my material. Your suggestions have served to make this story better than it could be if I had only worked on it on my own, without consulting others. I would also like to thank the members of the Paperpusher's Message Board for making me fall off my chair laughing and alternately making me think long and hard about various aspects of this story when I brought up the premise. On a more local scene, I would like to thank the people at work who read my work while I hovered in the middle distance and tried to gauge their reactions to the story. That kind of feedback is almost as important as the technical stuff, and a lot more fun to watch.

On other fronts, for those of you now screaming "What happens next?!?!" at the top of their lungs, I fully intend to continue this storyline, wrapping it in the major events of Daria Season Five. I'm the first to admit that this is going to be some trick, but I'm looking forward to it.

Well, with that, Thank You for reading my story.

Questions? Comemnts? Even better - a route to Lawndale??

Send 'em to Greystar@Hotmail.com

~~~{ Finis }~~~