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Chapter 7

It was a balmy night in Lawndale, the muggy air only occasionally relieved by a whispering but undependable breeze. In something of a contemplative mood, Trent walked the streets, thinking to visit McMally's Music while he was at it for a pack of guitar strings. Looking through the window of Pizza King, a sight met his eyes that triggered something of a painful pang, deep in his chest.

There sat Daria and Tom, sharing a pizza pie, probably talking about super-intelligent things, like how best to go about saving the world. Or, perhaps more likely, knowing those two, how the world was going to end. Either way, it was a conversation he and Daria would probably never have. He and Daria never seemed to talk much, in their repeated rendezvous in his room. Their relationship was of more of a physical nature. Lustful. Carnal. But even though the thought of his last encounter with Daria made him groan softly to himself, it wasn't as though he wouldn't have liked to hear what was on Daria's mind.

It just never seemed to turn out that way. The moment they set foot into his room she would touch him with those cool slender fingers, and he would completely be undone. What followed would pull sighs and moans from those soft lips, but never explanations of the many thoughts quickly flitting behind evaluative eyes. Trent found that even though it was perhaps his touch that shook her world, he envied Tom that particular intimacy.

Trent envied those conversations, whether mundane as the weather or intellectual as existentialism. He envied the all the little things people dating do together outside of sex, like going to a movie, eating a pizza, taking a walk. Being seen in public together. It was the thought of all these things people do when they're in love that caused such an ache deep inside; because somewhere along the line, Trent knew he had fallen in love with Daria.

Not that he could really complain about what he had with her. What she trusted him with. The most age-old of intimacies, the knowledge of every curve of her body. She was so soft, so sweet, and the way those lips parted with a sigh as his fingers slid across her skin...It was a gift, he knew, to be trusted in such a way by Daria. Yet after so many nights with her, so many glorious nights, he couldn't help but wish for more.

But he was her dirty secret in the closet. Her lover on the sly. Maybe if he were a stronger person, he would have come clean with Daria. Asked for more. Asked for a decision: him or me. Why didn't he? Perhaps he didn't because he felt fairly certain he would end up on the losing end...Tom was her type. Intelligent. College bound. About to change the world, in one way or another. Trent decided he would take what he could get, just to be close to her warmth, her strength, just a little bit longer. Soon she and Janey would be leaving for college, and he would be left all alone.

He'd always told himself it was ok to do what he was doing, to still be living in his parent's house, because someone had to be there for Janey. Maybe the closer truth was that they raised each other, but still. He was her big brother. He had to do right by her. But now Jane had graduated. It was June...she would be leaving in August, off to new adventures with Daria. Both of his girls were leaving him.

The thought made him groan again, for an entirely different reason. What would he do? The band could go somewhere...if they could just get their shit together. Meaning him too. Getting to practice on time. Writing new songs, better songs. They had to grow...it was funny, how just being with Daria inspired a desire to do better in Trent. A desire to actually try. It was so easy before to sleep until 2:00, go to band practice hours late, maybe play a gig, hook up with Monique, and do it all over again the next day. Where did all those days go? He was 22 years old...and suddenly painfully aware that he had nothing to show for it.

It wasn't simply a desire to impress Daria, knowing deep down he wasn't good enough for a girl like her, but a new, almost alien need, to move forward. To find something new, something better. Did he really want to stay in Lawndale forever? Of course not. He'd had fantasies before, of some agent swooping down, gaga for Spiral's sound and demanding to fly them out to L.A. for a signing deal. It had been his plan for a while. His fantasy, and in a way he'd convinced himself that it was bound to happen any time now. Every day, every gig, any time now.

A little bit older, a little bit wiser, and Trent knew that without more effort on Mystic's part, they hadn't a chance in hell.

OOOOOO

Tom watched Daria from across the table at Pizza King, something of a sick apprehension clenching in his stomach. It could never be said that she was a bubbly girl (Quinn had taken ALL of the genes for that), but tonight she seemed even more morose than usual.

Life with Daria had taken an unexpected turn for the sweet, since the first night they'd made love. He'd noticed a change in her, every time they touched. She'd gained more confidence, seemed more sure of herself, seemed less afraid of him. Somewhere she'd found the courage and creativity to try some things even his wandering mind wouldn't have come up with...he even couldn't help but wonder where she herself had gotten the idea. Had she been anyone else, he maybe would have suspected her of cheating...

"What's wrong, Daria?" he asked, reaching across the table to take her hand. She hadn't touched the pepperoni slice on the plate in front of her, but had surely memorized its pizza-intricacies thoroughly, for the time she spent staring down at it.

She squeezed his hand, a grim smile ghosting across her mouth. That mouth he loved to kiss...by the look in her eyes, he had a sudden fear he would not be engaging in that beloved pastime in the near future.

Mournfully, unable to look him in the eye, Daria said, "I've been thinking about the future. We've graduated now, and are going to college at different universities..."

Tom swallowed hard, knowing he'd heard the death knell of their love ringing somewhere in the air between them.

Nothing would ever be the same again.

OOOOOO

Her knock going unanswered, Daria followed the usual protocol of the Lane household, simply just letting herself in. "Hello?" No answer, no lights, and heavy slanted shadows cut across the walls of the living room, signaling the coming dusk. She continued her search, traipsing up the stairs, to find Trent's door cracked. The sound of his acoustic floated through, signaling his presence in the house, even if he drifted in his own musical imagination.

Sneaking past, in search of Jane, Daria pushed open the next door, only to find the room vacant. Damn, she thought. How did Jane always manage to be absent when she was experiencing crises de Tom? Well, perhaps it was for the better. After all, the circumstances of she and Tom's union didn't exactly lend to awkward-free discussion with Jane. Shuffling her feet, kicking at a dried piece of paint stuck in the carpet, Daria contemplated going home. It was either that, or...

She listened to the notes floating through the walls. Was it fair to go to Trent, at this point? Well, even if she gleaned no consolation, he at least deserved to know what she'd done. In a way, he was involved, after all. She went to his door, readying to knock softly, when he switched to a new song. The notes poured from his guitar, melodic and mournful, freezing her in her tracks. Feeling something like a voyeur, but too curious to stop herself, she listened in. Trent's voice rose over the music, singing out:

Mona, Mona!

Oh how I have known you.

Never so naïve,

As to think I could own you.

I just want to be by

The strength of your skin,

Again and again, babe,

Again and again.

Can I be your Leo?

Carry you with me

Until the day I die?

Here in this room,

With you, dear Mona,

Time falls away

All else is a lie.

Mona, Mona!

You hide on the wall.

Lips curled, so eternal,

So sage, so sorrowful.

Let me lay you down beside me,

Let me dry all your tears,

Tell me your hopes, babe

Tell me your fears.

Can I be your Leo?

Carry you with me

Until the day I die?

Our time here

Isn't mine, dear Mona

When night falls away

I fear we're a lie

Our time here

Isn't mine dear

I fear we're a lie

I fear we're a lie

A lump formed in Daria's throat, that felt suspiciously like the beginnings of a sob. That was the Mona song, that Jane had been talking about. That Trent had been practicing so religiously, for months now. Well, he certainly had it down...Daria was no fool. She knew damn well who that song was about, and it wasn't the kind of song an artist would write for a weekend amusement. A lover in the strictest sense of the word...that was the kind of song a musician wrote for a woman who meant decidedly more to him. Much more.

Trent had begun to play another song, but the playing cut short after Daria accidentally released a cry. Covering her mouth in horror, she watched the door, contemplating making a run for it. Would she have time to jet down the stairs and out the door before Trent came to investigate? If she could just make it, he would never know she was here.

At the moment she tensed to sprint, Trent foiled her plans, peering out of his room. His eyes widened a bit at seeing Daria standing just outside his door. "Hey, Daria," he said, clearly wondering what she was doing lurking in the shadows. Smooth, Morgandorffer.

"Ah...hey, Trent. I was just looking for Jane, but she's not here, so I guess I'll go. Sorry to interrupt your playing..." Daria spoke quickly, backing away all the while. Two angular black eyebrows raised at her obvious fluster, Trent being unsure of what exactly caused this sudden burst of embarrassment. She hadn't acted this way around him in so long...and then he realized, she must have heard the song. God damn it.

"Daria," he called, as she was halfway to the staircase. "Please, don't go?" he outstretched a hand in invitation, finding he craved to be near her tonight much more than he'd thought. Funny, how just her presence inspired the intense need he felt, so deep in his chest.

Daria paused, examining the hand, almost as though he extended a snake towards her in offering. Just when he was positive she was going to flee down the stairs after all, she confessed sadly, "I heard your song."

"I know. Want to talk about it?"

Daria felt as though she'd swallowed a bowl full of fish, and suddenly they decided to rebel in her gut. "I..."

Don't' be such a chicken, Morgandorffer. You have to tell him about what you did sometime anyway, why not just get it over with tonight?

Swallowing hard, Daria nodded, stepping towards Trent. "I'm sorry," she whispered, taking his hand. Feeling the warmth of his long fingers wrap around her own, she felt a fraction calmer.

"It's ok," he soothed, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. "Come in?"

She nodded, and followed Trent into his room, taking a seat on the bed. She folded her hands in her lap, turning eyes down to study the tips of her boots. "So...nice song," she said. And truly, she meant it. It was beautifully played, beautifully written...it stirred a surprising medley of emotion within her, that she didn't exactly know what to make of. Not the least of which, was guilt.

Trent sighed, scratching the back of his neck. "I'm sorry, if it hurt you, or scared you, Daria...I just--"

"If it's the truth, then it's not fair to expect you to apologize for it..." Daria looked up from her boots, to meet his gaze. "Is it the truth?"

Trent's heart pounded in his chest, a thrill of fear and excitement running through his wiry limbs. So much potential hung about in this conversation, for salvation or damnation, depending on the direction of the wind. Trent contemplated his next move. Should he share? Pave some new territory? Possibly scare her away forever...well, she was leaving anyway, wasn't she? What did he have to lose? And he would admit to himself, he kind of wanted to jolt her, just a little. Give her a glimpse of what she really meant to him, and how this strange arrangement of theirs hurt him more than he ever really thought it could.

In a gesture that appeared almost painful, Trent dropped to his knees before Daria. She twitched with surprise as he reached for her leg, but allowed him to quietly remove her boots, long fingers working dexterously to unlace them. "Daria..." he sighed, hands smoothing along her bare calves, causing a quiver of desire to shoot through her limbs. Helplessly she watched as his fingers continued northwards, encroaching a few inches beneath the hem of her skirt before retreating once again. "I didn't exactly know what to expect, when this all started. The situation wasn't exactly normal." Trent turned his gaze up to hers, smoldering dark eyes nearly black in the shadows of his room. His hands reached up to cradle her face, the tips of his fingers sliding into her hair. "And we're not exactly normal."

Trent leaned in to brush lips against Daria's in a gentle kiss, reveling in the soft moist hollow that was her mouth. Though she felt unsure of where exactly he was going with this, still, she melted under his practiced touch, his gentle lethargy that seemed so characteristic only of him. She loved the way he touched her, the way he brought her passions to a slow simmer, and eventually a roiling boil that would overflow with satisfaction, yet always leave her craving more of him. She couldn't help but wonder, with a painful tightness in her chest, what part of them he thought was a lie?

As Trent deepened the kiss, Daria found herself urged backwards. Squirming beneath him, she pulled herself to the center of the bed on elbows. "At first you let me touch you under the pretense of education," he said, loving the way she sighed as he settled down atop her. She adored the weight of Trent above her, the way his hollows and curves seemed to perfectly synchronize with her own.

He shuddered as her nails drew up along his sides, tracing his ribcage and spine. "But I think that quickly melted into a purer truth." As though to demonstrate, he ducked down, planting an open mouthed kiss at the base of her neck. "I love the way you feel, the way you taste, the way you are..." Pushing aside the green jacket, he traveled down further with delectable kisses, scraping teeth against her collarbone. "And I think you feel the same about me." His ministrations elicited a soft groan from Daria, as good of a verbal affirmative as one could hope for. She hadn't expected the answer to her question to go exactly like this...but she found very little cause for complaint.

"So I hope this isn't out of line," he continued, propping himself up on elbows above her. "But I think you should know, that when I'm inside you, it's not just sex for me. It's not screwing, it's not fucking. I'm making love to you, and I think I always have been."

Daria looked up at Trent, and his eyes, so earnest, so sorrowful, triggered that familiar trembling tightness in her throat. "God, Trent. This has been so unfair to you. I'm so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you...I never thought..."

Trent couldn't help but raise his eyebrows with disbelief. "You never thought I could love you?" He noticed the glittering of tears in Daria's eyes, and two fat drops running down either side of her face. "Daria, baby, don't cry." Needless to say, it wasn't the reaction he'd anticipated from her. She was so strong, yet often, so afraid. Of what? Mostly, just of people. It was people who were the most cruel.

Quickly he rolled off of her, pulling her into the circle of his arms. Engulfed in Trent's arms, his warmth, and that subtle spice that defined the scent of his skin, Daria found herself shaking with the effort to suppress sobs that seemed to ambush her out of nowhere. Daria fought with herself, waiting for the fit to subside, waiting until she trusted herself to be able to speak. "I broke up with Tom today," she said quietly.

A moment of silence passed, as Trent digested the new direction of their conversation. He couldn't have been more surprised at that moment, had Daria slapped him across the face. The corner of his mouth twitched, but he fought to hold back his sudden surge of triumph. Easy there, Lane. This doesn't mean she's yours.

"How come?"

"Because, he's going to Bromwell, and I'm off to Raft. A long distance relationship just doesn't seem like a feasible option...I think it's for the best."

It was a bitter triumph, for these words also told Trent that he himself would not have a chance at retaining ties with Daria. Bromwell was closer to Raft than Lawndale anyways...was that the sound of his heart breaking, just a little? No, it was only the cracking of a knuckle, but he imagined the sound to be quite similar.

Tell him the rest, Morgandorffer, taunted the little voice in her mind. Have a backbone, he deserves to know. "Trent, I'm leaving for college in three months--"

"I know." Those two very small words were charged with seemingly impossible amounts of emotion; Daria realized this was a fact he had thought on, most likely quite a lot, as of late.

"Which means," she continued, "I broke up with Tom three months earlier than I had to, because I couldn't pretend any longer that when he touches me, I don't wish it's you."

At hearing this admission, Trent's mouth gaped open with surprise. Did she really just say that? Was it true? Why would she lie? Oh God. And she's still leaving in three months. They lay quietly for a long time, Trent's fingers stroking through Daria's fine brown hair. What did this mean? Did she love him too? Or merely like him a lot, knowing she would meet lots of new people, new men who were as intelligent as her, in a matter of months? He sighed inwardly...maybe the thought made him jealous, but still, he wouldn't begrudge her that opportunity. To finally find other people like herself. Isn't that what everyone really wants, in the end?

"So, what now?" he finally asked, voice hushed, even afraid of the answer.

"I have no idea," Daria admitted. "What...what do you want?"

Trent trembled, suppressing the bitter laugher that formed deep in his throat. It seemed obvious, that he wanted her, but he understood the unspoken connotations of the question. What did he want, within reason? Leaning over Daria, his thumb brushed against her plump bottom lip. "I know you have to go, Daria," he admitted. "So maybe we could just enjoy the time we have? It's about all one can ever do, anyway, whether we're aware of it or not."

Daria looked up to Trent, studying his angular features, his dark eyes and raven waving hair. She nodded in agreement, that tragic smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. "Three months is a long time, right?"

Trent smiled in reply, ducking down to steal a kiss. It can be, he thought, but he had a feeling it wouldn't be enough. With Daria, it just may never be enough.