DISCLAIMER: Daria and all characters connected with the show belong to Viacom and are created by Glenn Eichler. They are not mine. Any thoughts, behaviors, or bad habits enacted by the characters in this fic should be viewed as an extrapolation of my own imagination and are absolutely not canon. It's only canon if it comes from the original writers of the TV series. Incorrect grammar within quotes has a 95 chance of being deliberate. Incorrect grammar outside of quotes is 100 the fault of the author.

This story is a Trent vignette, set during Episode #205 "That Was Then, this Is Dumb." Actual dialog from the episode appears in portions of this fic.

I only post fics when they are completed. Since it's been a few years (maybe 5?) since I posted on , I'm very confused as to how to go about the whole "chapter" post system, so be gentle with me. I'm still mastering the technical aspects.

Voluntary Simplicity

By medea42

Trent lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. Jesse, simpatico, lay on the floor, each of them concentrating on the same spot. "Bumped again," they said together.

McGrundy's had bumped their regular gig for the third week running -- and they had bumped it for the Harpies. Again. This sealed Trent and Monique into an "off" month. "You know we'll get it back," Trent tried to convince himself. " 'nique always has a meltdown by week four of a regular gig."

Jesse propped himself up on his elbows, head still tilted back. "Monique has a meltdown every four weeks, gig or not."

They both sort of chuckled. It was funny when it wasn't one of them she threatened with a guitar-string. Trent rolled on his side and let his hand dangle off the bed; he felt the surface of a magazine beneath his hand and lifted it, hoping for inspiration. His mother had been trying to help with their lyrics, talking about kismet and free association so she encouraged this practice of picking up objects and random to see what creativity they triggered. Trent also suspect it was her sneaky way of convincing him to clean.

Come on Guitar and Amp, gimme a little kismet! The article had a glossy picture of some hometown band far away from Lawndale. The lead singer had one half of his head shaved off, and the other spiked in an egg-white Mohawk. The article was about "how to build an audience," or some crap like that. Trent glanced briefly through the article, and set down the magazine. "We need to leave town."

"Huh?" Jesse was confused. "Did you like, commit a crime or something?"

"If we want to actually get the band into something good, we totally need a new audience."

"But with Lawndale it's always the same people."

"I know. That's why we need to start getting gigs in other cities." The bigger the city, the better their chances of getting more than the same ten townies to follow them from show to show. It would also, hopefully, decrease their chances of another "barely legal" incident with Max. "Let's start checking places in Baltimore."

Jesse, for all his vacant brawn, was a pragmatist to the end. "We only have the one crappy demo tape, and getting a gig in Baltimore is going to take long distance calls and email and stuff.1" He paused, and came to the solution on his own. "So we borrow somebody's computer and email until we find someone desperate to fill a slot."


"I know a girl." Jesse always knew a girl. The girls he knew exceeded the population of Lawndale, three to one. "Look man, we're gonna have to get to an out of town gig anyway, and we're broke. So we need to come up with some money, fast, to make this happen. Who knows when we'll get McGrundy's back."

In his way, Jesse was smart. Smart enough to know money was the only way to keep running water in his apartment, and running water was the only way to keep chicks wanting to come over. In a couple more years, not even scented candles would help him get lucky at an afterbar.

In an obscenely short time Jesse had found himself a date in Baltimore – with a girl whose dad just happened to run a dive bar. Trent chose not to ask for the details on how he made it happen so fast: he focused instead on the details required to make it happen.

They still didn't have any more than the two dollars and thirty eight cents that Trent had found in the valleys of the Casa Lane living room couch. They needed at least forty bucks to get to the show, probably sixty with the Tanks tendency to gorge on gas. Even with Nick and Max throwing in what they could, they were short. According to Max's calculation, with what they had between them, if the Tank was fully loaded, they would be able to get about three fit past the welcome to Lawndale sign outside route 43.

Trent knew this whole gig scenario was serious – serious in a way that actually kept him awake for days. To the casual observer, he was a screw-off, and he knew it. But one of the reasons he hadn't gone the job-and-money route was specifically because he really wanted this music career thing to happen. Unfortunately, it put him in these Catch-22s: he was free to make the music, but he was too broke to actually get his sound out there. Nick in particular had been giving him hell for his choices lately; since Nick had a kid and had to have a job, he was particularly vocal about Trent and Jesse's non-employment choices.

It was working him into a mood. When Jane came home from school and absently tossed her keys in his face, he got a little mad. "Ow." He winced as he sat up and glared at his little sister. "That really hurt, snot." He held the keys out to his sister, dangling them as though he were holding a dead rat by its tail.

Jane caught the keys as he dropped them. "What was your face doing where my keys go?" Jane demanded as she dropped her duffle bag with an audible thud.

"Meditating," Trent said. He clicked on Sick Sad World. Jane had trained him well.

Jane clicked mute. "And what, dear brother, requires of you such contemplation?" She assumed a lotus position on the couch, her knees almost at the same angle as her haircut.

"The guys and me, we need some cash, fast."

"Uh oh. Nick didn't get brought up on possession again did he?"

Trent made a face. "Hey, there's no actual law preventing him from entering a Starbuck's, it's just that he's required to leave within normal business hours. No, we need to get gas to get to a gig in Baltimore."

Jane let out a low whistle. "Baltimore, huh?" She didn't have a follow up comment. Jane without commentary worried him. It turned out, she was being solution-sister. "Hey, you know how our parents leave enormous amounts of junk in the attic?"

Trent raised an eyebrow. "Yeah?" Every couple of years he and Jane were asked to "clean" it. This usually consisted of them hauling the flotsam downstairs, only to have to haul it back upstairs when Wind began crying over an old pair of bell bottoms, or when Mom's eyes lit up as she identified some long-forgotten project that she "really would finish."

"Want to make sure we never have to haul that crap again?"

Trent's eyes lit up. "What have you got in mind, dear sister?" His family had so much crap to clear out – it would make life so much easier.

Or not. The next evening, after pizza and practice, Trent went upstairs with Jesse, only to be invaded by Wind. He was crying and rubbing his nose on that same damn pair of bell bottoms. "I had my first kiss in these jeans!" he sobbed.

Trent resisted the urge to ask, "With what?" He and Jesse exchanged one of those raised eyebrow looks that men in sync share, and together they went to Jesse's dad's. The man always had beer in the fridge and nothing to say. While they were there, Trent tipped back his chair and knocked over a box , spilling records on the floor.

"Aw, I'm sorry!" he apologized to Mr. Moreno. Mr. Moreno waved his hand. "Naw, that's just some old crap – I'm gonna have Jess take it to the flea market tomorrow."

Trent grabbed the box as asked – he always liked Mr. Moreno, and did what he asked. Trent saw him as a sort of shared dad. He loved his friends' parents. They were so much more parent-like than Amanda and Vincent. As he lugged the box out towards his car, he looked for a moment at the contents.

And that's when he discovered the goldmine. "Dude, we can't let these go," he said. Jess gave him the "don't argue" look.

"We have a gig in Baltimore next week, man. We still need gas."

"But… Zappa…"

"There will be plenty of Zappa after we rock."

Jane took stock of the box when they got home. "You guys won't be able to handle this on your own."

Trent's eyebrows shot up. Jane grinned. "Don't worry, I'll draft Daria. She's trying to avoid her parents' friends this weekend, and this is the perfect excuse."

Three beers, a joint, and a discussion about people who wear tinfoil hats led to an endless array of pseudo-creative thoughts. He was positive in his green haze that there was a quality difference between digital and analog -- digital depersonalized all aspects of sound quality. Sure, it was a more accurate and pure sound but part of what makes music rock is the impurities inherent in an instrument that a musician could incorporate into the sound. Like that time he played for two weeks on an acoustic with a warped board. Or like what a chalumeau2 sounded like back when Bach was composing.

Trent was still in the middle of his internal adventure when he and Jesse were interrupted by Jane poking her head in, with her cute friend in tow. Zappa began singing something about fish sticks and being microwave friendly. Jane already knew this stuff, but he said for her friend's benefit, "It's the warmth of vinyl, man. I'm telling you, it's a richer tone."

Jane pointed out the radio button. That explained the fish sticks, but probably dropped him a couple of cool points with her friend. Oh well – he was a musician, he could afford to lose a couple cool points here and there. Daria embodied his target audience after all; she was a good measure o how successful he'd be with his fans, someday, and she still looked pretty impressed.

"Need help?" Jane was following their agreed "draft Daria" script. Trent didn't need to have much focus to follow her lead.

Jesse wasn't always so quick to take Jane's hints, and he was kind of wary ever since she bit his hand. Jesse had said something about stumbling into the wrong room after a late night trip to the bathroom. "We have to be there by 7:00 to set up." Jesse halfway sounded like he was trying to talk Jane out of coming. He clearly hadn't forgotten the bite – he still had the molar-shaped scars on his thumb pad. For a guitarist, the digits were just as crucial as THE digit. It would have sucked to lose a great guitarist, but Trent suspected it was good for Jesse to have a healthy fear of Jane.

Jane turned to Daria to close the deal; she didn't check to see if Jesse had turned the stereo back up to full volume. Trent heard all of what she said to Daria. "You should thank me. It's a chance to spend some quality time with Trent. The flea market is so romantic this time of year. I hear the Chia pets are in bloom." She then raised her voice, not knowing it wasn't necessary. "OK, so, the flea market. We're there." Trent and Jesse both put on their oblivious masks, but Trent did wonder if he would find his sister nailed to the ceiling in a bloody display the next morning, given the look on Daria's face.

After he'd come down from his happy, hazy place, and after polishing off the contents of the Lane refrigerator, his mind turned towards more practical things. Like the fact that he was the creative guy, and while Jess could line up gigs better than he could, neither of them had a freaking clue how to run a shop front. He also had a duty as Mr. Sensitive Guy to find out whether Daria had a real crush on him, or if Jane was just enjoying making her uncomfortable. "Do we need a cash register or something?"

Jesse shrugged expressively.

"Shit." Well, when he didn't know what to do, there was always one solution: have Jane handle it.

He used their wake-up call as a way to launch it on her so she wouldn't kick his ass later. "Don't forget some money," he reminded her. He could always rely on Jane to have some cash – his parents still gave her an allowance. His eye fell to the now upright Daria. She was dressed in some Victorian-collared thing. "Hey, doesn't Grandma have a nightgown like that?" She'd sat around the house in that thing for a week, mostly frowning at him. He had to suppress a smirk at Daria's immediate blush.

After two days of drinking and smoking up, the system crash was inevitable. Trent had been medicating to avoid these new feelings of shame and frustration when it came to lack of money to push Mystic Spiral forward. He wasn't actually asleep, but it felt good to breathe, face down, and listen to Daria and Jane's banter. Daria was hysterical when she was at ease; as far as he could tell, she was only at ease with Jane.

Jane wandered off to watch some human tragicomedy involving toilet seats and classic porn, leaving him alone with Daria. The sound of Jesse gave them background music. He kept his eyes closed – he liked the girl like this, comfortable.

"Why are you staring at my brother?" Ah, Jane. Jane was not known for her subtlety. Not in her art, and sure as hell not in social situations. It was one of the things that had made it hard for her to make friends – that and her complete impatience with all stupidity, ever, including what she sometimes suffered on her own.

"Selfless concern. I think he stopped breathing." High school girls could be so cute – too shy to actually pull the mouth-to-mouth tack, and Trent had a feeling that Daria was the kind of girl who would never ask him to take belly shots off of her while she hung upside down from a stripper poll.

"Nah, he's entering a dormant stage. In about ten years, he should emerge as a butterfly." Jane paused. Daria hadn't moved. "I guess you're gonna wait."

Trent had to admit, he was gratified to know for sure that his sister's friend had a crush on him. It was one of those weird older brother rights of passages he thought he might miss, what with Jane's refusal to bring any friends home. He had to smile at that. He was finally a crushable big brother.

And as the new titleholder of "crush" he had to do the duty of giving the girl some attention. Listening to her handle that red-headed kid that clearly wanted to impress her was nothing short of hilarious. That someone with Daria's brain had a crush on him felt almost like being given an award. He also gave her points for not telling the Upchuck kid to go Jack Off when he started talking about customers and Kings.

He decided to conveniently wake up as the kid's overtures towards Daria and everyone else within a ten foot radius became increasingly slimy. He let the kid close a sale, and then pulled the money. It was only fifty cents, but that was one more half dollar to hit the tank of the Tank.

"Hey, what about my commission?" the kid whined.

Little bastard, thought Trent. "Hey, we're training you for free."

Jane intervened. "Well Trent, now that you've returned to the land of the living, maybe you and Daria can get us some soda. With caffeine?" She slipped him a five.

Amen to caffeine. He did need to feel a bit more alive. Rehearsal this week would be intense. "No problem." He turned towards Daria. "Coming?"

Her eyes widened. "Sure." She'd never been noticed before, and it showed. It was so cute.

He was a gentleman, and got her food order exactly right. He knew she wasn't there just because of his glowing presence; Jane had said something about how crazy Daria's parents were, too, and that Daria didn't want to get sucked into whatever weirdness was happening with them this weekend. He also wanted to smooth the way to conversation with her; she was exactly the type to sit and eat in nervous silence unless a kinder, older soul was willing to lead her a little.

Broke as he was, Daria clearly needed a little kindness. He stopped her from paying. This was a getting-to-know-you meal. "It's OK, I got it." If she was part of Jane's life, she'd probably end up contributing to the Mystic Spiral gas and food fund often enough.

"I owe you one, then." One of those keep it equal types. He liked her for it – it was a trait he'd found admirable in Monique.

Before he could let her fall into that awkward teenage silence he knew so well he mustered Jane's intel. "Next time. So, Janey says you're avoiding your parents friends this weekend."

"Their sunny sixties optimism tends to cancel out my bitter Nineties cynicism."

Not cynical, just shy. But he liked that she was voicing herself honestly. He'd hit on something she felt strongly about, but he didn't want to dig too far. "Holdover hippies?" God knew he and Jane had enough experience with a certain pair of hippies named Vincent and Amanda.

"Yeah. They're big believers in the concepts of voluntary simplicity."

Heh. Given his own mixed feelings about money right now, this might be the perfect way to reframe what he and Jesse were doing. "I gotta use that. Sounds so much better than broke."

They had a great talk about the sixties. Daria was smart. She knew stuff. He didn't want to go deep with her – he avoided that because he wanted her to feel comfortable, so he didn't contradict her or anything. And on the way home, after their stock got stolen, he turned it into an inside joke. "At least we're not money-grubbing capitalist pigs, right Daria?"

"Yeah, we're hardcore believers in voluntary simplicity."

He liked the glimmer of confidence he saw in her. He was enjoying his newfound powers as a crush object.

In the end, Jesse's dad bailed them out on the gas money. He was actually shaking with laughter when they told him how the LPs had been disposed. "So you actually got a kid to sell them for you, and he got distracted by ancient porn?" He had to stop and wheeze, as his smoking habit caused chortling to come with a price. "That's worth the eighty bucks alone!"

That Saturday, the tank pulled up beside a dusty bar. Trent couldn't figure out how anywhere in New England could have so much dust.

"Uh, dude, you said this was close to Baltimore." Max was in the back, half whining.

Trent said nothing, but kept driving, grimly ignoring that the road had turned to gravel and he was now cresting dirt hills and narrowly missing fences.

He turned left at what he hoped to God was the sign described by Big Mick, a blank arrow with no words, and at the end of the gravel, the neon lights flashing "Beer, Wine, Liquor" casting a nuclear glow into the dust. There were pickup trucks everywhere each decorated with an American flag and a "God Bless America" bumper sticker. He hoped Max didn't catch the NRA membership decals on a few of the trucks, because if he did, the gig would be shit. Max just didn't play well when he soiled himself.

He pulled the car around to the back, by a lean-to door that was leaning a little bit too. "Here we are boys," he said grimly. "Our first out of town gig."

Well, it couldn't be worse than anything he'd seen in the Blues Brothers3.

1 Historical note: Mystic Spiral's timeline happened before the advent of Myspace.

2 The chalumeau was a multi-tube predecessor to the clarinet, created before volume control was an option

3 /title/tt0080455/