The Space Between

The Space between: A Daria Fan-Fiction

By: Sam Lincoln (samlincoln@mac.com)

Disclaimer: I don't own the show Daria or any of the characters
therein, used without expressed written consent of the MTV high
priests.

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Vague Season 5 references...and you'll be much less
confused if you've read my earlier stuff. :)

Summary: Why exactly do Daria and Tom keep breaking up and
making up?

Soundtrack: Dave Matthews Band, 7-25-2001, AmSouth Amphitheater,
Amazing show, the Flecktones always make great guests.

"The Space Between our wicked lies is where we hope to keep safe
from pain."

The Space Between

"Well if that's the way you feel about it maybe we should call it
quits!"

"That would be fine by me, if you keep insisting on being so
pig-headed!"

"Fine, it's over."

"Good, I don't know why I ever thought going out with such a
stubborn person was a good idea!"

"Oh just get out of my sight before I hurt you."

"All right then, get out of my car and I'll do just that."

A door slammed and a car drove off, leaving a figure standing on
the curb. The girl, for it was a girl who got out of the car,
watched it drive away. She sighed and walked up to the house
she'd been left in front of. She sighed a second time and walked
into the house.

Daria

I tried not to slam the door after I let myself in, and was only
marginally successful in not doing so. Fortunately I doubted
that anyone was home to ask any questions I didn't want to
answer. Foremost on that list being "How's Tom?" Because quite
frankly, at that moment I didn't give a rat's ass if Tom lived or
died...no, that's not true, I would have cared if he died, but
mostly in a guilt-ridden I don't want to decide who lives and
dies sort of way.

I reached for the phone to call Jane and rail to her about what a
flaming ass her ex-boyfriend was. "No, damn, she had a thing
with Ryan tonight. Two years ago who would have thought that we'd
each have a date on the same night?" I asked myself. I
certainly wouldn't have, in fact if anyone had told me that I
would've laughed in his or her face. But life is a funny thing
and we did have dates, just mine ended a little sooner than I
expected.

I sighed, standing around in the living room wasn't accomplishing
anything, so I decided to at least go upstairs to my room and get
some homework done. As I walked down the hall to my room I saw
the light on under Quinn's door, it seems she was home.

"Crap," I muttered to myself and walked into my room, again not
quite succeeding in not slamming the door.

Quinn

I heard Tom's car drive off, believe me if you've heard Tom's car
once you'll never forget it, and then the front door slam shut.
I groaned since I knew that could only mean one thing; Daria and
Tom's date hadn't gone well. The oddity of the situation wasn't
lost on me, Daria out on a date and me home studying. Now that's
not quite fair. I did have a date for the night, but he came
down with a sudden case of food poisoning and was in the
hospital. By that time my fall-back date was already out with
Stacy, and I'd already stolen, not on purpose mind you, one of
Stacy's dates that week so I figured I'd be nice to Stacy and not
poach her date, again. So there I was, in my pajamas no less,
doing a chemistry assignment when I should have been at Chez
Pierre, when Daria came storming into the house. And boy, Daria
can storm like nobody else, I think it's her boots. I heard her
stomp up the stairs and march into her room, slamming that door
too.

I slowly counted to ten then got up and walked over to Daria's
room, chemistry book in hand. Yeah, it wasn't exactly the
smartest decision I've ever made, but what else was I going to
do, my homework? Besides, she'd welcome the distraction.

I knocked on the door, "Hey Daria, mind helping me out with
something?" I asked the door.

"Why sure Quinn, I'd love to, come on in," she replied. Well,
not really, she actually said, "No way in hell, go away." But I
knew what she meant; you don't spend your entire life living with
a grouch and not pick up on some of her moods. I opened the
door, ready to use my chemistry book as a shield; after all I'm
not stupid.

"Quinn, I told you to stay the hell out," Daria growled.

"But Daria, I really need help with this problem," I pleaded.
Actually, I didn't need the help that badly, but I wanted to know
what this fight was about.

Daria sighed, "All right, what's the problem?"

"I'm having trouble balancing this equation." I held out my chem
book, indicating a problem at random.

Daria took the book from me and looked at the problem. "You
can't be serious, you're having trouble with this problem?"

"Uh yeah." I couldn't really remember which problem I had
pointed to.

"This one's easy, just count the hydrogen, even you could figure
that out." Daria handed the book back to me.

"Oh right, heh, thanks." I took the book and looked at the
problem. Sure enough, it was one I'd already solved. "I never
remember how those ones go," I said quickly to cover my butt.

"Why are you here Quinn?" Daria asked, her eyes narrowing in
suspicion.

"Like I said, I couldn't figure out that problem/"

"No, I mean why are you here at home? Don't you have a date?"

"Oh, Jamir came down with a case of botulism, and Jeffy had
already left on a date with Stacy, and I didn't want to steal
another one of Stacy's dates, even though the first time this
week really was an accident. But still it wouldn't be fair to
Stacy, which isn't to say that she needs the help or anything,
but you know, it's always so rude to steal someone's date." Yes,
I was babbling, but it's a great way to get Daria to do what I
want. For some reason she claims she can't stand the sound of my
voice, I don't understand why, but there it is.

"Quinn, get to the point, if you have one," Daria snapped.

"The point is, what are you doing home so early? I know you had
a date with Tom, and I also know he has more sense than to eat
rotten food..."

"We had a fight," Daria said simply.

"Oh, about what?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Damn, she's not going to say, maybe if I try a different
approach," I thought, "So, when are you two going to get back
together?" I asked her.

"Who says we are?" Daria replied as she sat down on her bed.

"Because you two always get back together, you have a fight, talk
things out and move on, that's the way things work."

"But why does that have to be the way things work? It looks to
me like things aren't working very well at all."

"Oh, so you're really broken up for good this time?" I asked.

"Sure, why not," Daria grumbled. "Tom's proven he's nothing more
than an insufferable ass, so why keep going out with him?"

I wanted to say because the two of them were a great couple, but
I knew Daria wouldn't listen to me. "Want me to set you up with
someone else then? You know, to help you forget about Tom?"
When all else fails ask a stupid question. It's worked before.

"Why on earth would you think I'd want to go out with anyone you
picked out for me?"

"A change of pace?" Yes, I knew she'd say that, and I also knew
she'd hate going out with anyone I'd set her up with. But I
liked having a sister who dated; it made her seem more
accessible. So anything I could do to get Daria back together
with Tom was worth it.

"Get out Quinn, I'm not in the mood to deal with you."

I've got enough sense to know when not to push things, and then
was not a time to push. "All right, sheesh, just offer some
sisterly advice and you get your head bitten off, some
gratitude." I walked out of the room and went back to my room to
finish my homework.

Daria

I watched Quinn walk out of my room then shoved a chair against
my door to make sure she didn't come barging back in. It wasn't
that I didn't want to talk to someone - just not her. Talking to
Quinn was a big enough drain on my intelligence under the best
conditions and when I was in an especially bad mood, like just
then; it could be a deadly mix, for Quinn, not me.

I stretched out on my bed and tried to make sense out of the
evening. The reason I hadn't told Quinn what Tom and I were
fighting about was because I couldn't really remember, my anger
had driven the cause of the fight right out of my memory, and
that's what really upset me, if something so inconsequential that
I couldn't even remember a half-hour later caused Tom and I to
have a nasty fight then what would happen when something really
serious came up?

Whatever that fight was caused by might have been a petty reason
to break up, but it pointed to a more serious flaw in our
relationship. One that I thought was a fatal flaw.

"Then again, do I really want to break up with Tom?" I asked
myself. "Quinn's right, we have had more than a few fights, but
we've always gotten back together, so why should this be any
different?" I toyed with my sheets as I waited for the answer
to arrive. I looked over at the drawer I keep my family pictures
in and then it hit me.

"That's the exact sort of relationship Mom and Dad have. One
minute they're as dysfunctional as the Mansons and the next
they're making out on the couch." I winced at the imagery that
thought called to mind, but it was there nevertheless, and long
ago I had made a promise to myself that I would never get
involved in that sort of relationship.

I sighed, "Well hell, I've been so good at letting everyone else
down why not myself as well?"

I stared out my window as all these thoughts ran through any
mind. The one thing that did seem clear to me was that I didn't
want to be my parents. That was something I'd been trying to
avoid that my whole life and I wasn't about to change now. It's
not that I don't love my parents, but for as long as I remember
they've provided me with guidance on how not to live my life. I
wasn't about to give up on a perfectly good guiding principle
just because of Tom.

"Well, it was fun while it lasted," I thought, still I couldn't
shake a nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe I was wrong.

Tom

"I didn't go straight home after I left Daria at her house.
Instead I drove around Lawndale for a while, trying to think
things out. I just don't get it, we're two smart individuals,
why do Daria and I have to get into these stupid arguments on a
regular basis? She's always so damn ready to seize on any little
thing I say and blow it all out of proportion. This time was no
different. For whatever reason our discussion turned to the
topic of vision correction, and Daria admitted that last year
she'd briefly experimented with wearing contacts. So I said,
jokingly that I'd like to see that. Then she just went off on
me. I don't quite know why but she did, and goodness knows I
didn't react well to that. So I dropped her off at her house and
we exchanged a few parting shots, and now I guess we're broken
up." I took a deep breath, "So, what do you think?"

"I think," Elsie said slowly, "that you are a world class idiot."

"Gee, thanks," I grumbled. I found Elsie sitting in the kitchen
eating cookies, naturally I joined her, and just as naturally
started talking about the latest blow up with Daria. Elsie
always was willing to listen to me complain about my love life.
She said it was more entertaining than television.

"I also think you've got some decisions to make."

"Like?"

"Like whether or not this is how you want to end your
relationship with Daria you chowder head!" Elsie shouted.

"Oh, right," I mumbled into my glass of milk.

"Do you really want some silly argument over contact lenses to be
what breaks you two up?" I didn't respond because I didn't have
an answer. "It's a really stupid reason to stay broken up." She
added.

I shrugged, "It's not my decision to make, it's Daria's."

"But what do you want?"

"That's not really relevant is it?"

"The hell it's not," Elsie said angrily. "Tom, you've been
dating Daria longer than any of your other girlfriends, you
introduced her to Mom and Dad, and you've gotten back together
with her after arguments that would have annihilated some of your
former relationships. You're a smart guy, do the math. Plus I
kind of like her, she doesn't take any crap from you. I respect
that."

"Maybe because it's a trait the two of you share," I said wryly.

"Could be," Elsie said. "Seriously Tom, Daria's a good girl,
don't screw this one up."

"I think I've already have," I muttered.

"How, from everything I've heard you've been a font of
moderation."

"I went out with her in the first place."

"Huh?"

I stared at Elsie a long moment before answering, "Jane." I
finally said.

"Jane Lane? What about her?"

"Daria is intensely loyal to Jane, there's no question in my mind
that if she had to choose between me or Jane she'd pick Jane."

"But she did pick you," Elsie protested.

"And she's felt guilty about it ever since. She probably thinks
our relationship is tainted because it nearly cost her Jane's
friendship."

"Damn, now that's some friendship."

"Yeah, I get the impression that Daria was in a pretty dark place
when her family moved to Lawndale and that Jane was the first
good thing to happen to her in a long time."

"So all that exquisite psychobabble means what exactly?"

"It means that Daria's been looking for excuses to bolt from our
relationship from day one. That's why I've gone out of my way to
try and be as supportive as possible."

"Which she generally takes the wrong way."

I sighed, "Yeah."

"Well, all of this does raise an excellent question."

"What's that?"

"If she is just looking for an excuse to bail why don't you let
her?"

"Because I think that would be a mistake," I quietly said.

"And why is that...you're in love with her, aren't you?"

I nodded, "It's a definite possibility."

"This is new territory for you isn't it?"

"Pretty much."

"Damn, you're in love with Daria, and she's looking to break up
with you because she feels guilty about how the two of you hooked
up. Damn Tom, your love life never fails to entertain."

"I'm so glad to hear that," I grumbled. "Do you think I should
sell the rights to MTV as the basis for a new show?"

"You know, that's a really good idea. I bet you'd make a whole
bunch of money."

"Oh just shut the hell up Elsie, if you don't have anything
constructive to say..."

"Actually I've had a lot of constructive things to say, big
brother, and I hope you've been paying attention."

"Yeah, you're right, I'm sorry Elsie."

"You're forgiven, you just owe me some cookies, you ate most of
these."

"Like you were going to, Ms. Eats-like-a-bird."

"At least I won't weight three hundred pounds when I'm twenty."

"Hey, I work out," I protested.

"Yeah, right changing the channel doesn't count."

"All right, I'll prove it. Let's arm wrestle, right here, right
now." I placed my arm on the table as a challenge.

"Tom, what the hell are you doing?" Elsie asked as she started
to laugh.

"Challenging you to a game of arm wrestling?" I hesitantly said.

"Do you remember what happened the last time you challenged me to
play a game?"

"That was different," I countered, "Twister is a game of finesse;
arm wrestling is a test of brute strength."

"Put your arm down, Tom, before you embarrass yourself."

"Chicken," I said as I put down my arm.

"Believe what you want tough guy, I'm going you a favor." Elsie
stood up.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"Contrary to what you might think I do have a life outside of
listening to you moan about your love life."

"You could have fooled me."

"Oh bite me."

"Gee, a life spent in exclusive prep schools and 'bite me' is the
best you can do?"

"Ok then, how about 'kiss my ass, elder brother'. I'm going to go
read about Carl Sandburg."

"Enjoy."

"I'm sure I won't." Else started to walk out of the kitchen.
"Oh, and Tom, good luck, you're going to need it."

"Thanks Elsie." I stared at the empty kitchen, then at the plate
of cookies. I grabbed the plate and walked up to my room.

Jane

I knew my day was in trouble when I saw the look on Daria's face
as she walked up to meet me on our way to school. Now I'm sure
most people would say 'what expression?', but I'm an artist. I can
spot the subtle differences between hues, Daria's face is no
different. You can convey a lot of depth with just shades of
gray. I think Daria would appreciate that metaphor, but I've
never told it to her. Anyway, on that day her face was telling me
one thing, Tom, and it wasn't good.

"Crap," I muttered, "This is not going to be fun." It wasn't
that Daria and Tom dating really got to me, but it did...rankle a
little. I'd given it a lot of thought, obviously, and I was
convinced that Tom and I had been close to breaking up without
any outside help. I also recognized how well matched the two of
them are. I guess I just wish that they could've kept their
hormones in check for at least another week to give Tom and I a
chance to break up properly.

I sighed, "Not like that would have changed anything. I still
would have suspected they were cheating on me. Oh well, it's all
in the past, besides it could be worse, Tom could be going out
with Kevin or something," I shuddered. As I was thinking about
these pleasant topics Daria walked right past me, heading for
school.

"Hey Daria!" I called out, "wait up for me."

Daria stopped and turned around, "Oh sorry, Jane. I didn't see you
standing there."

"Yea, because I'm sure a master of camouflage. Last night's date
with Tom didn't go well?" It's never worth it to try and coax
things out of Daria; beating it out of her is the more effective
approach.

"How'd you guess?"

"Well, judging from the look on your face it was either that or
your parents gave Quinn your room for use as a closet."

"My life is an open book. Yes, Tom and I had a fight last
night."

"About what?"

"It's nothing..."

"Daria, you and I both know you're lying. Out with it."

Daria sighed, "For some reason I mentioned I'd tried wearing
contacts and Tom asked if he could see me wearing them."

I groaned, "Tom you can be a monumental jackass," I thought to
myself. "And you took this request in the good humored manner it
was made correct."

"Well no," Daria admitted.

"Of course not," I thought, "You reacted in the worst possible
way which put Tom on the defensive, and after that everything
either of you said only made matters worse." Daria could be so
predictable at times. "So, what's the damage?" I asked her.

"We broke up. For good this time I think."

That was something different, but not totally unexpected, I think
Daria really thought she and Tom really had broken up in the
past. Tom just saw things differently most times. "Oh really?"
Was all I managed to say.

"Yeah," Daria said. "Last night I was so mad at Tom I couldn't
even remember what the argument was about."

"That does sound pretty pissed off," I agreed. "Where the hell
is she going with this?" I wondered to myself.

"So I was thinking about this afterwards when I realized what
really bothered me."

"She's going to say her parents," I thought with a flash of
insight.

"Tom and I have a relationship like my parents," Daria said
sourly.

"Bingo," I thought. Not that it was very hard to deduce the
problem. Who isn't afraid of becoming their parents? I know I'm
scared to death of becoming my folks. Not that I regret the
freedom they give me, but their choices of subjects, as Quinn
might say, ew.

"I love my parents, after a fashion," Daria continued, "but I've
always promised myself I'd never get into a relationship like
theirs, it's just not healthy."

"C'mon Daria, a little disagreement is healthy."

"Jane, how many times have Tom and I 'broken up' since we started
going out?"

I shrugged, "I don't know, I haven't been keeping track."

"My point exactly, if all we do is fight, break-up and reconcile
why are we still going out? Wouldn't it just be easier to stay
broken up?"

I must admit she did have a point. Of course I'd always thought
those two were go to stay together, Daria's so stubbornly loyal
that I figured it's take a massive act of stupidity on Tom's part
to wreck things. "Well I guess that's that huh?"

"Yeah, and I'm sorry."

"What? Run that by me again."

"I nearly destroyed our friendship over a relationship that
didn't even last a year."

"Oh please, that's old news Daria, I don't want to hear any
apologies from you about that ever again. Save your apologies
for future screw ups."

"Your faith in me is overwhelming."

I shrugged, "Hey, we all make mistakes from time to time. So, how
does it feel to be a single woman again?"

It was Daria's turn to shrug, "What sort of response are you
looking for?"

"Don't feel much either way huh?"

"That's about it."

"Any regrets, bitter feelings, revenge fantasies?" I asked as we
walked into the school.

Daria shook her head, "Not really, except maybe a vague feeling
I'm making a mistake."

"Oh really, you make a mistake? Do tell."

"It's nothing, forget I said anything."

"Oh no you don't. Talk, Morgendorffer." There was no way I was
going to let her off the hook that easily.

"It's just, I don't know, part of me kind of wants to get back
together with Tom, but then I think about all the work required
and that we were probably going to break up in a couple of months
anyway when we go to college, so why bother?"

"It's good to know that this romantic entanglement hasn't dulled
your razor-keen apathy," I said as we came to a stop in front of
my locker. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ryan, my current
beau, waiting for me there.

"Hi Daria, hello Jane," he said cheerfully before giving me a
hug. Different people are good at different things, and Ryan was
a good hugger, a skill he liked to share. He even tried to hug
Daria once. I'm still amazed he survived that.

I kissed him on the cheek, "Hello yourself. What brings you
here?"

"It's a funny story, I was walking down the street and the truant
officer told me I had to go to school, so I figured if I had to
spend the day here I might as well spend it with my girlfriend."
He leaned over and kissed me; he's also a good kisser, a talent
he has not shared with Daria.

"I like the way you think theater boy," I said happily. Signing
up for the theater was one of the smartest decisions I've made in
a long time, and not because of the extra time I got to spend
with Mr. O'Neill. Ryan's a fun guy and we were both enjoying
seeing each other. We knew it wouldn't last, but that's not what
either of us was looking for. We were having fun and that's what
matters. I looked over and saw Daria walking down the hall.

"Hey Daria, where are you going?" I called out.

"To class, I don't want to intrude on your quality time."

"Daria, you're not intruding..."

"Yes I was, don't worry about it. I'll see you in class." Daria
continued on her way down the hall.

"What was that all about?" Ryan asked.

"Oh, Daria and Tom broke up last night."

"Really? Bummer."

"Don't get too emotional just yet, those two have a history."

"Combustible huh?"

"Oh yeah, but up until now they've always gotten back together."

"You think something's changed?"

I shrugged, bumping into Ryan in the process. "Yeah I do, but
I'm not sure how it will change things in the end."

"What's that?"

I frowned, "this time Daria actually has a good reason."

"At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what?"

"She thinks her relationship with Tom mirrors her parent's
relationship."

"Whoa, that is one hosed relationship."

"My thoughts exactly."

"Want to go make out?" Ryan asked after a long moment of awkward
silence.

"I thought you'd never ask." I grabbed Ryan by the hand and
dragged him into the theater.

Daria

I spent the rest of the morning trying not to think about Tom, or
the hickey Jane was sporting. "You're shameless," I told Jane
after she sat down next to me.

Jane shrugged, "There was time to kill before class and you
weren't around, what was I supposed to do?"

"You two are getting to be as bad as Brittany and Kevin, you know
that right?" We both looked over at Kevin and Brittany, who were
at that moment trying to examine the contents of the other's
stomach.

"Jeez, Daria, there's no need to be so hostile, I mean saying
something like that is downright harsh, even for you."

"You're right, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for wasn't it?"

"Damn straight it was."

"Just blame it on Tom."

"All right, I'm always a fan of blaming Tom for just about
anything. He makes a good punching bag and I mean that both
figuratively and literally. Did you ever beat on him? It's
great, he doesn't fight back."

"I can't say my tastes run that way, but I suspect if I see him
anytime soon I just might."

"No you won't."

I sighed, "No, you're right, I probably won't."

"Want me to beat him around for you?"

"I don't think that will be necessary."

"You sure? I'd be more than happy to lay the smack down on his
punk ass."

"Please, never say that, ever again."

"What, you'd don't think I'm down with the lingo?"

"You can be down with whatever you want, but you sound stupid
saying it."

"Ok, point well taken, I'll shut up now."

Class started then, cutting off any further conversation on the
topic. For the rest of the morning Jane and I didn't speak much.
Like I said, I didn't really want to think about Tom and lapsing
into a lecture-induced coma was the best way to keep from
thinking.

At lunch Jane and I ended up sitting with Ryan and the rest of
the theater crew. They're not bad people, though Mike is
something of an ass, Greg is a true oddball, Ann's friendly with
Quinn for some reason, and Wylie is, well, Wylie.

Dave was the person to sit down at the table next to me. "Hey
guys guess what, my 5.1 recording gear arrived from Germany
yesterday. We can try it out at that band concert next week."

"Whoa, slow down there taper-boy, what the hell are you talking
about?" Jane asked.

"I ordered a special set of microphones and this really cool box
that records 5.1 surround sound. It's really nifty, it's got a
pair of omnis and a pair of figure 8 mics and then the processor
calculates the center channel..."

"In English, please."

"If you've got a 5.1 receiver the tapes will really smoke."

"And how much did this little toy cost you?"

"Oh, around 8 grand or so, buying direct from Germany is so much
cheaper than buying in the States."

"Ok then, taper-boy shut the hell up. We don't need to be
reminded that you burn money to stay warm in the winter."

"But I wasn't..." Dave protested, "I just thought the guys would
want to hear about the new gear I'm going to be using."

"I know I did," Ryan said cheerfully.

"See, just because you're not a geek doesn't mean I can't talk
about geeky things."

"Ann, Daria, back me up here," Jane said.

"Oh no, I'm staying out of this, I learned a long time ago not to
get into this debate," Ann said, clutching Mike's arm.

I really did not feel like talking just then, especially in front
of this group, "Uhm, I have to go to the restroom, excuse me." I
stood up and walked out of the cafeteria. Once in the hall I
debated where to go. Obviously I didn't really have to use the
bathroom, but I also didn't want to talk to anyone, Jane
included. I settled on the library. Jane would figure I'd go to
the roof, but since she'd know that I knew that she'd go the
bathroom, since that was my stated destination, and nominally the
last place anyone not wanting to be found would go. The library
seemed like a nice compromise, plus Jane never went into the
library. I took a copy of "A Bright Shining Lie" off of a
shelf at random and settled into a chair. I had hardly started
to read when I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder, I looked up,
expecting to see Jane, and was surprised to instead see Ann.

"What do you want?" I asked her.

"I wanted to talk to you. It looked like you wanted to talk to
someone."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that," I grumbled.

"Jane seemed pretty sure you did," she countered.

"Then why isn't she here?"

"Because, and I quote, 'I'm trying to enjoy my lunch and I'll get
all the details from her after school. But if you want to go try
and talk to her be my guest, it's your funeral."

"How'd you find me?" I asked as I digested Jane's statement.

"You can blame Jane for that as well. She said you'd be in the
library because she knew you'd know she'd know you wouldn't be on
the roof, and you also wouldn't be in the bathroom because she
knew you'd know she'd look there because it was the least obvious
place, which left the library because she knew you know she'd
never come here..." And paused, "Great, I just confused myself
saying that and I even drew a diagram." She held up a scrap of
paper with a lot of scribbles written on it."

"That's ok, I guess I didn't really need to know after all." The
explanation made my head swim about as badly as ramble from
Quinn, no wonder the two liked to hang out together.

"So, what's bothering you?"

"Who said I'd talk to you about it, or anything else for that
matter?"

"It's about Tom isn't it?"

"What did Jane tell you about that?" I demanded. The thought of
Jane talking about my personal life with a person who was a
virtual stranger to me was more than a little upsetting.

"Whoa there, Jane didn't tell me anything."

"Then how?"

"Quinn told me all about you and Tom, well Jane did tell me some
things, but that was mostly to explain why she joined the tech
crew way back."

"Oh," Quinn talking about me behind my back was a little more
tolerable, though not by much. "And just why did Quinn tell you
this?"

Ann shrugged, "It's how we work on accents, she tells me the
latest gossip in the accent of my choice."

"You're a veritable Henry Higgins," I muttered, "You know Quinn's
perfectly capable of doing that without any help. Accents are
just like another form of accessory to her."

"I know that, but the trick is getting her to speak with an
accent in character, the gossiping puts her at ease.

"Plus it gives you easy access to all the latest dirt," I pointed
out.

"There is that too," she admitted.

I sighed, "Well you'll be hearing this soon enough then. I broke
up with Tom, who is as you know my boyfriend, last night."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."

"It's for the best really, there was no future in it."

"Still, that's too bad. How are you doing?"

"Me? I'm fine, in fact I'd be doing better if a certain nosy
junior would leave me alone."

Ann smiled, "Sorry, I've just always wanted to get to know you a
little better."

"Yeah, sure," I scoffed.

"I'm serious, I've always wanted to know who exactly you were and
why you acted like you were so damn superior to everyone else."

"Oh really."

"Yeah, imagine my surprise when I found out you were no better
than me," the bell rang, "Bye Daria."

"Yeah, bye," I told the departing teen. "Well that was
different," I muttered to myself as I walked to my next class.

On my way there I ran into Jodie and Mack, no not literally.

"Hey Daria," Jodie said, "How are you doing today?"

"I can't complain to much," I said noncommittally Of all the
people to talk to the perfect couple were low on the list.

"I, uh, hear that you and Tom had a bit of a falling out."

"Is everyone so bored they have nothing better to do but talk
about me?"

"Well yeah, we are," Mack answered.

Jodie elbowed him in the ribs, "No, that's not it at all. We're
just interested in how you're doing." She glared at Mack, daring
him to contradict her.

"Your concern is touching, but I'm fine."

"But you and Tom did break up right?"

"Yes, we did."

"And you're feeling fine?"

"It's not the end of the world you know," I pointed out.

"Well no but still it is pretty big news for you."

I shrugged, "I think I'm the arbiter of what is big to me," Jodie
meant well I'm sure, but when I don't want to talk about
something I mean it.

"Well if you're sure," Jodie hesitantly said.

"I am," I replied curtly. "Look, Jodie, I'm not about to do
anything rash if that's what's bothering you."

"You sure?"

"Yes, I'm fine."

"Ok, then would you be interested in helping me out with a
recycling drive?"

I smirked, "Very clever, I have a built-in excuse with Tom, but
if I use it then I'm not fine and you can press me for
information. However, if I really am fine then I don't have any
excuses for not helping you out with this recycling drive. Quite
the Gordian Knot you've constructed for me."

"Uh, thanks."

"Of course there was a very simple solution to the Gordian knot,
cut it in two; just like I can tell you that I'm not interested
in your recycling drive, so my emotional stability is
irrelevant."

Jodie sighed, "So there's no way you'd help out with a recycling
drive?"

I shook my head, "I'm afraid not."

"Well, it was worth a shot. Good luck with Tom, Daria." Jodie
waved and walked off.

"Uh sorry about that," Mack apologized. "She's just been working
extra hard on this recycling thing. I think she actually cares
about this cause."

"You're just trying to make me feel guilty and change my mind."

"A little," Mack admitted, "but mostly to try and make sure I
don't end up doing most of the work."

"Why don't you just get the football team to help out?"

"Like I said, I don't want to end up doing most of the work."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I hesitated for a moment, a plan beginning to
form. "Why don't you suggest to Jodie that she ask Ann Raeder
for help."

"Who's that?" Mack asked, frowning slightly.

"She's a junior, a real over achiever like Jodie, I'm sure she's
on the look out for ways to enrich her college applications."

"Ok great I'll do that." Mack paused, "Wait a second, how do you
know a junior?"

I shrugged, "She knows my sister, don't worry, she's not a
fashion-ite, she has a functioning brain."

"And you're sure she'll agree to help out?"

Inwardly I smiled, "Positive."

"Great, I'll go tell Jodie, thanks Daria."

"Don't mention it," I said casually as Mack set off after Jodie.
I congratulated myself on my ingenuity; not only had I ducked
Jodie's latest crusade, but also I'd place Ann right in the
crosshairs. I knew she'd agree because she was so neurotic about
her college application, and if she was involved it was a sure
bet she'd drag along her boyfriend Mike. Mike would in turn get
the rest of the theater techs involved, which would include Jane.
I was feeling a little spiteful, and figured Jane needed a
little punishment for pointing Ann in my direction. Yes, it was
an extremely petty thing to do, but it was also pretty fun, and I
was sure that if Jane ever found out who was behind her forcible
volunteerism I'd get my comeuppance.

The rest of the school day passed without incident. I walked
home by myself; Jane had a prior engagement with Ryan. As I got
near the house I saw an all too familiar car parked on the
street. "Oh hell," I muttered, of all the unpleasant tasks I
could think of, talking to Tom was high on the list. I turned
around and started to walk away from the house. "Maybe I'll
spend my afternoon in the library," I thought.

"Hey Daria, hold up!" Tom shouted.

I was busted, I turned around to face Tom, "What do you want
Sloane?"

"Well, I'd like to talk to you, if at all possible."

"And you won't leave until we do, right?"

"I brought a tent with me," He offered.

"Ok, talk," I said, relenting a little.

"Well first of all it goes without saying that I'm sorry. I
shouldn't have pushed the contact thing like I did. I'd also
like to try and convince you to think about putting this behind
you and maybe the two of us getting back together."

"No dice Tom," I said evenly.

"What? No dice, what do you mean by that?"

"It means we're broken up, you can move along to someone new."

"Daria, what's this all about? You can't still be upset about
the contact thing."

I shook my head, "No it's not about the contacts, it's about
where they fit into the big picture."

"Huh?"

"Tom, we're always fighting, breaking up and then getting back
together. Is that anywhere near healthy?"

"Who's to say?" Tom countered. "We're still feeling each other
out, finding where the boundaries are. I'm sure as time goes on
we'll work that stuff out. Don't let a little spat scare you
Daria."

"It's not that..." I trailed off. I didn't want to admit this to
Tom, telling Jane was hard enough.

"Then what is it?" Tom asked. "I can't fix it if I don't know
what it is."

I sighed, the only way to get rid of him was to tell him, "We're
turning into my parents, Tom, and when I was little I promised
myself I'd never be involved in that sort of relationship."

"And there's no way we could change that?"

"Tom do you have any idea how many marriage counselors, romantic
getaways, self-help books, seminars and workshops my parents have
been to?"

"I'm guessing the answer is more than two."

"Don't make jokes Tom. They've been to more than I can remember,
and none of it has helped, they still argue and fight and badly
as they always have."

"So what, your parents fight, big deal, just because your parents
do something there's no reason to think you'll duplicate that
behavior."

"But we already are," I said angrily. "Isn't that what we're
doing right now? You want to get back together. Well I'm
breaking the cycle, this is the last time, it's over for good."

"Oh come on Daria, what do you expect, that a relationship is
always going to be sweetness and light?"

"No, but we still fight too much," I insisted.

"And whose fault is that? I'm not the person who overreacts to
every minor speed bump we've faced. You're the person with the
issues."

"What the hell does that mean?" I demanded as I tried my best to
keep my voice level.

"Just that with your fears about intimacy and this apparent
neurosis about your parents I think I've shown a tremendous
amount of patience and understanding in keeping this relationship
going. You've been so incredibly immature that maybe you should
just grow up and realize that the only problems we have are all
really your problems!"

"Why you arrogant, patronizing asshole, half the time it's your
'I know what's best for you' attitude that's the cause of the
fight! So don't you even think about saying this is all in my
head." I was really pissed off, and with good reason; Tom was
laying the blame for all our problems at my feet.

"Well what do you expect, you come to me looking for validation
for your apathy and I don't give you that because I don't think
it's in your best interest. If that makes me patronizing then so
be it, but I don't want to sit by and watch you crawl into a
shell. You're a less enjoyable person to be around when you're
busy shutting people out."

I very nearly hit him, "Tom leave now."

"What?"

"You heard me, I'm not going to stand here and have you dictate
to me how I need to act. Excuse me for not conforming to what
your ideal girlfriend is. Now get the hell away from me."
Inwardly I was seething. Tom had said I wasn't good enough for
him. That was all it took, the resolve crystallized in my mind,
I spun around and walked into my house, slamming the door behind
me.

Tom

"Daria, wait!" I shouted out after her. "That wasn't what I
meant..." the door slammed. "Damn!" I shouted. The exchange had
not gone as I planned. I meant to apologize about the contacts,
make a peace offering or two and that would be that. Accusations
about being like her parents were something totally unexpected.
It caught me off guard and I lashed back without thinking.

"You dumb bastard," I cursed at myself. "Tom, you've done a lot
of stupid things in your life, and this one ranks right up
there." I knew Daria would react badly to what I was saying, but
I said it anyway. True to form the clouds in the sky acted on
their threat of rain and it started to pour. I ran for my car
but stopped short. "Forget it, embrace the clichÈ," I thought as
the rain pounded down on my head. I stood there, trying to
figure out what to do next. Going up to the door was out since
Sloanes do not cause a scene. Of course just standing there was
also a scene of a sort, what sort of moron stands in the middle
of a downpour without a jacket on? That certainly wasn't
anything a Sloane would do. And while I never really felt an
obligation to do something just because of my family name, my
fortunes were inexorably linked to the family's so minimizing any
chance of a run in with the police, and I'm sure Daria would have
called them if had tried to talk to her, was always a good idea.

The raindrops running down my neck broke my reverie. "ClichÈs be
damned, getting wet sucks," I said aloud. I got into the car and
drove off. As I aimlessly drove through the streets of Lawndale
I continued to debate with myself what to do next.

"I could just go home," I thought, "but I don't really want to do
that right now. I'm just not in the mood to explain to Mom why
I'm soaked." The pizza joint we hung out at flashed past and I
briefly considered stopping in for a slice, but decided against
that as well, too many memories.

I kept on driving along, I don't quite know why I was driving,
but at the time it seemed like the thing to do. I eventually
came to a stop at my thinking spot just on the outskirts of town.
It was still raining outside so I stayed in the car. As I sat
there listening to the rain hitting the roof of the car I tried
to let myself gain some clarity on the issue.

"Did I just prove her point?" I wondered as I ate a piece a
licorice I kept in my glove box in case of emergency. "We really
did just have a pretty nasty fight, but then again isn't that
better than just repressing everything?" I sighed and reached
for another piece of candy. "It's all so frustrating, I just
wanted to go out with Daria, not ponder the philosophy of dating.
And that's the rub since that is what Daria was doing. So maybe
it's time to move on. It was bound to happen sooner or later,
wasn't it? Who finds true love in high school after all?"

The steering wheel didn't have any answers for me on that score.
"Damn, I have to talk to someone about this." The question, of
course, was who. I had talked about this with Elsie last night
so she was out. Daria was probably at Jane's that very moment
which ruled her out. Not that I would have sought out Jane's
advice, talking to your ex-girlfriend about your current
girlfriend is incredibly awkward. There wasn't anyone at
Fielding who I felt like talking to about anything minor, much
less something deep like this.

I sighed and rested my head on the steering wheel. There were no
good solutions to my problems it seemed. Just them my eyes
caught sight of a CD case lying on the floor of the car. "Hell,
why not him?" I asked myself. "He had some decent advice for me
the other time. I wonder if he's home?" I started the car and
drove back into town.

Jane

"Hey Janey," Trent called out, "Daria's here."

I sighed, it was pouring rain outside, and there was only one
reason why Daria would walk to my house in a storm. "Dammit
Tom," I muttered, "Why can't you leave well enough alone?" I put
down my paintbrush, "Come on up Daria," I shouted. I got back to
work on my painting, a cityscape of Lawndale after an acid
rainstorm and finished a few more details before I heard a
familiar boot tromp outside my door. "Hey Daria," I said without
turning around. "So, he was waiting for you at your house?"

"Yeah," was all Daria said.

I turned around to look at her; she was wet. "Jeez, Daria, how
many times do I have to tell you, use an umbrella." I grabbed a
towel from my laundry pile and tossed it at her.

"I'll keep that in mind the next time I have a romantic crisis,"
Daria replied as she dried herself off.

"All right, spill the dirt, how'd it go down?" Daria sat down on
my bed, letting the towel fall to the floor. "What the hell, I
had to change those sheets anyway," I thought to myself.

"Like you said he was waiting for me when I got home from school.
We had another fight, I slammed a door in his face and it's now
definitely over."

"Oh come on, I think I deserve to know all the juicy details, not
the Reader's Digest version." The name of the game at that point
was Playing Daria. She wanted to talk, but her ingrained
reticence meant you had to coax the full story out of her.

"He first he apologized for last night."

"As well he should have," I said, mostly to fill space. "And you
replied how?"

"I said it didn't matter because I thought we should stay broken
up."

"Ah yes. Because every rational person returns an apology with a
verbal slap in the face."

"Well at least I was about to break up with him."

"Daria, do you really want to bring that up right now?"

I watched Daria's face sag, "No I guess not."

"So what happened next?"

He said I was being immature and that any problems I thought the
two of us had were really my problems."

Now I know that Tom has issues, mostly with his parents oddly
enough, but I must admit there was a ring of truth to what Tom
apparently said. Of course I wasn't going to say that right
then. Besides you don't call your best friend immature, at least
at a moment like that. "I'm sure you took that well," I said
sardonically.

"I called him a patronizing ass."

"Atta girl."

"It doesn't end there," she said sadly.

"Oh ho, more dirt, please tell me."

"He said I look to him for validation of my apathy, and that he
thinks I'm a better person when I'm not so withdrawn."

"Well damn, there it is," I thought. "It's amazing how little
Tom's learned about Daria." I put an arm around Daria's
shoulder. "Look at it this way, at least he didn't make out with
your best friend first." Sure, it was a cheap shot, but Daria's
a big girl, she can handle it. After all, why should I care who
Tom dates; Ryan's a much cooler guy, better kisser too.

"Thanks goodness for small favors," Daria muttered.

"What, no apologies for sticking a dagger in my back?" I asked
playfully.

"You said you didn't want me to apologize for that any more,"
Daria replied with a smirk.

"Touche, so what do you say to drowning our sorrows with a slice
or three, and then spending the evening listening to the
melodious sounds of the Spiral?"

"Yes on the pizza no on Spiral. I'm not so depressed I want to
hurt myself."

"Oh come on, it'll make you feel better."

"Is this the stub your toe to cure a headache school of
medicine?"

"Something like that yes."

"Or is it that you have to go and you need a sucker to keep you
company?"

"There is that too," I admitted. "But don't you want to spend
time with your friend?"

"Hey Janey, Daria," Trent said as he walked in the room.

"Hi Trent, what's up?" I asked.

"Nothing just, I just thought somebody was talking about Spiral."

"Oh, you heard that?" Daria asked, visibly hesitant.

"Heard what?"

"Our conversation about Spiral?"

"Nah, I just have a sense whenever people are talking about
Mystik Spiral, that's all." There are times when I wish Trent
wouldn't say stupid stuff like that, but it's part of his charm.

"I'm trying to get Daria to come to the show tonight, want to
help me convince her?"

Trent shrugged, "Sure, you should go Daria, it'll be cool." He
flashed thumbs up.

"Wow, that was convincing," Daria said.

"It'll be fun Daria, besides what else are you going to do
tonight? Mope over Tom."

"I suppose," Daria admitted.

"What happened to Tom?" Trent asked.

"Daria broke up with him yesterday."

"Oh, ok."

"Is that all?" Daria asked, a hint of anger tingeing her voice.

"Uh yeah," Trent replied with a slightly startled expression on
his face. I could see where Daria was coming from. She'd
probably had to deal with all sorts of people offering advice,
condolences, and other assorted crap thanks to the grapevine. On
the other hand with Trent if it doesn't intersect directly with
his little world it doesn't really register.

"Oh what the hell, maybe I'll get some manner of cranial injury
and forget about how much this all sucks."

"That's the spirit," I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. No
one can reluctantly agree with quite the same panache as Daria.

"Cool, we're debuting a new song tonight, 'Sub-terrestrial
Homesick Blues 52 and 10,' it's a Dylan tribute."

"Can you just kill me now and be done with it?" Daria asked.

"No dice, if I have to sit through it so do you. Now let's go,
we don't want to be late." I dragged Daria out of the room and
we followed Trent down to his car.

Quinn

I walked into the library and started to look for my study date.
Yes I know, the mighty Quinn Morgendorffer going into the library
voluntarily to study on a Friday night, whatever is the world
coming to? Go ahead, laugh it up. There, got it out of your
system, because I do have a good explanation. The library is
nice and quiet, plus no one I know would ever go into the library
so I don't have to worry about, uh, unwanted interruptions.
Besides, it's still a date, sure, we're just studying, but it's
still a date...at least that's my story. I know, it's all
semantics and really I'm going to study instead of a date, but if
there's anything my mother's taught me it's that life is lived in
the semantics, so I was on a study date.

"Although study dates imply two people," I muttered to myself,
"Where is he?" I wondered as I walked through the stacks. "He's
probably downstairs reading some silly magazine." I thought with
disgust. "Never mind the fact that we agreed to meet at the
circulation desk."

I walked down to the musty periodical's basement and started to
look around in between shelves stacked with old issues of
"National Geographic" and "Consumer Reports." I found him
leafing through an old "Pro Audio Review."

"Hey you jerk," I whispered, "What happened to meeting at the
circulation desk?

Dave Wylie looked up from his magazine, "Shoot, you're right,
sorry I lost track of the time." He put the magazine back on the
shelf, right in front of the sign saying not to. "Ok, let's do
this thing."

I know what you're thinking and don't even start. Yes, Dave and
I went out for a while when he first moved to Lawndale, and there
was that whole David Sorensen issue from last summer, but the two
aren't related. Sure, Dave's a nice guy, once you get past the
whole stoner thing. He's offered me a hit or whatever the hell
it is he does from time to time, and sure I've been a little
curious, but munchies, ewwww, there's just not way I'm going to
do that to myself. Still, Dave is a nice guy, I mean he is
helping me out. But he's not David. David was special; he saw
something in me and helped me realize it was there. Sure he
didn't go out with me, but then again why should he have? He was
a college student and I was just an immature little high
schooler, who up until that point had only shown an interest in
fashion and gossip. Well I was going to show him the next time
we met, cute and deep, that was my goal. That is if I even
wanted to go out with him, something I wasn't sure about, I mean
he did refuse to go out with me. And before you ask, no I'm not
going to actually date Dave either. Stacy asked me that during
the whole steady debacle, and what I told her then still holds
true. I'm not dating Dave because it would be a bad idea. Yes
he is the richest kid in school, and a popular enough guy because
of it, but it just wouldn't work. Besides why bother going
steady with someone? It just leads to trouble. Look at Daria
and Tom. Those two are like so right for each other, but they
keep fighting and stuff. Who wants to put up with that?

All this was running through my head as Dave tried to explain the
assignment we were working on to me. "Hey Quinn, are you even
paying attention to a word I'm saying?" He asked finally.

"Uh, well, no," I admitted.

"Want to tell me what you're thinking about?"

"Daria and Tom's breakup." Well I wasn't going to say anything
about David to Dave that would be...awkward.

"Since when do you care about Daria's personal life?"

"I happen to think that Daria and Tom make a great couple.
Besides I liked the fact that she was dating, it made her seem a
little more normal, and not that there was this huge rift between
us. I mean why else would I admit that she's my sister?"

Dave smiled slightly, "Ok, that makes sense," he said in a way
that did not sound convincing.

"What, you don't think that's why?"

"I think that whatever you think your motives are is what they
are. But then again if you say something enough times you begin
to believe it. Right or wrong."

"Whatever." Dave could be really weird at times, I think it's
because of all the drugs. "Can we work on this assignment
please?"

"That's what I'm here for." We got back to work on my history
assignment, but I felt this aura of something unsaid floating
around us.

I tried to ignore it for as long as possible, but it eventually
became too much, "So what do you think about Daria and Tom
breaking up?" I blurted out.

Dave sighed and closed his notebook, "I don't think it's really
my place to say anything. I don't have much invested in either
of them."

"What does money have to do with any of this?" I asked,
confused.

"Not a monetary investment, a personal one, they aren't my
friends in other words."

"What do you mean, you hang out with them?"

"Sure I've even helped Tom out with a couple of things, but
there's a difference between being friendly with someone and
being their friend. I'm the former opposed to the latter with
your sister and Tom."

"Dave would it kill you say anything simply?"

"Fine, I don't care about their relationship."

"Not even a little?"

Dave shrugged, "Not really, cause it's not my life." He rubbed
the bridge of his nose. He says that's just a holdover from when
he wore glasses on a regular basis. I think it's just a way for
him to stall when he doesn't know what to say. "Look, I don't
think we're going to get much more work done tonight so why don't
we go grab a bite to eat?"

I shrugged, "Sure, why not, this isn't due tomorrow." I started
to put my books into my backpack.

"Great, there's this new diner that opened up down by Degas
Street that I've been meaning to check out."

I winced; Dave's affinity for greasy spoon diners was not one of
his finer points. Once again I blame the drugs. "That sounds
great."

Dave held the library door open for me, "hey, it's the
twenty-first century, I'm sure they've got a low-fat menu."

"If they did you wouldn't go there," I groused.

We walked up to Dave's Volkswagen. "But would I ask you to come
along with me if they didn't?" He said as he unlocked the
Beetle.

"They'd better, otherwise you're in big trouble. Do you have any
ideas how many carrot sticks I had to eat after the last place
you took me?" I said, letting myself into the car.

"You could just do what I do and exercise."

"And sweat? Ewwww." Some things boys just don't understand.

"Oh fine, but carrot sticks don't give you good muscle tone like
an hour in the gym does." It's funny really, for a guy who
claims not to care about appearances I've never seen a person
obsess more about his weight, Tiffany excluded of course. It's
probably because Dave's father long ago lost the battle for his
waistline. "What's funny so funny?" Dave asked.

I realized I'd been smiling. "Oh nothing, I was just thinking
about this out I saw this girl wearing today. It was so two
seasons ago." No way in hell I was going to tell Dave what I was
really thinking about.

"Forget I asked."

I leaned back in my seat and enjoyed a small moment of personal
triumph; people could be so easily manipulated. "Now if I could
only do the same with Daria and Tom," I thought.

Daria

I let myself into the house after leaving the show early. It
wasn't that I was having a bad time, it was nice to hang out with
Jane again, but just because I wasn't in the mood to hear Mystik
Spiral butcher anymore songs. I walked into the kitchen to get a
drink and found mom sitting at the kitchen table looking over
some papers and talking into her phone.

"Well unless your client really wants to get his pants sued off
you'll make me a better offer!" She barked into the phone. She
glanced over and saw me enter the room and I suppose could see
something wasn't right by the expression on my face. "Ok, now
talk it over with your client then call me back tomorrow with
your real offer." She turned off the phone and put it in her
bag. "Daria, sweetie, is something wrong?"

While I was touched by this rare display of maternal concern I
also didn't want to talk to my mom about Tom. "I'm fine Mom."

"I'm your mother, Daria. I know when you're lying. Out with it,
or would you rather I ask your sister?"

I sighed, Quinn would delight in telling Mom, and probably screw
it up in the process. "All right, if you must know Tom and I broke
up."

"Oh Daria, how awful, sit down and tell me all about it."

"There's not much to tell, we had one fight too many and that was
that," I shrugged.

"Daria, you should know that just because you have a fight you
don't have to break up. Just look at your father and I..."

"I have many times," I snapped, "and that's why I broke up with
Tom."

"What? You broke up with Tom because of your father and I?"

"Right, I've spent my whole life watching you and dad bicker,
squabble, and fight and I don't want that for myself."

"Daria, it's not that your father and I don't love each other..."

"As disturbing as it sounds I understand that, but still why
should I settle for that?"

"So are you expecting to find a relationship where you never
fight?"

I squirmed a little in my seat. "No, but the frequency with which
you and dad fight is disturbing."

Mom sighed, "I won't deny that your father and I have
a...confrontational relationship, but we do still love each
other, and we'll figure it out eventually."

"And why should I repeat your mistakes?"

"Marrying your father was not a mistake Daria, at the very least
it gave me you and your sister, and I wouldn't trade the two of
you for anything in the world."

"So even if you still had to do it all over again you'd still
marry Dad?"

"Of course I would. Daria, look at it this way, if something's
not worth fighting over is it really worth having?

"That's disturbing logic."

"What I mean is I love your father and I'm not about to let some
silly little fight wreck that."

"But at what point does all the bad outweigh the good?"

"Daria, don't worry about making what you perceive as the
mistakes I've made. You're going to make your own, all new
mistakes."

There are moments when I think that Mom might actually
understand. Despite myself I felt a smirk slip onto myself.
"Gee, thanks for that vote of confidence."

"You know what I meant."

"Yeah, I'm living my life not yours."

"Exactly," Mom stood up. "And Daria, just so you know, I think
very highly of Tom. I know that probably doesn't mean much to you,
goodness knows it didn't for me when I was your age, but a
mother's allowed to have an opinion on the people her daughter's
dating."

"He is a good guy, it's just..." I paused, trying to find the
right word. "I'm not sure there's any point to it. We're still
in high school, who knows what's going to happen once we're in
college?"

"So now you can see the future?" Mom asked, eyebrow arched.

"Well no, "I admitted, "but the majority of the possibilities out
there aren't all that good. We've already broken up, several
times actually, and chances are good that even if we did get back
together we'd just break up again in a few months. Why bother
going through the hassle more than need be?"

Mom sighed, "Daria, you can't look at it that way. All
relationships end someday, whether because of a breakup, death,
or something in between. You can't let that stop you." She
paused, "You like spending time with Tom right?"

"I guess, sure," I hesitantly said.

"And that's what matters, let the future sort itself out and live
in the now. If the two of you break up again when you're both in
college that's fine, but don't let the fear of a future breakup
prevent you from seeing someone you enjoy being with now."

I looked down at the table, "She might have a point, but then
again that's pretty questionable logic," I thought to myself.
"I'll give it some thought," I told Mom after a moment.

"I know you will," Mom said before bending over and kissing my
forehead. "And just so you know, whatever you decide I'll still
love you," she paused, "just don't take that as permission to run
out and get pregnant."

"Mom, don't forget who you're talking to," I said, smirking.

"I know but still you never know, accidents do happen."

"Uh right, I'll be careful I promise."

Mom's bag started to beep, she looked down at it. "I don't have
to answer that, you know."

"That's ok, I have to do my homework anyway," I stood up and left
the kitchen as Mom answered her phone. "The phone always rings
at the most convenient times for her," I thought as I walked into
my room. I sat down on my bed and stared out my window, watching
the rain run down the glass. "Mom presented a strong case, but
then again she is a lawyer." I sighed, "I do like Tom, but I
really don't know, especially after the argument we had earlier
today." The rain continued to drip down my window. I reached
for the phone. "Well I've worked through every person I can
confide in and then some, I guess there's only one person left to
talk to." I punched the number into the phone and listened to it
ring on the other side.

"Hello, Sloane residence," Elsie Sloane said.

"Hi Elsie, it's, er, Daria, is, uh, Tom around?"

"Nope, sorry Daria, I haven't seen him all day. So, have you two
come to your senses and made up?"

"What do you mean?"

"Tom told me about the fight the two of you had last night. I
was wondering if you'd patched things up."

"Why would we?"

"Why wouldn't you?" She countered.

"Because we had another fight today."

"Oh hell, you did what?"

"Had a fight, on my front lawn."

"Dammit, why do you two keep doing this?"

"I don't know, we just do."

"Well knock it off will you? Daria I've never seen Tom work at a
relationship the way he has with yours."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I mean, he's always come to me when things aren't going
well, but that usually is it. Jane's the only other person he
even tried to patch things up with, and even then wasn't nearly
as determined."

"So you're saying I'm an idiot for not letting bygones be
bygones?"

"Something like that yes. Tom's in love with you Daria, though I
doubt he'll admit that right now. Don't screw this up."

"Right, of course," I sighed, "Well, nice talking to you Elsie."

"Want me to tell Tom you called?"

I thought for a moment and realized this was a decision I had to
make on my own. "NO, that won't be necessary...in fact, please
don't tell him I called. I shouldn't have in the first place."

"Well, okay, if you insist."

"Thanks Elsie."

"Not a problem, what are little sisters for?"

"Annoying the piss out of their older siblings."

Elsie laughed, "There's that too."

"Bye Elsie."

"Bye Daria, see you soon?"

"Maybe."

"Give him one more chance Daria, he's worth it."

"We'll see, but don't get your hopes up."

"Ok, take care Daria."

"You too Elsie." I hung up the phone and resumed staring out the
window. I had a lot to think about.

Tom

I parked the car in front of the closed gate and killed the
engine. It was still raining outside and I wasn't looking
forward to going back out into it.

"Next time Mom tells you to leave an umbrella in the car listen
to her," I chided myself. "Oh what the hell, what's a little
more water?"

I got out of the car and walked up to the gate. The Wylie's were
a bit more security conscious then my family - we didn't have a
six foot high wall surrounding our house. Then again, when
you're as wealthy as James Wylie it never hurts to be as cautious
as possible. Plus there is the fact that James Wylie is a tad
eccentric, to put it mildly. Dad says he's off his rocker, but
Dad also doesn't really like Mr. Wylie all that much either. He
respects the guy, "You can't dismiss a man who weathered the tech
crash," Dad says. And he's right, Wyl-E Co. was one of the only
tech stocks to actually stay put when the bubble burst. The
Sloane family did not get to be where it is by refusing to deal
with people it doesn't like. I pushed the intercom and waited
for a reply, hopefully it wasn't too late to pay a visit to
stately Wylie Manor.

"Y'ello, who's out there?" the jovial voice of James Wylie
called out, the faintest hint of a Texas twang present.

"Uh, hi Mr. Wylie, it's Tom Sloane, I was wondering, is Dave
home?"

"Well hi there, Tom, how the hell are you?"

"I'm doing ok Mr. Wylie."

"Now Tom, what have I told you about that Mr. Wylie business?"

I sighed, "Sorry, I'm doing ok...Jimmy."

"Atta boy." For whatever reason Mr. Wylie took a shine to me
when we first met. He'd even offered me an internship with his
company where I'd be his personal assistant. Dad was ecstatic, I
had been less than thrilled, the offer was still pending.

"So, uh, Jimmy, about Dave."

"What about him?"

"Is he home?"

"Dave? Naw, he's out with that Morgendorffer girl, you know, the
hot one. Boy, I tell you, the apple didn't fall too far from
that tree with that one, like mother like daughter I always say."
In another of life's inexplicable little oddities Mr. Wylie was
trying to woo Helen Morgendorffer, though if it was for
professional or personal gains I wasn't too sure, and quite
honestly I didn't really want to know.

"Sure enough Mr. Wylie, but what about the other daughter,
Daria?" I knew he was talking about Quinn, and I also know I
could admit to knowing that because Daria would hate to be known
as the hot one. There's also the fact that Daria doesn't have
much to do with Dave, and that she wasn't there.

"She's not that bad looking either, but a little sour...no a lot
sour. Sour people aren't fun to hang out with, you know what I
mean?"

"Yes I think I do sir."

"Say Tom, last I checked it was raining outside, why don't you
come on in and wait for Dave to come home? I've got a couple
more candidates to show you." Mr. Wylie maintained an
ever-changing list of potential spouses, most of them extremely
unattainable, even for a multi-billionaire like James Wylie.
Dave said it was his father's way of not having to actually move
past the death of Dave's mother.

"Strange that," I thought to myself. "This guy was so in love
with his wife that her death unhinged him to this degree. I
wonder, if Daria died would I feel the same way?" I didn't have
an answer to that, but the nameless dread I felt at the thought
gave me a pretty good idea.

"Hey Tom, you still out there?" Mr. Wylie asked.

"What? Oh, yes I am sir."

"Then how about it?"

Did I want to listen to some middle-aged billionaire wax
rhapsodic about some sweet-young thing he saw on television last
night? Hell no. "Uh, maybe some other time sir."

"All right, your loss."

"I'm sure, thanks for your time Mr. Wylie."

"Not a problem. Don't be a stranger Tom."

"You bet sir." I let go of the intercom switch and walked back
to my car. I rested against the hood and just stood there. By
that poin the rain had tapered off to just a light mist which was
actually sort of refreshing. I ran a hand through my soaked hair
to try and straighten it out.

"So, do you wait for Dave or go do something else?" I asked
myself. I did want to talk to Dave, but waiting around for him
could get pretty boring pretty fast.

As I stood there, gripped by the indecision that marked the day a
black guy walked past me. He looked to be about my age and wore
his hair in short dreadlocks. He was wisely holding an umbrella
and wearing a raincoat. I felt like I'd seen him before, but I
couldn't quite place the face. When he saw me he came walking
over, a look of concern on his face.

"Hey, are you all right?" he asked me.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I asked, trying to remember where I knew him
from. He didn't go to Fielding so if I knew him it had to be
from something to do with either Daria or Jane.

"Ok, I was just curious, you don't normally see people standing
out in the rain, especially when they're standing in front of
their car."

I chuckled, "Yeah, I guess it does look a little strange."

"It's a good thing I'm not the cops otherwise I might think
you're casing the Wylie place. You're not right?"

I shook my head, "Nope, I just wanted to talk to Dave, only he's
not in."

"So you're standing in the rain instead? Yeah, that sounds like
a friend of Dave, hi there, I'm Michael Mackenzie." He held out
his hand.

"Tom Sloane, pleased to meet you Michael." I shook the
outstretched hand.

"Call me Mack, Tom Sloane huh, I think we've met before, last
summer at my girlfriend's Fourth of July party?"

Of course I remembered that party, at the time it was one of the
few times Daria allowed me to be seen with her in public. "Oh,
right, of course. How are you Mack?"

Mack shrugged, "I'm doing well enough. I can't wait to graduate,
obviously. I think the better question would be how are you
doing?"

I could tell this wasn't just a polite inquiry, "I'm fine, why
do you ask?"

"Well for starters Jodie and I talked to Daria today."

"Crap," I thought, "I know that Daria doesn't gab about her life
with just anyone, she really must think highly of these two." I
cleared my throat, "Yeah, well, these things happen."

Mack nodded, "Yeah that's true, too bad though, Daria's a pretty
cool person, a little strange, but a cool person."

"That she is, I agreed. "So, what brings you out here?" I
asked, trying to change the topic.

"Oh Jodie, my girlfriend, lives in the neighborhood. I'm just
walking on home."

"On a rainy night?"

"Back where I grew up it wasn't really safe to walk the streets
at night, so I still consider it a novelty."

"Where are you from initially?" I never really spent much time
outside of Lawndale. Sure, I've been to all the hotspots, New
York, London, Los Angeles, even Tokyo, but I'd never really lived
there. Small town life was the only way of life I knew, and to
meet someone with a different outlook was fascinating.

"Baltimore originally, but we moved here years ago so I don't
remember it too well."

"I've been to Baltimore, it seemed like a nice enough city,
though I guess I only saw the good parts."

Mack nodded, "Yeah probably, when you get right down to it every
town has a seamy side."

"Every town except our beloved Lawndale," I said sarcastically.

Mack chuckled, "Yeah, right I forgot about that." We lapsed into
a moderately uncomfortable silence. "So, what's it like?" Mack
asked finally.

"What's what like?"

"Having more money than you know what to do with?"

I smiled, "I'll let you know when I have that much."

Mack frowned, "But I thought you were incredibly rich."

"Correction, my family is rich."

"What's the difference?"

"I don't have access to the loot. All my money is tied up in
trust funds that I get contingent on my graduating college. All
I get until then is a small portion of the interest." I left out
that the "small portion" was probably as much as his family made
in a year.

"Bummer I guess, but still what's it like to know you're set for
life. I mean if you wanted to you'd never have to work a day in
your life."

I smiled a little as I felt the old Sloane indoctrination kick
in. "Fortunes aren't made by sitting on piles of money. It took
a lot of hard work to get the Sloane family where it is today,
and it will take just as much work to keep it there. All the
great families and empires were destroyed by one thing,
complacency. If you ever get complacent you lose, and the
Sloanes aren't losers. So you see keeping a fortune is just as
much work as earning one."

"Wow, sorry I asked."

"It's ok, my dad's been drilling that into me ever since I was in
preschool so by now it's one of those automatic things. Don't
worry about it."

"Uh, ok."

"But to answer your question, no I don't feel much different than
anyone else I suppose. There are probably more lawyers and
accountants around, but that's about it. Having lots of
money doesn't protect you from having a bad day, or any of life's
little issues. And a lot of times it hinders you when you're
dealing with the big things like..." I stopped, then
started"...love..." my voice trailed off. I hadn't intended to
go there, but it just happened.

"Yeah," Mack said, "I suppose that's true."

"Hey Mack, you've gone out with your girlfriend for a long time,
right?"

Mack nodded, "For about as long as we've lived in Lawndale
actually."

"Wow, how have you done it?"

Mack shrugged, "I don't know, we just have."

"Come on, you must have some idea."

"Looking for some advice with Daria huh?"

"Well kind of," I admitted.

"I don't know how much use to you anything I might say will be.
Jodie is like the anti-Daria after all."

"But you've been successful at a long-term relationship, which is
more than I can say for myself."

Mack looked thoughtful for a moment, "Jodie and I, well I
obviously can't say our relationship is perfect, but we always
get back together."

"But why?" I insisted.

"Because I can't imagine life any other way. We support each
other, I'm always there to listen to her bitch about her parents,
she's always there to listen to me complain about school."

"So it's for mutual support?" I asked, mentally ticking that off
a list in my head. Daria and I certainly did act as sounding
boards for each other.

"There is that, but that's just one part of the whole package.
Jodie's smart, funny, beautiful, everything I'm looking for, and
to find that package in a sister? Why do I need anything else?"
He paused, "But all that's secondary, the real reason is because
I love her and she feels the same way. What other reason do you
need?"

My eyebrows raised involuntarily, "None I guess."

Mack must have seen the incredulity on my face, "What, you're
surprised I'd say I love jodie?"

"Well a little yeah."

"Jodie helped me through a rough patch in my life. Because of
that we'll always share a bond. right now that's love, later on
who knows exactly, but in some way shape or form I'll always love
her." Mack paused, "That does seem sort of heavy for someone my
age to say doesn't it?"

"Not if you're several years younger, and a girl."

Mack chuckled, "You really need to get back together with Daria."

"And why's that?"

"Because the two of you are too damn similar, that's why. What
was the reason she gave for breaking up with you anyway?"

"She said our relationship was starting to mirror her parents."

"Ouch, that is pretty harsh."

"Yeah tell me about it. Have any words of wisdom?"

"Not really, well maybe you could try to do something parents
wouldn't do, you know to prove that the two of you are different
from her folks."

"That's a good idea, I have no idea how to pull it off, but it's
a good idea."

Mack laughed, "I've always found that groveling is highly
effective."

"Yeah, groveling," I said, distracted by the plan beginning to
form in my head, "Thanks for the tip."

"Hey, no problem, just trying to help a brother out," he looked
me over, "So to speak. Good luck with that thing man."

"Thanks." As I watched Mack walk down the street I reflected on
how much I wished he went to Fielding. It's not like he'd have
any problem getting in, he plays football and he's a minority.
"It would have been nice to have had a sympathetic ear while I
went through that place." I sighed, "Of course it's a moot point
now since it's almost over, but still I wish I'd gotten to know
that guy a little better, he seems pretty cool." While I stood
there, contemplating lost opportunities a Volkswagen Beetle
pulled up in front of the gate. The driver killed the engine and
stepped out of the car.

"I was wondering when you'd show your face," Dave Wylie said to
me.

"I come seeking insight, oh wise guru," I said mockingly.
"Besides I could say the same about you. What were you and Quinn
doing anyway?"

"Studying," Dave answered in a tone that said his answer was
final.

"Ok, well, I'm sure you know why I'm here."

"You're in need of some guidance in regards to you and Daria's
relationship, and for some reason you think I'll have good
advice."

"That's about it, yeah," I replied bashfully.

Dave sighed, "All right, come on in." He punched a code into the
intercom box and the gate swung open. I got into my car and
followed the Beetle through the gate. We parked beside the house
and Dave let us in through a side door. "You probably don't want
to talk to my dad right?" he asked, I nodded in reply. "Ok we
can go straight to my room." Dave lead me up a small staircase
and into his room. He took a towel out of his closet and tossed
it at me. "Here, you look like you could use this. Don't worry,
it's clean."

"Thanks," I started to towel my head dry.

"So you're in need of guidance?"

I nodded, "Yeah."

"What in particular are you in need of guidance about?"

"You mean beyond Daria?"

"Yeah." "Well should I try to get back together with her?" I
settled into an easy chair.

Dave shrugged, "I don't know, do you think she wants you back?"

"She says no, but I'm not sure if I can let it go at just that."

Dave turned on his stereo before flopping down on his bed. The
strains of some concert started to float through the room. "It's
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones," he said, answering my unspoken
question, "October Twenty-eighth, Ninety-nine, the second set
will blow your mind. It doesn't get much better than a FOB
Schoeps source."

"Uh sure thing," I had no clue what he was talking about, and
my mom always told me when in doubt agree.

"But as much as I want it to a Flecktones show doesn't solve your
problem does it? Okay, so why can't you let sleeping dogs lie?"

I took a deep breath, I knew what I had to say, but I didn't know
how to say it. "It's like this, you've heard the story about
Daria, Jane and myself, right?" Dave nodded, "Well it all goes
back to that. See, Daria thinks our first kiss was a rash
impluse, and I'm not going to dissuade her from that opinion, but
the truth of the matter is that I wanted to be there with her. I
knew it was a bad idea, that Jane and I should at least break up
first, but I couldn't help myself. From the very beginning, when
she hated my guts, there was something about her that intrigued
me. Then I got to spend more time with her and she turned out to
be smart, funny, and at the time she didn't seem to care that my
family was one of the richest in Lawndale. How could I resist?
Sure, that makes me an ass, but I'm just one of a long line of
assholes who do dumb things in the name of love." I paused for
breath.

"There's the nut," Dave said.

"What?"

"You love her, don't you."

"I...don't know. I mean I like her a whole lot..."

"Dude you just said it. Don't backpedal, it's unbecoming."

"Ok, so I love her, big deal."

"Why don't you just tell her want you just told me?"

"Because she'd freak out, think about it, you know Daria."

Dave scratched his chin, "Yeah, you're probably right. Nice
little conundrum you're in." "I think I might have an out, but
I'm not sure if I should try it."

"Dude, do you love her?"

"Yeah, I suppose I do."

"Do you want to get back together?"

"Definitely."

"Well then, lay this plan on me." So I did. "Damn dude, that's
clever."

"It's really Mack Mackenzie's idea, he told me to do something to
prove that we weren't like her parents."

"I don't think this is quite what he had in mind," Dave said,
chuckling.

"No but it certainly does fit the criteria."

"That it does. You're taking an awfully big risk here Sloane."

"I suppose I am, but if it works I'm golden. If it doesn't I
haven't really lost anything."

"Except Daria," Dave pointed out.

"Well yeah, but she's pretty much lost to me right now, so nothing
ventured, nothing gained."

"Too true, so when are you going to lay your Jedi kung-fu on
her?"

"Tomorrow, I'll stop by her house around noon."

"Suggestion."

"Yeah?"

"A neutral site might be better, like the park or somehting."

"I suppose so, but how do I get her there?"

"Good question, she probably won't go if you just ask her right?"

"Yeah," I agreed. "Which leaves subterfuge, but then she'll be
pissed at me for lying to her."

"What if you're not the person who does the lying?"

"Get a patsy? That might work, but who?"

"It's got to be someone Daria trusts an opinion she values."

"Forget it, there's no way Jane would assist, there's too much
bad blood between us."

"I'm not talking about Jane!" Dave snapped, "I'm talking about
Quinn."

"Our of all the names I least expected to hear...Quinn was pretty
much up there. "Quinn? Are you high? Why on earth would I ask
her? "

"Because outside of you she's the only person I know who wants to
get you and Daria back together."

"Seriously? Why?"

"She says she can relate to Daria better when she's going out
with you."

"And you know this because?"

"It's all she could talk about when we were at the library
tonight."

"Oh, so Quinn wants me and Daria to back together because it
makes her feel better?"

Dave shrugged, "Hey, this is Quinn we're talking about. You take
what you can get."

"Whatever, ok, so we get Quinn to trick Daria into going to the
park where she'll meet me..." I paused, "It's still too obvious.
Let's add another level to the subterfuge."

"Ok, how?"

"Simple, we make it look like Elsie tricked me into going as
well."

"Fake a younger sibling conspiracy? You magnificent bastard,
that's brilliant!"

"We all know little sibs like to interfere with our lives, Daria
will never suspect a thing."

"Will Elsie play ball?"

"Sure, I don't see why not."

"Ok, I'll call Quinn and let her know."

"Have her call Elsie," I said.

"Why?"

"We're faking a conspiracy right? Well, we need a paper trail."

"You can't be serious, there's no way Daria could check the phone
records. Dude, you're being paranoid."

"I'm just covering all the bases. You need wheels within wheels
to outwit Daria."

"then you've got a problem, because this whole thing starts with
me calling Quinn and filling her in on the mission."

"I know, that's been bothering me..." I thought for a moment,
"I've got it. Call Quinn, tell her you've got a solution to some
problem she's been having and that you have to tell it to her in
person. Meet somewhere, a pizza place or something, that's nice
and public, but easy to hide in." I stood up and grabbed a pen
and pad of paper from Dave's desk. "Giver her this," I jotted a
quick note down on the paper and handed it to Dave.

"Let me guess, she's supposed to destroy it after she reads it?"

"Exactly."

"And if we're captured will the Agency disavow all knowledge of
us?" Dave asked, smirking at his joke.

"Hey, knock it off, this is serious."

"Uh-huh, what if Quinn can't get Elsie to play ball?"

"Have Quinn call you, then you call me. I'll take care of Elsie,
though I'd rather not. It'll be better if Elsie thinks it's
Quinn's idea."

"You are Machiavelli reborn, did you know that?"

"How so?"

"You're separating yourself from the execution of this little
plan of yours. Elsie'll think it's Quinn's idea, Quinn'll think
it was my idea."

"And what about you?"

"Oh I know the truth, but I won't say anything. Rich-boy Omerta
and all that."

"Gee thanks."

"Would you like me to place the call now, or after you've left?"

"Does it matter?"

"If you're not around you've got plausible deniability; if you
want to take this trip to it's extreme."

"Good point, make the call when I'm gone."

Dave nodded, "All right, need anything else?"

I shook my head, "Nope, thanks for the help Dave."

"Don't mention it, just be sure to buy plenty of Wylie stock when
you're in charge of the family business."

I chuckled, "I'll see what I can do. Bye Dave."

"Take it easy, and get some rest, Operation Niccolo goes into
effect tomorrow."

I felt my eyebrows reach for my forehead. "Operation Niccolo?"

"Best I could think up on the fly, do you have a better name?"

"Well, no."

"That's what I thought, now get out of here."

"Right, I'll let myself out." I walked out of Dave's room as he
was reaching for his phone to start the wheels moving.

"I wonder if this cockeyed scheme will actually work?" I asked
myself as I stepped outside and walked towards my car. I
shrugged, "Oh well, I'll find out tomorrow." I got into the car
and drove home.

Daria

I woke up with the usual slowness that Saturday allows for, or at
least partially. I groggily opened my eyes to check the clo9ck
and saw Quinn standing over me.

"Oh good, you're awake, come on there's a lot to do today."

"Gah! Quinn, what the hell are you doing?" I shouted as I
reached for my glasses.

"I'm waiting for you to wake up. Now come on, get out of bed."
She reached for my arm to pull me up.

"Oh no," I said, snatching my arm out of her grasp. "Not until
you tell me why."

Quinn sighed, "Because we have to go to the park."

I winced, Quinn wasn't going to make this easy. "And why should
I go to the park with you? You know I have other plans for
today."

"Let me guess, you're going to spend the day in bed."

"It's a plan, not a very active plan, but a plan nevertheless.
Now excuse me while I put my plan into action." I rolled over on
my bed so I was facing away from Quinn.

"Daria!" Quinn whined, "Stop being so obstreperous."

Ok, I admit, Quinn using a word like obstreperous piqued my
curiosity, I rolled back over. "What did you say?"

"I said stop being so obstreperous. Is you hearing going now
along with your eyesight?"

"That's what I thought you said. Where'd you learn a word like
obstreperous?"

"I've bee reading the dictionary," Quinn said waving a hand,
dismissing any further inquiry into the subject. "Now are you
getting up or not?"

"Not," I said with as much force as I could.

"I brought the latest issue of 'Waif' with me, and you know how I
have to read aloud to get any comprehension," she added, the faux
innocence dripping from her voice.

"You wouldn't."

"Are you getting up or not?"

"Why should I?"

"Because there's this thing in the park and Mom won't let me go
by myself, and Dad doesn't count as not being by myself."

"Fifty."

"Ten," she countered.

"Forty."

"Thirty," Quinn offered, cutting the haggling short.

"Okay, just let me get cleaned up." I got out of bed and walked
to the bathroom to try and drive away the last few remaining
cobwebs in my head.

When I got out of the bathroom after taking my shower I found
Quinn standing in front of my room. "Be sure to wear something
cute, you're going to be seen in public with me after all." I
shot Quinn a dirty look and entered my room to get dressed.

A short while alter Quinn was hustling me through the park. "I
don't know what took you so long, it's not like you're wearing
anything new."

I smirked, dragging my feet had proven to be a good way to nettle
Quinn. "Where exactly are we going anyway?" I asked.

"Not too far...oh look, there's Stacy, stay right here, I have to
go talk to her," Quinn darted off before I could protest.

"Great, I let myself get conned into going to the park with
Quinn, and then she ditches me, how typical." I went to sit down
on a nearby park bench, but stopped when I saw it was still wet
from yesterday's rain. "There's just one thing left that would
make this perfect," I muttered to myself. Predictably Tom and
Elsie came walking down the path. "That was far too pat," I
thought, "Something must be up."

"Hi Daria," Elsie said brightly, "Funny seeing you here."

"Yeah, funny that," I glared at Tom as I tried to figure out if
this was his doing.

"I, er, saw my friend Becky over there, I think I'll go say hi to
her."

"Elsie, wait a second..." Tom started to say, but by that time
Elsie had run off. "Damnit, I knew something was up when she
asked if I wanted to go to the park."

About then the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place,
"So Elsie tricked you into coming here?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Because Quinn did the same with me. It looks like our siblings
have conspired against us in some vain hope that will get back
together."

I frowned, "I didn't think they knew each other well enough to
pull off a stunt like this."

"I don't know about Quinn, but Elsie's been telling me that I'd
be an idiot if I did let you go."

I nodded, "Quinn's said something similar. Still it doesn't
really seem to be Quinn's thing." Something didn't sit quite
right; there had to be another person involved. I shrugged, "I'll
sweat it out of Quinn tonight."

"Glad I'm not Quinn," Tom said, chuckling.

I frowned, "You've got your own ass kicking coming if you don't
leave soon."

"Whoa, hold up before you kick my teeth in can I say something?"

"Ok, but please don't make it some weepy sentimental bid for my
affections."

"Don't worry, I know better than that. No, I just wanted to say
this. Daria, I do care about you, a lot. But you say our
relationship is doomed because we're acting like your parents.
Ok, I can accept that, sort of. However, I don't agree, so I was
thinking, how do I prove that to you? The answer was simple
enough, we stay broken up."

"Run that by me again?" I asked not quite following what Tom was
saying.

"You say that your parents are locked in a self-destructive cycle
of fighting and reconciliation, and that we do the same. So to
prove to you that we're not like your parents I'm not going to
try and convince you to do anything."

"But isn't this just a ploy to get me back?" I asked, not
falling for the smooth line.

Tom sighed, "Daria, I'm pretty sure..." he stopped, as if unsure
what to say next. "I'd really love it if you changed your mind,
but I'm not going to try and talk you into anything. This is
your decision...but having said that, don't let your parents rule
your life. You should be making the decision, not them.:"

"And you assume that I'll choose you if I'm free of any outside
influence?" I asked, a tinge of anger started to creep into my
voice.

"You're free to choose whatever you want. I know the choice that
I'm in support of, but if it's not your choice, I can live with
that."

This was Tom as his best, and worst. He was being so
understanding and sympathetic that my ingrained cynicism
suspected something was amiss. "Why are you pushing this so
hard?" I asked him.

"Because I like spending time with you. You're a special person
Daria, I don't want to lose you."

"We could just be friends," I offered.

"Now that wouldn't be incredibly awkward wouldn't it?"

"I guess you're right about that...but still, I don't like the
choices you're presenting me, be your girlfriend or have nothing
to do with you."

"So you're saying you don't really want to get back together with
me?"

"I'm saying I don't like my choices here, there's no middle
ground. Are you saying you can't be friends with me?"

Tom paused for a long moment, "I guess that is pretty harsh isn't
it?"

"So where does that leave us?" I asked.

Tom shrugged, "I don't know." We stood there, looking at each
other. I got the feeling that we were standing in front of two
doors, and that once I chose a door there would be no going back.
It was a decision I didn't want to make. "Daria, I've got a
question for you."

"Yeah?"

"When we were going out, did you have a good time, the fights
excluded?"

I didn't have to think for very long to arrive at an answer.
"Yes, the fights excluded I did."

Tom stood there, as if expecting me to say something else. When
I didn't he sighed, "Ok, take it easy Daria, I'll see you
around." Tom turned to walk away.

That was when it hit me, it wasn't about the fights. It was
about the space between the arguments that made it worthwhile.
The thing that was screwed up about my parents wasn't the cycle
of fights and reconciling, it was the severity with which they
did it. Plus there was Tom, yes it was trite and cliched, but he
had been willing to let us stay apart because I couldn't handle
the relation-date-ship thing. It must have been hard for him to
decide to do that, and then follow through like he was. One of
those doors was closing, but it felt like there was still time to
make sure the right door close.

"Hey Tom, wait up."

---xxx---xxx---

Two teens, a boy wearing a gray sweater and khaki cargo pants and
a girl wearing a lightweight green jacket and black skirt stood
on a path in a park.

"Look, I'm sorry..." the girl started to say.

"So am I," the boy said, interrupting the girl.

"No you were right, we aren't my parents and I shouldn't let my
fears about their relationship affect ours."

"So we have a relationship again?" the boy asked hopefully.

The girl smiled, ever so slightly, "Yeah, I guess we do."

The boy closed the distance between them. "You know there will
be arguments ahead."

The girl shrugged, "We'll just work them out as they come along,
isn't that what mature people do?"

The boy smiled, "Yeah, that or we'll just beat the crap out of
each other."

"Hmm, tempting," the girl said before kissing the boy on the
cheek. "But no. I am interested in getting a slice or two
though."

"Isn't it a little early for pizza?"

"I can think of more than a few ways to kill some time, can't
you?"

"Very true, lead on MacDuff."

The two teens started to walk out of the clearing. As they
neared the edge the girl turned around. "Quinn?" she called
out, "You're still dead meat." She and the boy then linked arms
and walked away.

After the couple was safely out of sight another pair of teens
emerged from the brush surrounding the clearing. Two girls, one
with long red hair, the other a brunette whose hair came down to
her shoulders.

"Well," the redhead said, "that went better than I expected."

"Uh, aren't you afraid?"

"Why should I be?"

"Your sister just said you were dead meat."

"Oh she says that all the time, by the time she gets home she'll
have forgotten all about it."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Oh yeah, she's always in a good mood after spending time with
Tom."

"Always?" the brunette asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Well most of the time anyway, tonight for sure."

"Ok, it's your life," the brunette paused. "Uh, now what do we
do?"

The redhead shrugged, "There's a sale at Cashman's."

"You know, I've never been to a sale in my life."

"Never?" the redhead asked in disbelief.

"Think about who you're talking to."

"Oh yeah, want to come along? We could work on your clothes."

"What's wrong with my clothes?"

"They're so...preppy."

"If I let you pick out a new wardrobe, will I be the envy of all
the girls at the country club?"

"Oh definitely, I have the best fashion sense."

"Great...wait a second, how are we going to get there? Our rides
just off to make out."

The redhead help up a key ring, "I've got my learner's permit,
and I know for a fact they took Tom's car. Let's roll."

As they walked out of the clearing the brunette draped an arm
over the redhead's shoulder, "You know Quinn, this could be the
start of a beautiful friendship."

Fin

The Space Between
You cannot quit me so quickly
There's no hope in you for me
No corner you could squeeze me
But I got all the time for you, love
The Space Between
The tears we cry
Is the laughter keeps us coming back for more
The Space Between
The wicked lies we tell
And hope to keep safe from the pain
But will I hold you again?
These fickle, fuddled words confuse me
Like 'Will it rain today?'
Waste the hours with talking, talking
These twisted games we're playing
We're strange allies
With warring hearts
What wild-eyed beast you be
The Space Between
The wicked lies we tell
And hope to keep safe from the pain
Will I hold you again?
Will I hold...
Look at us spinning out in
The madness of a roller coaster
You know you went off like a devil
In a church in the middle of a crowded room
All we can do, my love
Is hope we don't take this ship down
The Space Between
Where you're smiling high
Is where you'll find me if I get to go
The Space Between
The bullets in our firefight
Is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you
The rain that falls
Splash in your heart
Ran like sadness down the window into...
The Space Between
Our wicked lies
Is where we hope to keep safe from pain
Take my hand
'Cause we're walking out of here
Oh, right out of here
Love is all we need here
The Space Between
What's wrong and right
Is where you'll find me hiding, waiting for you
The Space Between
Your heart and mine
Is the space we'll fill with time
The Space Between...

Author's comments

I find I don't have too much to say here. I absolutely love the whole lyric concept of The Space Between and I thought it would make a killer framework to wrap a Daria and Tom story around. The whole first person POV came about in an attempt to be "artistic." And considering the hell I went through on my last 1st person story you'd think I would've learned my lesson. The story's been sitting in "Development hell" for about a month or two as I wrangled out the edits and revisions. Kudos to the folks who took the time to read it and give me input, you folks know who you are and thanks. I hope this little bit of fluff entertained, and keep your eyes peeled for my next offering, the long awaited Mack-centric fic.

-sam 11/5/2001