A/N: Alrighty, so here's a one-shot I wrote in an effort to get past a bout of writer's block. Originally, I intended for this to be fluffy shipper fic, but as the anniversary of a RL event is coming up very soon, the angst kicked in at the end. Without further ado...
A/N Deux: I actually wrote this about a year ago, shortly before the anniversary of a good friend's death. It was posted on the Paperpusher's message board, and I'm just now getting around to posting it here. For those interested, I am taking a short hiatus from fanfic, other than the occasional one-shot, until after finals and graduation. Hope you enjoy this, and if you are so inclined, I would suggest a few tissues. Reviews and concrit are always welcome. Flames will be used to burn all of the books my husband insists on toting every time we move. Make sure they are Fahrenheit 451.
Her Last Opportunity
Brown eyes blinked open, glancing around at the padded walls of the room.
Today is the day.
The first cognizant thought of the morning, and the butterflies in her stomach had already erupted. This was her deadline, her last chance. She would be leaving for Boston in the morning, hopefully never to permanently return. Oh, sure, she would return for short trips to visit her family, but ultimately, after tonight this would no longer be her room. She glanced around at the bare furniture, finally coming to rest on the boxes stacked neatly by the door, waiting patiently to be hauled to her new dorm room. Today was her last chance, and she was determined to take it.
As she pulled her boot on and began to lace it up, she heard the phone ring, and the low sound of her father answering.
"Daria! Phone for you, Kiddo!"
She made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen to take the cordless from Jake with a slight smile. The kitchen smelled surprisingly good, despite the fact that Jake had been trying one of his infamous culinary experiments. Deciding that her gastro-intestinal system couldn't take any surprises this morning, she took the phone back upstairs with her, holding it up to her ear.
"Hey, amiga, what's up?"
"Uhhhh, hey, Daria." came a soft, hoarse voice from the other end.
"Oh, hey, Trent. I saw the number on the caller ID and assumed it was Jane. You know what they say about assuming…" Daria trailed off, not knowing quite where to take the conversation. She'd been gearing herself up to talk to him for two solid weeks, and when she finally had him on the phone, her throat went dry and her mind went blank.
"Oh, heh. Yea. So, what are you doing today? Janey has disappeared, something about her portfolio and express mail."
"Yep, sounds like Jane to hold off sending her acceptance art to BFAC the last day of summer. I'm not doing much, you?"
"Well, I'm kinda hungry. I called to see if you wanted to go get a slice with me, I'll even pay."
"Wow, I'm flattered. Can you pick me up?" Daria grinned uncharacteristically, glad that Quinn was nowhere near to witness her stupid smile.
"Sure, I'll be there in ten."
Daria ran down the stairs and returned the phone to the kitchen with a small spring in her step. She let her parents know she was going to lunch with a friend, and escaped out of the front door before the interrogation could start. Nine and a half minutes later, Trent rumbled to the curb in front of her house, and Daria rode off unscathed.
They drove to Pizza King in a companionable silence, and Daria staked out a semi-private booth while Trent ordered their pie. Now was the perfect opportunity, if she could work up the nerve to bring the subject up.
Trent joined her in a few moments later balancing a large pepperoni and pineapple pie in one hand, and two cokes in the other. As soon as he set everything on the table and sat, they each took a slice, and simultaneously took the first, large bite out of their respective meals. Daria was instantly relaxed, she had always maintained that pizza was a cure-all. She got halfway through her slice, and set the remainder on her plate, bolstered by the grease that her system had infused.
"Trent, can I ask you a personal question?"
Trent cocked a brow as he finished off his slice and washed it down with a swig of his soda before replying with a short nod. He folded his arms onto the table and leaned forward, giving her his undivided attention. Daria found this a bit disconcerting, and felt her neck begin to tingle as she cleared her throat.
"Have you ever wanted to ask someone for a favor, but didn't quite know how to go about it?" Daria asked, her eyes focused on her lap where her fingers were picking at the pleats in her skirt.
"Not really, Daria. Are you needing to ask me for a favor? You know I'd do anything for a friend." Trent replied as he took her free hand in his. Daria was surprised at how soft his hand was, even though his fingertips were calloused.
"In a way, I suppose so. You see, I'm leaving first thing in the morning for Raft. I have no intention of coming back permanently, and I'm not sure when my next visit will be…"
Trent moved to sit in the seat next to her, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. "Ah, so you wanted to spend your last day with me? I'm flattered, really. Well, let's finish lunch and we'll hang out, 'k?"
Daria nodded in agreement, trying her best not to smile. Her plan was working out better than she expected.
Daria and Trent made their way down Dega street, stopping occasionally to look in shop windows. When they reached the music store, they stepped inside briefly so Trent could drool over a new axe.
"Someday, I'm going to be able to buy things like this." Trent said dreamily as he strummed the guitar. He began the opening riff of Come As You Are, but stopped after about thirty seconds and set the guitar back onto it's stand. "That's still a distant dream, though. After we hit it big. Or I find a real job, heh." Trent chuckled deprecatingly, ending it his coughing hack.
"You really need to put down the smokes, Trent." Daria stated as she wandered around the music shop, stopping to fiddle with some drum sticks. Trent came up behind her as she sat on the stool and he scooted her and the stool closer to the instrument.
"I know, I know. Go ahead, see if you can beat out a rhythm."
Daria grinned as she began a four-count with one of the stick on the snare, then sped up to an eight-count as she added a four-count on the bass with her foot. After a few minutes, and some dirty looks from the salesperson, she stood and set the sticks on the stool for the next person.
"Hey, you're not bad. With some practice you could play well." Trent said as he held the door open for her and they made their way to the next shop.
"I've never given it much thought, really. Maybe I'll take lessons at Raft. It might be cool."
They walked in companionable silence for a few more feet before coming to a stop in front of the piercing and tattoo parlor. Trent gave Daria and intense look and she simply shook her head.
"Oh, no. That belly button ring itched like crazy. I have no desire to deal with that again."
"Darn, and I was considering getting you a tattoo as a going away gift. Oh, well." Trent chuckled as they made their way back to his car. As they drove to the Lane residence, Daria told Trent all about her dream of becoming a published author. Trent listened quietly as she rattled on, realizing how little he actually know about the pretty brunette who'd been his sister's best friend for years. When they pulled into the driveway, Trent turned toward Daria and grabbed her hand, surprising her into silence mid-sentence.
"The jig's up, Daria. I spent the day with you, now are you going to tell me what you really want? I've got lots of time…" He stated half-threateningly as he turned the air conditioner up and the radio down. He had no intention of sitting in the car for more than thirty minutes, but he figured it wouldn't take her any longer than that to crack.
He was rewarded with her clearing her throat after less than five minutes of oppressive silence and intense staring.
"Actually, I wanted to ask you if you'd take me to bed, but I think I've changed my mind."
"Well, gee, thanks."
"I don't mean it like that. I mean, it's occurred to me today that I consider you a friend. A good friend, and the older brother I've never had. But, just to satisfy my curiosity…"
Daria trailed off, and leaned forward uncertainly. Trent held in the insane desire to laugh as he leaned over the console and brushed his lips chastely against hers. He pulled back for a second as his eyes wandered over her upturned face, her eyes still closed tight. He leaned forward again, pressing his lips to hers and running his tongue across the seam of her lips. The action startled Daria enough for her to open her mouth, and Trent deepened the kiss.
They broke apart and started at each other for a few minutes in silence, the radio playing softly the only sound in the car. As Trent opened his mouth to ask her if she was alright, Daria let out a small "eep" and escaped from the car as fast as she could. The last sight Trent had of her was running as fast as she could towards her house.
It had been two years since she had last seen or spoken with Trent Lane. Sharing a small apartment with his sister didn't make avoiding the man any easier, either. Daria was aware that she had strong feelings for her friend's brother, and she suspected Jane had figured her out within a week of starting college.
Daria let herself into the apartment hurriedly as she had heard the phone begin to ring as she made her way up the stairs.
"Don't hang up, don't hang up, don't hang up!" She chanted under her breath as she made her way across the motley collection of crap littering the floor, only to have the messaging service answer just as she reached the phone. Rolling her eyes in annoyance, Daria left the caller to leave a message, or not, as she grabbed her bag from the hall where she'd dropped it in her haste to unlock the door and put it on her bed.
As she puttered around the apartment, Jane came in and immediately picked up the handset to listen to the dial tone, then promptly called the answering service.
"I didn't get to it in time. Who was it?" Daria shouted from her room, then poked her head out of her room when there was no answer forthcoming. Daria was greeted with an unusually solemn Jane digging through a kitchen drawer and coming up with a pad of paper and a pencil. She listened closely to the message again and jotted down the number, one Daria didn't recognize. Jane deleted the message and returned the call, asking for Penny. Oh, so Jane's sister had been trying to get in touch for her, probably to borrow money, Daria thought to herself as she returned to her room and her books.
About a half an hour later, Daria made her way back into the kitchen to get a drink and ferret out of Jane the reason for Penny's call, only to find Jane sitting motionlessly in the same dining chair, a shell-shocked look on her face.
"Jane? Jane!" Daria shouted as she shook her friend's shoulder.
"I'm fine, Daria. I think. Maybe I'm dreaming. Maybe I'm in shock. I can't cry."
"Why would you want to cry?" Daria asked, starting to become concerned about the friend she had come to consider family.
"He's gone. He's really gone, Daria. I just spoke to him yesterday, and he was fine, and today, he's gone." Jane was beginning to tear up, shake her head and ramble.
"Jane, calm down and tell me what happened. What did Penny want? Who is gone?" Daria asked as calmly as she could, although she could feel her heart beginning to crack already.
"Trent. Penny called to say that he had an accident this morning, and the EMT found her number in his wallet. He was sideswiped, didn't survive…" Jane trailed off, the tears now streaming freely down her face. "Finally, tears," Jane said quietly as she stood. "I'm fine, Daria, I'm headed to bed. I have to meet Penny and Wind at the funeral home tomorrow morning.
Daria watched Jane zombie-walk towards her bedroom and plopped inelegantly onto the chair Jane had just vacated.
Gone. Gone. Gone? What did that word even mean? Did that mean that Trent was…. Daria's brain wouldn't process that thought, no matter how hard she tried. Trent couldn't be…She hadn't seen him in… She would never be able to…
Half formed thoughts began and ended unmercifully as she made her way woodenly back to her bedroom, raking all of her books and assignments from her bed with one movement, sending papers across the room willy-nilly. She lay down across the blanket, fully clothed, and stared at the ceiling.
Daria had always planned on callling Trent, to clear the air about her running off that day. The last time she'd seen him. Jane talked to him every other day or so, and always asked if she'd like to talk also, but Daria had always flushed red and adamantly shook her head.
She wondered where he'd been headed, and how the accident had happened. From what she'd gotten out of Jane, it sounded as if Trent had been hit. What was he doing? Where was he now. Daria had always had a very vague notion of the afterlife, as other than the misery chick fiasco, she'd never really dealt with death head on. Daria knew she needed to call someone, possibly her mother, possibly Amy, to talk it out, but it was too late to call anyone at the moment.
Daria kicked off her jeans and pulled the blanket up to her chin as she stared at the darkness surrounding her, the tears running sideways down her face and into her hair, eventually crying herself to sleep.