(This is fan fiction just for fun. I have no claims.)
9-1-08/7:00 AM, L.A. time.
It is a common sight at airports, a young couple desperately embraced, kissing passionately and not wanting this moment to end. The crowd politely goes around the couple as they fight back tears and whisper of the depth of their love…
"I don't want you to go." Dylan Hunter says, his voice strained by emotion.
"And I so wish I could stay, but I've put this off as late as I can. Classes start tomorrow, and I just have to be there tonight for my Dad's first mayoral debate. His campaign staff is certain that a photo op of me with the family will be a boost to Dad's campaign. You know, the whole: 'Joan the hero' thing…"
"Yeah, the teenage girl that brought down the evil Ryan Hunter…"
Joan realizes too late she has touched a nerve. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
Dylan shrugs. "It shouldn't bother me after all of this time, but I remember what Uncle Ryan seemed like when I first met him, the charming and dedicated public servant who only wanted to make the world a better place. It was you who showed me the false face that hid…a monster."
They hug silently for a few moments. Dylan deals with his feelings about an uncle he origninally liked and admired while he was unknowingly being manipulated into coming over to 'the dark side' – something that might have worked if Joan hadn't been there to lead him back to the light. As for Joan, she hopes her guilt isn't too obvious to Dylan, because as his abilities as a fellow instrument of God have improved, it has become increasingly difficult to keep secrets from the man she loves. This causes more guilt in Joan for she knows that Dylan hides nothing from her while she has secrets…
Joan has to keep secret from all the that Ryan didn't die in the explosion that destroyed the Arcadia Herald building, but instead was killed weeks later at the top of Mt. Nashman as he eagerly watched for the flash of light that would mark the detonation of the nuclear device he planted in the heart of the city – a plan foiled by Joan. She must also hide the fact that in order to save her life, Dr. John Hunter killed his own brother that day. (The same Dr. Hunter who is now married to Elaine Lishak, former secret agent and one of the few people who knows Joan's secrets…) All of this is labelled top secret by Homeland Security and as Joan has found out, those guys don't kid around. Most of all, she must hide her on again/off again relationship as a 'consultant' to Issac B. Dunn, the head of covert operations for Homeland Security. Currently that relationship is in the 'off' position as Joan has cut all ties to I.B. after the death of her soldier cousin Simon Newman…
"You're feeling sad and…guilty." Dylan comments.
"Just thinking about stuff and the regrets everyone has about different times in their lives. And hey, stop 'reading' me. It's rude."
Dylan smiles. "Can't help it – our spiritual connection is too strong. This time we have spent together has bonded us beyond what other couples experience when they become lovers…"
"Oh God, I am so going to miss being able to touch you every day." Joan wistfully says as she recalls how she and Dylan have also traditionally 'bonded' through lots and lots and lots of sex. For the first time in her life Joan has been able to completely set free her powerful libido, and now trying to cork that genie back into the bottle seems an impossible task. "I can't believe we have to wait until Thanksgiving to see each other again!"
"Maybe not. We could follow our 'Plan B'."
"Meet at some airport motel halfway between Arcadia and Los Angeles for a 'dirty' weekend? Hey, I'm all for it, but will we ever have the time? We both have heavy class schedules as we wrap up our last year of undergraduate studies, I have to devote every free moment to helping my Dad's campaign and there's the matter of a certain Higher Power that frequently calls on us…"
"Speaking of whom, it looks like I have an assignment waiting for me." Dylan says as he nods toward a uniformed blonde woman waiting patiently at the edge of the crowd.
Joan glances over and sighs. "Stewardess God – I met her on career day my sophomore year at Arcadia High. My assignment was to pay more attention to those around me because some of them were in need of help but didn't know how to ask. Have you met Stewardess God before?"
"No, this version is new to me, and I think the correct term is Flight Attendant."
Both Dylan and Joan look toward Stewardess God, but she gives a small gesture that indicates they can continue saying their goodbyes.
Joan remarks, "I sometimes envy you your ability to spot God in whatever form she/he takes. I'm always a little on edge because I never know if any new person might be 'the one'."
"Yeah, but knowing God is watching is making this tight embrace a little uncomfortable."
"I know what you mean. Technically I'm aware God is always watching, but when she is in physical form like this it makes P.D.A.'s a little awkward." Joan says as she and Dylan put a small amount of space between theirselves.
"It's just as well, I suppose. At this rate our goodbye was going to cause you to miss your plane. I guess we have come to the moment when we have to say goodbye for real."
"I will miss you so much!" Joan says, trying not to cry.
"Me too, but we will talk and text every day. I promise to keep you updated on our mutual nephew."
Joan smiles as she thinks of the latest addition to the family: Greyson John Girardi, born less than a month ago. "Yeah, I'm going to miss that little bundle of joy. Is it weird that we are lovers and also uncle and aunt to the same kid?"
"Your brother and my half-sister, it was inevitable. But hey, someday we will turn it around on them when we have our first kid…" (Although Joan's expression doesn't change, inwardly she winces. Dylan immediately senses it…) "Oh, no, I wasn't pressuring for us to speed up our time schedule, and...I remember what you told me."
"About how after my miscarriage the doctors said I would have trouble conceiving again and the odds of me carrying a child to full term are really long…" (Joan pauses to wipe away a tear.) "Dylan, I would love to have babies with you, lots of them when the time is right, but…you have to face the possibility that door may be closed."
"I know, and I accept that the odds are bad, but not impossible. But children or no, it's you I love Joan, and you I want to spend my life with. Nothing else matters."
They kiss and hug in a moment of tender love and caring. With a heavy sigh they separate.
"I guess I better check in for the security protocals."
"And I suppose I shouldn't keep The Almighty waiting any longer."
In unison, "I love you."
With a sad smile and with great regrets, the two lovers part and moments later, they are absorbed by the busy crowd…
X X X X X
In the air and travelling east, Joan tries to relax with her eyes closed in her first class cabin seat, but can't. There is an overwhelming evil on board that can not be ignored - the devil is somewhere on this plane...
"Are you sure, Joan? I won't tell anyone that you are still under the drinking age."
Joan sighs and looks up. (So much for resting or trying to meditate.) Outwardly she is the same pretty blonde that Joan and Dylan recognized as Stewardess God, but this version has cruel, souless eyes...
"Hello Bub, what do you want this time?"
"Merely to serve you the breakfast that comes with the price of your ticket. Try the Mimosa, the orange juice is fresh squeezed."
"I've given up drinking."
Stewardess devil chuckles, "Joan, you can't lie to me. You had champagne at the celebratory brunch after the birth of your nephew."
"Okay, I occasionally have a social drink but have vowed never to get drunk again. Besides, I wouldn't trust anything you tried to get me to swallow."
"Joan, do you think I would poison you? What do you take me for?"
"The greatest source of evil in existence, and I repeat: what do you want?"
"Not a thing. I just dropped by to remind you that I haven't forgotten about you, Joan. It has been awhile since we last spoke."
"I remember. It was outside the gate to hell and you were trying to get me convicted of 'playing God'."
"A charge you were able to wiggle your way out of, and now I understand that you are taking training in spiritual law. It seems we are destined to be adversaries in court."
Stewardess devil smiles and leans closer. Joan feels a touch of fear deep inside of her. "Oh Joan, I'm going to enjoy wiping that smug smile off of your face. Your life will become my personal plaything, and I play rough."
Stewardess devil moves on, serving the other passengers with friendly smiles and a professional manner. Joan watches and tries to figure out what the devil is up to. Joan isn't willing to accept that the devil just stopped by for an unfriendly 'Hi'. Joan tries to take a spiritual read on the situation, but the overwhelming evil coming from the devil drowns out all other info that might come to her. Joan does notice one odd thing. Of all the passengers being served by the devil, only one reacts negatively to the seemingly friendly blonde stewardess. A young man with black spiky hair and a tiny goatee seems completely freaked out and refuses service from her. The devil shrugs and moves on. Once the devil has returned with her cart to the galley, Joan quickly moves over to where the guy is sitting. Fortunately, there is plenty of room as the first class cabin is half empty.
"Hi. Mind if I join you?"
The guy, in his mid twenties, looks up and automatically smiles at the attractive young woman who is seeking his company. Despite the brief moment of weirdness he felt with that stewardess, he isn't so freaked out that his hormones have shut down. He waves Joan into the seat next to him...
"Welcome. Do you find these long flights as dull as I do?"
"They bore me to tears. Joan Girardi." Joan replies, trying to be flirty while fighting down a twinge of guilt because she is committed to Dylan. Joan reminds herself this is work related.
"Trent Lane. Nice to meet you."
They shake hands and mutually let the contact linger just to establish that this a flirtation situation. Joan has to admit, this is a good looking, sexy man with a combo nice guy/bad boy vibe. He is wearing a black suit with no tie, but he looks like the type who would prefer a t-shirt and ripped jeans.
"Trent Lane...now why does that name seem familiar?"
"Well, I am in a band."
"Of course, you're the lead singer of Mystik Spiral."
"You've actually heard of us?"
"My sister-in-law Grace introduced me to your music. She's a fan of...uh..."
"Obscure, unsuccessful garage bands?"
"Well, yeah, but I have to admit when she played your music for me, I liked it. Are you really all that obscure?"
"Spiral's biggest hit so far barely cracked the top one hundred."
"Which is why Grace is into you guys. Once a band becomes a big hit, she considers them sell outs and loses interest in them."
Trent chuckles, accompanied by a small cough. Joan wonders if he is a smoker but notes there are no nicotine stains on his fingers... Oh, he's THAT kind of smoker.
"Then I guess this Grace will be a fan for a long time. So Joan, are you from L.A. or is Baltimore your home?"
"Neither. I was visiting in L.A. with...my brother and the flight to Baltimore is the closest direct flight to my home. From there I'll take the train to my hometown of Arcadia."
"I know Arcadia. Mystik Spiral played at a club there a few years ago. My eventual destination is Lawndale, a suburb just outside of Baltimore."
"Oh yeah, I've driven by there on my way to visit my Uncle Richard."
"Yeah, that's Lawndale - the kind of town people drive by."
"So what brought you to L.A., Trent?"
Trent hesitates and Joan senses a level of pain connected to that question. Joan wishes she could read Trent, but the devil's close proximity is messing with her abilities. It dawns on Joan that seeing Stewardess God at the airport was not a co-incidence. The last time she saw that version of God the assignment was to be alert to people in trouble because they don't always ask for help. Is this why the devil is here, to block her from helping this guy?
"I'm sorry if I'm intruding. If you like, I can go back to my seat..."
Joan counts on a long, lonely flight versus a chance to talk to a pretty girl for hours...
"No, it's okay. There's no big secret involved. I know this girl Daria..." (Trent hesitates a moment and there is a slight blush. Okay, it is definitely about this girl.) "Actually, I've known her for years."
"And you like her?"
Another blush and a small smile. "Yeah, I do. I first met Daria just after she turned 17. She was best friends with my kid sister Jane and I quickly realized Daria had a crush on me. But I was 22 then, so naturally nothing could happen between us, even though I found her a fascinating girl - especially for a high school kid. Daria has always been smart, funny and really cute, but the timing between us was all wrong."
"And we skip ahead a few years..."
"During that time Daria and Jane became so close, they're like sisters now. Hell, even the strain of Daria sorta taking away Jane's boyfriend didn't end their friendship. Mostly because Jane realized her time with the guy, Tom, was fizziling out. Another week and they would have been broken up for good, but Tom and Daria's attraction was too strong and they started making out on a spur of the moment thing. Daria felt so guilty, she confessed to Jane. It took awhile, lots of hurt feelings, but they eventually made up."
"So you were now out of the picture with this 'Daria'?"
"Yeah, I told myself I was relieved Daria had found a guy her own age but...I kinda missed that crush she had on me. The Tom/Daria thing didn't last and they broke up after high school graduation. Jane and Daria went on to college in Boston - different schools but they shared an apartment. Now, those two are inseparable. Like I said, just like sisters..."
"Uh oh, I'm guessing you have done something with Daria that is definitely non-sister like?"
Trent blushes again, but a small smile appears as he recalls a fond memory... "Oh yeah. Just after Daria got back to Lawndale after graduating last June, she had an idea for a TV script. Daria studied creative writing and this was going to be her first try at a professional gig. There's this TV show called 'Improper' that Daria and I both like a lot. It's set in the future where all of the world's computers have linked and are now secretly running the world in what they see as a benign dictatorship for mankind's own good."
"Yeah, I'm very familiar with the show."
"Oh wait, you said you name is Girardi? The show's producer is a Kevin Girardi."
"My big brother."
"Okay, so you'll get what Daria was doing with her script. The computers decide that to keep people from being suspicious, there should be some sort of organized protest movement against the status quo, but they naturally don't want it to be an effective movement. So, they're running the whole thing from behind the scenes and making the protestors look like the biggest bunch of lame losers ever - which includes their protest music."
"This is where you come in?"
"Yeah, we collaborated on the project, Daria doing the words and me doing the music. Daria submitted the script and your brother liked it. We were flown in for a meeting and the show bought the script. We went out to celebrate, had maybe a little too much to drink and Daria confessed to me a secret only she and Jane knew. At 22, Daria was still a virgin."
Joan smiles as she recalls that it was only last year that she lost her own virginity. "Hey, it happens. Not every girl gives it up in high school, or even college."
"Well, it came as a surprise to me. Daria explained that she has always had major issues with intimacy, and despite having had several boyfriends, she never could...cross that line."
"And you volunteered to help her with her 'problem'?"
"Actually, she asked for my help. She said she was tired of being this falling behind outsider, and just wanted to get it over with. Daria asked if I could be the friend who helped her through this without it getting weird between us. I said yes and that night... Well, it was awkward at first, but in the end it seemed a good experience for her. For both of us."
Joan takes Trent's hand, once again seeing the pain on his face. "But it meant more to you than just being a helpful friend. You care for Daria and you hoped this would be the start of a real relationship."
Trent nods. "Yeah, but the next morning, just as she feared, it got weird. Daria was cold and withdrawn - blushing a lot. We never had trouble talking before, but even something as simple as 'Good morning' was a strained moment. Daria wouldn't make eye contact, wouldn't talk about what happened and eventually she apologized and asked me to go back to Lawndale. She said my part with the script was over and she could handle any re-writes the show might request. I didn't want to go, but what choice did I have?"
"And now you're concerned about the fallout."
"I keep kicking myself for thinking this could have worked out between us. Does she think I took advantage of her because she was drinking? Neither of us were that drunk, but if Daria really regrets what we did, it provides her a convenient excuse to resent me. And what if this...awkwardness continues? Jane will notice and when the truth comes out, she will freak about what I did with with Daria. I may have damaged my relationship with my sister too. How do I explain that night meant a lot more to me than just sex?"
"Did it? I can see that you're upset, after all you may have hurt your relationship with your sister and her B.F.F., but are you re-writing history? You had a chance for casual sex with a girl you've been attracted to for a long time, but never made an effort to properly court. Maybe you're feeling guilty because it really was more about sex than feelings."
Trent sighs. "Maybe. I'd hate to think I was that shallow. I don't know...I'm so confused."
"Here's a good test. If your feelings are really invested with this Daria girl, then another chance at casual sex won't be much of a temptation. But if a quickie with an attractive stranger seems like a great idea, then you can clarify how you truly feel."
Trent notices how Joan is still holding his hand and gazing seductively into his eyes. He jokes, "Why Joan, are you asking me to join the mile high club?"
"I'm going to the restroom where I will slip off my underwear and wait for you. Wait a few minutes and then follow me. Knock once and I'll let you in. If you're not there within five minutes, we will both know if your night with Daria was mostly a matter of the heart or just hormones. You choose, stud."
Joan walks away, headed toward one of the bathrooms while Trent Lane watches her go. He has to admit she is a sexy, beautiful girl and this situation is erotic enough to turn on any guy. While big head and small head vie for dominance, he knows his heart will have the deciding vote...
In the airplane bathroom Joan contemplates the impracticality of having sex in such a tiny space. Oh well, others have managed it and she is sure they will figure it out too. Trent Lane...what a sexy guy with that amazing voice, slender body and cute face. In some ways he reminds Joan of Adam...and that story of this Daria and Trent also is familiar. Just last year while visiting the bay area Joan suggested to Adam a similar friends-with-benefits arrangement in order to end her own virginal status. If they had gone through with it, would their friendship have been strained in the same way? And how would that have affected her meeting with her true first, Jimmy Tubbs, only days later?
A stab of pain goes through Joan's heart as she remembers Jimmy, their brief engagement and her sudden, cruel loss of the man she loved. So much has happened since then...but that all seems to be obscured as Joan eagerly awaits the knock on the door from Trent. Yes, that is what she must focus on - this amazingly exciting moment of sex with a stranger...but why is she feeling so guilty? It's almost as if she has forgotten something important... Feeling nervous, Joan glances in the mirror to see if Reflection God is going to make an appearance, but to her surprise, she has no reflection...
"Joan, time to wake up."
Joan's eyes open and she is startled to find she is still in her seat. Next to her is the smiling, kind presence of Old Lady God. Joan's spiritual abilities kick back in and she detects the rapidly fading stench of numerous demons...
"What...what's going on?"
"You have been under a spirtual attack, Joan."
"Was here, along with a cadre of demons whose specialties included deception, recklessness and lust."
"It was all a dream?"
"More than a dream but less than reality. Joan, you have been cautioned before about allowing your spiritual side to weaken. It opens you up to such attacks."
"I remember, Spiritual Warrior 101 - overindulging the physical weakens the spiritual. I guess over the last few weeks Dylan and I have been 'indulging' a lot... Oh God, Dylan! How could I have forgotten about him during that dream thing?"
"That was the purpose of the attack, Joan. A clever demonic blending of reality and fantasy was going to make you believe you actually cheated on Dylan in an overwhelming moment of physical attraction. Your guilt would have been undeniable to Dylan and it would have ended your relationship."
Joan looks about the first class cabin. "A blend of reality...hey, that really is the singer from Mystik Spiral, Trent Lane. I recognize him from a CD of his band that Grace has. But that stuff about him and that Daria girl...?"
"Partly a memory of an overheard conversation Kevin had with Barbara about a script 'Improper' bought from Daria Morgendorffer and Trent Lane that you had seemingly forgotten. The devil used some of your own experiences, along with the true story of Trent's dilemma to deceive you. Before the devil made her appearance, you had already sensed the deep pain in that young man's heart."
"Then if that part is true, Trent is making a huge mistake leaving Daria behind in California. He needs to go back and deal with what happened between them. It wasn't the matter of Daria losing her virginity that freaked her out so much. It was the fact that in that first moment of ultimate intimacy, she realized for the first time the depth of Trent's feelings for her. She wasn't prepared for that and handled it badly. She didn't really want Trent to go - she just needed time to adjust and ponder her own feelings about him."
Old Lady God smiles. "Very good Joan, but when you speak to Trent later, remember he knows nothing of your 'dream' experience. You will have to start the conversation from scratch."
"Got it, but why 'later'?"
"It is a long flight and you will have plenty of time to speak to him, but first, you need to ponder your own feelings. Joan, why were you so unusually vulnerable to the devil's attack?"
Joan blushes. "I...thought that was settled. It's because Dylan and I have been going at it like rabbits on Viagra while slacking off on our spiritual side. And by the way, how petty is it for the devil to try to break up me and Dylan?"
"Not petty at all, Joan. Do you remember what I once told you about the other side's attitude about you two?"
Joan thinks back and smiles. "Oh yeah, back when we we first dating in high school. Every time we would come close to...being intimate, I would panic and back out. You told me it was because the other side was manipulating my hang ups about sex to keep Dylan and me apart because they feared...how powerful an instrument of God any child of ours would be! Oh wow, the vision you once showed me of a son I might have...it wasn't just a remote possibility of a future outcome. Dylan and I are destined to have that son!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know about free will and how it's not set in stone. But that's why the devil pulled this elaborate stunt today to try to break up me and Dylan."
"Which brings us back to my original question. Why were you so vulnerable to today's attack?"
Joan shrugs. "If it's more than about Dylan and me being frequently horizontal, then I haven't a clue."
"Joan, denying your pain only weakens you. You must deal with what is bothering you - the subconscious reason you waited until today of all days to fly home."
Joan's lip quivers and tears begin to form in her eyes. "No..."
"One year ago today you were on a flight from Arcadia to Miami to settle Jimmy's estate when..."
"I...had the miscarriage - when I lost my baby." Joan moans through an intense sob.
Joan begins to cry, leaning on Old Lady God's shoulder while she lets out her grief. It is a long session of cathartic tears and grieving - one that Joan has been denying herself for a long time. Nearly an hour passes until Joan is able to calm down and feel...a release. The presence of God, especially this version, has helped Joan finally deal with the pain she has bottled up for so long.
Old Lady God whispers, "You never asked me about this before, but the spirit of your child is as much with me as those of Jimmy, Judith, Rocky, your grandmother Anne and all others that you love and have seemingly lost. In time, you will all be reunited."
Joan nods, finding a great comfort in that statement. "Thank you for being here and for helping me through this."
"Joan, I am always with you, my love for you never wavering."
"I know, but like most people, I sometimes lose track of that. But...there's one thing I don't understand. How did you just happen to stop the devil's attack on me? By my free will I erred and blundered into the devil's trap. Your own rules say you don't interfere."
"With what exceptions?"
"In response to prayer with faith, or the actions of one of your agents."
"And as always, I have followed my own rules."
"Then someone was praying about this? Dylan?"
"No, Dylan Hunter is busy receiving a rather harsh reprimand from his tutor on overindulging the physical. The only reason the devil didn't attack him is that he did not have the added personal stress that you did today."
"Oh. Then someone else? Who?"
"Since you are feeling better, perhaps it is time for you to help Trent Lane with his own personal dilemma?"
"Okay, I get it, you're keeping secrets. I'll go talk to Trent now. It's going to seem weird speaking to him as if it were the first time when my dream conversation seems so real."
Old Lady God chuckles. "By now Joan, you should be use to 'weird'..."
X X X X X
At 22, Jane Lane is the youngest of the five Lane children but she still finds it weird that she is living in her old room in her parent's house months after graduating college. Not for much longer, though. Jane's personal finances are improving, and she is already diligently looking for a place of her own. (A more difficult task than one might expect. Jane doesn't need much room for herself, but her artwork sometimes takes up a lot of space.) Jane is free to take her time in finding that new place for her parents have never been the type to pressure their children about anything. In fact growing up, her parents were barely there as they believed in giving their children total freedom to make their own choices and mistakes. Even now, Jane isn't completely sure where her mother and father are... Oh yeah, Mom is finishing up a weekend show of her highly prized pottery at a Baltimore art gallery and her father...well, he's somewhere on the globe doing his world famous nature photography bit.
Jane pauses to examine the admittedly weird sculpture she is creating. Despite all that she learned at Boston Fine Arts College about different artistic mediums, Jane is still drawn back to her first love of making odd, avant garde sculptures from discarded items. Sometimes when she works with metal she welds her curious monstrosities together, but she usually prefers to work with softer materials like wood and plastic, and so she is today using her reliable hot glue gun (with industrial strength glue). What Jane finds most exciting about this current project is that it is her first commissoned sculpture. Last month at the same gallery her mother is at today, Jane's latest sculpture was bought in a silent auction by a well known, wealthy old lady who has a penchant for strange, modern art works. Beaten out for the sculpture was the wife of a prominent physician who didn't like losing. Hence, this commissioned piece at a high price for the home of Doctor and Mrs. Richard Girardi.
Jane checks the clock and sees she is running a little behind schedule, but thankfully she has only a few finishing touches to make before her 'masterpiece' is done. Figure an hour to let the glue dry, another hour to transport her sculpture to the Girardi home in Baltimore and she will make it in time to have the sculpture there for its' unveiling at a Labor Day barbeque party the Girardis are throwing tonight. Still, Jane doesn't like to cut things so close as she is all professional when it comes to her art. But, the delay couldn't be helped...
Earlier in the day Jane felt a strong 'urging' to pray for her brother Trent and for all of those around him. Jane isn't sure what that was all about, the last she heard from Trent was the good news that he and Daria sold their script to that sci-fi TV show, but Jane has learned not to ignore such promptings to pray. Just as she was led to accept the open spot to teach art at her old high school starting tomorrow. That is something Jane could never imagine herself doing, but she is learning she has to have faith and to trust in the good ripples.
Jane Lane smiles as she comtemplates how weird but exciting her life has become in the last year - ever since that day when she was riding the bus and noticed a really cute guy in a corduroy jacket smiling at her...
(I have been wanting to do a Daria/JoA crossover for a some time as I see a lot of parallels between the two series - minus the God theme. For those unfamiliar with "Daria", it was an MTV cartoon series that ran from 1997 to 2002 and is available on DVD. Highly recommended. - SANDEFUR.)