An 'Iron Chef'-themed 'Daria' fan fiction by Brother Grimace
"My dad told me about this pizza place he went to when he went to school over in Illinois. Saluki Pizza. Their big boy was the 'E.B.A.' - Everything But Anchovies'. The thing was huge - at least twenty toppings - and you could get a 12-inch for seven-seventy-seven, two Cokes included, or nine-ninety-nine for a 14-inch with four cans of Coke."
"Too good. They barely lasted the school year - but the memory lives on."
"Your dad remembers it every time he gets a pizza?"
"I actually had a dream about a pizza, and my father showed up in it."
"That's not good."
"No, actually it was. The pizza ate him, and the pizza place came up with a new pie. 'Everything, Including Dad."
Brittany Taylor tried not to spill her cola as she bubbled over in laughter, and Michael Mackenzie caught her hand and eased the glass to the table. "You've got a sick sense of humor, Mack!"
"It's not sick at all. It's in perfect shape - that way it can do all sorts of things."
Brittany rolled her huge blue eyes at the young man sitting across the booth from her, and she gave him her warmest smile. She and Mack had always been the best of friends, ever since they had been dumped into the same playroom while their fathers watched Jordan, Pippen and Rodman obliterate their opposition in the NBA Finals.
This was the first time in almost a year that she'd seen Mack, not since the big graduation blowout that her father threw for her. He stayed for all of fifteen minutes, and the next week, she'd heard that he'd left that night to immediately start summer classes. She left for her school two weeks later, to go through 'cheer camp' and afterwards, try out for the squads...
She'd been driving along Dega Street when she saw Mack, standing in front of 'Haus-to-Haus', that creepy second-hand furniture store, and looking at that huge handcrafted full-length mirror that they had in the front display window. She'd have stopped to talk even if she hadn't seen the strange look on his face as he looked at it; minutes later, she's gotten Mack into her brand-new Mustang convertible with the promise of a slice of pizza. He'd missed Pizza King; as it just so happened, so did she.
It didn't hurt, either, that she wasn't wearing the ever-present LHS cheerleader uniform from their days as inmates in Li's prison. Gone was the skirt, ribbons and pom-poms; Brittany was wearing a stylish, snug-fitting garnet-and-white pullover sweater, matching pressed white slacks, and a tiny emerald pendant that she wore outside her sweater when she wanted to drive some guy to distraction.
"By the way, nice pendant," Mack told her, as they were zooming along. "Thank you," she replied, somehow managing not to smile. "Glad you noticed."
She would never dream of telling him, but Brittany had always had a huge crush on Mack. She never did anything about it, though. Jodie Landon was a really nice girl, although she never treated Mack the way he deserved, and sometimes, it seemed as though she really didn't care about Mack... Now, of course, with them all going to different colleges, and Jodie going all the way to Atlanta, well, maybe, Mack could find a girl who would really appreciate him, and treat him nice, and could just talk to him, and she'd, like, really listen, because he actually had interesting things to say, and sometimes, he'd talk about important stuff - and of course, he had the most perfect brown eyes that just made you warm when you looked in them...
"Who are you wishing dead over there, Brittany?"
"That look you just had on your face - if someone looked like that and they were just THINKING about me, I'd stop running only when I got to the Canadian border. Are the girls on the cheerleading squad THAT bad?"
"Almost as bad as the guys on the team with you," she teased, swirling the ice in her soda around as she averted her eyes from Mack. She wasn't sure what he'd say when she told him... "Mack, I was just wondering..."
"No - I haven't seen him lately."
That shook Brittany out of her malaise. "Him - who?"
Now it was Mack's turn to be slightly shaken. "Kevin. I haven't seen him since Thanksgiving break, when I went over to his house to watch the games with him on -"
"The Pigskin Channel," she spoke in unison with him. "God, what do you guys see in that station? It's just lots of guys hitting and running after and rolling around with other guys and grabbing balls - if you want to see THAT, just go to Fire Island during the summer!"
"Brits, you're an evil, evil girl," Mack smirked, demolishing half a slice in one bite. "There's a lot of good stuff that you can say about Pigskin - "
Brittany sat back and folded her arms under her breasts. "Go ahead."
"Maybe I should eat some more pizza. We can talk about football channels some other time."
"There's a good idea."
Mack sighed inwardly - but Brittany smiled at him. "You didn't dodge anything, Mack. I LET you off the hook."
"Not gonna do the same for you. How come you never talked to Kevin after we graduated?"
At that moment, Mack would have given out a time-share on his soul for Brittany to have the same cup size as Calista Flockhart - or at the very least, worn a baggy shirt. A VERY baggy shirt. A pup tent with sleeves would have been nice. Women the world over hated nothing as much as a guy who looked at her chest instead of her eyes when he talked to her, and Brittany Taylor was a doctorate-level test in self-control. Thank God for four years of science classes with both Brittany and Miss Barch in eyeshot, he thought, deliberately not noticing as Brittany yawned and stretched, making the garnet-and-white pullover she wore contort in the most distracting of ways...
"I can't catch up with him," she finally admitted. "He's graduated from LHS - I asked Ms. Li when I came back to town last week - but I can't pin him down. His parents won't even talk to me - Mr. Thomphson acts as though I betrayed Kevin by not flunking along with him, and Mrs. Thomphson just sits there sniffling - when she's not mumbling about the 'floozy tramp blow-up doll that kept my baby busy following around so that he didn't get his work done' under her breath... all one-hundred-proof of it. Jeez. It's not as if he died or something, but they act like it."
"As I left, his mom came to the door, screaming as loud as she could how she's glad that at least Kevin didn't get me pregnant. As if I'd let him get that far!"
That bit of news rocked Mack. "Wait a minute. Are you saying that you and Kev never - wait a minute. NEVER?"
"Mack, please! YOU'RE supposed to be a gentleman about things like that!"
Brittany actually blushed as she spoke, surprising Mack - as long as he'd known Brittany, he'd never seen anything that could make her skin flush rose-pink like that... not that he'd mind, he thought to himself. It suits her, with just a touch more color in her cheeks...
"Kevvie's fun, and he's a good kisser, I guess, but THAT? With HIM? Ohhh, I don't think so, no matter what he says!"
"But Kevin wouldn't lie to me..."
"We didn't - I don't care what anyone says or tells you, even Kevin," Brittany replied, a bit more forcefully and a touch louder than she's meant to. No. Not once. Under the bra - open bra - loads of play - that's it - Mack, are you BLUSHING?"
Mack downed half a soda, shaved ice and all, hoping that the burning sensation would go away. "No. I'm not. I don't blush."
"Yes, you do."
"Black folks don't blush."
"Then you need a stronger suntan lotion, because I can see that blush right through that excellent tan!" Brittany laughed. "Anyway, no. Never. I'm waiting for the right guy to ask me - I mean, I'm waiting for the right guy. First time's supposed to be special."
"Yeah," he agreed wistfully, "they say to be careful and choose wisely, because you never forget your first..." Something about the way he spoke made Brittany's ears perk up, and her eyebrows rose slightly.
"You haven't done it," she said quietly, a note of surprise and almost awe almost masking the touch of relief that suddenly flowed through her from out of nowhere. "You haven't... but I thought that you and Jodie-"
"Oh, we tried," Mack said, his grin becoming lopsided. "We definitely tried. Just before Christmas, our senior year. Her parents had to go to this thing for the Twin Counties United Minorities Business Alliance, and she got out of it because she had to study for her exams. She finished way early, so she called, I went over, we watched 'Mahogany', and we tried..."
His voice trailed off.
Brittany didn't know what to say, and she couldn't explain the sudden rush of happiness through her; she took another huge bite off a cheese-stuffed crust, chewing slowly to avoid being the first to speak.
To avoid saying the wrong thing. Not now, please, not here; I don't know why, but please don't let me be stupid or silly right now...
"The funny thing is, Jodie actually thought it was her - that we didn't go all the way because she wasn't ready, or she was afraid of getting pregnant, or whatever else she said, I don't really remember. All I know is that I couldn't have made it with her even if I'd tried, or if I wanted to."
"I don't get it."
Mack didn't seem to notice that he'd placed his elbow right into his slice of pizza. "When we - I mean, when Jodie and I were sitting on the couch, she was wearing this huge Crestmere sweatshirt her dad had gotten her, and when we started making out, she was trying to get out of it, and she got stuck - we got stuck. One of the buttons on my letter sweater got caught on her blouse button underneath, and one thing led to another, and there we were, playing 'Teenage Twister'. Hands everywhere, something's spinning and eventually, somehow, we landed on the floor."
A lump of something very large and very cold seemed to choke Brittany and send ice through her. "I thought that you and Jodie hadn't - you said -"
"After a minute of two, we managed to get the button uncaught - Jodie finally calmed down and realized things would go faster if she stopped thinking about her folks walking in at any moment," he continued. "She finally pulled loose and her head popped out of the sweatshirt - her eyes were so big, and her hair was all over -"
"She had her hair out of the braids?" "Another thing for the Crestmere kick that they were pulling on her - let your hair down and take the braids out. Too ethnic, they were saying."
"The Landons were always tough."
"Yeah. Jodie starts saying that this just proves that she's not ready - if she really wanted to do this, she wouldn't be fumbling, and doing stupid things, and basically self-sabotaging herself. I let her say that, because I know why I couldn't do it."
Mack lifted his eyes from the table and fastened his eyes with Brittany's own, and he noticed, and not for the first time, the girl behind the pom-poms, the cheerleader sweater, or the little girl that he played odds-and-evens with for cookies.
It was time.
"When Jodie's head popped up, all I thought of was how much I wished that it was from beneath a Lawndale cheerleader sweater... and when I saw her eyes and just how big they were, all I could think of was how much I wanted for them to be blue."
The lump in Brittany's throat had suddenly evaporated, and she could breathe again. She couldn't quite trust herself to speak, however; she was quiet for a long time.
"Why didn't you ever say anything to me before...?"
A thick moment of quiet.
Mack took almost five minutes before he could find his voice.
"When Kevin and I were little, his dad and my dad had a copy of this old movie called 'Brian's Song'. It was about two football players, Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Every weekend, up until we went into the 'Pint-Size Pigskin League', we'd watch 'Brian's Song,' and we did everything together, just like they did."
Brittany's eyes were wider than he'd ever seen them, but with a new softness that made her look even more beautiful than ever before - did he just think of Brittany as beautiful?
Did he actually think of her in... that way?
You always have, he told himself, you just never acted on it. Now tell her why.
"I don't ever want to hurt Kevin," he said. "He's closer to me than a brother could have been, and I don't want to see him suffer. I can't explain it any more than that."
Mack looked back up at Brittany again. "Yes, I can. I love him, Brittany. He's my family. Through all the stupid stuff, all the dumb stuff, it doesn't matter. He's always going to be family to me."
For a moment, he thought that Brittany was going to cry.
"But I've wanted to say... I want, I mean, I've wanted to tell you things for so long, but Kevin decided that he liked you, and I couldn't hurt him by competing with him and taking the girl that he's crazy about-"
"Confident, aren't you?" Brittany said, blowing a wisp of hair out of her face as she sat back, a brilliant smile on her face. "Typical captain of the football team. No matter what happens, he's sure that he's going to win."
The spell was broken; Mack actually felt himself relaxing.
"Coach Juntunen noticed that I wasn't really trying to date. He said that I'm good - that I'm REALLY good - but that this year, my mind wasn't in the game like it should be. Before I left this year, we had a meeting in his office, and he said that I need to get my head clear. Go off and take the summer to do whatever I have to do - and then, if I don't come back committed a hundred-and-ten-percent to the Firestorm football program, he's going to run my ass up and down the stairs of Hille Stadium so many times that the only relationship I'll have is with seat 276VV, all the way up in the nosebleed section. His quote."
Brittany smiled a tiny, knowing smile as she dabbed at her mouth with her napkin, and then wiped her hands with another. "What else did he say-?"
"He said that... he said that if Kevin was my friend, then he wouldn't stand in my way. Not even if he's not coming, and he knows that he's not," Mack continued. "Juntunen said that I needed to remember that sometimes, I need to be selfless for others, and sometimes, I have to be selfish for myself..."
"He sounds like a smart person," Brittany said, and at that moment, Mack realized that Brittany had dropped the kewpie-doll tone she normally spoke in. In fact, he suddenly realized, she hadn't spoken like that since they had sat down to eat. "Well, then. I guess that I'm just going to have to help you. It wouldn't be right for you to do all that running..."
Mack gave a start as Brittany lifted herself from her seat and slid over into the booth next to him. "And I'm actually doing this for... for football!"
"Brittany - personal space..."
"Oh, shut up."
Without so much as a warning, Brittany pressed close and pressed her lips gently to Mack's, feeling his warmth, his form, and the rightness of how it felt as she felt his hand come up to cup her face as they kissed. "Well," she said, an eternity later, after their lips had parted, "for someone who's so confident in himself, you are an awful kisser."
Mack still had the semi-dazed look on his face of a man who's just been missed by a speeding train. ""Oh, I am...?"
"Oh, you are," she told him, draping her arms around him. "Now... if you'll let me... I can help you learn. It'll help you with your concentration... that way, you won't have to run so much... and that way, you'll have enough energy to help me with my problem..."
Mack decided that the feel of Brittany in his arms was something that he could probably get used to. In time. After a lot of practice. "Which is...?"
"I'm horrible at 'Twister'," she informed him. "I just don't have anybody to practice with."
"Maybe I could help with that."
"Maybe you could."
Brittany kissed Mack again, and this time, the feeling was warm, and soft, and it was right.
They parted after a time, and Mack brushed at a wisp of Brittany's hair. "Brittany... before this goes any further-"
"I know," she finished. "We have to talk to him, and we will. Right now, let's not talk any more."
"Don't you think I can talk?"
"Yes, you can talk," she smiled, "but not as well as certain people."
"I can talk as well as anybody - Jodie! I can talk as well as Jodie, or, or - Charles! Daria Morgendorffer! I can definitely talk as well as Daria Morgendorffer!"
Brittany stroked Mack's brow, and looked him straight in the eye. "Mister Mackenzie, I went to school with Daria Morgendorffer. I invited Daria Morgendorffer to a party. Daria Morgendorffer was almost my friend. Michael - you're no Daria Morgendorffer."
"I should smack you for saying that."
"Wait until we're alone."
Staring out into the dining area of Pizza King from behind the one-way security mirrors installed in the walls, Kevin Thomphson watched as Brittany and Mack kissed once more.
Dude, I'm sorry I lied to you, he thought. I thought you'd think I was a loser if I didn't score with Brittany - everybody knows we made out enough all over to think that we went all the way. Hey, and I actually DID bag all those other babes - once they thought I knocked boots with Brit, EVERYBODY wanted to come and say hello to my lil' friend!
I know you're gonna be big someday, Mack Daddy... Michael... Mack. You get to be Gale Sayers, and I'm Brian Piccolo. I can't be around you just yet, man, but I know you're gonna rock, man. You're gonna ROCK!
And put in a good word for the babes for me. I might need that. And a loan. Not much.
I know you'll treat Brit like a lady. I didn't know that you liked her when I saw her, or I'd have said that YOU should go for it! Hey, I'M the QB, but YOU'RE Captain of the team - you SHOULD get first pickings!
Kevin wiped pizza sauce and crust off his hands with his apron, and put his hand up to the mirror. I love you, bro. You're my family. Go get it all.
3 February 2004