Babylon: A Daria Fan Fiction

By: Sam Lincoln (

Disclaimers: Don't own Daria, never have probably never will. The song Babylon was written by David Gray, lyrics copyright owned by Iht Records, reprinted without permission.

Soundtrack: David Gray 9/24/2000. David Gray is an awesome singer/songwriter definitely check his stuff out, email me and I'll B&P a copy.

"Let go your heart/let go of your head and feel it now."


London, 2011

Tom Sloane made his way out of the subway station, walking against the crush of people as he continued on his trip home from his job at a London-based software design firm. It wasn't where Tom had expected to be ten years after high school, but then again he was good at what he did, and he was a whole continent away from his father, away from being a Sloane, and away from Lawndale and all the memories that resided there. He frowned briefly as an overly ostentatious punk bumped him. The one constant in any city he found was that people were always at their worst around subways. He went to cross the street only to be nearly mowed down by an oncoming Land Rover; he wasn't hit but did get soaked by the puddle the car drove through as it sped by.

"Damnit!" Tom swore. He'd been living in London for two years and still hadn't adapted to the traffic patterns. He tried in vain to dry himself and gingerly crossed the street, this time paying closer attention to what he was doing. Tom arrived at the other side of the street without any further incident and walked towards his apartment. Moving through the crowd he saw a face that shocked him out his reverie, Daria Morgendorfer. Or at least someone who looked exactly the same as his old high school flame. He had to look again to make sure he wasn't seeing things, and to his amazement it was indeed Daria. Tom pulled up short in surprise, but just as he was about to say something the person walking behind Tom collided with him, not expecting Tom's sudden stop. Tom turned to apologize and by the time he had disentangled himself she was gone.

"Damnit!" he cursed again. He cast his eyes through the crowd, trying to spot her, "Not a sign of her, damn!" He said to himself, "Was that really her? I must have been seeing things, there's no way that could have been Daria. Why would she be in London?" Tom pondered the matter as he walked up the steps to his apartment. He walked into his residence his eyes caught sight of an opened letter sitting on the coffee table. It was his invitation to his ten-year class reunion at Fielding.

"That must be it," he thought, "I got that letter and it got me thinking about Lawndale, so I predisposed to thinking that anyone who looked like Daria actually was Daria." He chuckled, "I mean, what are the odds that in a city this large the two of us would walk past each other on the street?" Even if, out of all the other places in the world, she was even in London." Having assured himself that his former love had not just walked past him, Tom busied himself in his kitchen, preparing dinner. He was draining the pasta when the phone rang. Tom sighed as he put down the colander and reached for the phone, only one person would be calling now, assuming it wasn't a telemarketer, "Hello?"

"Tom! How the hell are you?" A booming British voice said.

"Hi Ian, actually I was just about to eat my dinner…"

"Let me guess, your usual spa ghetti with runny tomato sauce? Or maybe that American delicacy, the hot dog?"

"No, it's err...spaghetti and store bought Alfredo sauce."

"Well, well, somebody's fancying a night of haute cuisine. Tell you what, why don't the two of us go grab a few other folks, go out for a bite then hit a few clubs."

"Ian…" Tom said wearily.

"For god's sake man, it's a Friday night. Would it kill you to live a little?"

"Your definition of living a little is what most people term extreme sports Ian."

"At least when I punch out I won't have wasted my life."

"It all depends on your definition of waste."

Ian laughed, "That's the spirit, so are you in or out?"

Tom sighed, "The first round's on you?"

"Of course."

"Fine, I know I'll regret this in the morning."

"That's how all the good evenings go my man."

"So when do the festivities commence?"

"Right now," and on cue Tom heard a knock on the door.

"You fucker," Tom told the phone as he hung it up. He walked over to the door and opened it. "You've timed how long it takes you to convince me to do these things haven't you?" Tom asked Ian as the Brit entered the apartment.

"Doesn't say much good about you now does it?" Ian replied. Ian was about Tom's height with close-cropped brown hair and cheery blue eyes. He was a former aspiring professional rugby player who still managed to find his way into a scrum from time to time. Tom met Ian early in his stay in London. Ian ran a record store Tom liked to visit. They started talking and soon Ian was dragging Tom around the club scene in London. Ian was convinced the solution to all of Tom's problems could be found either at a party or by getting laid, and not necessarily in that order.

"Ok man, here's the plan. We're going to go to this new club, The Albatross, apparently it's a Coleridge theme nightclub. Anyway, we're going to check this place out, toss back a couple, ok, more than a couple," Tom looked at him dubiously, "Ok, we're going to get pissed and probably get into an argument with some random stranger about football which will lead to a brawl. There, is that stereotypically British enough for you?"

"Considering that's exactly what happened the last time we went out…"

"That ass had it coming. As I was saying, we're going to go out and get pissed, and if we're lucky wake up tomorrow next to a beautiful woman."

"And if we're not lucky?" Tom asked dryly.

"I'll wake up with you in my bed."

"Hey now, I'll have you know I'm a fine catch."

Ian punched Tom's arm playfully, "Oh shut up you little shit. Are we going to go or are you just going to stand there and come on to me all night?"

"Can't we do both?" Tom asked innocently, "I mean you're just so manly, I can't contain myself."

"Shove it you fucker, are we going or not?"

Tom chuckled, sometimes it was easy to push Ian's buttons, "Ok, ok, let me grab my shoes and jacket." As Tom gathered his things he called out to Ian, "Hey, you ever think you've seen an old girlfriend when you were walking down the street?"

Ian shrugged, "Sure, all the time, who hasn't? I mean that time after Eleanor dumped me I even thought some fellows were her."

Tom walked back into the entry room, "I mean really old girlfriends, like from high school, or whatever the hell you Brits call it."

Ian shook his head, "No, can't say that I have. You must have been pretty hard up about her if you still think you see her."

Tom shrugged, "I don't know, it was a fling really, you know, one of those high school romances. The mind does funny things sometimes."

Ian nodded, "Yes, it does," He could tell there was more to the story, but he knew that now wasn't the time to pry, "Now let's go numb the fucker with some beer." Ian grabbed Tom and pulled him out the door. Down on the street Ian hailed a cab for the two of them.

"So, who are we meeting at this place?" Tom asked after Ian told the cabbie where to go.

"Oh, nobody special, just Martin and Rob."

"Wonderful, now my evening is complete." Martin and Rob were two of Ian's friends. Rob owned a comic book shop adjacent to Ian's store, and Martin worked for Ian. Both were charitably described as deeply committed to their jobs; another valid description, which Tom preferred, was obsessed losers.

"Come on Tom, Martin and Rob are both fine guys, sure they're wound a little tight, but that's just because neither of them are getting any. A condition you share with the lads I might add."

"Why does everything revolve around my sex life with you?" Tom asked, a little too loudly if the cabbies raised eyebrows were any indication.

"Because it's so damn lacking. My god man, you sped all day in your office typing out code, and then you go home to an outrageously posh flat...and spend your nights watching bad American television. A place like yours is a veritable chick magnet. If I had a place like that I wouldn't be lacking for female companionship. Not that I am now mind you, but if I had your place, man the chicks would be all over me."

"But what if that's not what I'm looking for? I mean I am looking for women, but not like that." He hastily added with an eye towards the cabbie.

"Then I'd say you've already picked out a lady and the rest just don't match up...and unless I miss my guess it's that old school sweetheart you were talking about earlier."

"Who, Daria? No, no, no, not Daria, that's a piece of my past that's firmly in the past. Besides I don't even know if it wasn't her."

"If it was her then look her up, start checking out all the hotels in the city. You know hackers, it wouldn't be too hard. And if it really wasn't here then maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something."

"Well I'd say you're fully of shit. But I suppose you won't give up on this until I tell you the whole story." Tom proceeded to describe the history of his relationship with Daria, starting with Jane.

"So, you broke up with the art chick, who you really have to introduce me to sometime, and moved right on to this Daria girl? Wow, you were a player back in the day."

Tom frowned, "Don't remind me, it wasn't my finest hour as it were. Anyway, Daria and I went out our senior year of high school and stopped seeing each other when we went to college." He shrugged, "nothing more to it than that."

"Was she hot?"

Tom winced at his friend's bluntness, "She wasn't what you'd call a conventional beauty, but she had a way about her. Daria was brilliant and totally convinced that most people were stupid..."

"A sad fact I'd tend to agree with."

"Don't get too attached, she's the sort of person you couldn't stand. She had this tendency to suck the joy out of almost anything. And that doom and gloom outlook got to be sort of grating after a while."

"Then why'd you go out with her for so long?"

Tom sighed, "Because she didn't care that my family was rich." He paused, "No, it was more like she wasn't in awe of that fact. Plus she had a wicked sense of humor, provided you weren't on the receiving end. And it wasn't like we lacked conversation topics, like I said she was incredibly intelligent. I'll give her this, for someone who was so anti-social she sure made life interesting."

"Sounds like a perfect match for you. What went wrong?" The cab pulled up to the club before Tom could answer. While they were standing in line for admittance Ian returned to the subject. "So, what went wrong between the two of you?"

Tom shrugged, "Oh, someone might have said something, the other might have blown things way out of proportion and here we are, you know how it goes."

Ian looked at Tom dubiously, "Yeah, sure. Look man, if you don't want to talking about this just tell me and I'll just shut the fuck up."

Tom sighed, "No, that's ok, I don't's just this really isn't the place to be talking about my love life." He waved an arm to indicate the people milling around them.

"Pish, like anyone else is paying attention." He turned and addressed the line. "Excuse me, are any of you good people listening in on the conversation my friend and I are having?"

A few people shook their heads, most watched disinterestedly, "Thank-you. You see," he told Tom, "these people don't give a bloody rat's ass about your miserable love life. Now if we were talking about mine," he grinned, "we'd have to sell tickets for admission."

Tom smirked, "Sure, everyone loves a good comedy. But seriously, Daria and I went out in high school, we helped each other grow as people. We broke up on slightly bad terms, and that was that. It happens all the time, it's no big deal."

Ian frowned, as he shuffled forward with the line, "Ok...but..."

Tom sighed, Ian wasn't going to give up, "But what?"

"But if she really was so inconsequential why haven't you had another serious relationship in the intervening ten years?"

Tom opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to form a reply, "He looks like a fucking small mouth bass." Ian thought.

"What do you mean? I've had plenty of relationships."

"Oh, sure, plenty of brief dumb ones."

"Says the world renowned ladies man."

"Fuck, so I like to go out with a wide range of women. I'm looking man, I'm trying to find just the right one, and when I do," he shrugged, "I won't have to go looking around anymore. But until then I've got to check out as many as possible to be sure I get the one that is just right."

"Or it might just be a convenient way to avoid commitment."

"Hey, when I go out at least I'm considering the long term with them. Which is more than I can say for you. And if you're fresh with me I'll bash your head in." This last warning was directed at the very muscular bouncer who was patting Ian down.

"Whatever, I still say you're full of shit." Tom said as they entered the club. "Whoa, check this place out." The interior of the club was decorated with a decaying sailing ship motif. Tattered sails hung from the ceiling, the walls were covered with netting and seashells. The room was lit with diffuse bluish-green light that filtered through the sails and the portholes that dotted the walls. And of course, since it was a club, loud dance music pounded throughout. "It's like an Under the Sea Dance gone horribly wrong." Tom said, dumbfounded.

"I'd say it'd make one question the existence of a loving God, not to mention driving a man to drink, which I could really use right about now."

"Ok, we've been, it sucks, can we go now?" Tom asked moving for the door.

"Not so fast there buddy," Ian said, catching Tom by the arm. "We have to fully experience the local ambiance before we can go. Besides I reserved a table for us. So come you cowardly bugger, I need a drink, a dance with a beautiful woman and a good screw afterwards." He dragged Tom over to the maitre de's station.

"Yeargh gentlemen, welcome to 'The Albatross,' I'm glad ye could join me on my accursed voyage." The maitre de was dressed up like an old sea captain, complete with a grizzled beard and squinty eyes. Fake seaweed was liberally strewn across his carefully tailored torn clothing. The final touch to his outfit was the large, stuffed albatross dangling from a lanyard around his neck.

"Uh, yes, reservation for four, the name's Williams, um, the rest of our party is not with us at the moment."

The costumed maitre de looked at his reservations book, "Ah yes, Mr. Williams, the rest of your party be waiting for ye in the bar."

"Those bastards, starting without me. Lead on accursed Mariner, bring me to these two delinquents."

"Yeargh, right this way sir." The actor motioned for Ian and Tom to follow him. While they walked towards the bar Tom looked around to further acclimate himself to the club. The space seemed to be divided into two general areas, along both walls were bar and dining spaces. While the middle of the building was dominated by a large dance floor, and even at that early hour there were people dancing. The DJ was pumping a fast dance track to counteract the quiet nature of the room's lighting. Tom also noticed that the rest of the staff wore costumes similar to the maitre de's.

Tom leaned over and spoke into Ian's ear, "This place is pretty bad, I wonder if the people who run it have even read the poem."

Ian glanced at Tom and grinned, "Who cares so long as the beer's good and the women are hot."

The maitre de stopped just short of entering the bar area, "Here ye are gentlemen, your table will be ready shortly, yeargh." He walked back to the front of the club, leaving Ian and Tom to fend for themselves.

"Ok, I'm going to get a drink, while you find Rob and Martin, want anything while I'm over there?"

"The usual."

Ian made a face, "How can you stand drinking that Canadian piss? Really, you're in England for god's sakes, drink good beer."

"Just buy me a damn Moosehead, I'm not in the mood to hear your beer theories again."

Ian shrugged, 'Ok, ok, it's not my body you're going to be poisoning with that rotgut."

"The world does not revolve around a pint of Boddington's you know."

Ian waved a hand in a dismissive fashion as he walked towards the bar, "So you say Yank, so you say."

Tom shook his head and started wandering around, looking for Martin and Rob. He found them sitting at one of the tables scattered around the bar, they appeared to be in the middle of a heated discussion.

"Hey guys," Tom said in greeting, "What's up?"

"Oh, hi Tom." Martin said. Martin Willoughby was a small, nebbish man. At times he resembled a mouse, ready to flee at a moment's notice. Although when truly pushed he had a tendency to stand his ground. Martin was an audio genius, he could diagnose a problem with a stereo system after the briefest listen. He also tended to channel all of his energy into his work and as such lacked a good many social graces.

"Yeah, pull up a chair Tom, maybe you can help us sort out a little disagreement Martin and I are having," Rob Goodin was practically the archetypal comic book store owner. His physique ranged from corpulent to overweight, his receding hair was pulled back in a half-hearted ponytail and he maintained an air of superiority because he could recite from memory the current street value of every issue of Cerebus

Tom sighed, "Sure, fine, what is it this time?"

"Well," Martin said, while adjusting his glasses. "We're trying to decide which Doctor acted most like a real Time Lord would."

"Huh, run that by me again?"

Rob sighed, "It's a simple question Tom, out of the seven unique incarnations of Doctor Who, which one acted in a way that best fit a real Time Lord."

Tom frowned, "But there are no real Time Lords."

Rob shook his head in exasperation, "Well duh, I know that. I mean as they explained Time Lords in the show."

"Ahh," Tom replied, still not really getting it, but not wanting to continue.

Martin, sensing Tom's lack of comprehension chimed in, "See it's pretty strait forward. Look at episode..." He launched into a long winded and convoluted discourse on a particular Dr. Who episode. Tom's eyes quickly glazed over and he began to look around, hoping to spot Ian. "...and so because of that we know that the Doctor's actions fly totally in the face of everything we know a Time Lord is capable of."

"Oh, well, if you two would excuse me I'll go see what's keeping Ian." Tom hastily got up and walked over to the bar.

"Dummy," Rob said to Martin, "Why did you have to use that episode as an example, now episode..." The rest of the conversation was mercifully swallowed up by the ambient din of the room.

Tom sighed as he made his way through the crowd, "Why does Ian get so worked up about my love life when he's those two losers to work with?" he thought to himself, "Then again, I suppose his odds are better with me than with those two." He spotted Ian by the bar talking to a brunette. "I should have known he'd be hitting on some chick." Tom angled his way over to the bar to get himself a beer. He indicated his preference to the bartender and leaned against the bar, watching Ian do his thing. From where he was standing he couldn't see the woman's face or make out what the were saying. However based on her body language Tom could tell she was far from receptive to Ian's advances. Tom chuckled into his beer when the woman gave Ian a resounding slap and walked off. Tom straightened and walked over to greet his now solitary friend. "What the hell did you say to her?" Tom asked by way of greeting.

Ian looked up and saw Tom, "So you watched that little incident?" He handed Tom a full bottle of Moosehead,. Tom held up the bottle he was currently working on. Ian shrugged and put the bottle back on the counter.

"I saw some of it but couldn't overhear anything."

Ian took a swig from his beer, "Well I didn't suggest anything vile. Just that she'd have a more enjoyable evening with me, opposed to whoever else she was with. You should go find her, she was a fellow Yank, I'm sure the two of you would hit it right off."

Tom nodded at the fading red mark on Ian's cheek. "Hit is right. I'm not a rugby player like you, pain doesn't excite me."

Ian shrugged, "Suit yourself, she did seem like a pretty feisty girl, probably a tiger in the sack. I thought that was your type."

A dim memory of a self-styled teenaged lady-killer flitted through Tom's mind, he shuddered, "Do me a favor, never call a woman feisty around me again, ok?"

Ian quirked an eyebrow, "Can I still talk about breast size, spits or swallows and overall performance in bed?"

"Oh sure, it wouldn't be a date post-mortem if you didn't tell me that stuff, just don't call them feisty like that"

Ian clapped Tom on the shoulder, "Atta boy, I was worried you were going soft on me. Ok, the adjective feisty is out of my vocabulary."

"Thanks, now can we get some food?"

"I suppose, hey barkeep, one more for the road if you please." Ian held up his mostly empty beer mug. After getting his refill Ian followed Tom away from the bar. "Since you're already on your second beer of the night I assume you found the boys."

Tom nodded, "Yes and they were debating Dr. Who this time."

"Not that Time Lord argument again." Ian groaned, "How many times have I told those twits that it's the fourth Doctor..."

Tom winced, he just remembered why Ian hung out with Rob and Martin; they were all sci-fi aficionados. Tom took a long pull from his beer.

Ian strode up to the table where Martin and Rob were sitting. "Hello boy," Ian said as he set his mug down on the table. "Arguing over Time Lords again?"

"You're not going to bring up that fourth doctor theory again are you?" Rob sniffed.

"Hey now, be careful there, my fourth doctor theory has a lot more weight than your..."Ian was interrupted by the arrival of their server.

"Hello there gentlemen how are you doing this evening?" The server was a pretty blond whose too small T-shirt reveled a pierced belly button.

"To be honest things were looking pretty grim, but they're picking up now that you've arrived." Ian was beside himself, all thoughts of Dr. Who were instantly forgotten.

The waitress laughed, "I'm glad to hear that. Now what can I get you gentlemen?" She took a pad and pen out of her pocket in her apron.

"Well I'd say 'You when you get off work.' But that's such an old line there's no way it'd work on such a gorgeous creature like you."

The waitress laughed again, "And you'd be right, now what do you want to eat?"

Ian considered the menu the club had thoughtfully placed on the table under a sheet of Lucite, "I'll take the chicken sandwich, fries, an order of your cheese sticks, and another one of these," he held up his glass. Rob and Martin both placed their orders as well.

"And for you sir?" the waitress asked Tom.

Tom looked up from the menu, "It says here you import all your beef from the States?"

The waitress nodded, "Yes sir, direct from Nebraska."

"Ok then, I will take a chance and order the bacon cheeseburger, medium well, with the fries, onions rings, a salad, and another Moosehead."

"Sure thing, I'll be right back with your appetizers and drinks." The waitress put her pad back into her apron and turned to leave.

"Hey miss," Ian called out, "I didn't catch your name."

She looked back and smiled, "The name's Kristen, and you are?"

Ian smiled broadly, "Ian, please to meet you."

After Kristen left Rob looked at Ian in astonishment, "Dude, she was flirting with you!"

Ian nodded, "Settle down there boyo, it's been known to happen, I am the epitome of smooth after all." Ian buffed his nails on the front of his shirt. Martin simply stared in awe. Tom rolled his eyes and took another swig of beer. "So as I was saying the fourth doctor..." Ian picked up his discourse right where he left off.

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Tom interjected, "Could we please talk about something other than Dr. Who? I know it might be hard but could you just try, for once?"

Ian shrugged, "Sure Tom, no need to be so cranky about it. So, who here saw the Leeds/Manchester game last night?"

Tom sighed, "Why do I even bother hanging out with you guys."

"Because we're the only people who'll take you." Martin said, so quietly that the rest of the group almost missed it.

When Ian realized what Martin said he erupted with laughter, "Would you look at that, Martin ripping on Tom. Way to go little man, a point for you." He and Martin exchanged high fives.

"Hey Tom, what's up, you seem to be more grouchy than usual." Rob asked.

Ian spoke up before Tom had a chance to reply, "Oh he's just pining for the lost love of his life."

"No I'm not."

"Okay, fine, you're just cranky cause you haven't had sex in ages."

"How about I'm cranky because my friends are being overly pushy about my private life..." He paused, "Okay, you're right I am a bigger grouch tonight. I don't know I guess that class reunion letter really threw me. I suppose there's just too much baggage associated with Lawndale."

Ian snorted, "Baggage, what fucking baggage?"

"You know, the baggage of being a Sloane in Lawndale. The expectations of your parents to carry on the family traditions. The pressure from the community to be a civic leader. You just wouldn't understand."

"I wouldn't understand huh? Just like I wouldn't understand having more money than God? Bloody Americans and your 'issues.' Blowing all these minor inconveniences in your life out of proportion. Tom, if you wanted you could just sit on your ass all day and still make money. You came into this world a millionaire and that's how you're going to leave it. You've never had real 'issues' like being hungry or cold and having to decide which was more important."

"It's different," Tom said flatly, "I'm not imagining things, nor am I trying to get anyone's sympathy. I'm just saying that for me Lawndale holds a lot of bitter memories because of who I am and who my family is."

"So it's different, fine, but that doesn't change the fact that you've got less to gripe about than the average person."

"See," Tom said, "That's exactly what I'm talking about. This assumption that everyone has about money lessening all the other shit in life that can drag you down."

"But doesn't it? I mean you have a bad day at the office can't you just hop in your get and fly to Cancun to blow off steam?"

Tom shook his head, "A bad day is a bad day regardless of your tax bracket. You don't see me jetting off to the French Riviera at the drop of a hat."

"No, you just sulk in your flat..." Their argument was cut short by the arrival of Kristen with their drinks and appetizers.

"There you go boys, the rest of your food will be along shortly."

"Thank you Kristen," Ian said, smiling warmly. "Say do you think you could help me prove something to my friend?"

"Well I really should get back to work..."

"This will only take a minute, maybe less."

Kristen looked around, then shrugged her shoulders, "Ok, but just for a minute."

"Great, thanks. Now my friend here, who is very wealthy, is saying that being rich carries a lot of additional emotional baggage. I say he's being a whiny bitch, after all, he's rich."

Kristen looked thoughtful for a moment, "Is this true? Are you really rich?" She asked Tom.

"I'm afraid so," he replied, "I've got more money than I really know what to do with, so it just sits there, getting bigger."

"I'll have to agree with your friend then, you should consider yourself the lucki8est guy on the planet and move on."

"I don't believe this, just because I have a bit more cash in my bank account than most people I can't feel angry or sad, or anything?"

"No, I didn't say that." Kristen replied, "just don't go around whining about your problems to people who have to work for a living. Now if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have to get back to work." The waitress waved goodbye to Ian then walked over to another table.

Ian watched Kristen's departure with rapt attention, "Isn't she great? I think I'll ask her out."

"Sure, why not, she's your ideal woman, two breasts, two legs and a mouth." Tom commented dryly. Martin and Rob snickered.

Ian chuckled, "Oh, that was a good one Tommy-boy, did your girlfriend tell you that? Oh, I'm sorry, that's your left hand." Martin and Rob broke into raucous laughter.

Tom shook his head, "Ok, I can't beat masturbation references, you win."

Ian nodded smugly, "Of course I do, I am the master after all. Oh hey, Martin I almost forgot, they announced the ship date on the 'Kid A' re-release today."

Martin's eyes grew wide, "They did? When is it coming out?"

"Two months. I think we need to promote it heavily."

"Kid A re-release? What's that?" Rob asked.

"Radiohead went back into the studio and re-mastered Kid A to celebrate it's tenth anniversary. The only thing is it took them another year to do it. Apparently they actually re-recorded whole portions of the album. And the only way you can get it is in physical form, no downloads."

"Sounds like quite the collectable," Rob was always on the lookout for another investment.

Tom shrugged, "I don't know, how can you improve on the original?"

"Does it matter, Radiohead hasn't released anything for three years, this is huge. So, I was thinking we put the display right in the front..." Ian and Martin talked shop until Kristen returned with their food.

"Well gents, what new social concern are you talking about this time?"

Ian smiled at Kristen, "Oh nothing nearly as entertaining, we're just talking business. I own a little record shop, 'Mended Record.' If you're into good music come check us out." He handed Kristen a business card, "We have a wide range of stuff so I know you won't be disappointed."

Kristen took the card, a small smile played across her lips. "Oh, I might just do that, enjoy your meals."

Tom chuckled, "Very slick, you gave her your number, pimped your business, and set up a meeting outside the club all with one little card."

"Like I said, I'm the master." The group began eating their meals. Over dinner the good natured banter continued. Eventually the conversation again drifted to science fiction.

Tom sighed, "Well the search for the perfect burger continues. What is it about this country that makes it impossible to properly cook ground beef?"

"I'm not even going to get into this again, you're in England. Stop trying to find American food. Expand your horizons."

Tom looked down at the remains of his burger. "All I wanted was a hamburger, is that too much to ask?"

"Apparently it is," Ian muttered. He went to take a pull from his beer, but found it empty. "Hey Tom, would you mind getting me a refill? I see you're dry too."

Tom shrugged, "Sure, anything to get away from 'Red Dwarf.'"

Ian chuckled, "Admit it , you're a fan too."

Tom stood up, "Sure, before I moved here and started hanging out with you guys." He walked over to the bar and placed his order. He collected the beers and paid the bartender. As he walked back to the table he accidentally bumped a woman was facing the other way.

"Hey watch where you're going asshole." The woman said, turning around.

"Oh, I'm sorry...Daria?" Tom said in disbelief. And it was in fact Daria Morgendorffer. Her hair was a littler shorter, she was wearing different clothes, "Well obviously her clothes would be different," Tom thought to himself, "It has been ten years." Her glasses were also conspicuously missing, but it was Daria.

"How do you know my...Tom? Is that you?"

"I was going to say the same thing." He looked around and spotted an empty table. "Are you here with anyone?"

Daria shook her head, "No, you?"

"Well, yeah, but they can wait, come on let's go get caught up."

Daria shrugged, "Ok, sure." Tom led her to the empty table he had noticed earlier.

"So," Tom asked, "What brings you to London?"

"Business, the magazine I work for assigned me to write about literary travesties, this place fit the bill."

"You're a journalist then?"

Daria nodded, "For now, it's pretty boring though. I'm thinking about either working on a novel or going into teaching."

"Teaching, really? I never saw you as a teacher, honestly."

"Neither do I, but it would be something to do until the movie deal."

Tom smiled, "Nice to know some things stay the same. By the way, what happened to your glasses?"

"Eye surgery," Daria replied evenly, "Pragmatism won out over vanity." She shrugged, "I had them done a couple years back." An uncomfortable silence descended on the table, both Daria and Tom waiting to say something, but neither of them quite knowing what. "So," Daria said after clearing her throat, "Did you get all your grandfather's money?"

Tom nodded, "Most of it at any rate, I only graduated summa instead of magna," He shrugged, "It's still more than enough money for me."

"I suppose so..." She searched her fingernails for some hidden truth, "Keep in touch with anyone from Lawndale?"

Tom shook his head, "Not really."

"I can understand that, how's your family?"

"Well, Elsie's doing well enough for herself. She finished business school a while back and is working at one of the firm's branch offices. My mom's heading up her committees as usual, and my dad..." he shrugged, "We haven't spoken since I came here. He wanted me to form my own company or something, I didn't. 'Sloanes are leaders of industry, they don't work for a company, they own it.' Or something other bullshit." He sighed, "But I'm being an inconsiderate ass, how's your family?"

"Well, after Dad's second heart attack my mom convinced him that retirement would be a good idea. So now he's the terror of the golf course. Mom finally made partner, and still spends more time at the office than anyone else. And Quinn...she's doing well enough I suppose."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means she's about this close to breaking out in her acting career, and that bugs the hell out of me."

"Is this a given?"

Daria shrugged, "She's been getting great reviews from her most recent play. It's only a matter of time before somebody casts her in a film."

"You know what, you should write something for her."

"Why? Sure we're getting along better than when we were kids, but why should I help her achieve her inevitable fame and fortune?"

"Because you could use her to spring-board your career as a writer. Sort of like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck."

"So write a killer screenplay that showcases her talent as a way to get my foot in the door...Tom you're an evil genius. Why didn't I think of that?"

"You were too consumed with irrational sibling rivalry to know what's good for you."

"I guess so, thanks for straitening that out for me." She reached over and patted Tom's hand, "You know, it actually is good to see you again Tom."

"Yeah, it's good to see you too Daria," he paused, "So, how's Jane doing?" he muttered into his beer.

"Jane's doing well enough. She moved back to Lawndale after living in New York for a while. She claimed the eclectic nature of the city inhibited her creativity." Tom chuckled, "So she's still living at the old Lane house, and runs a little paint shop/house painting operation to pay the bills."

"House painting? Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

"Not really, she requires complete creative control over the project and any murals she does over the course of the job are extra."

Tom laughed, "Ok, that sounds more like Jane."

Daria nodded, "Of course it goes without saying that the color scheme of Lawndale has become more...eccentric."

"It's good to hear she's doing well. Though I am surprised to hear she's still living in Lawndale."

Daria shrugged, "I think she likes the thought of having someplace permanent to call home, what with the rest of her family scattered to the winds."

"I suppose, I never thought of it that way." They settled back into silence. "So, uh, are you seeing anyone?"

Daria shook her head, "Not really, nobody special at least. How about you?"

"Despite the best efforts of my friend Ian I remain unattached."

Daria raised an eyebrow, "Sounds like you have a few stories to tell."

Tom shrugged, "When you get set up on as many blind dates as I have they start to blend together."

Daria reached into her bag and took out a small notebook and a pen. "Come on, just a couple, I'm sure there are some that standout."

"I thought you were a journalist. Why would anyone want to see this reported?"

"Well if I'm going to write a 'killer screenplay' I'm going to need ideas."

Tom sighed, "So long as I get a percentage of the gross." He finished off his beer. "Ok, there was this one time when Ian set me up with this acrobat..." Tom launched into his story, "...and then she put a cantaloupe on top of that. It was the damndest thing I ever saw."

"Hmmm, so the human body can bend like that, good to know."

Tom looked at his empty beer bottle thoughtfully, "Hey Daria, have you ever thought about us, you know, maybe getting back together?"

"Why, so you could fuck my life up again?" Daria was instantly on edge.

Tom sighed "I suppose I had that coming. Ok, I'll admit it, I fucked up back then, and I'm sorry for that."

Daria stared at Tom coldly, "Oh, that makes me feel so much better now that I know that."

Tom held up his hands defensively, "Hey now, I said that in good faith."

Daria shrugged, "So, did your therapist recommend you apologize to all your old girlfriends to get some sort of weird closure?"

Tom shook his head, "No, it's nothing like that. I just wanted to apologize to you. I guess I felt I owed you considering all the grief I caused.

Daria shook her head, "I should feel grateful, or something. But since your dumping me hardly rates as one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, you'll have to excuse me if I don't hand you a humanitarian award."

Tom chuckled sadly, "It's comforting to know that you're still firmly ensconced behind your wall of cynicism and distrust."

Daria scowled, "Well pardon me if I seem a little distrustful of my ex-boyfriend. Who has on multiple occasions proven that he is not worthy of any trust."

"Here's what I think, I think that you're just afraid to open up again simply because of one bad experience."

"Oh bullshit!" Daria exclaimed, "In the first place, why should I 'open up' to the person who burned me the first time?"

"Because I've grown as a person..."

Daria held up her hand, "I'm not finished. Second, where do you get off diagnosing what may or may not be wrong with my love life? Tom you haven't seen me in ten years. How do you know anything about me? Isn't it even remotely possible that I've changed? Maybe I am a more open person these days. Did you ever think that I might have a more active social life, with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Hell, I'm here in a London night club aren't I? Isn't that proof that I've changed and that maybe, just maybe the world doesn't revolve around the needs of Mr. Thomas Sloane?"

"Uhm, didn't you say the reason you're here is because you're on assignment for your magazine?"

"That's beside the point," Daria said, frowning, "Just because I'm on assignment doesn't invalidate what I said."

Tom sighed, "No, it doesn't. And you're right, we haven't spoken in a long time, and you could've had this big personality shift. But on the other hand, something tells me that's a load of shit."

"What, I'm an anti-social loser who's incapable of change?"

Again Tom refused to rise to the bait, "Stop trying to goad me Daria, I know you well enough to see through that at least."

"Then help me out here, what did you mean?"

"I meant you're a very closed off person who tends to maintain a small, but close-knit, circle of friends and who doesn't see the need to go out clubbing every night just because that's what everyone else is doing. It's a quality about you I've always admired."

Daria paused, "Oh, well, that's nice of you to say...but don't think that means I'm accepting any apologies from you."

"Oh Christ, now you're being stubborn. Did I really hurt you that much?"

Daria sighed, "Yes and no. It's not like I locked myself in my room and cried for hours on end; but I was upset and mad at you, after all you're the one who wanted us to have a relationship in the first place."

"Now in my defense I'd like to point out that I did not technically dump you. All I did was mention that since we were attending different schools exclusiveness might be a problem. I was just stating the obvious."

"Yeah, I know" The emphasis Daria placed on that statement made Tom raise his eyebrows questioningly, but Daria continued on, ignoring him, "But to an eighteen year old girl it sounded like you were breaking up with me...then there was Emily..."

"Oh great, here we go," Tom sighed in exasperation.

"Here we go? You were going out with her."

"Only after I thought you had broken up with me." Tom shot back.

"I showed up to apologize to you asshole, only when I got there I saw you cavorting with some other woman. That's what hurt, and that's why I won't accept your apology now."

Tom leaned back in his chair, rubbing his forehead slowly. "Oh hell Daria, I never knew that."

Daria nodded, "A friend drove me to Dartmouth and I was all set to say I was sorry, let's have another try at it. But the first thing I saw was you swapping spit with that girl. I went right back to Williams and that was that."

"I thought you were up there for a lecture, at least that's what you told me."

Daria shrugged, "I was planning on doing both, and ended up doing neither."

Tom nodded, "Well that explains a lot, but Daria, you have to understand that Emily truly was a transitory fling, there were no deep feelings on either side of that relationship."

Daria shook her head, "Tom, we've had this argument before, I don't want to repeat it."

"Then we don't have to." Tom said, seizing the opening, "Daria, I've said I'm sorry, if this is such a non-issue for you then why won't you accept a simple apology?"

Daria sighed, "Ok, it was a big deal for me, and you did hurt me." She paused, "Oh what the hell, apology accepted, you were just being you, I can't hold an irrational grudge against you this long for just that reason."

"Hey now...I guess I had that coming to me, didn't I?"

"That and so much more."

"Revenge served at Arctic temperatures?"

"Damn strait."

Tom chuckled, "What do you say we start from scratch? Hi, I'm Tom Sloane, can I buy you a drink?"

Daria smirked, "No, I don't think we can start from scratch there's too much history between us for that, but you can buy me that drink."

"Ok then." Tom signaled for a waitress to come over to take an order. As they waited the two lapsed into idle small talk.

While the reunion played out Ian grew more and more concerned about the location of his beer, "What's taking that asshole so long?" He muttered, "It's a simple task, go to the bar, get two beers and return, it's so simple even Martin could get it right."

"Hey, I'm sitting right next to you!" Martin protested.

"Sorry man, didn't see you sitting there."

At that moment Kristen came by to collect their plates, "And how was everything gents?"

Ian turned and smiled at Kristen, "Oh quite lovely thank you."

She noticed the place Tom had occupied, "Where'd your rich Yank friend go?"

Ian scowled, "He appears to have gotten lost somewhere between here and the bar, with my beer."

Kristen laughed, "I can go get you a fresh one."

"Only if you get one for yourself too," Ian said invitingly.

"Well, my shift is pretty much over...alright, just let me get out of this uniform and you've got yourself a deal."

"Excellent, I shall eagerly await your return."

"I'll be right back then." Kristen smiled at Ian as she walked off with the group's empty dishes.

Ian leaned back in his seat and sighed, "Ah, you know what lads, life is good."

"But what about Tom and your beer?" Rob asked.

"Tom who?" Ian asked momentarily bewildered, "Oh, him. He can keep the beer for all I care, but I guess we should find out where he went. Martin, be a good lad and locate our American friend will you."

"Why me?" Martin protested.

"What else are you going to do?"

"I don't know...why don't we have Rob go look for him."

"Capital idea, Rob, go help him out."

"What?" Rob shouted, "You're just trying to get rid of us aren't you."

"Perceptive lad, I knew there was a reason I liked you. Now get going, you two are cramping my style."

"Come on Martin, we need to give the 'Master' room to work." Rob dragged his friend away from the table and into the throng of people surrounding the bar.

As Martin and Rob searched for him Tom continued chatting with Daria. " it was about then that the cops broke through the door, and of course I was the guy holding the plantain."

Daria raised an eyebrow, "That's quite a tall tale."

"It's all true though, I have the pictures to back me up."

"Even the part with the midget?"

Tom raised a sleeve to reveal a faded scar on his arm, "Especially the midget, unfortunately."

"Well I'm impressed, you've certainly had an interesting time in London."

"Too interesting, I haven't even told you about the soccer game we went to last year."

"I can imagine."

"So tell me, how does the average day in the life of Daria go these days?"

Daria shrugged, "I wake up, write some stuff to make my editor happy, then go back to bed. How about you, beside the drunken bacchanalias I mean?"

"Pretty much the same. Subway to work, type code all day, go home and practice Zen meditation while Ian rains chaos down on everyone surrounding him. It's not much, but it's a living."

"That's what I keep telling Quinn. And yes," Daria said, answering Tom's raised eyebrow, "Quinn and I are sharing an apartment, for now." She added hastily.

"Now that I never would have guessed, how did this come to pass?"

"A couple years back my roommate at the time moved out and Quinn just happened to show up about the same time looking to start up her acting career. I needed someone to share the rent with and she needed a place to live." She shrugged, "It made sense at the time."

Tom nodded, "So, how's it working out for you two?"

"It's kind of like living in a sitcom." Daria commented dryly. "Thankfully it's only a temporary situation since she's going to be moving in with someone else soon. So I'll be rid of her and all her inane friends, hopefully."

"Still, it must be comforting to have your sister right there."

"It is, I guess...don't get me wrong, Quinn's grown up a lot, but she's still Quinn, and every now and then she does something that really sets me on edge."

"I wouldn't expect it to be any other way."

"Oh and you'll never guess who she's moving in with."

"A safe bet considering I haven't seen Quinn in ten years and never knew her very well even then."

Daria shook her head, "No, you know him it's..." She was interrupted by Martin and Rob's arrival.

"There you are Tom, we've been looking all over for you," Martin said breathlessly.

"That's great guys, now can you two get lost, I'm talking to someone here." Tom nodded in Daria's direction to emphasis his point.

Rob's eyes grew wide as he examined Daria and her retro-alternative outfit. "Whoa, why hello there, I'm Rob, and what's your name?" He extended a hand to Daria.

"I'm Daria." She replied, not shaking Rob's hand.

Tom sighed, "Martin, Rob, meet Daria. Daria, Martin and Rob. Now guys Daria's an old friend of mine from the States, can we have some time alone to catch up?"

"But Ian told us to find you." Martin complained.

"And you did, so go tell Ian where I am."

"Actually, Ian was just getting rid of us to put the moves on the waitress." Rob said sourly.

"And now I'm getting rid of the two of you so I can talk to my friend. Now get lost." Tom told the pair forcefully.

Rob sighed, "Come on Martin, no rest for the righteous. The pair stalked off somewhat dejectedly.

Daria watched the twosome leave, "You know, they really remind me of those two guys who used to hang around you at Fielding."

Tom nodded, "I know, it's like I'm this big geek magnet or something."

"Maybe they think you're their king or something." Daria commented dryly.

Tom shook his head, "Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. You were going to tell me some startling revelation about Quinn?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes. She's going to be moving in with Dave Wylie."

"You're kidding, Dave, from Lawndale?"

Daria nodded, "That's the guy. He and Quinn just kept hanging out after all these years. So they figured they might as well live together. I think Quinn says they're in love...or something I don't know." Daria shrugged, "I still think Quinn's just after his money and Dave's after her body."

"What's he up to? We were never as close we should have been."

"Well, he went to medical school, got his M.D., then became a paramedic. Something about wanting to help people, I don't know, altruism is a foreign concept to me."

"So he went through with that. I remember this one time the two of us got absolutely shit-faced, this was right after you broke up with me. Anyway he started going off on how he wanted to go into medicine, and something about giving people chances, it's all kind of hazy in my mind. But I'm glad to see he's doing what he wants to do."

Daria nodded, "We all kind of lucked out there didn't we."

Tom chuckled, "Having affluent parents sure is a handy thing." They lapsed into silence. "So, uh..." Tom began, "do you have any good stories to tell from living with Quinn?"

"Most I can't discuss since they're part of ongoing investigations, but there are a few, like the time one of Quinn's old high school cronies showed up for a visit."

"Which one was that?"

"Stacy, the one without a spine."

"Has she grown one?"

"Not that I noticed, but Quinn says she was worse in high school. Well she came out to visit her 'wild, single girlfriend braving the big city.' From what I gathered, the rest of the Fashion Club realized they didn't have any viable life skills so they got married as quickly as possible. Anyway, one night I come home and find Stacy hitting the bar hard."

"You have a bar?"

Daria nodded, "Yes, a fully stocked we bar, it came with the apartment. So I came home and found Stacy absolutely blitzed, and she saw me and just started bawling her eyes out. She was going on and on about how her marriage sucked, being a house wife is boring and that her life was just generally awful. I managed to get her settled down, until Quinn came home, which set her off on another crying jag. Only this time she threw in how much she envied Quinn and wished she could have a life like that. This freaked Quinn the hell out and she started screaming we had to call the cops, because Stacy was going to kill us in some freakish obsessive manner. Honestly, for a while I thought she was going to kill us too; either that or pledge her undying love for Quinn. It was a very strange scene."

"Sounds like it, how'd you resolve things?"

Daria shrugged, "I told her she'd find the answers she was looking for at the bottom of the tequila bottle."

"Ouch, and that didn't kill her?"

Daria shook her head, "If only we had been so lucky. No, Quinn called Dave and he took Stacy to the hospital where she spent the night."

"Christ, now that's a story."

"Oh, but it doesn't end there. After she sobered up at the hospital I voted to dump her on a bus, but Dave and Quinn outvoted me. I guess over the course of the night Stacy had let slip she was prone to have these little incidents..."

"She was a drunk?"

"Isn't that was I said?" Tom motioned for her to continue, "Yes, she was a drunk."

"And you wanted to dump her on a bus?"

Daria shrugged, "Her life is none of my concern, besides, like I said, I was outvoted. So Quinn helped Stacy dry out. She divorced her husband and is now doing something. All in all a victory for the forces of goodness and light."

Tom whistled, "I'm impressed, that doesn't sound like Quinn."

"The only reason she ever gave for her actions during the whole affair was a muttered, 'Could've been me.' I guess it hit close to home."

"Mmm," Tom agreed, "When was all this?"

"About a year ago or so."

Tom nodded as the conversation came to a lull. He was about to say something when Martin rushed up to the table.

"Hey Tom, come quick, we need you."

"Whatever it is, it can wait," Tom replied, testily.

"This can't, Ian's about to get into a fight with some Marines."

Tom rubbed his forehead in a vain attempt to ward off an oncoming headache, "Ok, I'll be right there. Wait right here, I'll be back in a few minutes." He told Daria, then left following Martin.

Daria played with her drink as she waited. After a few minutes the normal din of a nightclub was interrupted by the noise of a brawl. Bottles, furniture and even bodies were flying through the air. Daria watched disinterestedly as the melee spilled onto the dance floor. She stood up and calmly made her way to the exit when the police sirens could be heard. As she picked her way through the crowd Tom was nowhere to be found.

"Well that was a sufficiently weird enough evening for me. I think I'll call it a night before Trent, or any other romantic interest from my past, shows up." Daria said, deadpan, as she stood on the street. She bent over and picked up a piece of paper that brushed up against her. It was a flyer advertising an old fashioned rave being held the next night. She shrugged, stuffed it in a pocket, and hailed a cab to take her back to her hotel.

Several hours later, Tom, Ian, Kristen, Rob and Martin were back at Tom's apartment nursing their injuries. They managed to elude the police with Kristen's help. After a brief trip to the hospital to make sure no one was seriously injured the group went to the closest apartment to recuperate. They were all sitting in Tom's living room, Kristen and Ian were on the couch, Tom occupied his leather recliner, and Martin and Rob were each collapsed in overstuffed easy-chairs.

"Ian, I want you to answer one little question." Tom asked as he adjusted the cold compress bound to his aching ribs.

"What's that?" Ian asked from behind the raw steak placed over his left eye.

"Do you have to start a riot at every club we go to?"

"What was I supposed to do? Those dumb Marines insulted Kristen. I couldn't let that stand."

"You ninny, I told you, I don't need anyone to protect me." She batted Ian on the arm, he winced.

"Hey there, careful, that part of me is a little tender. I know you don't need help, but I wanted to be of help. Besides we all need someone to provide assistance from time to time."

"Oh that's so sweet of you. In a very Neanderthal sort of way." She kissed him on the lips. "I hope that part's not too sore." She added, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"Not at all, in fact I'd say it's one of two spots that aren't sore."

"Where's the other?"

"Ask me again when we're alone and I'll show you." He replied with a playful leer.

"I can't wait."

"Ok, knock it off you two. I'm trying to be mad at Ian remember?" Tom said testily.

"Eh, what? Oh yes, right, right, go on."

"Your little antics interrupted a very pleasant conversation I was having with a very interesting person."

"So Rob said, who was she and did you get her number?"

"It was Daria Morgendorffer, and no, I didn't get the chance."

"Daria? As in the Daria?"

Tom nodded, "The one and the same."

Ian chuckled, "Christ, isn't that funny."

Tom frowned, "Oh yeah, a real laugh riot. As opposed to the real riot we were just in." He added, somewhat lamely.

"Who's Daria?" Kristen asked.

"Oh, she's Tom's long lost love. He spend the entire drive over to the club moping over her and then bam, there she is. And I'll be you don't even know where she's staying or for how long."

Tom looked down at his feet, "Uhm, well, not exactly."

"Figures, that is your style after all."

Tom shrugged, "Not like it really matters, she was still pretty pissed at me."

Ian nodded, "Ahh yes, woman scored and all that. That's the problem with women, they carry a grudge," Kristen smacked Ian on the back of his head. "Ow, hey watch it, I've got a concussion, remember."

"Don't worry," Kristen replied sweetly, "I'll make sure you don't fall asleep tonight."

"I can't wait," Ian said lecherously.

"Again, this isn't something I want to hear." Tom said annoyed.

"And you think I want to hear you mope about your missed opportunity with some chick who dumped you ten years ago?" Tom didn't bother responding since the answer was obvious.

An uncomfortable silence hung over the room, which Kristen finally broke. "Look, uh Tom, I can tell you're pretty down right now, so may I make a suggestion?" Tom shrugged. "There's going to be an old-fashioned rave tomorrow night. You know, abandoned warehouse, lots of music, ecstasy, and glow sticks. You should go, it might cheer you up."

"A real rave?" Ian asked, "Outstanding, I haven't been to one of those in years. Martin, Rob, you boys up for a little booty shaking?"

Martin shook his head, "Sorry Ian, I already promised to run sound for this band tomorrow."

"As you well know Ian, I do not 'shake my booty' as you so urbanely put it. Besides I have to update the value of my inventory tomorrow night."

Ian sighed, "And the two of you wonder why you don't get chicks. Well Tom, how about it?"

Tom rubbed his sore ribs, "I'm not sure I could survive another evening with you this weekend."

"Ah, come on man, Kristen will be there to keep an eye on me. You know you want to. It'll be good for you. Out on the dance floor, with all those sexy, hot, sweaty, horny women. You can't miss."

"And you'll be sure to keep him out of trouble?" Tom asked Kristen.

"Don't worry about a thing. I'm sure I can keep him occupied."

"So you'll go?" Ian asked pressingly.

Tom shrugged, "I suppose so."

"Excellent, you won't regret it." Ian gave Kristen a questioning look and nodded in the direction of the door. She responded with an emphatic nod of her own. "Well then, it was an outstanding evening and I shall see you all later. Tom, thank-you for the steak, do you want it back?"

"No, no, you can have it."

"Well then, thanks for the steak, and see you tomorrow." Ian and Kristen waved goodbye to the rest of the group and left.

Tom stood up and yawned, "Well, you two can crash here if you want, I'm going to get some sleep."

Rob also got up, "No, that's quite alright, I'll get Martin home and make sure he doesn't die overnight or anything." He caught Martin by the arm, "Come on buddy, we're going home, take it easy Tom."

"Good night, and good luck." Tom waved to the pair as they left the apartment. He went to bed and slept soundly.

The next morning Tom awoke with a groan. It wasn't so much the hangover, which was pretty mild as it was the dull pain all up his left side. He got up and evaluated himself in the mirror.

"Next time you're in a bar fight, duck when someone swings a chair at you." Dark purple bruises ran up and down the left side of his torso. Tom gingerly touched them and winced, "Ok, I'm going to the hospital again, get me some painkillers and maybe some leaches." Tom walked into his bathroom and took some aspirin from his medicine cabinet. He dry-swallowed the pills and started filling the bathtub. While he waited for the tub to fill he wandered into the kitchen and made some breakfast. Tom stared out his window while sipping his coffee, the events of the previous night running through his head.

"So, Daria is in town at an unknown location for an unspecified amount of time. How am I supposed to feel about this?" He frowned because he didn't know the answer to his own question. Certainly the way in which he and Daria had broken up was one of his big regrets. It also was true that Daria posed one of the biggest "what if's" in Tom's life. "What if we hadn't broken up, where would we be?" Tom didn't know the answer to that either. "But do I really want to start a relationship with her again, even if she'd let me?" Tom shook his head, "A hot bath'll clear my mind." He thought, but while returning to the bathroom he stopped at the phone. He punched in a number, and waited for an answer.

"Hi Matt? It's Tom. Look, I need to ask you a favor? What time is it? Uh, I don't know. Oh, 11? Well, most people would consider that late you know. Anyway this is a real simple favor, could you check all the hotels in town and see if a 'Daria Morgendorffer,'" he spelled her name for the person on the other end, "Is staying at any of them. She'd be from New York, age about 28, probably by herself. You will? Great, could you get in touch with me as soon as you know? Call my cell if I'm not here. You've got that number right? Ok, thanks a lot Matt, I owe you. Talk to you later." Tom hung up the phone and walked into the bathroom.

"Daria may or may not hate my guts, and I don't know if I'm still in love with her, but it never hurts to be thorough." He thought to himself as he slipped into the hot water. He quickly drifted back to sleep.

Tom woke up to a cold tub and a ringing phone. Tom scrambled out of the tub and reached for the phone, "Hello?"

"There's a Daria Morgendorffer checked into the Hilton. Residence New York City, single occupant in the room. Need to know how she paid?"

"No, that won't be necessary."

"Ok, she's in room 314. She's staying there until tomorrow. Her phone number a pen?"

"Yeah, give it to me." Tom wrote the number down.

"Want to know anything else?"

"No, but thanks Matt, I owe you."

"And I will call you on that too. Remember, we never had this conversation."

"What conversation? See you around Matt."

"Take it easy Tom." The line went dead.

"So, now I know," Tom said to no one in particular. Then he remembered he was standing in his living room, naked and dripping wet. "Good thing I don't have any roommates." Tom dried himself off and got ready to face the remainder of the day. After getting dressed he made a second pot of coffee and sat on the deck of his apartment. He looked out across the London skyline, trying to find an answer in the old city's silhouette.

"It'd be easy enough to call her, but would that send the wrong message? I don't want her to think I'm obsessing over her or anything like that..." He paused, "of course I did just have a hacker find out where she's staying. But there's a difference between gathering information and acting on it." He sighed, "Come on Tom, shit or get off the pot, it's not that hard a choice." He looked down at the piece of paper he had written the information on. "I think it'd be best if I just let this stay the way it is. At least this way she won't be filing any injunctions against me." He turned the paper over but did not throw it out. He chuckled, "I wonder what Ian would have to say about all this?"

"I'd say you need to start locking your front door." Ian said from behind Tom. He walked over to where Tom sat and dropped into a nearby deck chair. "But I am glad to know that you think of me when looking for guidance in times of personal crises, I am a font of wisdom after all."

"The same font that insulted a group of Royal Marines last night?"

Ian shrugged, "They had it coming. So, what is it you're having the big internal debate over?"

"I'll tell you only after you tell me what you're doing here. Oh and the eye's looking much better by the way."

"Thanks, liberal use of leaches cleared it right up. As for why I'm here, well you seemed like you wanted to keep on talking last night, and I definitely wasn't in the mood to listen to you prattle, now I am."

Tom chuckled, "Ok, fair enough, as I'm sure you could guess it was about Daria." He handed Ian the piece of paper, "I did what you said and had Matt track her down."

"And now you're wavering on calling her. Jesus, you are a consistent bastard I'll give you that."

"Well, it is a hard choice. I mean I don't want her to think I'm stalking her or anything."

"Bullshit, you're just too scared to call her."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"That is a fucking bullshit answer you just gave, 'don't want to look like a stalker.' Please, she's the one who came to London, she's the one who walked by your apartment, if anyone's the stalker, it's her. Besides you almost have to call her."

"Why, just because I know the hotel she's at?"

"No, you dense fuck, because I'll bet you left things hanging last night when you came to bail me out right?"

Tom smacked his forehead, "Damnit, I told her I'd be right back."

"See, you have to call her, if for no other reason than to apologize for your atrocious manners last night."

Tom sighed, "Yeah, you're right, ok, I'll call her."

"Excellent, now where's that pot of fine Colombian brew you always have going?"

"In the kitchen like always," Tom waved his hand in the direction of the kitchen.

"Very good, let me go avail myself of the java and then I'll coach you while you talk to Daria." Ian called out as he walked into the kitchen.

"You're British, you should be drinking tea." Tom shouted at Ian.

"F.O.A.D. my friend," Ian replied, punctuating the comeback with an extended middle finger. "Sometimes you need coffee." He returned to the balcony, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand. "And today I need coffee in a bad way."

Tom chuckled, "The mighty drinker has a hangover?"

Ian shook his head, "Nah, more post concussion syndrome than anything else. I didn't drink that much."

"And normal people usually duck when someone tries to bash their brains out with a table leg."

Ian shrugged, "I'm confident my head is hard enough to resist any damage. Now quit stalling and call the damn woman."

"Alright, jeez, keep your pants on, and I mean that literally." Tom reached for the cordless phone sitting on the table next to him. Just as he put his hand on it the phone started ringing.

Tom and Ian stared at each other, neither one quite comprehending the odd coincidence.

"Well, are you going to answer it?" Ian demanded, "Because if you won't I will and you won't like that at all, believe you me."

Tom raised the phone to his ear, "Ok, I'm answering it. Hello?" he asked the phone.

"Well, well, if it isn't my expatriate brother. What took you so long to answer, sleeping off a bender?"

"Why hello there Elsie, how good to hear from you. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Ian looked up from his coffee when he heard Tom say Elsie's name. "The fair Elsie is on the phone? Give it here I want to say hello." He reached out for the phone.

Tom batted away Ian's hand, "Knock it off, I'm trying to talk to my sister," He realized Elsie was trying to say something, "What was that Elsie? Bit of static on my end."

Elsie sighed, "I was trying to answer your question. A couple days ago Mom handed me this letter."

"When did you see Mom?"

"A couple of says ago, like I said. Jesus are you even paying attention?"

"Obviously I am if I thought to ask, mom's still living in Lawndale and you're in Boston."

"But how do you know that's still true? It's not like you keep in touch."

"That's the second time in as many days someone has used that argument on me, and this time I'm not buying it. If you had moved, you would have said something. If Mom and Dad had moved I know I would've heard about it. Now can you stop giving me a hard time and get on with it."

"What's got you in such a rush?"

"I've got company over."

"Let me guess, Ian."

Tom frowned, "Well, yes, but I don't see why that matters, company is company."

Ian heard Tom say his name. "Elsie is asking for me? Oh happy day! Now I must speak with her. It is imperative you hand me that phone."

Tom sighed, "Elsie hang on a sec, I'm going to put you on speaker." He pushed a button on the phone and placed it on the table. "Ok, go ahead Ian."

"Hello Elsie, how does this day treat you, oh fair American flower?"

Tom was sure he could hear Elsie roll her eyes, "Hello Ian, I'm doing well. Now can I talk to my brother in private?"

"Of course, whatever you need oh fair one. I'll be in the living room," he informed Tom. "Farewell sweet Elsie, you will never be far from my thoughts." He walked back into the apartment, coffee cup in hand.

Tom picked the phone up, "He's gone."

"Damnit Tom, why do you do shit like that? You know the guy puts me on edge."

"Oh come on Elsie, Ian means well."

"When I visited last year all he ever did was drool on me. It wasn't exactly appealing."

"Feel flattered you're the only person I've ever seen him spend this long pining for."

"Oh wonderful, so I'm the object of desire of a British lech, my life is complete."

"He's not that bad...well ok, he is. If he's really bothering you tell him to fuck off. He can take a hint."

"I didn't say he was bothering me..." Elsie trailed off.

Tom sighed, "Mom handed you a letter?" He prompted.

"Hm? Yeah, a couple of days ago, she was in Boston to attend some conference. The letter reads as follows. 'Dear Fielding Alumnus. Can you believe it's been ten years since we last walked the hallowed halls of our beloved Fielding Academy..."

Tom groaned, "Elsie, no."

She continued, "...So dust off your Old Navy Performance Fleece, dig your Abercrombie cargo pants our of storage and get ready to get down with Britney Spears and Eminem because it's time for the Class of 2001's tenth reunion.' And then it goes on with RSVP information, but I'm sure you've read all that."

"Yes, I have, and no I am not going."

"Come on Tom, Mom really wants you to go."

"Why? It's not like I have any love for Fielding."

"What about Mom then?" Elsie shot back, "For fuck's sake Tom she hasn't seen you in two fucking years! Could you forget this exile thing for just a couple of days for her?"

"She's more than welcome to visit me here."

Elsie sighed, "You are an intensely stubborn son of a bitch, did you know that. Come on, it would just be for a couple of days and you wouldn't even have to stay at home. If you wanted to avoid Dad you could, although he wants to see you as much as Mom does."

Tom massaged the bridge of his nose, "And so I should just drop everything and rush home? Is that how a Sloane is supposed to act?"

"First of all you're full of shit if you say you're too busy. That pet software company of yours can survive a couple of days without you puttering around doing nothing. Second why the hell should you give a flying fuck about what a Sloane should do? I thought you were the anti-Sloane."

"I'm not going to win this argument am I?"

"Not on your life big brother."

"Well tell mom that you put up a good fight but I'm steadfast in my refusal. I've had enough Lawndale reunions lately."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I ran into Daria last night." Tom said simply.

"Daria? As in Daria Morgendorffer Daria?"


"As in the Daria you dumped another girl to be with?"

"That's a peculiar interpretation, but yes."

"The Daria you preceded to cheat on just a scant year later?"

Tom frowned, "Yes, and why do you need all this clarification anyway? How many Darias do you think I know." He asked annoyed.

"Oh, just Daria Morgendorffer. I just like to hear you admit to being a jackass." Tom could see the sickly sweet smile on his sister's face as she said this. "I mean you fucked up in almost every conceivable way with her."

"Yes, that I did, a fact she reminded me of last night."

Elsie chuckled, "I'll bet. So tell me, was Jane there?"

"No, thank god. That would have been beyond awkward."

"And they're not, like, living together or anything?"

"No, Jane's still in Lawndale and Daria's living in New York. Why are you asking?"

"Well, those two always seemed to be close, real close, if you know what I mean."

"Yes Elsie I..."

"Really, really, really, really, really close," Else said cutting Tom off. "I'm talking so close..."

"Elsie," Tom said testily, "They aren't lesbians."

"Oh, you sure about that?"

"Positive, why, thinking about a lifestyle change?"

"No, it's just, well never mind. I'm sorry I brought it up."

"You know, we could tell Ian that you're gay."

"I think he'd either try to 'convert' me back , or demand to watch me in action. Pass on both accounts."

Tom laughed, "Yeah, that sounds about right."

"So how did it go?"

"How did what go?"

"Your little Algonquin Round Table with Daria. Were any drinks thrown?"

"No, nothing like that, I just got a stern verbal lashing, and then..." He trailed off.

"And then?"

"A riot broke out in the club and we got separated."

"A riot?"


"In the bar?"

"In the club, yes."

"You were interrupted by a riot, in a night club."

"Yes, well we weren't so much interrupted as I helped start the riot."

"You were talking to Daria."


"And then you instigated a riot?"

"Well, yes."

"Why on earth would you do a damn fool thing like that?"

"Because I was trying to get Ian out of a scrape with some Royal Marines."

"So, you got into a fight with the Royal Marines?"

"Not all of them."

"Well, that makes all the difference in the world."

"I'm glad you think so."

"Did you even say goodbye to Daria?"

"Uh, no I wasn't I planning on having to evade the police."

"Do you have her phone number?"

"Actually yes."

"You ninny, why don't you..." Elsie paused, "You actually have her phone number?" Her disbelief was evident.

"Yes, I do."

"Wait a second, did you ask her for the number?"


"No, of course you didn't. So how did you get it?"

"Called in a favor with a hacker friend of mine."

"It figures, still you got her number. Have you called her yet to apologize?"

"No, you called just as I was going to."

"Then why are you still talking to me. Go call her."

"Because you're my sister and I haven't talked to you in ages."

"Oh fuck that, we can talk later. You've got a small window of opportunity here Tom, don't blow it."

"Alright, talk to you later Elsie."

"Take care Tom. And please, think about coming for that reunion. It would mean a hell of a lot to Mom, she does miss you."

"Ok, I'll think about it, but I'm not committing myself to going."

"Sure, fine, at least call Mom and tell her your decision, either way."

Tom nodded, "Ok, I will. Talk to you soon Elsie."

"Good luck with Daria.

Tom chuckled, "Thanks."

"Bye Tom."

"Bye Elsie." Tom shut the phone off. He picked up the paper with Daria's number on it. "Well, it's now or never, take the plunge." He dialed the number, then waited, and waited. He let the phone ring until the hotel's voice mail system picked up.

"Fuck!" Tom cursed as he turned off the phone, without leaving a message. He walked into the living room, a dejected look on his face.

"So, how is Elsie doing?" Ian asked.

Tom shrugged, "Don't know, we had other things to talk about."

"Such as?"

"Such as my attendance at my high school class's ten year reunion, and Daria."

"What did she have to say about her?"

"That I should call her."

"Well, what's stopping you?"

"I already tried, she wasn't there. I got voice mail."

"You didn't leave a message did you?"

Tom shook his head, "Didn't know what to say."

"Well, at least you tried, that counts for something."

"What, you're going to accept that on face value?"

"Tom, you're a lousy actor. Plus, I can see through windows as well as the next guy." Ian pointed to the large bay window that overlooked the deck.

"Oh, yeah." Tom sighed, "Oh well, it was a nice idea."

"What? Calling her up, professing your undying love for her and living happily ever after?"

Tom shuffled his feet, "Well, something like that yes."

Ian snorted, "Like that ever happens. Come on man, you know there's no such thing as 'happily ever after.' We just keep on stumbling through, just under different circumstances."

Tom dropped onto his recliner, "Yeah, I know, but you still hope for it."

Ian nodded, "I hear that man."

The two friends sat in silence and watched the sky redden as the sun began to set.

"So I've been meaning to ask, how'd things go with Kristen last night?"

"I nailed her, of course."

"Was she any good?"

"She was a tiger in the sack, absolute firecracker. Best sex I've had in ages."

"Really, so she's worth another date?"

"Oh definitely, unless your sister is available."

"Hey, stay the hell away from my sister. I don't want to hear that shit."

"Can I help it if Elsie is extremely fuckable? I bet she gives great head..."

"Ian, shut the fuck up if you want to continue breathing." Tom demanded angrily.

"Ok man, I'm sorry," Ian said, genuinely contrite. "I guess that did go from ha-ha funny to kind of sick in a big hurry."

Tom smiled, "Well, I can't blame you for being yourself now can I?"

"Damn strait, I'm a hunk of prime sex machine, and that's nothing to be ashamed of."

"It depends on how much pride you have I suppose," Tom added dryly.

Ian laughed, "Now that's the Tom Sloane I know. Come on, let's ditch this case of the mopes and get a little pre-rave buzz going."

Tom's stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since breakfast, "How about dinner first then beer?"

"Oh all right, where do you want to go?"

"Pizza sound good to you?"

Ian shrugged, "About as good as anything else." They picked up their jackets and headed for the door. "Oh, and don't let me forget, I have to stop off at the 'pharmacy' before we go to tonight's festivities."

Tom sighed, "Oh come on Ian do you really have to do that?" He asked as they walked down the hall. "I'm sure there will be plenty of goodies at the rave."

Ian shook his head, "No that'll just be that weak-ass herbal shit, I want the real stuff, and the only way to guarantee that is to go to Farkas personally and buy it myself."

Tom shook his had and pushed the call button for the elevator. "Fine, but I'm not going with you, Farkas creeps me the hell out."

"That may be, but he's the best damn quasi-legal druggist in the city." Ian thought for a second, "Tell you what, I'll pick up some pot for you while I'm there." They entered the elevator; Ian pushed the lobby button..

"I don't smoke pot anymore, remember."

"Please don't tell me you haven't thought about toking up after the way last night went."

Tom paused, then sighed, "Ok, get me a little, I can practice meditation after the rave."

"Excellent, you won't regret it. This is going to be a great night." On cue the elevator dinged and the door opened, "After you Tom."

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Tom muttered to himself as they left the building.

The friends at their dinner at a small neighborhood pizzeria. Ian spent the meal explaining why the referees in English football were out to get his favorite team. "It's all a conspiracy," Ian said, "You see they know that Ipswich is the best team out there. But they want precious Manchester United to win so they screw us every possible chance they get." Ian pounded the table to emphasis his point. "Take last week's game for example, that asshole Griggs goes and crashes into our goalie while that pretty-boy Beckam puts the ball into an open net, and the referee refused to call anything! It was blatant, clear as day yet the blind moron didn't make the call. Now you tell me why that would be the case unless they're in cahoots with Man United to get them the cup?"

"Oh, definitely, you can't trust those zebras farther than you can throw them," Tom said trying to figure out how to buy every football team in the country and disband them, just to get Ian to shut up.

"What do zebras have to do with football?" Ian asked, confused.

"It's a term for...oh never mind, just eat your pizza." Tom said, sighing.

After dinner they once again hailed a cab and went to a distinctly seedier side of London. The cab pulled to a stop outside a battered storefront. The faded sign read "Farkas' Farmacy." Ian carefully checked to make sure no one was watching him before he ducked inside, Tom followed suit. The interior of the shop was in stark contrast to the dingy exterior. Bright fluorescent lights hummed in the ceiling. The linoleum floors glistened The walls were painted in an antiseptic white. The products for sale were all neatly arranged on the shelves. Ian nodded at the cashier and walked to the back of the store.

"Ahh, Farkas, just the man I wanted to see, I have a script for you to fill." Ian told the man standing behind the pharmacy counter.

"Quiet, not so loud Ian, you never know who might be listening." Fred Farkas was a slight, perpetually worried man. He ran a legitimate pharmacy as a cover for his other illicit activities. His most noticeable feature was his hair, which he let grow long to conceal his other noticeable feature. Namely the fact that he lacked an ear, the result of a business deal with Russian gangsters that soured.

"Oh come on Fred, I'm just here to collect my prescription, what's the harm in that?"

Farkas grabbed Ian by the arm, "Get in the backroom you asshole, before you get us all arrested." Farkas pulled Ian into a room off the store floor; Tom followed, closing the door behind him.

Farkas sat down behind a large desk and motioned for Tom and Ian to sit in the facing chairs. "So what can I get you two gentlemen?"

"Ten hits or so of Ecstasy and a little pot to chase it down."

"Is that all? Shit, I practically could have just filled out a prescription for that."

Ian shrugged, "When have you known me to dabble in anything harder?"

"You never can tell, that's what a lot of my steady customers said, in the beginning."

"Doesn't being a drug dealer bother you at all?" Tom asked.

Farkas examined his had, "Not really, I try not to sell the really nasty stuff. Most of my clients are people like Ian, or long-time heroin users. And I'm very careful with them, I make sure the heroin is as pure as it can be be; plus I don't make it as strong as the other guys. That keeps the OD rate down, and keeps me in business.

"Old Farkas here is one personable drug dealer," Ian added, "So, what's my bill for tonight?"

"Well, let's see, ten Ecstasy tablets..."

"Make it sixteen, wouldn't want to run out at an inopportune moment."

"Ok, sixteen hits of Ecstasy plus one?" Ian held up three fingers, "Three grams of pot." Farkas punched some numbers into a calculator, "One hundred sixty seven pounds."

"Cash ok with you?" Ian asked reaching for his wallet.

"Cash is always ok with me." Farkas said, taking the bills from Ian. He reached into his desk and removed some bills, "And here's your change."

"Pleasure doing business with you."

Farkas walked over to a safe and opened it. Inside was a cornucopia of drugs. He removed a large bottle from the safe. Sixteen pills were removed from the bottled and placed into a smaller container. After returning the bottle to its resting place Farkas took another container from the safe.

"Uh Fred, could we have the pot in two bags; a gram in one and two in the other?"

"Ok," Farkas measure out the proper amounts then put the marijuana back in the safe, which he closed. Ian's purchases were placed in a "Farkas Farmacy" bag. "Would you like your receipt in the bag?"

"Sure, that's fine."

Farkas handed the bag to Ian, "There you go. Thank you, please come again."

Ian took the bag, "Thank-you very much. I'll be back when I need to be." Tom and Ian left the pharmacy and walked out into the London night.

"So, where are we going now?" Tom asked as Ian hailed another cab.

"Kristen said she'd meet us at a bar near where the rave is being held. You know, a little pre-party get together."

"Ah of course," the two sat in silence as the cab sped through the streets of London, "You and Kristen," Tom said suddenly.

"Me and Kristen, yes?"

"You think she's the right one?"

Ian shrugged, "Dunno yet, but it's going to be a fun ride. She's a fun girl and we do seem to have a few things in common, so far. Of course if Elsie suddenly becomes available Kristen's dropped like rotten mutton."

"Now you're just trying to get my goat."

"Yes and no old chum. I like your sister a lot. Of course if she doesn't feel the same way there's not much I can do about it, but I've yet to see a woman resist my charm when I turn it up all the way." He smiled smugly.

"Well prepare yourself for a disappointment because I'm pretty sure you've met your match with Elsie."

"That's why I must have her, for our children will be a race of super-beings destined to rule the world."

Tom looked at Ian like he had made a totally ridiculous statement, which he had. "You sure Farkas didn't put any LSD in that Ecstasy?"

"No idea, I haven't taken any of it yet."

Tom sighed, "That's what I was afraid of."

Ian laughed, "Come on man, have a little sense of fun."

"Oh I have a little sense of fun, but with you it's got to be more like a planetoid sized sense of fun, with a taste for the absurd on the side."

"How's that, you mean my zany antics?"

Tom smirked, "More like your taste in clothes." The two friends looked at each other for a long moment before breaking out in laughter.

"Oh shit man," Ian said, wiping a tear from his eye, "my taste in clothes. That was fucking priceless." The cab came to a halt in front of a small pub. "Great, we're here." Ian got out of the taxi. "Oh Tom, could you pay the good man? I'm all tapped out."

Tom sighed as he reached for his wallet, "Just because I'm rich doesn't mean I have to pay every time." He muttered to himself as he handed the cabby a collection of bills.

By the time Tom entered the pub Ian was already at the bar, pounding down a beer, "Well that didn't take long," Tom said dryly.

Ian held out his arms, "What? We've got a long night ahead of us, and I need to make sure I'm properly fortified. Hey barkeep, one for my friend here."

The bartender nodded and started to draw Tom a glass, "Actually could I get a scotch, strait." The burly man shrugged and poured Tom a shot. "Thanks."

"Whoa, scotch, moving up to the big time. Any special reason for the change?"

Tom downed the shot in one swallow, "Whew, good stuff." He shrugged, "No real reason, I just feel like drinking myself into oblivion tonight." He motioned for the bartender to serve him another shot.

"Okay, now Tom, there is a difference between a good pre-party buzz and getting shitfaced, and if you keep this up," He watched as Tom slammed down his second shot, "You won't even be ambulatory for too much longer."

"Fuck it, doesn't matter." Tom signaled to the bartender to leave the bottle.

"Oh don't play this horseshit with me now man. I will not sit here and listen to you play little, whiny bitch all evening. 'Oh boo-hoo I blew my chance with Daria, I cannot feel any lower. How can I find the strength to carry on?' That's a load of bullshit and you know it."

"Ian, how the hell do you know anything about this?"

"Beyond what you've told me? Not a whole hell of a great deal, but I do know this, if you really are in love with this chick why the hell aren't you at her hotel pounding on the door to her room demanding to speak to her?"

"Because she'd rip my fucking head off. You don't know Daria, she's a very closed off person. It takes a lot to get her to open up to anyone, and she did with me. Then I went and fucked up, royally, and that hurt her."

Ian nodded thoughtfully, "So she let you get close and you stabbed her in the back. Yes, I can see the problem," he shrugged, "I suggest massive amounts of groveling, and lots of presents." Tom stared at his drink. "Provided you still love her that is." Tom shrugged, "It's a simple question, do you or don't you?"

"I don't know ok!" Tom shouted.

"Then you don't, now finish your drink. We'll wait for Kristen outside, this place is giving off bad vibes."

Tom sighed, "Yeah, ok." He stood up, a little unsteadily, "Daria's in the past and that's where she'll stay." He did not sound convincing, "At least for tonight."

Ian shrugged, "Good enough for me." He put some money on the bar, "Come on, let's go."

"Hey, you said you were broke." Tom protested.

"I always carry an emergency beer fund. It can't be dipped into for piddling stuff like cab fare."

"Fucking cheap skate drunks." Tom growled.

"Hey, I'm not a cheap skate, it's just that when you've got a friend who won't even miss cab fare, why not let him pay."

Tom sighed, "Remember when we were talking about the burdens of the rich last night? This is what I'm talking about. When you've got money you're always the one who pays."

"Oh just shut up about that will you. Who paid for the drinks, hm? Me. Who bought the drugs? Me again. So don't say you're the guy who always foots the bill because you know that's not true." They exited the bar and stood on the street corner.

"When's Kristen supposed to show up?"

Ian shrugged, "Soon I'd imagine."

"Well I hope she does get here quickly, we probably look like a couple of male prostitutes standing on the corner like this."

"Bah, you're not pretty enough to be a male whore. It's more like I'm the prostitute and you're the John, looking to get a little piece without his wife knowing about it."

"Uh, there was way too much detail in that reply for my liking. I'll just pretend I didn't here it."

"You just couldn't think up anything snappy to say."

"Complete blank." Tom said evenly.

Ian chuckled as he looked up and down the street, rocking on the balls of his feet. "You know, I was thinking, maybe we should head out on a holiday. Maybe check out Spain, or Monaco. Troll some topless beaches for a little action. Lose some cash playing baccarat..."

"Do you even know how to play baccarat?"

"No, that's why I'd lose. Doesn't it sound like a grand time?"

"If you don't have any strong attachment to your money."

Ian laughed, "Hey man, it's only money. And if it has to be sacrificed for my amusement so be it."

"That's why you'll never get ahead in the world. You've got to take your finances seriously."

"Now that sounds like something your illustrious father might say." Ian sniffed.

Tom shrugged, "Maybe, but he's right. I live well within my means because if I treat my bank account like a bottomless pit, I'll hit bottom pretty damn quick."

Ian chuckled, "That's a good one, think it up all by yourself?"

"You aren't the only font around here."

"I guess not. So, what do you say? Should I start making the reservations?"

Tom looked down at his feet, "I don't know, I'm not really in a nude beach mood." He thought for a moment, "But you are right, getting out of town for a while might not be a bad idea. Maybe I'll go visit Elsie, and possibly poke around for anything permanent over there."

"You're thinking about moving?" Ian asked in surprise.

"Maybe," Tom said, shrugging. "I don't know, I'm starting to feel the need to do something different, shake things up a little, you know."

"No, I don't." Ian said shaking his head. "I think you've just come up with another of your patented bullshit rationalizations."

"Oh really."

"Yes, look Tom you've been, well not exactly running, but trying to dodge the portions of your life you haven't liked: Daria, your family, stuff like that. But everywhere you go all that shit just keeps popping back up. So you move on to make it go away again."

Tom looked at Ian dubiously, "So let me guess I should face my issues and my life will be all happy?"

"I never said that, but you do have to wrestle your demons every once in a while just to keep them off balance and in check."

Tom watched the traffic pass by as he formed his reply, "Then what do you think I should be dong?"

"For starters go to that reunion of yours, see your old haunts as they really are and not through the distortion of your memory. I mean you say Lawndale the same way other people say 'cum-guzzling fuck bucket.' That's not a healthy attitude to have towards anyplace, well except France. Especially for you since you've really had a very easy go of things."

Tom sighed, "I suppose, but isn't it possible that I don't want to go to the reunion because I think it will be a stupid waste of my time?"

"Oh there's that too," Ian admitted. "So don't go to reunion, visit your parents instead. It doesn't really matter who you go see just so long as you're in Lawndale trying to make a measure of peace with your past."

"I guess, but not right now. The timing is not right. I know I'm being petty about this, but I'm just not ready to go back."

"Then can I go in your place?"

Tom laughed, "To my reunion?" Ian nodded, "Yeah, sure that'll just blow everyone's mind."

"That and there will be a lot of bored house wives there. I'm sure they'd all love to have a chance to ride the Mystical Magical Ian Express to Sexual Bliss. This'll be a lot of fun."

Tom sighed, "Then why do I get the feeling I've just made a horrible mistake."

Ian flashed a grin, "Because you have mate."

"That's what I was afraid of. After you're done posing as me I might not be allowed back into town."

"It's been know to happen." Ian said with a laugh. "Now where the hell is Kristen? She should have been here by now. This standing around is growing tiresome."

Tom scanned the crowd surrounding them "I don't see her, are you sure this is the right place?"

"Positive, see that big warehouse over there?" Ian pointed down the street, "That's where the rave is being held."

"Then maybe she went to the wrong place."

"Typical of a woman," Ian said in a condescending tone of voice, "No sense of..."

"Don't finish that sentence if you value your balls." A voice behind them said. Tom and Ian spun around and saw Kristen standing behind them, her arms crossed across her chest, a frown on her face.

"Er, hi there Kristen, we were just wondering where you were." Ian said in a smooth voice, trying to placate the angry woman.

"Well I'm here now, so let's go hit the dance floor, and maybe you can do something for me as a peace offering."

"A peace offering? For what?" Ian asked as the threesome walked down the street, "I didn't say anything out of line."

"Ian," Kristen said sweetly, "There was no way in hell you could've finished that sentence in a way that would not have ended badly for you."

Ian shrugged, "But I didn't say anything so it's hard for you to prove anything."

"She doesn't have to," Tom said dryly. "You do enough damage to yourself by standing there."

Kristen laughed, "Your friend really has your number."

"And I his," Ian replied darkly.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Tom asked.

"It means I know where you sleep you traitorous American bastard." Ian growled.

Kristen laughed again, "Uh oh Tom, better watch out, looks like you've pissed off a real dangerous customer here." She grabbed hold of one of Ian's arms affectionately.

Tom shrugged, "I'm not too worried, after all if Ian kills me he'll have to start paying for all his cabs."

Ian laughed, "You got me there. I certainly can't kill you while you're still useful to me."

"You don't know how relieved that makes me feel." Tom deadpanned.

"Well it better, because I could end you just like that if I wanted to." Ian snapped his fingers for emphasis.

"Yeah, sure you could," replied Tom sarcastically.

"Ok boys, that's enough posturing, you'v e met the required amount to keep your penises. Now can we please get a move on? I'm getting bored." Kristen said, cutting off Ian and Tom's exchange.

"And we can't have that now can we?" Ian said, "Come Thomas, away. The night beckons!" Ian leapt off dramatically in the direction of the warehouse. Quite a few of their fellow pedestrians looked at Ian strangely.

Tom sighed, "I wish I could just say he's drunk, but, well, he's not." He told Kristen as they walked down the street, following Ian.

"He certainly does seem to have a unique perspective on life." Kristen replied. "That's why I took him up on that invitation last night."

"Uhm, yeah, about that. I was just wondering what are you expecting out of Ian?"

"Is this an over-protective friend asking?"

Tom shook his head, "Just a curious observer."

Kristen watched as Ian swung himself around a lamppost before replying, "He's a nice enough chap, but a bit of a cad." She shrugged, "Whatever happens, happens, and I'm sure while it's happening I'll have a good time."

Tom nodded, "Replace good with never dull and you're probably right."

Kristen smiled, "Never dull is good."

Tom chuckled, "You were two were made for each other, I can see it now."

"I wouldn't go that far...but I kind of hope you're right." Kristen looked at Tom appraisingly, "You're a good friend Tom, I'm sure you're going to make some special lady very happy."

Tom scuffed his feet, "Yeah, well so far I've been pretty bad on that score."

"I find that pretty hard to believe, you seem to be a pretty decent guy."

Tom shrugged, "I don't know, things always seem to fuck up when I'm seeing someone. I just have really bad relationship karma."

"Is Tom telling his tales of romantic woe?" Ian asked.

"They are not 'tales of woe.'" Tom shot back. "I was just saying I have bad luck with women."

"Fuck that, they're tales of woe. Anyway here's a hypothetical for you Kristen. Say you run into this guy you haven't seen in years. Let's also say the two of you were high school sweethearts who broke up fairly acrimoniously."

"So what's the question I should be answering for Tom?"

Ian coughed, "Who said anything about...oh balls. Ok, if you were Daria would you be inclined to get back together with him?"

Kristen ran a hand through her hair, "Well I can't really say, I mean I'm not Daria..."

"Well, as a woman then," Ian said, pressing the issue.

"What the hell does that mean? 'As a woman.' It's not like we're some sort of group mind."

"But there are common points of reference for all women, which lends itself to helping us in this matter."

"That's bullshit Ian and you know it. My life and this Daria's are totally different. I can't say how she'd react in a certain situation just because we both have two X-chromosomes. That's like saying I can predict Tom's behavior based on yours. Which is patently ridiculous."

"Ok, ok, it's a point well taken. Let me try again. Speaking as you, if you were in Daria's shoes what would you do?"

"Does Daria know you want to get back together with her?" Kristen asked Tom.

Tom shrugged, "I said something like if she ever thought about it, but nothing more than that."

"And she said?"

"Basically she asked why I wanted to fuck up her life again."

"Ouch, I think you have your answer."

Tom shrugged, "Daria is a very opinionated person who tends to view the world in black and white terms, but if you make a strong enough case she'll reconsider. We were actually sharing a moment before we got interrupted."

"Oh really," Ian said, "how sweet."

"Well, she wasn't being actively hostile to me."

"Baby steps mate."

"I think my question is this," Kristen said, "Do you really want to get back together with her?"

"That's my question too," Ian added.

Tom sighed, "I don't know, it's something I've always thought I've wanted, a chance to undo one of the great fuckups of my life, but now that I have the chance, possibly, I'm not sure if that's what I really want."

"God damn it all to hell man! This is the shit I'm talking about. I've never seen you waffle like this. You normally pancake so definitely through life."

"Pancake?" Kristen asked.

"Forget it, he's on a roll." Tom replied.

"Ooh, 'Animal House' nice reference."

"Thanks." Tom said agreeably.

"Have we had our fun yet?" Ian asked in a scolding fashion. "May I continue?"

"By all means, please do." Tom said, lightly.

"I wouldn't be so flip if I were you. Of course if you were me we wouldn't be having this conversation because I would have made up my mind."

"You would have?"

"Damn strait I would have."

Tom folded his arms across his chest, "So you can't say there's no woman in your past who wouldn't leave you with conflicted feelings if she showed up right now?"

Ian shook his head, "Nope, not a one."

Tom turned to Kristen, "How about you? That hypothetical Ian asked, what if that was you, wouldn't you feel at least a little conflicted?"

"I guess, it would depend on the ex though."

"Doesn't change a thing," Ian said, "So you're conflicted, 'Oh look at the poor tortured man.' Big fucking deal, it doesn't change the fact that you have to reach a decision. Do you reach out to the woman or not?"

"But I tried to do that."

"And she wasn't there, big surprise, she's visiting London and isn't in her hotel room during the day. Wow, what are the odds of that?"

"You agreed with me that I shouldn't call her again."

"At that moment you ninny. I didn't mean you should just give up."

Tom scanned up and down the street as they walked, trying to form a reply. "Why are you riding me so hard about this anyway? It's like we can't go ten minutes before you rag my ass for being wishy-washy."

"Tom, I'm just trying to get you to make up your mind, because until you do that you're going to be a royal bastard to hang out with, and that cramps my style man."

Tom chuckled, "I'm sorry for being such a drag on your party. I'll do better the next time a long lost ex-girlfriend wanders back into my life."

Ian laughed, "I'm sure you will. So, what's it going to be?"

Tom shrugged, "I don't know." He ducked when Ian playfully threw a punch in his direction. "She's leaving tomorrow at some unknown time. I figure at that point the issue will be moot so I'll just take the wait and see approach."

Ian chuckled, "The good old path of least resistance huh?"

"Hasn't failed me yet."

"I'm sure. So when were you thinking about going out to see Elsie?"

Tom shrugged, "As usual, I'm not sure, we've got a pretty important deadline coming up at work so I'll probably have to get pretty serious with code until then, but after that I'll talk to Elsie to see when's a good time for her. And no you can't come along."

Ian glanced at Kristen, "Now why would I want to accompany you on a visit to your sister's place?"

"Yeah, why would you Ian?" Kristen asked suspiciously.

"Well, I asked because he's got the hots for her, why just this day he was crawling all over me for a chance to speak to 'Fair Elsie' and wouldn't stop pestering me until I let him say hi." Tom smiled wickedly and walked off.

"You'll pay for this Sloane, oh will you pay." Ian shouted at Tom's departing form.

"Care to explain yourself?" Kristen asked.

"Certainly, see it's just a game Tom's sister and I play. I pretend to chase her, and she pretends to hate my guts." He paused for a moment, "Actually she might really hate my guts, but anyway there's nothing between us."

"Could there be?"

"Not while I'm with you." Ian said simply.

"Is this true?" She asked Tom, who was standing a short distance form them.

Tom nodded, "Pretty much, don't worry, I was just making fun of Ian, though he was going to ask if he could tag along."

"I was not...ok, I was, but only because I'd like to visit the States again, not for any secret rendezvous with Tom's sister."

"Ok, it's not like I've hung out with this chump long enough to care if he's got another girl stashed away somewhere, but I do like to know where I stand."

"On your own two feet at the moment." Ian replied with a smile. "Don't worry, Elsie might be pretty, smart, and rich, but she's American so all that good stuff is out the window."

Kristen laughed, "I'm glad to hear that in your mind a broke British waitress is the equal of a rich American heiress."

"It helps that the waitress is right here." Ian said, smirking.

"Asshole," Kristen replied with a smile. They continued walking down the street, arms linked.

"Hey wait a second, you just insulted me." Tom cried out, "I'm an American too."

"And we don't hold that against you old boy." Ian said over his shoulder.

"Yeah well, we can kick your collective ass." Tom said petulantly.

"But I can kick yours, and I don't see any Green Berets around to back you up."

"At least we don't have a monarch."

"We have a long history and a great many traditions that enrich our lives, the monarchy being one of them." Ian replied smoothly.

"Too bad we kicked your butts in the Revolution."

"Did you manage to burn down Buckingham Palace? Didn't think so."

"Doesn't count, that was before the US was a major power. I'd like to see you try to pull that little stunt again."

Ian waved a hand in a dismissive fashion. "We've got Shakespeare, game over."

"Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck," Tom shot back.

"Ok, I'll finish this once and for all, Patrick Stewart versus William Shatner. 'Nuff said, Hail Britannia."

"Shatner's from Canada, he doesn't count."

"Geek test, gotcha." Ian grinned evilly.

"Bastard, You knew you were going to lose so you bailed on it."

"I did no such thing, besides everyone knows all the good entertainers come from Britain."

"Don't even try to make that claim buddy."

"Too late, I already did. Face it Tom England is where all the great innovators came from, Hitchcock, the Beatles, the Stones..."

"The Bay City Rollers." Tom muttered.

"No, they're Scottish, big difference."

"Ok fine, Wham."

"The good far outweighs the bad."

"I'd just like to remind you of you actually invented the music all your so called "innovators" appropriated, Americans." Tom nodded defiantly to punctuate his remark.

"Unfortunately they were all under appreciated . It took the genius of the British acts to get people's attention."

"Oh please, Elvis was under appreciated?"

"Compared to the Beatles he was."

Before Tom could reply Kristen interrupted, "Uh guys I hate to break up this little debate, but we're here."

"Why so we are." Ian said, stating the obvious.

The trio was standing in front of a large warehouse a formidable bouncer guarded the door, casting a suspicious eye over all the potential revelers walking through the door.

Ian reached into the pocket of this coat and withdrew the Farkas Farmacy bag. "Before I forget, here's your share of the goodies." He handed Tom a small canister.

"Thanks," Tom pocketed the marijuana.

"And before we go in I think we need to take our medication." He took the pill bottle out of the bag.

"Oh come on Ian you know I..."

"Don't take this stuff? Yeah I know, did I offer you any?"

"So you're not going to say I should to loosen up and help me forget about Daria?"

"Well now that you mention it; that sounds like a capital idea."

Tom sighed, "Oh why the hell not, give me the damn pill."

"There's a good lad. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on you." He handed Tom a white pill.

Tom looked at it for a long moment before shrugging and dry swallowing the pill. "Now what?"

"Just wait for it to kick in and enjoy the ride." Ian replied after taking a dose himself, Kristen followed suit.

They slowly crept through the line until they finally reached the bouncer. He glanced at them appraisingly before opening the door and letting the trio pass.

The interior of the warehouse was dark and loud. Dance music pulsated from the large amps ringing the room. Lights flashed with weird stroboscopic effects. The main dance floor was already filled with people dancing and waving glo-sticks in some weird attempt to recapture and earlier, slightly more innocent era.

"Well this sure looks like a good time," Ian shouted.

"Where's the bar?" Tom asked.

"Over there I think." Kristen replied, pointing to a corner of the room.

"Let's dance!" Ian shouted, grabbing Kristen and dragging her onto the dance floor. Tom followed and soon he was doing his best impression of a dancer. By this time the Ecstasy had taken hold and Tom was feeling quite happy. Shortly thereafter he felt a hand tap him on the shoulder.

He turned, "Yeah?"

All he could really tell about the woman was that she had black hair, long legs, and not much on, "Hey there cutie, want to dance?"

"That's what I'm doing right now," Tom replied, a goofy grin on his face.

She laughed, "No silly, with me."

Tom shrugged, "Fine by me, I'll even let you lead." She crooked a finger indicating that he should follow her and they walked off into the dancing throng.

Daria sighed, she had just turned away the umpteenth suitor of the evening and the whole exercise was rapidly growing tiresome.

"Why am I even here?" She asked herself. "Oh yeah, the other option was a lovely evening in my hotel room doing nothing. At least here people buy me drinks." She idly swirled an untouched glass. "Laced with god knows what I'm sure, but it's the thought that counts I suppose." She sipped the drink she bought herself. "This certainly has been one strange trip. Who would have thought Tom was living in London. Maybe I was a little hard on him, after all it was ten years ago. On the other hand the bastard deserved it."

She let her mind review the day's events. After she woke up Daria worked on her article for the literary magazine she was currently writing for. As she told Tom she wrote about the misuse of classic literature in pop culture. What she hadn't told Tom was that this was a regular feature for the magazine, and one of the more popular at that. It allowed her to do what she did best, excoriate the bland stupidity of the masses, and get paid for it. The fact that she did this for a mass produced magazine with a readership of several million was not lost on Daria. In fact she often went so far as to call her readers vapid sheep for depending on her word as to what did and did not suck. "Even the intellectually elite are sheep." She once told Quinn.

After putting the final touches on her column she emailed it to her editor. She debated with herself what to do and finally settled on seeing the sights of London, something she hadn't had a chance to do until that point. Daria picked up a travel guide at the lobby and set off to see the sights. Enough of her teenaged morbidity remained so that she made a special point to see sights like the chopping block at the Tower of London. She also spent quite a bit of time at the Royal Library, just browsing all the books present in that august collection.

"I'm going to have to visit again just to spend some more time in this place," she mused as she examined a displayed copy of "Canterbury Tales." She left the library around dinnertime and got a meal at a quiet little restaurant near her hotel. When she finished her meal she decided to return to her hotel room to plan her next move. There was nothing else for her to do in London, but it seemed a shame to waste the money her editor had lavished on her for the trip.

Back at her hotel room she glanced at the clock, "Hmm, it's only early afternoon back in New York, maybe I'll give Quinn a call. I've got nothing better to do." She reached for the phone and noticed the voice mail light was flashing. "Huh, I wonder who called me?" She followed the instructions for accessing the voice mail and listened to the message; which consisted of nothing more than a phone hanging up. "Hrm, must have been a wrong number." She entered the number to her apartment into the phone and waited.

"Hello?" Quinn's voice came over the line.

"Hi Quinn, it's Daria."

"Daria, hi, how's London?"

"Filled with the ghosts of all who have died an unnatural death over the course of the years."

"So in other words, you're having a great time."

"I suppose, I admit seeing the bloodstains at the Tower of London was pretty cool."

"That's just so typical of you Daria. You're in one of the most fashionable cities in the world and you go visit some dusty old ruins."

"I got my fill of the night life last night when I was on assignment."

"Oh yeah, how was the club?"

"Freakishly abhorrent as I expected. Coleridge just does not translate into a nightclub easily, and those people tried to take the easy path."

"Were any cute guys there?" Quinn asked impishly.

"Why do you want to know, I thought you were happy with Dave."

"For you silly. You need to have something else in your life beyond your job."

Daria sighed, "I'm not getting into this debate right now, but just so you know I did spend a fair bit of time talking with a guy."

"Really?" Quinn squealed, "Tell me everything."

"Well, he's from the States, California actually, about my age. His family is quite wealthy..."

"Sounds like a winner to me." Quinn said excitedly.

"And did I mention his name is Tom?"

"Tom? That's so funny, because you went out with a Tom in high school, and he was rich too...wait a second, you're not saying?"

"Yes, I ran into the infamous Thomas Sloane at the club last night."

"Oh my god Daria! Tell me everything. What is he doing in London? Was he wearing fashionable clothes? Is he still good looking?"

"Whoa slow down, if you give me a chance to speak I'll tell you."

"Alright, wait hang on, let me get Dave." Daria could hear Quinn moving about then yell, "Hey Dave, Daria is on the phone, and she met Tom Sloane in London."

"So Dave spent the night again?" Daria asked innocently.

"Yeah." Quinn replied, Daria could hear the blush creep up her sister's face. For all her showiness Quinn was very withdrawn when it came to talking about her relationship with Dave.

"So long as you two stay out of my room I don't care what you do."

"Daria, ewwww! That'd be like doing it in Mom and Dad's room!"

"Doing what in your parent's room?" A male voice asked.

"Hey Dave." Daria said in greeting.

"Yo Daria. So, what would be like doing in your folk's room?"

"Daria, do not answer that." Quinn demanded.

"Having sex." Daria said with a smirk.

"Daria!" Quinn shrieked, "I told you not to say anything, oh god, I'm so embarrassed."

"Um, why Quinn it's what were doing not..."

"Dave, don't start too," Quinn said in a threatening tone.

"Okay, so why am I privy to this outpouring of sisterly love anyway?"

"Well, remember Tom Sloane from Lawndale?"

"Brown hair, rich kid. Went out with Daria, right?"

"That's the guy, Daria met him at a club last night in London."

"Hey, that's pretty cool. How's he doing?"

"No, first tell us how you met him." Quinn said.

Daria sighed, "Can I just tell the tale and be done with it? These sat link calls aren't cheap." The silence on the other end indicated their willingness to listen. "Okay, so I'm at this club, mentally writing my review of the place when someone bumps into me. I turn around and there he is, doesn't look a damn bit different. So we get to talking, exchanging pleasantries, catch up on how each other's family is doing. Then as you might expect we started hashing out our difference. Why we broke up, who exactly is the bigger asshole, that sort of thing."

"Sounds like a good time." Dave commented dryly.

"It's the way I like to spend my evenings." Daria replied sarcastically.

"What happened next?" Quinn asked, "Did you two go out for coffee or something? Did you let him kiss you goodnight?"

"I can safely say the answer to all of those questions is a big no. He had to go help a friend, then a riot broke out and I left before I could be detained by Scotland Yard for questioning."

"Wait a second, you didn't start the riot. Did you?"

"Relax Quinn, I'm innocent of that particular charge. I actually think Tom might have had something to do with it though."

"Tom started a riot? Just to avoid talking to you?"

"As strange as that sounds, yes. We didn't even say goodbye. He just said he'd be right back, then furniture started flying."

"So you didn't get his number or anything like that."

"Nope, why would I want to anyway?"

"So you can talk to him again you dummy."

"Again, I fail to see the reasoning."

"Daria, Tom was like the best boyfriend you ever had, you two are a perfect match. Why wouldn't you want to get back together with him?"

"For starters because he is a traitorous weasel who can't be trusted."

"Now pardon me for asking," Dave broke in, "But didn't you break up with him?"

"Well, yeah, but only because he got a little too close to a female friend of his."

"Ok, I just have dim memories of getting really drunk with the guy afterwards and him saying you dumped him before that."

"It's one interpretation of history." Daria paused, "It's funny, I've been so mad at him, but when we were talking I remembered all the not so bad times we had, and what an intense jackass he was to fuck that up." She added hastily.

"Sounds to me like somebody wants to get back together with her old boyfriend." Quinn said coyly.

"No it does not. Why on earth would I do a damn fool thing like that?"

"Because you never wanted to break up with him in the first place, duh."

"Where the hell did you come up with that asinine notion? Of course I wanted to break up with him. He was seeing another girl for crying out loud."

"I think what your sister is trying to say is that given your druthers you wouldn't have broken up." Dave said, trying to keep the peace.

"Well obviously, you don't break up with some one if they don't give you any reason to."

Quinn sighed dramatically, "Daria, you know that sometimes a relationship just ends and no one is to blame, especially high school romances. People just drift apart, and if that was going to happen with you and Tom then it doesn't matter what he did because you two were destined to break up. But, if you were still in love with him, then maybe there's a chance the two of you would still be together now if you hadn't broken up back then. Which is why I asked if you were still in love with him when you broke up." She explained patiently.

"Quinn, what the hell are you getting at?"

"That you should forgive the poor bastard and get back together with him. Fuck Daria, he screwed up once the whole time the two of you went out and you were a damn cute couple too, for a pair of unfashionable brains that is."

"I think," Dave said quietly, "that the person you need to talk to is Jane."

"Huh, why?"

"Now my memory of that time is somewhat hazy, but I seem to remember always thinking that the reason you freaked out so badly back then was because the whole incident was too similar to the way you and Tom hooked up in the first place. You never really came to terms with how your relationship with Tom started."

"What does this have to do with Jane?"

"You still think you're the reason Tom and Jane broke up in the first place, and because of that you're inclined to think the worst of any possible screw up Tom might make. Or I could just be pulling this out of my ass, whatever."

"You are," Daria said simply.

"Ok, but call Jane, talk to her about this, can't hurt. Look my shift starts soon so I've got to get ready for that. See you Monday?"

"Yeah, Monday."

"Cool, take it easy Daria."

"Bye Dave." She could hear Dave's extension cut off.

"He's more perceptive than he has any right to be." Daria thought to herself as she replayed their conversation in her mind. "Must be from all the drugs."

"You should follow Dave's advice." Quinn had told her, "I'm sure Jane would have plenty of advice for you."

"I don't really think Jane wants to hear me mope about her ex-boyfriend."

"But she would like to hear from her friend I bet, and besides she was happy for the two of you, after a while at least."

Daria sighed, "Quinn, when did you start making sense?"

"About the time you started paying attention to what I had to say. So are you calling Jane?"

"Maybe, not right now at least, it's far too early for Jane to be coherent. Besides, she'll just tell me to give Tom another chance."

"So will you?"

"Tell you what, if I see him again before I go home I'll talk to him about it."

"Daria, you're not going to sit in your hotel room all night are you? If you are I'll find Tom's number and tell him to march over there and stand in front of your door until you come out."

"You wouldn't."

"Try me."

"Ok, ok, you don't have to threaten me. I was going out anyway." Daria saw the flyer for the rave she picked up the night before. "I'm going to this rave thing tonight."

"And how do I know you aren't lying to me?"

"You don't, goodbye Quinn."

"I'll call the front desk to see if you're still in your room." Quinn threatened.

Daria sighed, "Goodbye Quinn."

"Bye Daria, good luck with Tom." The two sisters hung up their phones, leaving Daria by herself with her thoughts.

Daria took another drink from her glass, Dave had been right, there was only one person in the world she could talk to about this,other than Tom, and that was Jane. She sighed as she pulled her cell phone out of a pocket and went off in search of a relatively quiet place to make the call.

"I wonder if Trent will be there." She pondered idly as she punched the number in from memory.

"Hello, Lane's Painting Service, if it's a surface we'll slap paint on it." Jane's voice said, slightly faint, from across the world.

"Hey Jane, how's the business going?"

"Daria? Hey, great to hear from you. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I have to ask you about something you won't want to talk about."

"Ooo, the spine tingles, what's up?"

"It has to do with Tom."


"Yes, Tom."

"Tom, Tom?"

"Getting into percussion? Yes, that Tom."

"Why are you bringing that bit of ancient history?"

"Because it's not so ancient. I ran into him last night."

"In New York?"

"No, London."


"Yes, London. I'm here on assignment and we ran into each other in this club..." She quickly gave Jane a recap of the previous night's events.

"Wow, that's got to be up there on the cosmic coincidence scale."

"Tell me about it. I spent the rest of the evening ready to pepper spray anyone who even remotely looked like any of my other ex-boyfriends."

"And such a wide and varied group that is, did you include Trent?"

"Did Trent and I ever go out?"

"Well no, but I figured you might want to pad your numbers a bit."

"Gee, thanks for that ringing endorsement of my love life."

"Anytime amiga." Jane said airily. "So you saw Tom again, why call me?"

"I have a nagging question only you can answer."

"Which is?"

"Was I the reason you and Tom broke up?" Daria asked quickly.

"What?" Jane shouted into the phone.

"Was I the reason you and Tom broke up?"

"I heard you the first time." Jane said testily. "Why ask me that question now?"

"It's just something I need to know the answer to."

"Wait a second, remind me why you broke up with Tom?"

"I caught him kissing some girl after we had a bit of a fight." Daria mumbled.

"I thought so. To answer your question, no you had nothing to do with our breakup. We were going to anyway, you just made it easier."

"Oh," Daria said simply.

"You're thinking about getting back together with him aren't you."

"Why would I do that?"

"Because you were in love with him, and none of your relationships since then have even come close."

"I suppose. But I must mention that Quinn said the exact same thing."

"Look Daria, I truly don't give a shit one way or the other. Tom's ancient history for me. If you want him then by all means he's yours. Go for it."

"Thanks Jane, I just might do that."

"Let me know how things work out. And stop by some time, you have to see what I've done to the high school."

"The mind boggles."

Jane chuckled, "Well Li's mind sure did. I don't think she knew there were that many different shades of blue and yellow."

"Good to hear you're still subverting the system from the inside."

"It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Take care Daria."

"You too Jane." Daria switched off her phone and stared out over the crowd. "So where are you Tom?" She wondered aloud as she walked back to her table.

"Hey good looking I can be your Tom if you want. We can go explore the interior of our souls together." A male voice said as she walked past.

"Sorry, I sold mine for a pair of comfortable shoes." Daria replied, moving on. When she got back to her table she found that an overly amorous had taken up residence there.

"Shit," she thought, "and I hadn't even finished my drink." She walked over to the bar and ordered a fresh drink. A quick survey of the surrounding area didn't reveal any free tables so Daria steeled herself for a trip across the dance floor.

"The things I do to keep my sister out of my life." Daria muttered to herself as she started walking through the crowd. She had to put her free hand over the glass to keep the contents from splashing all over the place. When she was almost across the floor she saw something that caused her to nearly drop her glass. "Holy shit!" She said in a loud voice. Not quite ten feet from where she was standing Tom was locked in an intricate bump and grind with a very willing companion. Tom looked up and their eyes met for a brief moment. Anger welled in Daria and she dashed off the dance floor before Tom could say anything.

Tom for his part stood there, stupefied from the shock, and the drugs in his system. His paralysis was broken when his companion ran her hand up and down his leg.

"Why'd you stop dancing?" She asked in a sultry voice, "Want to do something a little more stimulating?"

Tom brusquely removed her hand from his body, "Uh sorry, I just saw somebody I need to talk to. If you'll excuse me." He ran off in the direction Daria had fled, pushing his way through the crowd. His erstwhile dance partner shrugged and began searching for another warm body to entertain herself with.

Tom bulled his way through the crowd until he finally caught up with Daria. He reached out with an arm and caught her by the shoulder. "Daria," he asked, "what are you doing here?"

"What's it look like? I'm trying to find a good time, and from the looks of things you've already found one."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just that you were looking pretty chummy with that chick back there."

"And this matters to you how?"

"it doesn't. It's just that last night you seemed pretty intent on hooking up with me, and now you're doing the bump and grind with some raver. It's nice to see your well-honed ability to drop anything that won't provide you instant gratification is still intact."

Tom groaned in frustration, "Now what do you mean by that?"

"Just that I've spent my day talking to people and having them tell me to give you another chance, but what do I see when I stumble across you? Somebody else giving you a lap dance."

"Daria, I didn't even know her name."

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?" Daria asked in an incredulous voice.

"Well yes, because frankly I think you're over-reacting a touch. Just because I was dancing with that woman doesn't mean we were going to do anything more than that. Christ Daria, what do you expect me to do, sit in my apartment like some aesthetic monk because of a conversation I wasn't privy to?" Tom's growing ire at Daria's attitude prevented him from hearing what she was saying.

Daria frowned, "Ok, that does sound sort of silly, but still given your history what other conclusion could I draw?"

"It's not my fault that you reached an incorrect judgment. I just came here with a few friends to have an enjoyable evening."

"There's a big difference between going out with some friends and getting it on with some bimbo you just met." Daria replied caustically.

Tom sighed, "Daria, why do you always have to do this?"

"Do what?"

"Hold me to some impossibly high standard, and if I deviate even the slightest from it you crucify me."

"Well excuse me for having any standard at all. I don't know what I was thinking; getting back together with you? What a load of shit. You'd leave the moment you got a little bored. So fuck you Tom Sloane, I hope you enjoy your life." Daria stormed off leaving a stunned Tom standing in her wake.

Daria's parting words slowly sunk into Tom's brain. When he realized what she had been saying he tried to follow her, "Daria, wait a second!" He shouted, but he couldn't see her.

Back on the dance floor Kristen noticed the commotion Daria and Tom were causing, "Hey Ian, isn't that Tom over there?"

Ian looked in the direction Kristen indicated, "Why yes, it is. I wonder who the woman is?"

"Whoever she is it looks like things are getting a bit heated."

"You're right, I'd better get over there to see if he needs a hand. I wonder..." He trailed off.

"Wonder what?"

"Oh nothing, want to come along to lend a hand?"

Kristen shrugged, "Oh might as well." They set off in the direction of Tom.

By the time they arrived Daria had left and Tom was sitting at a table, looking dejected.

"What's up Tom?"

"She's gone, again, fuck it all, why'd I have to come here?"

"Whoa, back up, who was here?"


"Daria? That was Daria?" Ian asked in amazement, Tom simply nodded. "Fuck man, why were you arguing with her, that was your chance man."

"You don't think I don't know that?" Tom shouted. "She saw me dancing with this girl and started shouting at me, and I never recovered from that. She even said she was interested in getting back together with me."

Ian looked thoughtful for a moment, "Kristen, stay with Tom."

"Where are you going?"

"I've got a little errand to run, I'll be right back. Tom why don't you have a drink, maybe smoke a joint, you'll feel better. Oh, and which way did she leave?" He asked quickly. Tom pointed in the right direction without even realizing what Ian asked. "Thanks." Ian strode off in the indicated direction. He quickly made his way through the crowd, peering intently for the face he sought.

"Now if I were her I'd be heading for the exit post haste." He thought. He pushed his way to the exit, checking out all the patrons leaving the warehouse as he did so. "I hope she hasn't gotten a cab yet," He said to himself as he exited the warehouse. He looked up and down the street and finally saw the face he was looking for hailing a cab.

"Hey Daria!" Ian bellowed. Daria turned and started at him. "Gotcha." He said to himself as he ran over to where she was standing. "Daria Morgendorffer right?" He asked when he caught up with her.

"Who wants to know?" She asked suspiciously.

"Ian Williams, pleased to meet you, I'm a friend of Tom's." Ian said, holding out his hand. Daria did not take it.

"Good to meet you, now if you'll excuse me, my cab is here." She started to get into the cab which had just arrived.

"Sorry, but we have to talk." Ian shut the cab door and indicated to the cabbie that he should drive off.

"Excuse me, but who the hell gave you the right to do that?"

"Like I said, we have to talk, and it can't wait."

"And if I don't want to talk to you?"

"Too bad, we're going to talk. And don't even bother to try anything, I play rugby, I can take whatever you can dish out." He smiled brightly.

"Well this is a great way to start a relationship." Daria deadpanned.

"And if I just asked nicely?"

"I'd walk away." Daria sighed, "Lead on my imperious captor."

Ian looked up and down the street. He spotted an all night coffee shop and pointed at it. "Why don't we go there. Get a little coffee to clear our head while we discuss heavy things."

"And just what will we be discussing?" Daria asked as they walked down the street.

"What do you think?"

"Tom," Daria sighed, "did he send you?"

Ian shook his head, "Nope, the boy is currently curled up in a bottle, I'm here totally on my own volition."

"Ok, so why are you here?"

"Because Tom's my friend and I'm attempting to do something nice for him. After you." Ian held the door to the café open for Daria.

"And let me guess that nice thing would be me?" Daria said coldly as they sat down at a table.

"Tom said you were a bright girl. Basically yes, I'm here to try and talk some sense into you. Coffee, black please." He told the waitress.

"I'll have the same." Daria said. "Talk some sense into me? That seems pretty needless if you ask me."

"Ok then, forget that. How about you explain something to me instead."

"Sure, what?"

"Why the fuck are you and Tom so fucking volatile? The two of you are together for not even three hours last night but I've seen Tom swing through more emotions today than I have in the entire two years I've known him."

Daria shrugged, "I don't know, he was always the one who was cavalier about our relationship."

"Actually, that was a rhetorical question, I know why he's so strung out."

"Ok then, since you have all the answers, why?"

"Because he feels bad about the way the two of you broke up, and he desperately wants to try again with you."

"He sure has a funny way of expressing that. I see him humping some strange woman on the dance floor, then we have a blow up about it."

"Ok, as for the woman, that's kind of my fault. I talked him into coming here, I spent all day trying to get him to forget about you. Plus I gave him that hit of Ecstasy, and considering that he never does that it's a wonder he wasn't fucking a lamp post."

"Drugs are no excuse for behavior."

"Oh lord no, but seriously, if you think about it rationally he really did not do anything wrong by dancing with someone. You really cannot hold that against him."

"But when you look at it as part of Tom's larger history it fits with a well established pattern of behavior."

"Oh sweet Jesus." Ian said in disgust. "You're as fucking bad as he is you know that?"

"No, I don't."

"You and Tom, the two of you can concoct these total bullshit rationalizations to let you do or think whatever the hell you want. You two are a perfect matched pair."

"I think I should be insulted."

"Fine, be insulted, but it's true. There's a huge gulf between dancing, at a dance party for fuck's sake, and kissing some chick. You know, I know that, hell even the fucking Arch-Bishop of Canterbury knows that. But you can't have that. Oh no, that interferes with this little 'history of prior bad acts' rap you've got going on. And if that gets disturbed then there goes your reason for staying mad at Tom."

"While your righteous indignation impresses me, I fail to see the point."

Ian sighed, "And here I thought you were supposed to be this great mind. Ok, I'll break it down for you. Deep down at the bottom your heart you want to get back together with Tom." He reached over and tapped Daria's chest. "But your head," he tapped Daria between the eyes, "doesn't want you to for whatever reason, once bitten twice shy I suppose."

"Nice story, but a load of bullshit. I don't want to get back together with Tom, and even if I did the logistics would be prohibitive. I don't want to leave New York, and I bet Tom feels the same way about London. I don't want to start a trans-Atlantic romance so it doesn't matter what my heart wants it's a real world impossibility."

Ian ripped the napkin he had been playing with into several smaller pieces. "I'm not talking about rational thought, forget about rational thought. Let go of your head, and feel damnit."

"It'd be pretty hard to get around if I let go of my head." Daria deadpanned.

Ian laughed, "Yes, it would, but do you at least see my point?"

Daria shrugged, "I think you're spouting a load of feel good bullshit."

Ian scratched his chin, "Yeah that does sound like a pretty big line of shit doesn't it." He thought for a moment, "What if I said that Tom would be willing to leave London, would that make any difference?" The waitress arrived with their coffee.

Daria took a sip from the cup before replying. "Honestly I'm not sure. What am I supposed to say? That I've spent the last decade pining for Tom. That all I've needed is just a chance and I'd rekindle whatever it was that we had?"

Ian chuckled, "It'd be a step in the right direction. If you were being sincere just then."

"Obviously I wasn't."

"Oh, obviously."

"Look, Tom Sloane was the first great love of my life, I don't deny that. He was the second person I ever really opened up to, I'm not denying that either. And sure, you always have a soft spot for people like that in your past."

"Great, then what's the problem?"

"That's just it, he's from the past, who's to say what worked a decade ago will work now? And who's to say things won't end the way they did back then as well."

"There's only one way to find out." Ian said quietly.

"So you'd stick your hand into a buzz saw even though you know it could end up hurting like hell in the end?"

Ian shrugged, "An animal knows something is going to hurt and avoids it, a human knows something is going to hurt, but does it anyway."

"Thank you for that Mr. Kwisatch Hadderach. Herbert was full of shit you know."

Ian shrugged, "Only if you look at his work from a certain point of view."

"Now I know why Tom hangs out with you. Sci-fi geeks are all a like."

"I'd like to think that some of us have a bit more style than the rest of my unwashed brethren."

"I hate to break it to you, but you aren't that smooth."

"Don't say that until you've seen me at my best."

"If it involves you threatening woman so they'll do what you want I've seen that."

Ian chuckled in embarrassment, "Er yes, about that, um, I'm sorry if I came on a little strong back there, I was just trying to help Tom out and it was the only way I could think of to get my foot in the door."

Daria nodded, "You're probably right, and this has been an enlightening conversation, not that I'm giving your little theories any credence." She added hastily.

"Of course not. There's always intellectual merit to that which we disagree with."

"Exactly," Daria fell silent as she swirled the remaining coffee in her cup. "You're a good friend for doing all this." She said finally.

"Good friend hell," Ian said with a laugh. "I was just getting tired of him being a whiny little bitch all day. I figured I'd just try to move this along a little so he'd shut up."

Daria smirked, "Watch it, being sarcastic is my specialty."

"Well then, I must beg your most humble forgiveness oh mighty Queen of the Sarcastic Barb."

"Thank you." She finished off her coffee, "Well, I'd love to stay and chat some more, but I've got a trans-continental flight tomorrow so I need to catch up on some sleep." Daria stood to leave.

Ian caught her arm, "Daria, if Tom were to show up at your door and profess his deepest sorrow for all crimes, past present and future, and show a deep desire to try again at your relationship, you wouldn't slam the door in his face would you?"

Daria removed Ian's hand from her arm. "Honestly no, I wouldn't do that." She started to walk off.

Ian's face brightened, "So you'd take him back?"

Daria turned and smirked, "I didn't say that either." She left Ian sitting at the table and walked out of the shop.

Ian chuckled, "Remarkable gal. I wonder how Tom's doing?" He paid the bill and left the shop as well. When he stepped onto the sidewalk he caught sight of Daria entering a cab. "Hey Daria!" he shouted, "When does your flight leave?"

She turned around and yelled, "Six o'clock." Before getting into the cab and driving off.

Still chuckling from their final exchange Ian walked back to the warehouse to check up on Tom.

He found Tom and Kristen standing outside the warehouse. Or more properly Kristen trying to support a very intoxicated Tom up. Ian rushed over to help.

"Here, let me give you a hand with that lump." Ian said taking a hold of Tom's free side.

"So there you are." Kristen said, "And what have you been up to while I was tending to this drunk bastard?"

"I was trying to repair his love life." Ian replied as they dragged Tom's prone form over to a cab.

"Any luck?" Kristen asked as they maneuvered the unconscious American into the taxi.

"Possibly, but it's up to Tom."

"God help us." Kristen replied.

"Amen sister," Ian said as the cab drove off into the London night.

Tom regained consciousness the next morning with the help of some not so gentle prodding. "Huh, who's there? Go away." Were his only comments before drifting back to sleep.

"Get your lazy fucking ass out of bed Tom, there's work that needs to be done." Ian said in a loud voice.

Tom sat up in bed, holding his head in his hands, "Ok, I'll get up, just don't bellow."

Ian handed Tom a pair of aspirin tablets and a glass of water. "Here, you go, we need to get you feeling human in a hurry, there's not much time."

Tom swallowed the pills and drank the water. "Not much time? For what." He asked as he took stock of his current situation. He was in his apartment, still wearing the clothes from last night. Ian appeared to be wearing something different so he had not spent the night. "And where're my keys?"

Ian help up a key ring and placed in on the table next to Tom's bed. "I'm impressed, you don't miss much, even when you're hung over."

Tom tried to stand, but fell back into bed when the dizziness overtook him. "It's something you have to pick up if you want to avoid harm while spending time in your company."

Ian chuckled as he helped Tom into the bathroom, "Good lad, I'm glad all my training is paying off. Now go get yourself cleaned up and we can talk more; there will be a pot of coffee waiting for you."

Tom looked himself over in the mirror as he undressed. To put it simply he looked like shit. His eyes were bloodshot and his face had a pale, haggard aspect to it. "Damn, now that was some night. What the fuck happened to get Ian so worked up?" He tried to sort through what he did and did not remember about the night before. The answer came to him quickly. "Aww shit, Daria. Fuck a duck!" He groaned to himself as the hot water poured down on him. "Damn, I really fucked that up. No wonder I got tanked." He got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. When he left the bathroom he was met by Ian, who was holding a large cup of hot coffee.

Tom took the cup and drank a large gulp of the hot brew. "Thanks, so are you here on suicide watch or something?"

Ian chuckled, "No, nothing like that. I'm just here to make sure you're not too late."

" You keep saying I've got to move before I'm too late Too late for what?" Tom asked, puzzled.

"For intercepting Daria before she leaves the country."

"But she told me to fuck off last night, that's a closed book now."

"Guess again my American friend. A little cajoling by yours truly warmed the cockles of her heart and if you bust your ass and get over to her hotel you might just find a receptive Morgendorffer waiting for you."

"Might?" Tom asked between swallows of coffee.

"What, you wanted a gold-plated invitation?" There's only so much I can do. Now hurry up and get your ass into some clothes." Ian shooed Tom into his bedroom.

"But what if she blows me off?" Tom asked through the door as he got dressed.

"Then we go get drunk again, and you set your sights on someone else. This isn't the time to be worrying about the negatives we're on a tight deadline here."

"We are?"

"Yes, she said her flight is leaving around six tonight. So figure an hour to get to the airport, another couple to actually get to the plane. We probably only have a couple hours to find her, and that's not taking into consideration the time it's going to take for you to get over there."

Tom exited his room, wearing clean clothes and feeling much better on the whole. "But what if this isn't what I want?"

Ian held out Tom's coat. "Too late for that now, the dice have been cast, it's time to see how they fall. Now scoot, you're running out of time." Ian pushed Tom towards the door.

"You aren't coming with me?"

Ian shook his head, "Only you can make this journey Tom. I'll be of no use to you. Besides I have to check up on the store, and make sure none of those dunces who work for me have burned the place down."

"And if I don't go to Daria?"

Ian shrugged, "It's no skin off my nose. I just set things up for you, if you don't take advantage of that opportunity it's your lose. I can't force you to go but you'll be stupid if you didn't."

Tom nodded, "Thanks Ian, I know I've been a pain in the ass these past few days." He held out his had.

Ian shook the outstretched hand, "That's ok, provided you stop being such a horse's ass soon it's all good. And you're welcome." The two friends made their way down to the street and parted company.

"Good luck Tom."

Tom laughed, "Thanks, I'll need it." Tom stepped in to a waiting cab and drove off towards the section of town Daria's hotel resided.

"That poor bastard is going to need all the help he can get." Ian thought to himself before setting off for his store.

Tom stared out the window of the cab. "What the fuck am I going to say to her when I get there?" he wondered to himself. "I mean, she told me to go fuck myself...I think." He frowned, his memory of the events that had transpired the previous evening was still indistinct. "Daria was there, and we fought, but what did we say? Hmm, maybe that's my angle, yeah, that might work." Tom began mentally drafting his apology as the cab picked its way through the streets of London.

Daria was in the bathroom brushing her teeth when she heard the knock on her door. She walked over to the door, brushing as she went. She opened the door and there he was, Tom.

"Tom?" Daria asked around her toothbrush and mouth full of toothpaste. "What are you doing here?"

"Daria, I couldn't let you leave without telling you something." He motioned to the packed bags by the door.

"What?" Daria asked simply.

"Don't go, not yet at least. Daria, there's so much I want to say..." He stopped and ran a hand through his hair as he gathered his thoughts, "Look, I'm sorry about the way I treated you in the past, I was a fool, I made some really bad mistakes and I understand totally if you don't want me back, but I've grown to realize that there's no one I've ever been with who's meant more to me than you. I can't let the chance to fix my mistake slip away. Let me show you how much you do mean to me. And if there's even the slightest bit of reciprocal feeling in you please let me make it up to you." He sagged against the door frame. "Daria will you give me that opportunity? All I want is a bit of your time. Please?" He asked plaintively.

Daria stared at him dumbfounded, "I'm going to go wash my mouth out," she gurgled. "We'll talk when I get back." She walked back to the bathroom slowly and rinsed her mouth out. She returned at the same slow place. Tom was still standing in the doorway. A strange buzzing sound started emanating from some unknown location.

"Tom," Daria said. "You were a jerk, and an asshole back then, and do you know why?" Tom shook his head. "Because you were the first person who I considered an equal who I ever felt attracted to. You were an easy guy to talk to Tom and I appreciated that. And then you seemed to be attracted to me, how could I resist? What I'm trying to say is that I fell in love with you very easily Tom. I jumped into our relationship without ever thinking about looking where I was going. And the hell of it is that I don't regret it one bit. And then it was over and that was that, or so I thought. Then I saw you and it all came rushing back, and now I..." Daria didn't finish her sentence, instead she grabbed Tom and kissed him fiercely.

Tom looked at Daria lovingly before speaking, "I'm glad you feel that way, why don't you tell Tom."

Daria looked puzzled, "Huh?"

The buzzing increased, "Time to wake up Daria." Tom said gently.

At that moment Daria's eyes snapped open and she shot up in her bed, Tom was nowhere to be seen. "Oh fuck." Daria said. She reached over and pounded on the alarm clock, the source of the buzzing. "Well hell, now what am I going to do?" She thought to herself, "Fuck fuck fuck." She sighed, "Hell, I guess it's pretty fucking obvious, shit." She continued to curse to herself as she showered and dressed. Daria was drying her hair when she glanced over that the desk in her room and noticed the telephone. "Hmm, I wonder," she thought to herself. She dropped the towel, sat down in front of the desk and activated the phone. "Good, it keeps track of incoming calls as well," she mused after perusing the menu options. After a few more key taps the information she sought was in front of her. Daria smiled ever so slightly as she printed the contents of the screen. She then finished getting dressed and walked out of the room, taking the "Do Not Disturb" sign off the door as she went. In the lobby she paid her bill and left the hotel. A doorman hailed a cab for her. Once in the cab she handed the paper to the driver.

"Take me here." She said simply.

The driver looked at the paper and shrugged, "It's your schilling," he replied as he pulled the cab into traffic. Daria stared out the window impassively as the cab darted through the mass of cars.

She sighed, "Well, for good or ill I made a choice. I wonder where it will lead?"

"Eh? What's that miss? The cabbie asked.

Daria grimaced, "Nothing, just talking to myself."

The man nodded, "Love troubles?"

Daria's glare bored a hole into the back of the man's head. "I was talking to myself because I'm the only person who's opinion I care to hear at the moment,"

The cabbie held up a hand defensively, "Okay, okay I can take a hint, besides you seem to have already made up your mind."

Daria nodded, "That's right, I have."

The cabbie chuckled, "Glad to hear it, you wouldn't believe all the dumb schmucks who come looking to me for advice. Like I know everything just because I drive a cab and listen to people bitch about their petty little problems, it's absurd."

"I know the feeling, trust me."

The driver chuckled, "I can see you're not too keen on talking, so would you mind if I turned on the radio?"

Daria shook her head, "Go right ahead." She leaned back in the seat, closed her eyes, and waited for the ride to finish.

At that moment Tom was also sitting in a cab, though with much less patience than Daria. He kept fidgeting with his hands and tapping his foot. Just to vary the routine he also glanced at his watch approximately once every thirty seconds. The cab driver took all of this in with a bemused grin on his face.

"Got a hot date tonight?" The cabbie asked.

Tom looked up at the driver. "Well kind of. I'm trying to keep my ex girlfriend from flying back to the States."

The cabbie nodded, "You know you might want to let her go, give her some time to cool off."

Tom shook his head, "She's had ten years to cool off, if I don't do it now I don't know when else I could."

The cabbie arched an eyebrow, "Ten years huh? You must really be nuts about here to try to rekindle a flame that old."

Tom shrugged, "What can I say, we clicked."

"I guess so, though I have to ask, if the two of you clicked so much why are you in a cab without her, and in such a big hurry?"

Tom rubbed his hands on his pant legs, "Well, she doesn't quite know we've clicked yet."

The cabbie laughed, "Ah, one of those situations, any clue how you're going to convince her?"

"So far the best I've come up with is intense groveling and blaming demon rum for my behavior, and for my current ignorance of said behavior." Tom replied.

"You poor bastard," the cabbie said, "you're dead meat, you know that right?"

Tom nodded sadly, "Yeah, I know, that's part of my plan, go there throw myself on my sword and hope for the best."

"The desperate man angle? Yeah, that might work, but can I recommend a bar for you if it doesn't?"

Tom chuckled, "By all means though don't tell me just yet. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude here."

The driver laughed, "Alright mate, you do know that relationship advice means an larger tip."

Tom shrugged, "If all goes well I'll give you enough cab fare to drive to Scotland and back."

The driver chuckled as he pulled the cab up in front of the hotel. "Well then, best of luck to you."

Tom got out of the cab and quickly stuck his head back inside. "Would you mind waiting for me?"

The cabbie shrugged, "You'll be on the meter."

Tom looked at the man evenly, "I'll buy this cab if it would keep you here."

"Well in that case your wish is my command."

Tom nodded in thanks then dashed off into the hotel. He made a beeline for the elevators but groaned when he saw the mass of people waiting for their arrival. He stood in the crowd for several long moments before glanced at the stairwell.

"What the fuck," he thought, "it's only three floors and I'm in decent shape." Tom bolted for the stairs and slammed into the door to the stairwell, banging it open. He launched himself up the stairs, taking them two at a time and with such velocity that his momentum carried him into the wall when he reached the first bend. He paused momentarily when he reached the third floor to catch his breathe.

"Okay, maybe I'm not in as good a shape as I thought I was." He wiped the sweat from his brow then continued on. He opened the door with a bang and skidded to a stop in front of a floor layout diagram. He studied it intently and tore off in the direction indicated. Tom ran down the hallway, dodging hotel guests and cleaning staff as he went. He turned the final corner and nearly collided with the cleaning cart sitting outside the open door.

"Son of a bitch!" Tom swore. He pushed the cart out of his way and walked into the room.

The cleaning lady, who had been changing the bedding looked up when she heard Tom. "Can I help you sir?"

"Yes, where's the person who's staying in this room?"

The maid shrugged, "I don't know sir, the 'Do Not Disturb' sign wasn't on the door, and there aren't any personal items in here. I'd say the patron's already checked out. Sorry sir."

"Fuck." Tom muttered. He pivoted on his heels and sprinted out of the room.

The maid shrugged, "Yanks are so odd," she said to herself as she continued with her job.

Tom raced down the hall at break neck speed. He banished all thought, instead he focused on getting back to the lobby as quickly as possible. The elevator was never even considered. Tom headed strait for the stairs. He did not even break stride as he hurled himself down them, thoughts of personal safety momentarily on hold. He shot out of the stairwell like a bullet from a gun, only to crash into a bellhop burdened with luggage. Tom apologized profusely, but only gave perfunctory assistance to the fallen bellhop, who glared at tom while the latter man continued on his way.

Not mollified in the slightest by the incident Tom kept up his rushed pace to the main desk. Fortunately volume at the desk was light so he did not have to stand in line. He came to a stop in front of the desk, breathing hard.

"May I help you sir?" the desk clerk asked, slightly bemused.

Tom nodded, "Daria Morgendorffer," he said breathlessly, "when did she check out?"

The clerk looked down at his computer screen, "Morgendorffer, let's see." He tapped a few keys, "Here we go, oh my you just missed her, she checked out about a half hour ago."

Tom banged the desk in frustration, "Shit!"

"Is there anything you need sir?"

Tom shook his head, "Nothing you could tell me." He broke for the door before the clerk could respond. Tom ran out of the hotel then skidded to a stop. "Hold up Tom, stop and think this out." He ordered himself, "Daria's checked out of here and her flight leaves in about," he checked his watch, "four hours. Ok, I can catch her before she gets on the plane...shit, I don't even know what airport she's going to." He reached for his cell phone and dialed Matt's number. "Hey Matt." He said as he started to pace. "I need another favor. I need you to find some flight information for me as quickly as possible."

"Hey man, you aren't on your cell phone are you?"

"Well yeah, why?"

"Prank call, don't know you, don't know what you're asking for, I'm hanging up now." Matt shouted into the phone.

"Hey, wait, this is an emergency, same person as before, flight to New York, leaves at six, where and what airline. That's all." The line went dead in response. "Fuck." Tom swore as he kicked at a piece of litter. He stood still for several long moments before his phone chirped. "Hello?" he asked.

"Just thought you'd like to know the public record has twenty flights from London to New York leaving at six from both Gatwick and Heathrow."

"That seems like a lot."

"Popular time for business travelers, they can be home in time for dinner. Don't call again." The line again went silent.

Tom hung his head, there was no way he could figure out which flight Daria was on, and guessing didn't seem like a very productive use of his time. "I guess I'll have to reach out to here when she gets back to New York and hope for the best." He sighed and walked over to the still waiting cab.

The cabbie was leaning against the hood of his taxi when Tom walked up. He noticed the fact that Tom was alone. "Didn't go so well huh?" He asked sympathetically.

Tom shook his head slowly, "She wasn't there."

The cabbie nodded, "So where to now?"

Tom shrugged, "I don't really know."

"You don't have her flight information?"

Tom shook his head "All I know is that her flight leaves at six, and that's all."

"And getting from one airport to the next would be damn near impossible in the time remaining," the driver mused. He shrugged, "Want to go to that bar I was telling you about?"

"thanks, but I've had enough to drink this weekend already. I'll just walk myself home. I need some time to think, sort some stuff out in my head."

The cabbie nodded, "Well best of luck to you then."

Tom smiled weakly, "Thanks." He took out his walled and retrieved his money card from it, "Hope you don't mind, I'm a little short on cash right now." He keyed a figure into the card and handed it to the cabbie.

"Sir, there's no way I could this much." The cabbie said in amazement.

"Yes you can, just think of it as a tip."

"Well thank you sir, thank you very much indeed." The man said, pumping Tom's arm up and down.

"You're welcome." Tom replied while gently disentangling himself. Tom left the cabbie standing in front of his cab and set off for home, alone.

Tom took his time as he walked home. He gazed into window displays. He studied the clouds in the sky. But through it all he continued to dwell on Daria.

"It's really no big deal," he thought, "I mean now I know where she lives so it'll be easy to look her up and say everything I was going to say today then. Who knows maybe she'll be more receptive when she's in her territory." He stopped and examined his hands, "Then why do I feel like I just missed the fucking boat?" He had wandered into a park that over looked the Thames. Tom kicked some of the fallen leaves in disgust. "Because we're both creatures of habit, and the only way to reach Daria is when she's out of her protective shell. Plus she'll want to know why I couldn't say anything to keep her in London, and if I was willing to let her leave why should I bother going to see her." He sat down on a small knoll and watched as the sky reddened. "If only I could call her or..." He paused as realization struck, "She's got to have a cell phone, and I bet I know who's got the number, or at least can get a message to her." Tom hurriedly grabbed his phone and dialed into the London Information Grid. From there it was a quick hop to the NYIG, and the information he needed, the phone number for Daria and Quinn Morgendorffer. He dialed the number and waited. It took a while for the connection to be made; even that advanced day and age calling a person on the other side of the globe took some time. Tom was glad the phone didn't ring too long before being answered.

"Hello?" a female voice said.

"Um, hi, er, Quinn?" Tom asked.

"Yes, this is Quinn." Quinn replied, sitting up. She had been spending a lazy Sunday in bed, "Who is this?"

"It's Tom Sloane, remember me, from Lawndale. I used to date your sister."

"Of course I remember you Tom. Is Daria there, is she having you call to tell me she'll be staying a little longer?" She clutched the bed sheets in anticipation.

"Err, no." Tom said, puzzled. "I was calling to see if you had her cell phone number handy, I went to go see her at the hotel, but she'd already left, and I don't know what flight she's on so I can't stake out the right gate so I figured I'd call her but..." Tom trailed off.

Quinn laughed, "Don't worry Tom, I'll go get her number right now." Quinn walked into the main room and pushed a few buttons on the phone console. "Are you on a phone with a data link?" She asked.


"Ok, I'll just send the number over the. Oh, do you want her flight information as well?"

"Sure, that would be great."

"Ok, she's taking United, flight 1121, gate 41 out of Gatwick."

"United 1121, 41, Gatwick, got it. Thanks a lot Quinn."

"You're welcome Tom," Quinn said with a smile, "Good luck, I'm pulling for you."

Tom chuckled, "You and the rest of the world it seems, of course this is Daria we're talking about so I need all the support I can get."

Quinn laughed, "Oh, I don't know about that, but still I'm rooting for you. The two of you were a great couple."

This time it was Tom's turn to laugh, "Quinn, everyone says that when couples break up, but I appreciate the sentiment. Now I really have to go, running out of time."

Quinn looked at a clock, "Oh god yes. Why are you talking to me, go, go."

"Say hi to Dave for me." Tom added before hanging up.

Quinn turned off the phone and crawled back into bed. Dave rolled over and wrapped his arms around her.

"Who was that?" He asked sleepily.

"Oh, Tom Sloane."

"Tom huh, What did he want? Had to do with Daria right?"

Quinn nodded, "Yeah, he wanted to know her cell phone number."

"Did you tell him she usually leaves hers off."

"Shit! I knew I was forgetting something." She shrugged, "Oh well I gave him her flight information as well, he can catch her at the gate."

Dave nodded, "True." He looked at Quinn, a mischievous glint in his eyes, "Now where were we last night?" Soon all thoughts of Daria and Tom were pushed from Quinn's mind.

Tom stared at the number on his phone's display. Steeling himself he highlighted the number and pushed the send button. For the second time in as many days he waited for an answer from Daria, only this time he was greeted with a warm, "We're sorry, the number you're trying to reach is not in service at the moment."

"Fuck!" Tom cursed. "Wait a minute," he thought, "they still require you to turn off your cell phone when you're on a plane, maybe that's it. Now what was that flight information?" Tom scanned his memory, "Right, that's it." Tom called up the number for the Gatwick United terminal from the listing database and set the phone to dial the number. This time he did not have to wait long for an answer.

"Hello, United Airlines, how may I help you?" a cheery British woman asked.

"Yes, has Daria Morgendorffer checked into Flight 1121?" Tom asked.

"One moment please sir." The polite voice replied. "Sir," she said a minute later, "it seems that she has not checked in for that flight yet."

Tom frowned, "Ok, well could I leave a message for her when she does?"

"Certainly sir."

"Can you tell her to call Tom Sloane," he gave her his number, "and could you tell her it's urgent that I speak to her before she leaves."

"I'll see that she gets the message sir."

"Thank you." Tom said.

"You're welcome sir, have a nice day."

Tom mumbled his reply as he turned off the phone. "Now all I have to do is wait," he mused. He sat on the knoll, fidgeting. Six o'clock came and went and still no call. Impatient, he dialed the number for the terminal.

"Hello, United Airlines, how may I help you?" a different, but still cheery, voice asked.

"Yes I was wondering what the status of Flight 1121 is?"

"Flight 1121, service to New York City?"

"That's the one."

"Flight 1121 is on time, with all passengers on board. It's on the runway right now in fact."

"Did a Daria Morgendorffer board the flight?"

A pause, "No she did not, is there anything else I can help you with?"

"No, you've been more than helpful." Tom again switched off his phone and sat back, thoughts swirling in his head. Daria had not gotten on the flight, what did it mean? "And where the fuck is she?" He wondered aloud. The oncoming chill of the autumn night cause him to shiver. "Wherever she is I won't find her here, go home, call Ian, plan the next move." He told himself as he walked across the park, kicking at the autumn leaves as he went. His mind never strayed to far from the central question, "Where did she go? Maybe she had another assignment pop up, maybe she took an earlier flight." Tom broke into a jog, the sooner he got home the sooner he'd know, that much he felt sure of.

By the time Tom finally made it back to his apartment building night had firmly descended on the old city. Tom bounded up the steps to the building and nodded at the doorman as he walked over to the elevator.

"Mr. Sloane!" The doorman called out. "The elevator's busted, you'll have to take the stairs."

Tom sighed, "Ok, thanks George."

"Oh, you have a visitor too." George called out, but Tom was already in the stairwell and didn't hear him.

Tom slowly climbed the stairs, he had been on the run for most of the day and it had taken its toll on him.

"Maybe I'll just leave the mystery of Daria alone for the moment and take a nap," he thought as he pushed open the door to his floor.

"So there you are." A familiar voice off to his right said. "I was wondering if you'd ever get here."

Tom spun in amazement to face the source of the voice, and there she was, right in front of the door to his apartment, Daria. "Huh, what?" Was all his tired brain could manage.

Daria smiled, slightly, as she held up a piece of paper. "The hotel phone system records all incoming calls, even hang-ups."

"Ah," Tom said, still dumbfounded by this change of events.

"Well are you going to kiss me or just stand there like an abject moron?" Daria asked, bemused.

This snapped Tom out of his daze and he did as he was told. When they came up for air he looked at her, still not quite believing this was happening. "So why are you here?" He asked lamely.

Daria sighed, "Because in the end it seems I care about your more deeply than I realized and that I'd be a fool to let you get away this time."

Tom chuckled, "I was thinking the same thing, and spent the better part of today running around London trying to tell you that."

"I'm flattered that you would undertake such a futile effort on my behalf. But don't think this means I'm about to abandon my life in New York to come live here."

Tom kissed Daria's forehead. "We can talk about that later. Right now let's just enjoy the moment, ok?"

Daria nodded, "Ok."

Tom's stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten all day. "Want to start this off with a dinner date? My treat."

Daria again smiled that ever so slight smile, which spoke volumes to Tom. "Sure, so long as it's your treat, and I get to order the most expensive thing on the menu, payback's a bitch Tom." Tom just laughed.

They left Daria's luggage sitting in Tom's apartment and walked over to the stairs, Tom resting his arm across Daria's shoulders. As they rounded they opened the door to the stairwell Tom looked down at Daria and asked, "Want to go to a high school reunion?"

<The End>

<Epilogue, three weeks later.>

Tom fidgeted in his seat for the umpteenth time, even with all the technological advancements made in aircraft design truly comfortable seating still eluded engineers, even in first class.

"Would you bloody well settle down. You won't make the plane leave any faster by twitching," Ian scolded.

Tom sighed and forced himself to sit still. "There, is that better?"

"Yes, thank you. Now relax you'll see her soon enough."

Tom fingered the boarding passes sticking out of the breast pocket of his shirt. They were for a flight from New York City to Los Angelos. "I know that, but still..." he glanced out the window at the tarmac and the airline workers scurrying about. He had demanded the window seat upon boarding, a request to which Ian had graciously ceded.

"Yeah, all this is delaying your triumphant return to your home town with the love of your life on your arm, and your best buddy at your side; newly single and ready to unleash himself on the women of that peaceful burg."

Tom chuckled, "Something like that yeah. It is a shame about Kristen though."

Ian shrugged, "It's not my fault she chose to be a fan of Man United."

Tom shook his head in a bemused fashion, "I still don't see why her being a fan of another soccer team automatically makes her incompatible, the two of you were getting along so well."

Ian sighed patiently, "I guess it's just something you'll never understand, but it's for the best this way. And for the last time it's not soccer, it's football, get it right fuck for brains."

"If it doesn't involve a helmet and big pads it's not football." Tom said with a grin.

"Stupid American fucks, don't know the proper name for the proper sport." Ian sighed. "So, tell me will we be meeting Elsie on this trip? Or Daria's sister for that matter, I hear she's quite the dish."

Tom smiled, "Don't know about Elsie, and hands off Quinn, she's going out with a friend of mine."

"Isn't that always the way?" Ian asked with mock sadness.

"Don't worry, I'll introduce you to my friend Jane when we get to Lawndale."

"Jane, the art chick of legend?" Ian asked. Tom simply nodded, "Excellent, this trip shall be most rewarding."

"That it will be, that it will be." Tom said. The plane began to taxi and Tom leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes briefly.

"Daria's going to be meeting us at the airport, right?" Ian asked as the plane taxied down the runway.

Tom nodded, "Yep." The plane began to pick up speed. The powerful engines rumbled and with a thud the plane left the ground. Tom opened his eyes and watched as the plane sped towards the horizon, chasing the rising sun.

"How fitting," he thought, "Facing a new day figuratively and literally." Tom closed his eyes and fell asleep as the plane continued to fly towards the dawning of a new day.



Friday night I'm going nowhere al the lights are changing green to red
Turning over TV stations situations running through my head
Well I'm looking back through time
You know it's clear that I've been blind
I've been a fool to open up my heart
to all that jealousy
That bitterness that ridicule
Saturday I'm running wild and all the lights are changing red to green
Moving through the crowd I'm pushing
Chemicals are rushing through my bloodstream
Only wish that you were here you know I'm seeing it co clear
I've been afraid to tell you how I really feel
To admit to some of those bad mistakes I've bad
If you want it come and get it crying out loud
The love that I was giving you was never in doubt
Let go your heart let go your head and feel it now
Let go your heart let go your head and feel it now
Babylon, Babylon
Sunday all the lights of London shining sky is fading red to blue
I'm kicking through the autumn leaves and
wondering where it is you might be going to
Turning back for home you know I'm feeling so along
I can't believe climbing on the stair
I turn around to see you smiling there in front of me
If you want it come and get it crying out loud
The love that I was giving you was never in doubt
Let go your heart let go your head and feel it now
Let go your heart let go your head and feel it now
Babylon, Babylon

<Author's Notes>

What's All This Then?:

Babylon differs from anything else I'm writing, or have written, because the idea for it came about very quickly, and it totally consumed me. I had recently discovered David Gray and this one song, Babylon, was chewing on my brain. So I planned on writing a "Taper Friendly" story based on it, but not until I finished work on a couple other fics I was kicking around at the time. Then I saw the movie "High Fidelity" and I got smacked upside the head by a monster bit of inspiration and I was off to the races. This is why the "last" Taper Friendly is the second written

From Whence Did This Come?

As I've said, the song Babylon was the primary inspiration for this particular story. In face I even tried to loosely fit the plot of my work around the narrative of the song. I echo verses in the song at several key plot point, and some of the choices I made in the story are directly attributable to the song's narrative, an authentic Marvel No-Prize to the person who can pick out all of those scenes that directly reference the song. The other major influence, and the thing that realized crystalized what this story was going to be about were the films Gross Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. I borrowed plot points and characterizations from both in fashioning Babylon. For instance, the scene in which Elsie is reading the reuinion invite to Tom is an almost verbatim transcription of a similar scene between Martin and Marcel in Gross Pointe Blank, not coincidentaly Martin and Marcel were playing by real life brother and sister John and Joan Cusack. Martin and Rob also both came from these films in form as well as spirit. The sub-genre of romantic reunion comedies are always populated with quirky friends. Babylon is my stab at that kind of story, so the surrounding characters had to match. Which brings me to...

Ian, The Man, the Myth, the Legend:

Ah, Ian Williams, that devilish rake. Ian's primary inspiration came from a group of people I know who basically act like Ian does. They're young, professionals who still want to live the party life. Also the sort of movies that inspired Babylon always have a brash, out-going friend to off set the more introspective and moody main character. As luck would have it this just so happened to fit Ian's proposed characterization like a glove. It's also worthy to note that Ian is the first major character I've ever created that has come from whole cloth; Ian is not derived from some facet of my own personality, he came entirely from my imagination and observations of others. I'm enormously pleased with how Ian turned out. I'm glad to see how strong a character he turned out, and I have to figure out a way to make use of him in the future.

Speaking of the Future Nostradamus:

I'm sure people are curious as to why I chose the particular careers for the various Lawndale Alumni. I put Tom in computer programming for no real good reason, it wasn't crucial to the story and it felt right at the time. I initially wanted to make him an investment banker, but decided against. Daria was made a journalist simply as a knee-jerk fan-fic based reaction. There's a whole raft of fan-fics out there featuring Daria as a journalist of some sort and I just went along with the flow. Though I did qualify that somewhat by having Daria question her career choice. Quinn as an actress, well she's already a drama queen isn't she? Jane as a housepainter. Ok, here's the deal. I don't think Jane is going to "make it" as an artist, the odds are pretty much not in her favor on that one. I just couldn't bring myself to making her a successful artist. So I decided she'd do the next best thing, paint houses. That way she'd still get to be around her medium, yet make a living at the same time. Also, in a nod to Jane's unique spirit I made her the most artistic housepainter you ever did see, and implied she had created a successful cottage industry in the process. Jane's still Jane, she just has a day job now.

The Trent Issue:

I guess I confused a lot of people when Daria made reference to Trent after her first meeting with Tom. I wasn't signaling the arrival of Trent, Or that Daria was going to hook up with Trent, that Daria had feelings for Trent, or anything else of that nature. Daria was just saying that the night had been very strange and that the only thing stranger would have been to run into another former flame/crush. I used Trent because we all know Daria had some kind of romantic type feelings for Trent, something we don't know for Rick Derris, who Daria went out with a couple of times her sophomore year of college. That's obviously bullshit because the show has never shown us Daria romantically link with anyone else, and I hope that illustrates why Trent was mentioned in what is really a Daria/Tom shipper fic.

What is Reality?:

Let me be strait up about something. This isn't a "realistic" story. I highly doubt the ending I wrote would actually take place. I suspect Daria and Tom will break up at some point and then move on with their lives. I don't think that everyone's "first love" is the love of their life. Nor do I think that getting back together with a person you once went out with is the smartest idea. Now having said that, let me also say that within the idiom of the story the ending does work, and I'm enough of a big softie to not want to go that far against form. It would have been an "edgier" story if I had left Daria and Tom broken up, but I didn't feel like doing that. Instead I left things hanging, not necessarily resolved, but we know Daria and Tom still care for each other. So it's a sappy ending, big deal, there aren't enough happy endings in life anyway, let's have one in the fictive world at least.

Shameless Plug:

Let me take a moment to extol the virtues of David Gray one more time. He is the finest artist I've heard in quite some time. I still can't help singing along to "Babylon," "Please Forgive Me," "Say Hello, Say Goodbye," and the rest of his catalog of songs. If you're a fan of "alternative" music do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of "White Ladder." You won't regret it. His live shows are just as amazing I'm told and the next time he stops near my town to put on a show I'm definitely going, along with my taping gear.

I'll Be There For You?:

One scene I'd like to talk about, because it's birth was cool and creative, was Daria's story about Stacy. The idea for that bit actually came from an episode of Friends when Rachel's mother comes for a visit. Once I had that as my starting point the rest just flowed, and there it was, Stacy was an alcoholic. It fit narrative, and I think it also fits with the characterization of Stacy on the show. I was so inspired by that one little anecdote that I'm probably going to blow it out into a story all it's own at some point.

Bonus Coverage:

Included free of charge is a little "out-take" the original opening paragraphs to Babylon, slightly different from what i finally went with. It's a bit more dramatic

Tom Sloane walked the streets of London on his way home from work. He had been living in England for a couple of years now. His dad had gotten him a job with one of the more prestigious investment banks in the city and then left his son alone. By and large his teenage years in Lawndale were consigned to the past. Other people had filled his life after he left and he was living a new life. Then he saw her. For a moment he almost tricked himself into thinking it wasn't her, but he knew. She might have changed her look, but Tom knew Daria Morgendorfer when he saw her. She was walking towards him, but in the crush of people he was sure she hadn't spotted him.

"What's she doing in London?" Was the first thing that popped into his mind, "Why London of all the places in the world?" Was the second, followed closely by, "Should I say something to her?" By the time he had sorted out his thoughts she was gone, swept away by the pedestrians.

What's Next?:

No rest for this wicked bastard. I've already got moderately significant work done on two other stories and I've started on two others. At the moment the plan is for me to get the long overdue "Busted Stuff" done while simultaneously working on a much darker, as yet unnamed piece. However none of that is firm and if the motivation for something else strikes I shall pursue it. I hope everyone enjoyed this little romp, it was a fun one to write and I am really happy with the results. Ya'll take care of yourselves.