Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters are the property of MTV and Viacom productions.

This story is the fifth in the unseen phenomena series, to understand the plot line it is recommended that the reader at least read the first two stories.

1. A New Experience
2. All Good Things
3. Issues
4. Shadowed Wings
5. Burnt Out
# ....................
# Season's End

Burnt Out

Daria watched from the safety of the truck as a nearby house on the far side of Lawndale was in the process of going up like a torch. She was still trying to fathom why she had chosen to ride with Duncan instead of either walking home from where they were at the time or just catching the bus. Granted, she wasn't really in the mood to ride on a public bus with a whole bunch of smelly stressed out people who are just coming home from work. That's all she needed was for just one person to bend just a little bit to far and decide to take it out on everyone else on the bus. Not to mention the fact that it was bitterly cold out, but she had been smart enough to dress for the weather. The conditions on a public bus were most likely the deciding factor in her decision though, that and watching a house fire wasn't exactly the most uninteresting thing she could have done with her evening. Daria leaned her head against the window and watched as sparks flew high into the air, no doubt Jane would have found this an extremely inspiring event from which she could create her next masterpiece. Which brought Daria to notice something familiar about Duncan, he liked to take pictures of people amidst disaster. In more ways than Daria could count, that reminded her of Jane and how she liked to photograph the sick, sad, and decrepit nature of people's lives when they weren't looking, all for the sake of her artwork and the twisted genius it so often represented.

At that Daria decided to look for Duncan's thirty five millimeter camera that he so often kept behind the seat in his truck, "No point in missing the chance to capture someone's misery on film for all time" she thought. Sure enough it was there and after closer examination she noticed that it was loaded as well. "Ready at a moments notice" Daria said to herself as she prepared the camera for action and began to snap off frame after frame hoping that the rolled up window wouldn't produce a glare that would show up when and if the film was ever developed. "It's just too cold out to keep the window down" she thought, "even to help somebody in their hobby". On the nearby grass and in the street as well, Daria could see those who had been put out by this unfortunate event and also she could see all those who had come to watch the destruction of someone's home simply because they had nothing more interesting to do. Steam rose from their mouths as they conversed with each other, fretted over the loss of a home, or simply blew into their hands in an attempt to keep themselves warm.

At the thought of warmth, Daria reached over and turned the keys in the ignition to start the truck up and as soon as the engine came to life, so did the blue light bar on the roof. Daria felt her heart leap as if she had done something horribly wrong to alert everyone to her presence but quickly calmed herself after noticing that her actions were almost unnoticeable when taken into account with the lights coming from the countless emergency vehicles nearby. Daria sighed and then flipped the switch to turn the heat on. Fortunately Duncan had deliberately left the keys in the truck specifically so that Daria would be able to make use of the heater. A rather courteous gesture considering how long she was likely to be waiting in the truck. As she watched the people walk about, Daria thought back to when her father had almost burned out his own family. The image of herself standing outside in her bedclothes along with the rest of the family was crisp in her mind as if it had just happened yesterday. "I'm just glad I'M not the one stuck out there this time" She said to herself. Although the kitchen fire in her own home never became as extensive and out of control as this blaze, none the less the week that she was forced to spend in close quarters with her sister allowed for a sufficient amount of sympathy to emerge from deep within.

Daria held the camera up to eye level and snapped the last picture on the roll and let out a yawn as the camera kicked in the auto rewind and continued to whir until it had finished it's task and prepared itself to receive a fresh new roll of film. The target of her final photo was an unsuspecting group of teenagers attempting to make the most of the circumstances by placing marshmallows onto the ends of some long thin wooden poles and attempting to get close enough to the heat to roast them. Daria later on that night laughed to herself before yawning again as she thought of how many times the dimwits had failed in their attempts having been confronted by the police and eventually were arrested for disorderly conduct. Daria put the camera back behind the seat and rested her head against the window as she could feel the need for some sleep creeping up on her either from sitting in the truck for so long or possibly because it actually was late and past her normal bedtime. She couldn't tell for sure which it was given that she had neglected to wear a watch when she left the house that evening, but it was hardly a matter of consequence. She now had an apartment of her own to live in while she attended college and as a result no longer needed to report back to commandant Helen of Stalag Morgendorffer. Daria couldn't help but smile at this analogy as that was what it had seemed like for so long until she left home in search of an education. She stared out the window at the orange glow that emanated from the inferno that was once known as home to someone,... somewhere and eventually unknowingly closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Daria drifted in and out of sleep and shifted positions several times in discomfort as she was strangely still vaguely aware of herself at some points in her sleep. Daria opened her eyes slightly at one point in effort to determine if she was actually awake or not. She was aware of herself, yet strangely everything about her seemed like a dream. Her eyes were blurry, but that was likely due to the fact that she had just woke up, if indeed she actually was awake. Daria lifted her head slightly to look out the window and noticed that it had begun to snow at a moderate pace adding a somewhat graceful and actually beautiful hue to the forked fingers of fire that still rose from the house.. "Wonderful" she thought, "knowing my luck I'll get snowed in while waiting in this truck,....god I hope this thing has four wheel drive." Daria squinted as she noticed the figure of what seemed like a nearby person in the steady falling snow. She had thought it might have been Duncan returning to the truck either to warm himself or god willing to get them both the hell out of there, but at closer examination she realized that this person was standing still. Daria pressed her face against the glass in an attempt to make out who the person was and why he or she was standing out in the freezing cold as if it was no bother at all. Daria could make out a long cobalt blue over coat that came clear down to the persons ankles, and it wasn't even buttoned closed. The lower end of the coat swayed off to the left indicating which way the wind was blowing. To Daria's surprise the person casually took several steps closer to the truck to the point where there was enough ambient light to make an identification. "No, ...I've GOT to be hallucinating or something" Daria said as she laid her eyes upon an all to familiar outfit that was visible where the coat hung open, the pink baby tee, the form fitting blue jeans, to say nothing about the seemingly bouncy red hair, without a doubt this was Quinn.

Daria rubbed her eyes in disbelief hoping that the person before her eyes was actually some sort of illusion caused by either fatigue, or all the flashing lights from the fire trucks, something in her eye, or maybe all of the above. But after several rubs and cleaning her glasses with her sleeve, Daria took yet another look to see that Quinn was in fact still there. "You're dead...." Daria stuttered in a continued state of disbelief, and to her amazement there came a crystal clear reply as if they were standing right next to each other and there was no glass or even the frame of a truck between them. "Duh...." Quinn replied, "But contrary to popular belief it actually never seems to stop anybody." Daria's only reply was "Um......". Despite Daria's rare loss for words Quinn continued to converse like her once typical....living self. " I hope you don't mind that I stopped to talk, I was in the area anyway and, ...you know, family and stuff." Daria calmed herself and decided that if she were going to have some sort of demented nightmare or even a psycho-tropic hallucination caused by bad pizza she might as well go with the flow instead of getting worked up over the whole deal. "I never thought you'd be caught dea...um, ...wearing a coat like that" Daria said resuming her well known stoic tone of voice. Quinn chimed in almost immediately as if they had actually gotten along in life. "I KNOW, when I first saw it I thought it would just look SO bulky. But once I tried it on it just seemed to go with everything so WELL. I didn't have to accessorize or anything, can you imagine it?" "I try not to,... thinking of fashion makes me feel as if that rash is just itching to break out again" was Daria's dry reply, "So what REALLY brought you here?" Quinn looked slightly amused as she stuck her hands in her coat pockets " Just thought I'd say Hi, ....oh and to ask you a favor. Can you keep an eye on you're friend? He's sort of key to you, and walking head on into a wall of fire doesn't seem to be enough to convince him to be a little more careful"

Daria is about to reply when a loud knock is heard at the driver side window behind her, she spins around in her seat to be hit by a cold blast of air as Duncan opens the driver side door and climbs in. "Bloody hell, it's cold out there." He hands Daria one of two tupperware containers of hot soup and shivers heavily before opening his container. "Eat up lass, the lunch truck is pulling out so there won't be any more of it." Daria ignores his comment and turns her attention back to her own window to discover that Quinn had vanished as if she had never been there in the first place. A look of concern came over Duncan's face as Daria turned away from him, "Is everything all right lassie, you look as if you'd seen a ghost or something?" Daria snapped out of her daze and quickly replied with a slight degree of tension in her voice. "Um....no, .....I'm okay. I just hadn't completely woken up yet I guess." Duncan looked at her with a puzzled look for several moments before the two of them finally began to consume the now cooling soup. Daria decided to break the momentary silence by attempting a conversation. "So what's going on" Daria quipped, Duncan replied as if it were simply the next order of business in the average day. "We're set here, it's all under control now so the career guys are going to stay and finish the job. Our gear is all stowed in the trucks which are pulling out as we speak, so as soon as we're done eating we can call it a night" Duncan reaches over to the dash board and flips a switch turning the light bar off. "Must have left that on, I hope it didn't keep you up" he said with a somewhat apologetic tone of voice. "Um.....No, I'm alright" she said as she looked forward through the front windshield at the snow that had accumulated on the hood. Duncan took it upon himself to look in the same direction to admire the view. "For the life of me I can't figure out where all this came from, the last I checked the weather people had been calling for clear sky's tonight. (Beat) Huh, ...freak of nature I guess." Daria turned to stare out her passenger window still trying to figure out if what had transpired was actually a dream. "Or something" she muttered as her breath condensed on the window. Duncan gave an odd look towards her and then since the truck was already running, he put it in gear and they left the scene.

They weren't on the road long before Duncan himself attempted to strike up a conversation, Daria wasn't sure at first whether it was just for the sake of keeping himself awake or if he actually wanted to talk. He wasn't usually one for talking while he was driving, in fact he could get almost annoyingly quiet at times while driving. "I ran into Jane down at the station yesterday" he said. Daria smirked at him, "into but not over, ..huh?" Duncan let out a short laugh and then replied "the thought did occur to me but I honestly think the girl could have outrun the truck for a short distance. So I opted to talk with her instead, being as the station was a bit out of the way from the pizza king or your house. I figured she must have come down for something." Daria leaned back in her seat and raised an eyebrow in curiosity waiting for Duncan to continue with his semi detailed account of the encounter with her friend. "So what did she want already" Daria said expecting the topic of their conversation to be something irrelevant or even just casual chat. Usually when Jane dropped by unexpectedly on someone like that it was either to invite the person to watch her brothers band perform at the Zen or because she had a personal interest in the person. As Daria thought about it further, she figured on Jane having a personal interest. " She invited me to come down to the Zen and watch Trent and the others" "Bingo" Daria thought, As impossible as it may seem. There are times when Jane Lane could actually be extremely predictable. Duncan continued with his reply " And then she asked if you and I were getting together." "Damn you, Jane" Daria said as she furled her brows together. "She's always trying to play matchmaker with me, she tried to get Trent and I together for the longest time." Duncan turned his attention away from the road briefly to look at her before looking back at the road. "Yea, she told me. But for some reason or another the fact that you and I have been hanging out together lately would be the most likely cause for her rather interesting Question." Daria frowned and continued to look forward through the windshield, "And you told her what?" Duncan let out a loud rolling laugh at Daria's inquiry, "What did you want me to tell her? I told her the truth, she's been busy with art school and since you two aren't able to get together as often as you used to you've gotten bored and were looking for someone to hang out with. (Beat) Why were you looking for something more?" Daria quickly spun her head in his direction and replied with a slight degree of defensive hostility, "No."

Duncan reacted in surprise at the forcefulness of her reply and let out a sigh as he turned the corner on the street Daria was now living on. Daria stared at him at least in some way wishing she hadn't quite replied in that fashion. "I didn't mean it like that, I'm just tired of Jane trying to set me up all the time." Duncan continued to look ahead at the road as he pulled up in front of the apartment complex. "Understandable. .....But anyway, getting back to Jane. Give her a call when you get up, she sounded like she missed you." Daria smirked, "Yea, good friends are sort of hard to find these days." Duncan turned to look at her as she moved to exit the truck, "Aye." With that Daria left the truck and started down the short walk to the front doors of the complex, after she got approximately halfway down the walk she began to toss about her mind the possible devious tactics that Jane may attempt to use in the future as part of her infernal matchmaking lifestyle. Daria stopped in her tracks and for some reason she couldn't fathom at the moment, she turned to look back at the truck as Duncan pulled away and didn't continue on to her place until he had disappeared from view.

The End..........

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