Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.

Yet another response to the "I Challenge You" thread at PPMB. This one from Brother Grimace: Here's a challenge, straight from the Angst Wars. Taking up only one post, write a story that covers the time between sundown to sunset of one day AND is based in the 'Falling Into College' format (NOT the series), where at least one major character dies in a classically tragic manner.

Later amended to allow a broader definition of 'major character'

This is an Iron Chef and distinctly outside any of my regular story continuity.

Richard Lobinske

Claim Check

"This feels good. The two of us haven't been able to get away like this since Erin's wedding," Amy Barksdale called to her niece, Daria Morgendorffer, in the passenger seat of her red Triumph Spitfire. Wind blowing over the open convertible created two clouds of auburn hair around the women as they drove through Boston.

"Yeah, but did you have to get me up at the crack of dawn?"

"Hey, it's not like you were doing anything like sleeping."

"Actually, I was. Karen's the only one in the house up that early in the morning, and we're slowly breaking her of the habit."

"But you were out of bed when I rang the doorbell."

"That's because Karen saw you drive up and woke me."

"No wonder she was in such a good mood."

"Yeah, anyway, what's the big plan for the day, anyway?"

"I'm going to surprise you."

"Now that's encouraging."

"Don't worry, I'm not taking you across state lines or engaging in illicit activities. And, I promise to get you home in time to see your boy, whom I'm still very interested in meeting."

"Okay, there's an eleven hour time limit. We're on the Mass Pike, so we're going out of Boston."

"Correct assumption."

"Now we're getting somewhere."

"That's obvious, at about seventy miles per..."

A loud report startled Daria and a delivery van to the left suddenly loomed over the small sports car as it veered out of control.

"Dammit!" Amy yelled into her ear as a vicious jolt slammed the sports car hard and to the left. The following seconds barely registered for Daria as a blurred, terrifying spin amid the sound of metal crunching before everything went blank.

The smell of diesel fuel slowly brought Daria back to wakefulness, reminding her of the single, grimy convenience store near her old home in Highland. Small aches and pains dotted her body and she could only see random blurry patches of light. When she tried to sit up, a deep pain in her left leg told her something serious had happened to it, and the tight pressure of metal that she was trapped. Wincing as she turned her head, Daria managed to see the blurred image of her aunt's face

"Aunt Amy?"

"Ungh." Amy's eyes flickered open. "Hey, you okay?"

"Something happened to my leg, maybe broken, otherwise I think so."

"Good." Amy lightly coughed.

"What about you?"

"Um...not as lucky. My legs also feel like a mess and the steering wheel is crushing my chest. Bet I have a lot of broken ribs." She coughed again, tingeing her lips bright red with blood. "And a punctured lung."

"I can't get over to help, I'm pinned."

"I'm stuck too. Guess we have to wait."

Faint voices and clanging could be heard outside. Daria called toward one of the shafts of light. "Two inside here!"

A male voice called back. "Say again?"

"There are two of us trapped in here."

"Confirm two."

A distant voice said, "Oh, God. They're under all that? It's going to take us hours to cut through."

"Talk about your bedside manner," Amy said, though pain crept into her sarcasm.

The closer voice asked, "How badly are you hurt?"

"My aunt is needs help as soon as possible!"

"Okay, miss. We're trying to assess where survivors are in all this and we're bringing in more units. We'll get to you as soon as we can."

"I heard that it might take hours."

Faintly, Daria heard, "Keep your mouth shut, you idiot! They heard you." The voice called back clearly, "I'm sorry, ma'am. You're under a lot of metal, but we're going to work as fast as we can to get you out. Hopefully my less than tactful partner is wrong."

Daria twisted to face Amy. "Did you hear that?"

"Yes," was her weakened reply. "Daria, I'm starting to feel chill...probably shock. Please keep talking to keep me awake."

"Okay, about what?"

"Anything. College, your boyfriend, your roommates."

"Well, it's kind of scary that Raft already considers me a junior because of my credit hours."

Amy laughed and coughed, sounding like Daria's friend, Trent. "Causing consternation in the registrar's office, not doubt. Trust me, it's always good to keep a college on its toes."

"I'm starting to learn that. One of the secret joys of college nobody tells you about."

"Wait until you become faculty, then you can really mess with administrator's minds."

"You think I've got a shot? I've seen the hire rate for humanities doctorates."

"If you keep getting stories published, yeah. Hell, you could have enough for your own anthology if you keep up your current rate. Plus, you can always toss in the ones you couldn't otherwise get published."

"That's one way."

"Miss?" The man called from outside.

Daria turned her head. "Still here."

"How's your aunt doing."

In the dim light, Daria could see Amy, with drooping eyes and skin that was already too pale, trying to listen and nodding off from the effort.

"Hurry, please. She's getting weaker."

"This is a hell of a pileup. We've got half a dozen Jaws of Life working. We've got more on the way. We'll be in as soon as humanly possible."

Daria nodded to herself. "I understand." She moved again to see Amy. "You heard?"

Amy spoke in less than a whisper, "Yes. Daria...please do some things for me."

"Amy? They'll be here soon."

"Not soon enough. Shh. I've always been a realist."

Daria fought down the lump in her throat. "Go on."

"Tell my sisters that I do still love them, and your mother that I'm still jealous."

"I will." Daria's dread began to grow as she heard each of Amy's words become fainter.

"Promise me you and Quinn won't make the same mistakes we did. Stay close."

"We've made progress. Quinn got me my cell phone so we could talk to each other, and we have."

Amy coughed more. "Good. Be honest with your love. Honest enough to let it go when it's not good for you, and honest enough to keep it when it is."

Daria felt tears building. "Um...okay."

"There's an envelope with a receipt and claim ticket in the glove compartment for a little shop up the road in Wellesley. Pick it up, I'm giving it to you. You'll know what it's for."

"Is that where we were going?"

"Yes. It was going to be a surprise." Amy's head nodded down.

Daria exclaimed, "Amy!"

Amy half-opened one eye. "One more. I need you to let someone know what happened when you can get to your cell phone. He's...very important to me."

Daria carefully memorized the message and number.

"You're still my favorite niece." Amy's eye closed. "Good-bye."


Daria let her head sink down against the rough metal, tears slowly rolling across her face.

The fire-rescue crewman's voice was relieved. "We made it."

Daria felt arms carefully grab her as the metal was peeled away. "Just a moment. Amy asked me to get something for her." Daria winced as she leaned forward to open the glove compartment and pull out the envelope. "Okay."

Two men pulled Daria up and gently supported her broken leg until they could get her onto the pavement. One pulled out scissors and began to cut Daria's boot off. Daria paid no attention to the loss while watching two more EMTs checking Amy. One of them stood, shaking her head. "We didn't make it."

While an EMT put an inflatable splint on Daria, she told him. "There's someone I promised to call for her. He needs to know."

The second technician said, "Go ahead, while we get you ready to travel to the hospital."

With the setting sun shining through the window, Daria said from her hospital bed, "Mom, Dad. It's okay. You rushed all the way here from Lawndale, you're allowed to go grab a quick dinner."

Helen, her dark-circled eyes betraying the grief and concern it took most of the six hour drive to bring under control, held Daria's hand. "Sweetie, we're worried."

"I know." Daria pointed to her cast-encased leg. "But that's not letting me go anywhere, and neither will Michael."

Jake violently shook his head. "We're not leaving you, Kiddo!"

Daria pulled Helen close and quietly said, "Please? Give me a few minutes alone with Michael."

Helen looked quickly at the red-haired man on the other side of her daughter's bed. Daria's other hand was clasped within his and held to his chin in prayer. She nodded with understanding and released Daria's hand.

"Come on, Jake," Helen said as she rose from her chair.

"But Helen!"

Helen grabbed Jake's hand and yanked gently, nodding at Michael.

Jake stared at her in confusion for several seconds before uttering, "Oh."

As Helen said, "We won't be long," she and Jake reluctantly left the room.

Daria weakly smiled to them. "Thanks."

Keeping hold of her hand, Michael leaned forward and gently kissed Daria. "I love you."

She reached up and cupped his cheek. "I love you."

"I got here as soon as I could. I didn't get your message until quitting time."

Daria nodded. "You couldn't help it. I'm glad you're here now."

He softly stroked her hair and cheek. "You scared the hell out of me. To think..."


"I'm sorry about your aunt. I was looking forward to meeting her."

"She was one of a kind." Daria paused for a few seconds and wiped her eyes. "Michael, there's an envelope in my jacket pocket, in the closet, could you get it?"

"Okay." He retrieved the envelope and handed it to Daria.

Daria shuddered when she opened it and more tears rolled down her cheeks. She gave the paper to Michael and said, "Amy and her fiancé wanted me to use it. I hope you won't mind."

Heritage Formal Wear and Bridal

One EDW345 bridal gown, silk and velvet

Paid in full

Hold for fitting

Thanks to Brother Grimace for beta reading.

June 2005