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.

This was written for Round 2 of the The Angst Guy/The Bug Guy challenge. Basically organized by the denizens of PPMB to annoy and amuse the two of us.

The challenge: Bug-guy gets home-court advantage, but TAG gets choice of weapons. Do a fic set in the summer between Daria's first and second years at Raft, a la the 'Falling Into College' series. In this fic, which can only cover one hour, you are to do a Daria-Mack shipper where Daria and Mack would never betray Michael or Jodie, but acknowledge that there could have been something special between them... and that a part of each regrets not having taken a chance back at LHS. No length restrictions, but try to keep it short. Also, there can be no other characters shown.

Richard Lobinske

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Michael "Mack" MacKenzie sullenly sat alone in a booth at Pizza Prince, a small restaurant in his hometown of Lawndale. Not only alone in the booth, but alone in the restaurant. In the year since he'd graduated from high school, a new Big Sleezer's franchise had drawn away that crowd, leaving the local icon a victim of the fickleness of teen popularity.

He eyed the slice of ham and pineapple pizza in his hand. "Wow, this is turning into one wild summer. I almost can't stand it."

Motion at the front door caught his eye. Daria Morgendorffer looked around the vacant room in surprise before noticing him. He watched his former high school classmate walk over, while he thought of the old prayer, Lead us not into temptation.

She gave him one of her understated smiles and went to the counter, returning shortly with a slice of Predator's Preference and a soda. "Mind if I join you? The place is just packed."

Vastly self-conscious of her presence, he motioned, "Have a seat. How's things going, Daria?"

"I'm surviving." I wonder. "No Jodie?"

Mack dropped his head in frustration. "So much for our plans to finally get some time together. She's in Baltimore."

What were you thinking? You know better. "Why is she there?"

"Grand jury. She's giving testimony about all those documents she spent two summers shredding for Congressman Sacks."

"I knew all those extracurriculars would come to no good."

Despite his mood moments earlier, Mack chuckled. "You always were good at cheering me up." Better than Jodie.

Daria looked at him as if he'd grown tentacles. "I...cheered you up? Me, the Misery Chick?"

Mack felt tightness in his chest as he looked at her. A year's worth of physical maturity had been good for her, from the firmer lines of her face to the delicate shape of her figure. Wow. If I hadn't noticed her before, I do now. "Your sharp wit was always a winner. On days when I was a hair's-breadth away from strangling Kevin, one of your remarks would make me laugh and take the edge off."

"Huh." Daria looked at the handsome man across the table. No, my hormones are not raging. Okay, worked up maybe. But not raging. "Then I guess you owe me for keeping you out of jail." She began to eat her pizza as she talked.

"I guess I do."

"Cash is always accepted. Small, non-sequential bills are preferred." Or you can...stop that.

He laughed around a bite, swallowing before saying, "See what I mean? You can be dangerous at times." Very dangerous.

"You really liked those?"

"They are part of your charm." Charm...well yes. In her own way, I've always known she was charming.

"Charm, huh?" Speaking of charming, he is. The only man in our entire class.

"Yes, charm. Not everyone was turned off by your attitude, or unable to see through to you."

"While I always admired your dedication. To the team, to the school, and to Jodie. I know that some of the girls hit on you." Or thought about it. "But, you never wavered from Jodie."

Those girls were all so easy to resist. But, if you had... "I blame my parents for that. The kept setting all kind of disruptive good examples for me."

"If you two got through that summer before our senior year, I knew you could survive anything." Though after breaking up with Tom...

You don't know how often I thought of you in that damn ice cream truck.
"I think it made us stronger."

Mack finished his soda and looked at the empty plate. "Well, I'm done here."

Daria looked at the remains of her drink and her empty plate. "That drink's not worth finishing, I'm done, too."

Mack reached across the table and held Daria's hand. The feel of her tiny, soft hand sent a shiver down his spine. "Daria..."

Mack's strong but gentle grasp caused Daria's heart to skip a beat. "Um...Mack..."

He took a deep breath, but was unable to speak. He moved his free hand over and held hers.

Daria's breath caught as his second hand enveloped hers. She looked up into his eyes.

For a minute, they stayed that way. In silence, their eyes said everything that they wish they had ever said to each other, what they wished they had done, and the regrets they would always know. Finally, why it all had to be, and must remain.

It took the greatest resolve of his life to leave some of his heart behind to release Daria's hands.

Daria felt as if part of her heart was pulled away when Mack's hands left hers. It was only by the barest margin that she didn't reach out to prevent them from leaving.

Their eyes lingered on each other for a few more seconds. Breaking away, each gave the other a brief smile before leaving and going their separate ways.

Thanks to my wife Louise for beta reading.

April 2005