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

Note: This story is the next in the Unseen Phenomenon Series and takes place fifteen years after "The Empty hourglass".

Lunch break

The sun shone down on the black asphalt highway on this unseasonably hot and muggy midsummer's day. The haze could be seen rising steadily off the road as Daria leaned forward in her car to turn the air conditioner up yet another notch. "God... it's hot as hell today" Daria muttered to herself as she corrected the coarse of her car having swerved ever so slightly over the double yellow line when she moved to adjust the climate controls. Daria let out a deep sigh as keeping the car straight while moving about in the driver's seat used to be so easy when she was younger. Now as she came ever closer to that middle age mark, Daria found that it was easier to get distracted while driving.

She moved to adjust her glasses when her attention was again taken from the road and focused on a light flashing in her mirror. "Oh give me a break... it's too damned hot for this." Daria yelped as she came to realize that the light she noticed in the mirror was being emanated from the patrol car of a state trooper who was now indirectly demanding that she pull the vehicle over to the side. Daria complied and once the car came to a stop she turned the car off and rolled the window down allowing the sultry hot air to invade upon her space and envelope her. The sudden change in temperature, if for just a moment or two, made Daria's lungs feel almost as if they had been filled three quarters of the way with liquid. The air was so thick and muggy, "A person could die of heat stroke at a moments exposure" Daria thought as she regained her ability to breath again.

The sound of the glove compartment reverberated around the inside of the car as Daria slammed it shut after retrieving her documents. She held them in hand as she watched this uniformed soldier of the highway pace his way cautiously up the side of her car. His face hidden with sunglasses and a mustache... "Watch him be one of those strung out vultures who makes his prey jump for the sake of his own amusement" Daria quipped just before the officer reached her window

Officer: License, registration and insurance. (barking in an authoritative voice. Daria automatically handed over the documents without thought before stopping to recognize the voice. She turned with a scowl to stare at the officer, studying his uniform until she came to the name placard that read Macleod. Daria smirked and rolled her eyes in amusement as she realized that she was the victim of a practical joke. )

Daria: Nicodemus... what the hell are you doing following me? (Nick pulled his glasses off and smiled at his mother as she sat half turned towards him.)

Nick: Hey mom, just happened to come up behind you so I figured I'd stop to say hello. It's been about three weeks since I've seen you and all, so you know...

Daria: Uh huh... and you'd pull your own mother over just to accomplish that?

Nick: Hey... sometimes you just do what you have to get some quality family time in.

Daria: And this has nothing to do with my driving...?

Nick: Well... if you want to get technical about it. You did swerve over the lines back there a bit. I COULD give you a ticket for it. But instead I figured I'd just say hi and ask if you wanted to catch lunch. (beat) So how about it?

Daria: It's too hot for pizza...

Nick: Well duh... I was thinking along the lines of ice cream and maybe a sandwich. Preferably where they have air-conditioning.

Daria: Eh... I appreciate the gesture but ice cream gives me gas anymore. I think I'm becoming lactose intolerant or something.

Nick: (smirks evilly) My treat...?

Daria: Hey what do you know what... I'm cured. It's a miracle!

Nick: Really...?

Daria: No... but I figure I can stink your father out of the house later. I owe him big time after all those times he ate oranges and drank Gatorade right before bed. (Nick erupts in laughter as another patrol car happens by and stops to check if assistance is needed. After several moments of reassurance Nick manages to persuade the other officer that all is well and he can go about his business.) Close call?

Nick: Nah... that was my watch commander. He was just checking to see if I needed any backup. (beat) So why don't you just follow me then and we'll get you someplace cool.

Daria: Deal. (Daria follows her son through the streets and while doing so, she can't help but wonder how in the world Nick could ever have found the desire to become a cop. The job held such a potential for danger, she couldn't stand the thought of him leaving for the job, especially if he got stuck on the night shift. When he first joined the force, she would spend many a night wondering if her son was going to come home on time or if he was going to be delayed by the job yet again. As she recalled, she would jump whenever the phone would ring... absolutely dreading that the person on the other end of the line would be a fellow officer calling to inform her that something had happened to her son. Daria felt relief in the memory for the call never came... and she felt strengthened by that. For some reason... which Daria could never fathom, Duncan would never seem the least bit worried if his son came home late. "The boy can take care of himself, lass." Duncan's voice rang clear through her mind as if he were right in front of her. Daria felt the urge to strangle him every time he said it too. She knew he meant well, but every time he said it the first conclusion she jumped too, that is before rational thought kicked in before actually speaking, was "How can you possibly not care about your own son's well being?" But Daria never allowed herself to say such things... she knew better. That would give Duncan all the more room to say that she was becoming more and more like her mother every single day. On a previous occasion Duncan had even mentioned that it was only a matter of time before Daria put on a lookalike of her mothers business clothes. Daria wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of THAT. As far as Daria was concerned... she was NOTHING like her mother. (Daria sighed in admittance to herself) At least she TRIED as hard as she could to be nothing like her mother.
Both cars pulled up to the town Diner and Daria's thoughts on the matter seemed to pause as Nick had already exited his car as she was taking her belt off and he stood there opening her car door for her. )
What are we into the whole chivalry thing now... or do you perceive your mother as being too old and weak to open her own car door?

Nick: Give me a break, mom. There's nothing wrong with showing a little respect now is there?

Daria: (She arks an eyebrow and smiles) Did I teach you that?

Nick: No... you taught me sarcasm and wit. Dad taught me manners... but the aforementioned are equally as important. God knows they kept the bullies at bay in all through school.

Daria: (smirks) Nice save.

Nick: (bows) I try... stepping on ones self has been proven to be hazardous to my health. That I KNOW you taught me.

Daria: And I can see it stuck. (Pause in thought)

Nick: What...?

Daria: (smirks) It's a shame you didn't stop Jane while you were at it... she always did manage to make the day complete.

Nick: (grumbles) Eh... I don't know about that. I think if she asks me to pose for her one more time I'm going to have to shoot her.

Daria: That'll never work... we've been threatening to do stuff like that to each other for years.

Nick: You never actually had a gun to do it with.

Daria: Yea it figures... I never could figure out what it was I was supposed to pick up at the store until now. Note to self... pick up dueling pistols on the way home and settle the score with Jane. (Nick laughs as they enter the establishment and take a booth near the window. They order and Daria finds her mind beginning to wander again as she studies his face. She had never recognized him initially what with that mustache and those glasses... she couldn't help but wonder when the hell he'd actually grown that thing. And for gods sake... why did he have to do it in the summer? Spoken like a true mom Daria thought as she mused on all things similar she'd said to the kids in the past. Voices passed through her mind in time with the images of her memories. She recalled clearly encouraging a seven year old Ariel to fight back against her roughhousing brother. And then scolding Nick by telling him not to pick on his sister. She could have sworn it was her mother talking at that time... to Daria it almost sounded like Helen's voice. Other past motherly sayings rang through her mind as she waited with her son. The signs of parenthood laced her past like battle scars. "Don't do that..don't stay out too late... you're grounded,. ... Daria had said them all. Just as her mother had before her... she found herself wondering how often her children would say such things to their own children, if they ever had any. Nicks voice managed to cut it's way though Daria's wandering mind.)

Nick: You okay mom... you look like you're zoning out on me?

Daria: Huh... oh yea. I'm fine... just thinking. Just got a lot on my mind I guess... so much stuff to do.

Nick: Yea... I know what you mean. I can't believe the lower half of the food chain are halfway through high school.

Daria: (scowls) Don't talk about your younger siblings like that. They're not the bottom half of anything.

Nick: I know mom... I'm just messing with them like I always have. It's like... my duty as the oldest son. You know...?

Daria: My ONLY son... how can you be the oldest son if there are no males in the family younger than you?

Nick: (rolls his eyes) Now are you just being literal about it... or are you indirectly being proud of me?

Daria: (dryly) Pick one. (Nick chuckles to himself as the food arrives. Daria picks up her sandwich and takes a bite. Ham on dry toast, just like she'd always had in the past and likely to the end of her days. A thought that could be read on Nick's face as he watched his mother eat. He wouldn't have it any other way.)

(Daria studied her sons face... she knew what he was thinking about how she always ate the same thing. She never tired of it... Daria never liked to eat a heavy lunch. Just enough to hold her over until dinner. That was always heavy... most of the time Duncan did the cooking unless he was unable to be home in time. And he did love to cook up a storm. Daria found herself laughing out loud as she remembered the time Duncan had shooed Helen out of her own kitchen at Christmas time because she was in danger of ruining a good meal and because she was getting in Duncan's way. )

Nick: What's so funny?

Daria: I'm just laughing at the peculiar shape of memory lane.

Nick: Sure it's not the yellow brick road?

Daria: Watch it, or I'll drop a house on you.

Nick: Don't you mean my sister? That would be much more preferable.

Daria: They're my memories... I make up the consequences. (Nicks laughs)

Nick: Speaking of memories... do you remember when we were little? Just before Grandpop Morgendorffer passed away... Ariel had that dream that she was real tall when she grew up?

Daria: And she was right too... she turned into a doppelganger of your aunt Maria.

Nick: (nods his head) With exception that Ariel was born sighted. How DID Ariel manage to be born with red hair? You have brown... and dad has black.

Daria: Traits sometimes skip a generation or two... red hair runs on both sides of the family. And the height... that's your fathers side all the way.

Nick: God I had to hear it all through school about having a giant for a sister. "Hey Nick... check her shoes to see if she's stepped on anyone yet."

Daria: (sighs) Six foot four at age fourteen... had to be rough. (clears her throat) But as I recall... you got in many a scuffle in her defense.

Nick: Hey... sometimes you've got to kick a little ass for the sake of the family. Besides... I did enjoy it so. (Daria laughs)

(The sound of Nicks radio is heard beneath the table as a call comes through about an officer needing back up. Nick curses as he gets up from the table in preparation to leave.)

Nick: I'm sorry mom... I've got to go. We'll do this again soon, I promise. (He puts down more than enough money to cover the bill on the table. ) I'll call you tonight, okay. (Daria finds herself mumbling as if in the presence of Trent when she was younger)

Daria: Mmmph... bye. (Beat) Take care of yourself... (Daria couldn't believe she'd found the strength to belt that out after the mumbled goodbye. She'd never said that in the past... only in her mind every time Nick would leave for work before he got his own place. Nick turned in the doorway and looked back at his mother in amazement. He could feel twenty years of emphasis on each word... and he felt himself choke up as they reverberated in his mind. He smiled to her and then left before his mother could see a tear come to his eye. Daria watched through the window as her son climbed back into his patrol car, flicked on the roof lights and tore ass out of the parking lot. She felt anxious at first as she always did, but calmed at a peculiar feeling. She'd gotten it before... it was familiar, that of a presence. She wasn't sure who it was... but definitely not Quinn. Quinn always seemed to offer up a warm jovial feeling when she was in the vicinity and through her experiences in the past Daria knew to acknowledge those feelings for what they were. But this one always felt of contentedness... and for some strange reason whenever she felt it, no matter how grave the circumstances, nothing bad would ever happen to either her or her family. And although she couldn't explain it... she felt relief as for the presence of whomever this was meant that her son would return home safely from whatever dangers he was heading into. )

As Daria continued to watch her son leave, the scene pulls back to behind her maybe a few yards away... in the shadows noticed by no one, stood a tall man with long hair tied back in a pony tail, and as his floor length over coat swayed in the breeze generated by the ceiling fans above, he too watched. Not the son leaving as so much the sons mother smiling at reassurance.

The End...

Comments and suggestions are always welcome... I may be reached at wildgoose81@hotmail.com