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.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2004.
This is the eighth story in the Falling into College series.
Daria Morgendorffer, dressed in a slightly loose, dark blue sweater and a long, black skirt, set down her brush and turned to face her roommate, Karen Myerson's, question. "What's it?"
"You're wearing that on a first date?"
Daria rolled her eyes. "Karen, I don't need any of your crap tonight. I'm nervous enough as it is. Come on, you can actually see that I have boobs in this sweater."
"But don't you think at least a little..." Karen's straight face broke and she lost her composure as a laughing fit hit full force.
Daria put her hand to her head. "Karen, you will die for that. I will tranquilize you and drop you in with the Komodo dragon at the zoo, make sure it gnaws on you for a good long while, and then pull you out so you can die in agony from multiple bacterial infections."
Karen stifled the laughter, sniggered a little more, and then finally regained control. "Daria, you look great. I hope you enjoy yourself."
"With friends like you..."
"...Enemies don't seem so bad."
Daria smiled. "What are your plans tonight? It's not like you've exactly dressed up."
"My turn to spend a Friday in the library. I want to get my English Comp term paper out of the way this weekend so it won't be hanging over me next week."
"You're turning into me."
"I promise it's only for the weekend. You can have your identity back on Monday."
"I'll hold you to that."
"I don't want it any longer than that."
"One question, then you can leave."
"Fine, one question."
"Were you this nervous before your first date with that Tom guy?"
Daria's face paled. "Karen, how Tom and I got together was not one of my proudest moments. I don't have time for the whole sordid story now, but let's just say I felt so many conflicted emotions, nervous was way down on the list."
"Um. Okay. Look, I just hope you have a nice evening."
"Thanks. Good luck with your stuff."
Daria carried her heavy, green winter jacket over one arm when she met Michael Fulton in the lobby of Daria's dorm, Fenderson Hall. His bright red hair stood out in contrast to the woodland camouflage jacket he wore. He walked to her as she exited the elevator.
He stood, staring.
"Michael. The implication in 'going out' is that we do have to physically move somewhere."
He started. "Sorry."
Daria smiled a little. "Surprised?"
"What? Oh. A little. I mean."
Daria put a hand on his shoulder. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm probably as nervous as you are."
Michael smiled. "Thanks. Shall we?"
They walked out the door, with Daria putting on her jacket before the early December cold hit them.
Daria and Michael left the movie theater. They closed their coats against the cold wind and began walking to the small diner next door.
Daria looked sideways at Michael. "Nothing like a post-apocalypse classic to get you ready for the New Year."
"I was wondering what you were thinking when you suggested it."
They walked in silence a few seconds.
Michael asked Daria. "You don't talk much, do you?"
Daria slipped a look at him. "I could ask you the same."
They walked into the diner and placed their coats on a rack. The waitress took drink orders as she sat them at a table for two. She rapidly returned with coffee for each.
Michael sipped the hot coffee. "Thank you. I've enjoyed this."
Daria looked over here coffee. "Wasn't that supposed to be my line?"
"Well, if it was a conventional date."
"Or so I've been told. Michael...I haven't exactly dated a lot of guys, um, three, and...this is the first date I've had since starting school in Boston. That's why I've been a little nervous."
Michael blushed. "I was nervous because...this is my first date."
"First as in, you've never been on a date before, first?"
"I thought I lived a sheltered life."
"Everyone I ever asked out in high school said no. Who wants to go out with the red-headed geek with glasses and no social skills?"
"I'm sorry. I spent most of high school as the Misery Chick that nobody wanted to associate with."
Michael smiled at Daria. "You said you dated a little, so somebody at least had some good taste back then. As for me, I'm lucky to make up for it by going out with someone like you."
"What, another outcast?"
"No, a brilliant, witty, and beautiful girl."
Daria sat back nervously. "You think I'm beautiful?"
Michael had a look that said, "That's obvious." He nodded.
Daria forced herself to be calm. "Sorry. I've never been comfortable with compliments like that. Long story. Thank you."
"Why...I'm sure you'll tell me if you think it's important. You are most welcome."
"So, what brings you to Raft?"
"Ah...Archeology. Well, History, and then Archeology in grad school."
"English and Education. I'm from Lawndale, Maryland."
"Well, that was boring."
"But, kind of needed."
Daria smiled. "Any other dreadful secrets we need to share?"
"I wear a size eleven boot."
Daria smiled, remembering making a similar comment to her father at a conference two years ago. "Six and a half."
Daria and Michael stopped outside the dorm entrance.
"So, that's what a normal dinner-and-a-movie date is like."
"But I though you said you dated someone in high school."
Daria smiled. "I did, but his ideas of dates were...different."
Michael raised his eyebrows.
"Nothing like that. We would do things like poke fun at the bad poetry in greeting cards at the drug store."
"Sounds like a cheap guy."
"No, and yes."
"Anyway. I hope you enjoyed the evening."
"I did. You're a nice guy; the girls in your old high school missed out."
"Maybe I can get you to tell them sometime."
Daria smiled again. "It's getting cold. We better say goodnight. I'm right by my dorm, but you still have to walk across the quad to yours."
"I take the hint." He very lightly raised her gloved hand and kissed it. "Good night."
Daria blushed. "Uh. Good night."
Michael waved and turned for his walk back to his dorm. Daria watched for a little while before going inside. The RA at the desk gave her a brief nod as Daria passed on her way to the elevator.
Inside her room, Daria quietly turned on her desk lamp near the door. The light provided enough illumination to see that Karen was asleep on her bed. Daria looked at her watch. 10:36. She smiled at her roommate. Farm girls don't seem to be able to get used to vampire hours.
Daria quietly moved to her small closet and opened it. She shed her clothes and dropped them into the laundry basket within. She pulled a warm nightgown from the closet and put it on. Karen stirred.
"Have a good time?"
"We were out of control."
"Glad to hear it. Just remember not to get arrested. I won't bail you out."
Daria picked up her toilet kit. "Like I would even call you." She said as she left the room for the communal bathroom down the hall.
Daria stood in front of the sink; she'd finished the rest of her evening ritual, and was brushing her hair.
"He said I was beautiful."
She smiled, looked doubtful, and then forced the doubt away.
"I think he was sincere." Daria smiled again at the memory.
The rattle of a stall door caused Daria to jump. Robin Hollister walked out wearing a blue bathrobe, closing a bottle of nail polish. The brunette stood a full head taller than Daria.
"So, the men at Raft aren't blind after all."
"You heard me?"
Robin smirked. "Yeah, I was in the stall doing my nails." She pointed to her bare feet. "The RA was really PO'd when I spilled a bottle in my room, so I do it in here now."
"I'd think any splash of color would help those carpets."
"That's what I thought. So, who's the lucky guy?"
"Don't know him. You seem to like him, based on the smile on your face."
"I think I do. He was sweet, funny, and honest."
Robin walked to the door. "Sounds like a winning combination, plus, he has good eyesight. G'night."
Daria looked back into the mirror. I'll keep my mouth shut in case anyone else is hiding in here. Dad, Mom. Thanks for giving me the courage to reconsider. Michael does have the same sweetness I saw in Ted, the wry humor of Tom, and he's intelligent. I feel so...I don't know...nervous, but also comfortable.
Quinn Morgendorffer sat at her lunch table with Stacy, Tiffany, and Sandi.
Tiffany talked over her salad. "Thanks Quinn, the grades on my report card are better."
Quinn smiled. "Oh, Tiffany. Just helping a friend."
Kevin rushed up to the table. "Quinn! I passed!" He waved his report card in front of her. "Wow. You really did it."
She stopped his hand and read the card. "D" in every subject, she thought. Barely, but it is passing.
"Okay, Kevin. Settle down."
Quinn was aware of every eye of the senior lunch watching her.
"I knew you could do it." Yeah, right. "Congratulations."
"It's all because of you. Who would have thought you had as much brains as your sister?"
Sandi loudly said, "Quinn. How unfortunate. Like your sister?"
Quinn glared at Sandi. "Yes. Like my sister."
Kevin backed away from the clear tension between Quinn and Sandi.
Sandi grimaced. "What has become of us? You've turned into a brain and Stacy...races cars. Doesn't anyone understand the importance of being fashionable anymore?"
Stacy started to shrink away, but then looked annoyed.
Quinn responded, "Yes, Sandi. But some of us also understand how important it is to pay attention to something other than looking like a fifteen-year old."
Sandi rose from her seat. "Something more important...wait...are you implying that I'm immature?"
"At least the way you dress."
Kevin slunk away to his regular table, ducking slightly in case things began to be thrown.
Sandi put both hands on her hips. "These are the finest new teen fashions."
Quinn remained seated. "Exactly. Maybe you should join the rest of us in shopping in the women's section of Cashman's."
Stacy folded her arms in front. "Sandi. I like driving. I'm proud of winning the race last week. I thought all my friends were, too. I'm the youngest person to win, and only the second woman. And, even Waif is changing; that's how I was able to get a sponsorship from them."
Tiffany looked over. "It's not like we're freshman anymore."
Sandi was livid. "Very well, then. I guess everyone has just lost their senses." She slid away from the table and stalked out of the cafeteria. Low-level laughter rose as she passed tables on the way out.
Stacy looked embarrassed. "I...I didn't want to upset her. But that race was important. I worked with my Dad on that car since June."
Quinn patted her hand. "Stacy, don't be hard on yourself. We are proud of you. This was bound to happen after we dissolved the Fashion Club. That was the center of Sandi's life. She still hasn't accepted that all of us outgrew it."
Michael said, "I must say, this is a nice way to finish off a Monday."
He and Daria were viewing the student art exhibit at Lavell Hall, home of the Raft fine arts and design departments.
"Sure beats looking at Karen flailing away at her computer."
He chuckled. "She can't be that bad."
"She's not the most graceful typist, so she makes mistakes. I think a lot of the problem is that her hands drift away from the base keys, resulting in gibberish afterward. This frustrates her, so she gets animated with the computer." Daria gazed upward a little. "It's an art form, the way she can string together expletives in the most descriptive, graphic, and improbable combinations imaginable."
"I bet that gets entertaining."
"At times, but it gets frustrating when you are trying to concentrate."
They browsed in silence for a couple minutes more. Daria noticed a work to the side and raised her left hand to point it out, to discover she was holding Michael's right hand.
When did that happen?
Michael looked down and noticed also. "You okay with this?"
Daria looked down at the hands in question. "Um...sure."
Mike gently rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand.
Daria felt herself relaxing. Hmmm.
"Were you trying to point to something?"
Daria used her right hand. "That one, over there."
They walked over to a surrealist painting in blues and greens. The swirls within the painting formed small, random images throughout.
Daria studied the painting. This one seems so appropriate.
An hour later, their tour finished, and unwilling to face the near-freezing temperatures outside, they sat on a bench along the edge of the gallery.
They were still holding hands. Michael placed his other hand over Daria's.
"Viewing a gallery is much more interesting with company."
Daria felt the minor fatigue of a long day of walking. Without a conscious thought, she leaned against Michael's arm and rested her head on his shoulder.
Michael looked down at the auburn hair resting on his shoulder. He lightly kissed the surface, and smiled.
Fifteen minutes later, Daria gave a small start as she realized she had dozed off. She still leaned against Michael, her hand still held by both of his.
"Whoa. Sorry about that."
"What's to apologize for?"
"You're not insulted I nodded off?"
"I liked feeling you next to me. I didn't mind."
Daria began to slowly rise from the bench. "But, I'll take it as a hint that I need to get going."
Michael rose also. "I'll walk you home."
As they stopped to put on their coats, Daria felt a chill on her hand as it was no longer held. She looked at her hand in curiosity.
They both failed to put their gloves on when the left the building. Daria put her right hand in a pocket, and found her left seeking out Michael's. They walked in silence back to the dorm.
They stopped outside the door. Michael raised Daria's hand.
He moved to kiss her hand again. Daria raised her other hand to stop him.
She raised herself up on her toes, partially pulling up with her hands braced against his. She gave him a soft kiss.
"Thank you for a pleasant evening. Good night."
Daria lowered herself back down and disengaged her hands. She gave him a smile and walked into the building.
Quinn looked at the clock on the wall of the Thompson's kitchen, and was relieved by what she saw.
"Six o'clock. That's it for today."
Kevin nodded. "Okay."
Quinn began putting her books and supplies into a backpack.
Kevin closed his book and stacked it with some others. "Quinn. Sorry about Monday. I was kind of excited about my grades."
"'Kind of' is an understatement."
"What did it go under?"
"Never mind. I could tell you were excited."
"I know they were only D's, but I got them myself."
"So you were getting 'by's the whole time."
"Yeah. But Mr. O'Neill wouldn't do it last year."
"Mr. O'Neill failed you?"
"Yeah. Coach Gibson was pissed. But O'Neill wouldn't change the grade."
O'Neill? Having the backbone to stand up to Coach Gibson? "You don't seem mad at Mr. O'Neill."
"I was. But...I was flunking English."
"You're doing better now."
"Yeah, I guess."
Quinn finished her packing and began to leave.
Kevin stopped in front of her. "Quinn, can I tell you something?"
Quinn nervously replied, "Um...okay."
"I...uh...kind of treated you like my babe when I did the science project with Daria. But...now...you're like...the first girl that has been my friend."
Quinn looked at him with surprise.
"Anyway, thanks for tutoring me."
"Oh. Yeah. You're welcome. Keep up with your reading. I'll be back next Monday."
Quinn left the house as Kevin said, "Good-bye."
Karen sat in front of small makeup mirror set on her desk, applying lipstick. She was in a shapely, red dress. "Third date in a week," she said. "After months of living like a nun, you can hardly stay away from the guy."
Daria straightened the collar on the deep purple shirt she had on and checked that the buttons were straight. The shirt was tucked into black pants. "Odd behavior for me, isn't it?"
Karen closed the lipstick and nodded. "That's one way of putting it."
Daria sat at her desk and smiled. "He certainly has made an impression."
"At least you haven't asked me to stay out of the room yet."
Karen laughed as she dodged the pencil thrown at her.
Daria glared. "Good thing you haven't asked the same thing for you and Derek."
"Crap. You got me."
Daria evilly smirked at Karen. "Two virgins can't give each other a lot of hell about their sex lives, can they?"
Daria dropped her slim wallet and keys into pockets and grabbed her heavy green coat. "Ready to go out and face our raging hormones?"
Karen picked up a black purse and her khaki coat. "Not so sure about raging, I think mine are just grumpy."
Daria looked at the color clash between coats and clothes. "Quinn would die to see us like this."
"We can only hope."
Michael was waiting in the lobby as the two exited the elevator. He waved and walked toward them.
Karen leaned over and whispered to Daria, "You do realize that he has exactly the same color hair as your sister."
Daria stopped and narrowed her eyes at Karen. "You will regret saying that, in the worst possible way."
Michael reached them and picked up Daria's hand. "Hi."
"Hi, Michael. This is my roommate, Karen. This is Michael."
Karen extended her hand. "Good to meet you."
Michael reluctantly released Daria's hand and shook Karen's. "I've heard a lot about you."
Karen raised an eyebrow.
"Mostly good, probably seventy-thirty."
Karen smiled and released his hand. "You two head out, I'm waiting for Derek here."
A light snow was falling as Daria and Michael left the Boston Lampoon's theater.
Daria said, "Somehow, performing The Importance of Being Earnest in Star Trek costumes doesn't do it for me."
"Sorry, I guess tonight's choice of entertainment was a bust."
"But the company wasn't."
They reached the bus stop nearby and took a seat inside the shelter.
Michael again held Daria's hand in both of his. "We won't have time to get together next week, what with finals and all. How about we get together before we leave next Saturday for Christmas holiday?"
"Need to make it a breakfast date, my flight home is at eleven-twenty."
Michael moved his arm over Daria's shoulder and looked to her face for approval. She leaned into the crook of his arm as he gently pulled them together.
The snow was falling harder when they stepped off the bus.
When they reached Daria's dorm, Michael released Daria's hand and turned her to face him. "I won't keep you out here in the cold long. Good night."
He held her cheeks in his hands and leaned down to kiss her. After a couple seconds, they separated. Daria reached up and held both his hands. "Good night."
Daria leaned back from her desk chair and pulled a slice of pizza from the box on her dresser. The normally neat room looked like the aftermath of a party. Empty pizza boxes were scattered around, along with empty cans and bottles. Karen was sprawled on her stomach, facing Daria from her bed. Textbooks, notes and microcassete tapes added to the disorder.
Daria eyed the slice in her hand. "I didn't think it would be possible, but I'm going to enjoy taking a break from pizza after this week."
"Damn Cheap and Cheesy for their 'We deliver to Raft dorms every hour, on the hour' special."
"Talk about brilliant marketing. Just have somebody stop by the dorms with a stack of pizzas and sell them in the lobby. No calls, no fuss."
"Except the close combat with the other residents to get the pizza first."
"I got to see Michael briefly after the bio exam today."
"How's he doing?"
"About like us, surviving."
Karen noted the slight sadness in Daria's voice. "You've missed him this week, haven't you?"
Daria nodded. "At least I get to see him Saturday before I leave. Any word from your parents?"
"They package-shipped the tickets; I should have them tomorrow. Wish I was flying instead of taking a bus, but at least I'm getting home."
"Glad you're making it."
Karen looked around the room. "It's going to suck cleaning this place tomorrow after our last finals."
Jane Lane walked into the faculty lounge. Last time I have to face these loonies.
Most of the faculty was gathered around a table. Claire Defoe motioned Jane over to them. They parted to reveal a small cake on the table with "Good-bye and Good Luck, Jane" written on it.
Claire embraced Jane. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate your work this year. I wish I could keep you for the rest of the school year."
"I know you will do well at BFAC. I wish you the best. And don't be a stranger; you aren't just a colleague, you're my friend."
"Mine too. I won't be a stranger."
Anthony Demartino shook Jane's hand. "Good luck, Ms. Lane. It was a pleasure to work with you, even if you still have some trouble with authority." He gestured to the small water fountain Jane had placed next to Ms. Li's hidden microphone.
"All part of the complete service."
"I understand you will be in Boston with Ms. Morgendorffer."
"Please give her my regards. She was the best student I ever had, even if her sarcasm was over the top."
"I'll make sure I tell her those exact words."
The other faculty members stopped by to give their best wishes and comments. They're not as bad as I used to think they were. She glanced at Janet Barch and Timothy O'Neill talking in one corner. But it's probably a good thing I didn't know about some things when I was a student. Overall, I do have more respect for them. They're good people.
Jane ground her teeth at the sound of Ms. Morris' voice. She and her old gym teacher had not gotten along well when Jane was a student, and the state of affairs had continued. By mutual agreement, they had not spoken since the beginning of the year.
Morris extended her hand. "I was wrong."
Karen hefted her large travel backpack onto her shoulders. She was dressed for travel in jeans, a plaid flannel shirt, and heavy jacket.
"Well, Daria. One down, too many more semesters to go." She hugged her friend.
"We got through. I do mean, we."
Karen grinned. "It will be my pleasure to return in a couple weeks to keep your butt on the straight and narrow."
"You know what that is?"
"I got the Cliff's Notes."
"You have a safe trip."
"You, too. Enjoy your breakfast, also." Karen grinned and exited the room.
Daria finished packing her two suitcases, one smaller carryon that also held her laptop and one for checked baggage. She smoothed the green cashmere sweater she wore over black jeans. After grabbing her coat, she headed out for the bus stop in front of campus.
Michael was waiting as she approached. His now familiar camouflage jacket bundled around him. A single suitcase was on the ground, and a cloth backpack beside it. Daria set her luggage down and they quietly embraced.
"How romantic. Breakfast in an airport eatery." Daria smirked. The two sat at a table covered with the remains of a quick breakfast, foam cups, paper plates and plastic forks.
"I thought it would be such a perfect setting, guess I'll have to make up for the lack of atmosphere then." Michael produced a box about six inches long and two inches wide from his pocket. It was wrapped in gold, with a green ribbon. "Merry Christmas."
Daria accepted the package with a little caution. She reached down to her carryon and opened it, withdrawing a package in blue foil and handing it to him. "Merry Christmas, yourself."
Michael found a new copy of Roman Military Equipment. "Barbarian slaughter and Roman archeology. You sure know how to get a man's attention." His broad smile showed how much he enjoyed the gift. "Now, yours."
Inside, Daria found a pendant on a gold chain. The cabochon in the center of the pendant was malachite. Delicate green tones streaked diagonally across the stone gave a striking contrast to the gold setting. She withdrew it with surprise and awe. "This is gorgeous."
"Michael, this is..."
"Just right for you. May I?" He reached across the table, took the necklace, and opened the catch. He slowly put it around her neck and closed it. "As I expected. Perfect."
Daria looked down to see the pendent resting just above her breasts. Her voice was a whisper. 'Thank you."
"Truly, my pleasure."
She leaned over the table to give him a kiss. "Michael, I can't begin to say how happy I've been the last couple weeks." She sat back in her seat and held up the pendant. "You're wonderful."
"My appreciation for you giving me a chance."
The airport PA system announced the next flight to Detroit was boarding.
Michael's face dropped. "Damn. That's me." He stood, grabbed his backpack and picked up his gift. Daria rose and quickly hugged and kissed him.
"I'm going to seriously miss you."
"So will I. And I will be looking forward to seeing you again in January. Take care, Daria. Have a Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Michael. Please have a safe trip."
Michael turned and waved as he vanished into the moving crowd. Daria sat in silence, holding the pendant as she waited for the call for her flight.
Jane yelled and waved. "Daria! Over here!"
Daria located the voice and motion, maneuvering through the crowd. The two briefly embraced.
Daria said, "Thanks for picking me up. I still need to get my checked baggage; hopefully it won't be too long." She started walking toward the baggage claim.
"Hey, no problem. Hope you don't mind riding home in the Tank."
"It made it this far?"
"Miracles do happen."
"Let's hope another happens and I get home."
Jane noticed a glint of gold at the top of Daria's shirt. She reached out and pulled up on the necklace to reveal the pendant. "Looks like that boy you've been seeing likes you."
"I couldn't believe it when he gave it to me this morning."
Jane stopped Daria so she could inspect it. "Got good taste."
"You like him, too."
"Shows, doesn't it?"
"You might as well wear a neon sign."
"I can't remember feeling happier than I have the last two weeks."
"Dammit, woman. Now I can't play matchmaker for you when I get to Boston next month."
"Sorry to spoil your fun."
"Don't be. Happiness looks good on you."
Thanks to the commentators at PPMB, Steven Galloway, atimnie, Lawndale Stalker, Kristen Bealer, MrMagnum, Decelaraptor, Isa Yo-Jo, Mike Nassour, gearhead, Parker-man, Roger E. Moore, and renfield1969.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Robert Nowall for beta reading.
Revised February 2005