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. It takes place seven months after "For Just a Moment"

The Things We Put Ourselves Through

(Daria stood still as an instructor examined Daria's equipment to ensure that everything was secured properly and unobstructed by anything that would prevent proper deployment. He commented that Daria had done en excellent job at getting geared up and wished her well on her days activity. As the instructor walked away to check on another student Daria turned to look at Duncan who was already geared up and ready to go.)

Daria: For the sake of my own sanity... explain to me why I'm doing this again?

Duncan: If I remember what you'd stated earlier in the week correctly... you wanted to be a supportive future fianc‚ by joining me in the things that I wished to do before eventually settling down. (Duncan smiles as Daria wears an expression that clearly states that she wishes she could kick herself for saying that) You can back out if you wish lass... I've done this before. And I won't think any less of you if you're scared.

Daria: (scowls) Wait... you've done this before? I thought you wanted to do something adventurous before settling down... you know. That you've NEVER done before. And as long as we're on the subject... WHEN have you done this before?

Duncan: Fire school... they hold a refresher course over in the next state every year for fire jumpers.

Daria: Say what?

Duncan: Fire jumpers... they're normally part of the forestry service. They parachute in behind out of control forest fires to construct fire breaks or to set containment fires. I've been going every year voluntarily in case the department was ever needed to help out in such an emergency.

Daria: Then what the HELL did you feel the need to do THIS for?

Duncan: This way is different... we actually get to pull the cord ourselves and maybe do some crazy stuff before hand. The way I was trained to do it we hooked a tether attached to the chute to a cable so when we jumped the chute deployed automatically so you wouldn't have to let go of your equipment. It also guaranteed that the chute would deploy. Whereas this way it's all up to you... so it DOES add a little adventure. (Looks Daria up and down as he can tell she's actually a little scared now) Are you sure you still want to do this?

Daria: (swallows some air trying to hide her fear) I told you I would didn't I... ?

Duncan: Aye... you did. But I still won't hold that against you if you want to back out.

Daria: (nervously) Um... no... I should probably do something adventurous myself for once in my life. Like you once said... to be able to say later that I actually did something.

Duncan: (shrugs and looks over at the rest of the class who have already started to board the airplane) I guess we should head on over then... don't worry. It's a lot more fun that you think... provided you remember the correct way to land that is.

Daria: (frowns and looks down at her feet for a moment in uncertainty) Right... don't want any broken bones now do we.

Duncan: Actually... I was thinking more along the lines of avoiding objects on the ground like... cars, cattle, other people. You know... things that will squash at the same time that you do.

Daria: (Glares at Duncan as they walk towards the plane) Be careful... or I may just try to land on YOU.

Duncan: Aye... that could stand to be a tad painful. I'll keep it in mind then.

(Cut to the plane once it's airborne)

(Daria sits on a bench next to Duncan while chewing the living hell out of her nails... she is clearly scared as she stares towards the hatch near the rear back side of the aircraft. There is no door... just an open hatch with heavy gusts of wind blowing into the aircraft through it.)

Duncan: (looks over to see Daria chewing her nails and decides to strike up a conversation with her to get her mind off things) What are you staring at, love?

Daria: I keep waiting to see the wicked witch of the west flying past the door on her broomstick while that annoying Wizard of Oz theme plays in the background.

Duncan: (smiles) I doubt you'd hear it with all this wind. (Beat) So tell me... why are you REALLY doing this? And don't feed me the crap you fed me before... I know you too well for it to wash.

Daria: (takes a deep breath) I'll tell you if I make it to the ground in one piece one way or the other... okay? (The instructor gets up after listening to his radio for a minute and announces that it's time to jump. Daria upon hearing this makes sure that her glasses are secured beneath her goggles and then wearily gets up behind the people in front of her and attempts to force herself to walk forward with the line as her heart begins to pound harder and faster with each step she takes) I'm scared, Duncan.

Duncan: Think of it this way... compared to this... childbirth someday will be a walk in the park. And if you could manage THAT then life's a piece of cake... the rest will just seem a whole lot easier.

Daria: But I don't WANT children.

Duncan: (Scowls for a moment and then lightens up) Ok... sorry. It was just an example.

Daria: (As she reaches the door and stares out at the clouds moving along side her and then down at the ground a few thousand feet below, Daria freezes in fear. Her heart can be heard in her ears now like a tremendous kettle drum beating almost faster then she could distinguish. Her hands felt clammy within her rented neoprene gloves and she could tell that she was probably sweating profusely everywhere else too. After several moments Daria finally manages to get her jaw to move enough to squeeze out a few words.) Duncan... I don't think I can do this... I can't move! I've come to the realization that this is in fact a very BAD idea and I think it would be in the best interest of both of us if I did back out after all. (Long pause) Don't you think... ?

Duncan: (studies her for the longest time and then takes a deep sigh before shouting over the wind) I understand, love. I was the same way my first time... and you know what?

Daria: What... ?

Duncan: (smiles evilly) My team shoved me out the door anyway... I'll see you on the ground. (He grabs Daria's shoulder firmly and shoves her out the door screaming as she went)

Duncan: (looks at the person behind him and smiles again) She's really gonna kick my arse for this later. (he then jumps out the door after Daria)

(Cut to Daria still plunging through the lower atmosphere... still screaming)

Daria: (stops screaming long enough to try and hear herself think over the wind screaming in her ears. Her skin feels like it's being drawn tight as if almost to the tearing point.) Okay there's the ground and it looks hard as hell. Think... think... think... okay count to five and pull. One one thousand... two one thousand... three... ah the hell with it I've seen what happens in cartoons when the character gets to five. (Daria grasps at her left shoulder a few times and finally locates the rip cord and yanks it as hard as she can. To her amazement the chute deploys as it should and her decent slows dramatically. Daria who is now staring at everything around her in wonder has completely forgotten how fast her heart had been pounding against her chest as if it itself wanted freedom from her body. The wind still whistled past her ears most likely drowning out the sound of her still beating heart... but that didn't matter now. Daria suddenly felt a small degree of confidence welling up within her telling her that things would be okay... she wasn't going to be turned into human pudding when she reached the ground after all. That is until her heart jumped once more as Duncan raced past her at lightning speed in a vertical dive... Daria screamed once more as she thought Duncan's chute had failed and that he was now destined to die as the aforementioned human pudding against the ground. Duncan did a few acrobatics that would have been hair raising had Daria actually been able to feel her hair being whipped in the wind above her head. And then to Daria's relief Duncan leveled off and deployed his chute and drifted off to her left so as not to get entangled should Daria somehow catch up to him. After a long while passed the ground finally caught them and Daria upon landing ended up tumbling end over end along the ground causing her to get lost within her own parachute)

Daria: (as she stumbled about in the chute) The door... where's the damned door to this thing!!! (Duncan, who had landed seconds before Daria did unhooked his chute from his pack and walked over to help Daria with hers. Upon her exit, as she was about to let Duncan have it for shoving her, Daria spied non other than Jane and Timothy Ravens sitting in their Jeep. They had just arrived on the scene as can be told by the field of dust they left after crossing the field at a high rate of speed. They clapped as Daria spied them if only to inform Daria that she couldn't embellish the facts or hide them as they knew Daria would be prone to do the latter if no one was around to see her do something that she felt now was so incredibly stupid.)

Jane: (who has since gotten out of the jeep and is now walking up to Daria and Duncan) If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I'd have never believed it. That had to have taken some SERIOUS balls, Daria. I am DAMNED proud of you! (Daria looks at Jane slightly dazed from her experience and tries to deny that this was of her own doing but Duncan cut her off)

Duncan: Aye... tough as nails this girl is to be able to choke back her own worst fears and stare death in his butt ugly face.

Daria: (looks down at her boots as she mumbles) No... we've met. He's actually pretty handsome. (1)

Duncan: What was that, love?

Daria: Nothing... just trying to convince my heart to stop pounding.

Jane: Well as long as you're talking to your heart then inform it that we're about to send a massive amount of cholesterol it's way... because a feat like this demands it's just reward. PIZZA!!! (Daria sighs reluctantly and decides to just shut up and follow Jane to the jeep)

(Cut to that night at Daria's apartment. Duncan is over as he can be seen helping Daria to prepare dinner)

Daria: (decides not to hold back any longer about the days events) Why didn't you tell them the whole story, ..Duncan? Why didn't you tell them that I was frozen stiff and that I wanted to back out at that last second? Now they think that I've shed my proverbial shell that I've spent the entirety of my life in and am now some sort of daredevil. And why the hell DID you tell them to come?

Duncan: They don't think that lass... I asked them to come and watch so that they could see you do something monumental in your life. Something no one would have ever expected you to do... and you did. With a little push... pardon the pun... you overcame one of your fears.

Daria: But this was supposed to for YOU... I was just doing this to be supportive. No matter HOW stupid and dangerous it was. (Duncan walks over to her and wraps his arms about her waist)

Duncan: You mean you really were doing all of that just for ME?

Daria: (smirks) Maybe... that's the problem with love. It makes you want to do stupid things for a guy. (Duncan kisses her neck) But don't ever expect me to do that again... I'm pretty sure that I soaked my jumpsuit on the way down.

Duncan: Ah... so THAT'S why they refused to give you back your deposit. And here I was all set to beat the shit out of the bastards for you.

Daria: Yea... fear makes you do strange things too. That's the REAL reason they put those chemical toilets on airplanes... underwear is only designed to hold so much. (Duncan bursts out laughing)

Duncan: So are you going to let Jane continue to believe that you jumped out on your own?

Daria: I'll have to... I'm not about to give her the satisfaction of generating the lifelong mental image of me being shoved headfirst out of an airplane for her own personal amusement. (Sighs) So what OTHER terrors do you have in store for me?

Duncan: I'm not sure yet... but we'll go through them together. And I promise that there won't be anything else like what we did today.

Daria: (smiles) That's a relief.

Duncan: There's still one thing that bothers me though... you don't have a ring.

Daria: That's okay... I never actually accepted. You just gave me an indirect proposal and I never replied to it.

Duncan: Aye... I remember. What a shame... a long engagement would give us plenty of time to think things through.

Daria: Maybe... but until I see some gold on my finger I'm going to assume that you're still too interested in being able to say that you've done stuff to be serious about a life with me just yet.

Duncan: (looks slightly depressed over Daria's words) Aye... I guess you're right. (Beat) Well... I guess we should get on with dinner. Can you go to the hall closet and see if we have any more of that powdery cheese stuff?

Daria: (raises an eyebrow) You mean grated Parmesan?

Duncan: Aye... that's the stuff. I'll keep an eye on the stove so the food doesn't burn.

Daria: (smirks) You would take the easy job. (Daria turns and leaves the kitchen on her way down the hall to the closet, when she gets there she opens the door and begins to look for the cheese only to notice a tiny parachute floating down in front of her having been knocked free by the opening of the closet door. Daria grabs it before it reaches the floor and notices that at the end of a string attached to the chute is a diamond solitaire and a note that says only one thing. "I always keep my promises" (2)

The End...

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

Footnotes :

1) A reference to "A New Experience", Daria encountered Paul (AKA the angel of death) after being hit by a car and rendered unconscious. He is described in that story as being a six foot tall male Caucasian with long brown hair tied back into a ponytail, and wearing a matching khaki shirt and pants contrasted by a floor length black duster and same color boots.

2) A reference to "For Just A Moment", At Trent and Maria's wedding reception while Daria and Duncan were dancing, Duncan looked around at everyone enjoying themselves and promised Daria that someday he would give her all of this and more if that's what she wanted.