Synopsis: After Jane's adventures on Dega Street (see Down and Out on Dega Street) Daria makes a hard decision about her friendship with Jane. It will make more sense if you read My Afternoon at Tom's, Lovers in a Dangerous Time and Down and Out on Dega Street first.
Warning: This is R rated. Please be careful. Kids, you don't want to read this.
"Two five niner sierra lima this is Seattle tower. Maintain thirty-two thousand feet mach point eight for the cruise. Honolulu says there are Air Force exercises in the Maui area for the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye peeled for fast military traffic and helicopters on approach to Maui. Have a pleasant time in Hawaii Mrs Sloane."
Daria levelled the Learjet out at thirty-two thousand feet, reduced the turbines' thrust for cruise and set the trim. She could have let the autopilot do it all for her, but she was just an old-fashioned girl when it came to flying.
"Seattle control this is two five niner sierra lima. Level and maintaining at thirty-two thousand feet. Thanks. See you in a couple of weeks."
She loved taking off to the north from Seattle in the early morning. Sunrise on the Olympics to the west was always gorgeous and this morning was clear and calm, not a cloud in the sky. Sometimes, if you timed it just right, you could get a blue sparkle off the glaciers on Mount Baker to the northeast, but not today.
She scanned the instruments, checked the nav computer, flipped on the autopilot and switched the com channel through to the cabin PA. Reaching up, she turned off the fasten seat belts sign in the cabin then hung up the headphones. She unbuckled her harness, got up and walked back into the cabin to speak to her single passenger.
"Good morning Sir. My name is Daria. I'm your pilot and flight attendant today. I'm here to make your flight as comfortable as possible. We have hot beverages. Would you like coffee, tea, or me?"
"Hm, it's chilly in here. Which is hottest?"
A little smile. "Me."
"Certainly Sir. Anything to make your flight more enjoyable."
She languorously unbuttoned and removed her blouse, undid her belt buckle, let her pants fall and stepped out of them and her shoes. Slowly she removed her bra and shimmied out of her panties. It was chilly in the cabin, as the goosebumps on her stomach (and two bigger goosebumps on her boobs) indicated. The goosebumps, of course, might not have been entirely due to the temperature in the cabin.
She knelt down in front of him, unzipped his fly and reached in. "I've always preferred a joy stick to a control yoke." she said.
Unable to control himself any longer, Tom doubled up with laughter.
The sound of rarefied air screaming past the fuselage was shattered by the shrill urgency of an alarm from the cockpit.
Daria sat up in bed and switched off the alarm clock's buzzer.
"Dammit dammit, dammit. I was enjoying that." she muttered.
Two protrusions on her t-shirt and a wet patch on her shorts showed that she had, indeed, been enjoying it.
"Wow. Submissive. That's a change! What's next -- the little French maid routine?" She was particularly surprised to realise that word "handcuffs" was floating somewhere in the back of her mind.
She put on her glasses then, looking down at her chest, said, in resigned monotone, "Down girls, there's nothing for you here. Tch tch. All dressed up and nowhere to go."
The resignation in her voice belied the fact that she was actually amazed at how her dreams had changed since that night when she'd resolved to dismantle the barriers she'd constructed between herself and the world. Up until then, "dream" had been, for Daria, virtually synonymous with "nightmare". Waking up from them had always been a relief, but this morning all she wanted to do was to go back to sleep and get back on the Learjet with Tom, take up where the dream had left off. The urge to put her head back down on the pillow was almost irresistible, but she had something important to do first. Besides, it was early. She could always go back to bed.
* * *
Coincidence is an extraordinary thing. The morning after she'd spent the night wrestling with her personal demons she'd walked downstairs as Jake had been playing one of his old records. She'd stood on the stairs, transfixed by the words, the hairs standing up on the nape of her neck.
Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
When the song finished she'd walked up behind Jake, put her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Jake smiled widely. "Hey kiddo -- wow! I don't know what I did to deserve that, but tell me, quick, so I can do it again!"
* * *
In the two days since Jane's brush with the reaper and her almost improbable rescue by Nick (of all people) Daria had reflected on the incident a hundred times, or it seemed like a hundred. (Had Nick rescued Jane? Perhaps. She'd panicked, hadn't she? She hadn't even made a perfunctory check to see if Jane was alive or not. She'd just assumed the worst. Well, she was allowed to panic, wasn't she? No. No, she wasn't. The one time she'd been faced with a life or death situation and she'd blown it badly. But Jane was alive. No thanks to her. Oh no, no thanks to her at all.)
Helen and Jake had been shocked when she'd told them the story, or what she knew of it, but their real concern for Jane had surprised Daria. They'd almost unconsciously started behaving like parents to Jane -- not overbearing or stifling, but supportive and loving. They hadn't been judgemental or critical, which is what Daria had expected and feared. There were obviously depths to Helen and Jake that Daria either hadn't seen or hadn't recognised until now.
Jane had slept until midday the day after she'd come to stay at the Morgendorffers'. Daria had taken the rest of the week off school and, surprising her again, Helen had thoroughly supported her. "I know that you have to be there for Jane, sweetie. I'm very proud of you. I know you'll do everything you can to help her," she'd said.
At first she'd just sat with Jane, not pushing her to talk. For the first time their usual verbal sparring had seemed -- inappropriate. Though neither of them questioned the sincerity or depth of their friendship, they simply had never talked to each other on anything but an emotionally superficial level. It was probable that the unexpected violence of Daria's reaction had made things more difficult between them, too. The left side of Jane's face was a study in blues and purples.
Slowly, though, the ice had melted and Jane had started opening up. Her words had been like body blows to Daria.
She talked about the time before Daria had come to Lawndale, how thin the veneer of sanity had seemed from time to time. How their friendship had rescued her. But, as Daria and Tom had started occupying what had previously been the Daria and Jane space, she'd felt herself slipping back into the shadow. She cried when she told Daria how sorry she'd been when she realised how Daria had felt when "Tom and Jane" had done to Daria what "Tom and Daria" was doing to Jane. Daria's visit after school, to tell her about her dawning self-understanding and the blossoming physical relationship with Tom had tipped her over the edge. She'd slipped back into a dreamy state as she'd recounted the trip to the Zon, meeting Dave and the walk back to his apartment which had culminated in a drug-induced euphoria that seemed, at the time, to provide an instant answer.
To her horror, Daria understood that her friendship hadn't rescued Jane. It had almost killed her. Perhaps if they'd never met and clicked so strongly, Jane might have sought proper help. Perhaps.
* * *
On her second night in Daria's bed Jane woke up to notice that the glowing digits on Daria's alarm clock showed two o'clock. Her throat was parched and her face ached.
She sat up, being careful not to wake Daria, then she realised that Daria wasn't there. Perhaps she'd gone to sleep in Quinn's room so as not to disturb her. There was usually a glass of water on the bedside table, but not tonight. There was enough moonlight coming through the window for her to see her way to the door, but the stairs were in darkness. She left the light off and felt her way quietly down to the kitchen where the moonlight shone through the window.
She poured a glass of water, gratefully gulped it down, and poured another, then she realised that she had no idea where the Morgendorffers kept their aspirins. She carried the glass of water, trudging almost aimlessly into the living room and sat down on the sofa, putting the glass on the coffee table. Lawndale was stark and colourless in the moonlight outside the living room window, perfectly reflecting Jane's state of mind.
She started as she felt a warm hand fall gently on her shoulder, and she looked round.
"Sorry -- I didn't mean to startle you. Here." She handed Jane a couple of aspirins, which Jane accepted gratefully and swallowed with a drink from the glass that she'd brought from the kitchen.
"Thanks. Sorry if I woke you -- I was trying to be quiet."
"You didn't wake me. I heard you get up and figured that you were probably looking for the aspirins. How are you feeling?"
"Pretty low. Numb. Except for my face."
A touch of anger in her voice. "You should feel low. You gave everyone a pretty bad scare."
"Scared myself pretty badly too." Jane said quietly.
"Good. You're not going to do that again, are you?"
"Uh uh. I've learned my lesson big time. The sight of Trent's face will haunt me all my life." Jane put her hand to her face "This black eye will remind me for a while yet too.
Quietly "You deserved it, bitch."
Jane stared at the ground and said, sadly, "I just saw it as a quick road to temporary oblivion. I didn't think about the more permanent consequences. I guess I wasn't thinking very clearly."
"You got that right."
She walked round and sat down next to Jane.
Jane's shoulders visibly slumped. "What is it with me and guys? I wonder if I'll ever manage to sustain a stable relationship." Her voice was distant. So were her eyes.
"Of course you will, Jane. You just haven't found the right person yet."
"It's not for want of trying. I've been through more boyfriends than I care to think about, Tom included. I always thought that I'd just made bad choices, but now I'm starting to wonder if it's me instead."
"You know, Jane, Wittgenstein wrote 'The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. One is unable to notice something because it is always before one's eyes'. Perhaps you're just missing something obvious."
"What do you mean?"
She moved closed to Jane, put her arm around her waist, looked up into the taller girl's eyes and quietly, nervously said "Me."
She put her lips to Jane's. Jane was clearly stunned and pulled away at first, but slowly she relaxed and started to return the kiss. Tentatively at first, then more eagerly. Their tongues found and caressed each other.
* * *
After the alarm woke her from her "flight of fantasy", Daria got out of bed and tiptoed down the hall. Quietly she cracked open the door of Quinn's bedroom and peeked in.
Jane and Quinn lay asleep in each others' arms. A small smile illuminated Jane's sleeping face.
"Aw, isn't that cute." she thought.
She crept in and quietly pulled the sheet up over them. Jane didn't stir, but Quinn blearily opened her eyes, looked up at Daria, smiled, and mouthed "thank you".
Daria returned the smile, gently shook her head, pointed at Quinn and mouthed "No. Thank you." She quietly walked out, closing the door behind her and tiptoed back to her room. As her head hit the pillow she yawned and whispered "Now, what the hell was that about handcuffs?"
* * *
Later that morning, after she'd heard Jane and Quinn stirring next door, Daria went into Quinn's room and sat on the bed.
The minute Daria walked in Jane sat bolt upright, holding the sheet to her chest, her expression one of acute embarrassment.
"Daria, -- uh -- we -- um -- we spent the night talking and I fell asleep."
"So I see," said Daria, glancing down at Jane's t-shirt and panties on the floor beside the bed and cocking an eyebrow.
Jane's face went several new shades of red. It was the first time that Daria had ever seen her blush. She couldn't resist thinking, again, "Aw -- how cute."
She smiled and suppressed a chuckle. "It's OK Jane. This is exactly what I was hoping would happen."
Jane eyes widened, then narrowed as she looked to and fro between Daria and Quinn, both of whom were grinning like possums eating bumble bees.
Jane's expression slowly changed from one of embarrassment to one of surprise, "What? -- You're telling me that this was all some kind of set-up?"
"No, not a set-up exactly. It's kind of a long story, but I'll try to give you a synopsis. Quinn and I have been talking quite a lot lately. Ever since she owned up to being my sister in front of the Fashion Club our relationship's been changing. It would never have happened six months ago, but I actually told Quinn about my epiphany. The last thing I expected was that she'd open up in return and tell me that she's had -- feelings -- for you for quite a while. At first I was just shocked, then I was furious. Not at learning of her -- proclivities -- but because I was worried about the possible effects that it might have on you and me." She looked abashed. "Being selfish as usual, Jane."
"Furious? Oh boy." said Quinn. "You should have heard her, Jane. She gave me the tongue-lashing of my life. She said that if I so much as touched a hair on your head she'd stick her hand down my throat, rip out my lungs and eat them in front of me while I drowned in my own blood. She said you were one hundred per cent hetero and, anyway, any move that I made on you would have the potential to harm your friendship and anyone who did that would soon be begging for a merciful death. God, she really scared me, Jane. If you'd heard her you'd understand."
"Er -- I think I know what you mean." She unconsciously put her hand to her face again. "So what changed?" turning to Daria.
"The more I thought about it, the more Quinn's, um, orientation, made sense. It explained why she never formed anything that you'd call a relationship with the poor saps that she played on the end of a line. Our talk yesterday hit me hard, Jane. I hadn't realised just how depressed you were." She looked ashamed. "Or that you were depressed at all. What kind of friend did that make me? There I was spilling my guts to you about my self-revelations and my deepening relationship with Tom -- God Jane -- I was so insensitive. Finally I realised that the worst thing that could happen if Quinn made a pass at you was that you'd be angry or insulted, shocked perhaps. But if you two clicked, it might mean a solid relationship. Tom's..." she looked down an blushed "care... triggered something in me and I just hoped against hope that it would work for you too. My best friend and my little sister... after yesterday that wasn't such a bizarre thought any more. Anyway, I was willing to take the risk if it might help. Quinn obviously feels very deeply for you, Jane. I don't think it's a temporary crush."
Jane looked down at Quinn, smiled, and reached out and took her hand.
Quinn sat up and looked up at Jane with doe eyes. "Last night after you went to bed Daria came into my room and told me what you'd talked about and how scared she'd been for you."
Quinn looked down at her lap, her voice quivering. "I couldn't have coped if you'd died, Jane."
She looked up and continued, more strongly. "She said that she actually wanted me to tell you how I felt. I could tell it was hard for her. I couldn't believe it! I was frightened about how you'd react too. Daria didn't want to disturb you so she slept in my room. It was Daria, not me, who heard you get up and go downstairs. She woke me and told me that it was now or never. She gave me a couple of aspirins to give to you and suggested that they'd be a good excuse. Then she went back to her room and I followed you down the stairs and waited, plucking up my courage, until you sat down in the living room and, well, you know the rest."
After a pause, Quinn continued, almost sadly. "You're vulnerable right now, Jane. This isn't the way I'd have chosen for it to happen. I always had fantasies about sweeping you off your feet one day, but when Daria told me she wouldn't let it happen it broke my heart. I'm glad that your -- situation -- convinced Daria to change her mind, but when people are, you know, fragile, they can be fooled into thinking that they feel something that they might not really feel. I don't want to force you into a relationship based on desperation rather than real feelings." Her voice became very quiet and she looked at her lap again, this time to hide the tears that were starting to form in her eyes. "I couldn't do that."
Jane leaned over, gently kissed Quinn and looked straight into her eyes. "I guess I'm going to have to work through a lot of things, Quinn, but I don't think it's desperation." Her voice was low and quiet. "I don't want it to be desperation. I don't think it is. It feels -- too -- natural." Quinn hugged Jane. Her eyes closed and the corners of her mouth rose in a small, contented smile.
Jane looked over Quinn's shoulder toward Daria with an evil gleam in her eye. "By the way, I borrowed your toothbrush. I hope you don't mind."
"It's a gift."
Daria smiled; and somewhere, inside, she sang.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
Bird On the Wire was the Leonard Cohen song that Jake had been listening to when Daria walked down the stairs.
Extra special thanks to Renfield and C. L. Basso, K.C.S., M.Sc. for their help, suggestions, time, support and friendship.
Disclaimer: All characters are copyright MTV.
Quirks: I'm an Australian, so I've used Aussie English spellings and grammar conventions. I may also have inadvertently used some Aussie idioms though I've tried to keep in culture. There are references to other fanfics in this. I hope their authors will take them for what they are -- sincere flattery.
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