Disclaimer: all characters are copyright MTV, The song, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, was written by the amazing Bruce Cockburn, though I prefer the Barenaked Ladies' arrangement and that was what I was listening to when I wrote this. Implicit thematic references to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" are used with deepest respect.
Description: Set immediately after "My Afternoon at Tom's", this fic explores the three weeks leading up to that afternoon, deals with some of that afternoon in more detail, and touches on some events a couple of days afterward. If you haven't already done so, please read "My Afternoon at Tom's" first.
Warning: This is R rated. Please be careful. Kids, you don't want to read this.
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.
Don't the hours grow shorter as the days go by
Daria opened her eyes. Tom was sitting on the end of the bed at her feet, gazing unfocusedly somewhere in the region of her navel. He hadn't noticed that she'd opened her eyes. His cheeks were wet.
We never get to stop and open our eyes
The early summer sun was sinking toward Lawndale's horizon and the light through Tom's bedroom window was fading to warm yellow. Though it was filtered through the leaves and branches of the eighty-year-old oaks that grew along the western boundary of the Sloan estate, it was still sharp and clear. Sharp and clear enough to glint on the moisture in his eyes.
Tom looked up, startled. "Daria! I thought you were asleep."
"Uh uh. I was… Tom -- what's wrong?"
One minute you're waiting for the sky to fall
About three weeks ago Tom had been sitting in the same spot. He'd woken that morning with a lightness and anticipation that he'd never experienced before. He'd driven to the florist, bought a dozen red roses and come back home. That evening at 7:30 he set up and lit some candles around the room -- corny, but he wanted to make the room as nice as he could for her. He could have raided the cellar for an appropriate Champagne, but neither of them were into drinking and, besides, he wanted them both to be sober. This moment was too precious to lose in an alcohol-induced haze. Then he'd sat on the bed, in that spot, and waited for the doorbell to ring. By 9:30 he'd thrown the roses in the trash together with the remains of the candles. He knew she wasn't going to come, but he'd called her house, just in case. Oh, God, just in case -- how ridiculous. Helen had said that she wasn't there, but he knew she was lying.
The demons hadn't left him alone that night.
When he'd walked downstairs to pick up the newspaper next morning there was a letter from her on the step. His heart sank again. "Christ -- she didn't even care enough to call and tell me." But when he read what she'd written he realised that he hadn't been dumped -- she'd expected him to dump her. That was when he began to understand just how much more it was than just not being ready. He felt furious with himself then for not being perceptive enough to hear what she'd meant instead of what she'd said. It was probably because he'd wanted so much to hear what she'd said.
The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all
Tom unconsciously wiped his face and eyes with his hand. "Wrong? What makes you think anything's wrong?"
"Um - you seem to be crying."
"Just something in my eye."
Despite herself, Daria couldn't resist teasing him. "Was I really that bad?" It was kind teasing, though. She smiled before he answered. He couldn't resist smiling back at her.
"No, it was wonderful, unbelievable."
Serious again. "Then why…?"
These fragile bodies of touch and taste
Tom looked abashed. "I was… overwhelmed." It was almost a whisper.
"Overwhelmed?" So was that.
She sat up. There was that look again. Unmistakable this time.
"You shouldn't be surprised. You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, Daria. You must have realised how I feel about you. I think I understand how hard this has been for you. I think I know what you've had to overcome and I -- infer -- certain things from that, though I'm probably fooling myself. But I hope you'll let me live with the illusion a little longer. I want this moment to last forever. Jeez, did I say that?" He slapped his head and smiled, almost timidly.
After Tom had come round to scold her for that letter she'd -- scold her? No, as usual, he'd gently put her in her place, made her realise that she'd done it to him again and, as usual, instantly forgiven her. As usual, she'd told him about how she felt, about how scared she was, almost as if it was his fault. Almost? No. Completely as if it was his fault. She was scared so he took things at her pace. She treated him like shit and he'd returned -- love. There. She'd said it. That wasn't so hard, was it?
This fragrant skin this hair like lace
Tom gently put his fingers to her lips in the "shush" position.
"You don't have to say anything, Daria. Just be there. That's enough."
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
* * *
Not for the first time, Daria lay awake in the pre-dawn, eyes wide open. She'd collided with her wall more than once and each successive collision left her more badly bruised. Worse, she'd badly bruised Tom. Again. Shit. She'd built the wall for protection but it wasn't working any more. Unless she found some way to come to terms with it, it was only a matter of time before the next impact left bodies rather than bruises. It was time to take scalpel in hand and start cutting. Ignoring the mixed metaphor, she steeled herself for the pain.
At the age of eighteen she could understand her family's dynamics. Helen's obsession with success was her way of revenging herself on her sisters, drowning in their own poisonous waste pond of sibling rivalry. Even Amy wasn't immune. Uh oh. That hurt. It also helped her to ignore the fact that Jake was an emotional cripple. But at eighteen, Daria could understand that Helen cared for her as much as her obsession would let her. It was genuine motherly love, for all that.
Jake. Jeez. Jake had his own wall, one that had never let him mature emotionally past -- what -- an eighteen-year-old level? Eighteen. Ouch. Would he ever have the guts to do his own exploratory surgery? Had he ever tried? Had he tried and failed? Behind Jake's wall there was a thoroughly decent and likeable, if traumatised, little boy. At eighteen, she understood that her father loved her. At eighteen.
Quinn had a wall too, but it was built around her intellect rather than her emotions. Or was it? Quinn was probably as smart as Daria, but she hung around with, even emulated, her air-headed friends in the Fashion Club, trading on an accident of birth that had made her beautiful, playing with the endless string of guys who followed her around like rats following the Pied Piper -- no, like the children who followed him after the rats had all drowned and the burghers of Hamelin had refused to pay him his due. Revenge. Was Quinn paying the world back using the best weapon she had (or thought she had) -- her perfect body? But Quinn's wall was coming down. Had she lain awake at night with the scalpel too? Had her younger sister, whom she'd always held in some contempt (though that was changing), preceded her onto the operating table? Was Quinn stronger and smarter than she was? Her eyes were wide, pupils dilated. Her breathing was coming faster and shallower.
Remove Your Own Appendix in Five Easy Lessons. Psychosurgery for Dummies.
At eighteen Daria could understand what at fourteen she couldn't, but by fourteen the wall was already up. At ten she'd understood that she could block out the pain behind a sharp tongue. It frightened people and they kept away from her. At six it was mostly pain, relieved by literature and intellectual pursuit. She could lose herself in books. At six she'd given up on the idea of having friends. At six she had no idea why everyone seemed to hate her, why her parents argued about her, why her Mommy and Daddy never hugged her when she hurt. But at eighteen she understood.
At eighteen she was lying in bed in her padded cell as dawn stirred in the sky outside her window, tears streaming down her face, trembling.
Her parents weren't going to desert her. Her sister was actually proud of her -- she'd said so. She had real friends who respected her and who she could respect as intellectual equals and, she was beginning to understand, emotional betters. And she had Tom. She had Tom.
The wall had done its job. Now it wasn't keeping the pain out. It was keeping the pain in. It was keeping family, friends and lovers out.
The wall had to go.
Her right hand slid up her thigh as her left hand cupped a small breast. She spread her legs and coated her middle finger in warm, slippery mucous. She moved it up to her clitoris, circling, rubbing, teasing, increasing the pressure. Her left hand squeezed, kneaded, pinched her nipple. Deep breaths, heart racing, back arching, quietly groaning. Release. She closed her eyes, ignoring the wet panties and the wet patch on her pillow. Sweet, dreamless sleep.
* * *
Never a breath you can afford to waste
Daria got up and walked around to where Tom sat on the end of the bed, straddled his legs and sat on his knees. She clasped her hands behind his neck and her crossed her ankles behind him. Her voice was low and a little tremulous.
"I don't deserve you."
Tom looked into her eyes. The pupils were brown, dark brown, flecked with green. They were moist under her contacts.
"I love you Daria."
"I know." She kissed him. "Tom, I don't know whether what I feel for you is love. I, um, don't really have any experience to base it on. But I know that you've been more understanding and considerate of me than anyone I've ever known. I've only just begun to appreciate that. I also know that there's no-one I'd rather have done this with for the first time than you. When I'm sitting in my rocker in the old folks' wing of the home for the criminally insane I know that I'll remember this afternoon as if it was yesterday and be happy. Whatever happens, I'll never forget you."
She slid her arms in, drew closer to Tom, and kissed him again. As her breasts brushed against his chest her nipples hardened. She slid her hand down his stomach -- felt him react instantaneously. "Now I know why they call it erectile tissue." she thought, a small smile breaking across her face.
"This could become habit-forming."
"I certainly hope so! But, um, Daria, I only had one condom. Sorry."
"Well, we'll just have to be inventive, won't we?"
Lovers in a dangerous time
* * *
They'd showered together before Daria left to go home. It had almost started again, but he'd said "Stop it. We're showering because we're both wet and sticky, not to get wet and sticky." She'd laughed, and idly wondered how he was going to get the sheet clean.
* * *
Next Monday. Laaaaaawndale High lockers. Daria's wearing the red top and the jeans, but not the contacts -- smaller, frameless glasses. Enter Jane Lane, stage right, eyes wide.
"Yo, Morgendorffer. What's happened? Power failure at the green blazer factory? And the pleated skirt factory? And the big glasses factory?"
"Everything changes. Monkey is changing."
"Wu Ch'eng En, 16th century. OK -- what are you punishing Quinn for this time?"
"Wow -- nice one, Jane!" She smiled -- not smirked -- at her freakin' friend, which only made the scene stranger. Daria, smiling? "Anyway, I'm not punishing Quinn. Not again. I'm not punishing myself any more either."
"Woah -- Danger Will Robinson. This conversation is in danger of getting deep. Um, am I supposed to be getting a message here?"
"Remember a few weeks ago we were talking about my future former lack of a sex life?"
"Uh oh -- I can tell where this is going. The future has arrived, I assume?"
"Uh-huh. Saturday night."
"I take back that hug I gave you last time for not calling me immediately. I expect a copy of the videotape. Mr Ruttheimer, my best customer, will pay me handsomely for it. Oh, and you remember that I said I didn't want to hear the squishiest details? I've changed my mind. Tell me about the squishy bits. But wait until I start the tape recorder."
"Later. There are some more important bits I want to tell you about first. Your place. After school."
They walk towards class. As they pass the girls' bathroom Jane opens the door and says:
"Catch up to you - gotta water the horses."
Jane looked around. The bathroom was empty. She opened a cubicle door, locked it, and sat down. "Fuck." she breathed and, putting her head in her hands, quietly wept.
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
When you're lovers in a dangerous time
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Homage: To the ultimate master of fanfix, C. L. Basso, K.C.S., M.S. All hail the Devilkitty.