The Fear of Living Dangerously

by Renfield


Daria and Jane were walking up the stairway to the roof, having successfully ducked out of Mr. O'Neill's class. Of course, these days it was more sort of Mr. Tucker's class. Mr. O'Neill was out until further notice due to a "sporting injury." Given the dreamy smirk Ms. Barch got on her face whenever the subject came up, Daria suspected that the actual nature of his absence was something that made Daria repeat the phrase "sporting injury" one hundred times in order to banish the image creeping towards her consciousness.

In order to prove to the students how hip and cool he was, Mr. Tucker had passed out the syllabus for the rest of the semester, and allowed them to "work at their own pace." This is universally known in student code as a "free period hanging out and talking with your friends." Daria had all the assigned work completed in three days. Jane had it all completed two days later, owing a lot to Daria's help and encouragement. They were then able to ask "Tuck" for a library pass each day, which he cheerfully provided them. Jodie had done the same thing, with the exception that she actually went to the library.

"You know," Jane said, leading the way up the stairs to the roof, "I really wouldn't mind those school spirit assemblies we always have if it weren't for all the cheerleaders, rabble rousing and hoopla."

"You mean all the stuff they do to engender school spirit?" Daria asked wryly.

"That's for school spirit? I thought it was opening the doors and letting you leave that was supposed to lift your spirits."

Daria was about to reply, but stopped herself when she heard voices coming from above them. Apparently, someone had beaten them to their favorite class-ditching locale.

"-give me another one," a male voice said.

"Okay," a second male voice said, "Brittany Taylor."

"Cheerleader and airhead. Good choice," replied the first voice, "but I don't think so. Besides, she's dating the quarterback."

"Okay, Quinn Morgendorffer."

"Quinn "Bury-Me-In-A-'Y'-Shaped-Coffin" Morgendorffer? I hope we're not that desperate."

"You know, I hear that she doesn't actually put out for all those guys she goes out with."

"Well that makes it so much better, doesn't it? Next."

Daria and Jane exchanged glances. Jane leaned over to Daria and whispered, "Do you recognize the voices?"

"Do I recognize the voices of two jerks deciding who they're going to date?" Daria whispered back. "No, do you?"

The conversation continued above them. "How about... Jodie Landon," the first voice continued.

"Miss Student Council? I don't think so," the second voice answered, "besides, again, she's dating a jock."

"Okay... Jane Lane?"

"The bohemian art chick? Maybe."

"Daria Morgendorffer?"

"That name sounds familiar."

"Just a coincidence, depending on who you talk to."

"Which one is she?"

"Long hair. Big glasses. Combat boots-"

"Oh, the sociopath. No, thanks, too easy."

"That does it!" Jane said, storming up the stairs.

Jane burst through the stairwell door and rounded the corner of the well-house, with Daria right behind her. Daria would have preferred running in the opposite direction, but she didn't want to let Jane face two strange boys alone.

The girls stopped abruptly as they came to the back of the well-house, where the two boys were leaning against the ventilation grate. The boys looked very surprised and chagrined, but had obviously heard their loud approach. One, with short brown hair, was in the process of standing up. The one still on the ground with short-cropped blond curls, was guiltily shoving a thick green-and-white striped computer printout into a bookbag.

Jane directed her anger at the standing one, since he was closest. "You two have a lot of nerve, you know that?" she shouted at him.

"Well-" he feebly began, but Jane wasn't going to give him a chance to get a word in edgewise.

Daria recognized the brown-haired boy from their English class. He had started the week before, after Mr. Tucker had taken over. Daria missed Mr. O'Neill, now. He would have had the kid stand up in front of the class on his first day and recite every pertinent fact about himself, right down to his favorite color and animal. Mr. Tucker was too "with it" for that sort of thing, and Daria hadn't thought to speak to the new kid once, not even to ask him his name.

"I don't know what makes you think you're so great that you can just pick a date off a list," Jane continued with pure vitriol, "but I'll tell you right now that this is one bohemian art chick that you'll never have a chance with!"

The one on the ground stood up and the two boys exchanged surprised glances. The brown-haired one turned back to Jane and said, "Uh, look-"

"Come on, Daria," Jane said, cutting him off and turning to leave. Daria looked at the two boys for a second, then turned and quickly followed Jane back down the stairs.

Together, they made their way back down the stairs and into the hallway. Not having a true destination, they gravitated towards their lockers. As they walked, Jane kept furtively glancing at Daria, a sad look on her face.

"You okay?" Daria finally asked.

"You're not a sociopath," Jane said quietly.

"Oh," Daria replied, a little embarrassed. "Well, you kind of are a bohemian art chick."

"Are you okay?" Jane asked, concerned.

"I don't care what a couple of boys think about me, Jane," Daria replied, with what she hoped was conviction. "Why would I start now?"

"So you're okay then?" Jane asked with a searching look.

"I'm fine, really. And..." Daria trailed off.

"Yeah?" Jane asked, leaning in.

"Thanks," Daria murmured.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully after that. Daria walked home alone, Jane having decided to go for a run. Jane probably decided to go running so she wouldn't have to deal with the awkwardness of the emotional moment that passed between them earlier, Daria mused. It wasn't much of a moment, but she and Jane really weren't used to getting into that sort of thing. She wondered how Tom would feel when he heard about it. If she decided to tell him.

When Daria arrived at home, the house was empty, or so she thought. She walked into her room, tossed her bookbag on the bed, and turned to go switch her computer on. She gasped when she saw the boy sitting at her computer desk. He had the chair turned around, facing her, and he was casually reading from one of her steno notebooks. She recognized him as the brown-haired boy from the school roof. Her heart hammering, she wondered if she should call the police, her parents, or just scream.

"Hey, these Melody Powers stories are pretty cool," he said without looking up.

Daria decided he could stay for the time being. "How did you get in here?" she asked crossly.

"Quinn let me in," he replied, looking up at her.

"So why aren't you in her room going through her things?"

"Sorry," he said, smiling, "I wasn't snooping. I just saw the notebook lying on your desk and started reading. Besides, her stuff's boring. Just a bunch of clothes, make-up and stuffed animals."

"Where is Quinn, anyway?" It was unlike Quinn to be so quiet when there was a boy around.

"She took off. Someone told her there was a one-day sale at Cashman's."

"And she just left you alone in our house?"

"Sale ends at six," he said with a smirk.

"So should I call the police or just yell 'rape' at the top of my lungs?" Daria was kind of amused at his banter, but the reality of the situation was still at the forefront of her mind.

"I want to apologize for earlier," he said, standing up. "My brother and I are new. We were just comparing notes about what we've heard on the rumor mill."

"So you can decide who you want to date?" She crossed her arms, furled her brow, and frowned, trying to throw every physical indication of disapproval at him that she could muster. She would have done more, but despite what she let Quinn think, she didn't actually own a flamethrower.

"Well, yeah," he said, sounding like the conclusion should have been obvious.

"Apology noted. You can leave now."

"Look, I'm sorry," he said, rolling his eyes. "Like I said, I'm new here. I don't know anyone. Of course I'm going to talk to people. But just because someone tells me you're a sociopath doesn't mean I believe them."

"You sounded pretty sure about it up on the roof," she spat back, almost barking.

"Like I said, we were just going over the basics, trying to see who'd be worth getting to know-"

"And you get to know girls by dating them?" Catching herself stepping forward, she tried to calm down. She didn't really care what this kid thought about her, she just hadn't planned on arguing about it.

"Yes, I'm a guy," he said, stressing the word. "That's how I get to know girls. I take them out on dates."

"Then I guess you'll never get to know me."

"Actually, I was hoping you would let me take you out. I'd be able to really apologize for the roof thing, and try to convince you that I'm not as big of a jerk as you think I am."

"I don't think anything can convince me you're not as big of a jerk as I think you are, and besides, I'm already seeing someone." Daria both loved and hated the look of surprise that flashed across his face.

"You're seeing someone?" he asked, incredulously, looking around the room.

"He's not imaginary," she said crossly.

"No, of course not. It's just that given your choice of dress, decor, and reading material, I was kind of getting drawn into the sociopath camp," he said, then turned back to face her. "So what's his name?"

"Tom Sloane," she said, realizing that was the first time she had ever said Tom's name proudly. "As in the Sloanes."

"Well," he said, pausing, "are you allowed to see other people?"

"No," she said flatly. She was relieved to hear the sounds of Helen arriving home from downstairs.

"Huh," he said matter-of-factly. He cocked his head, hearing Helen come up the stairs. "Well, I hope this guy isn't the jealous type."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I'm taking you out tonight."

"Excuse me?" she exclaimed, more surprised than she was when she discovered him in her room. "You haven't even asked me yet."

"We've covered that. You'd say no."

"Then what makes you think you're taking me out?" She was getting really aggravated with this guy's ego.

"Well, given everything I know about you so far," he said, spreading his hands to indicate the entire room, "I bet your Mom probably feels that you should date more."

"So what? Are you going to ask her permission?"

"Not exactly," he said, pulling an object out of his pocket. It was a tube of lipstick.

"What are you going to do with that?" she asked, curious.

"Simple," he said, and started to apply the bright red lipstick to his mouth. "I'm going to smear this over my lips and walk by your mom. You can try to back out of our date, but you'll have to explain to her why you're not going out with a boy when you were making out with him in your room."

"Nice plan, genius, but you missed something," Daria said, actually a little impressed.

"What's that?" he asked.

"My mom knows I don't wear lipstick." Daria was a little disappointed at playing her trump card. She was unused to a boy going to any type of effort over her.

"Does she?" he asked with a sly grin. Suddenly he reached forward and pulled her to him. He pressed his lips against hers and held her as she struggled. After a few moments, he released her and backed out of the room, almost running into Helen.

"All right, all right, I'll pick you up at seven," he said to Daria. "Noticing" Helen standing there, he said to her, "Oh, hi Mrs. Morgendorffer. I'm Chris Sabinski- oh! Seeya!" With what could only be interpreted as the abject guilt of someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar, he covered his mouth, ducked past Helen and ran out of the house.

Helen looked in at Daria, who was standing there wide-eyed, breathing hard, with smeared lipstick and mussed hair. Helen put her hand on her chest. "Oh, Daria," she said, with surprise and wonder.

Daria quickly slammed the door in her mother's face. She leaned against the padded door and tried not to think about the kiss. It wasn't really a kiss, more like an attack. But it wasn't really an attack, it was a kiss designed to leave evidence. Evidence used to set her up so she had no choice but to go on a date with him. He was right about her mother's assessment, too. What could she tell Helen? That she was only making out with boys behind Tom's back, not dating them? For that matter, would going out with him be a betrayal? Quinn did that sort of thing all the time - no, using Quinn's dating standards just would not do.

She was trapped, unless she could find a way out. After she calmed down a little, she realized she had an obvious one. Composing herself as best she could, she phoned Tom and practically begged him to take her out that night. Well, she called Tom and asked him to take her out. For her, that was practically begging.

"What time do you want me to pick you up?" Tom asked.

"How soon can you get here," Daria said quickly, making it a statement, not a question.

"Are you all right?" Tom asked, concerned.

"Just get in your stupid car and come get me," Daria said, hanging up. She regretted being so short with Tom, but that boy - Chris - had really upset her. She was completely unused to boys foisting themselves upon her. How did Quinn put up with it - there was Quinn again! She hated feeling like this. Fortunately, Tom would be over soon, they would get in his car, and they would drive off somewhere in silence and not return until sometime tomorrow, or at least not until well past seven o'clock.

After what seemed an interminably long time waiting for Tom to show up, the phone rang.

"What do you mean, you're not coming over?" Daria yelled indignantly.

"I'm sorry, Daria," Tom replied, putting the phone back against his ear, "I don't have my car any more."

"What?"

"Well, I was rushing to get over there, but I didn't think I was speeding. Anyway, the cops stopped me and found all sorts of safety violations, and they impounded it. It's probably a good thing I wasn't driving my old car. They nearly threw me in jail as it was."

"I don't believe this," Daria moaned.

"Yeah, my mom's going to take me down to the police station in a few minutes so I can arrange to have my car towed from their impound lot to a garage and get it repaired. I suppose this was inevitable, really. Bad timing, though, I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," Daria sighed.

"So what's wrong?" Tom asked, tentatively.

"Nothing you can help with now," she said, hanging up.

Daria didn't want to, but she had no choice but to call Jane. As expected, she was absolutely no help.

"No you can't come over," Jane exclaimed, "you have a date!"

"But I don't know anything about him," Daria complained. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Well, my personal advice is to get into his rusty car and let him take you for a burger," Jane replied sardonically.

"Speaking of that, what about Tom?"

"What about him?"

"What am I going to tell him?"

"Everything."

"What?"

"Look, Daria, either he'll understand and be fine with it, or he won't and be completely jealous. It's a win-win situation for you."

"Are you sure this isn't Quinn I'm talking to?"

"Don't think I'm not above enlisting her help in getting you to go through with this."

"Why do you care if I go out with him?"

"Anyone who resorts to such levels of sneakiness is someone I want to know more details about. I want a full report when you get back."

"Fine, I'll bring my mom's cell phone and give you a call from the shallow grave I wind up in before curfew."

A knock at Daria's door interrupted their conversation. "I'll talk to you later," Daria said, hanging up the phone. "It begins," she thought to herself.

"So, Daria," Helen began, starting her grilling in earnest before Daria had finished opening the door, "will you be joining us for dinner or is your date taking you out to eat?"

"Um, we're going out," Daria said slowly. She had no idea where Chris intended to take her, but the less time she spent around her family today, the better.

"Okay," Helen said, stepping into the room. "Will you need any help picking out an outfit... or makeup?" Helen turned to look directly at her with that last word, trying and failing to suppress a smile.

"We're just going out, mom. I'm not going to wear anything special," Daria said crossly.

"Of course, sweetie," Helen said, reaching over and wiping a smudge of lipstick off Daria's cheek with a fingertip.

"Hey," Daria exclaimed, brushing her mother's hand away, "it's not like that. I don't even-" Daria cut herself off. Chris had trapped her into this date, and if Daria even hinted that she didn't want to go out with him, she knew she'd suffer a browbeating from Helen of unbelievable proportions. She knew that she couldn't possibly tell Helen the truth, since she'd never believe it. Even if she did, Helen would just lecture her about how she should date more and what she should do to attract boys.

"Could you excuse me?" Daria mumbled. "I need to get ready."

"You know, dear, it's okay to like more than one boy. Just ask your sis-" Helen cut herself off when she saw Daria's expression instantly darken. "I mean, it's perfectly natural... you have all these urges... uh, just let me know if you need anything, sweetie." Embarrassed at pushing one of Daria's buttons, Helen quickly left the room.

Daria couldn't close the door quickly enough. She was practically seething. Not only was Helen fine with her two-timing Tom, she nearly compared her to Quinn again. As if going out with two boys was okay just because Quinn did it! Her mood was not improved when she heard Quinn berate her mother for taking a lipstick from her makeup table, and then gasp in astonishment when Helen corrected her as to who had actually borrowed it and why. Daria knew Quinn's next move would be to rush to the phone to tell half of Lawndale all about it. She couldn't understand how someone as unpopular as herself could still be fodder for gossip, but she knew that she would have to endure another ride on the popularity bus, and Quinn was going to be driving. The situation was rapidly spiraling completely out of control, and she didn't know what she should do.

Seven o'clock found her sitting on the edge of her bed in her rapidly darkening room. She hadn't moved in over an hour, and as much as she had been dreading the expected summons from downstairs, she still started when her father yelled for her.

"Daria," he called from downstairs, "your date's here!" Daria briefly wondered why he didn't automatically call Quinn, but figured he had probably been briefed by Helen about the new boy Daria was interested in. Daria could picture Jake talking to him, using his patented Jake Morgendorffer cluelessness to absently embarrass her as much as possible- Daria shot out of her room. The only thing worse than whatever Chris might be telling her parents was anything they might be telling him.

"Daria," Quinn called from the door to her room. Daria stopped at the head of the stairs and turned to face her sister. "Don't seem too eager. Make him work for it."

Rolling her eyes, Daria descended the stairs. Chris was standing by the front door, and as expected, Jake was doing his best to sound hip and cool, and Helen was perched on a nearby couch trying and failing to make her presence look casual.

"Hi, Daria," Chris said. "You look good toni-"

Daria walked right by him, opened the door, and stepped outside. "Shall we go?" she asked without turning around.

Chris quickly excused himself and caught up to her at the curb, where his car was parked. Before he could say anything, Daria turned to face him. "So, is it going to be slow torture in a remote cabin in the woods, or do you have something more elaborate in mind?" she asked with a glare.

"Well," Chris said, "how about we get some pizza first and see how things go from there?" When she didn't answer, Chris reached over and opened the car door. With a smile, he waved her in. Grudgingly, Daria stepped into the car and allowed him to close the door for her.

"Despite what you may think, I'm not that big of a jerk," Chris said, climbing in and starting the car. "I know I tricked you into going on this date with me, but some girls might view that as overtly romantic."

"Your trick has the whole school thinking I'm a slut," Daria replied. "The jerk label stays."

"How did the rest of the school get dragged into this?"

"You used my sister's lipstick to spring your trap, only, of course, she thinks I did."

"Oops," Chris said, with a grimace. "Well, great!"

"Great?" Daria faced him, scowling.

"Yeah, I want to meet people, after all. When the rumors start flying, anyone curious is going to go to the source to verify the facts. That means talking to you," he paused and glanced at her, "and me."

Daria continued to scowl at him.

"When people ask me, I'll put them straight," he added, with a reassuring nod.

"Great, they won't think I'm a slut, just stupid enough to fall for a lame trick."

"Nah, all they'll know is that lipstick was involved. I'll tell them I used it to write 'Will You Go Out With Me?' on your vanity mirror."

Daria snorted and turned back forward.

"Oh yeah, they'll never believe that," he said. "Maybe I swiped a mirror from your sister's room, along with the lipstick? No wait, she would have noticed. She does have them numbered..."

Without letting him see, Daria let the corners of her mouth turn up in a slight smile.

When they reached the pizza place, Chris placed their order and then joined Daria at a booth. "You know," she said as he sat down, "I really should have made you take me to Chez Pierre."

"I have to steal a tube of lipstick and you think I can afford Chez Pierre?" he asked incredulously.

"I don't care about the price, although gouging your wallet has a lot of appeal right now," she replied. "It just happens to be a public restaurant where the chance of our running into anyone I know is relatively slim."

"Your friends come here?" he asked, brightening. "Great, you can introduce me around."

"If you wanted to meet people, you should have taken out my sister and left me the hell alone. She's into the whole popularity thing."

"She strikes me as the kind of girl who wouldn't date a boy who didn't spend a week on his knees groveling. Besides, I don't like to date below my class."

"I don't see how that could be possible," she said, seizing the opening.

"Ouch," he said with a chuckle. "I really can't wait to meet your friends now."

"You've already met my friend. She tore you and your brother a new one on the roof earlier today."

"Oh," he said, "Jane Lane, right?"

"The 'Bohemian art chick," she retorted.

"Oh yeah. Hey, is it true she's into the whole art scene?"

"What do you mean by 'art scene'?"

"You know, living free. Breaking the rules. Doing stuff to expand her consciousness."

"This is Lawndale. The only thing that expands your consciousness here is the sight of the city limits sign diminishing in your rear view mirror."

"Pretty boring, huh?"

"That's putting it mildly."

"So how come you don't have more fun? You know, 'In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king?'"

"Because in the land of the stupid, the man with one brain cell is king, and here he comes now."

"Hey, Daria," Kevin said, walking up to their table. "So, is this your brother?"

Daria winced at the thought of what the rumor mill might be churning out by tomorrow morning. Hoping the direct approach might be best, she said, "No, Kevin, this is Chris. He's new at Lawndale."

"Pleased to meetcha," Chris said, shaking Kevin's hand. "Football team or costume party?"

Oblivious to the joke, Kevin rambled, "You're both right. I mean, both things are right, except the party's Friday. And except for the costume part, too."

"So," Chris said, glancing at Daria, who just stared back, "you do play football?"

"I'm the QB," Kevin said, nodding. "So, what are you doing here? Is Daria helping you with homework or something?"

"No, I'm just taking her out for pizza."

"Oh," Kevin replied, a look of confusion replacing his vacuous smile. "Why?"

"Haven't you ever seen two people on a date before?"

"Oh, sure," Kevin replied, his smile returning enthusiastically, and then fading once again. "So why are you here with Daria?"

Daria saw Chris stand up, place his right hand on Kevin's chest, and then was startled by a loud slapping sound. The sound had been generated by Kevin hitting the floor of the restaurant, landing flat on his back with Chris pressing him down with one arm, the same hand still held firmly on Kevin's chest.

"Kevin," Chris growled down at him, "you can apologize to my date now, or you can apologize to her without teeth."

Kevin stared up at him with an look of stunned wonderment, an expression Daria was familiar with having seen multiple choice questions put to him before, but Chris didn't give him a chance to answer. Hauling Kevin up bodily, he grabbed Kevin's hair and held him up to face Daria. "Anything you want to say to her, Kev?" he asked levelly.

Kevin looked completely confused by the situation. He was unused to getting beat up so quickly and easily, but Daria suspected that he still had no idea why he should be apologizing. "Uh, sorry, Daria," he finally managed.

Chris released his hold on Kevin, dropping him to the floor in a jumbled heap. Daria stood up and walked as fast as she could out the door.

Chris caught up to her in the parking lot. "Take me home," she barked at him.

"Hey, I'm sorry if that was overly macho, but I couldn't just sit there and let that jerk insult you," he said, trying to sound reasonable.

"He's not a jerk, he's just an idiot, and he's the most popular boy in school."

"I didn't think you'd care about popularity."

"You're the one who wants to make friends with people," she said, climbing into the car. She didn't say another word to him on the ride back home.

As they pulled up in front of the Morgendorffer home, he asked, "Should I bother asking if you kiss on the first date, or would that be redundant at this point?"

She couldn't get out of the car quickly enough. Walking as fast as she could, she raced for the front door, only to have it pulled open right as she reached for the handle.

"Oh, Daria, you're home," Helen said, once again failing to seem casual. "How did your date go?"

Before she could answer, Daria heard a shout from behind her. "Okay!" Chris yelled from the car, "I'll pick you up right after school tomorrow!" As soon as he finished speaking, he sped away from the curb.

Scowling, Daria stalked by her mother and went straight to her room. "That's it," she thought to herself as she slammed the door, "he's a dead man."




"So let me get this straight," Jane said, closing her locker door. "He defended your honor, and you defended Kevin."

"My honor didn't need defending," Daria replied irritably. "Kevin was just being Kevin."

"You're missing the point, honey."

"Honey?" Daria said with a raised eyebrow.

"Girl talk," Jane said with a shrug. "Obviously we don't do that enough."

"What are you talking about?"

"Don't you get it, Daria? He goes to a lot of trouble to get you to go out with him, and then he gets in a fight over you."

Daria just stared blandly back at Jane.

"He likes you, Daria," Jane said, grinning. "Aren't you even a little bit flattered?"

"Blackmail and thuggery don't really go a long way towards impressing me."

"Since when?" Jane asked, a puzzled expression crossing her face briefly. "Besides, ten bucks says he gives you a bouquet of flowers by the end of the day."

"I see he's not the only one who likes to talk about how romantic he is."

"At least he's honest," Jane replied, raising her eyebrows and stepping back away from Daria. Before Daria could reply, Jane turned around and continued down the hall.

Daria was momentarily confused by Jane's actions, before she thought to turn around herself and look behind her. Sure enough, Chris was walking right towards her. He was holding a single flower in his left hand.

"Hi, Daria," he said, walking up to her and holding out the flower. "I got this for you."

Daria paused for a moment, staring at the flower. The last time a boy had given her something, she had acted like a jerk and refused it. Even Tom, who she lov- who she was now dating, had never given her anything, not even after they practically broke up over his lack of thoughtfulness.

"Thanks," she said finally, taking the flower lightly. "Look, can we go somewhere and talk?"

"Sure," he said, falling into step beside her as she turned down the hallway. "I'm sorry about yesterday."

"Which parts?" she asked.

"Whichever parts you didn't like," he replied.

"If I asked you to go away and leave me alone, would you?" Daria was surprised at how much she regretted asking that.

"That's a loaded question."

"Loaded, cocked, and pointing at you. How about you answer it?"

"Okay, if it's what you really wanted, sure, I'd leave you alone. However," he said, holding up a finger, "I would do everything I could to make sure it wasn't what you wanted."

"Why are you so interested in me?" She found herself almost scared of what his answer might be.

"Come on, Daria, I was acting like an a-hole up on the roof, and you caught me doing it. It's like picking up Marie Antoinette's head out of that basket under the guillotine and realizing that not only was she not half-bad looking, the cake was actually pretty good," he replied, holding open the door leading out to the central quad for her.

"That's a pretty strained analogy," she said, turning away to hide the slight smile.

"Maybe," he said agreeably, "but now that I've gotten to know the queen a little bit, I'd like to make sure she's forgiven me for all that "Mort La Roi" stuff I was shouting, and maybe take her shopping for a scarf to hide that unsightly scar that goes all the way around her neck."

"Well," Daria said, feeling almost as warm as when someone once asked her to think of the guy that made her feel like Cleopatra, "I forgive you."

"Thank you, my queen," he said with a small bow and flourish. "May I ask you a question now?"

"Sure."

"Did you rat me out to the team captain, or did you just slip a note into someone's locker?"

"What?" she exclaimed.

"The scrimmage line back there has been tailing us since we passed the cafeteria," he said, nodding back the way they had come. Joey, Jamie and some of the other football players were walking towards them slowly. They made a big deal of examining the sky and ground when they noticed Chris and Daria looking back at them. "Since they didn't jump me as soon as we got outside, I figure they must know where we're going."

"Well," Daria replied with a sly edge to her voice, "I may have been speaking a little loudly when I passed Brittany in the hall and mentioned that I was going to meet you in the library before classes."

"Pretty slick," he said, sounding slightly impressed. "I figured Kevin would come after me with a couple of his buddies. Do you think I'll have to deal with the entire football team?"

"That probably depends on how much of your bragging Brittany decided to pass on."

"What bragging?"

"Just how you told me what a pushover Kevin was and how wimpy all the jocks at Lawndale must be. She was pretty far away, though, so I don't know if she heard the part where you questioned their collective sexual orientation."

"Boy," he said with a laugh, "they're gonna really want to kick my ass."

"You got that right," Jeffy said, stepping out of the library door right in front of them. He was flanked by Robert and the big kid with the shaved head and goatee. Joey, Jamie, and the rest of the ones who were following them quickly ran up and stood behind them.

Chris looked around briefly, checking to see how many kids were surrounding him. "One second, fellas," he said and then leaned down to whisper to Daria. "Should I give you time to find a good seat?" he murmured in her ear.

"No need, I have one all picked out," she whispered back.

"Excuse us, ma'am," Robert said, holding the library door open. "We need to speak to your boyfriend privately."

"He's not my boyf-" Daria said, bringing her hand up to point at Robert, only to cut herself off when she noticed the flower she was holding. "Oh, hell with it," she muttered. Bringing the flower up to her nose for a sniff, she walked by Robert into the library.

As soon as she was inside and out of sight, she hurried to the rear entrance and shot out of it as fast as she could. She ran through the school door on the other side of the quad, and ran down the hall leading to the football field. She came out the door closest to the back of the bleachers, and quickly snuck underneath and made her way towards where the crowd had gathered. She had meant it when she told Chris she had a good seat picked out.

Most of the cheerleaders were sitting on the bleachers, and the rest of the football team, centered around Kevin, was gathered on the field nearby. Chris was escorted up, flanked by the ones that had cornered them at the library. Daria allowed herself a small smile. Any way this turned out, it was going to be fun to watch. She did feel a little bad, but she was sure he wouldn't be stupid enough to try to take on the entire team, and figured he would do the smart thing and run away the first chance he got. That was the sight Daria was looking forward to seeing. Of course, if he was macho enough to try to fight them all, he pretty much deserved what he got, but Mack would make sure they didn't kill him.

As soon as Chris caught sight of Kevin, he smiled broadly. "There he is!" he said happily, pointing at Kevin. "There's the Man!"

It was a reaction that confused everyone, including Kevin. Including Daria.

As he got closer, Chris said, "Is this guy the king of coolness or what? You all did hear what went down at the pizza place last night, right?"

"We heard about the fight," Jeffy said, sounding unsure of why someone so completely doomed wouldn't be denying the facts..

"That's right," Chris replied cheerfully. "He totally made like I kicked his ass, just so I could impress my date. Is that the greatest thing you ever heard?"

"Wait a second," Mack said, stepping in and turning to Kevin, "is that what happened? You pretended he beat you up?"

"Uh," Kevin stammered slowly, a look of complete bewilderment on his face.

"Dude, he's the Q.B.," Chris stated matter-of-factly. "Do you guys think I could beat him up without his express permission?"

"Oh, Kevvie," Brittany squealed, running up and throwing her arms around Kevin. "You're so romantic!"

Daria's mouth hung open. She could only watch from her vantage point as Chris shook hands with Kevin and then the rest of the guys. They laughed and chuckled as Chris described the "mock" fight they had in order to impress Daria with his manliness. Only Daria knew it was a real fight. She had been there, and knew Kevin never had a chance, not that he was really given one.

Only now, with Chris lying his head off, Kevin got to keep his pride, Chris was buddies with the most popular kids at school, and Daria was a fool once again. The worst part was when Chris looked directly at her, smiled broadly, and winked. Scowling, she turned and stomped off to class as quickly as she could, leaving a crumpled flower in the dirt under the bleachers.




Daria walked quickly to her locker from her last class. She wanted to get out of the school as fast as possible. When she had arrived at school that morning, a few people had whispered about the fight when she walked by them. Ever since Chris' performance on the football field, she had been fending off girls telling her how lucky she was and asking what Chris was like.

Remembering Chris' promise to pick her up after school today, she really didn't want to go home. She was determined to go over Jane's, and by this point she didn't care how much she had to threaten Jane to do it. Jane walked up to her own locker as Daria was putting some of her books away.

"So, you want to come over?" Jane asked.

Daria was a little startled. She had been pondering throwing Jane over her shoulder and walking to the Lane household, and the magnanimous gesture caught her off guard. "Uh, sure," she finally said.

"Okay, okay," Jane said with a placating tone, "don't bowl me over with your enthusiasm."

"Sorry. I just kind of figured you'd be wanting to chain me to a rock and run away before the triton gets there."

"You may have ditched English today, but I stuck around and talked to Chris a little bit," Jane said. "I'm beginning to think this guy might be a little too sneaky."

"He insulted your artwork?" Daria asked knowingly.

"No, artists in general," Jane replied. "He thinks weíre all free-spirited pot heads."

"He tried to sell you some spirit?"

"No, I think he just assumed Iíd know where to get some," Jane said, shrugging. "Anyway, between him and all the airheads telling you what a lucky find this schmuck is, I think you've had your fill of admirers for today."

"That's the truth," Daria agreed. "Even if Chris isn't waiting for me at home, I'm sure Quinn will be trying to grill me for the inside scoop on all this."

"Who do you think she'd tell first, Helen, her fashion friends, or the Cubans?"

Before Daria could answer, a pair of arms grabbed her around the waist and lifted her off the floor. Thrown over a shoulder, her bookbag slipped from her grasp. Before it could hit the floor, her assailant locked one arm around her and caught the bag with the other. Spinning around, he tossed it to Jane. "Here," Chris said, "can you take those home for her?"

Not waiting for an answer, he headed down the hall. He held her over his shoulder with one arm, and held her legs with the other. It may have just been for balance, but holding her legs neatly kept her from kicking him. "What the heck are you doing?" Daria asked indignantly, once she had her wits back about her.

"I told you I was going to pick you up right after school," he said casually. A steady stream of departing students were keeping the school's front doors open, so Chris didn't even have to pause as they passed a flabbergasted Ms. Li.

"Where are you taking me?" Daria demanded.

"Well, I thought we'd go to the pizza place again," he said conversationally, as he started crossing the parking lot. "It's right across the way, and it was a lot of fun last night."

Daria was tempted to start pounding on him with her fists, or to try to get a leg free to deliver a kick. She wore those boots for a reason, and she only needed to get lucky once, but she realized what a spectacle they were making now, and she didn't want to do anything that would draw even more attention upon her. "I can walk on my own, you know," she said crossly.

"Yeah, well, your friend Jane is into running, and I don't want to risk that she's taught you a thing or two. Besides," he said, nodding a thanks to a student who held the pizza parlor door open for them as he walked in, "I think we've got enough of the neanderthal thing going on without me chasing you down the street, don't you?"

He set her down in a booth and sat down across from her. "Oh, now you start asking my opinion," she said, crossing her arms and scowling.

"Okay," he said amicably, "let me get your opinion on this : how does a party tomorrow night sound?"

"Awful," she replied immediately.

"Come on, it's going to be a big celebration at Brittany's. You've been to parties at her place before."

"What's being celebrated?"

"The fact that Kevin's parents are going out of town for the weekend."

"So why is the party at Brittany's?"

"There's more room at her place."

"It doesn't matter. I'm not going to any party with you."

"We have to go together," he said cajolingly. "Everyone thinks we're dating. If I show up alone, they'll all think I dumped you just because I had a chance to grab some cheerleaders, and if they think that I'll never get a chance to grab some cheerleaders."

"You're beginning to sound like Upchuck. In which case, I can guarantee you're going to go stag to every party, including the one tomorrow."

"Look, how about we just show up together? We can stage a big breakup fight when we get there, and go home with other people," he said reasonably. "I'll even let you slap me, and you can throw the lamp of your choice, but I'll want at least a ten foot head start."

"As tempting as that sounds, I'm afraid I'll really have to decline." She almost didnít want to turn him down. She knew Brittany's family had a cast-iron lamp in their living room.

"Daria," he said, leaning forward, "you're going to that party with me Friday night, or I'm showing up in your front yard Saturday morning wearing nothing but a guitar."

Daria leaned back, eyes wide. "You wouldn't dare," she said.

"Try me," he said darkly. With that, he got up and walked out the door.

Before Daria could start glaring daggers at his retreating form, her line of sight was interrupted by someone who walked into her field of vision and stayed there. Looking up, she saw it was Mr. Tucker smiling cheerfully down at her.

"Hey, Daria," he said. "I couldnít help overhear part of that. Going to a big party with your boyfriend, huh?"

"Heís not my boyfriend," she snapped.

"Oh, you broke up?" he asked, his smile barely dropping. "Is that what you were fighting about? Do you need a ride home? My new Vexxer is right outside."

There were a lot of responses that Daria wanted to give to him, but she settled on something that wouldnít get her expelled. "No thanks, Mr. Tucker-"

"Tuck, please," he interrupted.

"I think Iíd like to sit here for a while and gather my thoughts," she finished, not adding that she wanted to gather them into a bundle along with a suitable number of high explosives and lob them into an entire dealership of trendy sports cars.

"Sure thing," he said, turning his smile back up to full throttle. "If you change your mind, Iíll be out in the parking lot for a while hanging with some of the other kids." Daria watched him leave, and wondered how long it would take his presence to turn the phrase "loitering on school property" into an urban legend.

She sat alone at the table for a while, her thoughts turning back to Chris. Here was this new kid in town, throwing himself at her, and he refused to take no for an answer. Chris wasn't even the normal type of annoying that she was used to, like Upchuck. He was being exasperating, but also - and she hated to use the term, especially since he had brought it up - romantic. Tom, who she was currently dating (a fact she kept forgetting to bring up in Chris' presence,) was barely romantic ever. They had nearly broken up over the lack of romance in their relationship, and even though he vowed to change that, she still rarely saw any romantic overtures from him. It was probably due to his desire to use kid gloves with her for anything involving their relationship. She couldn't really blame him for that, as she did have a tendency to bite his head off when she was irritated. Every time she bit Chris' head off, though, he just grew another one. What did she really know about Chris? She tried to think of every thing she did know about him.

She sat there for a time, with her brow furrowed in concentration, until suddenly she started, as if she received an electric shock. She held a hand up and silently counted off on a few of her fingers. As she did so, a broad smile slowly crept across her face.

Looking around, she leaped out of the booth and ran out the door. "Hey, Tuck! Wait up," she shouted.



The next morning, Daria was walking to first period with Jane.

"So do you think I can come to that party tonight?" Jane asked.

"Why do you want to come?"

"Hey if it involves lamp-throwing, it sounds like my kind of party," Jane said. "Or Thanksgiving."

"It doesn't really matter," Daria shrugged, "I think the party is going to get postponed, or at least my invitation to it."

"What makes you say that?" Jane asked.

Before she could reply, Chris walked up to them. "Daria," he said, giving her a quizzical look, "why do all the football players think Iíve been scouted by a college team?"

"What?" Daria asked innocently. "Have they been trying to beat you up again?"

"Just the opposite," he replied, annoyed. "Theyíve been treating me like a demigod since I got here today. If one more jock pounds me on the back for congratulations Iím in danger of spitting out a lung. Now, spill."

"Okay," Daria replied calmly, "I called Kevin up last night and asked him if heíd mind if you joined the team even though you already won a college scholarship for being a star running back at your old school."

"Why would you tell him that?" he asked suspiciously.

Just then, Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy walked up to them. "Like, excuse me," Sandi interrupted, "Chris, I believe?"

"Yeah?" he replied cautiously.

"I understand youíre going to the party tonight, and I wanted to let you know I still had an opening for an escort," she said, flicking her hair off her shoulder in an attempt to look mysteriously exotic.

"Iím taking Daria," he said, a little confused.

"That doesnít mean you have to leave with her," Sandi said, barely glancing in Dariaís direction.

"You told her our plan?" he asked, turning back to Daria.

"Quinn must have told her how rocky our relationship was, even though youíre incredibly cool and wealthy," she replied with a small shrug.

"You said that to your sister?" he asked incredulously.

"I said a lot of things to a lot of people," she replied. There was a slight edge to her voice.

A group of cheerleaders ran up to them at that moment and surrounded Chris. They all started talking at once.

"Is it true you had a poem published in a magazine?" one squealed.

"Did you really have a cameo role on that soap opera "The Young and The Heartless?"

"Is your new Vexxer getting delivered tonight?"

"What color is it?"

"Does it really have a leather exterior?"

"Will it match your leather tuxedo?"

"How many ballroom dancing trophies did you win before they made you retire?"

Separating themselves from the ever-growing crowd that was mobbing Chris, Daria and Jane stepped a few feet away. "I get the feeling you have a few more things up your sleeve for our Mr. Sabinski," Jane said appreciatively.

Instead of answering, Daria walked up to one of the windows looking out onto the parking lot and stopped. Jane joined her and they both watched as a police car pulled up to the front of the building. Two officers got out of the car and walked into the main entrance. Soon after, they heard Ms. Li's voice ring through the school halls. "Chris Sabinski, report to the principalís office immediately!" she squawked over the public address system.

Resuming their walk towards class, Daria gave a slight smile and finally spoke. "Lane, you donít know the half of it."




He caught back up to them in the cafeteria at lunchtime. "Hi, Daria," he growled. "How's your day going?"

"Hello, Chris," Daria said with an almost cheery voice, "care to join us?" She indicated the seat across from her next to Jane.

"Don't mind if I do," he said tightly, sitting down in the proffered seat. Turning to Jane, he barked, "Beat it, Jane."

"I don't think I should lea..." Jane started to say, but trailed off as she caught the deadly stare he was throwing her way. "You know, maybe I should go get some more milk," she said quickly, hopping up and dashing off.

Moving into Jane's vacated seat, Chris leaned forward and said, "You know, I can understand you wanting to get back at me for showering you with attention and all, but I really expected something better from you."

"My," Daria replied, "I guess a chat with a cop can really set a person on edge."

"How do you know I spoke to the police?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"The cops spoke to Ms. Li, you spoke to Ms. Li, a equals b, b equals c-"

"Fine, do you know what I spoke to them about?" he said, cutting her off.

"They wanted you to sell tickets to the policeman's ball?"

"Oh, it was about selling something, all right," he said, leaning back to a sitting position. "See, someone wrote 'For a high score get with Chris S' on every bathroom stall door in the school."

"Imagine that."

"Dammit, Daria," he said with an exasperated sigh, "you have no idea how much trouble you've caused."

"I don't see why you're getting so upset. After all, it can only help your popularity. Unless you think the party crowd isn't in to that sort of thing."

"It's not funny, Daria," he said defensively. "This school has a zero-tolerance policy, you know."

"There's a lot of things about this that aren't funny," she said a little testily. Calming, she added, "I admit it was the zero-tolerance policy that really tipped me off, though."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked.

"FREEZE! POLICE!" someone shouted.

They looked up to see Mr. Tucker running through the lunchroom. He was closely pursued by Chris' brother. Their route was about to take them right by Chris and Daria. Chris glanced quickly at her, a look of surprise on his face.

"Go get him, officer," she said bluntly.

Chris' eyes grew wide, then, flashing her a quick, sheepish smile, he launched himself out of his seat, bringing the fleeing man down in a tackle. Pulling a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket, he was able to subdue the struggling man with his partner's help. After they read him his Miranda rights, they handed him off to a pair of uniformed officers. It was then that he had the presence of mind to look around for Daria.

She was nowhere to be seen.




"Oh my God, I don't believe it! Daria!"

Daria awoke to Quinn's shrieks rattling through the house. Her high-pitched shrill had no problem penetrating the padded walls of Daria's room. As Daria groggily reached over and put on her glasses, she could hear another sound coming from outside the house. It was the unmistakable strum of a guitar, accompanied by someone unmistakably singing a love song, in the very mistaken belief that they could carry a tune.

"I don't believe it, either," Daria muttered.

She walked downstairs in her bedclothes, joining Helen and Quinn who were dressed in their pajamas and bathrobes. They were gathered at the front door, looking out into the front yard. Daria nudged Quinn aside to see what they were looking at, even though she already knew what she was going to see. Chris was standing in their front yard, facing the front door, and crooning for all he was worth. He held the guitar he was playing very strategically, but it was apparent that that was the only thing that was covering him.

"Daria," Helen said, turning to her, "that's the boy who was in our house. Is it true what Quinn's been telling me about him?"

"We won't know that unless he moves the guitar," she replied, stepping out the door. "I better go talk to him, I guess."

Chris smiled when he saw her step out of the house, bringing the song to a crescendo as he reached the end, giving the guitar strings a final flourish just as she stopped a few feet away from him.

Daria stared at him a moment before she asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I told you what would happen if you didn't go out with me last night," he replied.

"Arenít you worried about someone reporting a naked man creating a disturbance on our front lawn?"

"What are they going to do," he said with a shrug, "call the police?"

"Public decency laws have been waived for today?"

"Letís just call it professional courtesy," he said easily.

"If you were at all professional, youíd do our neighbors the courtesy of wearing a towel."

"How'd you know I was a cop?" he asked point blank.

"There were a lot of little things, when I sat and thought about it," she said slowly. Glancing at the six-string maple leaf and hoping he didn't feel the need to adjust its position, she added, "Stunts like this really kept me from thinking about it, though."

"Good, they were supposed to ; 'wild high school kid' was my cover," he said cheerfully, giving the guitar a gentle strum. "So what tipped you off?"

"How about you fill in some blanks for me first?"

"Considering it must have been your anonymous phone call that tipped us off to Tucker, I thought you'd figured everything out. What would you like to know?"

"To start with, why would Lawndale's finest stage such an elaborate undercover operation?"

"They probably wouldn't. I'm state. This guy wasn't some local pusher, Daria, he'd been operating all over. His m.o. was to seduce some high school girl and get her to sell the drugs for him. When they got caught, he'd just move on to another one, and sometimes to a completely different school. The girls were really the tough part ; even though we pointed out to the ones we caught how they'd been used, not a single one would drop a dime on the guy."

"Of course," Daria said, a piece of the puzzle falling in to place for her. "They didn't mind admitting their boyfriend was a drug dealer..."

"But not an older man, and a teacher besides," he agreed, finishing her thought. "How did you figure it out anyway?"

"When I realized you were a cop and what you were looking for, I figured the sooner you found it the sooner you'd be out of my hair. Nobody I know uses or sells drugs, yet you seemed to be pretty sure it was someone I knew, so that meant it must be someone you thought had access to me, so that only left-"

"A faculty member," he said, interrupting once again. "As a substitute teacher, he had access to any number of easily duped girls, and when they got caught he'd be safe-"

"Because no girl would admit they were dating a teacher with elbow patches on his jacket," Daria said, taking a turn at interrupting.

"It was an angle we completely missed, and it explains how he moved from school to school so easily. Still, how did you know it was him?"

"I didn't, really. I just thought it was suspicious that a substitute school teacher could afford a new sports car, so I checked him out first. When I told him that I was grounded because my mom caught me partying a little too hard, he offered me some special tutoring. Oh, and a joint. I pretty much let him keep talking until I was sure he was someone the police would want to arrest, whether thatís why you were there or not."

"You suspected this guy of being a drug dealer and you approached him?" he asked, sounding appalled.

"I figured it would be safe enough, since "kind handsome young teacher" was his cover," she said, perfectly deadpan.

"Okay. I can understand the irony in making me super popular with everyone. That was really annoying," he said almost approvingly, "but why set me up to look like a dealer?"

"I just wanted to make sure you were popular with as many people as possible. Knowing what you were here for though, I figures that particular subset would yank your chain the most."

"You know," he said in an admonishing tone, "if the guy thought there was some competition on the scene, it could have scared him off."

"And then you both would have gone away and my life would return back to a semblance of normalcy."

"Technically," he said, disapprovingly, "that was interference in a police investigation."

"Technically," she shot back, "kissing me without my permission is statutory rape."

He stared at her for a long moment, and finally gave a small nod. "So what gave me away?"

"Like I said, there were a lot of things, starting with the time we met up on the roof."

"Yeah, that was embarrassing," he said with a chagrined smile. "We should never have talked about the case on site."

"I take it you were going over suspects, not potential girlfriends?"

"Right. The party we busted the last girl at was hosted by a Brittany Taylor. If he followed his usual pattern, we knew he'd try to seduce a girl from the same circle, so we compared the guest list against the student roster. I guess you heard the whole conversation?"

"No," she said, shaking her head. "That green-and-white paper you were reading from is only used in those big printers, like they have in the school's main office. And those are only used for official school business, like printing student rosters."

"Well, it's good to know that it wasn't entirely because we shot our mouths off. What else?"

"Well, I nearly threw out my theory since you couldn't have had a warrant when you broke in and searched my house."

"How do you know I didn't have a warrant?"

"Probable cause?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Yeah, well, we weren't interested in busting the girl. We just wanted enough to lean on her to get to the pusher."

"I figured it was something like that. When I questioned Quinn, she said she went straight to a Fashion Club meeting after school, and had never met you. I probably could have done that at the beginning and saved myself a lot of trouble."

"It was a gamble," he said agreeably. "You two struck me as the type of sisters that don't talk much."

"It was also quite a coincidence that my boyfriend had his car impounded right when another boy showed an interest in me."

"Detective Marston is delivering his car to their front door as we speak, along with a letter of apology from the state."

"Detective Marston?"

"My partner. You met him, briefly, my 'brother'?"

"Right," she said, taking uncomfortable note of all the curtains pulled back from windows at their neighborsí houses. Glancing over her shoulder at Helenís worried expression, she decided to see if she couldnít extend this conversation for at least an hour. "I probably should have figured you out when you beat up Kevin."

"Why? High school boys get into fights all the time," he said a little defensively.

"A fight is when the other guy hits back. You took down a football player with almost no effort."

"High school boys study karate?" he said weakly.

"Maybe," she nodded. "But you were also asking a lot of probing questions, about what I did for fun, about parties, expanding consciousness..."

"Yeah," he said with an embarrassed grimace, "I thought that might have been a little much, but I was hoping you wouldn't notice. Hey, you said something about the school's zero tolerance policy finally giving me away. What did you mean by that?"

"Well, in the end, I realized that you were just too perfect. You were romantic, intelligent, handsome, strong, fun, and," she paused, turning her eyes away from him momentarily, "interested in me. Tom's my boyfriend, and he's smart, and handsome, and rich, but I caught myself comparing the two of you. I've never had the opportunity to do that before. My sister has an entire database full of equations and methods of comparing boys, but no one's ever thrown themselves at me. I... I liked it."

"I was really just trying to keep you off balance so you couldn't shut me out. I didn't think I was perfect..."

"You threw me over your shoulder and walked off with me," she said with a sigh. "We can make as many caveman jokes as we want, but I have to admit, it made me feel wanted."

"Look, I'm sorry if I -"

"And that was your big mistake."

"What?"

"Ms. Li has a zero tolerance policy about public displays of affection. She doesn't let students touch each other in her presence without raising a ruckus, yet she didn't say a word when you walked by her while waving my butt at the whole school."

"Damn. No matter how many times we told her to treat us just like the other students, too. It was always 'Laawndale Hiigh will cooperate any way it can to restore our gloory.'"

"I take it that flower you gave me came from the vase on her desk?"

"Hey, you can find those in almost any garden," he said, pointing. Relaxing, he added, "Of course, if you'd called me on it then, I probably would have said I did swipe it off her desk. Just to sound cool. You know."

Daria just stared at him for a moment. Finally, she said, "Why me?"

"Why you what?"

"Why did you date me?"

"You were a suspect. It was a way to get close."

"But you said you didn't suspect me after you searched my room."

"Yeah, I was pretty sure you were clean, but when you caught me in your room, I had to think of something. My own fault for getting into those stories of yours..."

"Please don't try to distract me. You had that lipstick in your pocket when I walked in. You were waiting for me."

"Who's the detective here? Okay, yes, I was on my way out when I heard you coming in, so I swiped the lipstick from Quinn's room and ducked back into yours."

"So why did you want to keep dating me after that night?" she pressed.

"It was a good cover," he said defensively.

"But you must have discounted me as a suspect by then, and I didn't really know the people you wanted to investigate. The cover couldn't have been that good."

"So long as I was dating somebody, my cover still worked."

"But after that business with the football team, almost every girl in Lawndale must have been throwing themselves at you. Why did you still-"

"Okay!" he snapped. "I wanted to date you. Happy?"

Daria was taken aback by the forthright admission. "Why?" she asked.

"Look, from an investigation standpoint, it probably would have made more sense to go straight after a more likely girl once I eliminated you as a suspect. But, as long as dating anyone gave me a good cover, I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth."

"Excuse me?"

"Daria, I enjoy talking to typical high school kids about as much as you do. On the other hand, you can hold up a conversation. You think about interesting things. As long as I had to go back to high school every day, I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could. I didn't want to give you up if I didn't have to."

"I see," she said, blushing for the first time in front of the naked man. "That still doesn't explain this business with the guitar, though."

"It's high school, so all of this is going to blow over in a week, but until then, I didn't want people to think of you as the girl who squealed to the narc."

"Narc's kind of a passé term."

"Oh. What do kids say nowadays?"

"Stupid bitch slut whore, according to my locker door."

"Ah. I was afraid of that.," he said with an embarrassed grimace. "Now, though, you're going to be the girl a cop fell for."

"Thanks anyway, but a lot of people saw you make that arrest with their own eyes. As much pull as my sister has on the gossip circuit, I don't think anyone's going to believe this."

"They will when they see the pictures."

"What pictures?"

"That Ruttheimer kid is parked halfway down the block with a telephoto lens," he said, nodding back over his shoulder. "He doesn't strike me as the circumspect type."

"Look, Officer Sabinski-"

"Kowalski," he interrupted. "Detective Sergeant Chris Kowalski"

"Of course that wasnít youíre real name. Why would it be?" she asked rhetorically, before turning her attention back to the subject at hand. "Interesting coincidence that the town's resident voyeur would be staking out my house right now."

"He must have received an anonymous phone call," he said, cocking his head, "but I think he's used enough film by now. Care to walk me to my car?"

"I guess," she said, falling into step beside him on the sidewalk. "Where are you parked?"

"My wife has our car one street over. I'd like to introduce you, I think you'd like her."

"Oh, you're married," she said, mock-feigning disappointment. "That would be the icing on the cake, wouldn't it?"

"Sorry, but you know what they say about us romantic types, Daria," he said with a smile, giving the guitar a strum as he walked. "We're all either gay or married."

"I guess that means Tom has a secret wife stashed somewhere."

"No, I don't think that's what it means."


THE END


There you go. My eighth foray into the Daria fan fiction community. Please send me feedback at entropysedge@earthlink.net.

Iíd like to thank Kara Wild, Lawndale Stalker, and Deref for their encouragement, feedback, and outright help in getting this fic onto the net. I'd also like to thank my wife June, whose complete mistrust of the "psycho" I set after Daria allowed me to insert the actual villain into this piece.

Another special thanks to Deref for the character of Officer Kowalski. After reading a rough draft of this story, Deref used Officer Sabinski in a fic of his own, as a nod to a fellow author. After I pointed out to him that my fic hadn't been posted yet, and that it hinged on Sabinski's surprise revelation as a cop, he immediately retracted his story and changed the name of the cop to Kowalski. I decided then and there that, as a nod to a fellow author, I was going to name my character Kowalski.

Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters were created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis and are trademarks of MTV Networks, Inc., a division of VIACOM international, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark holders U. S. National and International Law and Convention.

"The Fear of Living Dangerously" is a work of fiction produced solely for fun, and is not meant to be distributed for profit. It may be distributed to Daria fans everywhere, provided the author's name and e-mail address are left intact.