A Star in the East Window

Please note, this ficlet is a prequel to "Kadhimiya." It is strongly suggested that you read "Kadhimiya" first, as this contains spoilers.

December 25, 2003

The Morgendorffer residence is decked out for the holidays and Jake is serving martinis to the visitors, save one middle-aged woman who is sipping on iced tea. A young, blonde, slightly chubby man in a grey sweater is standing with Daria, chatting about a couple of photos framed in red, white, and blue bunting. One is of Quinn, the other of a thin, dark haired young man. They are both dressed in desert camoflage uniforms of the US Army.

Jake hands the young man a martini glass, then hands one to Daria, who looks at him with wide eyes.

"You're old enough now, kiddo!" smiled Jake. He fills another one and hands it to Amy Barksdale, standing nearby.

"Supper will be ready in a few minutes!" said Helen from the kitchen door.

"'Bout time," said Amy. With a grimace, she added, "Damn, Jake, it does take a little vermouth to make a martini."

"Little too dry for ya, Amy?" he said with a wink.

"It's perfect, Mr. Morgendorffer," said the young man.

"Thanks, Robbie, m'man! At least someone appreciates a well made drink."

Amy rolled her eyes. "So, how do you like it, Daria? It's easier to cough when you breathe in, dear."

She managed to rasp out, "My resolve to not become a habitual drinker remains... uh, sorry, Mrs. Graham."

"Don't worry about me dear. I may be in AA, but they didn't take my sense of humor. Tea's delicious," she added. And call me Evelyn."

"You just have to get used to it, Kiddo," said Jake. "It's an aquired taste."

"Maybe I should start easy with some of Jane's turpentine."

Robbie chuckled and motioned to the photos. "Timmy doesn't like martinis either. Says diesel fuel tastes better." He takes another sip with a smile. "No accounting for taste."

"Wonder how he compares it to the homemade camel pee he mentioned in his last email," said Evelyn.

"You should ask him when they call later," said Jane, coming up behind Daria and stealing her martini. "Mmmm, much better than turpentine, Mr. M!"

"Thanks, Jane-o! Hows the cooking coming?"

"Everything's heating up nicely."

"Thank God for premade holiday feasts," said Daria.

"Don't knock it," said Mrs. Graham, "one day you may have a family of your own."

"Eap!" she replied. "I though you liked me!"

Helen stuck her head around the door. "Jake, come help me get everthing put out!"

"Need me?" said Jane.

"The more the merrier!"

"And what is Christmas without Merry?" said Daria. "Or Pippin, for that matter,"

"Oh, Daria!"

A few minutes later, the families gathered in the dining room.

"Alright," said Jane, "We'd probably better get the picture taken before we lay waste to the figgy pudding..."

"We have figgy pudding?" said Amy.

"Humor her," Daria replied.

"Everybody scrunch together now!" said Jane, making an adjustment to the camera, then running and standing by Daria and Robbie. "Alright, everybody, smile!"

There is a flash, and the scene is captured.

The next morning, near Baghdad.

Pvts Quinn Morgendorffer and Timothy Graham smile as the photograph appears on the platoon's laptop.

"Look!" Quinn said They did it, they got everybody together like Daria said they would! Your Mom looks so nice, Timmy!"

"Yes, she does. Not suprised the old man isn't there."

"But Robbie is."

"Hey, I don't mind, Quinnie. I knew if Robbie showed up, he wouldn't."

"He'll come around eventually."

"No skin off my nose. Who's that?"

"Oh, that's Aunt Amy, Mom's youngest sister! I didn't know she'd be there, too. Hey, isn't that the sweater you ordered for Robbie?"

"Damnit, it is! He wasn't supposed to open that til Christmas!" He poked at Robbie's picture on the computer screen. "Don't think you're not hearing about this, you cheating little bitch!"

"Timmy, this was taken at Christmas dinner. We open presents in the morning."

"Spoilsport! Perfectly good rant spoiled." He sighed. "Think we'll get to be together like this next year?"

"Sure! This dumb old war isn't going to last forever. And I'm getting the drumstick!"

"Hey! I'll be the guest, you'll have to give it to me!"

"Not likely. In the mean time, let's go see if they have anything resembling real food in the mess tent."

"Mmmmm-mm! Fake eggs with soy sausage omelet! Don't forget to save that so we can print it out later!"

"Oh yeah." Quinn hit a button on the laptop, then left with Timmy.

December 25, 2004

Daria set the martini glass in the snow and a plate of food beside it. She lit a candle and placed it below the plate. It guttered fitfully in the low breeze, reflecting its feeble light off the marble of the monument. She crouched there for a moment, wondering if the tears were going to freeze on her face.

She stood up, took another glass and saluted the headstone, downing the drink in a single shot. She then gazed up at the low, dark grey clouds, threatening another dusting of snow. All about her, monuments of the dead; entombed below her, the shattered remains of her sister. Her sister who never came home, whose comrades still remained in Iraq.

She wondered how a person could age so much in a year. She'd seen it in Jake and Helen, she felt it herself.

She placed her hand on the monument, imprinting the loose snow. "Quinn," she said, "I used to comfort myself with the idea..." she paused and pinched the bridge of her nose until she could go on, "...with the idea that after... that after death, there was nothing more, that we just ceased to be. I... I really hope I'm wrong about that. I'd really like to... see you again... some..."

She covered her face with her hands, and walked away. The candle guttered again, then began to burn brighter as if in answer. The headstone glittered with its light.

Written for Thea Zara's Christmas challenge, December 2004. Dedicated with love to our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Daria and other characters from the show are of course, property of MTV and Viacom. Any original characters and settings are my own. This is a work of fanfic, and is therefore a work of love and not meant for profit. And all hail Glenn Eichler and Suzy Lewis!