Author's Note: Daria Morgendorffer and her fellow characters from Daria are owned by MTV/Viacom. Any other characters in this story are the property of Doggieboy. This is fan fiction and no money or other items of value have been exchanged for this story.
A Little Vacation
Part Four: The Return Home
"There's nothing like a trail of blood to find your way back home."
--Nikki Sixx, Life is Beautiful
The sound of the thunder and the whine reached the inside of the shelter as Robert cleaned up the mess from building the partition and he froze, his face pale.
Daria, who sat on the bed playing with Buster, turned to her companion and saw his reaction. "This is it, isn't it?" she asked.
He looked at the clock and blinked. "It isn't even noon yet!" he said and dropped some trash at his feet. "Come on! We've got to get our stuff and go!" He rushed to the gun cabinet and jerked out the items they needed.
"I was going to use the bathroom!" she protested.
"No time for that!" he said as he laid her chain mail on the bed. "We've got to move now!"
She grabbed the infant carrier and put it on. When Buster saw what she did, he tried to jump off the bed and run, but she caught him.
"I can wear that," Robert said. "You don't need to."
"I can do it," she said and placed the dog inside the carrier. He squirmed and tried to climb back out.
"Buster!" he said and moved beside Daria. "Stay!"
The dog whined, but obeyed Robert.
The whine slowly grew louder as the two put on their chain mail and coats. Robert put the backpack on and handed Daria her book bag. He slung an small olive green bag on his left shoulder and tightened it's strap. Then they each grabbed their weapons and looked at one another. He gave her a nervous smile and said, "Let's get you two home."
"Let's get all of us home," she countered and they opened the shelter door.
Two minutes passed and Jane turned to Stone. "What the hell's taking so long?" she asked. "Shouldn't she be here by now?"
"It took me ten minutes to bring back a chair!" the old man told her. "Keep the button pushed in and just be patient!"
The girl turned to Trent and shivered.
"Stay calm, Janey," her brother said. "I've got a good feeling about this."
I wish I shared you optimism, she thought.
When Daria stepped out, Robert shut the shelter door and sealed it. Then he led the way up the stairs. From inside the teen's chain mail, the dog whined softly.
At the top of the stairs, she checked to make sure that she had everything, then looked around the tool shed as he unlocked the outside door. She saw a dark bronze-colored bust of Julius Caesar on one shelf and frowned at it. "Caesar?" she asked him. "Where did that come from?"
"It was here the first time I checked out the shelter," he said and pocketed his keys. "It reminds me of a Charlton Heston movie I saw years ago."
"The Omega Man?" she asked.
"Yup." He took a deep breath and grabbed the door handle. "Pity about him dying at the end of the movie."
"What?" he asked, released the door and checked the bag on his shoulder.
"Heston's character in the movie was also named Robert." The look on her face reflected her worry. Suddenly she could hear carnival music in her mind, something from her memories.
The man smiled at her and patted her upper right arm. "Don't worry about it," he said. "Stay calm and we'll be O.K."
"What's in the bag on your shoulder?" She remembered where she had heard the music before. It's from the movie - towards the end - when he's fighting the Family in the streets.
"Extras," he said. "A little surprise for our dead friends, if we need them. Found them at the armory." He pulled one automatic pistol from its holster and held it ready.
Daria held one revolver in her hands and waited. The music continued and she winced. No more! No more!
"Let's go," he said and opened the door. A zombie in the yard several feet away turned towards them. "Shit!" He lifted the pistol and shot it twice in the head. As it fell, the loudness of the whine assaulted their ears.
The whine didn't stop the music in Daria's mind, however. She looked around and saw multiple zombies in the yard and the two adjoining properties. "Oh, no," she said, her voice a whine itself. "Oh, hell, no!"
Inside the chain mail, Buster groaned and struggled.
"Ignore them!" Robert yelled. "Let's go!"
They rushed to the gate as the dead converged on them. Robert shot two zombies on the outside of the gate while Daria turned and shot a zombie just a few feet behind them.
Now, Buster howled in terror and the electronic whine got even louder.
They ran down the sidewalk towards the white house. But as they turned one corner, Robert's foot missed the sidewalk and fell several inches off the side. He lost his balance, the foot twisted in the process and he landed on his left side with a loud cry of pain.
"Robert!" Daria cried out as she moved to him and bent down.
A large group of zombies on the opposite corner moved around an abandoned compact car towards them.
He quickly reached into the bag and pulled out a grenade. The girl watched in shock as he pulled the pin, the spoon released and he tossed it at the car.
Daria plugged her ears as the grenade landed under the car and exploded. The music still played in her mind. The dog yelped loudly and clawed at her chest.
There was still fuel in the car and it was still flammable. The fireball that resulted from the explosion lifted the car and caused it to land on its passenger side. Two zombies on that side were pinned to the ground, while the concussive force of the fireball knocked down the other dead and set them ablaze. Most of them got to their feet and moved on towards them as walking torches. One of them veered on a right oblique as the flames engulfed its head.
"Come on!" she said and pulled on his right arm. "Get up!"
"No! Get to the light, Daria! I'll catch up! Run!"
"Robert?" The carnival music slowed down.
He winced from the pain in his ankle, lifted the pistol and shot two different zombies that had followed them.
Daria looked at him as he quickly reloaded and shot one zombie after another. She also turned and shot three zombies herself. The music stopped and she looked back at him. "Robert?"
"Please, Daria, hurry! It may not happen again!." He adjusted his position and shot a zombie behind her. "Run!"
A tear escaped her right eye, she groaned in frustration and turned around. She looked at Robert once more, then ran on ahead. As she ran, she shot a zombie that tried to intercept her and moved around its body as it fell.
She saw the bright light on the sidewalk in front of the white house and raced for it. As she passed another zombie, she shot it and ran on.
Buster suddenly pawed his way out of the infant carrier, hopped to the ground and ran into a yard.
"Buster! No!" Daria chased the dog as he rushed towards some shrubbery.
One female zombie dove at the dog, but she kicked the dead woman in the head and shot its head twice. The body twitched as she jumped over it and dove at the dog herself.
The beagle yelped in panic and fought as Daria caught and held him tightly to her chest. She got to her feet and yelled, "Not now! Calm down!"
She heard a groan behind her, turned and lifted the pistol. The click of an empty chamber caused her to turn and run.
When she reached the light, she said, "Sorry about this," and threw the dog into the light.
"What the hell was that?" Jane asked. "It sounded like someone shot a dog!"
"I don't know, Janey," Trent said, "but I heard it, too."
Suddenly, a beagle appeared in the van and landed on the floor at Stone's feet. The animal barked, backed up slightly and growled at the three, its hackles raised up.
"Whoa." Trent knelt down and held out his hands. "Come on, boy. It's O.K. We won't hurt you."
The dog kept his distance briefly, then moved slowly and sniffed the musician's hands.
"Where did it come from?" Jane asked. She almost released the button, but kept it pressed in.
"I recognize that dog!" Stone said quickly. "I tested the device on him six weeks ago."
Trent gently hooked his fingers in the dog's collar and pulled him closer. He rubbed the animal's back as he read the ID tag. "'My name is Buster. If you find me, return me to Anthony DeMartino at--'"
"You teleported someone's pet?" Jane yelled at the old man "How many pets did you use as guinea pigs?"
The girl's anger caused the man to flinch and back away from her. "Remember your promise! I get your friend back and you'll let me leave with my stuff!"
"Daria's not back, you asshole!" she said. "We've only got a dog."
"Someone had to send the dog!" Stone protested. "Just wait and keep the button pushed in!"
Robert got to his feet and limped ahead several yards as more and more zombies converged on him. He fired his weapons again and again as he moved, but finally clicked on empty chambers. They were too close to toss grenades at and he fell to his knees. He closed his eyes and said, "I'm coming, Maggie. I'll be with you and the kids soon."
He tensed as he felt a presence behind him. Then a voice said, "Get on your feet, dammit!"
He turned and looked at Daria through tear-blurred eyes. "Daria?" he asked.
She shot three of the closest zombies, then jerked on her friend's right arm. "Get up!"
He obeyed her and she led and pulled him towards the light. "What did we agree to yesterday?" she snapped at him. "We were supposed to stick together - come hell, high water or zombies."
"I'm sorry," he said. "Where's Buster?"
"He made it into the light," she said and still pulled him. "Now, it's our turn."
The zombie crowd was now within fifteen feet and closing in on them as they half ran and half limped. Robert gripped her shoulder tighter and said, "If we don't make it, Daria, I--"
"I know," she interrupted him. "Shut up." She turned, shot two of the closest zombies and they stepped into the light.
"Daria!" Jane's voice reflected her joy as she released the button and laid the box on the floorboard. The white light vanished, but she, Trent and Dr. Stone gawked at the pair who suddenly appeared before them. Daria and somebody they didn't know stood before them, clad in coats and chain mail, and armed to the teeth. "Daria?" she asked. "What happened?"
"Jane!" Daria released Robert, who leaned against the side of the van as the auburn-haired teen quickly embraced her friend in a tight hug.
Jane's face showed her shock and discomfort at the sudden hug, but she returned the hug anyway.
"We made it!" Daria said and squeezed Jane in her arms. "We made it!" Then she released her friend, turned to Trent and hugged him as well.
"Whoa!" the young man said and returned her hug.
"It worked," Robert said and looked around the van, amazed. "It really worked. It really worked."
Daria then grabbed her companion and protector and embraced him as well. He looked at the girl and blinked.
Buster rushed up to his legs and barked up at him. His tail wagged as he barked.
Then Robert's gaze fell on Dr. Stone and he glared at the old man. "You lousy son of a bitch!" he said and yanked the shotgun from behind his back. He cocked it and spat at him. "Do you realize just how many people you've killed? How many families you've disrupted and destroyed?"
"NO!" Stone cried out and looked up at Jane quickly. "We had a deal! I did my part! Now you live up to your part!"
"Robert, wait!" Daria said, her right hand up in front of him. She looked at Jane. "What does he mean by a deal?"
Jane looked at the box, then back at her friend. "We promised him he could leave - with all his stuff - if he got you back safe and sound."
"And I did it, too!" Stone said, his voice panicked. "You promised!"
Daria looked at Stone, her eyes narrowed; she also looked at Robert, then back at Jane. "I have a better idea, Jane."
Daria motioned at the box. "You know how to operate that device?"
Jane looked at her suspiciously and said, "Uh, yeah. Why?"
"Send him to where he sent me."
"NO!" Stone yelled out and struggled to free himself.
Jane looked at Trent and said, "Bro, you and...um..." She motioned at Robert.
"Robert," he said.
"You and Robert put Stone in the open." She bent down, forced the gag in the old man's mouth, then smirked at him. "It's time for you to say bye-bye."
The two younger men grabbed his arms and tossed him in the open section of the floor, then Trent stepped back. He saw Robert stand still, reached out and pulled back as well. "You don't want to stand there, dude. Trust me."
"Uh, O.K.," Robert said. "I'll trust you."
Jane adjusted the dials and muttered, "Good thing I memorized the setting."
Stone struggled even harder and Jane aimed the box at him, then pushed the button. He screamed into his gag as the light came out of the box and engulfed him. When it faded several seconds later, he was gone.
Jane set the box down again, looked at Daria, then asked, "Who's your friend?"
"Oh!" the small teen said quickly and moved up to Robert. "Jane, Trent, this is Robert Nelson. Robert, this is my best friend, Jane Lane, and her brother, Trent."
Robert and Trent shook hands, then he shook Jane's hand. "I'm - pleasantly surprised - to be honest. This all still feels somewhat unreal."
I know, Daria thought, then said, "He saved my life - several times."
Jane looked him over as they shook hands, her right eyebrow raised and smiled at him. Then she saw a warning look on Daria's face, released his hand and said, "Then you're our friend, too. Thank you."
Trent pointed at the dog at Robert's feet and asked, "What about him?"
Robert turned to Daria. "You told me that his owner is your history teacher?"
"That's right!" Daria turned to Jane. "We need to get Buster back to DeMartino, then I need to get home fast. Mom and Dad are probably worried sick about me - I hope."
Confusion showed on Jane's face. "Why would they be worried, Daria?" she asked. "You've only been gone for less than an hour."
"What are you talking about, Jane?" Daria countered. "I've been gone for almost three days!"
"I've been with Robert for three days!"
"She's right," the older man said and sat down on a nearby chair. He gently rubbed the dog's neck.
"Oh!" Daria said and knelt by his left shoe. "I forgot about your ankle." She quickly untied his shoe and pulled it off.
"What happened to his ankle?" Trent asked.
"I twisted it as we rushed for the light," he said and winced as Daria pulled his sock off.
"Wiggle your toes," the teen told him and he did so. "O.K., rotate your ankle."
The man did, but winced and bit his lower lip. "Nothing feels broken," he said and moved the front of his foot up and down. "But it does hurt. I think I just sprained it."
She handed him his sock and sighed in relief. "I was terrified that you broke it." She gave him a weak smile, then looked at Jane. "What time is it?" she asked.
"Just a little after four," the taller girl said.
"Since it's still Friday here, DeMartino's left the school by now," Daria said "Let's go to his house where we can give Buster back to him." She smiled at Robert. "Then I want to go to Kim's Pizza on the other side of town."
"Kim's?" Jane asked. "What's wrong with Pizza King?"
"Kim's makes a better pizza." Daria pulled off the coat, then her book bag and her chain mail. "Plus it's not the school hangout like Pizza King is."
"It's also more expensive," Jane pointed out.
"I don't care," Daria said as she helped Robert out of his gear.
"Why are we going out for pizza?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be going home?"
"My parents don't expect me home until eight or nine tonight," she said. "We're going out for pizza...for you. How does a super pepperoni pizza sound?"
Robert smiled and closed his eyes.
Ezra Stone groaned as the light faded and looked around at his new surroundings. I'm in some neighborhood. It's Fostoria! But something's wrong.
He heard something behind him and rolled over. A muffled whine escaped his lips as he saw some twenty different people moving towards him. All of them were blue-gray in color and most of them had parts missing in their bodies. Plus their eyes were all blank white in color.
Then his gaze settled on one man clad in a torn and stained white lab coat. His right arm was completely missing and his heart and lungs showed behind an exposed rib cage. Dr. Casey! Oh, no! NO!
He screamed into the gag as the people all gathered around him. As their fingers dug into his skin, he felt his consciousness fade, but one last thought came to his mind.
This isn't fair!
Trent drove the panel van through a residential section of Lawndale as Jane kept watch on the houses they passed.
"There it is," she said and pointed. "That gray one-story house over on the right. Pull over, Trent." Then she turned around and said, "We're here, Daria."
Daria sat with Robert on the floor in the back as they played with Buster. She had taken off her chain mail and removed all of her weapons - and the ammunition. "Do you want me to go to the door with you?" she asked.
Robert looked at Buster, rubbed the dog's head and said, "I...I can't do this." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't take him up to the house." He looked at Daria through tear-blurred eyes. "I think I'm about to lose it as it is."
He pulled the dog up to his chest and hugged him. "It's time for you to go home, Buster. Get reacquainted with your master." He suppressed a sob and said, "This is harder than I realized it would be."
The dog's response was to lick his face and wag his tail. He barked a couple of times and licked his face again.
"Can you take him up there, Daria?" he asked. "Please?"
"Lane, you come up to the door with me," she said and picked up Buster. "Come on, boy." She looked at Robert briefly. "You O.K. with this?"
"He belongs to this DeMartino person," he said. "He needs to go home."
"What if he offers us a reward?"
Robert blinked and looked confused. "I don't know. Don't ask, just let him offer first."
Daria and Jane stepped out the van's front passenger side door, shut it and walked up the sidewalk of the gray house. The dog was tucked neatly in the crook of Daria's right arm; his tail wagged as the girls walked.
In the van, Trent turned around and said, "Hey, man, you gonna be O.K.?"
Robert nodded and wiped his eyes. "Yeah. It's just that he's been my constant companion for most of the last nine months. It hurts worse than I realized it would."
Jane knocked on the door and they only had to wait for three seconds before it opened. "YES, what IS it?" Anthony DeMartino said. "AH, Miss Morgendorffer AND Miss Lane and..." The teacher's face paled as he looked at the dog.
Buster barked and tried to jump out of Daria's arm.
"We saw him on the other side of town and he seemed lost," Daria said as she kept a tight hold on the beagle. "When we checked his tags, we saw that he was yours."
"BUSTER!" the teacher yelled out. "Where have you been?" He held out his arms and Daria handed him the dog. Immediately, Buster licked his face.
The girls looked at each other with their eyebrows raised as their normally stressed out history teacher laughed and became misty-eyed.
"Uh, we'll leave you two alone now," Jane said. "Bye now."
"Wait!" he yelled out. He released the dog inside the house and turned back to the girls. "Thank you for bringing my dog back to me. It's been a long six weeks without him." He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and gave Daria a hundred dollar bill out of it. "This is the reward I had for his return." He sniffled and smiled at them. "I better get him some food and water. Thank you, girls." He shut the door and they walked back to the van.
"Not everyday we make a hundred bucks," Jane said.
"This is for Robert," Daria replied. "He's the one who took care of Buster for the last nine months."
"This time difference don't make sense, amiga. How could you have been gone three days and the dog for nine months? What the hell happened to you? Why were you dressed and armed like that?"
The auburn-haired girl stopped and sighed. "Zombies, Jane. The world I went to was overrun with them."
"Zombies? You mean like on Dawn of the Dead?"
Daria nodded and they walked on. "I was almost killed. If Robert hadn't been there..."
"That's another thing, Daria. Who is this guy? He looks as old as your dad."
"He's thirty-one, Jane. He saved my life and protected me." She smiled. "He's really nice." They reached the van and she added, "We'll talk more about him later, Lane."
"Did he hurt you?" Jane asked quickly and stared at her friend's face.
Daria turned and shook her head. "Like I said, he's really nice. But he lost everyone in his family to the zombies."
"Why is he here?" Jane then asked.
Daria had grabbed the door handle, but stopped and looked at Jane again. "What are you trying to say, Jane?"
"I don't know, Daria. It's just...you're taking some older man you just met a few days ago to a pizza place, and not the student hangout, either. Plus, you spent three days...alone...with him. You say the C-note is for him and you give me the evil eye when I look him over. It's like he's your man and you don't want anyone else to know. Well, is he?"
The smaller teen blinked and sighed. "He protected me and helped me get back home. Now, I'm paying him back for what he did. I promised him that I would help him get oriented in this world."
"Wait till your parents meet him." A smirk appeared on Jane's face. "They're gonna freak."
"I never said he was my man."
"The 'rents won't believe you, Daria. They're still gonna freak." Then the taller teen thought, If you deny it, Daria, I'm not sure I'll believe it, either.
Kim's Pizza was located on the far side of Lawndale, heading towards Wilmington and Philadelphia. Trent parked the panel van in the middle of the parking lot and said, "Lot's empty. Are you sure they're even open?"
"They open at eleven each morning," Daria said. "Friday night rush doesn't happen until five-thirty or six. That's good. We may have the place to ourselves awhile. Let's go in." She turned to Robert. "Leave your weapons out here. Unless you have a permit to carry, the cops will arrest you. We don't need that kind of trouble."
The three younger people waited as Robert removed the chain mail and removed his weapons and holsters. Then they stepped outside the van and Trent locked it.
As the four walked in the darkened restaurant, Daria looked at Robert, who seemed tense and nervous. "It's O.K.," she said. "You can relax."
"That's easy for you to say," he replied and scanned the building's interior by automatic habit. "I avoided darkened places like this in Fostoria. Too easy for the dead to hide in."
A red-haired waitress in her mid-to-late twenties escorted them to a booth and laid a couple of menus on the table. "Do you need a minute to decide?" she asked.
"We'll have a large super pepperoni pizza and a pitcher of Ultra Cola," Daria said and looked at Robert. "You sit on the inside." He scooted in and looked over the menu.
"Large or extra large?"
Daria and Jane smiled at each other, then at the waitress. " Make it an extra large."
As the waitress wrote the order down, Robert spoke up. "We'd also like a large order of garlic bread with cheese, please."
Daria turned towards him. "Are you sure?" she asked him.
"Do you know how long it's been since I had garlic bread?" he asked her back.
"I see your point." She sat down next to him and said to Jane and Trent, "You two get the other side."
Jane shrugged and said, "Sure."
Before either she or Trent could sit down, however, Daria handed them two one-dollar bills. "Why don't you two pick out some music on the jukebox?" she asked. "While you're doing that, Robert and I will have a...talk."
Jane noticed Daria's expression and nodded. "Gotcha," she said and pulled Trent with her. "C'mon, bro, let's check out what they have."
As the two left the booth, Daria looked at Robert and narrowed her eyes. Then, she said dryly, "We have some things we need to discuss."
Robert felt his mouth dry up and cleared his throat. The girl backed him up slightly in the seat and he asked, "We do?"
"Oh, yes." She stared at him for several seconds, then asked, "You didn't really believe I - or we - would make it back to my world, did you?"
He blinked and looked down at the table.
She lifted his chin and said, "Look me in the eyes and talk to me."
"O.K.," he said and returned her look. "No, I did not believe it would happen. Not really."
"I see," she said. "If it hadn't worked, and we managed to survive and get to another shelter, then what would have happened? How long would it have taken you to make romantic - or sexual - advances on me?"
The question obviously startled Robert and he smiled weakly at her. "I was going to wait six to eight weeks," he admitted. "That way we would know each other better."
Daria smiled at him, but the smile didn't touch her eyes. "I thought that your sex drive was diminished."
He seemed to deflate slightly and said, "I lied." He looked outside the window briefly, then back at the girl. "You were terrified of me - afraid of a rape that could happen at any time. I lied to calm you down, Daria." He closed his eyes. "I didn't - don't - want you to be afraid of me."
Just then, the waitress showed and set the pitcher of cola down with four ice filled glasses on the table. She also set down a platter with six slices of Texas-style garlic toast covered with melted mozzarella cheese. Steam rose from the bread and the two could smell the aroma of garlic and toasted bread. She looked at Robert and gave him an inviting smile. "The pizza will be a few more minutes," she said.
"Thank you," he said, his attention on the bread.
The waitress lingered a few seconds and looked at him, then moved on
Daria watched her as she moved back to the waitress station, a slight frown on her face. "You haven't even been in my world an hour and you already have the attention of a good-looking woman - one closer to your age." She then noticed that he simply stared at the bread. "What's wrong?"
"I'm savoring it," he said. "It's been so long."
"You can't have your cake and eat it, too," she said. "Better eat it before it cools off."
Robert picked up one piece of bread. "Grab one, too. I don't want to eat this alone." He then ate the bread slowly, one bite at a time.
Daria grabbed one slice, bit off a portion and ate it in silence. After she swallowed that bite, she asked, "What would you have done if I had invited you into my bed last night?"
"You wouldn't have done that," he said quickly and looked at her sideways. "You didn't do it."
"Just suppose I did," she said, "and answer the question, please."
He wiped melted garlic spread off of his chin and sighed. "I don't know. Part of me says 'Hell, yes!' and part of me says, 'Wait.'" He shook his head. "No, let me answer that honestly. I would have accepted and been honored, too, but it would have been too early for it. I'm thankful you didn't."
So am I, she thought. "You would have accepted...despite what you still feel for Maggie..."
"Maggie is dead!" he said quickly. "For your information, I loved my wife very much. I still do. But she is dead and our wedding vows ended with her death."
Daria gently touched his left arm. "Robert, I'm sorry. I'm not attacking you or your devotion to Maggie. You didn't let me finish. But I saw her picture and she was beautiful - much more beautiful than I am. I'm not in her league, and I don't believe I ever will be."
"Don't sell yourself short, Daria. You're very good looking. The man who you end up marrying will be lucky, just based on what I know of you right now."
She blushed. "Thank you." Trent and Jane came back to the table then and the pizza was brought out.
The three younger people dug in, while Robert stared at the slice on the plate before him. "What are you waiting for?" Jane asked. "Get it while it's hot."
"It's been more than a year," he said and picked up the slice.
"You did say that you wanted the pepperoni grease on your chin and your fingers," Daria reminded him.
"That's right, I did," he said and bit into the pizza. They watched as he closed his eyes and ate slowly. When he swallowed, he sighed, smiled and then noticed their stares. "What?"
"You look happy," Trent said, then held up his slice. "It is good pizza."
"It don't get much better than this," Robert said and ate the rest of the slice.
Daria looked at him still as she ate her slice. What am I going to tell Mom and Dad about you? You're going to need their help to get started and I have no idea where to begin.
Robert took a bite of his second pizza slice and then shook as he held his mouth open and let out a deep groan.
"What?" Daria asked. "What is it?"
Jane laughed and said, "I know what it is. Melted cheese burn. Quick! Drink your soda!"
Quickly, he grabbed his glass and rushed to stop the burn. After a couple of seconds, he chewed the bite of food, swallowed and took another drink. Then he took a couple of deep breaths and said, "Now, that's a feeling I missed." Then he moved his mouth carefully. "Though, not as much as I thought I did."
"So, Robert," Jane said. "What kind of work do - did - you do where you were from?"
"I worked in a factory," he said. "We made cheese puffs. I worked in shipping."
"Sounds good," Daria said.
"It was, especially all the free product I got to take home." He sighed and looked down. "My kids loved the cheese puffs."
With that note, conversation drifted to the weather and they finished their meal somewhat awkwardly.
Later, Trent drove the panel van to the Lane property and said, "We need to unload this stuff here until we can decide what to do with it."
"The transporter - or whatever it is - needs to be destroyed," Robert said. "Plus, I need to be taken to a homeless shelter, so I can have a place to sleep."
Daria turned to him. "No - not the homeless..." Her voice trailed off and she looked at Jane.
"We can destroy it later on," Jane said and nodded at Daria. "When we're sure of a safe way to destroy it. But we need to get rid of this van - and clean off all our fingerprints and stuff first." She looked at Robert then. "As far as having someplace to crash, you can stay here with us."
"Are you sure that's O.K.?" he asked. "I don't want to be any trouble - or cause problems with your parents."
"Oh, it'll be no trouble," Trent said and smiled. "We have plenty of room. You could use Wind's room."
"Wind?" Robert asked.
"Our older brother," Trent answered. "He's still married - I think. Plus, if our parents were here, they'd insist that you stay."
"They're traveling right now," Jane added. "Our family's known as the Wandering Lanes."
"I appreciate this," Robert said and sighed in relief.
The four unloaded the van quietly, including the black box and all of Stone's notes. After that was accomplished, Daria and Jane wiped the walls, seats and front panel down, while Trent retrieved a pair of old gloves to cover his hands.
Then while Trent drove the van off, the girls took Robert on an impromptu tour of the Lane home.
"And this is the refrigerator where we store...stuff," Jane said and looked inside. "I'm not even sure what some of it is."
"Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?" Daria asked him, a small smile on her face. "Reach in and find out that it may be just...hungry."
"No thanks," Robert said and laughed.
Jane showed him all the bedrooms, but stopped at one. "This is Wind's room. You should have no problem sleeping in here. Unless he shows up in the middle of the night crying and asking for marriage advice."
"Why would he do that?" he asked, somewhat bewildered.
"He can't seem to stay married," Jane stayed. "I'm not even sure which marriage he's on right now."
Daria turned to Jane. "Can you give me and Robert a few minutes alone?" she asked.
Jane looked from Robert to Daria. "Sure, amiga. I'll be downstairs waiting for you."
They walked into the room and Daria shut the door, then set her book bag on a nearby chair.
Robert smiled at her as he set his backpack on the floor near the bed. "You sure you want to be alone in here with me?" he asked.
She gave him a small smile in return and crossed her arms over her chest. "We were alone in the same room all of last night. I was safe with you then. I'm safe with you now."
He nodded and said, "You most definitely are. Now, I have a question for you, Daria."
"Why did you ask me about MTV the other day?"
Daria's smile became weak and she moved to her book bag. She quickly opened it, pulled out The Daria Database, and handed it to him.
He looked over the book, page by page, at a slow pace. One time, he looked up at her quickly and she blushed deeply. Then he looked through more of the book.
Finally, he closed the book, handed it to her and let out a low whistle. "Oh, hell."
"Yeah," she said as she put the book back in the book bag. "You never watched Daria on MTV?"
"No," he said and shook his head. "Not even once."
Daria moved nearer to him and said, "You mentioned watching Beavis and Butt-Head before. Well, if you travel to Highland, Texas, you can meet them in the flesh. Though it would really be a waste of time and possibly cause a loss of brain cells. Trust me." She sat on the side of the bed, leaned forward with her hands on her knees and looked down. "It's as if my life is being recorded for another world's entertainment."
"You're much prettier in real life," he said.
She stood up quickly, smiled and blushed again.
"I'm not trying to freak you out, Daria. I'm sorry if I did."
She looked away from him. "It's O.K., Robert. Thank you for the flattery."
"I don't flatter anyone. I'm honest and tell the truth."
With a sigh, Daria turned back around and said, "I have more things to talk with you about - while we're alone."
Robert nodded. "You are my best friend," he said and a sad look appeared on his face. He looked down at the floor and shook his head. "Come to think about it, you are my only friend now." He smiled at her. "I'll be honest with you. After all, my secrets mean nothing anymore. Besides, I owe you for saving my life."
"We saved each other's lives, Robert." She took a deep breath and added, "I don't want to upset you. I just...have questions."
"Go ahead and ask me."
"Were you...intimate...with Lauren and Janelle?"
He blinked, sighed and nodded. "Yes, I was. Though I wouldn't exactly call it fun."
"Why not?" she asked. "I thought that bedding bisexuals - or lesbians - would be a guy's dream fantasy."
Robert laughed hard, blushed and shook his head. "It wasn't for fun - or a dream fantasy. They wanted a baby and my 'job' was to have sex with Lauren until she got pregnant. Every single day for six weeks, sometimes up to three times a day. Over and over and over again. While Janelle 'coached' me."
He sat down on the side of the bed. "Let me tell you a story. Two years ago, Maggie's workplace had a Christmas party. She, Lauren, and Janelle were co-workers and best friends, and had been since elementary school."
Daria sat down a few feet from him and looked at him as he spoke.
"Well, at that party, all three got blind, stinking drunk. Maggie swore a promise that if they needed donor sperm to have a baby, then I would provide it. I had no problem with that. After all, I was their friend, too. But as the night and drinks passed, Maggie stated that if she died, then I was 'theirs' to keep."
"My goodness," she whispered.
"I was totally sober," he said, "since I was the designated driver. I never brought it up after the party, and neither did Maggie. In fact, that bender caused her to stop drinking altogether. But, about five or six weeks after I lost my family, they called in Maggie's promise and hounded me until I gave in."
For several seconds, she looked ahead and finally let out a low whistle. "I don't know what to say," she said.
Robert shrugged and smiled at her. "It's past, and I try not to think about it much. Do you have more questions or things you want to discuss?"
Daria got up and walked over to her book bag. "Not right now." She slung the bag over her left shoulder. "I need to get home. Mom will be there soon and I'll need to talk to her."
"Do you need me there as well?" he asked.
She shook her head. "My idea is to introduce you to them tomorrow morning." She smiled weakly at him. "I would have offered you the guest room in my house, but that would have been...awkward, to say the least."
"I understand," he said and smiled. "Your parents are probably going to think I'm some dirty old man after their daughter." He closed his eyes and sighed. "If it will be easier for you, Daria, you don't have to get their help, or even tell them about any of this. You are back to your normal life and I can find my own way here."
"No!" she said quickly. "You helped protect me and took care of me and I will help you."
"Think about how hard this story will be to believe," he said. "We both went through it together and I now have a hard believing it even happened."
"I admit that I have no idea how to tell my parents," she said and kept her gaze on him. "Robert, when you meet my mother, keep in mind that she is a lawyer."
"Yeah. Her B.S. meter in dealing with strangers is very good. Don't lie to her. I can get away with it, since I'm her daughter, but even I don't like to push my luck."
"Would you believe I'm scared shitless to meet your folks?" he asked and smiled.
"I'm scared about that, too." She moved to the door. "Good night, Robert. I'll have Jane bring you over around eleven."
"What about Trent?" he asked.
"I don't know. He's been pretty active today, so he'll probably sleep until Tuesday."
Robert laughed and said, "Pretty relaxed, I take it?"
Daria smiled. "You could say that. Robert?"
"My answer would have been yes."
"If we had been trapped in your world, and you made advances on me, I would have answered yes."
He blushed again and nodded.
"See you tomorrow." She left the room.
By that time, Trent returned home and the girls left for Daria's home. As they approached the Morgendorffer home, they stopped at the end of the sidewalk. Daria carried her book bag over her right shoulder and the chain mail in the crook of her left arm, while Jane carried a large shopping bag.
The shorter girl smiled at the house and said, "You know, Jane, this place has never looked so good as it does right now."
"You missed it, huh?"
"I never thought I ever see it again." She laughed briefly. "I never thought I'd see my family again. I want to hug all of them. Mom, Dad, even Quinn."
Jane smirked at her. "Sounds serious. You want me to slap you until you come to your senses?"
"No." She looked at Jane. "It won't take long for my usual antipathy towards Lawndale to return."
"So you could call your trip to Robert's world to be a little vacation, huh?"
Daria blinked and thought about it briefly. "I guess so. The hotel had lousy room service, though."
"Couldn't get Robert to put a mint on your pillow, I take it?"
"It did have hot showers, so it wasn't all bad."
They walked up to the front door. Jane shifted the bag from her left hand to her right. "Are you sure about this?" she said and looked inside the bag. "We could keep these guns at my house."
Daria looked at the chain mail and shook her head. "No. I'll take them. After all, this stuff is mine now. But when I look at this..." She sighed, exhaled loudly and shook her head. "Why did I have to go through all this?"
"Because that asshole Stone sent you to that world." Jane stopped again just before they reached the house. "What are you going to tell your parents? This whole tale sounds like something from Sick, Sad World."
"I'm thinking about that." Daria unlocked the front door, opened it, and looked inside. "Good. Quinn and my folks aren't here, yet. Let's get this stuff in my room and put it all up."
In her bedroom, Daria hung up the chain mail in the closet, while Jane placed the weapons on the bed.
The pistols were then carefully placed in Daria's underwear drawer and then the teen unloaded her book bag. She handed The Daria Diaries to Jane. "Look this over while you're waiting. I found it in Robert's shelter."
Jane took the book, sat on the side of the bed and stared at the front cover. "What is this?" Then she read through the book in silence.
After ten minutes, the raven-haired teen closed the book, laid back on the mattress and groaned. "I feel totally naked right now."
Daria smiled at her. "There were websites dedicated to this Daria show on Robert's world," she said. "So I'd bet there were nudes of you on some of them." Her smile faded as she realized what she said. "There were probably nudes of me, as well."
"Was Robert one of your...fans?"
"No. He was startled when I showed him the other Daria book."
"The other Daria book? And he never saw them?" Jane looked up at her. "Yeah, right. You said you found it in his shelter. I bet he knew every book he had there including yours."
Daria shook her head. "I don't think so. He had piles of books in one of the rooms. Told me it was an idea to 'preserve who they were.' But he gave it up after awhile. Remember those idiots from Texas I told you about?"
"You mean Beaver and Butt-Face?"
The smile on Daria's face gave way as she laughed hard at Jane's comment. "No, Beavis and Butt-Head. They also had a show on his world and he did watch it. Apparently they were just as dumb on that show as they are in our world."
Just then, they heard the front door open and a voice downstairs. Helen Morgendorffer yelled up the stairs, "Daria, I'm home!"
Jane and Daria glanced at each other. "Well, that's my cue to leave," the tall runner said and smiled at her. "Good luck, Morgendorffer. You're going to need it." She walked a few feet, then stopped. "You know that they'll eventually find your guns, don't you?"
"I'm going to show them everything," Daria said. "It'll be easier to convince them if I do that."
"Well, like I said, good luck."
"Thank you," Daria said and swallowed nervously. "I'll walk you to the door." They walked out of the bedroom.
Daria walked Jane to the front door and waved at her as she walked away. She then sighed and looked down briefly. This is going to be difficult, she thought, then walked to the kitchen. But it has to be done.
Helen spoke on her cell phone to Eric about whatever case they were working on. At the same time, she heated up water for cocoa and saw Daria. She mouthed, "You want one, too?"
Daria nodded and sat at the kitchen table tensely.
Just from her daughter's body language, Helen could tell that something was wrong. "Eric," she said, "something just came up. I'll have to call you back - no, it won't wait. No! I'll call you back, Eric. Bye." She closed the phone and looked at Daria. "What's wrong, Daria?" she asked.
The teen swallowed, closed her eyes for a second, then looked at her mother. "What I'm about to tell you will seem insane," she said. "But it's important that I tell you about it."
"Oh?" Helen looked at Daria as she prepared two cups.
"Yes. But let's wait until you have the cocoa done and I'll tell you then."
So it was a few minutes later, that Helen sat at the table with Daria, who began her tale.
The teen gripped her cup tightly and looked at the drink within it. "When Jane and I came home from school today...something happened."
Helen paled, set her cup on the table and asked, "Were you..."
"No!" Daria looked up at her mother quickly. "Nothing like that. Nothing like that. We were halfway between the school and Jane's house when some old man jumped out in front of us." She looked at the table and felt her face heat up. "Here's the crazy part. I'm the one who went through it and it seems crazy to me. Somehow, I don't know how, he...teleported me to another Earth in a different universe."
Daria still looked at the table. "I spent three days there - but only one hour passed here. That Earth - it was bad, very bad." She looked up and saw her mother's disbelief. "I'm not lying, Mom, nor am I telling a bad joke. I nearly got killed over there. A man from there saved my life, protected me and helped me get back to our world."
"O.K.," Helen said, her voice skeptical. She kept her gaze on her daughter's eyes. "Why was this...other Earth...very bad?"
"It was overrun with zombies. The year before, the dead came back to life on that world." She closed her eyes. "The dead...they ate the flesh of the living. There were no more organized governments. In fact, Robert was the only living person in his city."
"Robert?" She sipped her cocoa, but kept her gaze on Daria's face.
Daria looked up at her mother's face and felt her own face get even redder. "He's the man who saved my life, Mom. If it wasn't for him, I'd be dead right now." She saw how her mother stared at her and added, "You don't believe me."
"This sounds like a very bad joke, Daria, but the look on your face doesn't match your usual 'joke' face."
The teen blinked. "I didn't know I had a 'joke' face."
Helen gave her a small smile. "It's subtle, yes, but you do have one. I am your mother, and I do know you and Quinn, no matter what the two of you may think. Right now, as crazy as your tale is so far, I'm going to take you at your word. How many people lived in this city before the 'dead' rose?"
"Robert said that the population was fourteen thousand."
"A good sized city," the older woman said and nodded, then sipped her cocoa. "How did this Robert person save you? How did he happen to be exactly where you...appeared on his world?"
Daria sipped some cocoa as well, then looked down. "I'm not the first Lawndale resident to be sent there," she said. "I am the only one to survive the experience, however. All of us appeared at the same place, after a strange thunder and loud whine."
"How many others were teleported and how did they die?"
"Robert didn't know for sure how many, but he suspected at least six. He was able to talk with two of them before they died. All the others were killed by the zombies. When a zombie bites a person, the bite is fatal, but it can take up to three days for the victim to die. He barely showed up in time before they could...get me. I was the first person to avoid being bitten." Her lip quivered and she closed her eyes. "If I had been bitten, I would be dead right now."
"Sweetie? Are you going to be O.K.?"
"Mom, I wet myself! I was so scared, I peed on myself!" She took off her glasses, quickly wiped her eyes and reined in her emotions. "I was so ashamed, because he knew I did it, too."
"Why didn't this old man also teleport Jane?" Helen asked suddenly.
"Jane jumped away faster than I could. In face, Robert wasn't the only one who got me home. Jane and Trent took care of things from this end."
"Do you know who this old man is?"
"Jane said that his name was Ezra Stone," Daria said. "I've never heard of him, though."
Helen thought and shook her head. "I'm not familiar with him, either," she said. "Do you know where he is right now? I'd like to talk with him."
Daria sighed and looked away from Helen's face. "Uh, after I got back, we...sent him to the same place that he sent me."
"Jane learned how to use his machine."
"So if you sent him to a zombie-infested world..."
"...he's probably dead, right now."
"O.K." Helen sighed and watched her daughter for several seconds before she spoke again. "I take it that this Robert is still on his 'home Earth' right now as well?"
"No, Mom. He's on our world. He came back with me and is spending the night at Jane's house." She covered her face and said, "Oh, crap, this sounds so stupid and lame."
Helen stared at Daria for several more seconds, then said, "I'd like to meet this Robert."
"He'll be here tomorrow morning at eleven." Daria looked at her mother and said, "Mom, he risked his life to save me and I told him that I'd...help him get started in this world. I want you and Dad to meet him. I was hoping that you two could help him."
The older woman blinked, thought for several seconds, then drank more than half her cocoa in one gulp. "You spent three days alone with Robert?"
Daria's blush returned and she looked at her cocoa again. "Yes, but nothing happened. He was the perfect gentleman and host." She looked up at Helen. "I was afraid of him at first. Right after I...showed up, we had to run..."
A smile appeared on Helen's face. "You're not much on running, sweetie."
A small laugh escaped Daria's mouth and she nodded. "I know. I didn't get far. Robert saw that I couldn't run, tossed me over his shoulder and ran across his city - without stopping."
"Did you get sick?" Helen asked. "You do get motion sickness easily."
The teen nodded. "I ended up vomiting. But Robert...he was so strong...I was afraid he would hurt me. But he didn't. He protected me and showed me how to take care of myself over there. He was the one who figured out how to get me back."
"What grade is he in? I can say that his parents lived 'off the grid' and work at getting him a birth certificate and social security card that way. Then I can get him into your school."
Daria took a deep breath. "He's thirty-one, Mom, and a widower. His wife and children all died after the dead rose."
Helen closed her eyes and said nothing at first. Then she looked at the girl and then asked, "Do you have any kind of proof of what you're telling me? I'm not calling you a liar, Daria, but you have to admit that this tale sounds totally ridiculous."
The teen finished her cocoa and stood up slowly. "Come with me to my room...and I'll show you what I brought back from there." She walked to the stairs.
Helen finished her cocoa as well, stood up and followed Daria upstairs.
In the padded bedroom, Daria opened her closet door and pulled out the chain mail on the hanger. "Robert gave me this to wear so that I couldn't be bit."
Her mother took the item and felt it over. "You can get chain mail on this Earth, Daria."
"True, but you would have noticed the charge on the credit card bill...and I'm not using my cabin fund for medieval wear." She hung it back up. "It's heavy, uncomfortable, and it protected me. Robert gave it to me."
"Are there any other items you brought back?"
Daria walked to the stack of books on her desk. She pulled out a copy of Time and handed it to her.
Helen looked at the magazine cover and drew in her breath. The cover photo was obviously taken with a telephoto lens, and showed a crowd of several hundred zombies on the move through what the caption said was New York City's Broadway. One word over the photo, in ragged bold lettering, read "CHAOS!"
She sat on the edge of Daria's bed and skimmed through the magazine quickly. "My God," she finally said.
Daria then handed her issues of two newspapers, The Fostoria Focus and The Toledo Blade and she looked them over as well.
"Why two newspapers from Ohio, Daria?" the woman asked. "Where did you 'appear' on that world?"
Daria sighed and sat beside Helen. "I appeared in Fostoria, Ohio. It's south of Toledo."
The newspapers gave a more local perspective to the zombie crisis, and included local directives and guidelines on what to do, including the locations of rescue centers and instructions for reservists to report for duty.
Several more minutes passed and Helen finally set the newspapers and magazine aside. "If this is a joke, you've gone to a lot of expense for it."
"I would've had to make a lot of effort, too, Mom. You know I'm not that energetic." Daria pulled a piece of currency out of her jacket pocket next. "I borrowed this from Robert to show you."
Helen looked at what appeared to be a hundred-dollar bill and gasped. "Teddy Roosevelt? On a hundred?" She looked over the bill carefully and then looked at Daria. "Sweetie, you've convinced me." She handed her daughter the hundred and covered her face with her hands. "Is there anything else?"
Daria moved to her dresser, opened it and pulled out a pistol. "I now own three pistols. Mom. Robert gave them to me in case we had to shoot zombies while we were out. When we got teleported back, we did have to shoot our way out."
Helen took the weapon from her daughter and looked at it numbly, then set it on the newspapers.
Then Daria moved back to her desk and said, "Now, for the icing on the cake." She took The Daria Database and handed it to her mother. "Apparently, on Robert's world, I...all of us...were cartoon characters on an MTV show." She looked at her mother's expression as she read the alumni newsletter from Middleton and added, "Don't tear it up, Mom."
Nearly a half-hour later, Helen gave Daria back the book and exhaled loudly. "Quinn is not babysitting for Mr. O'Connor anymore," she said and pulled Daria to her. She hugged the teen furiously and to her surprise, the girl returned her hug and started crying. "Daria? Are you O.K.?"
"I thought I was trapped!" She cried in her mother's shoulder. "I thought I'd never see you or Dad or Quinn again! I've never been so scared in my life."
Helen kissed the side of Daria's face and held her tight. "You could have said nothing about your whole experience and none of us would have been the wiser."
"I had to tell you. I couldn't just hold it in." She sniffled and kept a hold on her mother. "Robert told me that if it would be easier on me, not to tell you and that he'd find his own way. But I can't do that."
"Sweetie, I'd like to know more about Robert." She patted Daria's left shoulder and smiled. "I'm not used to this."
Daria smiled and wiped one of her eyes. "Neither am I. Mom, I'll be back to my old self soon, but don't be surprised if I hug you or Dad every so often. Being on that other Earth made me realize just what I...take for granted."
"Just be careful about hugging Quinn," Helen said and shook her head. "She may think you've gone insane." She broke the hug and smiled gently at Daria. "Now, tell me about Robert. The signals I'm getting from you are..."
Daria blushed again and looked down briefly. "I really like him, and I think...no, I know he likes me." She shivered. "I can't believe I said that."
"It's not unusual to fall for a protector, sweetie. Did he...make advances on you?"
"No. He really is a kind, decent man."
"Describe him to me, Daria. Tell me about him."
Daria smiled. "He's five-six or five-seven and...wait, I'll show you." She moved back to the stack of books and found the 5 x 7 photo of Robert and his family. Then she took it back to Helen and handed it to her. "This is Robert, his wife Maggie and their three children, taken a year or two ago."
"Handsome man," Helen said as she looked over the photo. "His wife is...was beautiful. How did he take their deaths?"
Daria looked down. "From what he said, bad. He would start crying when he mentioned them." She sighed. "I'm not certain, but I think he was going to eventually kill himself. But the Lawndale people started showing up and then he had something to...investigate, to work on."
"From what you said, he's been through a lot."
The teen nodded. "I invited him to come back with me, because I didn't want him to die. I...I...oh, crap. You're taking this a lot calmer than I thought you would."
Helen sighed and stood up. "I'm still in shock, Daria. I'm trying to figure out just what I'm going to say to your father." She stroked her chin. "Here's my plan so far. I'll tell your dad and Quinn that Robert rescued you from being attacked. We won't mention the teleportation part and you need to warn Robert and Jane...and Trent not to tell anyone about it."
"I'll call Jane up after we're done talking," Daria said.
"How does Robert look?" Helen asked. "Compared to his photo, that is."
"What do you mean, Mom?" Daria asked, her voice cautious.
"When a lot of the soldiers came back from Vietnam, they looked older - haunted." She touched Daria's left shoulder. "Given what he's been through, he could be the same way."
Daria remembered seeing photos and films of returning soldiers and nodded. "Oh. He appears the same way. His hair is longer and has gray in it. Plus, his face looks older - slightly wrinkled."
"O.K. I'll tell your dad and Quinn that his family were murdered and that we're to avoid the subject." She smiled. "I have an idea. Your father's been wanting to have a cookout and this is a good time to do it." She walked to the bedroom door, then turned back to Daria. "Do me a favor, Daria."
"Be careful with Robert. You sound attracted to him." The teen blushed again as the older woman spoke. "I don't want you to rush into anything."
"You don't approve, do you?"
"Not really," Helen said quickly. "There is fourteen years difference between the two of you. Your experiences and lives are quite different. Don't do anything...romantic in front of us, please."
Daria smiled weakly. "Nothing's happened, Mom. I promise. We haven't even held hands...yet."
"Daria, danger has a tendency to throw people together and create a bond. It's the normal, mundane routines of life, however, that can tear them apart. He may not be able to adjust to life here that well. I don't want you to get hurt."
"I had to give him the chance," the teen said and blinked. "I owe it to him." She cleared her throat. "Thank you for listening to me, Mom."
Helen moved back up to Daria and they hugged again. "Thank you for confiding in me, Daria."
"So, how'd it go?" Jane asked over the phone.
"She took it better than I thought," Daria said on the other end. "I thought she'd freak out or something like that. She listened to me, though, asked questions and I convinced her."
"Do we still come over at eleven tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Daria said. "We're going to have a cookout, so that he can meet my family...in a relaxed situation."
Jane laughed. "Sorry, amiga, but your dad's kind of excitable and Quinn will try to get away anyway she can. That's not exactly relaxed."
"I know, Jane, I know. Just savor the humor of it. How's Robert doing?"
"From the sound of snoring coming from Wind's room, I'd say he's out like a light. He's kind of an early sleeper."
"Yeah, I know."
"Daria, I talked to you earlier today, or three days ago, or whatever, about pursuing Trent. Your focus has turned on Robert, however. Did you tell your mom?"
Daria sighed and covered her eyes with her free hand. "Yes, I did, what little there is to tell. She's not thrilled, but she took it calmly and asked me to be careful."
"Sounds like good advice to me."
"One thing, Jane. Mom doesn't want us to tell Dad or Quinn...or anyone else...about the teleportation. She said that all we need to say is that Robert saved me from being attacked and leave it at that."
"O.K., Daria. I'll let you go now. Time for me to catch up on sleep if I'm going to get up early on a Saturday."
"Early? You have to be here at eleven. That isn't early."
Daria smiled. "Good night, Jane."
"Good night, Daria."
Author's Notes: This comprises parts thirteen through sixteen of A Little Vacation, as it was originally posted on various message boards and on fanfiction.net.
From the Paperpusher's Message Board, thanks go out to smk, LSauchelli, Brother Grimace, brandonoh, NightGoblyn, Richard Lobinske, Gouka Ryuu and The Angst Guy for their comments and suggestions.
Others I want to thank for their comments include eltf177 and nabikineum from fanfiction.net,