Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2005.

This is the Thirty-sixth story in the Falling into College series.

Richard Lobinske

Christmas Melody

Daria Morgendorffer watched the straggling line of passengers disembarking from an overnight flight from Los Angeles. It took a second glance for her recognize the head of short red hair that belonged to her sister Quinn. Daria waved and Quinn waved back as she worked her way through the mass of tired travelers.

Quinn dropped her carryon and grabbed Daria. "I'm so glad to see you."

"It's good to see you, too," Daria said, returning the favor.

Quinn looked at the young man near Daria, his red hair the same shade as hers. "Hi Michael."

Michael Fulton nodded. "Hey Quinn. How was your flight?"

Quinn let go of Daria and picked up her luggage. "So-so. The breakfast was horrible. Do you mind if I pick up a fat-free yogurt before we get the rest of my luggage?"

"At least some things don't change." Daria reached over and flipped the end of Quinn's short hair. "Unlike others."

Quinn smiled. "Yes! I know it had an effect if you noticed."

Michael held out a hand toward Quinn's suitcase. "Hell, even I noticed that you cut at least a foot off."

Quinn handed it over. "Thanks."

After Quinn picked up her replacement breakfast, they walked toward the baggage claim area of Logan International Airport. After a short distance, Daria asked, "Okay, I know you want me to ask; why the hair?"

"Well, it is the latest trend in cute."

"Latest trend? My faith is restored."

Quinn pulled at the deep red sweater that Daria was wearing. "And college is about trying new things."

Going back to the terminal from short-term parking after dropping her two large bags in Daria's car, Quinn said, "I appreciate you doing this. I got such a good deal on a flight to Boston instead of Baltimore."

Daria said, "No problem. Sometimes, I think the airlines just use a random number generator to come up with fares."

Michael laughed. "Tell me about it. And don't forget arbitrary stopovers in unlikely places."

He balanced his carryon suitcase on one arm and, opening it, pulled out a small package wrapped in pink. "Merry Christmas, Quinn."

Quinn took the gift. "Uh...this is a surprise."

Michael closed the luggage. "You're part of Daria's family. I also got something for your parents."

Quinn was still slightly confused. "Why?"

"It's Christmas?"

"Oh." Quinn peeled the tape on the wrapping back and slipped the box free.

Michael said, "I'll admit that I pestered my sister for advice on what to get."

"A Mini-Emergency Makeup pack!" Quinn held up a compact unit of cosmetics. "Thank you."

"Good," Michael said with relief. "You like it."

"Yeah, and I can tell you had help. A guy would never figure out something like this." Quinn looked at her watch. "When's your flight?"

"About forty-five minutes."

"You two better go to the gate. Daria, I'll meet you here in about an hour. I want to do a little shopping and give Fran a call. Michael, it's been nice seeing you again."

Daria and Michael sat in the small eatery near his departure gate. She set her drink down and said, "This place looks familiar."

"You know, I think you're right." He opened the carryon again and pulled out a longish package wrapped in green and white. "And I think something like this goes with the familiarity."

"At least we're not eating breakfast here this time." Daria removed a red and green gift from the plastic bag she'd been carrying. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas."

It took Daria several moments to understand the feather inside the box was a quill pen, along with a stand and small ink pot. "This is different...but kind of cool. Thanks."

Michael paused in unwrapping his. "It just seemed like the thing to get, with how much you love writing."

"Just as long as you don't expect me to write stories with it."

"Deal." Michael finished opening his. "An action figure?"

"The first and only Melody Powers action figure."

He laughed. "That's what I get for joking about wanting one. Where...let me guess, someone Jane knows."

"Of course. A guy named Wayne majoring in toy design."

"Tell her thanks, also, but I'm not going to kiss her." Michael proceeded to do just that to Daria.

When their lips parted, Daria said, "I wish we could be together for New Years."

"Me too."

"Maybe next year."

Quinn shook her head while walking to the parking lot. "You two are such geeks."

"They're gifts that mean something."

"Yeah, that you're hopelessly in love geeks."

Daria smiled. "I'll accept that."

They reached Daria's black sedan and she unlocked the passenger door for Quinn, who took a seat and twisted to place her shopping bag in the back seat.

After Daria got in and closed the door, Quinn's former composure melted and she blurted out, "Daria, I don't know what I'm going to do!"

"Quinn...what's going on?"

Quinn looked down in embarrassment. "Mom should get my grades in a day or two."

Daria raised Quinn's face. "How bad?"

"A one-point-nine GPA for fall. I'm going to be on academic probation next term."

Daria grimaced briefly. "Ouch. At least it's a big improvement over your mid-term grades."

"I've done all 'A' and 'B' work since then."

"Okay, you're not too deep in the hole. You should be able to get it above two-point-oh next term without too much stress." Daria stared hard into Quinn's eyes. "If you don't get distracted again."

"I promise."

Daria's face softened. "Good." She started the car and backed out. "You will have to weather the initial storm of Mom's reaction."

"I know. This one's going to be bad."

They drove for a while before traffic became almost motionless. Daria drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and told Quinn. "Welcome to our version of Purgatory: The Big Dig. We're going to have to fight this to the other side of the harbor until I can catch the side streets."

"Daria, I've been driving in southern California. I can live with it."


After much grief and frustration, they emerged from the construction and Daria began navigating on regular roads again.

Quinn gave her sister a sidelong look. "Okay, that's worse than what I've driven through, and I think you taught me a few new words back there."

"Thank Karen, she's the creative genius when it comes to those expressions. That insanity would drive the Dalai Lama to distraction, and they won't have it done before I graduate."

"Daria, can I talk to you some more, while we're still alone?"

"Um, sure Quinn."

"Sometimes I wonder if I'm really helping Fran."

"What do you mean? Not too many people would stand up for someone like you did for her a couple months ago."

"Um, thanks. But I meant...um..."

After a few moments of silence, Daria said, "You're usually not one at a loss for words."

"Well...I've been out shopping with her a lot, showing her how of buy clothes, what to wear for what, teaching her how to use makeup. All the things I used to do with the Fashion Club."

Daria nodded. "I'm listening."

"But it's never enough." Quinn turned her face from Daria. "The scars always show."

"They always will. But, a few people will see her inner beauty, like you."

"But what if I'm building her hopes up too much?"

"Are you telling her you can hide the scars, or that nobody will notice them at all?"

"Uh....no. I'm trying to get people to notice the rest of her, so they won't pay as much attention to her scars."

"It sounds like you're trying to help in the way you know how. I bet she's enough of a realist about her looks to know that."

"Hmm." Quinn nodded and drifted off into though.

After a fast glance at her, Daria focused her attention on the road. She navigated through the byzantine streets with now practiced ease. Soon they were approaching the apartment.

Quiet, Quinn said, "Sometimes, it still scares me."

Almost as quiet, Daria said, "Because it could happen so easily to any of us?"


"That's human. I think even I would be scared."

Quinn relaxed some. "I knew you'd know what to say."

Quinn sat on a sofa in the apartment Daria shared with Jane and Karen, petting a black and white cat. "I can't believe you talked Mom into letting you bring her with. Mom never let us have a pet before."

"I guess Bump made a good impression on Mom over Thanksgiving." Daria said from the kitchen. "Anyway, I'm glad I don't have to pay to board her while I'm gone."

"Hey kids," Jane Lane called as she came in the front door. She shook some snow from her black hair and set a pile of mail on the table. "Daria, you've got a nice package here."

Daria walked over. "Oh?" She picked up a heavy envelope and grinned. She tore it open and pulled out the December issue of Literature in Action, a pulp action/adventure magazine. As usual, authors and titles were listed along the left side of the cover, about one third of the way down was:

Melody Powers in:
Walking in a Winter Wasteland
By Daria Morgendorffer

Daria held it up and said, "Looks like Mom's going to buy out the local Books by the Ton tomorrow."

While Daria was looking through the magazine, Jane set a large, open card on the table, decorated with a construction paper Christmas tree. Quinn asked, "Who's that from?"

Jane smiled proudly. "From my kids."

"Your kids?"

Daria set down the magazine. "At the children's hospital. Jane gets rather maternal with her arts and crafts students."

Quinn folded her arms and smirked at them. "You two are getting soft. Daria's turning into a romantic and Jane into a mother."

Daria said, "I'll show you just how soft these boots have gotten."

"And how much of a mother I can be," Jane added.

Quinn raised her hands. "Okay, okay. I'll back off, since you two are my ride home." She inwardly grinned. Even if you know it's true.

After the long drive from Boston, Jane said, "Come on in, I'm sure Trent and Lindy will want to see both of you," as Daria parked in the driveway of Jane's childhood home.

Quinn opened the back door and got out. "I've missed Lindy, thanks."

"It's been a while, sure." Daria followed the other two women.

Jane stopped and rang the doorbell. "It's so weird doing this here."

A tall, black-haired man in his mid-fifties opened the door. "Jane?"

Jane's eyes opened in surprise. "Dad? Are you really home for the holidays this year?"

"Yeah, I'm between contracts. Who are your friends?"

"Dad, you remember Daria, don't you?"

"Oh, yeah. It's been a while, back when Amanda and I came home early after our hotel in Greenland broke off with the pack ice."

Daria nodded slightly. "Hi."

Jane waved and said, "Quinn's one of Lindy's good friends. Oh, yeah, and Daria's sister. Quinn, this is my dad, Vincent."

He stepped back and opened the door wide. "Come on in."

Lindy rushed up to Quinn and hugged her. "Quinn. It's so good to see you."

Quinn warmly returned the hug. "Lindy, I've missed you, too."

Trent followed Lindy, saying, "Janey," as he picked his sister up and swung her around. "Welcome home."

Jane mussed Trent's hair. "Good to be back. You still treating Lindy like you're supposed to?"

Trent set her back on the ground. "Try to." He stepped past and held Daria. "Hey Daria."


Vincent rubbed his hands together and said, "Jane, why don't we go get your bags?"

Jane held up her suitcase. "Covered."


Lindy started herding everyone toward the kitchen. "I'm going to go get Amanda, be right back. I have a surprise for you."

Vincent shrugged and led the way. Still somewhat dazed by the long drive, Daria followed him into the kitchen. Jane and Quinn followed, after noticing Trent suppress a grin as he held back.

Jane whispered, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"I hope you're thinking what I'm thinking, because I don't want to think the other thing I'm thinking," Quinn whispered back.

"Now that I think about it, I don't want to, either."

"Then let's go with what we were thinking about first."

"Um, yeah."

A couple minutes later, Lindy brought Amanda into the kitchen, the latter in clay-stained work clothes and a couple thin smears of clay on her arms and forehead. "Lindy," Amanda asked, "What's going on?"

When she saw who was in the kitchen, Amanda exclaimed, "What a wonderful surprise! Jane, Quinn, Daria, welcome back. Thanks, Lindy."

Lindy grabbed Trent's hand and pulled him over. "Um, Amanda, they're not the only reason I brought you up here."

"Oh, you want to tell us you're getting married?"

Lindy's mouth fell open and Trent half smiled.

Amanda embraced both of them. "A mother knows."

Jane looked at Quinn, "Good, number one."

Daria whispered, "Number one?"

"Better than option number two."

"Um, yeah. I suppose."

After Amanda freed Lindy and Trent, Jane grabbed him. "How're you gonna keep up your criminale reputation now?"

Trent put his arm around Lindy's waist. "The band'll just have to deal with it."

Beaming with joy for her friend, Quinn grabbed Lindy's hand. "Okay, where is it?"

"Just a moment." Lindy pulled a white gold ring with a cluster of small diamonds from her pocket and put it on.

"Wow," Quinn said as she inspected it. "Let me guess, you picked it out."

Lindy shook her head. "Trent surprised me with it."

"Hey," Trent joined in, "I'm sensitive to moods."

Daria waited for Jane to let go of Trent before she moved up and said, "I'm glad you found someone like Lindy. You deserve it."

"Thanks Daria. It means a lot that you're okay with this."

Getting more excited, Lindy squeezed Quinn's hands. "I want you to be my Maid of Honor."

"Lindy! You mean it?"

"Of course."


Lindy reached for Jane and Daria's hands. "Will you be my bridesmaids?"

Both said, "Me?"

Lindy smiled at them. "Jane, even though you were watching out for your brother, you helped me stop drinking. Daria, you also mean a lot to both of us, please?"

Jane half-nodded and half-shook her head. "Well, okay. But no pink taffeta."

"Then I'm in." Daria added, "But please, find a seamstress who knows her hip from her elbow."

Vincent puffed on his pipe and said, "You know, I think I still have a suit upstairs from Wind's wedding."

Daria asked Jane, "I wonder which one?"

Jane replied, "The first. Wind did the rest in secret."

Curled on her old bed at her parents' farm in southern Georgia, Karen Myerson grinned as she talked on the phone. "There's no doubt about Jill's condition. Freaky that I'll be an aunt in less than three months."

Daria reclined on the bed in her old room, using her cell phone. "Just remember that Jane's the one to ask for advice in that department. She's been an aunt since she was five.

"Oh, that's right; her siblings are a lot older than she is. Anyway, you should see my brother Terry. He's reading everything on the Internet he can find on being a father. Funny as hell."

"Quinn!" Helen's voice boomed through the house.

Bump scampered up the stairs to Daria's room and hid behind her. "It sounds like Mom found out about Quinn's grades."

"Ouch. You could tell your folks that it could be worse. Terry came home from his first term at Georgia Tech with a one-point-five and a tattoo on his butt."

"I'll see if I can slip that into the conversation. I don't want to know any more about the tattoo, do I?"

"Be my guest; and no, you don't."

"I better get going to see if Quinn's in need of rescue."

"Good luck...Melody."

Daria smiled. 'Thanks. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Daria."

Daria closed the phone and scratched Bump's head. "Better stay up here girl, Mom's ranting can be a lot scarier than Karen's."

Leaving the cat on her bed, Daria headed downstairs. She could hear Jake growling, "Do you realize how many thousands of dollars we spent on you to go there?"

Meekly, Quinn said, "I know. I'm sorry. There was so much going on, and I got carried away. But, I'm doing better."

Helen cut back in. "You better young lady. We were worried to death letting you go out to California like that."

I feel like I should have a Seventh Cavalry guidon. Daria stopped and momentarily smiled. You can tell I'm dating a history major if I even know what one looks like.

Daria cleared her throat. "Mom, Quinn has been serious since mid-terms."

Helen spun. "What?"

Daria held up her cell phone. "We do talk from time to time. She caught herself and has worked hard."

"She should've been working hard from the start," Jake grumbled.

"Dad...how distracted did you get during your first semester of college?"

"What?" Jake abruptly realized he'd been caught. "Oh, um."

"It must've been quite a change going from the regimentation of military school to the freedom of a college campus during the sixties."

Jake stammered, "I...uh..."

Daria moved next to her sister. "Quinn's also been doing a lot to help her roommate." She targeted Helen. "Even organized a school-wide boycott for her."

Helen's eyes went wide. "She...?"

After Daria nudged her with an elbow, Quinn said, "I only wanted Fran to be treated fair. But it was Daria's idea."

Daria shook her head. "I couldn't have pulled it off. Quinn was the motivation behind it."

Helen's eyes leapt between her daughters and moistened. "I'm so proud of you!" She pulled them against her.

Jake looked around the room. "Weren't we just...oh hell. I'm proud of you kids too."

"I wish Sandi were here," Stacy Rowe said. The brunette sat on the floor next to Quinn's old canopy bed, her full length jeans and buttoned shirt gave her more of a tomboy look than before, while her hair hanging loose instead of in tails a gave a more mature appearance.

Looking somewhat fuller than she had four months earlier, Tiffany Blum-Deckler sat on the floor next to Stacy. "I can't believe her mom disowned her."

Seated to complete the circle, Quinn nodded. "Or that her dad went along with it. They act like Sandi's the one that did something wrong, when her mom's the one on probation."

Stacy said, "I'm glad we still get to talk on the phone sometimes, but now she has to be careful about her phone bill."

"Yeah," Tiffany agreed. "And she has to cut back on her clothes shopping."

Quinn lightly laughed. "We've all had to do that."

Bump nosed the door of the room open and sniffed at the unusual scents within. Stacy crawled toward her. "When'd you get a cat?"

Quinn turned and noticed. "Oh, that's Daria's."

"It's so cute." Stacy reached out and petted Bump's head. She responded by rubbing her face against Stacy's hand and purring. Stacy pulled her legs under and sat down again, bringing the cat, still purring, into her lap.

Tiffany reached over to pet Bump, who stretched out and purred louder at the attention. "She's so friendly."

Daria softly knocked and poked her head in. "I hope she's not...oh. I see the attention junkie's at it again."

Stacy looked up. "Hi. She's a pretty cat."

"And not at all bashful about it." Daria started to back out of the door. "Anyway, if she's not disturbing you, I'll run along."

"Daria?" Stacy bashfully asked.

She stopped. "Yes?"

"Uh...thanks for standing up for Sandi. During all that court stuff."

"Yeah, thanks," Tiffany said with more animation than usual.

"You're welcome. If Bump causes any trouble, just toss her out. Later."

"Got you! You furry-tailed rat!" Jake shouted with excitement at the computer monitor.

Daria smirked as watched over his shoulder. "Have fun."

"Sure thing Kiddo! This is great," Jake barely broke his attention from the computer game to say.

She watched her father eagerly hunt computer-generated squirrels for a minute before leaving her parents' bedroom and quietly saying, "Michael, you may have created a monster with that copy of Small Game Hunting."

From downstairs, she heard Helen talking on the phone. "Amy! You've got to be kidding."

I'm sure I'll get a full report later. Daria continued past the stairs and Quinn's room.

Inside, Quinn told one of her mirrors, "Oh, this goes with my new hair so well."

Daria shook her head with a smile and went into her room, where she sat down at the desk and contemplated the blank document on her laptop's work processor. "You can do this," she muttered and began to type.

Dear Editor,

On the enclosed diskette is a short story in the format recommended on your magazine's website for electronic submission. Please consider this story for publication in Musings Magazine.


Daria Morgendorffer


Daria looked down at Bump, looking forlornly up. She patted her leg and said, "Okay, come on up."

The feline jumped up and wandered around in Daria's lap before finding just the right spot. Daria asked her, "Think I should?"


"Okay, you talked me into it."

"Oh my God, Daria! How did you find this? You hardly know anything about makeup." Quinn pointed at the open browser on Daria's computer.

Daria shrugged. "A little creative searching."

"Come on. I know makeup and I've never heard of it."

"You have to admit it's a specialty product. You haven't had a practical need to hide scars before."

"Like you have?"

"Well, more like a literary need."


"What you said about Fran got me thinking. Melody does have a few scars she needs to hide at times. So, I dug around and found that. I can use it in my story, and Fran can use it in real life."

"I don't care if it's a geek reason. I'm ordering some of this right away for her. Daria, if it works, Fran's going to be so happy."

"I emailed the links to your school email, it also has detailed instructions."

This Time Get it Right!: New Millennium's Eve
Performances by: Mystik Spiral, The Lost Puppies, Dane Bramage, and Coddling Moth

"Oooh, headliners. They're movin' up to the big time," Daria said with a good natured smirk after reading the banner over the Zon.

Jane slapped Daria's shoulder. "It still means they suck less than the other bands."

Lindy's voice chimed in behind them. "Which for Mystik Spiral, is still an improvement."

Jane said, "Hey, soon to be sister-in-law."

Daria pointed her thumb at Jane. "Lindy, have you considered the ramifications of being related to her?"

"Hey, compared to my family, the Lanes are a step up in stability."

Jane whistled. "Now that's scary stuff, boys and girls."

"No kidding," Daria agreed.

Lindy grasped their hands and tugged them toward the door. "Inside, it's cold out here."

Daria felt the ring on Lindy's finger and unconsciously rubbed her thumb over the empty third finger of the other hand.

The bouncer waved as they approached. "Hey Lindy. Who are your friends?"

Jane said to Daria, "How soon they forget."

Daria said back, "And how fast our reputations fade."

The bouncer handed Lindy a yellow plastic band as she released Daria and Jane's hands.

Lindy said while she put the band around her wrist, "Trent's little sister Jane and our friend Daria."

He said, "Hi, nice to meet you. ID please for an alcohol band."

Daria held out her hand. "Two no-alcohol, please."

They found a small table and drank sodas while watching the last of the startup bands. During the break before Mystik Spiral played, Lindy got up and said, "I'm going backstage to see Trent before their set. Be back later."

A couple minutes later, Mack MacKenzie walked over and sat next to them. "Hi."

Daria asked, "Where's Jodie?"

"At her parents," he sadly said. "We broke up."

"Whoa!" Jane said with stark surprise. "You two'd been together since eighth grade."

Daria stared into her drink. "I'm sorry."

Jane stared at Mack. "What happened?"

Mack gestured to a waitress before explaining. "I'm still working on that. We seemed to get so involved with other things that we forgot each other. Jodie was so excited about the experience she got working for your father, Daria. I think that clinched her plans for what she wants to do with her life, she spent a lot of time working on ideas for starting her own consulting business."

Daria frowned. "Oh."

He went on, "And I started to spend more and more time with my projects for management. So, we didn't make much effort to see each other until we came back here for Thanksgiving."

"I'm sorry we weren't around then." Daria shivered slightly at the memory.

"I heard about what happened and I understand. Makes me wish I'd pounded Upchuck into the ground years ago."

"It's over, I hope."

"Well, things didn't go well then and we ended up fighting."

Jane interrupted. "I know I'm crappy about keeping in contact, but Daria isn't. Daria, did they tell you anything like this?"

Daria shook her head. "No. This is news to me."

The waitress placed Mack's soda in front of him and left. He said, "I'm sorry, but I didn't want to say anything, in case things got better. They didn't. Jodie and I hardly spoke to each other between then and just before Christmas. When we got into Lawndale, we went to Pizza Prince and ate in silence for I bet, thirty minutes. Finally, we looked at each other and said, 'This isn't working.'"

Jane touched his hand. "I..."

Mack cautiously smiled. "Once I get over what I'm feeling now, I'm sure Jodie is going to stay one of my closest friends. We didn't lose that. But, we grew too much apart for more."

"I guess." Daria looked at her hand. "Long-distance relationships don't work."

"Maybe. I don't know. It did for a while. I'm not sure if it was the distance, or us."

Without thinking, Jane wrapped her hand around his. "Look, this is New Year's Eve and midnight is just the other side of the Spiral's set. Think Daria and I can take your mind off things for a little while?"

"You are two of the best friends I have in Lawndale. I appreciate it."

Daria yawned hard and blinked her eyes after stopping the car in the Lane driveway. "Next time, we're bringing your car and you can chauffeur me around."

"Deal. It's almost three, I'll let you get home." Jane opened the car door.

"Kind of unsettling about Mack and Jodie. They've been together the whole time I've known them."

"Well, I've know Mack since grade school. But yeah, he and Jodie had been together since not too long after she moved to Lawndale."

"Hmm." Daria thought. "It does make you think."

Jane eyed her friend. "Hey, you okay?"

"Oh. Um, yeah. Just...when I consider some things that might've happened...I appreciate the way things did work out. I think it made us appreciate what we have more."

"All right. Good night."

"Night. See you sometime tomorrow afternoon."

"Late afternoon."


Jane closed the car door and watched Daria back away. She crunched through the thin snow to the front door. On hearing a car, she turned, saying, "What'd you..."

Mack slowly opened his car door. "I hope you don't mind."

"No. Do you want to come in?"

"Jodie, telephone," Michelle Landon called upstairs to her daughter, Jodie.

"I'll get it here," she called back. Jodie sealed the suitcase she'd been packing and answered the phone in her room. "Hello."

"Hi, it's Daria."

Jodie sat on her bed and prepared for what was coming. "I'm guessing you've seen Mack. Probably last night at the Zon."


"I probably should've warned you, but I kept hoping things would work out."

"Um, look. I'm not one to talk about giving warning signs before breaking up with someone."

"I figure you understand why I stayed home last night."

"Yeah, awkward is bad."

"I'm hoping he'll stay my friend, like Tom has with you."

"He wants that, too."

"Good. Can we change the subject?"

"Sure. Got any more grand plans in the works?"

"Well, I'm transferring to Crestmore next year for my upper division class work. It's time I upheld my end of the bargain with Dad."

"I see."

"While I have you here, think your father would be interested in me working for him again next summer?"

"I don't see a problem. Why don't you ask him? You don't need me as an intermediary."

"You're right. I'll call him. Any more big plans for you?"

"More of the same, really. School, writing when I get a chance."

"That's nice. Daria, I hope I don't seem rude, but I was almost done packing. Staying in Lawndale has been kind of hard on me."

"No problem. Actually, Jane and I are heading back to Boston today."

"I see. Thanks for calling; it's good to talk with you."

"Jodie. You don't have to answer now, but please think about something."


"Is breaking up with Mack what you really want to do?"


"Think about it."

"Coming from you, I will."

"Okay. Have a safe trip back to Turner."

"Thanks. Please say, 'Hi,' to Jane for me. Bye."

"I will. Bye."

Waiting beside the front door with Jake, Helen said, "Sweetie, do you have to go back so soon? It's still New Years Day."

Daria stopped at the bottom of the stairs, holding her suitcase in one hand and Bump, in her carrier, in the other. "I'm sorry, but I've got to work tomorrow. So does Jane."

Jake sighed. "We miss you, kiddo."

Daria hesitated, put her burdens down and then gave him a hug. "You may find this hard to believe, but I miss you, too."

Helen stood quietly by. Daria switched to give her a hug. "And you."

On the edge of tears, Helen said, "Oh, Daria."

They held each other for a little while before Daria pulled away. "I really need to go, it's going to be late when we get back as it is."

Quinn said, "My turn." She grabbed Daria and whispered, "I love you, Sis."

Daria jerked gently in surprise. She whispered back, "I love you, Quinn."

With some effort, Daria pried Quinn's arms loose. "I've got to go. Good-bye." She grabbed suitcase and cat.

Helen, Jake and Quinn all said, "Good-bye," while Daria went to her car. She waved and drove off.

Clutching an extra-large travel mug of strong coffee, Jane stumbled out of her house, dragging her luggage behind her. "Couldn't you have held off a little while longer?"

"Jane, it's four. By the time we get home, it'll be after ten."

"Your point?"

"We have to get up for work in the morning."

"Dammit Morgendorffer. Do you have to be so logical?"

Daria shrugged. "I can't help it. Anybody seeing you off?"

Jane yawned. "I don't think they're awake yet. At least, nobody's left their bedrooms."

"Okay, fine."

Jane dropped her suitcase in the back seat and plopped down in the passenger seat. "Good thing you're driving."

Daria buckled herself in. "With the shape you're in, yeah. Eleven or twelve hours not enough sleep?"

Jane snored.

"I see I'm in for six hours of riveting conversation." Daria started the car and backed into the street. She took the coffee from Jane and drank a sip. "I think I'm going to need this more than she does. What do you think?"

After hearing only silence, she turned to look in the carrier. Bump was also asleep. "Fine. Six hours of talking to myself."

Going up the stairs to their apartment, Jane said, "That's what you get for drinking all my coffee."

"You weren't using it. I still have dibs on the bathroom when we get inside."

Karen's voice greeted them as they opened the door. "Welcome home."

Beside her on the sofa, Derek Adler said, "Hey guys."

Daria hurriedly said, "Hi." She set the cat carrier down and opened the door. Bump leapt out and ran for the bathroom, with Daria close behind.

After Daria closed the bathroom door, Jane went over to Karen and motioned a finger over her lips. "You might want to fix the smeared lipstick."

"Oops." Karen pulled a tissue from a box on a small coffee table and dabbed the edge of her lips. "How's that?"

Derek rubbed his thumb along the side of her mouth. "There, that got it."

Jane laughed. "No fair getting help."

"You seem like you had a good time."

"Hey, my brother got engaged. My Dad was actually home for Christmas."

"Trent got engaged?"

"I should hope so; Wind doesn't need to do that again."

Laughing, Karen agreed. "From what you told me of that brother, yeah."

"How was your vacation?"

"Pretty good. Ate too much, harassed my brother, and hung around. The usual."

"That's cool."

Back in her dorm at Pepperhill University, Quinn made a final touch-up and sat back. "There, that's it. Want to see?"

Fran nodded her head. "Yes, silly."

Quinn raised an oval hand mirror. Fran's breath caught at the reflected image. The slight downturn of the left side of her mouth was the only immediately visible sign of her injuries. Close inspection would still see the physical unevenness of the scar lines and flattening of her left cheekbone, but otherwise, she looked normal. Tears slowly flowed down her face.

Quinn watched, feeling the satisfaction that comes from making a real difference in someone's life.

"Quinn." Fran sniffed back more tears. "I never though...hell, thank you."

Watching her friend, ideas locked together in Quinn's mind. I really know what I want to do now.

Thanks to Isa Yo-Jo at PPMB for information about scar concealing makeup.

Thanks to Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.

July 2005.