The Author as a Lesbian - Season 2




1. Episode One

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are owned by Glenn Eichler and MTV; no infringement is intended, and no money is being made. Also, close paraphrasing and some verbatim use from various episodes, again, no infringement intended.

A/N: As there is no absolute definitive time line for the various seasons, I'm going to go with each of the first four seasons depicting a semester, with possible stretching forward or back to cover summers, and IIFY?, Season 5, and IICY? covering the summer before senior year through the summer after senior year. I may write beyond that, but that's where I'm placing things as far as that goes. If anyone can come up with anything more definitive, let me know, and I'm paying attention to the thread I started on this subject. Also, credit for Daria's verse goes to 45Ranger and Erin M. on PPMB.

"Daria, can I talk to you?" Quinn had just stuck her head inside her sister's door.

"Sure, but I'm going to have to charge you. Ten minutes might wipe out everything you got for Christmas." Daria smirked, then waved her hand. "C'mon in."

Quinn walked in and looked at all the books, the Taung Baby and human skull replicas, and shuddered as she sat down. She looked at her sister. "Listen, I know we haven't always got along -"

Daria cut in. "We have had pretty normal conflicts for sisters with wildly different interests. I'd like to think that we're getting better with each other, but time will tell if it's real or just a blip on the radar." She shrugged. "What's up?"

"Well, you see, it's about Sandi..." She went on to describe the latest goings-on in the Fashion Club, and how it was frustrating her. Finally, she ground to a halt.

Daria rested her chin in her hand. "Hmm. Let me see if I've got this right. You're in this fashion club, and it's frustrating you because it's becoming obvious to you that, for most of the others, being in the club is not about fashion. For Sandi, it's a combination of a way to wield power and a way to be popular; for Tiffany, it's all about the popularity, and for Stacy, it's about a group to fit into. None of them care enough about fashion to do more than consult the print version of an infomercial, and Tiffany and Stacy haven't found an issue that they disagree with Sandi enough on to stand up to her until now.

"Which brings us to you. You, when we first got here, were far more about being popular than fashion. I hate to say it, but that girl at the fair bursting your bubble about modeling did you a big favor, and you're concentrating on the parts that you really like, like making clothes. I'm proud of you, Quinn." Daria watched her sister beam. "Now, back to your problem. The first thing is, and this should be obvious to you, is that your priorities aren't the same as theirs, anymore."

"I know." Quinn sighed. "If it wasn't for Stacy, I think I'd have given up and left already. Every so often, I see a smart, conscientious, loyal friend in there, but Sandi keeps on bringing her down, keeping her off balance."

Daria nodded. "And Sandi, bad as she is, keeps you doing your best with the competition. The question is, is this something that you want to compete at, any more?"

Quinn shook her head. "There is no competition, as far as fashion goes. If they'd read something other than Waif... But I'm pretty sure that I'm the only one that really wants to work in the fashion industry." She looked up at Daria, and her eyes shone. "It's so cool, Daria. Taking these different kinds of cloth, and making someone twice as pretty as she was before! Even more, being able to make something pretty! Thank you, again, for that sewing machine!" She stopped and took a breath.

"As far as the popularity goes, I can more than hold my own, and after listening to what you had to say about some things, I looked around." Her smile turned into a frown. "The people at the very top of the popular heap get there in two ways. Most times they make themselves look like different things to different people, or, and sometimes and, they climb to the top over people that they've made fail. I don't like the thought of being either of those things."

"You'd rather be yourself, and let the chips fall where they may?" Daria interjected. Quinn nodded. "So I get that staying in the club is making you compromise your integrity. And, by the way, Sandi's been playing a game of her own, with this, 'Oh, Quinn, you're so much better, maybe you should be president." She looked at her sister. "In poker, it's called, 'buying the pot,' and people like it about as much as you do. Even with rules to prevent the person with the most money to just bet more than anyone else has to win every pot, it means that that you have to decide whether to commit everything right at the beginning. And you're right, it's frustrating. But now that you've told me what your priorities are, there's a way around it. Now, the next time..."

The girls talked well into the evening.

Daria was working hard on her painting in Ms. Defoe's class. This was one class where her brain didn't entitle her to an easy A; she had to train her hands to do what her brain told them. So she didn't pay much attention when Ms. Defoe walked by her and said, "Good," and even less when Ms. Defoe asked Brittany if she had spilled her paint.

Hearing Principal Li and Mr. O'Neill come through the door did break her concentration. The pair stood near the door until Ms. Defoe noticed them, then Mr. O'Neill spoke.

"Is this a good time, Ms. Defoe?"

Ms. Defoe shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, come on in. Class, Ms. Li and Mr. O'Neill have some intriguing news."

"Lawndale High is participating in a state-wide art contest," Ms. Li bubbled.

"That's why we chose an art class to be the place to announce it," Mr. O'Neill said with a smile.

Ms. Li looked the class over. "The theme of the contest is 'Student Life at the Dawn of the Millennium.'"

"What's it like to be a high school student in today's fast-changing world."

Ms. Li nodded. "Entry is strictly voluntary, of course, although frankly, I don't see how any of you could think of passing up the chance to bring honor unto yourself and Lawndale High."

Jane leaned over near Daria. "Unto?"

Daria smirked. "Buckle my shoe."

Mr. O'Neill continued. "Ms. Defoe will choose the entries from each art class, and I'm contest coordinator for the school. Good luck, kids!"

Ms. Li smiled. "Students, I urge you to take this opportunity. Curiosity... inquiry... expression... these are the building blocks of education."

"Ma'am?" Brittany asked.

"No questions! Good luck, all!" Ms. Li responded before she left with Mr. O'Neill, as the bell rang.

"And that didn't undercut her last statement at all," Daria said to Jen, who had walked up to them from the other side of the room.

Brittany harrumphed. "I wanted to tell her I've got a great idea for a poster!"

Daria got an evil grin before she turned to Brittany and, with a somewhat vacant face, said, "Me, too. Mine's going to be about cheerleading."

Brittany looked crestfallen. "Oh, no! Now what'll I do?"

Kevin, passing by, said, "How about something on quarterbacks, babe?" His suggestion was rewarded by Brittany stomping out.

As the girls were getting ready to go, Ms. Defoe motioned to Jane. "Jane, can you stay a minute?"

Daria and Jen waited at the door and listened in.

When Jane walked up to her, Ms. Defoe said, "Jane, I'm eager to see what all the students come up with for this contest."

"All the students who choose to participate," Jane riposted.

"But I really can't wait to see your entry," Ms. Defoe continued as though Jane hadn't spoken.

"Well, you know, I really don't think artists should compete with each other. See, I believe in a community of creativity."

"You're such an accomplished artist, and such an original thinker. If there's anyone in this school who can capture student life today, it's you, Jane. I just want to say, good luck."

Jane looked like she was going to ask for help from above, but, instead - "Thanks."

The girls were walking home, and Jane was complaining. "Dammit! Why did she have to be so nice? Now I have to come up with some stupid poster about student life."

"Where to start? There's so much to hate about it," quipped Daria.

The girls stopped.

"You know, nobody said the message had to be positive. I'm going to do something that really represents student life." Jane ran her fingers through her hair.

"Yes," Daria said.

"And tell the truth about how much it can suck."

"Yes," said Jen.

"To blow away the story-book fantasy about how great it is to be young."

"Yes." Daria again.

Jane looked at the other two. "And you're going to help."

"No," they chorused.

Soon they were in their usual positions in Jane's room. You gotta help me. You're the most negative people I know."

"Thanks," said Jen.

Jane tried pleading. "Come on! Now's your chance to tell the world what you really think of life at Lawndale High."

Daria looked up. "Tell the world that I, Daria Morgendorffer, have something to say."

Jane nodded. "Or you and Jen, but yes."

Daria looked back down. "No."

Still pleading, Jane said, "Come on!"

Daria looked over at Jen and sighed. "All right. We'll make our personal statement, and we'll stand behind it."

"I knew you would." Jane smiled.

"But only on condition of strict anonymity."

Jane smirked. "You're a real Joan of Arc, you know that?"

Jen groaned. "Yeah, and I think we just ordered a stake."

"How about we call it, 'America's Future Leaders,' and we just enlarge a picture of Kevin and Brittany?" asked Daria.

"Come on, that's too depressing," Jane replied. "How about we call it, 'Beauty is only Skin Deep,' and we attach the actual skin of a student?"

"Yeah, but we'll get one donated about the same time that us three get married," said Jen.

Daria's face lit up. "Hey!"

Ms. Defoe was looking at the various students' paintings. "Well, it's very gratifying to see so much participation in the art contest," she said as she walked up to Upchuck. "Charles, what's the name of your poster?"

"I call it, 'Ride, Chucky, Ride'."

"And what exactly does it say about student life at the century's edge?"

"It's more of a personal mission statement," Upchuck smarmed.

"More like Mission, Impossible," muttered Daria.

Moving on, Ms. Defoe went to Brittany's canvas, which had a crude depiction of bottles of whiskey and pills. "Tell us about your poster, Brittany."

Brittany perked up. "I call it, 'Don't Drink or Take Drugs.' And the message is, don't drink or take drugs!"

Ms. Defoe looked puzzled. "But how do we get that message? All I see is the alcohol and the drugs, with no negative imagery to symbolize their dangers."

Brittany paused in thought, reached into her bag, took out a tube of lipstick, and proceeded to draw a large circle with a slash over the poster. "There!"

"Well, Brittany, that's... um... let's talk after class." Ms. Defoe walked up to Jane. "And Jane, what did you decide?"

Ms. Defoe looked at the poster, depicting what appeared to be a pep rally. "So beautifully detailed!" Football players and cheerleaders, in Lawndale colors, were dancing around and throwing wood on a huge bonfire, that seemed to be up against a building. Already on the fire was the effigy of a Halloween witch - pointy hat, wart on the nose, and all. Parents and boosters seemed to be clapping and pointing at the building. Next to the fire, there was a large window that showed two beautiful girls in ball gowns, and two dapper young men in tuxedos. Outside, two equally beautiful girls and two equally handsome boys were tied to stakes near the fire, with another two being carried up to a third stake. Then she read the card attached at the bottom:

Look at them in the window
They're the belles as they twirl,
They're the men with a plan;

Look what happens when they show
That she's in love with a girl,
And he's in love with a man.

And now the bonfire is lit
As they let out a cheer
And the message is sent
"No dykes or fags here."

Ms. Defoe frowned. "Oh, Jane, I don't think that's funny."

"Um, you don't?" Jane said, searching for something to say. After Jen whispered into her ear, she responded, "It's not meant to be funny."

"Do you think that it's your place to pass judgment on people who do silly things, just because you don't?"

"But that's not what I'm saying at all...hold it..." Jane seemed confused again, and looked at Daria.

"What are you saying?"

Daria rolled her eyes. "She's saying that many activities, thought to be necessary for kids to be popular, like cheerleading and pep rallies, can become dangerous experiments in mob psychology. When you first see the picture, you say, 'what a nice pep rally - bonfire.' Then you catch the elements that make it a literal witch hunt, and that, among other things, the mob is taking down their so-called 'leaders,' the very popular, if they ever show that they're different."

Ms. Defoe raised her eyebrow. "Oh, is that what you're saying, Jane?"

Jane mumbled, "Pretty much."

"And you felt you had to say it in such graphic, unappealing language." At this, both Jane and Ms. Defoe looked at Daria, who sighed and pointed to Jen.

"The choice of words was deliberate, to contrast with the liveliness of the image and shock the viewer into paying attention to the parts that they might not have before," the blonde girl said.

Ms Defoe smiled. "You know what, Jane? This really is a work of art, and it really does make a statement, in an original way. I'd like you to let me enter it in the state-wide competition."

"Sounds okay."

"And how does it sound to your collaborators?"

They nodded, while Daria muttered, "Next time we give you a prepared statement."

The three girls sat, not unexpectedly, in the principal's office the next day. As soon as they were seated, Timothy O'Neill began.

"Daria, Jane, Jen, this poster is beautiful!"

Ms. Li added her kudos. "Truly accomplished. A real credit to yourselves and Lawndale High."

O'Neill continued. "And the - interesting - counterpoint. Except..."

"Yes?" asked Daria in her traditional monotone.

"There's these two lines, and a part of the poster. Ewww." Mr. O'Neill shuddered.

"Yes?" Daria raised an eyebrow.

"I'm just wondering if you would consider changing the part about 'fags' and 'dykes.' They're kinda yucky."

"And if we could exclude the part to the right of the bonfire. It presents a distasteful picture to the student body. You know we wouldn't want people doing that." Ms. Li put in her two cents.

Daria tried to rein in her temper. "That's the point."

"So we're all on the same page!" Mr. O'Neill seemed pleased.

"What are you smoking?" asked Burnout.

"Look, our view is that a lot of high school is a popularity contest, egged on by the parents and other adults in the picture, where you are rewarded if you conform to the mob, but if you don't conform, even if you were leading the mob before, you will be dragged down and destroyed." Jane looked at the shocked look on Daria's face. "So it takes me a while."

"But they look so happy and active," Mr. O'Neill said. "Why not make the theme positive? 'Teamwork can get anything done!'"

Jen narrowed her eyes. "Boy, you really don't get it at all, do you?"

Daria sighed. "Look, I didn't even want to write this stupid poem. I don't care about what other people do by themselves. But if you change those lines and cut the poster, it becomes just another phony dishonest message. It'll applaud the same thing it criticized before. Don't you see that?"

Ms. Li chipped in. "Ms. Morgendorffer, is it a crime for people to have pride in their sports teams?"

Standing, Daria said, "Do whatever you want to the poster. Just take my name off it."

Also standing, Jane and Jen echoed her sentiments.

Ms. Li put her hands on her desk. "Now, now, ladies. Emotions are running high. Let's all take 24 hours to think about it, hmmm?"

Daria shook her head. "We don't need to. Ms. Li, you have three options. Either you take our names off the poster, you submit the poster exactly as it is now, or you return the poster to us." She got out her cellphone. "Any other course of action will result in my calling my mother, who will then be on her way to winning another lawsuit with the school district. I hardly think that the superintendent will thank you for that." She poised her thumb over the first speed dial button. "So which is it?"

"So Li gave in?" Trent's rough voice asked later that evening, as the three girls sat at a table at Pizza King, two pies sitting demolished in front of them.

Daria nodded. "She knew that my mom would sue the school and win, if she didn't. So she decided that her best bet was to enter it as it was. We'll see how that turns out, but I think that any painting by Jane, here," and she turned and kissed Jane on the cheek, "has a good chance of winning, and that's before Jen," and she kissed the blonde's cheek, "and I helped with the words."

Trent sat, flabbergasted. "You- you're -"

Daria smirked. "Gay? Yes. Jane's known since the second day after I moved here, and Jen, almost since we met." Her face morphed into its normal unreadability. "While we were putting together the poster, it occurred to me that one of the reasons witch hunts worked was that people were afraid of them. The mob almost always was chasing a fugitive, not defending itself from someone fighting them. So, while I'm going to do it slowly, because I am afraid, I'm going to be myself. The mob be damned."

Nods and murmurs answered her as they got up to head home.

2. Episode Two

Daria and Jane both smirked, watching Mr. DeMartino speak in a normal tone as he slowly approached Kevin, who had managed to fall asleep in the twenty minutes since class began.

"And finally, we will be teaming up with the Science and Language Arts departments for an interdisciplinary field trip to Jim's Paintballing Jungle." Mr. DeMartino had completed his approach and was now almost nose-to-nose with the dozing quarterback. He spoke his next sentence very loudly. "An activity that some of you may find more taxing than sleeping through class!"

Kevin struggled to awaken, saying, "Umm...The Major League of Nations?" to everyone's titters.

Mr. DeMartino stood up and continued walking. "And why are we going to engage in simulated combat? Daria?"

"Well, I could say so that we could see how history repeats itself most often in war, how physics and weather affect it, and how communication can often make a difference, but mostly I think no high school education is complete until you've chased your fellow students and teachers around the woods with toy guns."

A grin appeared on Mr. DeMartino's face. "Your sarcasm amuses me, Daria. I hope it provides you comfort when you're cowering in a foxhole. We're going to study how warfare affects all aspects of culture. Now, we're going to need parent volunteers. That is, if anyone can pull themselves away from their six figure jobs as sycophants!"

Daria nearly facepalmed herself when she saw Kevin raise his hand.

Unfortunately, Mr. DeMartino noticed it, as well. "Yes, Kevin?" he asked.

"My dad's not a sycophant, Mr. D. He's a contractor!"

Mr. DeMartino took a deep breath. "Kevin, stay close to me when you get to the paintball range, okay, son?"


And with that affirmation, Mr. DeMartino let out an evil laugh that followed the students out the door.

Quinn knocked on Daria's open door and walked in.

"I'm sorry, the maximum occupancy is one. Please exit through the front," Daria said, not looking up from her copy of "Catch-22."

"Dar-i-a. I'm just checking. We aren't telling Mom and Dad that they're looking for paintball volunteers, right?"

Daria put a bookmark in her novel and closed it. "Right. We work together for the sake of a common goal: no mention of paintballing or volunteering from either one of us."

"Agreed." Quinn walked out, and to her own room, where Daria could hear her and the club discussing helmet hair and braids.

The next evening, Daria and Helen were sitting at the kitchen table when Quinn walked in, her hair in small braids. Having seen her a moment before their mother, Daria spoke up. "Hi, Quinn. Nice new 'do."

Quinn blushed. "Thanks. I just decided to experiment a little."

Daria raised her eyebrow. "This wouldn't have anything to do with a new bike path they're making, and all the hot guys?"

"Well, if we're going to ride bikes, we can't have helmet hair!" Quinn said, feigning annoyance.

"Just be safe, Quinn," Helen said. "We don't want to have to pick you up after you've been hurt."

"That's what the braids are for, Mom," Quinn said. "So we can wear helmets and still look good."

Daria, Jane, and Jen sat near the back of the bus, watching Mr. O'Neill try to infuse school, or possibly competitive, spirit into the students.

"All right! Now lets see which side of the bus can sing the loudest! Left side!" he sang, while marching in place, "'When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah!' Come on, left side, don't be shy." He gave out a surprised yelp as Mr. DeMartino stood up and shoved him out of the way.

"Thank you, Mr. O'Neill, for your tireless dedication to reminding the students how out of touch we are. Now, we're going to discuss the history of guerrilla warfare." Mr. DeMartino continued talking as the girls lost interest.

"'Only 20 miles to the Great White Shark.' You know, sharks don't really like to eat humans. They usually just tear out a bite and swim away," Jane said.

"Well, usually with a vital organ or two, but yeah." Daria looked a bit down.

"C'mon, guys. This'll be cool," Jen said with a smile. "A whole afternoon with nothing to do but shoot the shit?" At the puzzled looks of her compadres, she continued. "All we have to do is make sure that we're on the same team, shoot each other at the start, find a comfort station, and we're done." At their dawning smiles, she nodded.

On the other bus, the members of the Fashion Club, all with their hair in braids, were having their own meeting. Sandi spoke up. "So it's decided: no matter what happens, we won't shoot each other and mess up our outfits." She held her hand over her copy of Waif as if it were a Bible. "If I fire on a fellow Fashion Club member, may I wear brown pants with an elastic band for a whole week."

Quinn chimed in, her hand on the magazine. "If I fire, I'll wear taupe pantyhose. The shiny kind."

Stacy put her hand on the mag as well. "Stonewashed jeans."

And Tiffany. "Glasses."

The three J's all chimed in, pledging to protect Quinn, who accepted, without any great enthusiasm.

When they got off the bus, the girls were astounded by the sight of their parents, dressed in camouflage, waiting for them. "Surprise!" they chorused.

While Quinn just gave out a yelp and ran off, Jane leaned over and asked softly, "What are they doing here?"

Daria replied, "I guess tormenting me in the privacy of my own home wasn't enough."

Mr. O'Neill said brightly, "Daria, isn't this great? I called your mother about the school review board meeting, but she was going out of town that night and asked if we were looking for paintball volunteers! I only wish more parents cared enough to take such an active role in their child's education."

Jake chimed in, "Me, too!" just as Helen said, "Yes..."

Daria looked over at Jen. "How close are these comfort stations?"

The owner, Jim, was giving the briefing on the course and the rules. "...We also have an exact replica of 'Nam's infamous POW prison, the Hanoi Hilton. Special rates for weddings." He smiled.

Sandi raised her hand. "Colonel, or whatever. Where's the ladies room?"

Jim grinned. "Oh, there are 'comfort stations' scattered about, but they're really well camouflaged." He pointed at Jake. "Hey, you! Come here!"

Jake looked around. "Me?"

Jim nodded. "Watch this!" And he pushed Jake, screaming, into a hole in the ground. "Isn't it great? A whole labyrinth of underground tunnels. You could get lost down there for days."

Helen exclaimed, "Jake!" while Jake yelled, "Yeah, great. Uck, worms!"

After Mr. O'Neill tried, once again, to excite them, Daria told Ms. Barch that they were going out and drawing the enemy's fire. Five minutes later, the three girls had been painted and were on their way to a "comfort station." As they stepped inside under the canvas, Daria smiled at the sight of Jen pulling a notebook and a sketchbook out from her backpack.

"I knew you guys would get bored without these," she explained. After a few minutes, Jen spoke up, again. "Do you guys think I'm a slacker?" she asked.

Jane looked up from her sketch of, strangely enough, Jen. "Jen, amiga, I think that you haven't really settled on what you want to do, but seeing as you're sixteen, I wouldn't call it slacking, yet." She ran her fingers through Jen's hair, smoothing it down, and ignoring the shivers that it gave the girl.

"What she said," Daria added, looking up. "Look, Jane and I know pretty much what we want to do, but in Jane's case, it's because she has a great talent. Her paintings are already on the same level as most professional artists, and she's only going to get better. As for me -" she was interrupted by Jane.

"As for her, you could say the same thing. She is the best at writing to persuade that I've seen. Ever." Jane took a breath and continued. "Now, it could be that I just haven't read all that much, but I think that if someone that good were out there, we'd have heard from them." She looked straight into Jen's eyes. "And you have a talent of your own, if not more than one. Girl, you sing like a dream. I know that there are lots of others that do, too, but there are a lot more that can't." She drew Jen to her and kissed her forehead. "Be patient. Look around, and find what's right for you. You're not a slacker."

Daria spoke up, just as thunder rumbled, and rain started coming down onto the tent. " brings up something. I know I said I'd be coming out slowly last week. But I didn't re- strike that. I didn't want to realize that by coming out, however slowly, I'd be bringing one or both of you out, too. Even if nothing were happening, people would assume you two were gay just because you're my friends."

Jen shrugged. "Everyone who's important to me already knows that I'm bi. For the assholes that want to mess with me..." she flicked her lockblade open.

Jane smiled and brushed a bang off of Daria's glasses. "What I told you when I was laid up still stands, and always will."

After having managed to all shoot each other, and accusing each of the others of cheating, the Fashion Club had managed to make it to the Hanoi Hilton before the rain started. Quinn had just sat down and started watching the other students dance when Tiffany approached her. "Where's Sandi?" she asked.

"Oh, you know Sandi. Always looking for a bathroom."

Quinn nodded. "She looks really cute today."

Tiffany nodded slowly. "Mm-hmm."

"Cuter than me?" Quinn asked. This was one of the test questions that she and Daria had worked out.

"Oh, no. You're way cuter."

Quinn nodded at the response. Well, that settles that. Stacy may be salvageable, but those two... She gave out an involuntary shudder.

As the rain softly came to an end, Jen looked at her watch. "We should probably start heading for the bus, they'll be going, soon," she said. She gently squeezed Daria's and Jane's hands as they made their way to the front of the course. When they got there, just ahead of Quinn and the three Js, they heard Mr. O'Neill ask about the Morgendorffers.

Ms. Li said, "They drove here, they can drive back," but she seemed a bit smug to Daria. However, they had the car, and their cell phones, so she let it go. Ms. Li asked if everyone was accounted for, and they all got in and collapsed in their seats while the buses started away. No one saw the small figure running to catch up with the bus, slipping, and falling in a mud puddle.

3. Episode Three

"Before we all leave for Super Bowl weekend," Mr. O'Neill was saying, "I'd like to give a little appreciation to one of our students who has been the most improved over the last two months. She has gone from barely passing, to consistently turning in high-B to low-A work. Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Quinn Morgendorffer!"

Quinn blushed as the few claps of applause, along with many shocked looks (and some glares from Sandi and Tiffany) washed over her. She looked back at them, her mouth firmed into a small smile. Daria was so right.

As they picked up their books to leave the classroom, Quinn leaned over to Stacy. "Wanna come over to my house, say, three fifteen?" she asked.

"Your house? Sure!" Stacy exclaimed, then paused. "But, what about the Fashion Club meeting?"

"Oh, Stacy," giggled Quinn, "the Fashion Club meeting isn't until four. We have plenty of time!" And with that, the two girls made their way out of the class, and Quinn slipped away from both Stacy and the duo of Sandi and Tiffany, who were waiting with crossed arms.

Daria, Jen, and Jane had just gotten in from school and were settling down to watch a healthy dose of Sick, Sad World, when a knock came on the door.

"I'm sorry, but you must knock three times on the ceiling if you want me," called out Daria.

"Dar-i-a!" her sister's voice sounded through the doorway. "It's important." Daria nodded, and Jen, who was closest to the door, turned the knob, letting Quinn in.

Daria raised her eyebrow. "This is false advertising. You said you were important, and now I find that you're Quinn." Seeing Quinn roll her eyes, she relented. "What's going on, Quinn?"

Quinn looked with almost pleading eyes at Daria. "You remember that talk we had right when the semester began?" Seeing Daria's nod, she continued. "I think that it's coming to a head today. Mr. O'Neill made a big thing about how much better my grades have been in his class, and both Sandi and Tiffany were staring daggers at me."

"First, congratulations, Quinn," Daria said, with no hint of sarcasm in her voice. "I'm proud of you. Next, I take it you asked Stacy over?" She looked over at Jane and Jen. "We talked about Quinn's problems with the Fashion Club just before that whole poster thing, and laid out a strategy, based on how things went down. Quinn's going to show Stacy her real fashion magazines, where and how real fashion is made for people, and try to keep her. Not as a pawn in a power play, like Sandi seems bent on playing, but as a friend who has an interest in fashion and makeup."

"And later tonight, Sandi and Tiffany are going to come over and make me do things their way, just like I've always done," said Quinn. "Except this time, I'm not letting them run over me, and I'm gonna be out of the Fashion Club, hopefully with Stacy. But even if she's not, I'm going." She turned and looked at Daria. "Are you going to hold up your part? I think the Valentine's Dance will do."

Daria sighed. "Well, let's ask them." She turned to Jane and Jen. "What Quinn's talking about is that, to push the point home that she's not abandoning fashion, just the Fashion Club, she wants to design clothing and make us up for the next dance. Since I came up with this, I'm committed." She took a deep breath. "Will you two go to the Valentine's Dance with me? And will you let Quinn dress you?"

Jane seemed almost in shock, her face pale. "Daria? What does this mean? I mean -" she was stopped by a hug from Jen.

Daria looked right into Jane's eyes. "Lane, I meant what I said. You are the most important person in the world to me." She grabbed both Jen and Quinn's hands. "Even though there's a lot of competition for second place, most of those people are there because you showed me that someone could like and accept me for me, just as I am." She took a breath. "If you never are anything beyond a best friend to me for the rest of my life, I will be more than happy." A small smile appeared on her lips. "Of course, I told you what kind of girls I go for."

Jen spoke up from her hug. "Daria and I talked about this once. We're not at the point where we're choosing life partners yet, even if you two seem to have chosen each other. We know that we're attracted to each other, and both attracted to you. I know I don't know how this will play out, all three together, one couple and one friend, or all three going their separate ways, but I know that I want to be with you both in some way, friendship, romance, marriage, for as far as I can see ahead." She squeezed Jane's hand and looked up at her. "So, yeah, Daria, I'll go with you, and I'd be very happy if Jane came, too."

Jane gave out a crooked grin. "What the hell, I guess it's the three amigas!

Stacy was in shock. For the past three years, Sandi had pounded it into her head that there was only one arbiter of fashion, and that was Waif. Now here Quinn was showing her tons of other fashion magazines, and even for the mid-teen body types, all of Quinn's magazines were better at making them look good than Waif. She looked up at Quinn. "Why are you showing me this?"

Quinn crossed her arms and set her face. "Because tonight, Sandi's going to try and make me 'not be a brain,' or in other words, not be better than her, so that she can still control me, us." She looked into Stacy's eyes. "When that fails, she'll put me on a 'fashion sabbatical,' which I will take and turn into leaving the club." She took a breath. "Stacy, the reason that I'm showing you this is that you're the only other one that seems to be interested in the actual fashion part of the club, rather then using the club for popularity or power. Your skills with makeup are just - wow." Quinn looked down. "I do know that if we do this, Sandi'll try and make us look bad, like we left because we don't care about fashion." She looked back up and smiled. "But Daria and I have a plan to take care of that."

Stacy raised her eyebrows and tugged her pigtails. "Daria? Your cousin?"

Quinn blushed. "My sister. I was a little stupid when we came to school here."

Stacy smiled. "You're already ahead of Sandi, She can never admit her mistakes." She took a breath. "All right, I'm in. On one condition."

Quinn raised her eyebrows. "Which is?"

"That you don't just throw me to the curb when this is done. As long as I'm loyal to you, you be loyal to me. I'm not a toy, I'm your friend," Stacy said, staring at Quinn.

Quinn hugged her, startling Stacy. "Of course! It wouldn't be worth it, any other way."

"The Fashion Club will come to order," Sandi said from her seat on the floor with her back against Quinn's bed. "None opposed, we'll dispense with the reading of our last meeting's minutes, and get to the first item of business." She stared at Quinn. "It has come to our attention that one of our members has been spending more time in study that that needed to simply pass, cutting down on her time to present the best possible representation of a member of the Club. She has been warned in the past about this matter, but assured us that she was doing fashion research. Since this is obviously not true, we need to hear from her before we decide on what actions to take. Quinn?"

Quinn looked steadily back at her supposed friend. "When I told you I was researching fashion, I was researching fashion," she said, flatly. "It's not my fault if I can cover my duties to the club and put energy into my homework, as well." Her look disguised her inner shuddering. This was going to go bad in the short run. If Daria wasn't right about it rebounding right after... "So I don't think that there's an infraction to take action on."

Sandi looked flabbergasted. "Then-" She shook her head. "Since the member will not admit her error, on my authority as President, we will commit Quinn to taking a fashion sabbatical of no less than three weeks, during which she will not take part in any meetings or events of the Club. After that time, she can petition for un-sabbaticalness."

Quinn smiled and shook her head. Right down to using the word petition. How does Daria know these things? She looked back at Sandi. "No need. I think that I'll spend the time that I've wasted on this club on something that really interests me. And since you're kicking me out, I guess you wouldn't be caught dead in an unfashionable persons' house. Move to adjourn?"

Stacy seconded, and as the girls gathered their things, Quinn said, "Stacy, you can stay," which put the shocked looks back on Sandi and Tiffany's faces.

Sandi's eyes narrowed. "You've been planning this." She took a breath. "How long?"

Quinn's eyes sparkled. "Let's just say that I wasn't the only person who saw you fall in the puddle behind the buses."

Tiffany slowly drawled out a question. "Whaaat interests you, Quinnn?"

Quinn smirked. "Fashion."

Daria rubbed her eyes. These contacts sure do itch. Thank God it's only for one night. She looked around. Quinn had outdone herself, and in record time. The only way that she had finished was that she had done nearly all of the prep work on everyone's dress but Stacy's before "The Incident," as Jane called it. She had taken the week and a half to do fit and finish on theirs, and to work Stacy's dress up.

Sandi had done as they had guessed, starting a whispering campaign about how Quinn was now a "brain," and didn't have enough time to be cute or fashionable. To her credit, Quinn had not responded to any of those rumors, simply giving a small smile and keeping Stacy and the three Js close around her. Tonight, Daria was forced to admit that she looked lovely, in a close-fitting lime-green dress where everything was simple but coordinated, from her barrettes to her shoes. Jamie was looking dapper in his tux by her side.

Daria smiled wryly as she looked in the mirror. She had given Quinn and Stacy carte blanche in dressing her for tonight, and they had taken it. The contacts were one of their first demands, one that her mother happily underwrote. Then came the hair salon, the high-heeled shoes, the dark emerald dress...they actually didn't do anything to her makeup after she had shown that she could apply it more than competently. They were amazed at the results until Daria reminded Quinn that she had been the Fashion editor in Highland. Daria knew that she had a nice body, and could show it off like this most days. But why? She wasn't interested in being judged by her looks or attracting the boys, and had the girls that she wanted, who had not been pressing her to show more.

Well, that may be about to change, Daria mused as she remembered the moment, a half-hour ago, when she, Jane, and Jen had seen each other. Daria had been struck dumb at the sight of her girls. Jane was in a black and red dress, while Jen's was black with dark green accents. Both were very close fitting, and Daria thought (while drool collected in her mouth) that she would have trouble keeping the boys away. Jen even had her hair pulled back, showing her pretty face.

Stacy stood by Jeffy, her hair out of pigtails and flowing over her shoulders, and wearing a sky-blue dress that just exactly complemented her. He didn't seem at all unhappy to be escorting her.

After Helen and Jake finished taking pictures of everybody, Quinn led the way to the waiting limo.

The instant that the group came through the doors, all conversation ceased. Joey (who had accepted the DJ job before "The Incident") stopped the music, and all eyes fell on the group. Five beautiful girls, two handsome men, and for once, the spotlight wasn't on Quinn. It was on Daria, her fingers interlaced with both Jane's and Jen's. Jaws dropped all over the hall.

The first person to come up to them was a football player named Robert. In a voice reminiscent of Keanu Reeves, he looked at Daria and said, "Ma'am? You look very pretty tonight. Would you like to dance?"

Daria blushed, and said, "Thank you, but no. I've got my dates right here." And she held up her arms with her dates's fingers still entwined. "Thank you for the complement on my appearance, my sister Quinn designed and made these dresses." After Robert walked away, several other men came up and asked one or the other of the girls the same general questions, and received the same general answers - "we're spoken for, and Quinn designed our clothes."

Finally, Joey started the music again, and everyone started to dance. Daria, Jane, and Jen all danced together, except on the slow songs, where they switched off, and every third slow song, a particular pairing got to dance. During one of these where Daria and Jane were dancing, Jen was sitting at a table near Quinn, Stacy and their dates. She saw Sandi and Tiffany, with their dates, approach the table, so she quietly stood up and put her hand in her purse, where she had kept her lockblade.

"Well, Qu-win, it looks like you've managed to dress all of your friends in unfashionable clothing," Sandi said.

"What are you talking about?" asked Quinn, although she was fairly certain that she knew the answer.

"Well, Waif says -" Sandi started, only to be interrupted by Quinn.

"Oh, Sandi, what Waif says isn't fashion, it's what makes their advertiser's products sell," Quinn said, amused. "Did you know that Waif once said that cutoffs were in fashion because one of their advertisers had gotten a truckload of jeans with bad legs?"

"Well, it's unfashionable to be around those kind of people, and your cousin or something is one of them."

Quinn was trying hard not to giggle. "Sandi, for your information, Daria is my sister, and yes, she's gay. And if you are going to work in fashion or modeling, you'd better get used to being around them, and working with them, as there are a lot of them in the industry." Her face lost its air of amusement, and she was about to say something, when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

Jen quietly said, "I'll take this," to Quinn, then turned to Sandi. "I'm gonna say that everything she told you was right. She made us beautiful for tonight. But, sister," and she looked directly into Sandi's eyes, which would have caused Sandi to back up if her date hadn't been right behind her, "if you're thinking about doing harm to her, or her sister, or anyone for just being gay, remember about that Tommy Sherman guy, and how he outweighed her three to one, and you don't."

Sandi, in a figurative corner, said, "And what if someone comes after you?" Her attempted sneer vanished when Burnout pulled her knife out, opened it, and started cleaning her nails with it, all in the course of a couple of seconds.

"Please do. Please give me a reason."

4. Episode Four

The next day, the girls were whispered and stared at all through the morning. Finally, at lunch, Daria had had enough. With Jane and Jen sitting on either side of her, she sat down on a table and said, in a loud, clear voice, "Hey!" After the murmur of voices had stopped, she continued. "All morning, you have pointed and stared at me and my friends. So does anyone have something to ask, or something to say?"

Unsurprisingly, the first person to stand up was Kevin. "so, uh, Daria, we're, well at least I am, wondering. We were at the dance last night, and, uh, are you one of those dyke women?"

"Well, I prefer the terms gay, or lesbian, but yes, Kevin. You'll have to ask my companions their specific leanings, yourselves." She looked to either side and saw her friends smirking. "Of course, my question is, why do you care? You haven't been chasing me, and I certainly haven't been encouraging you, Kevin."

"Well, yeah, but you weren't a babe before, and you were last night." He seemed confused.

"Kevin, I was the same person last night that I've been for the last year or more. I looked a little better, because I was wearing one of my sister's handmade dresses, and Stacy Rowe's makeup, but I was essentially the same person you've known for more than half a year, a brain who didn't flirt with anyone, and who didn't want to be judged by her appearance. My true friends, and I have more of them than I would have thought when I came here, don't. They look at all of the other things that make up someone." She looked at Kevin again, and saw that he was even more confused. "Look, Kevin, you weren't interested in me before because I was a brain, and because you have Brittany, right?" He nodded. "Well, nothing's really changed. I'm still a girl that you're not going to get together with, for whatever reason. So you don't have to worry about it. Sound good?"

He appeared lost in thought for a moment, then he raised his head and said, "Okay!" Daria had turned around, preparing to sit down next to Jen, when a voice rang out.

"You're going to Hell!" Daria turned, and identified the speaker as Priscilla, one of the students who had joined LHS on the same day that she did, and a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ.

She crossed her arms and leaned back against the table. "I'll have to disagree with you on that point, at least if you're saying the reason would be my lesbianism." She shifted a bit as she looked straight at the girl. "Listen, you're a Christian, right?" Priscilla nodded. "Well, then why is this such a big issue for you? You've got at least three passages in the Bible that pretty much tell you to butt out of things like this." Daria counted on her fingers. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Unless someone accepts Jesus like a child, with his whole heart, he is not saved. 'I give to you a new commandment, that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.' Do not point at the speck in your brother's eye before removing the beam from your own." She sighed. "This is the set of rules that you have agreed to follow. And what they say is, in sum, 'You cannot force people to believe and be saved. Show them love, show them how God's grace has affected your life, and leave it to me to administer the rod of correction.' You can show people your beliefs, you cannot force them to take yours just because you find their actions distasteful. Not harmful, simply distasteful." She pointed toward Priscilla. "So your job as a Christian is to make me believe that my actions are wrong, not to hate me or harm me because they make you say, 'Ooo, ick.'"

After a few moments, it became clear that Priscilla was not going to respond. Daria looked around, then said, again loudly and clearly, "Does anyone else have anything to say or ask?" Getting no response, she added, "Good, then I expect the stares and whispering to stop." And with that, she sat down.

"I don't think you've thought this through. What do you do with the hostages one you get to the airport?" Daria asked as they approached the Morgendorffer home.

"They're coming with us. We're talking party plane. All the way to Libya." Jane smiled at Daria.

"Oh, but that means you'll have to give Ghadaffi some of the really good herb," Jen said from the other side, as Daria opened her front door.

Once she did, Helen's voice could be heard coming from the kitchen. "Rita, that's so wonderful. I'm so happy for you! You and Erin both."

Daria stopped in her tracks and turned to her friends. "Ah, you guys had better take a hike."


Daria's mouth formed a frown. "My mom's talking to my Aunt Rita. This isn't going to be pretty."

Jen nodded. "Gotcha. Later, huh?" she said as they both turned to leave. Daria turned and trudged through the house to the kitchen, where her mother was still on the phone, and her father was frantically reading, in order to be out of the line of fire.

"I can't believe it. Little Erin getting married. She's not rushing into this, I hope. Oh, no, no, of course not. Twenty-one is... I'm not implying anything, for goodness sake, Rita. I'm just... this is so exciting! Where? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. That sounds lovely. I presume Mom's footing the bill? No, no..." Daria grimaced as her mother dug herself in ever deeper.

"Your cousin Erin is getting married." Daria turned to see her father peeking over his paper.

"So I had gathered."

"You know there'll be hell to pay."

At that, Helen hung up and walked over to the table. "Well, I guess you all heard the wonderful news. Little Erin is getting married." She shifted to a lower register. "At the Windsor Hills Resort in Leeville."

Jake looked impressed. "Whoa-ho! That'll set Rita back a pretty penny."

Helen was less so. "Not Rita. Mother. Nothing but the best for her favorite daughter's darling offspring."

"Windsor Hills. They've got that legendary thirteenth hole!"

"Forget it, Jake. No golf. Wedding."

Daria, smirking, said, "I'm almost sorry I'm going to miss this."

Helen shook her head. "On the contrary, sweetie: you and Quinn are going to be bridesmaids." Her voice went low again. "I made sure of that."

Daria was shocked. Raising her eyebrows, she said, "Bridesmaids?"

"What a hideous twist of fate. Me, a bridesmaid." Daria said to Jane as they walked down the street.

"Aw, it won't be that bad, I mean, sure, you'll have to wear some frilly peach-color dress that makes you look like a circus freak, and you'll be pinched on the cheeks by old uncles who still think you're six years old, and..."

"Here we are," Daria said, and they went inside the shop.

As they came in, an elderly saleslady greeted them. "I'm sorry, we only do weddings, not funerals."

Distracted, Daria replied, "Believe me, I'd prefer a funeral."

The saleslady said, in a flat voice, "You don't have to get married if you don't want to... or do you?"

Daria gave a flat stare at the woman, and said in a monotone voice, "I'm a bridesmaid in the Chambers-Danielson wedding."

After looking up the information in the computer, the saleslady said, "Here it is. Pity. They're such lovely dresses." Daria started to say something, but was stopped by Jane's hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and saw Jane smile from one side of her mouth, and shrug slightly. Daria held up her forefinger, then followed the lady into the fitting room.

A few minutes later, the lady had the dress on Daria and was attempting to fit it to her. "Nature didn't see fit to give you much in the way of hips, did she, dearie?"

Daria clenched her fists. "That's it," she said, "Stop what you're doing." She began to take the dress off. "I have a little sister who can do this better than you. We'll pay for the dress, but not the fitting." As she put on her regular clothing, she looked at the woman again, "And for your information, my girlfriend thinks that my hips are just fine!"

As they were about to head to the register, Jane hugged her from the side and said, "I really do."

They had just finished paying the suddenly disgruntled saleslady when Jodie and Brittany came in the shop. "Daria?" she asked.

"What are you doing here?" they both asked at the same time.

"Isn't is obvious? An Arab sheik's in town to buy a few more wives." Jane snarked.

"They're putting on a bridal expo in the gym. We're modeling!" Brittany squeaked.

"Well, you should stay away from here, then," said Daria, as she and Jane walked out.

On the day of the wedding, they were finally in the car when Daria turned to Quinn and said, "Once again, Quinn, thank you for your work on this dress. I shudder to think of what it would have looked like if that old lady had fit it."

Quinn blushed, "Oh, it was nothing. Are you sure she took your measurements? The way she had it marked, I'm not even sure that it would have stayed up on you."

"Yes, thank you, Quinn," Helen said. "And the amount that I would have paid the bridal shop for fitting is going to be added to your allowance this time."

"I don't know why you didn't let me bring my golf clubs." Jake grumbled.

"Jake, we're here to see my family, not to have fun."

"Does anyone other than me have a problem with that statement?" Daria muttered to herself.

"Who's escorting your sister to this, anyway?" asked Jake.

Helen pondered. "Well, she dumped the sculptor, the skydiving instructor had that horrible accident, and I believe that Bruno is in some federal facility. So I don't know..."

"That Rita sure knows how to pick 'em." Jake chuckled as he turned into the drive for the resort. They all were shocked when they saw how high-class the resort was.

"Wow!" exclaimed Quinn.

"This will cost your mother a fortune!" said Jake.

"Well, what else should she spend her money on? Something boring, like college funds for her other granddaughters?" Helen was simmering.

Jake chuckled, then grew serious as he started to get what she had said. "Hey..."

Helen continued. "I just keep telling myself that Erin hasn't had the advantages our girls have."

Quinn and Daria looked at each other. "Advantages?" Quinn asked quietly.

Daria shrugged her shoulders. "You got me."

Jake had just finished handing off his car to the valet when Rita and her boyfriend came outside. "Helen!" she cried.

"Rita!" Helen replied as they hugged. Rita then looked over at Jake.

"How are you, Jake?"

He smiled. He managed to get out, "Well, I'm not that..." when he was interrupted by Rita.

"Oh, the girls look lovely." She looked at Daria. "You look especially good, Daria."

"Thank you. My girlfriend thinks so, too. But you can give most of the credit to Quinn, she did the fitting alterations after we ended up with an incompetent seamstress." Quinn blushed.

Rita seemed about to say something, but then turned to Quinn. "Quinn! You look lovely today. And you did the alterations?"

"Yes," Quinn said. "I want to be a fashion designer, and this has seemed to be one of the ways to see if it's right for me."

Helen, trying to regain control of the conversation, said, "I'm sorry about the rehearsal dinner, Rita. I had meetings all yesterday afternoon, and by the time we got on the road..." she trailed off as Rita brought her boyfriend even with her.

"Everyone, this is Paul, my beau."

The man she had introduced smiled. "Hello."

"Paul Meyerson?" Everyone turned to look at Jake.

Paul started, then looked closely at Jake. "Jake?" He turned to Rita. "Jake and I were in Boy Scouts together. You bring your clubs?"

While Jake and Paul were getting re-acquainted, Daria pulled at her mother's sleeve. "Can I talk with you for a minute in private, Mom?" After they had stepped a few feet away, Daria turned to face her. "Mom, I want you to know that I love you very much. But if you start the same argument that you bring up every time we all get together, I'm going to be unhappy with you for a long time." As Helen started to open her mouth, Daria held up her hand. "Save it. Grandma Barksdale has always favored Rita over you and Aunt Amy, always showered her and Cousin Erin with gifts, and made their lives easy while we've had to scratch sometimes to get by." Her mouth firmed. "So what? Since that problem with Tommy Sherman, there is more than enough for me and Quinn to go to any school in the country. That's not even counting the extra that you make as a partner, and the fact that both Quinn and I are making some money on the side with the things we love.

"All you would be getting from Grandma Barksdale at this point is money for toys, and would you really want to humiliate yourself for that? Just be glad that we all can make our way in the world, if we need to, and enjoy the party. Can you do that for me, Mom?"

Helen stood there, shocked, as a single tear made its way down her cheek, and she hugged Daria tightly.

After a few moments, they made their way back to the group, just as a small sports car made its way to the valet drop-off. "I don't mind a few dents, but change the radio station and you're a dead man." was heard from the driver, who got up and walked toward the group.

"Amy, how delightful. I thought you weren't coming." Rita had a pasted-on smile in evidence.

"I wasn't, but I thought if you two could put aside years of bitterness and resentment, then so can I... for a day."

Helen glanced at Daria. "I'm trying to make it more than a day."

Amy gave her sister a genuine smile. "Welcome to the human race." She looked over at Jake. "So, Jake. You're still with Helen, huh? Shows remarkable fortitude." Looking over at Paul, she added, "And Roger. How's the skydiving going?"

Helen interceded. "Amy, Roger passed away. This is Paul."

"Oh, sorry. Paul, how do you do?" She held out her hand.

Taking it, he asked, "Who's Roger?"

Quinn smirked. "He fell onto a cow."

Paul's face paled. "Ick!"

Daria said in her monotone, "And he was one of the lucky ones."

Helen simply said, "Girls," and they both quieted down.

Amy seemed to be trying to suppress a snort. "Hey, what's the point of a senseless tragedy if you can't find a little humor in it? I like the way you think, Daria." She winked at Daria.

Rita picked that moment to decide where to put Amy. Taking her arm, she said, "Now, Amy, I don't know where we're going to seat you..." as she led her into the building.

Daria bumped her mother. "Isn't it nice not to be the focus of the drama, for once?"

They were finally in front of the minister. Daria had spent all of the morning and the start of the afternoon keeping herself occupied by telling the tallest tales that she could think of to the other bridesmaids who, with he exception of Quinn, swallowed every one hook, line, and sinker. She tried to pay attention to the minister, who was droning on.

"And as we share the joy of this lovely young couple, Brian and Erin, we are compelled to ask, what is love? Yes, love, like a tiny rivulet which begins in a high mountain, and only after twisting and turning for thousands of miles, overcoming uncountable obstacles, must eventually meet, and merge, with that great ocean of love which is its birthright and its destiny."

To keep herself awake, she looked back to see who else was asleep. As she looked at Amy, Daria saw that her eyes were crossed, and her tongue was stuck out. This caused Daria to chuckle just as the minister was saying something about, "You will love her deeply," and she was reduced to pointing at one of the other bridesmaids and saying, "It was her."

After the reception, which included many activities, such as pulling men off of the minister after he hit on Quinn, and trying to find where the groom had fled to, the Morgendorffers had finally gotten back into their car and were on the way home. Daria shook her head, bemused.

Quinn looked over at her and asked, "What?"

"It's just that I just realized that for the first time, I announced myself as gay in public, and it wasn't the central object of conversation."

5. Episode Five

Disclaimer 2: Included in this chapter is a excerpt from "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights," performed by Meat Loaf, written by Jim Steinman, I'm assuming copyright is by Steinman or Meat Loaf or both. Once again, no infringement intended.

Daria walked into the kitchen one Friday, and saw her mother unaccustomedly standing on a stool and reaching into the overhead cabinets. "Hiding the cooking sherry from Dad?" she asked.

Helen smiled and shook her head. "I'm going to make some bread, Daria," she said as she pulled out a breadmaker and set it on the counter.

Daria raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that what supermarkets are for?"

Helen sighed. "The Yeagers are coming for the weekend, and I can't serve them store-bought bread."

"Why not?"

"I haven't seen them for twenty five years, and let's just say they know a different Helen," she smiled. "A Helen famous for her oatmeal pumpkin seed loaf."

"And just what have you done with this Helen? I warn you, we will be checking for shallow graves." Just then, a car horn beeped outside.

"They're here! I hope they don't think I've changed too much." Helen quickly primped her hair and hurried outside.

"Just be yourself. That's what you've always told me," Daria said in the tone she used when she wanted to be genuine.

"And I could kick myself for that." Helen looked like she was about to head outside, then stopped in her tracks at Daria's non-expression. Her own expression changed from exasperated, to pleading, to resigned. "All right, all right. Being myself is the best thing to do. But how do I explain that I'm in a better place to support the movement because I've worked within the system?"

"I think you did a pretty good job, just now. But you've got all weekend." With that, they hurried out, where two people were climbing out of an old VW Beetle.

Quinn, who had just come outside herself, muttered to Daria, "What kind of car is that?"

"That isn't a car, it's a time machine."

Helen rushed forward and embraced the woman. "Coyote! Willow!"

Willow, hugging Helen back, said, "Wow, Helen!"

Coyote and Jake, after exchanging an intricate handshake, were just as enthused. "Man!" "My Man!"

They stepped back a bit, and Helen smiled. "You haven't changed a bit."

Willow's smile was not quite as wide. "And you! Well, just look at you!"

While they had been greeting each other, a German Shepard had come up and sat next to Willow. "Why, even Leary is exactly the same," Helen said.

Jake squatted down. "Come here, boy! Don't you remember old Jake?" The dog looked at him with puzzlement.

Then it hit Helen. "Wait, that can't be Leary. He'd be almost thirty by now!"

Willow smiled. "This is Leary number three."

"We had to replace the original a couple of times," Coyote added.

Jake laughed and said, "If only you could do that with Timothy Leary, huh, man?"

Coyote slightly narrowed his eyes and said, in a serious tone, "They're working on it, man."

Helen stepped forward and said, "Well, these two are irreplaceable. Our girls, Quinn and Daria." She gestured towards the girls, and Willow approached them and took one of Daria's hands in both of hers.

"You have a very old soul," she said, looking into Daria's eyes.

Daria smiled wryly as she replied, " Nannh, it just looks mature for its age."

As Willow returned to the other adults, Quinn leaned over to Daria and whispered, "Is this a retro thing, or are they serious?"

Before Daria could answer, Jake said loudly, "Let's get your bags, man!"

Coyote replied, "We travel light."

Daria sighed and said quietly, "In the head. I gotta get out of here before I catch any more good vibes."

Quinn suddenly looked apprehensive. "Daria, you can't leave me here with those, those... yuppies!"

"Yuppies are from the Eighties. You mean hippies. Anyway, one of us should stay. It's a rare opportunity to learn more about Mom and Dad."

"Why would we want to do that?"

"To use against them later. Twenty bucks if you dig up some dirt."

Quinn shook her head. "Sorry, I have a date. If you're getting out of this, so am I."

At that point Coyote called out, "Ethan! Come meet the girls!" A good-looking teenaged boy, in black jeans, a black shirt, and with shoulder-length hair came out of the Beetle.

Quinn turned to Daria. "You said twenty, right?"

As Daria entered what Jane referred to as "Casa Lane," they both heard the sound of guitars down below. Daria cocked her head. "Do my ears deceive me, or has Trent invited friends over? That's competent guitar playing." She paused for a moment. "As a matter of fact, that's Meat Loaf. I didn't think that that was one of his big influences."

Jane smiled and said, "Come on down, we've got a surprise for you."

Daria raised her eyebrows when Jane flipped a light switch near the door on and off several times, but followed her, then was startled into immobility from hearing Trent's voice:

"I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night

And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we're glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C'mon! Hold on tight!
C'mon! Hold on tight!

Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light."

Jane pulled her along, and if she had not been in the car at Alternapalooza, she wouldn't have recognized the voice that responded:

"Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed
Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed

Ain't no doubt about it
Baby got to go and shout it
Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed-"

And Trent picked up the song again:

"Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed

Baby doncha hear my heart
You got it drowning out the radio
I've been waiting so long
For you to come along and have some fun

And I gotta let ya know
No you're never gonna regret it
So open up your eyes I got a big surprise
It'll feel all right
Well I wanna make your motor run

And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we're glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
C'mon! Hold on tight!
C'mon! Hold on tight!

Though it's cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light
Paradise by the dashboard light

You got to do what you can
And let Mother Nature do the rest
Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed
Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely--

We're gonna go all the way tonight
We're gonna go all the way
An tonight's the night..."

There was a bridge done as they made their way down the steps and found themselves right in front of Mystic Spiral, with Jen holding a microphone, just as she started to sing, looking right at Daria and Jane, her eyes pleading:

"Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further--!

Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
Do you love me!?
Will you love me forever!?
Do you need me!?
Will you never leave me!?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life!?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife!?
I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me!!!?
Will you love me forever!!!?"

Trent started to sing again. Daria, knowing the lyrics, covered her mouth to stop the giggling from the song's perfect fit to Trent:

"Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning

Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning

Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning."

Jen replied, still looking at her friends:

"I gotta know right now!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further
Do you love me?
And will you love me forever?"

Trent grinned, and sang again:

"Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you my answer in the morning
Let me sleep on it!!!"

Jen looked straight at Daria: "Will you love me forever?"

Trent kept on: "Let me sleep on it!!"

Jen turned to Jane, and looked straight into her eyes: "Will you love me forever?"

Trent was going to continue, but Jen gave the "cut" sign as she looked at her friends. "Well?"

Daria pretended not to understand. "That was great singing, Jen."

"Not funny, Daria." Jen's eyes were full of tears.

Daria looked at her best friend. "Jane? She's not just asking me, you know. Fish or cut bait."

Jane took a breath, running her fingers through her hair. "Trent, you guys played a whole lot better, but I need the house for the next few hours. Capisce?"

Trent and the rest of Mystic Spiral nodded, and began gathering their things.

Jane turned to Daria and Jen, and said, "Ladies? My room," and turned to the basement stairs.

6. Episode Five and a half

As they entered Jane's room, Jen turned to look at them with tears in her eyes. "Listen, if you guys don't want -" Her sentence was cut off by Daria's finger over her lips.

"Why do you always assume we're going to leave you, Jen? We just said that we three need to talk. And on that note," she said, looking at Jane, "I need to call my Mom and let her know that I won't be home." She turned and left, quickly, while the other two sat down on the bed, nervously.

Helen picked up the phone. "May I speak to the old lady of the house?"

She smiled. "Daria, where are you?"

"Jane's. Can I stay over?" Helen caught a bit of stress in Daria's voice.

"Is anything wrong?"

"Not - wrong. It's just going to get complicated, I think."

Helen sighed. "Well, I was hoping you would want to get to know our friends, but I understand that sometimes you have to deal with things." Her eyes narrowed. "You haven't gotten into a situation where you, have you?"

She heard Daria's sigh. "No, Mom. I haven't even been that...intimate with either of my friends, let alone someone that would require protection. We just need to have a long talk to hash things out. And I'm sure that my old soul has made their acquaintance in a previous life."

"Well, that does free up some space for Ethan. He can take the guest room, and I can put Willow and Coyote in your room."

"You're going to put them in my room? You better tether them to the bed so they don't float away." Helen laughed and hung up.

When Daria got back to Jane's room, she found both of her friends (girlfriends?) sitting down on the bed, their heads down and looking miserable. She grabbed the stool. set it down right next to them, and sat down. Tilting each of their chins up with one of her hands, she looked at them. "Now, Jen's asked us for something...I'm not sure that she's aware of exactly what she's asking. But what I am sure is that all three of us need to tell the others just what their feelings are." She turned to Burnout. "You started this, Jen. What are your feelings for Jane and me?" She rubbed Jen's shoulder.

Jen took a deep breath. "I - I love you. Both of you. And I'm scared, because everyone else I've loved, in any capacity, has gone away, one way or another." She hung her head. "But I'm very sure that I love you as friends, and that I'm attracted to both of you as women. I know we haven't done anything but kiss and cuddle yet, but that's how I feel. And that song got me thinking - I don't want to go further if everyone involved doesn't feel like that."

Daria nodded. "I'm sure that it's no secret that I'm very attracted to both of you. In fact, I can say that I love you both without any hesitation. Jen," she turned toward the blonde, "you were the first to be attracted to me while I was being myself. I love you, and I'm interested in going further. Jane," she turned to her, "You were the first person to accept me, warts and all, and I love you. But I know that you're struggling, and I want our friendship more than anything else. You take your time deciding what you need, and if that means years, that's okay." She noticed the tears tracking down Jane's face and knelt by her. "What's wrong?"

Jane sobbed. "You two have said such beautiful things about me, and I can't return them!" She sniffled. "I love both of you guys as friends. I mean, you're two of the three most important people in the world to me!" She wrapped her arms around herself. "And I've been looking at how I look at women, but I just don't know. And you both deserve better than an 'I don't know," from me."

Daria sat up and took her in her arms, and rocked her back and forth until the sobbing had subsided. "It's all right, Jane. I'm not sure about Jen, but I wouldn't want you if you could lie about something like this, or if it wasn't hard for you to be sure. We want you to take your time, however long it is. Jen and I'll be girlfriends, and you will be more than welcome to be with us when you are sure. Until then," Daria turned Jane's face to her gently, with the thumb of one hand stroking along her chin, she kissed first Jane's top lip, then her bottom, then tilted her head and gave her a deep kiss while her tongue entered Jane's mouth. After a few moments, she drew back. "Something to remember us by."

Jane sat, dazed, and so was unprepared when she felt Jen's lips on hers, as well. Jen leaned back and brushed Jane's hair from her face. "Until you can accept that you need to be with us." Then she stood up and hugged Daria, and they shared a short kiss.

"So what happened with the song?" Daria asked Jen when they were all seated again, this time with Daria and Jen on the bed, holding hands.

"Oh, that came from something you said, Daria," Burnout said. "You know how you told the band that they needed to do things differently to make it? For some strange reason they believed you, and they've been at it every day for the past three weeks. That song was just to see how well Trent and I could sing together - seems that someone," and she winked at Jane, "bragged about how good a singer I was. Anyway, if they think I did as well as I think, we're going to work on a few songs, and I'll play with them the weekends that they play in town or close." She hugged Daria, and laid her head on her shoulder. "And because of someone's advice about being on time, they're playing more places, and getting more when they play. So cool."

"Wow," murmured Daria. "Very cool." Her hand stroked Jen's back. "So, what's on Sick, Sad World? Mom isn't expecting us back until dinner Sunday." They all slipped to the floor and cuddled together.

It was Sunday, after dinner. The door opened and Daria, Quinn, and Ethan walked in. Helen smiled. "Girls, I expected you for dinner. Before I officially ground you, would you care to account for your whereabouts?"

Daria smirked. "Sure. But first, a few questions." She pulled out a notepad. "Number one: why did you and Dad spend a night in jail in Boulder in August, 1969?"

7. Episode Six

Daria, Jane, and Jen were standing in line outside the Playhouse 99 movie theater when Kevin and Brittany came up to them, with Kevin carrying a bag of groceries. "I don't see any vegetables!" Kevin said in a sing-song voice.

"You should have my view," Daria muttered.

Jane was intrigued. "Why vegetables?"

"To throw at the screen during the big food fight?" Brittany seemed unsure.

"What food fight?" Jen asked.

"Hey, are you thick or something? This is the Food in Film Festival," Kevin said proudly.

Brittany nodded. "Didn't you see the Rocky Horror Picture Show last month? Kevin and I wore each other's underwear."

"Again?" snarked Jane.

Daria turned toward them. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't think this is an interactive event. Tonight they're showing Andre Sakarynsky's Last Meal."

"A Russian art film from the 1930s," Jen added helpfully.

"Russian?" Kevin seemed shocked.

"Subtitles!" Brittany and Kevin chorused, before Kevin shoved the grocery bag into Daria's arms, and they both sped away.

The girls came out of Playhouse 99 to see heavy, dark clouds covering the night sky. Jane turned to Daria. "I'm hungry. You didn't happen to save any of Kevin's produce, did you?" Daria shook her head, and was about to say something when they all heard a voice in the distance.

"Daria?" Mr. O'Neill's voice carried to them.

Daria turned to Jen, whose fingers were interlaced with hers, and said, "Uh, oh. We're about to be seen with a teacher." Turning back, she said, "Hi, Mr. O'Neill."

"Hi, girls! I'm just so invigorated!" He took a deep breath. "Great cinema is timeless. Couldn't that movie have been made today?"

Daria said, somewhat puzzled, "I guess, if you could find someone to exhume the actors."

Still in hyperactive mode, Mr. O'Neill asked, "Can I give you girls a lift home?"

"No, that's okay. We love to walk."

Jane added, "Yeah, it's a perfect night for a nice long stroll," right before lightning flashed and a heavy rain started coming down. Looking at each other, they all headed to Mr. O'Neill's car.

As he headed down the road, he said, "Sometimes I think film is even more a mirror of the times than the novel. Do you think this is because of its greater verisimilitude? Jane?"

She replied in a louder than normal voice, "I can't really hear you back here. Road noise. Plus, I don't know what verisimilitude means."

"What about you, Daria?"

"Let's face it. Most people would rather watch a movie than read a book. It's fast, it's easy, and you don't have to worry about your lips moving."

Mr. O'Neill's face lit up. "That is a fabulous class assignment, Daria! Thank you for the suggestion!"

Daria facepalmed. "Um, did I make a suggestion? Because if so, I'd like to withdraw it."

"So, as an exercise in living literature, you'll all be making your own movies. We have Daria to thank for that exciting suggestion." Mr. O'Neill was just finishing up.

"There's that word again," Daria grumbled.

Jake was sitting at the table with Daria, Jen, and Jane. "Remember, this is a precious, precise, and very, very costly instrument. It's not the sort of thing one ordinarily lends a teenager," he said.

"We'll be careful," Daria assured him.

"I explained to you about the three focus modes and the depth of field override and the auto-sleep feature."

"I'm about to go into auto-sleep mode, myself."

"Okay, Daria. Just... try not to use it too much. And be safe on your way into Washington," he said.

"So, we're going to D.C., huh?" Trent said as he pulled the blue car onto the highway.

"Yup," was all that Jane said from next to him.

Behind him, her arm around Jen, who had laid her head on her shoulder, Daria said, "The objective was to make a movie that would communicate more, or at least more in less time, than just reading the words. What that means, is symbols. And where is the greatest density of symbols anywhere close to here? The National Mall in D.C." She kissed the top of Burnout's head. "We should be able to convey, in a few words and fewer images, what most kids would not last to read through."

"Oh. That's cool."

"Oh, wow, that's a really big guy!"

"...It's all stone? No metal reinforcement?

"...Look at all the names."

"...It's like they're all walking in the fog..."

"...My God, I'd like to do sculpture that good, some day. Look at them carrying him."

"...And they never stop?"

After they got most of their footage, they took a break and ate at a nearby restaurant called Ceiba, enjoying the Hispanic/seafood blend, while watching for famous politicians. Finally, they got up and went to the national archives, taking pictures of the founding documents of the country. By that time it was early afternoon, and so they headed home.

While they were doing the editing, Jane turned to Daria and said, "Are you sure you want to do it this way, amiga? You know that they're going to expect something silly, or maybe something morbid."

Jen said, "Yeah, Jane, they do. But this is the equivalent of hitting them over the head with an aluminum baseball bat. These symbols are that basic for us."

Daria added, "I'm sure, Jane. Like Jen said, they should get it. And you know what? If they don't if they can't understand what these things mean? Screw'em."

Jane took a breath and simply said, "I'm with you, no matter what."

Just after Jodie's movie detailing a labor strike at a local supermarket, Mr. O'Neill announced Daria's group's movie. Before he could push play, the door opened and Mr. DeMartino walked in.

"Well, hello, Anthony. Why are you here?" the flabbergasted Language Arts teacher asked.

"Ms. MORGENdorffer suggested that I would FIND something of INterest if I dropped in toDAY, Timothy." The History teacher found a seat while Mr. O'Neill pressed play.

The screen came up with the title, "Symbols of Our Nation." As the title cleared, the picture faded into a view of a piece of paper. "This is the Declaration of Independence," Jen's voice came over the television speakers. "With this document, less than a hundred men put their own lives at risk because they thought it was more important that we be able to control what happened to us, than whether they lived or died."

The camera moved to the side. "This is the first page of the United States Constitution. This document, this agreement among Americans," Daria's voice came out in less then her normal monotone, "said that no one person or group of people was completely in control of everything. If someone wanted to get things done, they had to work together with others."

Jane's voice followed. "These documents gave us the rules to get along, to protect the minority while slowly changing if the majority found it right. But that's all they would be, words, if people had not stepped up and protected our country and our way of doing things. And they did, from the very start. To quote a much better wordsmith than I, 'All gave some. Some gave all."

The video showed Daria standing in front of a stone wall. "The hero of the Revolutionary War was President Washington. After he passed away, his countrymen discussed and after many years, decided on this." The camera zoomed out until Daria was just a dot in the middle, and both edges could be seen. When it reached that point, it slowly tilted up until, finally, the pointed top could be seen. "The Washington Monument is five hundred fifty-five feet, five and one-eighth inches tall. It is the tallest all-stone structure, and the tallest obelisk extant. This was the least, they felt, that they could do to acknowledge the father of our country."

After the murmurs had died down, another picture came on the screen, this one showing Jane standing between the legs of the Lincoln Memorial. "Big White Guy!" exclaimed Kevin. Everyone, including Brittany, waved at him to shush.

"When the nation was just under a hundred years old, many people felt that it was time to end the compromises that had been made to bring us forth as a country, not just a group of squabbling states. Unfortunately, many people disagreed. Our leader, our president at the time was a man dedicated not only to bringing our nation through the crisis intact, but with assuring the equality of all the people, not just those who had been fortunate enough to be born with pale skin. He managed this, even though he himself did not make it to the end of the conflict. When the dust had settled, well, see for yourself." The camera zoomed back, showing the entire sculpture of Lincoln, and the various engravings around him.

"In the late twentieth century, we have paid tribute to the passing of those who have protected us in war, such as in World War II," Jen said, as the camera passed her and the pool behind her to focus on a wall covered with stars.

"Aren't there only supposed to be fifty stars?" Brittany asked.

As the camera focused on the golden stars, Jen continued. "Each of these stars represents a hundred American lives lost during World War II. There are more than four thousand of them."

The murmuring quieted, as the scene changed. There appeared to be soldiers walking through rough terrain, and reflected in the marble of a wall, where other faces were etched. Daria walked near to the camera and said, "This is the Korean War memorial. It is rich in symbolism, but can be best summed up by its dedication - 'Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.'" She walked over to several plaques. "These tell the hard cost of putting ourselves out in the world. Dead United States: 54,246, United Nations: 628,833. Wounded United States: 103,284, United Nations: 1,064,453. This is over a three year period, and my grandfather was one of them. Captured United States: 7,140, United Nations: 92,970. And finally, Missing United States: 8,177, United Nations: 470,267. This is the price we paid, and paid gladly, to keep others free."

Jane's voice came over a blacked-out spot in the tape. "Now we come to the last finished war this century." The darkness dissolved, showing Jane standing in front of a black wall, with what appeared to be writing on it.

Kevin snorted. "Daria must've messed up! That's just a wall!" He was extremely surprised when he felt Mr. DeMartino's hand grab his collar and pull him until he was face-to-face with him.

"Kevin," and Mr. DeMartino's voice was eerily calm, containing none of the excitation that normally punctuated his sentences, "Do you wish to see tomorrow?" All Kevin could do was nod his head. "Then I suggest to you that you keep your mouth shut until you know what you're talking about! That wall is the Vietnam Memorial, and that writing contains the name of every service member that was killed or missing in action during the conflict. I have some very good friends whose names are on that 'just a wall.'" He looked deeply into Kevin's eyes. "Do you understand?" he asked with a dangerous affability.

Kevin stuttered out a quiet, "Y-yes, Mr. DeMartino," and sat back down. During this time, the film had advanced to the point where Jennifer was standing in front of another statue, this one of several women holding an apparently wounded soldier. "This is the Vietnam Women's Memorial," Jen said on the tape. "It is here for the thousands of women who served, many of whom died, in the Vietnam War. Many of these women served in combat conditions, just as their male counterparts did."

"Finally," Jane said, "We're here showing the tomb of the unknown soldier." She gestured behind her. "In all of these conflicts, there have been American bodies that have not been identified. One is selected from each war, and they are interred as our honored dead." She pointed to the guards that walked the path. "These tombs have been guarded and protected twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, constantly since July 2, 1937. Nothing has stopped them." Daria and Jen came up on either side of her.

"You may be asking yourself why we made this movie. We did it to acquaint you with some of the most prominent symbols of our country, and what lengths we will go to accomplish what we think is right," Daria said.

"We did it so that you can be assured that there are people who will give everything to protect you and your family," Jen added.

"And we did it to make you aware of the consequences of your actions when you insist on sending our military places, to accomplish your goals," Jane finished.

"Taps," began to play, as the scene faded to black.

8. Episode Seven

A/N: Most of the next few eps are going to be a little bit "off," as the premise for the original ep is no longer extant,, and it's not the right time for working with the new relationships. Bear with me, if you would.

Daria approached her locker, only to find that some aspiring young scholar at Lawndale High had seen fit to remind her of her sexual orientation. Combining the misspelling of the word as "dike," with the smiley-face to dot the i, led Daria to believe that the vandal belonged to the Cheerleading squad. She said nothing of this, however, as she alerted Ms. Li and waited while the security guards took pictures and tested for evidence.

"Why are you asking for security guards over such a minor matter, Ms. Morgendorffer?" Ms. Li asked, while they watched the men work.

"Well, honestly, it's not for this. I've got enough acetone and polish remover to take care of a few things like this." She ran her hand through her hair. "But everything I've seen says that stuff that starts out like this, never stays that way. It's going to likely get worse, and I want to make sure that everything is documented when it comes to a head."

Ms. Li nodded. "You understand that you could have avoided all of this if you hadn't 'come out,' as it were, so publicly."

"I hadn't intended to come out at all, in high school." Daria looked over at Ms. Li. "But circumstances made me come out to my parents, and after that, it was a little of, 'You can't be a little pregnant,' and a little of..." her voice trailed off, then picked up again. "You seem to be the right age. Did your parents tell you about the War Interment camps in World War II?" Ms Li nodded. "Even if it meant that you'd have to go to one of those places, would you deny that you were of Korean descent? Would you deny something that basic to who you are?" Seeing Ms. Li's head shake, she went on, "Neither could I. I guess if it meant life and death, maybe, but I'm not sure, even then..." She was about to continue when one of the security men came up to them.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but our camera doesn't seem to be working."

"Oh, bother," Ms. Li said, then tapped her chin. "I think I have a solution." She looked back at the man. "Go get Mr. DeWitt-Clinton, and have him bring his camera with him."

In a few minutes, a small blond boy with a large camera came up to them. "Hi, Ms. Li," he said. "How can I help you?"

"You can take a picture of that locker and develop it for me, quickly."

"No problem, Ms. Li, but this camera isn't film, it's digital. I'll print out a picture from it, and we can all sign that it's a true copy." He focused and took a few pictures with different settings, then said, "That should do it." Puzzled, he looked up. "Why am I taking pictures of this locker?" he asked.

"To preserve evidence of a hate crime against Ms. Morgendorffer, here. She'll inform you." Ms. Li saw that the group was nearly finished. With a final, "Drop the pictures off at the office when you're finished," she turned and left.

"Well?" he asked in a rather squeaky voice. "I haven't really heard of hate crimes. Wouldn't a crime be a crime? Of course, I've been home-schooled, and I just got into LHS this semester."

Daria took a breath, and sighed. "Look, what your name?"


"Look, Ted, through a series of incidents that I don't really want to go through right now, the great majority of the school found out that I was gay a week or so ago, and this -" she motioned at the graffiti on her locker, "is the first action by a person who doesn't want to show themself. It's likely to get worse, which is why I'm documenting it now." She looked back at him. "A hate crime is a crime made more heinous due to the fact that the victim is targeted due to their membership in a protected class, such as women, or blacks, or, in my case, because I'm gay."

"Umm, why would anyone care if you're happy and vivacious?"

Daria gave him a look. "Wow, you really have been home-schooled." She shook her head. "Gay is a slang term that means lesbian or homosexual, depending on who it's referring to. They don't like me because I'm emotionally and sexually attracted to women."

Ted's jaw dropped. " how would you reproduce?"

Her eyes narrowing, she said, "It would take a lot of special equipment and money, but we could do it. It's not the point though. Two thousand years ago, when there were less than a billion people world-wide, there might have been a reason to make a nation great by over-producing your neighbors. Now, though? Nobody cares if a couple produces a child or not. In fact, for most people, it's better if they don't. It'll be seven billion people in just a few years."

They reached the photo printer, and Ted started printing the pictures. Ted had his jaw set when Daria looked at him. "Listen, you don't have to agree with who I am. But does that entitle idiots to target me for their hatred, just because of feelings that the creator, whoever he or she is, made me to have? Because, I'll tell you, I've seen the average lifestyles of gay people. Definitely not my cup of tea."

He brought out the pictures, and signed along the edge of the photo, and again on the back. Handing them to her, he said, "But couldn't you not act on those feelings?"

Daria flatly said, "Listen, buddy, you've got blonde hair. You can dye it a different color, right?"

"You can?"

"Trust me, you can. But even if you do, you have to keep your roots dealt with, and after a while, you have to redo the whole thing, and even if you do that, if someone sees you naked, they'll the end, it's a lot of work to convince people that you're not what's going to show through eventually, anyway." She ran her fingers through her hair. "I decided long ago that, if circumstances made me have to invest an active effort to hide who I was, I wouldn't." She looked at him again, and held out her hand. "Hi, I'm Daria Morgendorffer, and I'm a lesbian."

Much more gingerly, he took it. "I'm, um, I'm Ted DeWitt-Clinton, and I'm not."

"Pleased to meet you, Ted. Would you like to meet my girlfriend?"

", I've got class soon, and Ms. Li's pass is only good for this one."

"Like, wow," Sandi said as she and Tiffany ducked back behind a corner before Daria could see them.

"Yeah, wooow." Tiffany looked at Sandi. "Wow for what?"

"Someone outside the CCC willing to take on little Miss Perfect's sister. Perhaps we could, like, ally forces or something."

"Ooooh." Tiffany pursed her lips. "What forces do we have?"

9. Episode Eight

A/N: There is an intentional misspelling of the word, "dyke," in the text. Stay cool about it.

Daria was in study hall, watching Ms. Barch harass a boy, once again. This time, it was Mack, and she was making him write lines on the chalkboard. Despite her status as one of the privileged class, Daria sometimes wondered when Ms. Barch was going to get the return on all the karma she was handing out.

Brittany showed her her drawing of flowers, and as she was turned around, saw the title of Daria's book. "The Tell-Tale Heart!" she quietly squeaked. "I love romance novels!"

"Yeah, nothing says 'be mine' like a pounding heart beneath a floorboard," Daria said, agreeably.

Brittany then turned in her seat to show Jodie her picture. As Jodie was about to comment, the door burst open, with Ms. Li coming through the door.

"Attention, young people. I have an exciting announcement. Grove Hills, the school for gifted and outstanding students, has issued invitations to several of our students to visit its campus. And among those so honored are: Ms. Morgendorffer and Ms. Landon." She smiled as she indicated the two girls.

Amidst the very light applause, Jane muttered, "I knew those straight Cs in math would pay off some day."

When she got home, Jake was trying to pull a plate out of the oven with his bare hands. "Gah! Damn plate!" But then he turned and smiled at her. "Hey, mom told me about Grove Hills. That's great, kiddo!"

Daria just shrugged. "Yeah. I'm tired of being at a school where the kids just think they're cooler than me. I want to go to one where they think they're smarter than me also. And let's not forget I'd likely have to go back in the closet if I did go there."

Helen came in and hugged her. "Daria, I'm so proud of you, honey. Grove Hills. The friends you make there could really launch your career."

Daria rolled her eyes and snarked, "And why study when you can network?"

Helen frowned. "It's just a visit. Daria."

"That's what they told J.F.K." Daria said, then sighed. "As long as you understand that there's about a ninety percent chance of my turning this down. I've already done the fitting in that I need to, here. And besides, Jane and Jen are at Lawndale."

"Then it's settled. We're going to Grove Hills this weekend."

"That place where they fence in all the geeks? Why do I have to go? That's not fair!" Quinn had just walked into the room.

Helen looked up at Quinn. "Quinn, I'm afraid siblings aren't invited. You're staying home."

"You mean the whole family gets to go without me? That's not fair!" Quinn grinned and winked at Daria, who rolled her eyes at the antics.

"Actually, this might be a good way to show how much you've matured, Sis," Daria said to her suddenly shocked sibling. "I'm pretty sure that you can look after yourself at fifteen, and weren't you going to have Stacy over to figure out what you were doing for the Prom?"

"Daria, that's a wonderful idea!" Helen turned to Quinn. "Stacy is allowed over, but no parties. If we find everything the way we left it, your privileges will be expanded. But if you abuse our trust in you..." her voice trailed off.

"I'll be like Rapunzel, only able to get in or out using my hair, and I'll have time enough to grow it that long, too."

Helen smiled. "I'm so glad that I have two very intelligent daughters."

Daria and Jodie were standing in the Morgendorffer driveway, waiting for Daria's parents to come out. "Thanks for the ride. My parents will meet us up there after the new members' brunch at their club. My father's been on the waiting list for three years."

Daria nodded. "Remember, no matter what happens on this ride you've already waived your right to sue me for confining you with lunatics."

Jodie nodded back. "Agreed. But," and there was a twinkle in her eye as she said this, "A little bird told me that you're a lady's lady, Daria." She dipped her head slightly reached up with her forefinger and ran it down Daria's arm, while saying in a pouting voice, "Why didn't you let me know? We could have had so much fun, I could have been your chocolate surprise!"

Daria blushed beet red. "Um, I mean, uh, I'm sorry, Jodie, I'm very flattered, but I'm taken and..." she broke off as she saw Jodie bent over, one hand on the car, laughing heartily. She straightened herself, crossed her arms, and said, "I hate you."

Jodie looked up and said, "Gotcha!" while pointing at Daria, and after a few more chuckles, settled down. "I'm more than happy with Mack, Daria."

Daria muttered something that even Jodie couldn't hear most of, ending with her looking up and finishing with, "...hours of amusement." She shook her head and said, in a serious voice, "I heard that you guys dealt with that cheerleader. Thank you."

Jodie smiled. "It was nothing. For once, Brittany was a help." She leaned close. "I think that the girl wasn't straight herself, and was protesting too much, but she'll stop now." Daria nodded as her parents came out of the house and they all got into the car.

Several minutes into the ride, Helen asked, "So, Jodie, do you belong to any clubs?"

Daria interjected, "You don't have to answer that."

With a small smile, Jodie answered. "I'm president of the French Club, vice president of Student Council, editor of yearbook, and I'm also on the tennis team."

Jake asked, "Daria, why aren't you on the tennis team?"

Daria raised her eyebrow and said, "Because it's classified as a sport?"

"Speaking of sports, Jodie, ..." Helen trailed off.

Jake picked up the slack. "So, Jodie, got a fella?"

"Yeah, his name's Michael. But everyone calls him Mack." At that point they made the final turn before the grounds, and had their first sight of the buildings.

Jake gaped. "Wow!"

Daria snarked, "Should we go to the main building, or just apply for jobs in the stables?"

Quinn and Stacy had just finished their late breakfast and were preparing to do their yoga in the living room, when Stacy glanced out the window and saw a somewhat older, blonde boy, plant a sign in the ground between the sidewalk and the street. She grabbed Quinn's shoulder and pointed. "Look," she said. The sign was now up, above the boy's head, and it read, "Get the Dikes OUT of the Neighborhood." Stacy was about to run out, but Quinn held her back. "Let's get some back-up, first," and she was quickly on the phone to Jane.

About fifteen minutes later, Jane and Jen walked up to the sign. "What's all of this about?" Jane asked. Ted pulled out a couple of pamphlets, and handed one to each of the girls. Jane glanced at hers. How to Say Nay to Gay God's Way. As she was about to comment on this, Ted started speaking.

"I have good information that one of the girls that lives here is a dyke. Relationships must be constructed so that there is reproductive issue from them." He didn't notice Quinn and Stacy coming out of the house toward the group. "This is a non-violent way of getting them out of the community."

"And why do you think that the community wants to get rid of her?" Stacy said in a shrill voice as she stamped up to the boy.

Jen pulled out her lockblade and began cleaning her nails. "Guess the community really doesn't want her gone. That's odd. Neither do I."

Quinn rolled her eyes. "Maybe that's because you're her girlfriend?"

Jen blushed slightly. "Oh, right."

Jane looked at Ted and shrugged. "Without getting into the legalities of this, like the fact that your sign's on private property and you haven't gotten a protest permit, what made you think that people want Daria out?"

Ted gaped slightly. "But the sidewalk is public -" was as far as he got before he was cut off by Jane.

"Not quite, and I said the sign, not the sidewalk. Will you answer me?"

Ted sighed. "Well, there was the protest on this Daria's locker, and then I talked with a couple girls who said that everyone wanted her gone, they just couldn't do it within the rules. And then..."

Stacy held her hand up. "A couple girls? Would this possibly be a brunette and an Asian girl, both looking like there's not that much happening in their heads?"

"You could describe them like that."

"Great." Everyone saw Quinn standing, arms akimbo. "Those two were trying to stir up trouble for my sister, because they couldn't deal with how Stacy and I," and she pointed to Stacy and herself, "left their little club when they couldn't control us."

The girls were met at the door by a blonde girl. "Hello, welcome to Grove Hills. I'm Marina."

The girls gave their names, and they were escorted inside. Once there, Marina brought them up to three students. "Jodie, Daria. I'd like you to meet Lara, Graham and Cassidy."

Cassidy nodded, "What's up?"

Lara held out her hand for the girls to shake. "Hi, nice to meet you."

Marina smiled. "Lara, why don't you fill Jodie and Daria in on the many advantages of a Grove Hills education?"

Lara rolled her eyes. "Well, number one: you only have to put up with shrill recruiters at phony functions like this."

Marina frowned, said, "Um, excuse me," and left.

Cassidy grinned. "And you're not surrounded by nearly as many stupid people as you would be at home."

Graham piped in, "Starting with your parents." Everyone laughed a bit at that.

A bit later, they were watching the student film. "At Grove Hills, you can contemplate Proust in our spacious dorm rooms," it droned, "converse in Latin over a delicious meal..."

"...Dump bodies into the river from our scenic bell tower," whispered Daria, which caused Jodie to giggle and both of them to be shushed.

"...So all aboard to Grove Hills, your first station on the track to wisdom." The film ended and the lights came up.

"I hope everyone enjoyed our little film." Marina seemed pleased. "Great. I think a super way to start this meet and greet session would be to tell a little about our goals in life. Who'd like to start?" She saw Jodie raise her hand.

"Well, someday I'd like to own my own business. Maybe a consulting firm geared toward minority start-ups."

Marina smiled. "Excellent! Daria? What about your goal?"

Daria's eyes narrowed. "I don't have any."

"Oh, come, Daria. You must have some goal."

Daria shook her head. "My goal is not to wake up at 40 with the bitter realization that I've wasted my life in a job I hate because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens."

"So you're saying that most people just don't care whether a d-" Ted stopped when Stacy raised her fist. "- A gay woman lives around them or not, as long as they, personally, aren't bothered?"

"Yeah," Jane said, "Most times, things like that are all about who can control people by their rules." She buffed her fingers. "We're not about controlling."

Ted picked his sign up. "I think I'll talk to my parents." He turned and headed towards the house with the corn in the front yard.

As he was trudging off, Stacy yelled, "Hey, k-," "Hey, Ted!"

He turned around, and she handed him his pack of pamphlets. "You forgot'em," she said.

Daria and Jodie were talking to the three students again, this time listening to Lara. "They say high school's supposed to be the happiest time of your life."

Daria snorted. "Only if your life is extremely short."

Graham smiled at her. "Exactly. You're funny."

Jodie nudged Daria. "See what happens when you give people a chance?"

Graham continued. "Our happiest years will begin when we make our first million. I can't wait to stroll down the Riviera with a model on each arm."

Daria raised her eyebrow. "Gee, that's interesting. I guess you can be intellectually gifted and still be morally bankrupt."

Graham laughed, and said, "I certainly hope so."

The three turned as someone else entered the dining room. Lara gasped. "Oh, my God."

Graham snorted. "I can't believe David has the nerve to show up."

"Who does he think he is?"

Jodie asked, puzzled, "What did he do? Cheat on a test?"

Cassidy shook his head. "Worse. We got our S.A.T. scores back today. David's were only in the 90th percentile. Idiot."

"I just can't hang out with him any more. He's too... banal." Lara looked down.

Graham said, "And he used to be so interesting."

Daria rolled her eyes. "Thank God for standardized tests. Otherwise you'd never know who your real friends are."

"Right. I mean... amusing," Graham stumbled.

Daria looked at Jodie. "See what happens when you give people a chance?" she said, then began walking away.

"Daria...! Hey, guys, wait up." Jodie went after Daria.

Once more they were talking to the three Grove Hills students.

"Before I came here I was an intellectual outcast. They made fun of me for quoting Ayn Rand," Lara said.

"Actually, I think she's pretty disturbing..." Jodie replied hesitantly, when Graham interrupted her.

"That's not the point. The point is that you know who she is, and that at Grove Hills, you can discuss her with people like us, instead of idiots and fools and a quarterback who tells the whole school you shower in a towel. I'd like to see a quarterback write a paper on Mao."

Jodie gamely tried to roll with the change of subject. "I think the Cultural Revolution is..." when Graham interrupted her again.

"You have an awful lot to say for someone who doesn't even go to this school yet."

Jodie raised her eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Graham gave out an oily smile. "It means why don't we see whether you get in to Grove Hills before we start listening to your opinions."

"Hey! Just because some jock made you feel like the loser you are, don't take it out on me."

Graham had a shocked expression. "I'm not a loser! I have a 165 I.Q.!"

Jodie made a dismissing motion. "Who cares? You're still boring and miserable! Try taking your head out of your butt for once and opening up your myopic little eyes. Or doesn't your 165 I.Q. make you smart enough to see the way you really are?" And with that, she walked outside.

Graham acted incensed. "I'll make sure you never set foot in this school again!"

Daria turned to him and gave out a snort. "That's a relief. For a minute there I thought you were going to threaten us." And she turned and followed Jodie.

Outside, they both sat on a small ledge. "Admit it. That felt good," Daria said as she bumped shoulders with Jodie.

"Well, a little. Okay, a lot."

Daria gave her a smile. "Busting on jerks like Graham is one of life's few pleasures. You should try it more often."

"Oh, shut up."

"Um, good start," Daria snarked.

Jodie looked over at Daria. "You realize your negative approach to everything is self-defeating, right?"

"Well, it's good to know there's someone that I can defeat."

"I mean, you may spare yourself some pain by cutting everyone off, but you miss out on a lot of good stuff, too."

Daria looked at Jodie. "What you said may have had some significance a few months ago, Jodie. But right now, I have a girlfriend, I have a best friend. I have opened myself to new experiences. But I refuse to stand in front of jerks like that and just take it."

Jodie nodded. "I hope you'll understand what works for me now. At home, I'm Jodie. I can say or do whatever feels right. But at school, I'm the Queen of the Negroes. The perfect African-American teen. The role model for all of the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where'd they go? Believe me, I'd like to be more like you."

"Well, I have to admit, there are times when I'd like to be more like you."

"Really?" Jodie's eyebrows rose.

"I'm not saying all the time," Daria said with a wry smile.

"So, Lawndale or Grove Hills?"

Daria considered for all of two seconds. "I'm sticking with Lawndale. If I came here, I'd end up poisoning the sloppy joe mix."

"Yeah, you're right. I'm pushed to the breaking point being Miss Model Student at Lawndale. A year here might kill me." The two girls slumped against the wall of the building.

10. Episode Nine

Daria and Jane stood in shock, their faces turned toward the stage where Mystic Spiral and Jen, all in t-shirts that Jane had designed, and standing in front of a re-designed banner, started with an instrumental part that was more than competent - it was good. Despite hearing bits and pieces over the time, Daria was still shocked that they had come so far, so fast. "There must've been some talent in there to start with," she said to herself.

And then the lyrics began. Jen had brought them back to Daria, and the two of them had gone over ways to make them better and still acceptable to Trent and the guys. Several times they had slipped something through on the basis of, "changing it to make it work with two leads." Hearing them now, it just...worked.

Trent started: "I'm glad you're happy watching my pain, cut-ting circles on my soul again."

Jen hopped in: "We had no love scene but you've cut to the chase, you're chopping off my nose to spite your face."

Jen: "Ow, my nose!"

Trent: "Ow, my face!"

Then the band: "Ow, my nose! Ow, my face! Ow..." as the song finished.

Daria and Jane looked at each other, then Daria went into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. Quickly walking away from the stage before the next number started, she dialed her mom's cell number.

"Mom? Yes, it's me. Listen, you need to come down to the Zon, right now. Why?" Daria shook her head, then noticed the band about to play their next song. "Because Trent's band is playing...this!" And with that, she held her hand up and pointed her phone in the direction of the stage. She held it there for the next three minutes, and when the song was done, she pulled it back down and glanced at it, but her mother had already hung up. She walked back to Jane.

"Where'd you go off to?"

Daria gave a crooked smile. "Jane, the band is good. Really good. But we know these guys. None of them are good at business. So I gave my parents a call, so that they can help before someone takes the guys for a ride."

Jane nodded. "I guess I can see that. How will the guys react, though?"

"Heck if I know," Daria said in her usual monotone.

Helen and Jake arrived just as Mystik Spiral was wrapping up its second set. Helen came and said into Daria's ear, "Well, they're no Chicago, but they're sure a lot better than a dump like this usually has."

Daria nodded, then waved her arm. "Um, Mom?" She watched as Helen's head swiveled toward her. "I...uh, may not have told them that you're coming, or why."

Helen sighed. "Oh, Daria." She leaned close again. "Bring them to the Pizza King, we'll be there, and it's our treat."

Helen sat and gazed over the ten empty pizza platters that had been full less than twenty minutes ago, a small smile came to her face. She quickly squashed it, and her normal lawyer/mother expression was back up. "Trent," she said in a slightly raised voice, "I'm sure you are wondering why I - we asked you to come here."

"Uh - yeah," he replied, before Jane elbowed him in the ribs. "I mean, thanks for the pies and all, but what's going on?"

"Trent, I don't want to be rude, but from everything that I heard, your band at the time we came to Lawndale had a lot of growth opportunities." At the puzzled looks she got, she waved her hand. "I'm sorry, that was lawyer- and consultant-speak for 'it was bad.'" A few chuckles rolled around the room.

"That's cool, we were." said Trent with a smile.

Helen smiled back. "There were two reasons that you got gigs. The first is that you were there, and even bad live music is better than no live music, especially at dives like the Zon or McGrundy's, where most of the audience is high as a kite, any way. The second is that you played incredibly cheap. Twenty-five bucks a piece and all the draft you can drink a night is nothing to a bar owner. It made up for the sound you guys had, and the haphazard way you had of showing up.

"But now Daria has told me things have changed, and after hearing you, I agree." Helen stood up and put her hands on the back of her chair. "You're already at the point where you can now make a decent living off your music, should that be all you want, but I suspect that you haven't finished getting better. Pretty soon, you're going to have deals and offers pushed at you. Some will be honest, some will be...not. Some of the honest ones will benefit you, and some won't."

She looked at Trent. "I'm involved right now for several reasons, the most direct that my daughter has a small interest due to her contributions on your lyrics, the re-writes for Jennifer here. Jennifer herself is another reason, as she and Daria are- "She looked over to Daria, who nodded, "girlfriends, and I don't wish for her to be taken advantage of. Jane's Daria's best friend, and you're part of her support group, and she cares deeply about her. Now-" Helen was about to go further when she saw Daria's hand go up. "Yes, Daria?"

"Hold on a second, Mom." Daria turned to where Trent, Jesse, and the rest of the band were sitting, slightly dazed. "Trent?"

"Yeah, Daria?"

"Do you remember when we all went to Alternapalooza?" Trent nodded. Daria continued. "You remember all the stuff we talked about, choosing what you wouldn't sell out about, and what you'd compromise on to get things done?"

"Yeah. We put a lot of that into practice."

"I know. I can hear the difference. And Jen is always happy after a practice." She took off her glasses, rubbed the lenses, and put them back on. "But what this is, is the most important part of what we talked about - saying who's in Mystic Spiral, and what it will and won't do to get where you guys want to be. That's why my mom's here. She'll help you set things up for yourself legally, so that when real money comes in, you'll know what happens to it, and you won't have to depend on Jesse handing it out before you go home. You'll also know what each of you can do when you have fights.

"My Dad's here, too. Trent, you guys are musicians, and good ones. But what happens the first time someone offers you twice as much if you'll accept net 30? I know you'd flip a coin. I couldn't tell you, because I'm not into business. My dad could, though. And he knows people and ways to keep your taxes down, and how to deal with the businesspeople that you won't want to."

Jake stood up, reached out his hand, and shook Trent's. "That's a pretty simplistic description of what I do, but Daria got most of it."

Helen cleared her throat. "We're here because Daria asked us, and because we want to protect the girls. For the moment, what we would ask is a token amount, enough to say that you as a band hired us, and to cover incidental expenses. As you become more successful, our cost would grow, eventually reaching ten percent of your gross, which you wouldn't feel."

The bald man spoke up. "We wouldn't feel ten percent? Why wouldn't we?"

Daria whispered into her mother's ear, and Helen nodded, then spoke. "Max, is it?" He nodded. "You wouldn't notice because each time we moved to a bigger cut, and we would tell you, we would have got you a new contract or set of contracts that paid you more even with the higher percentage. Just as a for instance, why would you care that we now got seven percent instead of five, when you now get $900 a week instead of $700, for the same work?"

She looked around. "So that's what we can offer. Because of our family connections, I think this is the lowest cost offer you'll get from people that you can trust to work on your behalf, and who are reasonably competent at it." She took two business cards out of her suit, and handed them to Daria, who handed them to Trent. "I know it's been a long night, and you want to talk amongst yourselves. You can reach us at either of our offices, or of course Daria can let us know. It's been a pleasure meeting you." With that, she and Jake stood, shook everybody's hand, and left.

Once the door closed behind them, bedlam erupted in the private room. It lasted about five minutes, at which point Jane whistled loudly, then yelled, "Hey!" at the top of her lungs. In the ensuing quiet, she said, "All right! one at a time, would you say what you've got to say?" She pointed at her brother. "Trent."

He gave Daria an unfriendly look. "I wanted to ask Daria what was the deal about her 'interest.'"

Daria shrugged her shoulders. "I was helping Jen with the re-writes to help them work better, Mom asked what we were doing, I told her. She's a lawyer." She took a breath. "At this point, I'd be satisfied with, as they say, a 'token payment,' and my name as one of the authors of the lyrics. You know, Lyrics - Trent Lane, Jennifer Burns, and Daria Morgendorffer."

Trent's voice was even rougher than usual. "We'll talk about it."

Jane pointed to the drummer next. "Max?"

"Why do we have to do all of this? I thought we were criminales, not working for the man!"

Jane snorted. "Yeah. Criminales. You wouldn't be working for them, idiot. They'd be working for you." She pointed again. "Nick?"

"I was just wondering how this'd affect my child support payments."

There was silence for a few moments, then Trent said, "Depends on whether we get better gigs or not. If we do, I guess that the setup they want would let you have them take care of it. If not, no effect." He looked up at Daria. "Wow, Daria, what happened to you?"

Daria raised an eyebrow. "Huh?" Jane took a mirror from out of one of her pockets and showed her. "Ewww."

Jane looked at her brother and his band, and said, "You guys stay here and decide what you want. I'll get her home." When Jen got up to follow them, Jane shook her head. "Thanks for the offer, Jen, but you're part of the band. You need to put in your two cents." Jen sat down with a slight pout while Jane guided Daria out of the restaurant.

When they entered the Morgendorffer house, Helen and Jake looked shocked. "What is that, Daria?"

Daria shook her head. "I don't know, it just came up when we were talking after you left."

Helen held her hand to Daria's forehead. "Hmm. You feel a little warm...If you still look like this in the morning, we'll take you to the doctor's."

"All right. Good night," Daria turned and trudged up the stairs.

Jane smiled at the Morgendorffers. "Thanks for your offer, Mrs. M, Mr. M."

Helen smiled back. "It's no problem, Jane." Her smile fell away. "Do you think that they'll accept our offer?"

"They were still discussing it when I left, but I think that they will. They know you're pretty hardcore when your family's concerned."

"That we are." A confused look passed over Helen's face. "Did I mis-speak when I said that you were Daria's best friend? I didn't know there was anything more, but-"

Jane sat down and ran her fingers through her hair. "Right now, I'm definitely her best friend, and she's mine. That's not going to change." She looked up. "But a while back, ended offer, let's say, was given to me. I haven't decided whether to take the offer." She crossed her arms over her chest and rocked slightly back and forth, then looked up. "I love your daughter, Mrs. M., of that I'm sure. Whether it's as a friend, or something more, we're working that out. But I'm not going to inflict the pain of breaking up on her, so something like that won't happen until I'm sure."

Helen's voice was soft. "And Jennifer?"

"Another reason to not jump in until I'm sure. They say that there's room for me, but am I worth the risk?" Jane shook her head. "I can at least spare them the pain from it ending because of that."

Helen sat down next to Jane and hugged her from the side, rocking her slightly. "Oh, Jane. I think, as long as all of you are honest with yourselves and about your feelings, it'll all work out all right." Jane snorted. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," said Jane, "But you just said, almost word-for-word, what I told Daria the morning before she came out to you."

Daria, Jen, and Jane were at their lockers then next day. "Any idea what caused this so-called rash?" said Jen.

Daria shook her head. "Not a clue. But if it comes back, I'm getting it checked out." She was going to continue when Ted showed up in front of them.

"Well, look who it is. Protest march boy," Jane said. "Find anyone to take your little pamphlets?"

Ted was looking down, his hands behind his back. "I wanted to apologize to you, Daria, even though you weren't at your house when I was. You know I don't agree with your choice to be gay. Well, I met a couple of girls -" he was interrupted by Jen.

"According to Quinn, it was Sandi and Tiffany."

Daria nodded, and turned back to Ted. "Go on."

"Well, they made it sound like everyone in town wanted all the gay people out, including you, but that there wasn't any legal way to do it." He ran his fingers through his hair, scratching the back of his neck. "I thought about what I could do, and decided that a protest would gather everyone together, and make it clear that you weren't wanted, without harming anyone." He took a deep breath. "I talked to Mom and Dad, and they said, even though you're going to hell, we don't have the right to try and force you out of town." He held out his hand. "So, I'm sorry?"

Daria crossed her arms, and pinched the bridge of her nose with one hand for a couple of moments. "Let me get this straight," she said. "You, with malice aforethought, came to my house trying to get a mob around you shouting hateful things at me - and mobs, I will tell you, are the most bloodthirsty things on the planet when they're raised for hate - an attempt that failed mostly because my best friend and girlfriend, along with my sister, were there to set you right. You then go and do what you should have done in the first place, and check your facts. You find that you were wrong, on more than one point. And now you come to me, saying, "Hey, you're still going to hell, but let's be buddies?" Daria was staring straight at Ted, her hands at her hips, when Jen tapped her shoulder.

"Dar? I think you need to see the nurse." Daria nodded and turned back to Ted. "That's wrong on so many levels. We'll discuss this later." She turned and headed toward the Nurse's office.

Jane and Jen glared at Ted. "What?" he asked.

Daria sat in Dr. Davidson's office. "Hmm. Daria, I assume the inner lining of your pillow doesn't contain any synthetic fibers," he said.

"Umm. Okay."

"You don't drink carbonated beverages, do you?"

"Yes, I do."

"Do you stay away from foods with artificial colors, bleach, flour and refined sugar?"

"No." She turned to him and asked, "What have I got?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. Probably some kind of allergy but we can't rule out something a bit more... serious. Especially with the slight fever you're running. Just to be on the safe side, I'd like to check you into the hospital for some tests."

"Oh, joy."

The orderly had just finished tucking Daria in when her mother and Quinn came in. "Oh, Daria! Oh, my goodness, just look at you." Helen hugged her daughter.

"Hi, Mom. Good to see you, too. They haven't come back with the results of the first tests yet."

"They haven't?" Helen's face hardened. "I'll fix that!" She stormed out of the room, calling, "Nurse!" All three remaining Morgendorffers rolled their eyes.

Daria picked up the phone and dialed a number she knew by heart. "Hey, Jane? I'm at the hospital. A lot of tests, the doctor didn't have enough to do. Yeah, well, I don't get to pick out the days I get sick. That was Trent. Could you tell Jen? I would make a crack about getting a ride, but I don't know who would be giving. Yeah, the morning should be fine. All right. Bye." She looked up. "Trent's going to bring Jane and Jen up in the morning."

"Good for you, kiddo!" Jake smiled and went back to the crossword he'd been working on.

Daria walked out of her room, in search of one thing. There it was! She quietly walked up behind the man in the bed and then hit his head as hard as possible with the pipe wrench that she'd stolen from the nurse's station. "Serves you right, having the TV on at full blast at ten p.m.," she said. "The rules say nine-thirty!" She sat down on the bed to watch Sick, Sad World, but it was a rerun. So she got out, opened a door to an ambulance, and kicked the driver in the ribs as he fell out. "Ouch," she said. "Good thing we're right outside of the hospital." She got in, and turned the siren and lights on while she drove to the school. It was fun watching cars swerve out of her way.

She finally made it to the high school, where school was in session. She reached under the dash, and pulled out a fully loaded shotgun. Getting out, she entered the school, went to the office, and saw Ms. Li. She walked up to her and hit her chin, hard, with the butt of the shotgun. Ms. Li dropped like a rock, and happily, not much gore had splattered the master student schedule. She consulted it and then was off, pausing only twice; once to shoot off Mrs. Bennett's hands ("learn to make a coherent picture, woman!"), and the other to gut-shoot Mr. O'Neill. Taking out Ms. Barch with him, as they had been kissing at the time, was pure serendipity. It also felt pretty damned good. She turned, and Ted got up and tried to run out the door. A shot to the knees brought him down. He was still grabbing his mostly-severed leg, rocking back and forth on the floor, when she kicked him with her steel-toed boots to the face. It was a little too hard, it seemed, as he immediately fell back and stopped moving. "Oh, well," she said, and started on her way again.

She eventually made it to her destination, taking time to blow away Kevin and Brittany on her way, and discovering whether Brittany's boobs were all natural at the same time. Finally, she made it to the History classroom, where Mr. DeMartino started yelling at her. In mere moments, he started having convulsions, but the students were just as oblivious to his death as they had been to his lessons. Daria, herself, was lying on a secret fold-down bed in the back of the class, naked, as were her two girlfriends, who started kissing her from opposite sides, and eventually met in the middle -

"Daria? Daria?" The nurse shook her gently. "We need to take some more blood for tests."

As the woman drew blood from her, Daria yawned and looked at the clock. That was a weird dream. Seven a.m. Everyone'll come at around eight. No real use going back to sleep. When the woman was done, she went into the bathroom and did her morning ablutions.

Daria's family arrived almost right at eight, but for Jane and her crew, it was nearer to nine. Jane saw Daria's look, and said, "Don't blame me! Trent picked up a couple stowaways on the way here." She smiled as Jodie and Mack came in.

"Brain fever?" Jodie asked.

When Daria shot her an inquiring look, Jane shrugged. "I had to say something, and I didn't think that you'd want 'a rash,' all over school."

Daria nodded, and turned to Trent, who had been whispering with her parents, and Jen. "What's all the hush-hush about, Trent?"

Trent smiled. "We decided last night. Mystic Spiral is going to hire your parents for legal and business support."

The doctor came in, right at that moment. After shooing everyone out, he told Daria, "It looks like it's just a byproduct of anxiety. Here's a prescription, if what we've given you doesn't keep it controlled."

Daria looked with narrowed eyes at the prescription. "If this is due to anxiety, why am I in this robe that leaves my butt hanging out?"

11. Episode Ten

The soft rhythmic beat of the soles of her shoes hitting the ground lulled Jane into a state where nothing mattered. No problems with Trent, no complications with Daria and Jen, no worries about her math scores. slap - slap - slap - slap - slap - slap - slap - slap, it all got plowed under. She was in so deep that she didn't notice the gathering clouds, and she only came out of her trance when the big raindrops started to fall. Fortunately, she was right near Daria's when it happened, so she wasn't too drenched by the time Jake answered the door.

"Hi, Mr. M.," she said, shaking her head a bit. "Is Daria home?"

"Nope, Jane-o. She went off to the library. Want to come in?"

"That's why I rang the doorbell. I was out running when this weather came up, and, any port in a storm...." Jake motioned to the linen closet, and Jane was just finishing rubbing a towel through her hair when the door opened, and Daria came through, bits of plaster and dust on her mostly-dry jacket. She finished closing her umbrella, then looked up. "Jane? What are you doing here?"

"Eh, I was out running, and I didn't want to get caught out swimming." She looked a bit more closely at Daria. "I'd say the more important question is what happened to you?"

"I was at the library when the roof caved in."

"Roof caved in!?!" Jake said, loudly.

"Relax, Dad. It made noises and started dripping well ahead of time. I was just at the door when it went." Her expression became thoughtful. "Although Kevin and Brittany were there, making out. I saw them moving around as I left. They were still making out."

Jen snorted. "They must go through half of Argentina's rubber output every year." She shook her head. "You know, it wasn't a bad storm. You'd think that Li would keep up the maintenance."

Daria raised an eyebrow. "On the building that gets the absolute least use on campus? She probably took the money for it to pay for a polygraph machine for her drug-sniffing dogs."

Jane smiled. "Yeah, you never know when those mutts'll get bought off by a nice steak or two."

The three amigas were sitting in Mr. O'Neill's class, making fun of Kevin and Brittany's bandages and paying scant attention to Mr. O'Neill, when Ms. Li burst in through the door. "Good morning, young people. I have a very sad announcement. The library will be closed until further notice."

Daria snorted. "Great. There goes the only place I can go to be alone."

Jen raised her eyebrow, "You expected something different with the roof caving in?"

Ms Li cleared her throat and continued. "To raise money for repairs, the school will be presenting a medieval fair, simulating life in the middle ages."

Kevin looked up from where he was making out with Brittany during the break in class, and said, "Yeah!"

"Volunteers are desperately needed. Those who refuse to volunteer must voluntarily purchase a ticket for ten dollars or voluntarily face suspension. Have a nice day." And with that, Ms. Li urned and walked out.

Daria turned to her friends. "That may be the stupidest thing I've ever heard of."

Jane smirked. "I know."

Jen grinned, "We gotta go."

At the Morgendorffer dinner table, Quinn was talking. "So I thought, if I have to volunteer anyway, I might as well do something that lets me try out some of the things that interest me. I mean, I already know that I'm pretty good with clothes, but what if I'm better in front of a camera?"

Daria nodded. "That actually sounds reasonable, Quinn."

"So, they'll have this dinner theater with a play by this guy, Ken Barry, and I'm going to audition for "Emily," the really cute sister. And Daria, I was wondering if - what are you laughing about?"

"Sorry, Sis," Daria said, still holding her sides. "It's just funny." She looked at Quinn, still grinning. "If this play is at all from the Middle Ages, and your pronunciation is even close, then you're talking about, "The Knight's Tale", from The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Canterbury is a town in England that all these people were going to, in his stories. Ken Berry is an actor that was on F Troop." Seeing Quinn frown, she waved her hand. "Don't worry, if you didn't know the players and someone was talking fast, anyone can make that mistake. What were you wondering?"

"I was wondering if you could help me get ready, since you and your girlfriend have already bought tickets."

Three hours later, Daria looked up from where she sat on her bed, glanced at Jen and Jane, and told Quinn, "Well, that's it. Since they're going to use this scene to audition, you're as ready as you're going to be. And we've got stage basics down, so you won't make a fool of yourself." She closed the script and looked at each of the girls. "Um, I'm gonna talk about what happens if you get the part." She took a breath. "Quinn, it's been really cool how things have changed in the last few months, but one of the downsides is that you do have actual enemies now. Of course, in my opinion, they were enemies before, so you've just taken the ability to stab you in the back away from them, but still." She looked into Quinn's eyes. "If you get this part, especially if one or more of your enemies tries out, well, this theater is a way for you to shine, but it can also be a way for you to humiliate yourself."

Jen nodded, "They may take the opportunity to you humiliate yourself. Or not." Jane nodded.

"Look, nothing may happen, everything might go perfectly," said Daria. "But it costs you very little to be prepared. Think about what could go wrong."

"Besides mass food poisoning on the dinner part." Jane looked up and the semi-amused stares of her friends and smiled at Quinn. "What she's saying is that you should do everything you, personally, can to make sure things go well. Take what I just said. Maybe one of your co-stars gets bad food and can't play his or her part. What do you do?"

"And be a little skeptical when people offer you advice," Daria said.

"Yeah, besides the fact that she's thick as a brick, why would Tiffany want you to do better in anything?" Jen added.

Quinn nodded. "I kinda see what you're saying. But what can I do?" She looked at Daria. "What would you do?"

Daria rubbed her chin. "Well, first of all, I wouldn't audition for the part." All the girls laughed and threw paper at her. "But if I was put into your place, I'd both try to do my best, and try to cover myself. First, the scenario Jane brought up. What happens if someone can't play their part for some reason? And the vast majority of them are guys. Because this is so spur-of-the-moment, I don't think that they'll have understudies. You have the three J's. You might want to ask them to try and memorize as much of your three biggest co-stars' lines as possible. Next, step back and look at who is offering you things or advice. If you're unsure at all, ask us."

Jane leaned forward. "And finally, after you've done those things, relax and have fun. It's not worth it if you have to plan this big campaign about it." Jen nodded in agreement.

Daria muttered, "It is for some people."

Quinn saw Sandi and Tiffany coming toward her. Gotta at least be civil, she thought. "Hi Sandi, Tiffany. What's up?"

Oddly, it was Tiffany that answered her, Sandi apparently not having noticed her. "Not muuch, Quinn. And wiith you?"

A thoughtful expression crossed Quinn's face before her lips thinned. "Not too much, Tiff. I'm going to try out for that play, the Ken Berry tales?"

Sandi broke in on whatever Tiffany was about to say. "That is so weird, Quinn. I am, too."

Quinn raised her eyebrow. "Really? I didn't see your name on the sign-up sheet. Anyway, gotta go."

And with that, she turned and was almost run into by Stacy, who said, "Quinn, you're not going to believe this. Bret Strand just asked me out."

"That's great, Stacy!" And they chattered as they made their way away from the Fashion Club, or Fashion Pair.

Mr. O'Neill looked around at the various students reading their lines, sighed, and clapped his hands. "Uh, shall we begin?" The first pair to try out was Sandi and Upchuck. They made their way through the lines until Mr. O'Neill was acting as a priest.

"Uh, I do, I guess," said Sandi.

Mr. O'Neill smiled. "I now pronounce you husband and wife." Turning to the audience, he added, "And thus with perfect bliss and melody, Palamon wedded Emily."

Upchuck took this opportunity to grab Sandi's butt. She struggled, and they both fell to the stage. "Hey! Why fight it, toots? We're man and wife now."

Sandi took this opportunity to knee Upchuck in the groin. "Keep dreaming, Charles," she said as she got up.

The next pair was Kevin and Brittany. "I do, Kevvy... I mean Palimony," Brittany squeaked happily.

"Yeah, me, too, replied Kevin, as they began making out.

"I now pronounce you... oh, dear. Okay, guys... um, Brittany. Brittany? Brittany!" Mr. O'Neill was having problems getting the blonde's attention.


"That was... very good. But now it's time to give someone else a chance to audition."

Brittany's face was crestfallen. "Okay. Come on, Kevvy."

"Um, actually, I'd like Kevin to stay on stage. Kevin, you're really doing something special with Palamon."

"But... aren't I Palamon?" Kevin seemed confused.

"Now, who's next for Emily? Ah, Quinn. Quinn Morgendorffer." Mr. O'Neill looked at his clipboard.

"Right here!" she replied.

"Eep!" said Brittany.

The Morgendorffers were all in the car, riding to the fair. "I will make a dainty garland for my head and sing. Why can't I get that right?"

"Because you're interested in it," said Daria.


Daria turned toward Quinn. "Listen, Emily's been kept in her family's castle since she was born. No hayrides, no hunting, and almost no women of her age and social status to gossip with. She's in the garden trying to find something to do, so she decides to put flowers in her hair and sing...something. Anything to ward off the boredom."

"Oh." Quinn thought for a bit. "I will make a dainty garland for my head, and sing," she said, her head in her hands.

Daria smirked a bit. "I guess Brittany's speechless with joy that you and Kevin are going to be acting together."

Quinn stuck out her tongue. "For your information, Daria, she volunteered to drive him so he could work on his lines." They were approaching the school, and a red car swerved around them, past the turn for the school, and headed out of town.

Daria raised her eyebrow. "Wasn't that Brittany's car?" Quinn, her face pale, nodded.

"When I find the girls, we'll find the Js," she said, as they parked and got out of the car. As soon as the doors closed, they headed off in opposite directions.

As they were moving into the fair, Helen said, "Daria? Quinn?"

Jake looked around. "That's funny, they were here a minute ago." He shrugged.

Helen saw the Griffins approaching. "Linda! Tom!" she said, with a smile pasted on her face.

"Helen! Jake!" they both replied. After Jake and Tom had shook hands, Linda said, "Have you met Sam and Chris? Boys, say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer."

The boys seemed more interested in a tussle between themselves. "You suck. You suck!" said Sam, just before Chris stomped on his foot and ran off. "Ow!" he cried, then followed him.

"Uh, kids, come back here." Tom said, then followed them.

"Congratulations on Quinn getting the lead in the play," Linda said.

Helen smiled widely. "Why, thank you. I heard the competition was pretty stiff."

Linda shrugged, and said. "Well, poor Sandi's acting is a little subtle. Mr. O'Neill was obviously looking for someone over the top."

Helen just grinned.

Daria looked at Jane and Jen. "Thanks for meeting me here, guys."

Jane smiled. "Hey, we wanted to be here, remember?" Jen nodded.

Daria looked around the main drag. "Listen we need to - " She was cut off by Upchuck bouncing toward them.

"Would either of you lovelies be interested in a madrigal?"

They chorused, "No!"

He ignored them. "I am the brave Sir Chuck, Sir Chuck, manly and strong and quick..."

Jane tapped his shoulder, and sang, "I'm going to cut out your tongue, your tongue, and fry it up on a stick."

Jen continued. "And if that doesn't work, doesn't work, I'll cut off your..." Her mouth was covered by Daria's hand.

Seeing Daria's glare, Upchuck said, "Feisty." He turned and called, "Hey! Andrea! You like madrigals?" before he went bouncing off.

Daria sighed. "Thank God for that." She turned to her friends. "We need to find the three Js, it looks like Brittany's taken off with Kevin."

After searching for a few moments, they found the boys at the jousting arena, where Jaime had just gotten bowled over by Mr. DeMartino, and was slow getting up. While they were waiting for him, Stacy came up, crying.

"Oh, Daria!!!" she sobbed. I went out on a date with Bret Strand, and he said he'd call me, and he didn't, and I just passed him, and he acted like he didn't even see me!" She kept on crying.

Daria looked around, saying, "Oh, Lord," to herself. Finally, her eyes lit on someone. She walked over to him. "Ted?" she asked softly.

He looked up, then blanched. "Yes, Daria?"

She took him by the arm. "Did you mean it when you said you wanted to apologize?" He nodded. "Good. Here's what you're going to do. You see that girl?" she asked, pointing at Stacy.

"She's a pretty girl."

"Well, someone acted poorly to her, and I don't have time to listen to her vent right now, because my sister needs me. So, because you're all about treating ladies well, you're going to go up to her, and be her escort today." She looked into his eyes. "And if she gets hurt more, physically or emotionally, I'm going to blame you, and you're going to be very unhappy. Are we clear?"

He nodded. "Crystal."

She led him over. "Stacy? I think you've met Ted. He's going to be escorting you around today."

Stacy looked up. "Ted? The jerk who called you a -"

Daria held up her hand. "Let's assume he's found the error of his ways unless he shows you otherwise." She turned to her friends. "Ready?"

They nodded. Joey said, "Jamie's still a bit woozy, and he's the one that studied Palamon."

"Can't be helped."

In the end, it was a successful failure. They managed to get Jamie to the theater in time, but the blow to the head he had taken had him believing that his lines included singing, "Buffalo Gals," and "Camptown Races," at the top of his lungs. This started a food fight among the audience, but everyone had enjoyed Quinn's part before things went pear-shaped. And Helen managed to get a piece of meat right to Linda Griffin's face when she was looking elsewhere. Daria, Jen, and Jane decided to walk home, their hands entwined.

"What happened to Stacy and Ted?"

"I don't know, guess you'll just have to ask her tomorrow."

"Eh, I think we should let Quinn do it."

12. Episode Eleven

Ms. Morris, the gym teacher, blew her whistle. "Okay, ladies, listen up. Since it's 'Focus on Agility' month, for the rest of the class, I want you all to work on your cartwheels, splits and aerials."

Daria rolled her eyes. "Funny how all the drills for 'Focus on Agility' month are the same ones you'd do if you were trying to sneak a cheerleader practice into regular gym class."

Jane pounded her hand on her knee. "Yes, and I don't intend to stand for it. They can have my squat-thrusts when they pry them from my cold, dead hands."

Jen just raised her eyebrows.

"I don't know," Jane shrugged, then smiled as a tall, thin boy strolled in.

Daria smirked. "See something you like or just browsing?"

Jane held up her hands. "I'm just thinking about getting those running shoes."

Jen grinned. "What color were they?"

Jane hung her head. "Just kick the bleachers out from underneath me, okay?"

Ms Morris headed in their direction.

"Uh-oh, busted," said Daria.

"Ladies. Why aren't you exercising with the rest of the class?" Ms. Morris had her hands on her hips.

Jen smiled. "We are exercising."

Daria smirked. "We're exercising our right to abstain from cheerleader practice."

"That's not cheerleading, it's agility. Lane, you're just like your sisters, aren't you?"

"We share certain chromosome pairs. Beyond that, I'm not supposed to say." Jane's mouth was compressed in a thin line.

"You know what I mean." Ms. Morris was about to say more, but Daria held up her hand and stepped between the two.

"Excuse me." Both of them looked at her. "I'm sorry, Ms. Morris, but what you said just doesn't hold water," she said to the teacher. Your 'Focus on Agility' not only has the same drills that your cheerleaders practice, but the way that you teach says that this is cheerleading practice, as well. If this were truly a mandated agility workout, you would have it heavily regimented due to the high risk of injury, and you would be focusing on those with the least ability, to make sure that there were no injury. Instead, you have told the great majority of class to 'work on' a wide variety of things, while you assist the cheerleaders - those most adept at these things - at getting better, and ignoring those who'll never get on the squad. It's a wonderful training technique for cheerleaders, but you've shown you just don't care what we do, as long as Ms. Li doesn't come in and see us slacking."

"Yeah," Jen said. "Why don't you give us a place to get out of your way, and we won't interfere with your cheerleader practice."

Ms. Morris snorted. "Jane Lane. Can't be part of a group. Always have to be different. Your sister Penny never wanted to participate, either. I taught her a thing or two about the American competitive spirit."

Jane stared back at her. "You sure did. That's why she's spent the last ten years out of the country."

Ms. Morris looked at Daria and Jen. "I know what kind of upbringing she's had. What's your excuse?"

Jen smiled and shrugged. "I'm just plain no good?"

"Life's just one big smartass joke, isn't it? Well, I'm here to prepare you for the real world. I'll see you all after school to make up this class."

Daria put her hands on her knees. "Hold it, you didn't hear my excuse. I'm someone who doesn't want to get injured doing exercises that I'm not used to while you spend your time coaching cheerleaders. Now you can have us make up this class after school, but remember, that'll take up your time as well, and if you do that, I'm going to my mom, the lawyer, and we will go through meeting after hearing after discussion, all of which will take your time away from you, and at the end of, you will still lose. Now, how much time do you want to invest, Ms. Morris?"

Ms. Morris's face screwed up, and for a moment it seemed as if the girls were going to the office. But she just pointed to a set of mats, and said, "sit on those mats and stretch, and you'll get 'C's."

The girls quickly scrambled over.

Later that day, the girls overheard Kevin bragging to Mack about getting a bye. "Did you hear that?" Jen asked.

"Whoever said life was fair?" said Jane.

Daria chipped in as she re-tied her boot, "I don't know, but I'll bet he was a quarterback."

Jane sighed. "You know, I had this weird anxiety dream where we had this pop quiz in math that I was totally unprepared for."

"Were you in your underwear?" Daria smiled.

Jane frowned. "No. That's how I figured out it wasn't a dream."

Jen patted Jane's back. "Uh-oh. Not a great score on the quiz?"

"My straight "C" average in math is now in serious danger of becoming a 'D'." Jane sighed. "So I'm off to study hall."

"To finish your nap?"

Jane smiled. "You two know me too well."

When Daria got home, Jane and Jen were with her. "Mom, can we see you in private?" she asked, when they found her.

"Of course," her mother replied and went into the home office, which was a bit bigger than others. When everyone was inside, she said, "Daria, please lock the door, then everyone, please, have a seat."

After they did, Daria nodded at Jane and Jen, and they each took a dollar out and handed it to Helen. "Mom," Daria said, "We've got a couple of issues at school and need your professional opinion."

"All right," Helen said as she collected the bills. "But I reserve the right to stop being your lawyer and start being your mother again at any time."

"It started this morning, when we went to gym..." Daria began, and with the other's help, soon related all that they had done, heard, and seen that day. After they finished, she leaned back.

"So there really are two...problems that we have, Mom. The first is more just giving you a heads-up on this Focus On Agility stuff."

"I understand, even though, as a parent, I'd prefer if you don't avoid class."

"I wouldn't avoid it if I was given proper training, Mom. But I'm not going to hurt myself proving that I'm not a cheerleader."

"I understand, and I'll back you up...this time."

"Thanks, Mom. The other thing is this thing about byes."

Helen sighed. "And it's the more important issue. But frankly, all that you have is a small amount of heresay, and that won't be admissible anywhere useful. The advice I will give you is this - don't say anything about it to anyone except me or each other, and be on the lookout for hard evidence. Nothing else, with the possible exception of a mass of verbal confessions, will work at all." Helen crossed her arms. "And I would not suggest trying to record them. You either have to get everyone's consent, which you'll never do, or you have to record them in a public area - and if they find out you're doing it, many people will get violent. So unless they, through gross stupidity, give you a present, you don't worry about it. Tell me anything more that you hear, and if there's enough, I'll hand it over to the police to deal with."

All the girls sighed and looked down at once.

"That's all we can do, girls."

The girls were walking down the school halls, talking about their parents, when they saw Sandi and Tiffany, with their new acolyte Brooke, clustered near a table labeled Track Team Tryouts, with the same boy from the day before sitting at it.

Sandi actually had her nose in the air. "Can you imagine joining an actual sport?" she asked.

Brooke said, "You'd get all sweaty and your makeup would smudge."

Tiffany added, "You're supposed to date jocks, not be one."

"Well said, Tiffany," Sandy said. "I mean, what kind of loser would sign up for the track team?"

The boy looked up. "You girls don't think I'm a loser, do you?"

Sandi gave out a ladylike snort. "Are you asking if you can hang out with us?"

The boy shook his head. "Nope. I prefer women with a slightly more enlightened attitude toward fitness."

"Oh, yeah?" With that, the Fashion Club turned and walked away.

The boy shook his head. "I guess you can be born in the '80s and still stuck in the '50s."

Jane "Mmm'ed."

"It's hard to believe there's anyone alive who still thinks being athletic isn't ladylike," the boy continued.

Jen "Mmm'ed."

"Women can excel at any sport they put their minds to. "

Daria nodded. "I definitely agree with that."

Jane opened her mouth, closed it, then gave out a tight smile as she walked up. "Me, too. I'd like to sign up for the track team."

Both Daria's and Jen's jaws dropped open.

The three girls met in the hallway the next day. "You walking home?" asked Daria of Jane, who shook her head.

"Um, not today. Practice."

"So you made the team?" asked Jen.

"Yeah." She looked at her friends. "This is the part where you say, 'Hey, way to go, congratulations.'"

Daria took Jane's shoulders in her hands. "Hey, way to go, congratulations," she said softly. "The only reason I didn't say that earlier was that it wasn't any surprise that you made it. I've seen you run, Lane."

Jen bent in and hugged her. "Good job, Jane, for whatever reason you're doing it."

Daria and Jen had been silent all the way to Daria's house. Once they were in her room with the door closed, Jen turned to her and asked, with tears in her eyes, "It's what I think it is, isn't it?"

Daria nodded. "If you think that she joined because of that guy, yeah, it's what you think." She put her head in her hands. "Jen, did you ever hear of Jane ever having a boyfriend?"

Jen shook her head. "She's hung around with a few, but I never heard of her dating. Any guy that got past her rep as a weird girl couldn't deal with the amount of time she spent on her art."

Daria shrugged. "I have an idea what might be happening, but I can't be sure. All we can do is be there, and support her as friends, like we said we would."

Jen said, "But-" when she was cut off by Daria's lips on hers.

After the kiss, Daria leaned back. "If she's just a friend, we'll be okay. I'll be ecstatic."

"You don't blame me for wanting more?"

Daria shook her head with a sad smile. "How can I, when I want more, too?"

Two weeks passed, with Jane spending more time training than with her friends. Finally, they met in the hall, with Jane having her hair pinned up, and carrying a gym bag.

"Land that big sneaker endorsement yet?" Daria asked.

"Nah, they wouldn't meet my price." Jane coughed and looked down. "Today's our first track meet. I wouldn't mind if you two were there."

"Oh. Well, you know how I hate to cancel my line-dancing lesson... but okay," Daria said, winking.

"Be there with bells on," said Jen."

"Cool," Jane said, as she left.

Daria had on a pensive expression. "The question is, am I supporting my friend or her surrender to the system?"

"If you have to ask, then you know which one it is," said Jen as she put her arm around Daria. "C'mon, lets get to class."

Later that day, Daria and Jen were about to sit down in the bleachers when they saw Trent, so they moved to sit next to him. "Trent? What are you doing here?" Daria asked as they sat down.

"I came to support Janey," he said, then shrugged. "They're power-scrubbing my room again. Anyway, this running stuff means lot to her."

"Uh-huh," was all that Daria could say.

"What she's doing takes guts. All that practicing, day in, day out."

It was Jen's turn. "Yeah."

He turned to look at them. "You know, it's meant a lot to her that you haven't walked away when she had this...interest."

"Trent, she's my best friend." Daria tried to think of what to say next. "I may not always agree with what she does, but I'm going to be behind her on it."

Jen said, without turning her head from the track, "Goes double for me."

Just then, the whistle sounded, and all the runners came out of their blocks. After the split-second it took Daria to turn her head, it looked like Jane had had a running start, while all the rest were from a standing start. As Jane made her way down the track, Daria could hear the voices of various students say, "Hey, Jane's good." "No, she's great!" "Go girl!"

Daria said in her monotone, "Go, go, kick butt," while faintly pumping her arm. Then she looked at Trent and Jen, shook her head, and yelled, "Go, Jane!" using her mouth as a megaphone. This shocked both Trent and Jen, even though they had been doing the same thing.

The three girls were celebrating at Pizza King, and Daria was making up for lost time. "...And you missed a lot of really good TV while you were at those practices. The other day, they had this special, When Animals Hold a Grudge."

Jane and Mack stopped by their booth. "Jane, you were amazing. First place?" asked Jodie.

"Yeah, congratulations," Mack added.

Jane blushed slightly and said, "Thanks, I just pretend I'm running away from a pep rally."

After they left, Daria continued. "So anyway, this one parakeet was really ticked off at its owner for not changing its water..." and this time was interrupted by Evan, the boy from the sign-up table.

"Hey, teammate," he said to Jane, then turned to the other girls. "Did you see this girl run like the wind?"

Daria, on automatic, replied, "Have you ever heard her break wind?" and didn't immediately see the shocked look on Jane's face.


Evan seemed amused. "That's pretty funny." He turned to Jane and said, "See you at practice, speedy." before he left.

By that time, Jen had elbowed Daria in the ribs, and Daria had done a facepalm. "Oh, crap," she said. "That was the shoe guy, wasn't it?" She looked up and saw Jane's mouth in a firm line as she nodded. "I'm sorry, I didn't recognize him soon enough," she said with a faint blush.

Jane shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. "Hell, if that's the worst I get dissed, I should count myself lucky. Now, about that parakeet?"

Daria grinned, and started again. "So anyway, the parakeet waits until its owner... "

Daria, Jen, and Jane were sitting on the bleachers when Daria noticed Ms. Morris coming toward them. "I guess we'd better get to our mat before she gives us detention."

Jane held her hand up slightly. "Don't worry about it."

Daria looked confused. "What do you mean?"


Ms Morris went straight to Jane. "How are the legs, Jane?"

Jane said, in an unsure voice, "Okay, Ms. Morris. Maybe a little sore after the meet."

Ms. Morris' eyebrow shot up. "Sore? You better rest up for tomorrow. Here, go watch TV in my office." She tossed Jane the keys.

Jane replied, while making a subtle gesture between Daria and Jen, "I don't know. I-I don't really want to be all by myself... "

Ms. Morris turned to the two others. "Morgendorffer, Burns, you join her," she said, then left.

"Yes, ma'am," said Daria.

"Anything for the team, ma'am," added Jen.

As they walked toward the coaches' office, Jane leaned close to both of them, and said, "And I even got that all on tape."

Later that afternoon, the three friends walked to Daria's house, and went into the office, where Helen was sitting already.

"Well?" she asked. Jane put down a cassette.

"This is Morris sending us three to her office because 'my legs were sore.' I've been making noises about being worried about my math grade, I expect to get offered a bye on it, soon." She looked up. "Is this going to be enough to bring in people? Because I'm out on a limb, and it can get awfully lonely."

"Jane, I can't promise that it won't turn out badly. What I can promise you is that I won't release any information until we have enough to, at a minimum, cover you." Helen nodded.

"Thanks, Mom," said Daria as they left.

"How'd the math test go?" Daria asked as Jane came out of the classroom.

"I passed."

"You hope."

"I know." Jane smirked.

"Well, aren't we confident. If I had as much trouble wi..." Daria broke off, as Jen spoke up.

"You got a bye on the test, didn't you?"

"I probably would have gotten a 'C', anyway." Jane looked at her friends, and nodded.

"I can't believe it!" Daria said, as she put her hands on Jane's shoulders. Jane reached up and slowly took them off, squeezing before letting them go. Daria's face screwed up as she clenched her fists.

"Hey, you watched TV with me instead of going to gym." Jane crossed her arms.

"So?" Jen asked.

"So, that was one perk of being on the team. The math test was another."

"You don't see any difference?" Daria was incredulous.

"Yeah, the math test was a hell of a lot better."

"Give me a break," Daria said as she and Jen stomped off.

"What's up with your friends?" Evan asked as he walked up.

"Oh, I rubbed her self-righteousness the wrong way." Jane said as she watched him twirl a little baton around and about, right next to her.

"I don't know why you hang out with her." The baton was going up and down, but he was slowing down a bit.

"What do you mean?" Jane asked, her eyebrows arched.

"Well, you're sort of a sports star now. It's not so cool to be hanging around with... you know, losers. Especially dyke losers."

Jane's expression was a battlefield of emotions. Finally, she got it down to a poker face, and turned to look at Evan. "Yeah, you're right. I've been spending too much time with losers." And with that, she turned and headed toward Ms. Morris's office.

"I'm glad you... see it my way," was all that Evan could say.

The next day, Jane was getting some books out of her locker. When she started to close the door, she saw the whole track team gathered around her. "Um... I'll bring the spikes back tomorrow. Honest."

Ms. Morris looked straight at Jane. "Jane, I wish you would consider coming back to the team." The crowd murmured agreement.

Jane looked right back at her. "Thanks, but I stand by my decision."

Ms. Morris said, again, "Jane, I wish you would consider coming back to the team."

"Am I missing something?" Jane looked puzzled.

"The team needs you, and you need the team... if you don't want to be here taking math again this summer."

"Gee, that almost sounds like blackmail. Fortunately, I can pull up my math grade on my own." Jane said with a grin.

"Then I'll flunk you."

"Oh, now that does sound exactly like blackmail." Jane looked at the ceiling. "Or is it extortion? No matter, the lawyers can settle it." She looked back at Ms. Morris. "Why don't I go to Ms. Li and expose this grade-changing arrangement?"

Ms. Morris smirked. "She already knows."

Jane's smile lost a bit of its sunniness. "Okay, then, back off or I'll tell the P.T.A."

Ms. Morris's smile widened. "They know, too."

Jane's smile vanished. "Oh, darn."

"You're beaten, Lane."

Jane raised her eyebrow. "Really? I think I'll just have to tell the grand jury about this."

Ms. Morris covered her mouth to stifle her laughter. "The grand jury! Who do you think that they're going to believe, you or me? Or I should say, you, or me and everyone on the track team?"

Jane's face turned ashen. "You mean that you, Evan, Chipmunk, ..." she went through everyone's names, "..., you'd all lie under oath and say that you know nothing about a grade-changing arrangement?"

Everyone nodded or said some version of, "Yes."

"And no one will stand up and tell the truth? Nobody?"

Not a word or motion was said.

Jane shrugged. "You realize that's conspiracy to commit perjury, right?"

Ms. Morris snorted. "Once again, who'll have any proof?"

Jane had her jaw drop down, then put up her finger, and act like she was trying to say something and couldn't. She tried again, with the same results. Then she put her finger on her chin, and said, "Hmmm. I guess that'd be me, since I've recorded every conversation we've just had, including this one." She looked around, and said, "And don't try to get the tape off of me here, because I have copies from other days, so it'll be a short hop for people with a clue to figure out who - What are you all laughing about?"

Evan finally reined in his chuckles enough to talk. "You've forgot that we're in Maryland. Both parties have to be aware and agree to any tapings. You offer those up, and not only will they throw them out, but you'll get thrown in jail for using them."

Jane nodded. "Ooh, I see." She rubbed her chin. "Nope. You need to consult a better lawyer, because mine says that that only applies to private conversations." She waved her hand around. "You see this? Public school. No expectation of privacy, and so you can record to your little heart's content." She slammed her locker door. "See you in court!" she said, then sprinted down the halls, out the front door, and into Daria's arm's - while Helen stood there beside Jen and a police officer, and another two officers and a court clerk went in to subpoena Ms. Li's video tapes.

"We did it, we did it!" Jane said, bouncing up and down in Daria's arms.

"If we did it, then maybe we can stop jumping, Jane?" Daria said, but she had a wide smile on her face.

Jane stopped jumping and enveloped Daria in a tight hug. "Lane, air!" was all that Daria could squeeze out.

"Sorry, Daria." Jane stopped and framed Daria's face in her hands, her thumbs brushing over Daria's cheekbones. "I just remembered what I realized yesterday, and couldn't tell you...either of you," she amended as Jen tunneled into the embrace, making it three-way. "I was kinda bummed about Evan being such a jerk, and I was wondering why all the guys interested in me are jerks. That's when I realized."

"Realized what?"

Jane stood stock still. "I realized that maybe someone was making all those guys look like jerks because I had already won the lottery. I have two wonderful women who love me and who" A tear dripped down Jane's cheek. "I love you! My God, Daria, Jen, I almost passed up the best thing in my life because of a jerk of a jock?"

Daria's eyes widened. "It's okay, Jane, real-" Whatever she was going to say was cut off by Jane, having her arm wrapped around Daria's neck, kissing Daria deeply, as Daria stiffened for a moment, then relaxed into her embrace. After a time that the girls would measure in eons, but was probably only a few moments, they broke, both panting for air. Jen saw the love for each other in their eyes, and tried to leave the embrace.

The emphasis was on tried. Neither would let go of their third amiga, and Jane looked Jen straight in the eyes, making the shorter girls mouth drop slightly open. "You two are the best things to ever happen to me, Jennifer, and I love you," she said, right before she kissed her with as much passion as she had Daria.

In the coming weeks, Helen would see reports about all of the students with invalidated grades, the teachers and coaches thrown out, arrested and convicted for their part in the scandal, and how Ms. Li held on to her job by literally throwing everyone else involved under the bus; and the widespread anger toward Jane Lane for her part in bringing the scandal to life.

But all of that was for later. For this night, there was only her daughter, Daria, with her arms around her girlfriends, and the biggest smile that Helen had ever seen on her face, saying, "Mom, I'm going to spend the night at Jane's."

13. Episode Eleven and a half

Jane, Daria and Jen came in the door of Casa Lane, carrying bags of food and giggling. Jane set her bag down, went over to Trent's sleeping body, and shook him until he woke up. "But Officer, I didn't know that she was underage," he mumbled.

"Trent!" Jane said in a loud voice.

"Yeah, Janey?"

"Trent, I love you, but I'm invoking 'need the house' rights under our agreement."

"But Janey -"

Jane's arms were crossed. "Need I remind you of just how many times you've invoked them and made me find another place to spend the night?"

He shook his head. "I'll be gone in five, probably over to Jesse's." And he was. While he had been packing, the girls had been laying pizza and sodas out on the end of the dining table near the Living room, and closing the drapes. When he finally left, locking the door behind him, they all collapsed on the couch, with Jane in the middle, a slice of pizza in everybody's hand, and their feet up on a trunk they had pulled up to be a coffee table.

In another five minutes they had finished their slices. Jane stretched and looked from one of her girlfriends to the other. "Well, this has been one interesting day," she said. "I started out with no one, cycled really quickly through maybe-a-guy, and now," and here her voice turned soft, "I'm stuck with you guys." She turned to look straight into Jen's eyes, after she brushed her hair out of the way. "Can you forgive me for not being able to say, 'I love you,' when you asked for it?"

Jen's eyes were shiny as she answered. "Of course I can, baby." She kissed Jane softly. "Like Daria said, it's not worth anything if you don't think about it, or mean what you say."

"I've got a question." They both turned toward Daria. "What really changed your mind, Jane?"

Jane blushed. "So you didn't buy what I said earlier?"

Daria smirked. "I bought that it was close enough to the truth not to ding my mom's BS detector. I know you love m-us, Jane. but something in what you said doesn't track right."

Jane hung her head. "Oh, all right. I didn't say the whole truth in front of your mom. But I don't think she wanted to know the whole truth."

"The whole truth?" Jen said from behind her, her chin on Jane's shoulder, her arms around Jane's stomach.

"Yeah, the whole truth." Jane said, then turned her head slightly and kissed Jen's cheek. "See, while I've loved you both for a long time, the secret is that I've been attracted to you both, even longer. Jennifer, you've always been one of the sexiest girls in school, in my opinion. You'd be very popular, if that sort of thing appealed to you. And Daria," she turned and gave an exasperated sigh to her best friend, "You're supposed to have the big brain. Don't you know there are hundreds of ways to get past a guard like we did at Brittany's first party, without me acting like your date?" She watched Daria blush. "I wanted to be there, on your arm." She turned to Jane, "and on yours, too. I fell in love with you both, very quickly."

She took a breath. "But in some ways, I'm like Daria. I saw the way the world treats gays, and I didn't like it. I knew that I was attracted to both boys and girls, like you, Jen. So I decided that, if I could, I was going to be partnered with a guy instead of a girl. I was at least going to try that before I made myself a target."

"And Evan was that?" Daria softly asked. Jane nodded her head. "And when you found out he was a jerk, you came to us?"

"Umm, well, not exactly." Daria raised her eyebrow as Jane continued. "When he insulted you was when I quit the team, but...for a couple days, I'd been trying to get turned on by him, and every time I tried, I just heard your voices," she said as she stroked Daria's cheek, "and thought about seeing your faces, feeling your butts and having you feel mine, and..." Jane was panting a bit, "kissing you, and I'd always cum hard. Since I already loved both of you, there was no way out." Daria kissed the thumb Jane stroked across her lips. "As long as you two agree, we're going to be together. I want to grow old with you."

"Jane," said Daria in a choked voice, "I love you. I'll always agree." And with that, she leaned forward and kissed Jan on the base of her throat.

Jen gently stroked Jane's hair away and gently kissed the nape of her neck. "I love you, too, and I'm yours for as long as you want me, both of you."

"All three of us," said Daria. "As close as we can get to marriage, as soon as they'll let us," she said, as she took her trademark jacket off.

Jane squeaked when she saw that Daria wasn't wearing a bra, and it was blatantly apparent that she was in favor of this new arrangement. "Y-Yes," she said, starting to take her own jacket off, only to find a jacket-less Jen helping her off with it..or so it seemed. When she had the jacket down to Jane's elbows, she stopped for a moment, and Daria leaned down and nipped Jane's nipples that were visible through her bra and shirt. When Jane squealed again, the jacket resumed motion, and Daria started pulling Jane's shirt out of her shorts while Jane, once she got her hands free of her jacket, used one of them to stroke Daria's thick hair, and the other to try and pull Daria's shirt off. Jen's lips occupied Jane's after that.

Noticing what Jane was trying to do, Daria leaned back and took her shirt off, then leaned forward, grabbed Jane's hands, and put them on her sides. Jane moved them up and down, then decided they were best used elsewhere, so she cupped Daria's breasts and ran her thumbs across her nipples, eliciting a moan from Daria as she leaned back in to kiss her throat.

Jen had seen where this was going, so she got up, and quickly took her shirt, boots, pants, and bra off, before she sat down and unlatched Jane's bra through her shirt. With that, she slid her hands under Jane's shirt, and slid the entire garment off, taking time to cup Jane's breasts, skin on skin, before lifting the bra off with the shirt. "Mmmmm," was all Jane could say to that, and Jen nibbled on her earlobe for her trouble, while Daria started licking around her aureolae and nipples.

Jane's hand stroked farther and farther up Daria's inner thigh with each stroke of Daria's tongue, until she reached the juncture, and - "No panties?" she croaked out.

Daria smiled. "When I had to use the restaurant at the pizza place, it might have been for more than just a call of nature!" she said, the last syllable reflecting the fact that Jane's fingers had stroked over her outer labia and erect clit.

"Why, Daria, you're wet for us," Jane said with a merry smile.

Daria blushed, then smiled, herself. "Just for that, Lane, you're going to have to take your shorts, boots, and leggings of in front of us," and she nodded to Jen, who had taken her panties off just a moment ago.

"All right, but then I get to see Jen take off your boots." She went over to the stereo, and put on a Barry White CD. As the music cued up, she stood on the trunk, and untied her bootlaces. As the music started thumping out a slow beat, Jane began to dance, finally getting her boots loose enough so that she could kick a boot to the side of each of her partners. As they sat there, staring, she stood on one leg, and ran one of her feet, still in leggings, over the nose and cheek of both Jen and Daria, smiling when she saw them inhale, and noticed their nipples hardening even more. She turned around, unzipped her pants, and in one quick motion, pulled her pants, leggings, and panties to her knees, revealing a gorgeous pussy, framed by straight black hairs, with liquid drops clinging to them. Squatting, she pushed her clothing to the top of the trunk, before standing up and getting off the trunk. Daria stood up, walked over to her, reached out, and pulled her head down for a deep kiss, where they couldn't tell whose tongue was whose. During the kiss, Jane ran her hands over Daria's ass, and unfastened her skirt. Finally, they broke apart, panting.

"Oh, Hell, yeah!" growled Jane, as she guided Daria to the trunk, and sat down on the couch.

Jen gave a smile to Jane as she knelt by Daria's boots and unlaced them. Jane sat back, and watched as she put first one, then two, fingers into her tight pussy, admiring both Daria's body, and Jen's, the smaller girl, and the taller one, the auburn hair, and the blonde, knowing that they were both hers. Still in beat with the music, Jen kissed Daria's knee, lifted her leg, and took her left boot off. Setting it down, she did the same with her right boot. When that was done, Daria sat on the trunk, leaning back on her arms, in just her socks. Jen kept hold of Daria's leg, as she took her sock off with her teeth, making Jane put a third finger into herself. When the sock was off, Jen started to kiss and lick Daria's toes, slowly making her way up Daria's foot, then ankle, then calf, and thigh.

She paused for a moment to blow cool air on Daria's clit, which by now had poked through her labial folds. Then she started kissing her way down Daria's left leg, where she took Daria's other sock off, again with her teeth. As she did that, and kissed Daria's left foot, she felt a hand in her hair, and turned with it to see Daria's face, with her glasses off, her eyes dilated with lust, just before a tug on that hair brought her into a deep kiss, then pulled her down to lick at each of Daria's nipples, and finally to her sopping wet pussy, where pressure put her mouth right on Daria's nether lips, and she happily started licking.

Watching this from behind Jen, Jane kept rubbing herself, pausing every once in a while to lick her fingers clean. When Jen finally bent over (well, was bent by Daria's hand in her hair), Jane couldn't help herself. She put her wet fingers in Jen's equally wet pussy, while her thumb rubbed gently over Jen's ass. The effect was electric. Jen, stuck between her two partners, could do little but hum her appreciation. The humming right over her clit acted like a live wire to Daria.

"Oh fuck Oh fuck oh fuckohfuckofuck!" she threw back her head and yelled as Jen brought her off. Her orgasm, or possibly orgasms, lasted almost a minute, during which time her legs closed around Jen's head.

Jen wasn't ignored, either. Jane decided to stroke and gently squeeze Jen's clit with her hitherto free hand. That, combined with the pressure from Daria's legs, sent her into orbit, as well, pushing Daria higher in feedback loop. Finally, after several minutes, the girls relaxed.

Daria looked at Jen. "You know, there is someone here who hasn't cum yet," she remarked casually, as she winked at her blonde lover. They both leaped on Jane, Jen's lips giving her a taste of what Daria's pussy was like, while her hair draped over Jane's breasts, and her hand stroked under them. Daria, meanwhile, was lapping at Jane's messily wet pussy, her tongue lapping all around Jane's vagina, while her nose rubbed Jane's clit and her hand's clinched Jane's ass. With all of this happening at once, it was no time before Jane was cumming like firecrackers, which turned on her partners even more, which made her peak higher. The last thing Jane remembered was screaming their names.

When Daria awoke, it was nearly midnight. She got her sleepy partners up, kissed them, and led them to Jane's bedroom, where they collapsed on Jane's bed; She went down, put the food in the fridge, and set things up so that Trent wouldn't be shocked in the morning. As she climbed the stairs to join her lovers, she thought, We're gonna need a king-sized bed, soon.

14. Episode Twelve

Daria, Jane, and Jen barely made it out of the house in time to make it to school before the bell, but they walked the entire way holding hands, and all sporting smiles that were uncharacteristically wide for each of them. They walked quickly enough to make it on time, so they were slightly puzzled when a security guard stopped them outside the door, and pointed them over to a posting on an A-frame board.

By the order of the School Board of this District,

This School will be CLOSED until this FRIDAY,

when there will be an EMERGENCY MEETING at

7PM in the AUDITORIUM, with Students, Parents, and the Public

welcome to Attend.

Daria looked at the officer. "Can we get any of our things out of our lockers?"

The officer looked back at her. "Only if you really can't live without it for a few days," he said. "I was you, unless I really needed it, I wouldn't ask." He glanced around, as if to make sure nobody else was listening, then bent forward. "They've got cops all over the place, and where there ain't cops, there's people from the District. They're looking through everything." He shuddered. "People are getting arrested, more are losin' their jobs, and no one's in the mood to escort you to your locker."

Daria shook her head. "Thanks, anyway, it wasn't that important." She gestured to her girlfriends, and they made their way to Daria's house.

Once they got there, Quinn was waiting for them. "Daria, Mom left a message for you." She held it out to her. "She wants to talk to us both when she gets home at five."

Daria quickly opened the note and scanned it, checking that it said what Quinn said it did (which it did, with the added caveat that she wanted Jane and Jen to be present, as well. Showing it to her lovers, she said, "Well, looks like we'll have at least today off. I know how I'd like to use it," she winked at them. Then she took another breath and blew it out. But does anyone besides me think that this may be the last day we can get things done for a while?"

"Huh?" Both Jane and Quinn looked confused.

"Maybe I'm wrong," said Daria, "But I can't shake the feeling that we'll have a lot of fingers pointed at us, very soon."

The rest of the day was spent looking at beds on the Internet, painting, reading, and writing, interspersed with kissing and groping. Finally, they heard the sound of Helen's car in the driveway. They all got up and walked downstairs, where they met Helen, Quinn, and, surprisingly, Jake. Helen gestured toward the living room and said, "Let's all have a seat."

Once they all had taken their seats, Helen spoke again. "There's some good news, some bad news, and some things that we just don't know yet." She looked around at everyone. "I'm sure that you girls know that the school is closed for the week, and have guessed the reason why. With the police having to execute several warrants, both search and arrest, in Lawndale High, the Superintendent for the Lawndale School District felt compelled to start its own investigation. All I have are some preliminary findings, but, girls," and she looked over Daria, Jane, and Jen, "you would have caused less damage to the school if you had blown it up.

"The good news, such as it is, is this: The courts have ruled that your tapes are admissible evidence. That means that their evidence, as well as what's being collected now, is all admissible; Ms. Morris will be convicted and serve time. Other teachers who have broken the law are going down. Because we are about to get so much business from this incident, I'm getting a substantial raise, though the firm itself is going to have at least two separate units, so that my associates don't have to recuse themselves when they represent teachers or students. Separately, from what I hear, Ms. Li is so busy trying to save her job, that by the end of this, she may not have any allies or markers left.

"The bad news - well, there's a good deal of bad news. To start off with, it's common knowledge that you three instigated this 'sting.' It's too widespread, we can't contain it now. Also -" She was cut off when Jane raised her hand.

"Why would that be a bad thing? I mean, isn't it usually good when someone does the right thing?"

Helen nodded. "Normally it is, Jane, but when a school depends as much on its football advertising revenue as this one does -"

Jen interrupted her. "Football revenues? I thought we 'stung' the track team."

Helen pressed her lips together. "You did, Jen. It's just that, in their effort to put away the track team, evidence was found that implicated the football team, as well. It also implicated a far larger amount of teachers. In any case, when the school depends as much on its football advertising revenues as this one does, there are going to be many unhappy businesspeople when a competent team can't be fielded. Add to that the number of athletes who will be banned from playing, or worse, held back, because they've been skating on the system for far too long, and their parents. Add to that all of the teachers who've been let go because of this incident, and you have a good many people looking very hard for the bullseyes that have been painted on each of your backs."

"No good deed goes unpunished," growled Daria.

"Yes, Daria, but to be honest, institutions need housecleaning from time to time, and even from what I've heard so far, it was past time for this one," Helen replied.

"Your mother and I have talked about this, girls, and it's very likely that Morgendorffer Consulting's client list is going to drop in a big way - Damned JOCKS!" Jake said, before a soft word and Helen's hand on his arm settled him down. "Anyway, the only client we're counting on staying with us is Mystic Spiral."

"So, financially, this is a wash for us?" Daria asked.

"More or less," her mother replied. "More to the point, though, we don't have enough to send you to a boarding school, or the like, so you will be there for people to attack. I don't know how bad it will get, but I've been advised that having extra security around the house would be a very good idea." She took a breath, and let out a sigh. "That's why I asked for you girls to come today. You need, at the least, to be aware of what's coming, and we may be able to help you in some way."

"Oh, crap." Everyone looked and saw Jane, her face white, her head in her her hands, and her eyes staring a thousand yards away. "You're telling me that people are gonna get hurt because of me? As in, 'We need you to have a bodyguard,' because of me? All I wanted was for people to have to go through what I had to, to get a grade. Is that so hard?" Daria and Jen grabbed each of her hands and kissed them, while Helen knelt before her.

"No, Jane, it isn't so hard. But sometime long ago, there was an athlete who was very good, and just failing by a little in one class, and so the coach went to the teacher, and said, 'It's just a little change, and just this one time...' But then there was a next time, and a next, and the change needed to be more and more, until practically all the sports teams ran on it, with almost every athlete getting at least one bye." She tilted Jane's face up, and looked into her eyes. "People who get things like that, whether they've deserved them or not, get angry when their things are taken away. You did nothing wrong. You were just the person to notice that the emperor had no clothes."

Giving Jane's hand a squeeze, Daria spoke up. "Mom, I don't feel safe with Jane in her house. Now that Mystic Spiral's touring more, she's alone a lot." She looked over to her other girlfriend. "I know that Jen has her father and brothers, but I don't know what their reaction is going to be to all of this, or even if she's come out to them." She took a deep breath. "I guess what I'm asking is if one or both of them could stay over during this, if they have to."

Jen looked up. "I haven't," she said. "More because I'm not around much than because I'm afraid...but I don't think that they'd react too good."

Helen got up, murmured something into Jake's ear, then said softly to him, "I'll handle it." She turned around and said, "That's mostly what we had to say. We'll discuss things again after the meeting Friday. Daria, Jane, Jen, could you stay after?" With that, Jake and Quinn went upstairs.

When she was sure that they were gone, Helen turned and faced the girls. "I know that there is a very real risk of things getting...rough," she said. "And I told you before to call on me for help. Furthermore, I'm not going to ask what went on between you last night. You're past the age of consent, you all act at least reasonably mature when I'm around. So if you two need it, you may stay here for the duration of this...crisis." She looked at Jane and Jen and smiled. "Since there's no risk of pregnancy, and a minimal risk of STDs - you all are virgins as far as men are concerned, correct?" Seeing no blushes, she went on. "Because of that, I will try to respect your privacy." Her mouth firmed. "However, this is no Playboy mansion away from home. If you feel the need to have your...intimate encounters in public, and no, I don't mean kissing, then I'll have to rescind my invitation. I don't feel the need to watch teenagers getting frisky in the living room, and I don't think Jake or Quinn does, either." She waited until all three had nodded back to her before continuing. "That being said, I'm not sure how we'll handle the extra bodies."

"Mom?" Daria spoke up. "I think I may have a solution, or at least part of one. Earlier today, we were looking at finding a king-sized bed at the thrift store, because, whether we're having sex or not, it's uncomfortable for three of us to sleep on anything smaller." She smirked. "Why don't we set that up in the garage, as an extra room? If we find that we are being bottlenecked by bathroom usage, we can convert the big sink out there to a shower and sink. We've got plenty of room out there."

"I think that we can make that work," Helen said. "But Jane, I want Trent to call me, so that I can tell him the situation, and Jen, I want to talk to your father, just so we have parental consent. I won't bring up sleeping arrangements," she continued, looking at Jen, "and if he asks, I'll tell him you're sleeping in Daria's room, because I don't want to cause even more trouble for you."

"Thanks, Mom," Daria said. "We'll probably start that tomorrow, to late to get it all done today."

"Well, I can get in touch with Trent, so I'll stay here tonight, if I can," said Jane.

Do you mind if I stay here tonight without calling, Helen?" asked Jen. "I promise that it's not the first time I've done it."

Helen thought, then finally shrugged her shoulders. "All right. But you give me his contact information by the time I leave for work, or you won't be able to stay tomorrow night. Fair enough?"


"And now that that's done," broke in Daria, "I've got a coffeehouse gig to do."

When they got to the coffeehouse, the door was locked. After a few minutes of banging on the door, Mr. O'Neill opened the door. His face was red, as if he'd just been crying. He looked out, saw the girls, sniffed, and said, "Your -sniff- services are no longer -sniff- needed, Ms. Morgendorffer." He tried to close the door, but Daria stopped it with her foot.

"What, you mean you're firing me?"

"Let's just say that we're neglecting to ask you back, as you suggested the first day that you came here, Daria. -sniff- It's probably for the best, you might not get as warm a welcome as you usually -sniff- do. Can I close my door, please?" Daria withdrew her foot, and the door closed and locked, leaving the girls to slowly walk away down Degas street. At first they were separate, but then Daria grabbed both of their hands.

"Yeah, it may make us more targets, but we're targets anyway. I'm Daria Morgendorffer, I'm a lesbian, and I love both of you. If anyone has a problem with that, well, screw them." And so they continued on, until Daria's cellphone rang. "Hello?" she said. "Hey... Yes. Out walking on Degas Street. I don't have any ideas right now...yeah, I can do that. Bye." As her girlfriends looked at her, she said, "Just someone working on a project with me." They both got confused looks, but shrugged and kept walking, until they were in front of Axl's Piercing Parlour. The designs for the tattoos in the windows amused them all, until Jen dragged them in. "Don't you remember the one the girl and the guy got on Buffy?" In about an hour, they were on their way home. When they got home, almost the first words out of Helen's mouth when she saw their forearms were, "What the hell are those?"

15. Episode Thirteen

The doctor walked into the waiting room. "Family of Daria Morgendorffer?" Five people stood up, one pushing another in a wheelchair, and a middle-aged couple came forward, their hands entwined.

"We're Jake and Helen Morgendorffer," the petite woman said. "How is Daria?"

"She's stable, for the moment," he said, and sighs of relief could be heard from all of them. "Having said that, she is still in a very serious condition. She's suffered a severe concussion, three broken ribs, one of which punctured a lung, some internal abdominal bleeding that we've got a handle on, and her knee." He took a deep breath, sighed, and continued. "Her knee is the least immediately life-threatening injury, but, at a minimum, we're looking at complete knee reconstruction. If things go wrong, there may be problems with her walking again." After the gasps had died down, he looked at them. "We're setting that whole problem aside until we can get her out of the woods with her other injuries. I'm sorry that I didn't have better news." And with that, he turned and made his way back into the bowels of the hospital.

Helen turned to the two girls who were crying in each other's arms, which was made difficult by the fact that one of them was in the wheelchair. She knelt by the girl and said, softly, "Jane, I haven't asked, because it was more important that we get Daria treated. But what happened?"

Jane kept sobbing. " hurt protecting me," -sniff- "Helen. She might have been killed for me." She was about to go on, when she heard a very loud, "HAH!" She looked up to see Quinn.

"Jane, you should know better than anyone else, that Daria never does anything that she doesn't want to. You are not to blame for what happened. She made the choice, and when she wakes up, she'll be annoyed that you thought anything different."

"Regardless, Jane, Jen," Helen looked up at the blonde next to the wheelchair. "Tell me what happened. Now."

Jane wiped away her tears. "It started that Friday, at the School Board meeting..."

Daria, Jen, and Jane were sitting next to Helen in the bleachers of the stadium, where the meeting had been moved when it became obvious that the auditorium just wouldn't hold everyone attending, listening to Superintendent Cartwright discuss the repercussions of the sting.

"...and among the losses that we've had in our faculty have been, besides the entire Physical Education Department, Bennett in the Economics Department,..."

"Who was up to her eyeballs in it," said Jane softly.

"...Mrs. Manson, who had been discovered to be working on a falsified Psychology degree,..."

"Now there's a surprise," snarked Daria.

"...O'Neill of the Language Arts Department,"

"Who never had the nerve to stand up to Li, and is getting tossed under the bus for his troubles," said Jen.

"...Barch of Science, who wasn't implicated in this scandal, but who had been caught badly slanting grades both in favor of her female students, and against her male students..."

"And they just picked up on this now?" wondered Daria.

"I told you, Daria, a housecleaning was in order. Quiet down, please, so we can hear what else he has to say." Helen returned her attention to the Superintendent.

"...and that's most of the personnel changes that we'll be going through. To be honest, we don't have enough staff to finish out the year, and the rot is widespread enough that we can't guarantee that anybody's grades are valid.

"So what we're going to do is this. In a week, we're going to draw upon staff from other districts, and administer standardized tests in all subjects but the fine arts; in those subjects, we will have, again, other staff evaluating the work of our students. In all cases, should the test scores or independent evaluation of the work be within ten points of the previous grade, whichever is highest will stand; otherwise, the standardized test or independent evaluation will be the grade.

"To provide for those students that may have just been caught up in the system, there will be a second set of tests given two weeks before classes resume in the fall. The school grounds will be open all summer, and the District will pay any student who has made an 'A' in a class, twenty-five dollars an hour per student to tutor in that subject. If a student passes either of the tests, they will be passed on to the next year. Should they fail both, however, they will suffer the normal consequences of class failure. Are there any questions?"

And there were, but none that really concerned the girls. Daria turned to her girlfriends and said, "I think that we should sign up for these tutoring jobs, then spend the rest of our time studying for the finals."

"Why do we want these tutoring jobs?" asked Jane.

"Let's face it, nobody else is going to hire us, and no matter how they dislike us, people know that we're the best in our individual subjects. They are going to be desperate to pass, and with the district footing the bill..."

"I see your dastardly plan," said Jen, with a smile. "I wonder how many people are going to be surprised that I average an 'A' in Algebra?"

As they were walking out from the meeting, they ran into Brittany. "Ohhh!" she said as she stamped her foot when she saw them.

"And why are you unhappy, Brittany?" asked Daria.

"You - you - Oooh! We're not going to have any teams to cheer for next year!"

"Brittany, we did not make those athletes skip studying so that they could go to parties and get wasted. We did not put together the system where they were able to cheat so easily. Hell, we didn't even push this whole pile of crap. Jane wanted to stop being on the track team, and Morris was going to blackmail her to keep her on it. She just protected herself."

"And you think that Jane's more important than the Lawndale Lions?"

Daria looked at her as if she were a deeply stupid child. "Well, duh!" and the girls turned and walked away, hand in hand in hand.

The next day, Daria talked to her mother in private, in her office. "Mom, I'd like your permission to make this fake tattoo permanent." She looked down. "I know that we're young, but I really do love them." She looked up. "Add to that the fact that this doesn't have their names, and if I ever really want to make it work without them, I just have to add tattoos to either side. Mom, Trent wants to give this to Jane as her birthday present, and I'd like to do that, too." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "You do know that there are enough shops that we could go to to get this done that wouldn't care what age we are...heck, even Axl would do it, if we told him we were eighteen. I'm asking."

Helen sighed and remembered how she had reacted when the girls had shown her the fake tattoos on their forearms, Daria's in the center with Jane and Jen on either side, the three arms making a large heart with the word "love," written on it. They hadn't shrunk away from her screech at all, just gave her three big smiles as they told her they weren't real tattoos. "Do you understand, Daria, that that will still be there when you're seventy?"

"If I make it to seventy, you mean," Daria said. "Listen, Mom, on the off chance I do live that long, I can think of a lot sillier things to be written on my skin than an homage to love. Can't you?"

Helen sighed. "Oh, all right. If you use your own money, I'll give my permission. I'll want to see your care instructions when you get it, so that it will look the best it can."

Over the next week, they had to clean eggs and rotten fruit off the house almost every day, but the security guard in the car across the street said that it was never the same truck, they never stopped, and they had their license plates covered. It became a daily chore for the girls to clean the mess up.

Finally, the test day came. The standardized tests were instantly graded, and each student got his grade the moment he handed it in and the reader scanned it. Daria was unsurprised that she got all 'A's, and equally unsurprised that Kevin, among others, had failed more than one class. His, "But I'm the QB!" sounded more than once through the halls of LHS. Jane had done well in some classes(getting an 'A+' in Art, of course), and poorly in some, though she passed everything. Jen got 'B's and 'C's in everything but Algebra, where she got an 'A'.

In the end, almost all of the football squad had failed enough classes to be held back, if they didn't pass in the fall. That was better than the track squad, where all of the students not in juvenile hall had failed several tests. The girls had had a lot of "clients" for the summer, and their first week as tutors passed without incident.

Then one member of the football team, Randy Miller(who thought he looked cool because of his Van Dyke beard), asked for Jane's help as an art tutor. He said that he had a summer day job, so that they needed to meet after most people were gone for the day, at 6pm. This sounded fishy to Daria, so they all decided to come.

It wasn't a complete surprise to the girls to see most of the football team waiting for them in the art room. Randy grabbed Jane by the lapels of her jacket, said, "So you don't want to run? Good!" before smashing his foot down with all of his 300 pounds of force behind it, breaking several bones in Jane's feet. He was going to start kicking her, when Daria brought out a canister of pepper spray and hit him in the eyes, making him collapse. Seeing Mack among the players, she asked him, "Why, Mack?" then turned to Jen, and said, "Get her out of here!"

"But-" Jen said, hesitating.

"Now, Burns!" She lowered her voice. "I don't know how much longer I can hold them off!" Turning back to Mack, she said in her monotone, "Well, Mack?"

"Damn it, Daria! You've made it impossible for me to get a scholarship! I might not be failing, but I'm not going to college if I don't get an athletic scholarship. And you've just taken out any real chance of that, because any football team we field in the next year or two is going to be crap!" While he had been talking, Daria had been watching Jen from the corner of her eye, literally carrying Jane down the hallway, finally turning the corner.

Keeping the pepper spray out, she reached into her purse and pressed 911 on her phone, then said, "And now you're here in the Lawndale High School Art room, going to beat the hell out of me in retaliation?"

"Looks like it," said one of the other players, "And that pepper spray ain't going to take all of us down."

It took the first two down, until one of the players closed his eyes and grabbed her arm and took it out, while another two literally tackled her into the steel door frame, knocking her out and causing her to crumple to the floor. The field goal kicker had finished kicking her right in the knee, several times, and was beginning on her ribs, when Mack looked at her purse.

"Shit! She called 911! Let's get out of here!"

Things were fuzzy when Daria opened her eyes, though whether that was because of the pounding in her head, or just because her glasses were off, she couldn't tell. " a hangover," she rasped, "I -" she didn't continue, because everyone in Lawndale that she cared about was gathered around her, hugging whatever part of her they could touch.

Someone handed her her glasses, and as they were put on, Daria saw her mother come into focus. "Daria, you gave us a scare." Helen stood, tears streaming down her face.

"Yeah," She turned her head and saw Jane, resting on crutches. "I'd officially ask that you not do that so much."

A squeeze on her hand brought her attention to Jen, who said, "Please?"

"My God, popular people did this?" Quinn asked. "I'm so glad I didn't go too far into that."

"Yeah, popular people." Jake offered Daria a sip of water, which she gladly took. "Including Mack, which was a surprise, and not including Kevin, which was a bigger one."

"Based on Jen's and Jane's statements, and evidence left at the scene, the great majority of the football team is going to be spending the rest of their school careers as guests of the state." Helen shook her head. "You were your own best advocate, calling 911 so that hey could get there in time to save you."

"How bad is it?" asked Daria.

"We won't know until after they operate on your knee." Helen looked down. "The rest, though severe, you'll be over in a few weeks."

Daria nodded, and stroked the tattoo on her forearm. "Can I tutor from this room?"

The rest of her family cracked up.



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