The Author as a Lesbian - Season 3




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.

"Tell me again why I'm doing this?" Daria asked of the blonde girl sitting beside her in the car.

"Well," said Jen, "because your parents don't have the time to drive you around, Jane isn't anywhere close to getting her license, I'm practicing and touring with the Spiral all summer, you can't drive well with your glasses, and your mom's willing to fork out a good deal of cash for you to have these contacts that don't irritate your eyes." She smiled at Daria. "Plus, both Jane and I think you look really hot without your glasses."

Daria blushed. "That's the thing. I've always been the kind of person who's dressed to make it obvious I don't want to be valued by my looks. What kind of a hypocrite does that make me?"

Jen gently took Daria's shoulders and turned her to face her. "Look, Daria, we know this. How could we be this close and not? Just like you know that you could shave your head, cover it with shoe polish, and we would still think that you were beautiful. But, yeah, we think you look better without the glasses. And you're not getting them for the look, but to be able to drive. The rest is just a bonus. So you're going to sit in the chair, answer their questions truthfully, and wear your contacts so that you can look even more beautiful for us. Is that clear?"

"I hate you."

"I love you, too," Jen said as she went around the SUV to help Daria get up and on her crutches, then kissed her. "And so does Jane."

From the inside of the SUV, Helen hid a wide grin with her hand.

Jane stood on her crutches, waiting with Jake and Helen as another girl on crutches opened the door to the Driver's license office, and began making her way over to them, her head down and her mouth in a thin line. As the girl came close, Jane put what was in her hand in her pocket, and patted Daria's shoulder. "Didn't make it, huh? Don't worry, we'll get'em next time."

At the pat, Daria raised her head, and with her Mona Lisa smile, said, "I made it. Granted, the reviewer said that he hoped never to be with me when I tried parallel parking again, but I passed!" This was accompanied by a wide smile, made wider when Jane hopped over and hugged her tightly enough that Helen and Jake had to grab at them to make sure that they didn't fall.

When they broke the embrace, Jane fished in her pocket again, while saying, "All right, license girl, why don't you try that out by driving us home?"

"Oh, now I'm a chauffeur, Lane?" Daria asked with her eyebrow raised. "Oh, well, if I must..." she said as she made her way back to the Morgendorffer SUV. "Say, Mom, how did you make it here?"

"Hey, Daria," Jane called from a few cars down, next to a late-model green SUV, "over here." She held out a set of keys in her hand.

Daria was shocked. She wavered back and forth on her crutches for a moment. "Mom? Dad?"

Helen smiled. "When it became clear that you were going to pass, Jane and Jen put up most of the money they'd made tutoring, and we matched it, and we got this." She waved at the late-model SUV. "This way, we don't have to dance around figuring who is driving what." She put her hands on Daria's shoulders. "You are responsible for gas, maintenance, and insurance, although for right now, you're on our insurance." She squeezed Daria's shoulders. "Congratulations."

"Thanks, Mom," Daria said, softly. She then turned and made her way over to Jane, who was holding the keys in her hands. "Hand'em over."

Jane let them drop, then said, "I'm supposed to navigate, and make sure you don't make any wrong turns on your way home."

"And why would they care?"

"Oh, a little matter of Jen, a case of Ultra-Cola, and a cake being there, I suppose."

Daria sighed. "I hate you."

Daria was just walking to her SUV from her last tutoring session of the week, when she heard a familiar voice behind her. "AH! Ms. MORgendorffer!"

She brought her leg and crutches to an abrupt halt, turned around, and said, "Hi, Mr. DeMartino."

"If I could TROUBLE you for a few minutes of your TIME?" he said, gesturing toward his room, where they both went. Offering her his chair, he sat in one of the student's desks.

When they were settled, Mr. DeMartino started talking in an even tone, quite unlike his usual demeanor. "Contacts suit you well, Ms. Morgendorffer,"

"Daria, please, if we're going to be so informal," Daria said, with a slight smirk.

"Daria, then. First, I'd like to congratulate you on bringing Kevin and Brittany up to speed. That is not a task I would have wished on my worst enemy. How did you do it?"

"It wasn't easy. I think that I wasted a week trying to get things past them, until I realized something - they were both good at doing things that used everything I wanted to teach them. It's like someone said, pitchers apply calculus at an intuitive level." Daria rested her hands on her good knee. "They had been taught at some time that either they were stupid, or that being smart was 'uncool.' So they don't respond well to regular teaching methods. But they both knew that they had to pass. I just took a chance and, for Kevin, put everything in the frame of football. Everything. Math, History, even English. And he learned - enough to pass. He'll never be a big brain, but I think I might have given him the tools to get by."

"Well done. It's not something that would have occurred to me, and frankly, not something I could have implemented in any case - it would just confuse my twenty-nine other students." He looked down, then back up at Daria. "But that's not the real reason I asked to speak with you."

Daria's eyes narrowed. "Then what is?"

"I wanted to be sure that you understood the repercussions of your actions last year."

Her eyes narrowed. "Listen, if you don't -"she began to say when he held his hand up.

"I am not criticizing your actions at that time. Besides the fact that I was not there to see, I happen to agree with your mother when she gave her testimony - this school has needed a housecleaning for the last several years." He looked into her eyes. "But, justified or not, the actions of you and your partners have let loose a hornet's nest in this school."

"Yeah, tell me about it," said Daria, looking down at her knee, still recovering from the surgery that only gave her an 80% chance of walking without pain again.

"Just don't make the mistake of thinking that's the end of it," Mr DeMartino admonished. "There are still members of the sports teams, not many, but a few, who will be coming back, whether this year or next. Most of them will be gunning for you. Ms. Li is a toss-up. She has lost almost all of her power, but she is focused on you three as the reason that she did. Fortunately, between the fact that she has no more markers to call in, the massive drop in funding through the sports teams, the equally massive cost of getting most students through this with their use of tutors, and having to replace, train, and monitor well over half of the total faculty, she'll be too busy to interfere with you unless you deliberately put a target right in front of her.

"The new teachers will be a mixed bag. They'll all know that they have you to thank for their jobs, but they'll also know how you made those jobs vacant. They'll be wary." He put his hands on the desk. "But I'm sure that you've taken all of that into account."

Daria nodded. "Except for the new teachers. I was pinning them as more neutral, but I see your point."

"The issue that I believe you haven't thought about, is the fact that many of the students that have been forced to leave our fine institution, have friends, family, or both, still going here." He saw her eyebrows rise, and nodded. "And unless you're far more Machiavellian than you have any cause to be, you would have no reason to keep track of all of that information. I certainly don't have it. And so you can expect to get blindsided sometime this year."

Daria shook her head. "Damn it, all I want to do is to protect my girlfriends and stay ethically sound. Why can't they just leave us alone?" She held up her hand. "Rhetorical question." She looked up at him. "Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. DeMartino," she said as she struggled to get onto her crutches.

"Any time, Ms. MorganDORFFER!"

The girls were cuddled up on their bed, late one Saturday morning, reading their new class schedules. "So Ruiz took over from O'Neill in English," Jen said. "Who got Barch's Science course?"

"Someone named...Christopher G. Dawson. Says here, he's from Hawaii." Daria smiled. "Maybe a surfer dude?"

"Yo, dude, you put the Hydrochloric..." Jane collapsed into giggles. "How about Econ?"

"Lou G. Johnson, from Milwaukee."

"You think he'll have a beer gut and a cheesehead?" snarked Jen.

"The men's coach is Christopher N. Smith, he's from Virginia, and the women's coach is Teresa D. Durgin, she's from Florida. One good thing about this," Daria lightly patted her knee, "I'm excused from PE at least the next year."

As they parked in the student lot, Jen said, "Well, at least we got our classes together." She and Jane went around to hold the door for Daria, while Quinn headed off to see her classmates. They slowly made their way inside, and were about to head to their first class when Daria said, "Hold it, bathroom break." So they went in, and she used the facilities. Coming out of the stall, she saw Jodie, with her arms crossed in front of her, leaning against the wall.

"Hey," said Jane, who was leaning against the stalls along with Jen. "I get that you two need to have this out. Yell all you want, but nothing physical, all right?" They both nodded.

"Look, Landon, I can see how we may have made your life harder -" Daria began, only to be cut off by Jodie.

"Make my life harder! HAH! Damn it, Daria, don't you ever think of anyone but yourself and your precious ethics? Not only do you arrange through one way or another for more than half the competent people in the school to leave the school, not only are you the reason that the only person keeping me sane had to leave the school, but because of your mom's lawsuits and the districts need to tutor people over the summer, there isn't any extra money around, and Li keeps expecting me to pull a rabbit out of my ass and find some!"

Daria rested on her crutches. "Are you done?"

"For now. I reserve the right to blow up later."

"All right." Daria looked at Jodie with narrowed eyes. "Here's my answer to all of that. It's not us. Newsflash: we weren't the ones that started giving all of these byes to athletes. That was Gibson, Morris, Li and the rest. The most we did was record things to protect ourselves, and we wouldn't have done that if Morris hadn't started her blackmail scheme.

"I'm sorry that Mack isn't around to help you, but he dug his own grave, lay down in it, and pulled the first few shovels of dirt in after him. He whined about not being able to get a scholarship. I'm sorry, but if he was that good, which he may have been, he'd load up on student loans, walk on, and earn a scholarship on campus. Or, hell, just have the coach, or his dad, call a scout to look at him as a senior, even though the team wasn't doing so well. But he decided to blame Jane, and we know how well that worked out.

"And the money? Are you really complaining about that, Jodie Landon?" Daria's glare looked as if it would turn Jodie into ash. "Have you noticed that I'm still on crutches three months after your boyfriend had his gang of thugs beat me down because they were actually going to have to earn their grades? I'm still on them because I had to have reconstructive surgery, and even with it, it's a coin toss as to whether I'll ever walk unaided again? So you're complaining that mom got the school district and the families of the boys who were there to chip in on the cost of that? Or were you complaining about the money that I took this summer to help make sure that as many people as possible, including football players, passed to the next grade? Money that I didn't ask for, that was offered to me?"

Daria closed her eyes, took a couple of deep breaths, and opened them. "I want to ask you two questions, Jodie. Looking back at the track team incident, can you really see myself, Jen, and Jane acting substantially differently?"

Jodie slowly shook her head. "I didn't know all the facts then. But knowing them now? I could almost tell you word for word what you'd do. Anyone who paid any attention to you at all, would." She let out her breath. "Which puts the ball in their court, since you were reacting almost the entire time." She looked down. "Damn it, Mack! I thought you were better than this!"

"I did, too." Jodie looked up to see Daria's hand pat her shoulder. "It surprised the heck out of me to see him with the gang." She squeezed Jodie's shoulder. "And now for my second question. I'm sure that I've made mistakes, probably even bad ones, through this mess. Can you accept that I didn't mean to make them, and that," she looked down at her injured knee, "I've paid the price for making them?"

"I guess." Jodie suddenly walked the few steps to Daria, ignoring the suddenly whispering other girls, and enveloped her in a hug. "I'm sorry, Daria. I was so wrapped up in what was happening to me, that I didn't see what was happening to you." She held Daria at arm's length. "You got contacts, didn't you?"

Daria blushed and pointed her thumb at the still-whispering Jane and Jen. "My girlfriends pointed out that, in addition to being able to drive more easily, they both think I look hotter without glasses."

Jodie grinned and held her arms up. "Then I'd best keep my hands off of their woman."

Jane grinned crookedly and said, "Damned right!" and they all laughed.

As they were making their way out of the bathroom, Jen said, "You know, Jodie, you say a lot of your problems are because of money, and how Ms. Li misappropriates it?" Jodie nodded. "Well, Jane and I were talking, and we wondered if..." she continued as they walked toward their first class.

2. Episode Two

A/N: All the new teachers are OC. I considered basing Ms. Ruiz on the fandom character of the same name, but since I don't have a good enough feel for the character, my Belinda Ruiz, of Lawndale, late a substitute teacher, has no other connection to the character with the same last name.

The girls made their way into the English classroom, dropping into the desks they normally occupied. Daria looked up and saw a tiny Latina woman with waist-long hair standing next to the teacher's desk. "Is that...?" she asked. Jane looked up and nodded.

"That would be Ms. Ruiz. She subbed for us quite a few times before you joined us."

Jen nodded. "I think her mother got sick or something. Anyway, you have got to see her way of handling Kevin."

Jane smiled. "I caught the calling friends amigas thing from her about a year ago." She looked as if she was about to go on, but the woman in question walked up.

"Buena manana, chicas, she said to the three girls, then held her hand out to Daria. "Hello, I'm Belinda Ruiz, I don't think I've had you in any of my substitute classes," she said in completely unaccented English.

Daria took the hand and shook it. "Daria Morgendorffer."

"Ah, so you're the one, according to the grapevine, that got us our jobs." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "And who can magically take them away."

"I'll have to respond with a 'no,' to both of those statements, ma'am." She gestured to her right. "It was Jane, here, who helped break the case last year, and I don't think any of us saw it going as far as it did. As far as taking jobs away -" Daria sighed. "All I was doing last year was protecting both of my girlfriends's lives and integrity." Looking at Jen, Daria didn't see Ms. Ruiz's eyebrows rise momentarily. "I'd use anything I had to accomplish that, and since my mom's a lawyer, you see how it goes. I don't see either the need for doing something like that again, or how having a lawyer would help," she smirked, "so you're probably safe."

Ms. Ruiz leaned on a desk. "You're out, and with a highly non-traditional relationship, as well? Bold move."

Daria nodded. "It scares us - scares me - sometimes. But these are my girlfriends," she paused for a moment, "and I love them, and with all due respect, anyone who's offended by that can go screw themselves." She held out her hands to each of her lovers, and they clasped hands.

"I see. I don't expect that to be a problem." Ms. Ruiz smiled. "What I do want to talk to you about are your activities in this class. I've looked over what Mr. O'Neill," and here a faint unpleasant look crossed her face, "wrote down about you, and some of the work that you've turned in. You're going to take a shot at being a professional writer, aren't you?"

Daria nodded. "Unless something comes along and shows me that I can't."

Ms. Ruiz smiled again. "Then, from what I've seen, most of this class will be essentially review for you. You will get bored. You know it, and I know it. I have a proposition for you. Instead of doing the regular assignments that everyone else will be doing, I'm going to assign you a series of writing tasks, ranging from stories, to magazine and newspaper-type articles, to poetry. If you put the effort into it - and I will be able to tell the difference - then, whatever the errors on your papers, you will get a B or an A. If you don't, then we'll drop you back in regular class, and you can be bored. Deal?"

Daria's eyes revealed her shock. "Umm - Deal." She held out her hand.

Ms. Ruiz took it. "Your first assignment is to write a story using people in your life." She frowned. "No, that's a bit open-ended." She smirked. "Let's say that it has to have a card-game in it." She turned and walked back to the front of the class as the other students wandered in.

The science classroom looked the same as it always had, periodic table on the wall, teaching aids on the side. Behind the desk sat a very large man with a long sandy-colored beard and hair in a ponytail, his eyes covered by glasses. "Morning, dudes," he said, while looking down at his notes. He looked back up. "That was supposed to be a joke, since I'm from Hawaii and everything," he said, smiling when several students chuckled. "I'm Chris Dawson. You can call me Mr. Dawson, Mr. D, or even Chris if you're feeling froggy. We are learning Science here, or I've missed the room I'm supposed to be in. I expect questions, lots of them, and the only time I don't want to hear from you is if we're doing an experiment and it's not life threatening - because, with the elements that we work with, if we don't pay attention, it might become life threatening, quickly."

"An interesting mix between surfer dude, hippy, and establishment man, wouldn't you say?" Jane whispered over to Daria.

"Yeah. I hope it's not an explosive one."

The three girls went into the gymnasium, Daria slowly on her crutches. As they made their way into the locker room, a woman slightly taller then Jane got up from where she'd been leaning on the wall. Her tan was brought into relief by her collar-length strawberry-blonde hair. "I take it you're Morgandorffer?" she asked.

"That'd be me," Daria agreed.

"Come into my office. Your girlfriends can come, too." The woman turned and led the way in.

Once the girls were settled, the woman brought her chair opposite from Daria and sat down in it. "If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm Teresa Durgin, your gym teacher. You can call me Ms. Durgin or Coach Durgin, or in this office, Terry." She looked at Daria. "I've heard that you've had reconstructive surgery, mind letting me have a look?"

Daria shrugged. "Go ahead." The coach ran her fingers over Daria's knee, poking and prodding, eliciting groans when she hit a tender spot (of which there were many). Finally, she sat back.

"It looks like someone did good work on you, Morgendorffer."

"You can call me Daria," she said in her normal monotone. "And these are my girlfriends, Jane Lane, and Jennifer Burns."


"You can call me Jen. Some people call me Burnout."

Coach Durgin's eyebrow rose. "Really? Do you...?"

"Used to. Not so much, any more."

Coach Durgin looked back at Daria. "With permission from your doctors, I think you should be able to walk unaided by the end of the school year." She put her hands on her knees. "Until then, you're going to be my assistant, hold clipboards, time and count people, things like that. You'll stand when you can, sit when you can't." She looked at the three girls. "If there is any harassment due to your being gay, I want to hear about it, right then. Also, if any of you need to talk about it - my door is open."

"Why would we need to...?" Jane asked.

"Because she's gay, too, Jane," Jen said without taking her eyes off their teacher. "A good friend of mine said that someone who is listening to you will look at your mouth when you're speaking, but if they might be...interested, they subconsciously look - lower."

"Bingo," Coach Durgin said. "Though I'd prefer that not be spread too far around. I probably wouldn't lose my job with the situation here, but you never know. Plus, it's such a cliche. Gym Teacher, you know? Anyway, time for class." They all laughed as they headed to the gym.

Their teacher for Economics was a thin, balding man. "I'm Lou Johnson. You may address me as Mr. Johnson. And while my middle initial is G, you are not to mis-pronounce my given name as Hugh." The class laughed at that. "Got that out of your systems? Good. What we're going to start with is a selection on the various types of graphs, and how we use them. I've been informed that your previous teacher was famous for her opacity in that respect." He raised the projection screen, and showed the chalkboard filled with different graphs. "You see here the Venn diagram, here the marginal value graph, here the..."

The next morning, Principal Li's voice came over the intercom. "Good morning, young people! As you may know, the school district has been going through a period of financial...distress. The City of Lawndale has offered to assist us in these dark times if we will cover several needs that they usually do. We are asking for volunteers to fill these 500 positions for approximately two weeks, so that all may benefit. Sign-up sheets will be across from the office. That is all."

Daria looked unimpressed. "Gee, another scheme to get more money, or recognition, by Li."

"Actually, it isn't, Ms. Morgendorffer." Ms Ruiz stood behind them. "My understanding is that the cupboard is bare, that we're scraping by just to get things as simple as pens and worksheets. The city can either help us out, or do the jobs that Ms. Li was talking about, but not both. If the jobs can be covered, then everyone gets what they need, and we go on. If not..." she shrugged.

"We'll see how many volunteer," Daria replied.

After class let out, Jane turned to Daria. "Why were you being a bitch to Ruiz in there?"

Daria snorted. "I was just being realistic. Nobody's going to volunteer without the threat of bodily harm - or suspensions."

"Does that mean you won't volunteer?" Jen asked, tilting her head slightly toward her lover's.

"I haven't seen anything worth volunteering for."

Jen brushed the hair from her eye and looked straight into Daria's. "Ever?" She sighed and spoke again. "Do you think that being able to go to school with the right material is a good cause?"

"Yes, Jen." Daria looked down.

"Then if Jane and I find a job that you can do, and volunteer our time, ourselves, you'll do it?"

"All right! Fine! But just for two weeks!" Daria blushed.

"How did I ever get myself into this?" Daria asked of herself as she made her way up to the Lawndale Nursing Home. She checked in with the nurses and went to the recreation room, where another nurse pointed her to an old woman sitting alone. She sat down next to the woman, said, "Hi, I'm Daria Morgendorffer," and reached in her bag for some books.

"It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes..."

Daria was just about to finish, when the woman paled, said, "They were talking about eating children?", turned, and lost her lunch on the floor. The nurse rushed up and tried to help the old woman, who pointed at Daria, and said, "Babies! Eat!" then turned again, only to vomit one more time.

Daria shrugged. "I was only reading a work by a prominent churchman," she said, holding up her copy of A Modest Proposal.

The nurse shook her head. "Perhaps you should come back Wednesday...with more...appropriate reading matter."

"..and that's how my first day went. So how's arts and crafts, you two?" Daria asked her lovers.

"Great! We're getting the patients to make voodoo dolls," grinned Jane.

"Well, maybe I'll bring something more mainstream Wednesday."

"Slaughterhouse Five!?" The man's face turned ashen. "Miss, I was near Dresden when they firebombed it. I'd rather not have those memories again." He got up and walked slowly away.

The nurse came by. "Well, perhaps you can read to Mrs. Blaine. Do you have anything else to read?"

"Well, I've got my own stories." Daria said. "There are no babies eaten, or cities firebombed in them," she assured the nurse.

"All right." In a few minutes, Daria was in front of another elderly lady, who looked straight at her face when she spoke. After introducing herself, Daria began reading. "How do we prepare for the future? Melody Powers knew how she was going to prepare, as she checked the fit one more time on her tooled leather shoulder holster. She thought about all the communists she would be taking out tonight."

After a few minutes, Daria noticed that the woman didn't react to sudden noises, and always watched her mouth. Ha, Ha, Very funny, give the girl who communicates with words the deaf lady. But she kept on reading, and tried to make sure that her lips were always visible and that she didn't read too fast.

Two hours later, they came to a stopping point, and Daria closed the book. "Well, they can't say I haven't tried." she mumbled to herself.

Mrs. Blaine put her hand on Daria's arm, right next to her tattoo, and said, "You have a lovely reading voice."

3. Episode Three

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: "Depth Takes a Holiday," was Daria's version of a very special episode. Since I've been informed that I've used up my quota of them already, the holidays are just going to have to bitchslap each other into submission.

"Now you see this Hydrogen Peroxide. Great for working on cuts and such, can be a nice rocket propellant. But what if you just want water and oxygen? You'll have to wait a loooong time, dudes, especially if you leave this in the dark." Mr. Dawson held up a clear cup full of a blackish-brown powder. "But then you can just add some of this, manganese dioxide, you find it in dry cells, old-style batteries, drop it in, and voila! in double-quick time, you have your water and oxygen. And the neat thing is that you get all of your manganese dioxide back again, afterward. So the manganese dioxide is called a catalyst."

After watching Beavis and Butthead trying to light each other on fire in front of the burning building for fifteen minutes, Coach Buzzcut had finally had enough. "You want to see what fire's like, find out!" he yelled as he picked up each boy by the scruff of the neck and tossed them in the middle of the conflagration, dusting his hands off when he was done.

"Too pie-in-the-sky," muttered Daria as she tore the passage out of her notebook.

Daria sat on the folding chair in gym, a stopwatch in her left hand, a pen in her right, a clipboard on the right side of her lap, and her left knee throbbing as she strained to put pressure on the muscles around it. "I know the docs said that this would strengthen it, but when?"

Then one of her classmates passed by, and she called out his lap time. He seemed to be alone, so she returned her attention to her knee and the story on the clipboard.

All of the Indians, most of who bore a striking resemblance to students of the gym class she was in, ran flat out toward the saloon, fistfuls of cash in their hands. "We-um want enter poker tournament," the first one in line said, his chest heaving.

"No, no, no," Daria said, marking the words out.

"And you can see by this flat line on the graph, that the cost of an item stays the same," Mr. Johnson said. "This line going in a downward slant is what's called marginal utility. If you get one ice cream cone, it's well worth the cost. By your thirtieth, you're sure it's not. And somewhere between the two, you reach the point where the cost for the next ice cream cone is equal to the utility of it. And that's when people stop buying."

Quinn passed over the money to buy a rope to save Stacy from Pit of everlasting stench. The rope was destroyed by the mud it went through. She went back to buy a rope to save Daria, and scrunched her nose, "Well, all right." After Daria was saved, she went to the rope store again, because Sandi and Tiffany were still trapped. "Can't I get a better deal?" she complained to the clerk, who was also a casino worker.

Daria took out her Sharpie and blacked out the page. "Dreck."

"...and I just can't seem to get this assignment. I get bits and pieces done - but it's all just crap," Daria said as she and her girlfriends walked down the hall. Suddenly her eyes narrowed. "Tell me again why I stopped them from flunking?" Kevin and Brittany were, once again, making out on the locker next to hers. She heard a snort next to her, and looked up to see Jen smiling at her.

"You're just jealous, Daria," Jen said, before gently spinning her to put her back to the lockers and kissing her, deeply and thoroughly.

When they broke, Daria said, "I'll have you know -" before Jane took Jen's place. The entire hall was silent, with the exception of Jen looking daggers at everyone and saying, "What?"

Daria was unsurprised when, later, the intercom said, "Ms. Morgendorffer, Ms. Burns, and Ms. Lane report to the office after lunch." All three girls looked at each other and shrugged.

Once they entered the office, Ms. Li motioned from her door. "Come in, ladies." When they were all seated, she continued. "I'm sure that you're all aware of why you're here today."

"Actually, we're not," Daria said in a dry tone. "I, for one, am not aware of anything we've done, positively or negatively, that warrants your personal attention."

Ms. Li straightened her papers. "I'm referring, of course, to the way you three," she read off her sheet, "acted like animals, nearly mating in the middle of the hallway."

The reaction she got from the girls was varied. Daria crossed her arms and leaned back for the moment, Jen simply rolled her eyes, while Jane said, "Come on!" loudly. Seeing her girlfriends settle down, Daria brought her chair upright.

"Ms. Li, are you trying to put more of the school board's money into our pockets?" Daria asked in a conversational tone. Seeing the Principal's shocked look, she continued. "Ma'am, surely you must be aware of both the state public school policy and state law protecting gays and lesbians in schools against discrimination?" As Ms. Li's eyebrow crawled higher, she asked, "What? I realized I'm gay more than two years ago. My mom's a lawyer. Do you think that I wouldn't look up the laws and policies related to my orientation?"

"Be that as it may, Ms. Morgendorffer. The law only protects your orientation, not the kind of egregious behavior as was witnessed in the hallways today."

Daria's eyes were twinkling and her Mona Lisa smile was in full force as she pulled out her cell phone. "Beige? Or red?"

"What in the world are you doing, Ms. Morgendorffer?"

"I'm calling my lawyer, Ms. Li." Her small smile broke into a grin. "Well, that, and deciding what color the interior of the Jaguar will be that this round of discrimination will get me. Do you think that red goes with racing green, or is that gauche?"

"Why are you so sure that a suit would win? And I believe that you are becoming far too litigious, Ms. Morgendorffer," the increasingly worried principal said.

"First, are you going on with this? I don't want to disturb my mom if you're just going to send us back to class, anyway."

"We need to deal with your behavior, young lady."

"Your funeral." Daria dialed a number, waited for an answer, and said, "Hi, Marianne. It's Daria. Can you get my mom? It's important." She waited a couple of moments. "Hi, Mom. I need you as my lawyer. Do you mind if I put you on speaker?" She pushed a button, and Helen's voice came through.

"-f course, Daria, but the firm is doing quality checks of our phone communication. They'll be monitoring and recording the call. Is everyone on your side all right with that?"

The girls all gave their assent, Ms. Li said nothing. After a few moments, Daria said, "Mom, we're in Ms. Li's office. Jane and Jen are with me, and we've all consented. Ms. Li hasn't said anything."

"I see." Daria could almost see Helen Morgendorffer smile. "Ms. Li? While it's certainly your decision as to whether or not you agree to be recorded, you have to either agree or disagree, and if you disagree, I will instruct Daria, Jane, and Jennifer, both as my daughter and her friends, and my clients, to remain mute until I am there in person to assist them. Which would you prefer?"

Ms. Li fidgeted for a moment, then said, "Mrs. Morgendorffer, as much as I would not like to waste anyone's time with this matter, I have been instructed by my superior not to agree to any recording."

"That's fine, Ms. Li. I should be there in approximately thirty minutes. Girls, not one word out of your mouth until I get there. Not even Hello,' or 'Have a nice day.'" The phone on the other line disconnected, and Daria closed her cellphone and put it away.

The girls spent the half hour of waiting doing different things, though all pulled out their notebooks. Jen worked on her math problems. Jane took her time sketching the principal's office, especially the Buddha along the wall. Daria decided to take another crack at her short story.

"Look, Squire O'Neill," said Ms. Li, clad as a knight in rusty mail, with a saber twisted almost beyond recognition, "there stand giants, thirty in number; I shall kill them all, and we shall begin to build our fortunes, for this is a foul breed. See their long arms, four each!"

"B-but Ms. Li," the almost sobbing man on a donkey said, "those are windmills, and what you call arms are their sails."

"Nonsense, good squire. Their magics have bewitched you, they have just hidden cards up their sleeves." She raised her saber. "For God and the glory of Laaaawndale High!"

Daria was scratching out the entire passage when Helen came into the room.

"Good morning, Ms. Li." They shook hands. "I'm so sorry that we couldn't clear this up on the phone. Now, what seems to be the problem?"

"I'm sorry to say, Mrs. Morgendorffer, that your daughter and her...friends have been parading around the school, rutting like animals. We have got to put a stop to this."

Helen nodded thoughtfully. "I see." She turned to her daughter. "Daria?"

"Two fairly long and admittedly deep kisses, in the hallway, on my locker, next to Kevin and Brittany."

She turned back to Ms. Li. "And what action to you plan to, 'put a stop to this'?" she asked.

"I believe a one day suspension would be reasonable," Ms. Li replied.

"Would you put that in writing?" When Ms. Li hesitated, she continued. "You would have to put it in writing, with your signature, at some time, Angela. Even if only on your own forms. I'm just asking so that it's clear what you want." Ms. Li shrugged and filled out the suspension forms for the three girls. When she finished, she handed them to Helen, keeping a copy of each for herself.

Helen quickly studied each form and put them in her briefcase. "Daria," she said, "I believe I'm going to have to jump in on the side of beige." She was going to continue, but Daria held her hand up, whispered into Helen's ear, and at her nod, turned toward Ms. Li.

"Before we get more into this, Ms. Li, I wanted to respond to something that you said earlier. You implied that I was using the courts far too much, that I was, 'too litigious.' But the fact is, in each instance I or mom went to the courts, there was something very wrong here that the current powers that be thought was just peachy, but was hurting someone else. That's what the courts are for - to help those of us without power in the system get a fair shake, and to convince those with power to play by the rules."

"Girls," Helen said, then held out her hand to the principal. "Always a pleasure, Angela." They all filed out of the office. As they walked down the hallway toward the entrance of the school, Helen turned to her daughter and said, in a conversational tone, "So, Daria?"

Daria kept walking silently for a few moments, then spoke up. "This little circus wasn't the Principal Li I know from this past year. This wasn't just spiteful, it was stupid. Blind rage stupid. And I don't want to watch as she hurts someone else, just to get at us."

Helen sighed. "I thought you'd see it that way. I'm forced to agree." She shook her head. "Go head on home. I've got some horse trading to do."

Angela Li was just about to get her coat and bag to go home, when the intercom buzzed. "Yes?" she said.

"Ms. Li, the Superintendent is on line one."

Angela pressed the button on her phone and picked up the handset. "Yes, Superintendent Cartwright. What can I do for you?"

"Angela, I'm sad to say this, but the school district no longer needs your services."

Her heart dropped into her stomach. "But- but why?"

Do you remember a suspension you made today? Morgendorffer, Lane, Burns?"

"Yes, I do. A flagrant example of PDA in the halls."

"Yes. Right next to a couple who have been doing the very same thing for years, without a peep from you."

"But - These were all girls!"

"Which is why its such a perfect, open-and-shut discrimination case, especially since none of them admitted anything to you, so that your only evidence shows the other couple, right next to them. And without that, you have no evidence, and look like you're a bitter woman out for retaliation on the whistle blower."

Angela's mouth was dry. "How bad?"

The voice on the other end of the line was silent for a few moments. "Very bad. Morgendorffer came over here, showed me what she had, then gave me two options: one, we could fight this, it'd take a couple of years, and she'd seek - and get - a couple of million in punitive damages. I don't need to tell you that the district would be bankrupt after the kind of year that we've had, plus that. The other option they gave us - and the one that our liability insurers signed off on - was to settle immediately for a hundred thousand split between the three plaintiffs, and your immediate dismissal. I'm sorry, Angela, but the district just doesn't have the resources to fight a battle like that, especially with the evidence that they would have. It'd be tilting at windmills."

"Very well," she said, in a voice that seemed far away from her. "Is getting out by the weekend soon enough?"

"You need to be gone by the time that they come back to school. And, Angela, stop by the office after you're out. I'd like to collect your keys and give you a letter of recommendation."

"All right, I'll be by tomorrow."

"Oh, and Angela?"


I don't know what this means, but the plaintiffs wanted you to know that they had..." she could hear papers shuffling, "decided on the beige."

4. Episode Four

A/N: Watch out, the ride's gonna get bumpy.

Anthony DeMartino looked around the principal's office at the juniors that surrounded him: Jodie Landon, President of the Student Council and member of almost all of the other clubs; Jane Lane, acknowledged queen of the Fine Arts; Daria Morgendorffer, leader of the academics; Jennifer Burns, a rising star in the performing arts; Kevin Thompson, best of their few remaining athletes; and Brittany Taylor, captain of cheerleaders and leader of the pep squads, and Andrea Hecuba, representative of the Goth groups. Leaning forward in his chair, he did his best to look each student in the eye.

"As you know, we have had several personnel changes and a series of financial reverses during the last few months. As a result of some of the events, we have a class heavily skewed to the junior, sophomore, and freshman classes. While I may be doing them a disservice, I believe that my estimation of the senior class as individuals with the intellect and initiative of preprocessed sausages simply awaiting their time to leave this institution remains spot-on. This leaves you as the leaders, however ill-suited, of the student body." He looked at them again. "I will be meeting with you from time to time, until a permanent principal is appointed."

"Uh, Mr. D? Why did you want to see us?" Kevin held up his hand.

"I'm glad you asked that, Kevin. It seems that all of these changes have upset most of the student body. Normally there would be a football game or a dance to blow off steam; however, with all apologies to Kevin, we no longer have a football team worthy of the name, and as a school, we are broke. We do not have money to spend on books, let alone frivolities like dances. However, I have come up with an offer, should you like to take advantage of it. The gym will be available to use as a dance venue in two weeks. I can even come up with a teacher or two to chaperone. But the rest - food, drink, decoration, entertainment, will all be up to you. If you feel the need to charge admission, you can do that, as well, but the school cannot advance you any money." He looked around. "Does anyone have any ideas?"

"Don't look at me," Daria said. "This English assignment is kicking my butt."

"Hmmm..." said Jen. "Maybe...go on to someone else."

Jodie said, "I think that I can get the student council to pre-sell tickets, if we have an attraction."

Jane tapped her chin with her finger. "I can cover the decorations. I'll have to be reimbursed - this is my college fund I'm playing with."

Jen smiled. "I think that the Spiral would play, for Janey, and if they could get a percentage. What'd make it sure is -" She and Jane both looked at Daria.

"Britt and I could make sure that all the popular kids know that it's the cool place to go." Kevin smiled at Brittany.

"Go Team!" she squeaked.

Jane and Jen's gaze had not wavered from their lover's. Finally Daria threw her hands in the hair, defeated. "Fine! I will get this assignment done in the next day or two, then I'll run the whole thing!" She glared at her girlfriends. "I hate you."

They both retorted by saying, "We love you, too," and kissing her.

After they finished, Daria turned her attention to Mr. DeMartino. "I want to make it clear that we will be selling tickets, both beforehand and at the door. Several of us are going to use our own money to finance this, and we will get our money back, backed by receipts, plus ten percent because we fronted it. The band is going to pay for a straight percentage of the take, let's say about two dollars a ticket at this point." She turned to Andrea. "Can you handle refreshments? I can back you, but they'll have to be acceptable to a vanilla audience." Andrea nodded. Daria turned back to Mr. DeMartino. "Then we can do it. Once all of that is taken care of, I don't think that anyone has a problem with turning anything extra back to the school for a discretionary fund." Her eyes narrowed at him. "And what would you use such a fund for?"

Mr. DeMartino laughed. "Certainly not bomb-sniffing dogs, Ms. Morgendorffer!" His look turned thoughtful. "I hadn't really thought, but I believe that a primary use as front money for events like this, and a secondary one as emergency backup for school supplies would work?" Everyone nodded.

Daria sighed. "Jodie, can you cover printing the tickets?" Another nod. "Good, then lets get them printed today or tomorrow, double check with Jen to make sure Mystic Spiral is able to make it. Kevin, you and Brittany should start spreading the word as soon as we're done here. Jane, let me know if you need anything that you don't already have. After I get done with this damned English assignment, I'll get with Quinn to make sure the Sophomores are aware, as well." She looked around. "That's all that I have."

"Then I think that we should get out to our respective classes," said Mr. DeMartino, and they all stood up.

The clock hit 9pm, and Daria ripped out another page from her notebook, and walked out of the padded study that she shared with her girlfriends. She sighed, got up, and made her way downstairs, where, luckily, her mom was still in the kitchen, making herself some hot chocolate. "Can I talk with you, Mom?"

Helen looked into her eyes. "Of course, dear. How can I help?"

Daria looked down, and muttered, "My story sucks."

Helen pursed her lips. "Well, honey, I'm sure if you just give it another day or two..."

"You don't understand. I really only have about a week left to do this, and I accepted the job of organizing the dance in two weeks, so I need this done in a day or two. And I've been writing, it's just that everything that I write has been done before, or is just crap." Daria sighed. "I wanted to write something meaningful. I can't write anything at all."

"Ahh," was Helen's response. "Maybe you're trying too hard. Maybe you don't have to write something meaningful, just something honest."

Daria shrugged, unconvinced. "I can do honest. I look around me, I describe what I see."

Helen's gaze turned thoughtful. "How about describing what you'd like to see, honestly?"

"What do you mean?"

"Daria, the easiest thing in the world for you is being honest about what you observe."

Daria's eyes narrowed. "And?"

Helen put her hand on Daria's shoulder. "What's hard for you is being honest about your wishes. About the way you think things should be, not the way they are. You gloss over it with a cynical joke and nobody finds out what you really believe in. You've gotten better since you have been with Jen and Jane, but that core's still there."

Daria winked and said, "Aha! So my evil plan is working."

Helen kept looking into her eyes and said, "If you really want to be honest, be truthful about what you'd like to happen. There's a challenge."

Daria reached her hand up and squeezed Helen's. "When the hell did you learn so much about me?"

Helen grinned back. "It's a funny thing, Daria. You give birth to someone, you just get an urge to keep tabs on them."

Daria started up to the study.

Quinn looked up at the knock on the door. "Come in," she said. Daria came through the door. "What do you want, Daria?"

Daria came in and sat down on the bed. "I was wondering if you could do our dresses like you did at the last dance, Quinn."

Quinn said, "There's going to be another dance? When?"

"Saturday after next. DeMartino and my so-called girlfriends shanghaied me into it yesterday. I just had to get an English assignment out of the way, first."

"Hmmm... What's in it for me?"

"Free tickets for you, Stacy, Ted, and your date. Everyone knowing that these are your dresses. Anything else, ask, and we can talk about it."

And I get complete freedom in the design?"

Outside of it being legal to be outside in, yes. Oh, I have one request for the design." She quickly laid out what she needed.

"Oh, that's no problem at all. I take it that you want Jane's and Jen the same?"

"I don't think they'll remember to ask for their dresses in time, so yes."

"Oh, I'm going to need your study Saturday to work on the dresses."


A week and a half later, Daria got her English assignment back. It was labeled, 'A'.

Daria and Mr. Martino walked through the gym the day before the dance. "My God, Ms. Morgendorffer, Ms. Lane did all of this in two weeks?"

"Yeah. In fact, she's been coming home and falling asleep the last few days. Between the ceiling that everyone's seen hung, but hasn't seen because of the covers, and the boards that are going to cover the walls, she's pretty much exhausted herself. But she'll be here tomorrow, with bells on." Daria smiled.

"And you actually got Mr. Lane to get up on time?"

"They're much better about that, these days. It's one of the things they were willing to compromise on to get what they really wanted." She looked at him. "Jodie says that about 90% of the tickets are sold, so we'll only need a small change drawer at the door." They continued walking their way through.

The three girls stood together just outside the gym, dressed in their red, green, and blue dresses that showed off their individual figures. Each of the dresses had a slit down the right forearm which, when spread, showed their tattoo; Helen had taken a picture of the three tattoos just before the girls left, and right before she asked Daria how she had done on the assignment. Daria reached in her purse and handed her mother the story, and they left to the sounds of Helen sobbing. Now that they were in the gym, Jen split off from them, after a kiss, to join the Spiral. Jane and Daria walked, hand in hand, to the refreshment table. "Wow, this really seemed to come together well, Daria," she said, raising their entwined hands to kiss Daria's fingers.

"It did that because of all of your hard work. I hope you took pictures of everything." Daria said with a small smile. The gym was almost full, which meant that the Spiral was about to start. Daria turned, about to ask Jane for the first dance, when everything went black. Jane glanced over at Daria, saw her crumpled on the floor, and screamed. Standing right behind Daria, aluminum baseball bat in one hand, and pistol in the other, was Mack.

"That'll be the last time that bitch gets in my way," sneered Mack. He turned to Jane, and his smile grew as he pointed his pistol at her. "Now for the one that is really responsible for me being where I am."

"Michael, stop that!" a voice rang out, and within a minute, Jodie came up into sight. "Why do you have to continue to blame other people for your own issues? You would have been fine if you just hadn't done anything, but no, Mr. Michael Jordan MacKenzie has to take out his anger on an innocent." She tried not to watch as Kevin snuck up from behind. "You could have let it be, and just had to go through juvie, but, again -" Mack caught sight of Kevin, and kicked him to his knees.

He extended his pistol. "You, too, Jodie?" He shrugged. "Time to die, then." He was about to pull the trigger when several things happened very quickly.

Jane, who had been sobbing over Daria's crumpled form, stood up with her pepper spray in hand, distracting Mack for a split-second, in which time Upchuck bounded in between Jodie and Mack, saying, "Allow me, ma-" He was stopped because at that time, when Mack's eyes flicked away from Jane toward him, Jane sprayed Mack in the eye with the pepper spray, causing him to squeeze the trigger. Upchuck had seen it, too, and pulled the gun down until the bullet impacted in his shoulder.

Jodie cried out, "Upchuck!" and knelt at his side.

"It was nothing, my Nubian..." his voice trailed off until it was too soft to be heard over the ruckus of Kevin trying to subdue Mack.

Jane dove in and wrestled the gun from Mack's hand, and then screamed, "Someone call 911!" She looked around. Everyone was shocked. Jodie was leaning over Upchuck, holding part of her dress over his wound. Kevin was holding Mack reasonably still. Daria was still unmoving, and Jane, Jane still had Mack's pistol. It rose, almost of it's own accord, and was almost in line with Mack, when she felt a pair of arms encircle her.

"Don't, baby, please don't. We don't know how bad Daria is, and...I can't lose both of you!" Jen cried into her back. It was hard, the hardest thing she'd ever done, but Jane dropped the gun, and they both rushed over to Daria, letting out a sigh when they found that she was still breathing.

"Please be okay, please be okay," Jane muttered over and over as they waited for what seemed like hours until the ambulances came, rocking back and forth as they worked on Up- screw that, Charles, trying to keep him alive long enough to reach the hospital. Then she was gently pushed aside as they gently worked on Daria, and someone handed her a phone and she was calling the Morgendorffers and, "There's been an incident at the dance, Daria, Cedars of-" and then her throat closed off and she started and couldn't couldn't say anything couldn't stop the crying, and all of a sudden Jen's arms and Trent's arms were around her, but she still couldn't stop...

"Go find Daria's sister, she'll need to be there," Trent said to Jen. In a few minutes, they were all in Daria's SUV, and Trent was going as fast as possible to the Hospital, a police car with flashers on in front of them. Then they were stumbling out of the SUV, rushing into the ER, Trent was finding where they took her, and then the waiting. About twenty minutes after they arrived, the Morgendorffers did. When they saw Helen, all three had almost identical reactions.

"Mrs. M!"

All three girls enveloped Helen in a sobbing hug, and she hugged them back tightly. Finally, the grips loosened just a little bit. "Girls, I know you're frightened, but I need to find out what happened to Daria. Did any of you talk to the police?"

"The cop that was there said that they were too dissociated," Trent said. "He said he'd be by and get their stories here."

"All right. Just don't let them interview you without me here. There should be nothing to fear, but -" It was at that moment that the police came in, and they took almost a half hour getting statements from Jane, Jen, and Trent. Quinn had been on the other side of the dance floor and hadn't seen anything. It took about another fifteen minutes for Helen to get an update from the hospital personnel and get back to them.

"She's got a skull fracture, pressure on the brain, and a severe concussion. If she wakes up in the next day, then she should heal. If not -" Helen's voice cracked as she turned her head into Jake's chest, rocking back and forth with him for several minutes. Finally, she took a deep breath, let it out, and blew her nose.

"Some of you know that Daria had an English assignment that was giving her problems, but which she finally finished. She did so after I challenged her to write, honestly, what she wanted to happen. I think that this is a very good time to let you all hear it." Helen looked around. "Once again, this is what she wants, for all of us." She started reading.

"Oh, hi, sweeties," Helen said.

"Hi, Mom," said Daria, Jen, and Jane, all about thirty and wearing identical gold rings on their left ring fingers. "How are you?"

Helen gave them a wry grin. "Pretty good. You know, every morning it's a little harder to get out of bed."

Jane laughed. "For us, too."

Helen pointed back with her thumb. "Your father, on the other hand, seems to be getting younger every day. Ever since he retired, he's developed such a wonderful perspective."

"Well, triple bypass surgery will do that for a man," Jen said.

"That, and visits by your three toddlers," Helen grinned. "I don't know, you all getting pregnant at once..."

"Well, the Spiral was on hiatus, Jane had just finished her New York Gallery opening, me, well, I can write anywhere, and Jodie Landon had just pushed the multiple partner marriage amendment," Daria said as the screen door slammed, and their terrors stomped into the house. "Thanks, Dad!"

Jane smiled, and shouted at the girls, "You know where Grandma's TV is. Go watch something educational." They all heard Sick, Sad World on the TV. "Not that!"

The door opened again, and Quinn walked in. "Hi, everyone!"

After everyone had greeted her, Daria asked, "How's QuinnStacy doing?"

"Great!" Quinn blushed. "We've just pulled even with Vera Wang, but we're going further, because she doesn't have a makeup line."

Jake smiled as he came in. "You know, girls, I was going over my will..."

"Not again," said Daria.

Quinn wore a bemused smile. "Daddy, why are you so morbid?"

Helen shook her head. "That's exactly what I asked him."

"But I like going over my will. It's got all that money!"

Daria rolled her eyes. "Dad, you revised your will two weeks ago when you discovered your old gum wrapper chain in the attic." She smiled. "So, what are we doing here?"

"Well, I was reading my will, thinking about the past and the future, and it occurred to me that you girls have turned out exactly the way I hoped."

"Come on," Jane said with a smile.

"Daria, every week you write that column of yours, trying to wake people up to the truth. My daughter, the crusader."

Daria blushed. "Well, there is some pleasure in winning awards for saying the same things that made me an outcast in high school."

"Quinn, you've taken all that energy and enthusiasm you used to direct toward being, um, a teensy bit self-absorbed..."

Quinn giggled. "Oh, daddy, I was a stuck-up little nightmare."

"...and put it all into making one of the biggest design studios on the East Coast." He smiled. "Jane, I'm always hearing you compared to a modern Picasso..."

Jane smiled back. "And like him I do some pieces for the art, the challenge, and some for the money." She winked.

"And Jen, I'm always hearing your voice, and Trent's, on the radio."

"It suits us."

Daria waved her arm. "I'm still not clear on what all this is about."

"Well, I was having so much fun reminiscing I thought, hey!" He coughed. "Why don't we get together for a family card game just like we used to?"

"Family card game?" Helen asked.

"We never played a family card game in our lives." Daria raised her eyebrow.

"Anyway, so screw it, then, we never played a family card game. Let's play one now! Bridge?"

"Gin?" Quinn spoke up.

"Hearts," Helen determined.

Jake smiled. "Okay. I'm going to play a game of hearts with my beautiful wife and my four beautiful girls."

Helen squeezed Jake's shoulder. "Oh, Jake."

Jane turned to Daria. "How about it, Daria? Hearts?"

Daria smiled her half-smile. "Deal me in."

Helen looked up to see not one dry eye. She carefully folded the paper and hugged everyone individually.

A doctor came in, looked at his clip board, and said, "Daria Morgendorffer's family?"

5. Episode Five

From the previous chapter:

A doctor came in, looked at his clip board, and said, "Daria Morgendorffer's family?"

The doctor's eyes widened almost comically as six people rushed him at once. He held up his hands. "Hold on!" When everyone stopped, he continued. "I've got good news, and not-so-good news. The good news is that Daria woke up, briefly, and was able to speak clearly. She asked for..."He consulted his notes, "Jane and Jen." He looked back up, straight into Helen and Jake's eyes. "The bad news is that this is the second grade 3 concussion that she's received in six months. She is at a drastically higher risk to experience side-effects from this blow. We're going to give her a CAT scan in the morning, then keep her, possibly a week to ten days."

"Doctor, is she going to have any lasting effects from this?" Helen asked.

"We won't know for a day or so, but I don't think that she will, other than an increased possibility of Alzheimer's when she gets older. That is, if she avoids many more blows to the head."

Several of the family hugged each other in relief.

"Doctor..." Jane was starting to say, when Quinn spoke up.

"He's Doctor Gupty, Jane." She stared at him. And if you don't want your brother and sister-in-law very mad at you, you'll let them see their girlfriend." She turned her head and said as an aside, "They were very supportive when you guys came out."

"Room 113." was all the doctor said.

Jen and Jane rushed through the halls until the saw the door with the number 113. They slowed down, opened it, and walked inside, to see Daria lying on her bed, her head swaddled in gauze, and tubes going in and out of her body. Jane gripped Jen's hand. "She looks so tiny."

Jen let a tear come down from her eye, brought up Jane's hand and kissed it. "I love you, Jane."

Jane hugged her. "I love you, too, Jen." She stood back a bit. "But Daria..."

Jen gently separated their hands, and put their forearms together. "It's not complete, without her, is it?" Jane shook her head. "When she talked about coming as close to marriage as possible, I know that I was doing it more not to lose her, then really agreeing with it."

Jane gripped Jen's hand. "I agreed, but I didn't see how she would ever get close."

Jen kissed Jane, hard, then backed off and looked straight into her eyes. "We are going to marry her, and do our damnedest to make it legal."

"Yes," Jane panted, looking into her eyes.

"All this is wonderful," a monotone from the bed spoke up, "but could you quit shouting? I have a splitting headache."

Helen and Jake came in later, and saw the girls with their hands entwined. They hugged briefly, then Helen looked at Jake. "Remember what we agreed."

Jake nodded, then kissed her, before they both slipped into a chair. "I promise."

Trent tugged on Quinn's dress. "C'm'on, Daria's sister."

She looked up at him irritatedly. "I have a name. Quinn."

"I know, Quinn, just getting your attention." He pointed to the information desk. "Daria's room is full, and more than one person got hurt, tonight."

They made their way over, and after saying the person's name, the nurse checked and said, "He's in serious but stable condition. They really didn't expect him to make it, he died twice on the table tonight." She checked again. "When you get there, you'll have to go in one at a time, there's already one person there," she said, and named the person.

Just outside the room, Trent gestured for Quinn to go in. "He'll be happier with someone near his own age, and she'll stop anything..odd from happening."

Quinn quietly walked in, seeing Jodie Landon holding a pale white hand. "How's Upchuck, Jodie?"

"His name is Charles, Quinn. After what he's done, he deserves that." Jodie squeezed his hand, gently. "He stepped in front of a bullet, when Mack, the guy who supposedly loved me, was going to kill me!" Some tears ran down her face. "So I'm pretty sure Mack doesn't love me, but what does that say about Charles?"

"That may-be choc-late's better than van-illa?" a voice rasped up. Jodie cried more, and squeezed his hand while Quinn hit the Nurse call button. They were all bundled out of the room quickly, while the doctors and nurses came in to give him tests. When they were out the door, Jodie hugged Quinn for a few minutes, then held her at arm's length.

"Quinn, when I was in there, I got to thinking. About love, about high school, well, a lot of things." She looked down for a moment. "I'm going to try to have a relationship with Charles, and try to make it work. I think that all of his creepiness is just a mask. But what I need from your sister and her girlfriends is to at least try to accept us." She shook her head. "If there's an 'us' to accept."

Quinn smiled back into Jodie's eyes. "I think that they'll be okay with it, but they'll ask for a few things, at least." She wagged her finger. "Don't worry, nothing's huge. Well, maybe one. Anyway, the first would be to make sure Up - Charles turns himself around and isn't so smarmy. The second is if you'd help out when Daria gets back to school." Seeing Jodie's bewilderment, she said, "Before Mack shot Charles, he hit, Daria," a tear worked its way down her face, "in the back of the head...she only just woke up." Jodie hugged her. After a few moments, Quinn continued. "The big one is this. Jodie, we know you're going to go into politics. What would matter most to Daria, Jane, and Jen, is if you could make it legal for all three of them to marry." Jodie's mouth dropped open, but, strangely, she was not as shocked as she would have thought.

"All right, and I'll be a good politician, and not go back on my deals. If they back me with Charles, I'll move heaven and earth to make sure they can all be Mrs. Morgendorffer-Lane-Burns!" Both she and Quinn had a fit of giggles at that.

The doors to the cell opened, the older man in blue jeans and a light blue shirt came in and sat down, and the door closed again. They spent a minute sitting, looking at the floor, with neither speaking. Finally the old man, looking older than Mack had ever seen his father, sighed and looked at him. "It's likely that they're going to try you as an adult." He looked up to his son. "The baseball bat, the gun, going into a place where they never would have expected you, attacking first...these are all premeditated acts, and -"

"Damned dyke and her girlfriends. First they take away my future, then my freedom, now they want whatever I've got left?" Mack said bitterly. Since his head was down, he never saw the hand that slapped him - hard - across the back of his head. "What the-?"

"Shut it. I'm trying to get you to pay attention and stop this pity-party you had going on for the last five months, boy." Mack straightened as if stung by the last appellation, but his father kept going. "First you moan about how, since there's no real football team, you won't go to college." He stared at Mack. "Bullshit! I can think of three ways, without trying, and without giving up your precious football. But No! Mack says college is gone, so gone must college be!" He waved his hands. "Then you decide that this girl Jane is the source of all your problems, because she saw the corruption, and had a little integrity." He glared at his son. "I want you to remember that they say they heard about all of this first from you and that idiot Kevin. Nobody heard a peep of it from you, and the girls just said that you complained that you weren't getting any byes."

He shook his head. "But it was all Jane's fault. So you and half the football team ganged up on a girl who weighed maybe half of what most of you weigh. But that wasn't enough. When her best friend, no, you said they were girlfriends by then. When her girlfriend manages to stop you from doing more than minor damage to the girl, you all attack someone who'd done damage to exactly one of you. And how many beat her down and intentionally fucked up her knee? You needed four or five big, strong football players for that." He spat. "I was behind you then, because even if you were being stupid, you at least had sense enough to not assault a woman who wasn't assaulting you. When you got that time in juvie, I thought, 'Well, maybe it'll give him time to cool down." He laughed. "Shows how wrong I can be."

He sighed. "Now this. You break out of juvie, come home and steal my gun and bullets, hit a girl who has done nothing wrong to you on the head with a baseball bat, then shoot at a girl you claim to love, and hit someone else who's done nothing to you." He stood up. "You're my son, and I love you. But you have to let go of that hate. There is no dispute over the facts. It is only if you'll get tried as a child, and have your sentence be until you're eighteen, or if you're tried as an adult, and have your sentence literally be decades long. Our lawyer told me that he saw no way of getting you to be tried as a minor. The Landons and Ruttheimers want you tried as an adult. Now I have scratched and scraped, and I have found one more chance for you to just serve as a juvenile, and have the records sealed.

"But if you decide that anger's too important to you, and you spit in the face of this chance, I'll turn my back, boy, because I'll be dead by the time you get out." He lifted Mack's chin. "You got me?" Mack nodded. "Good. They'll be here in about an hour, and you think what you want to say, because it literally is your last chance." With that, he stood up, knocked on the door, and was let out. Mack sat back down, held his head in his hands and thought.

Who was he to decide that someone was evil, just because they did something that messed with him? No, not him, but the plans that he had for life? He sure hadn't gone and told the nation what those were, so how could they help messing? He shook his head. Wasn't he better than this, a better person than the one who would just cry when someone took his blankie and hit them over the head with a dinosaur? He suddenly saw himself, standing over Upchuck with a smoking gun and a little boy's grin. He bent over his knees, and puked through his legs. He had just finished wiping it up with paper towels that the guards had provided, when the door opened and admitted a woman pushing a girl in a wheelchair. "Good Morning, Michael," the woman pushing said. "Hi, Mack," the girl being pushed, her head swaddled in gauze, said.

It was Daria Morgendorffer.

6. Episode Six

Mack shook his head and looked down at the floor.

"Well, he's got my vote. He's certainly acting like a child." Daria's head may have been bleeding, she may have had a blinding headache, and her motor control wasn't back far enough for her to walk, but she could still snark with the best of them. Mack looked up.

"Damn it, Daria! If it weren't for you and Jane, none of this would have happened." Daria rolled her eyes, and was about to say something when Helen held up her hand.

"Michael, I want to tell you something. Your father, for some reason, thinks that your life and career can be rescued, that underneath the idiot behind the last two attacks on my daughter is someone who might be of benefit to himself and society." Helen put her hands on her hips. "One of the things that I want to make perfectly clear is that there is no question of your guilt. You intentionally hit Daria with a baseball bat, then aimed a gun at another student and fired, hitting yet another student. You will be found guilty.

"The only thing that might change is whether you are tried as an adult or a juvenile. Now your father knows that I am the only person, at this time, who might be able to get you tried as a juvenile; not so much for my legal skills, but for the fact that Daria is my daughter, and if she can forgive you, there may be more to you then they've seen. But that's your only choice - two years, or forty. And to get it down to two years, you have to convince me that you're worth saving in the next fifteen minutes, which starts - now."

Mack stood up, went to the window and gazed out at the jail yard. "Then get out," he finally said.

"What?" Helen exclaimed.

Mack turned to face her. "I said that if you're going to insist on that, you might as well get out now, because she," and he pointed at Daria, "and Jane were responsible for stealing my future, and -" Mack was stopped by Daria's monotone.

"Oh, bullshit." She pointed her finger straight at Mack. "The person to blame for your loss of a future, Michael Jordan MacKenzie, is you." She pushed the glasses she would wear while her head healed up on her nose. "I'm not trying to say that we're any kind of saints, or that we never made mistakes, but only you screwed things up for you, Mack." She looked at him. "I'm willing to bet that someone else has told you this, but what the heck, it's only time.

"Jane didn't expose the 'bye' ring to hurt you, she did it to get out of a big problem with her integrity intact. Integrity which you seem to be sorely lacking in. After that, she wasn't the one who got you sent to juvie, that was Michael James MacKenzie, who sat around and watched as a gang of football players beat up a girl half the size of the smallest of them. Oh, and told them to scatter when they'd been spotted. Jane was only there trying to help one of your teammates pass, late in the evening. And neither of us was the one that got you into trouble this time. We were far too busy working with this stupid dance."

"You made it impossible for me to go to college!"

"Not even close. Hell, it isn't even impossible now, if you get tried as a juvenile. These records get sealed, and you just have to take on student loans, if you keep your studies up. You can even walk on, with most colleges." She looked at him with disgust. "Hell, before you masterminded the first attack on me, you could have just gotten with the coach, or even had your dad call recruiters from the colleges that you wanted, and have them come down and take a look. You know, like Kevin, the idiot, is doing now? All it would would have taken is a little effort and initiative. But not Mack. He had to make sure that he got two girls beat up, one twice, and a guy shot."

Mack stood there, silent.

"No angry diatribes, Mack? I mean, this'll likely be the last chance you have to tell me off."

Mack turned around and hit the wall with his fist. "All right, you were right! But it doesn't mean that I like you right now, Daria." He turned to Helen. "I'm sorry. I made the wrong decisions, for the wrong reasons, and people got hurt because of it. Even this," he paused for a moment, "girl, here. I would like to make some kind of restitution, even if you won't or can't get me tried as a juvenile."

Helen stood there, her arms crossed, unimpressed. "You might try apologizing to the person who's behind giving you this chance," she said, glancing over to Daria.

Mack's jaw dropped. "You? But-" He was cut off by Daria's monotone.

"Mack, hatred is useful only if you plan on exterminating the people that you hate. In all other situations, it gets in the way of you doing your best, of being your best. You let hate get the best of you. Now you have a choice. You can hold onto that hate, and we'll never see each other again, or you can let your hate go, and make something of your life. But you've got to tell me now, and my mom is really good at spotting BS." She looked up at Helen. "Do we have any green makeup? I feel like I'm channeling Yoda."

Mack snorted, turned and knelt to face Daria. "I'm sorry. I saw everything that I had worked for for years going away, and I saw you and Jane at the middle of it, and you didn't have to, and I got angry, enraged, and it was suddenly all your fault, and I had to stop you from doing more damage to my life. Can you forgive me?"

Daria looked up at Helen, who nodded.

"I can, but you know that you're still going away for a couple of years, minimum. You may still be tried as an adult. Those years, two or twenty, aren't going to be easy. And we still may not see each other after that."

"And we are going to have a civil suit against your future earnings, Michael," Helen spoke up. "You did significant, permanent damage to Daria. Should you make something of yourself, you are going to say 'thank you' to her in a very concrete way."

"Hopefully I can make something of myself, then."

A week and a half passed, and finally the time came for Daria to return to school. Jane and Jen helped her out of the SUV, and they slowly made their way into the school. As she was no longer dizzy, Daria didn't need to use a wheelchair, and her knee had finally progressed to the point where she could walk with just a cane. Her girlfriends flanked her as they made their way through the hallways. Just as they were about to enter their homeroom, Sandi stood in front of them, her arms crossed in front of her.

"I'm glad you got hurt, I think you deserved every bit of it." Daria was going to respond, but Jen squeezed her shoulder.

"I've got this." She went up to Sandi, and said in a quiet voice, "It's a free country, you can believe whatever you please, and say almost anything you think. But just remember, you try and act on any of those words? You'll be in a world of hurt." She looked into Sandi's eyes and continued. Doesn't matter if it's me or my girls, you hurt one of us, you're going to hurt. I hope that's plain enough for you."

Sandi's eye widened as she backed away.

When they entered the classroom, they saw Jodie sitting next to their normal seats. That was fairly normal. What was unusual was that Upchuck was sitting next to her, and that her hand was on his arm. Daria looked down at Jodie's hand, and then back up to her face. "So?"

Jodie smiled slightly. "Charles risked his life for me; the least I can do is give us a try. In return, he's agreed to tone down a lot of the smarmy crap. Right, Charles?"

"Right, Jo." He looked over at Daria. "I hope that you recover completely, Daria."

"Thank you, Charles," Daria replied. "I hope that you do, too. I understand that you risked your life when you didn't have to."

"Oh, but with such lovely -" He stopped as he felt a hard squeeze on his arm. "I just did what anyone would do. You ladies are my friends."

Jodie patted his arm gently. "Much better, Charles." She turned to Daria. I'm glad that you were able to help Michael."

Daria looked down. "Well, he seemed like he had finally gotten some sense knocked into his head from somewhere."

Jodie closed her eyes. "When he pointed that gun at me, well, he didn't love me, and I couldn't follow where he went. I don't know what got into him."

Jane spoke softly. "Hate, and blaming someone else for your problems." She pursed her lips. "It takes care of everything. There are those bad people, and it's all their fault that you can't be what you want." She shook her head. "It took me a couple of years in middle school to get over that. I finally realized that I was there every day, and not one person was forcing my hands away from my brushes, or my body away from the easel. I was stopping me from being what I wanted, and I was wasting time on people that never would have approved of me anyway. So I went back, began painting, and became an outcast." She hugged her girlfriends. "But a much happier one, lately."

A man came walking into Jake's office and sat down in a chair opposite him. "Jake Morgendorffer, right? I'm Jeremy Boyle from G-town Records." The men shook hands, and Jeremy continued. "I talked to the guys with Mystic Spiral, and they say you're the one in charge."

"Well, I'm their business manager, I wouldn't admit to being 'in charge.' But I'm the point man on agreements and such, my man."

Jeremy smiled. "Well said." He put a packet on Jake's desk. "We'd like to be their record label. We're full service, so there's a schedule set up for doing a tour, as well as free studio time, yadda yadda."

Jake looked thoughtful, but didn't touch the packet. "If that's spelled out in the contract, and you're thinking about more than a hundred miles from here on the high end, we'll have to say no. One of the members is still a junior in high school, and as she's the change that moved them from 'townies,' to 'attracting record label interest,' the band isn't interested in replacing her. They'll give her the two years."

"I see," said Jeremy, taking the packet back. "Would they be interested in recording a CD? We could get them free studio space, cover design, and distribute it for them."

"We could work with that, though they would likely insist on their own cover art," Jake mused. He looked up. "One of the member's sister, and another's girlfriend, same person, is an excellent artist."

"I think something can be worked out."

Jake smiled. "Tell you what, write up a contract that has those items in it, I'll run it through legal, and we'll put it to the band, along with our lyricist."

Jeremy raised his eyebrow.

"She's helped them, as well, and has part of the copyright on some of the newer songs."

Jeremy sighed and shook his head. "I guess we'll work with that, too."

7. Episode Seven

"And in weather, it should be sunny in the morning, but there's a hurricane watch out for," the radio went on to list many localities, ending with, "...and Lawndale County in Maryland." Daria switched it off as they came to a stop in the school parking lot.

"What'll you bet DeMartino not only cancels the game tonight, but the pep rally, too?" snarked Jane. "I swear, he hates those things as much as we do."

"No bet," said Quinn, who had ridden with them. "At least that's one thing that we don't have to deal with, the endless crap to promote Laaaawndale High." They all giggled at that.

"Hey, guys, if they let us out early? We should probably put up the storm covers on Jane's and my family's houses. I know Trent won't be there at Jane's, and I'd kinda like to make sure at mine." Jen put her hands in her pockets.

"Sounds good," said Daria, who looked up at her sister. "Quinn, you coming with if that happens, or just heading home?"

"I think I'll get a ride home with Stacy."

"Fine. Could you tell Mom and Dad where we are, and that they can get in touch on our cells?" Quinn nodded. "Thanks, sis."

In the event, it was in second period that the intercom crackled to life. "Students, I have just been informed that the hurricane watch is now a warning. School is now closed for the day, and you may take your leave at anytime. Thank you for your attention."

As they picked up their books, Daria turned to Jen and said, "So, first Jane's, then yours?" Jen nodded.

When they arrived at Casa Lane, the girls were surprised to find all but two of the windows already covered, with Trent working on those. "Hey," he said.

"Trent? Up before noon for anything not related to the band?" Jane crossed her arms and lifted her eyebrow.

"Uh, well, I couldn't get everything into the Tank II," he said, nodding to the newer van that now ran the band to its gigs. "So I figured that I'd protect the stuff in the house as best as I could."

"That's cool," said Jen. "Hey, would you mind helping us out after we're finished here? I don't know if my dad and brothers are home, and I'd kinda like for the house to still be standing when this is done."

"Sure, anything for a bandmate."

It was about ten minutes before everything was tied down and screwed in at the Lanes. Daria had managed to convince Trent to park the Tank II in the garage ("One more layer of protection") and they were all in the SUV, buckling in.

"It might be stupid of me to ask this question, Jen, but...are you out to your family?" Daria asked. "I know that you've always been comfortable in your bisexuality, but it occurs to me that you've never actually talked about their opinion." Jennifer blushed and looked at the floor.

"Well...halfway?" she said, sheepishly. "I brought up the subject a few times, remarked on how pretty this girl or that was, but he's generally been against gays, so I only really let him know about my dates with guys."

Jane brought the hand that she'd been holding to her lips and kissed it. She then used her other hand to brush the hair out of Jen's eyes. "Baby," she said, looking into those pools of blue that mirrored her own, "you know that we don't want to make trouble for you, but we are not going to lie about being your lovers. Are you sure that you want us to help?"

Jen opened her mouth, about to say something, closed it, and then let a huge smile wash over her face. "You know what? I'm very sure. What is he going to do, kick me out?" She shook her head. "Where have I been living the last five months?"

It was a matter of a few minutes, and they were in front of a mid-sized, but well kept house in the middle of a run-down neighborhood. A man with graying brown hair and an olive drab jacket was struggling to screw in a large plywood window cover. Jen popped her safety belt and rushed out of the SUV to help him.

"Dad!" she cried, "You know that these things are almost impossible to put up alone!" She lifted the opposite side of the cover until he could put it in easily.

"Boys aren't around, you weren't, either, and the weather didn't look like it was going to wait, sugarplum," he said to her. "Maybe if Louise had been here..." He shook his head as the last screw went in, then turned to Trent. "Hi. Frank Burns." He held out his hand.

Trent took it. "Trent Lane. Your daughter's in my band."

Jen stepped in front of her father. "Dad, I want you to meet Jane Lane, Trent's sister, and Daria Morgendorffer. They're my -" and she stuck her chin out, "girlfriends."

The only response from Frank was having an eyebrow rise. "Pleased to meet you both." He looked at the sky. "If you're here to help, I sure could use it, before the weather comes." With that he turned and picked up another cover, pointed to another electric screwdriver and screws.

With all five of them helping (although Daria's part was simply to carry tools and screws), the house was covered in less than a half hour. Frank suggested that Daria use the empty bay of the garage to protect the SUV, just as the rain started to come down hard. "Not going to get anywhere until this is over!" he almost yelled to be heard above the rising wind. Just as the garage door closed, the rain drenched the drive and street.

Everyone filed indoors, and sat down in a surprisingly spacious, if dark, living room. Frank turned on the lights, and it turned cozy. He turned to his daughter and said, "So, you had something to tell me?"

The rain hammered on the walls as Jen looked across at her dad. "Yeah, Dad. I'm what they call a bisexual. I'm attracted to both guys and girls. And more to the point, I'm in love with Daria and Jane." She reached for their hands with each of hers, and squeezed them.

"Well, I can't say that I saw this coming," Frank said as he leaned slightly toward her. "I really only have one question to ask of you, Jennifer. Are you sure? You should be very sure, because there are people out there who will make it their business to make your life hell, just because of who you love." He nodded to Jane and Daria. "And that'll only go double if people find out that you're in a multiple-partner relationship."

Daria held up her hand. "Mr. Burns, I believe that Jen has more than had the experience of people hating her for her orientation. While she's missed most of the physical damage that has been dealt out, she's been right there when we got hurt, so she's not under any misapprehensions about how many people see us."

Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, and they all felt a thump as a tree fell next door. "Dad," Jen said, "I am sure. The last five months, ever since Mrs. Morgendorffer asked you to let me stay with them? I've spent them with Daria and Jane, in the Morgendorffer's house." She held up her hand. "We were there for the reason that Mrs. Morgendorffer said, she just didn't tell you that we'd all be sharing a bed."

"Well, you seem to have this figured this out, and you're seventeen, over the age of consent..." He trailed off as he saw the look on Jen's face. "What, did you expect me to throw you out of my life because you liked girls?" At her blush, he continued. "Honey, you're my daughter, and I love you. I don't like gay men - I don't like effeminate men, because my reaction is that I just can't trust them. But God plots who you love, honey. And if he says that it's these two ladies, I'm not going to argue."

"But - but, all the whippings and the fights...?"

He knelt in front of her and hugged her. "Jennifer, did it ever cross your mind that your dad might not be the best at parenting? Your mom, God rest her soul, was so much better than I was. I just went with what had worked before, I saw that it wasn't doing right for you, but I didn't know any better options."

She patted his back. "All ya gotta do is accept me, Dad."

When he went to sit back down, the storm seemed to be winding down, itself. "So, what's been going on in the world of my baby girl who hasn't seen fit to talk to her Dad for five months?"

"Well, Dad, it turns out that knowing math is good for something, at least. All summer, I was tutoring other kids and getting paid for it. You see, it started when Jane had to break open this 'grades-for-sports' scam going on, and managed to get most of the football team held back. Then they tried to ambush Jane, and ended up destroying Daria's knee. See, she..." Jen slowly caught her father up on what had been happening.

"Wow." Frank turned to Daria. "And you went to bat for him, got him tried as a juvenile? Why?"

"well for one thing, because it was a juvenile act. Both from my impression of Mack, and from Jane and Jennifer's much longer experience with him, this wasn't the normal, think-it-through guy that he's always been. This was him reacting - and reacting badly - to something that he saw as bringing down his whole world. That doesn't excuse his actions, but it does mean that since he is still a minor, he should be treated as one. And like I told Mack, hatred is only useful if you plan on killing all of 'them,' whoever they are. Mack should be okay. I see anti-gay elements in the school as more dangerous then him, and I think we have a hold on them."

"And after high school?" Frank asked, not paying too much attention to the lack of wind and rain sounds on the roof. "Have you all made plans?"

"Daria and I both are sure, not only that we want to go to college, but which schools, and they're both in Boston. Barring extraordinary circumstances, we're pretty sure of getting in. Jen hasn't given us a definite place or major, but if she wants to go, she'll be able to." Seeing Frank's eyebrow rise, Jane explained. "A couple of lawsuits the school and some parents settled, more for us, but some for her; but she won't not go for lack of funds."

"And she may not want to go," Trent broke in. "Last week, some guy said we had a great sound, and that he was from a label that brought along acts like ours."

The girls all leaned in. "Well, what'd you say, doofus?" Jane snarked.

Trent looked confused. "What I always say when someone starts talking about business. I sent him to your dad, Daria."

8. Episode Eight

The Lane living room was full to the brim. Mystic Spiral, the girls, Helen and Jake, and even Quinn Morgendorffer were all sitting in a rough circle on whatever would support them, listening to what Jake had to say.

"...and so they agreed that you would just be a studio band, at least until Jen gets out of high school. They would want to vet where you did play, and instead of the venue paying you, they'd pay them, and G-town would pay you."

"What?" Max Tyler, the bald drummer of the Spiral exclaimed. "We're criminales. We decide where we play."

"I'll have to say that they have a valid reason for wanting veto power, there," said Helen. "They're going to be investing quite a bit in you, and they will want to make sure that you aren't wasting your talent out for peanuts."

"What kind of an investment are they talking about?" asked Daria.

"A minor amount, by industry standards." Jake was very calm as he laid the facts out. "An advance of twenty-five thousand each for the members, and five thousand each for Daria and Jane, as lyricist and artist, respectively, against the earnings from the sales of at least two CDs worth of songs over the next two years. They will pay for studio time, up to a point, and that point will be higher the more songs you produce. They will upgrade your equipment, within reason.

"For all of that," he continued, "they want to be your record label during that time. When Jen is free to tour, they want the option to be your label for your tours and two more CDs, all four being at very reasonable terms for the industry. They want to be the publisher for your music on the 'Net."

"I've been through their contracts. They aren't trying to get anything that they haven't said they wanted in plain English," said Helen. "And Jake and I will split five percent of what you get, according to the agreement we already have in place. Now that we've explained what they're offering, does anyone have any questions?" Daria and Jane whispered together, but only Jen raised her hand.

"This option. If we decide we don't want to do any more records after the first two, can we decline the option?"

"Not quite, Jennifer. The option is theirs to exercise or not. On the other hand, forcing you to make a record won't result in a quality product, so the general outcome in cases like these is that, if they exercise it, you'll either play for them, or not at all. Again, this is because they're giving you a good deal of money, almost sight unseen. They want to make their money back if you all make it. Any other questions?" She looked around. "All right, who's in favor of this?" Every hand but Daria and Jane's was raised. "Opposed?" No hands were raised at all.

"All right. Since you want to do this, we'll need to do the signing. Since Jen's been living with us -" The door opened and a woman with light brown hair, carrying a backpack, came in.

"Mom!" Jane said with a smile.

"I thought that you were going to be gone at least another few weeks," said Trent as both he and Jane got up and hugged their mother.

"A shaman told me that I needed to be with my family at a time of choice." She looked around the room. "Helen Barksdale! Well, isn't this a nice surprise!"

Helen smiled back. "It's Helen Morgendorffer, now. I'd guess that you're Amanda Lane?" she said, just slightly wistfully.

"Yes. It's been, what, twenty years?"

"At least," Helen said with a smile. "Would you like to sit in? Trent and his band have gotten a recording contract offer - Jane is part of it as their cover artist. Since I think that you'd have to sign for Jane, here's pretty much what we have for them..." she went on to describe the offer.

"That's an amazing offer for a band just starting out," Amanda said. "How did it come about?"

"Well, it's because of the girls, Mom," Trent said. "We hadn't changed that much the last couple of years, and we decided to go to Alternapalooza, and to get gas money, Jane, Jen, and Daria came along. Daria got us pointed in the right direction, and Jen's voice makes us so much better. There was no other choice than Janey for cover art, and -" the doorbell rang. Amanda, being closest, opened it.

In the doorway stood a blonde man in his late twenties. "Mom!" he said, and hugged Amanda.

"Wind!" she replied, "What an unexpected treat!" They talked for a few minutes, and it turned out that Wind's current marriage was falling apart. Jane rolled her eyes upon learning this, and patted Daria's thigh. Once Wind was settled down and shipped off to his room, Amanda turned back to Trent and said, "You were saying something about Jane?"

"Yeah, well, she, and Daria, and Jen, you see, they-" the doorbell rung again, and Trent looked at his wrist. "That should be either Penny or Dad."

In the event, it was the tall, redheaded Penny. "God damned volcano!" she muttered as she brought her bags inside.

"Your room's still there," Jane said. Penny nodded and trudged upstairs.

Amanda looked at Jane. "You're in favor of this contract?"

"Yeah. And Daria's mom has looked it over, so it should be kosher." Jane saw her mother's confused look, so she pointed. "Helen, the band's lawyer."

Amanda's face softened. "You did manage to become a laywer, Helen? Excellent!"

Jake smiled back. "Best lawyer in Maryland!" He held out his hand to Amanda. "I'm Jake, Helen's husband." She took his hand and absently shook it.

"And now back to -" Amanda was cut off again when a knock was heard at the door. It turned out to be Vincent Lane, Trent and Jane's father.

"Thanks, honey. I think I lost my keys on site." Vincent kissed his wife and headed up to the bed.

After a quickly whispered conversation, the girls stood up. "Mom," Jane said, "I'm bisexual, and these are my two girlfriends, Daria Morgendorffer, and Jen Burns."

"Well, of course you are, dear." Amanda said with a smile. "But do you want me to sign this contract in your name?"

"Yes, Mom," Jane said with a smile.

Cuddled in bed that night, Jane said, "And now I remember why the Wandering Lanes are the Wandering Lanes."

Daria smirked unseen. "Because you can't stand each other? I'd think you'd become like the Battling Barksdales."

"Or, hell, the Burns Ballbusters," Jen giggled from behind Jane.

Jane cuddled closer. "Well, at least I don't have to experience them full strength. God, I'm so happy that I'm living here!"

"You know, you'd think that since for the most part we're out of danger after those attacks, that Mom and Dad would be gently pushing you two out the door." Daria said in something close to her monotone.

"You didn't see them right after you got hurt this last time, Dar."

Daria hit the bedside light and looked into Jane's eyes. "No, I didn't. What happened?"

Jane gently kissed Daria. "Well, after they got a report on you, your mom read that English assignment you had to us."

"Which, god damn, girl, you can write," chipped in Jen from behind Jane.

"Anyway, they saw how we reacted to what you wanted." Jane brushed hair out of Daria's eyes. "And, by the way, we remember you saying that earlier, but your writing made it real for us. They saw how we reacted, and they started whispering. And later on, we were in your room, holding your hands, and almost asleep, when Helen tells your Dad, 'Remember what we agreed,' and Jake's saying, 'I promise.'" She kissed Daria. "I can't say for sure, but I think they're giving us the chance to be as close to married as we can."

Jen said, from behind Jane, "We both felt it. We really hadn't put much thought or effort into thinking about being married, but you getting hurt and your vision...we pledged our love, to each other and to you..."

Jane giggled, "And then, of course you told us to stop shouting. Of course, later that night, Quinn told us that she had gotten Jodie to pledge to do her part to make honest women out of us. Quinn doesn't think that she'll be successful, though," she winked, "not with someone who tells stories as well as you."

Daria reached over Jane and grabbed one of Jen's hands, and grabbed one of Jane's with the arm she was resting on. "Let me tell you a little secret. I fibbed a little bit, took a shortcut with that story. Mom said to make it something that I wanted, when, in my mind, I've had it since the first time we made love. Since then, you two have been my wives, and we have just been waiting for society and the law to catch up."

Daria was immediately covered with bodies kissing her into submission.

Hearing a knock on the garage door, Jane answered it. Penny stood in front of her, then hugged her. "I heard that you got rid of Morris," she said. She pressed a small heavy metal ingot into Jane's hand. "I promised myself that I'd give this to whoever could find a way to send that bitch up the river." Then she turned and left, leaving Jane gaping over the five pounds of gold in her hand.

Helen answered the door on Saturday morning, wondering who it was. "Amanda!" she exclaimed when she opened the door.

"Helen! You've got to help me get my house back!"

Helen escorted Amanda in, saying, "The empty nest not as wonderful when it's full again?"

Amanda gave her a slight smile. "No, even though I love them all." She looked around. "Could you...?"

Helen immediately caught on. "I think I can. Jake's out working out the kinks of the Spiral's contract." She led Amanda up to the master bedroom, and took Amanda's jacket off for her. "Lie down, and I think we'll get that stress out."

After a few minutes, Amanda was almost asleep, face down on the bed, topless, with rubbing oil on her back, as Helen straddled her. "I think that you've needed this for a long while, Amanda." She saw Amanda's answering smile. "Now, as far as dealing with your relative squatters...."

Amanda looked at all of the grumbling, arguing relatives. "I have such intelligent, interesting and articulate children...and grandchildren!" Her smile never dimmed as she realized the house would be empty again in less than a week.

9. Episode Nine

"And so," said Acting Principal Anthony DeMartino, "we will have these 'deejays' parked in the back lot for the next week, broadcasting and playing through their speakers. While you personally don't have to be there, I would ask that you don't hinder your fellow students should they wish to go and watch the show. The contract is based upon hitting certain attendance levels and on doing that on a minimum of certain days. If it's successful, we should have enough to bring both our textbooks and teaching aids up to date." He looked around. "I think that everyone can agree that this would be a small price to pay?" Seeing most nod, he smiled. "Excellent! I will see you all in class."

The girls decided to join the Morgendorffers for dinner upon learning that it was a rare non-lasagna night. Helen, though she had to field far fewer calls at home than while she was working under Eric (who had already gone through six different associates since she had left), still occasionally had to tend to a crisis, which is what she was doing at that moment, standing at the counter, listening, writing notes, and instructing her associates what to do. The rest of the family grabbed their skewers, impaled their meat chunks on them, and dropped them into the boiling oil, then waited impatiently for their fondue to cook.

Jake's chunk was done first, and he pulled it out of the oil, dipped it in barbecue sauce, and put it on his plate, only to skewer another chunk and drop it in the oil. Happily, the pot had tall sides, and nothing splashed over. As he started to eat his first chunk, he saw a flash from Daria's hand. "Hey, kiddo, got a new ring?"

Daria smiled. "We all did," and the three girls smiled hand held up their left hands, with identical rings on them. "They're Claddagh rings, and since Jane got an unexpected gift from her sister -"she was stopped by Jane's hand.

"Penny meant it for all of us, as we were all instrumental in getting Morris tossed out."

Daria continued on. "Since she gave us all an unexpected gift, we decided to use part of it for this."

Jake smiled, then he looked at where on the left hand the rings were placed, and became short of breath. "Are- Are you?" he panted, sweat starting to pour down his face.

"No, Dad, we aren't married. We can't get married legally." Jake let out a sigh, as his heart slowed down. "But I did ask to marry them, when it becomes legal, and they both accepted." His heart started to race again, when Jane asked a seemingly innocuous question.

"So, Mr. M, how's the recording contract going?"

Jake stood up, raised his fist, growled, "Why, those lousy, no good -" He looked to his left, where his hand had suddenly fallen to his waist. "Hey, you know, it's the darndest thing, I can't feel my arm!" With that, he crumpled to the ground.

Amid the cries of "Jakie!" and "Daddy!" Jen almost dived to the floor. As she pulled Jake straight, she yelled at Daria, "Call 911!" Feeling at his carotid, she let out a sigh. "Got a pulse!" She then put her cheek next to his mouth. "No Breath!"

She straightened out his airway, and began mouth-to-mouth, barely registering Daria's comment of, "An ambulance'll be on the way!"

After about a minute, Jane knelt down and asked, "Aren't we supposed to be compressing his chest?"

Jen looked up. "Do you know how?"

"I think so." Jane watched as Jen gave two more breaths into Jake.

"Then sure. I thought I had a pulse, but it can't hurt." Jen placed Jane's hands on the right spot on Jake's chest. "One-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-five, then let me breathe." They continued that way until the ambulance arrived in three minutes.

Once they arrived at the hospital, it was a short wait until a doctor met them, and discussed Jake. "We'll have to wait for the test results, but so far it looks like a very mild heart attack."

This shocked the already nervous Helen. "Oh, no!"

Quinn was almost as bad. "A heart attack!"

Daria held her hand up, and asked quietly, "Was there much damage to his heart?"

The doctor smiled. "It was a very mild heart attack, and due both to that fact, and that he got CPR immediately, I don't think so. If he adopts the right diet, exercise, and attitude, he should be fine. I hope you don't mind the question, but is there anything in your father's home life that might be causing him stress?"

Daria and Helen looked at each other. "He runs his own consulting business," said Daria. The doctor nodded.

"Often men that run their own business are harder on themselves than anyone else would be. I'll get you some literature to help out."

They were all in Jake's room when he awoke. "Helen?" he said groggily.

"We're all right here, Jake," Helen replied in a quiet tone. He yawned, blinked, saw where he was, and said, "Ggaanngh!"

Daria showed her Mona Lisa grin, reached over and hit the bed controls to bring him to a sitting position. "You're all right, Dad."

"But you certainly gave us a scare," Helen said. "In fact, if it weren't for Jane and Jen, your heart might have been damaged far more than it was." Her expression firmed, just a bit. "Jake, the girls and I are going to help you take better care of yourself."

Daria winked at Jake, and said, "Yeah, we kinda like having you around, Dad. And if that means torturing you by taking fatty foods and the like away from you, we think we can handle it."

Helen smiled, held up a book entitled, Heart Smart for Life, and said, "This book will tell us what we need to do now that we have a heart attack survivor in the family."

Quinn smiled. "I'm going to put together some designer bedwear for you while you rest up."

Jake smiled, and said, "Good for you, honey. Design what I'll be buried in. Avenge my death!"

Daria rolled her eyes. "Um, Dad? You're not dying."

"Avenge me!"

Giving a sigh, Helen turned to Jake and forced a smile. "Is there anything that we can get for you, honey?"

Jake looked around at all the beeping and moving medical equipment, curled into a ball, and said, "I want my mommy!"

The girls were walking between classes, hand in hand. "So, my grandmother Ruth will be staying with us while Dad recovers." She looked at each of her girlfriends. "And have I told you how much it meant to me that you helped save him?" She was bumped from both sides by her lovers.

"I'm not sure, but pictures of dead Presidents often helps, I'm told." Jane smiled. "So, is this the grandma who offered you cash to change your haircut?"

"No, that was both of them. She's just the one to still have a poodle cut forty years later."

They were disturbed by a noise from the speakers they were trying to get quietly past. "Spatula Man, I see some ladies here who I bet know how to par-tay!"

The girls, mildly interested, looked around, to see everyone looking at them. "Just follow my lead," said Jen quietly, as she then turned to the DJs. "Yes?"

The older, rotund DJ stepped in front of them with a faux pirate chest and said, "Girls, we've got a treasure chest full of Zee!-93 prizes here, and all you have to do for the key is tell us, on the air, where you love to get mental in the morning!"

Jen tilted her head. "Umm, you're pop, top 40, that kind of station?"

Bing said, "Absolutely!"

"I thought so. Well, not a slam on your station, but I like AOR, and the indie stations that will play local bands like Mystic Spiral. Since I'm sure you don't want to provide free advertising, we'll be on our way." And with that, they were.

Everybody went to the door when the bell rang. "Ruth!" Helen said brightly when she opened the door. "It's wonderful to see you."

"Hi, Grandma Ruth," Daria said, flatly.

"Yeah, Hi, Grandma," echoed Quinn.

"Helen! Girls! Still haven't settled on a decorator, I see." said Ruth.

"We're out of here," said Daria, as she put out her cane and started to turn around, Jane and Jen preparing to follow her.

"Daria?" came her grandmother's quavering voice down the hallway.

Daria sighed, whispered, wait here for a minute," to her lovers, then turned around and made her way down the hallway until she was right in front of Ruth. "Yes, Grandma Ruth?"

"Why were you walking away?"

Because of you, Grandma Ruth." Daria narrowed her eyes. "We call you because Dad wants your support at a time when he's physically and emotionally fragile. You come, and what are the first words out of your mouth? Not 'How are you, Helen?' to Mom, who, even though she's our primary breadwinner, is taking time off to take care of Dad. Not, 'What's happening with the girls?' even though you see me having to walk with a cane, us all wearing beautiful clothes that Quinn made. Not even a, 'Who are these other girls?' when you saw Jane and Jen, my girlfriends, who, by the way, happened to help save Dad's life. Certainly not, 'How is Jake?' You know the person that's supposed to be most important to you?" Daria took a breath and let it out. "No, your first words were a continuation of an argument that I'm sure you and Mom have had several times - 'You should stay at home and let Jake earn everything.' 'We provide for our family the way it works for us.' And you phrased it in a way that Mom can't win. Either she's a horrible decorator, or she's spending too much time away from the house to decorate. And you know what? I don't want to listen to it. Grandma, if those are your first words, your priorities are screwed up. Mom?" she said, looking up at Helen. "We don't want to crowd him, but when he has time, we want to see him." And with that, she turned around and joined her girlfriends, who helped her out to the garage.

"Well, I -" Ruth was stopped by Helen raising her hand.

"She's right, Ruth. Now is not the time to rekindle our discussion of who should be where. Now is the time to see that Jake is taken care of."

As Ruth was about to reply, Jake's voice came from upstairs. "Mommy?" She turned and made her way upstairs.

Quinn looked at Helen, then shook her head. "Did I just hear Daria cuss out Grandma without cursing?"

Helen smiled a small smile. "I think that you did. How does she do that?"

As the girls were taking the long way around to their next class, they could still hear the huge speakers throb with "Spatula Man's" voice - "Coming up, our raunch-a-riffic list of 101 words for... sex!" They shook their heads and went on their way.

As they came home from school and went to their room, the girls passed Helen and Ruth in the kitchen. Grinning, Daria said, "So the stories were right. People really do use these peculiar rooms to prepare food."

"Welcome home, dears. I'm just teaching your mother how to cook," Ruth said to Daria.

"Oh, nonsense. I cook all the time, don't I, Daria?" Helen replied.

"Only in the sense that frozen food goes into the oven and comes out hot," said Daria. "But that's good enough for us." She turned to walk to the garage with the girls when she heard her grandmother's voice. "Daria, wait."

She turned around, and in her monotone, said, "Yes?"

"Daria, I- I'm sorry. You were right, yesterday."

"I'm not always right, Grandma, but yes, yesterday was one of those times." Daria crossed her arms in front of her.

"You look lovely without your glasses," Ruth said.

"Thank you, Grandma, though you should know that how I look wasn't the guiding factor." She felt Jen's elbow nudge her in the back. "Though, to be honest, it was a factor."

Ruth smiled widely. "You have your eye on a nice boy?" She looked confused when Helen, Jen, and Jane broke down in giggles.

Daria took pity on her. "The reason that they're laughing is because we thought that we'd explained it to you yesterday, Grandma. Jen and Jane are my girlfriends. We kiss, we're physically and emotionally attracted to each other. In the far future when it's legal, we plan to be married. I'm a lesbian, Grandma, and I've known I was one for almost three years, Mom, Dad, and Quinn for about one and a half."

Ruth's face looked anguished. "But it's wrong, Daria."

Daria held her grandmother at arm's length. "I have some answer to that, but first, I want you to understand that I did not do this to rebel, or to be cool, or anything like that. I've studied and researched the life and troubles that an average queer person lives and goes through, and I really would rather not go through that. But I am not going to deny who I am, and who I am - in part - is a lesbian. Not a full definition, but it is part of me. And if people can't handle that, then they can't.

"Grandma, I know that you believe in God. Do you really think that he would be against an honest expression of love between two people? I don't believe that He would be such a trickster as to make people love others of the same gender, then say that it's a mortal sin for them to express that love." A thought crossed Daria's mind. "I do have a question for you. Why do you want Mom, me and Quinn to become dependent women? If Mom wasn't the top lawyer that she is, we wouldn't have the good medical insurance, and I wouldn't have a college fund. Is it that you want us to become dependent on you?" With that, Daria turned and left.

Friday came around, and the DJs were still broadcasting, this time having students audition for their "Mental in the Morning," ad. Just as they were about to get out of the area, one of the DJs pointed out Daria. "You there, in the green. Yeah, you!"

Daria sighed. "Once again, being addressed by a radio DJ."

Jane snarked, "That's it, I want your autograph."

"Only on a marriage certificate, Lane."

The Spatula Man broke into their conversation. "You've been avoiding us all week long. Why not come up here and tell us why Z-93 makes you mental in the morning?!"

Into the ensuing silence, Bing said, "Frrree t-shirt!" and held one up.

Jen hid a giggle. "How could you resist? But are you, 'Mental in the Morning?'"

Daria paused, and then said, "You know, I think that I am." With that, she turned and walked up to the stage. When she got there, she accepted the microphone and said into it. "A few days ago, my father had a heart attack, forcing me to admit his mortality to myself for the first time. Accepting this grim new knowledge has been especially difficult, as I've been under constant, yammering assault by two utterly brainless and talentless so-called radio personalities. And so, for these reasons, I, Daria Morgendorffer, am mental in the morning." She dropped the microphone onto the stage and rejoined her lovers. The last thing that she heard as the door closed behind her was the sound of the radio van peeling out as they left the parking lot.

10. Episode Ten

Disclaimer: Lyrics from “This one’s for the girls” by Martina McBride. No infringement intended.

Daria looked up from her computer screen to see Jane coming toward her. "Hey," she said, after they had kissed.

"Now, Daria, you know that you need to cut down on all of the speeches that you give, or people might think that you're always right."

Daria blushed. "Hate you."

Jane hugged her lover. "I love you, too, Dar."

A twinkle grew in Daria's eye. "Where's Jen?" she asked.

"She's with the Spiral. Out doing some gig in a little town called Fremont."

"Dead town."

"Yep. She said that she'd call us when they were coming back."


Jane raised her eyebrow. "Daria, you're sounding strange. Are you...?" she said, when she was shushed by Daria's finger on her lips.

""Two words," was all Daria said.

A little later, Jane was painting when Daria came in the door, one arm leaning on her cane, and the other holding a couple of pizzas. "Pizza's here!" she said, then knocked herself lightly in the head with her cane.

"Wow, they smell great. Would you mind getting the sodas, too, Dar?" Jane looked up, and saw Daria nod and turn away. A few minutes later, after she had cleaned up, Daria came back through the door with the requested drinks.

She set them down at the garage bedroom's small table, turned to Jane, and with a big smile, said, "Love you." Then they both sat down to eat. While they did, Jane looked up at her lover. "So I take it that this is a self-inflicted torture?" Daria nodded. "What is it supposed to help with?"

Daria gave a small smile. "Thinking pre-speaking."

"Oh?" Jane's eyebrow rose. "What brought that on?"

"Quinn complained."

"Huh? What did she say?"

Daria let out a sigh of relief, and, smiling, replied. "She said, 'Gee, Daria, all you seem to do lately is make speeches. I mean, I guess I know that some of them need to be said, and some of them are funny. But when you're making a speech, you're talking at a person, not with them. Everything comes from you, nothing from them. Now I know you're a super genius brain, but you don't know everything, and people feel kind of shut down when you talk at them like that. I mean, that's why Grandma Ruth left so many hours before Daddy got all better. Do you think that you could think a little more before you start speechifying?'"

Jane gave an evil smile. "Ah hah." She leaned over and kissed Daria's forehead. "So, knowing my beautiful and intelligent fiancé as I do, you will have thought about what she said, agreed that it had at least some value, and decided to restrict yourself in some way for some time." She looked and winked. "Are you allowed to tell me the rules?"

Daria frowned and shook her head. "No help."

"Well, you certainly can't stop me from guessing the rules."

"That's true."

As they munched on, Jane smiled. "Well, I think that I've got at least some of the rules. The big one being, that in most settings, you can only speak once before someone else speaks, and you can only use two words."

Daria blushed. "Not telling."

"But that's not the whole thing, because you stood there and gave a good minute's worth of talking just now." She saw Daria's grin, and said, "I'll get you yet, missy!"

Daria grinned back, walked over to her, laid across her knees, and said, "Bed time."

Later that evening, they were cuddled up in bed when the telephone rang. Daria nudged Jane. "You answer."

Grumbling slightly, Jane picked up the phone. "Ya-huh? Hello?"

Jen was on the other end of the line. "Jane! We're all in jail and we need help!"

"Jail? Why are you in jail?"

Well, we were on our way to Fremont, and apparently Max swerved across the line a couple of times. We got pulled over, and they gave us a ticket."

"Hell, if they just gave you a ticket, why are you in jail?"

"Because we're out of state. They want us to pay up right away, and none of us have a hundred dollars on us. We were figuring to be paid at the gig."

Daria, who had been listening in, murmured, "Credit card?"

Jane nodded. "Don't you have the credit card for our account, baby?" she spoke into the phone.

"Yeah, but these guys will only accept cash. They say they've been screwed too many times with other methods of payment."

Daria whispered, "Western Union?"

Jane asked, "What about Western Union?"

"I don't know," Jen replied. Jane could hear her call, "Deputy!" and then some low level talking. Finally, Jen came back on line. "He says that they don't have one in town. Can you get Helen and Jake to come out and cover us?"

Jane looked over at Daria. "Well?"

Daria shook her head. "Marriage seminar." She started to get out of bed and get dressed.

"They're at some kind of seminar, Jen." Jane sighed. "Looks like we'll be there in a couple of hours. Are you going to be able to make the gig, and have you called them?"

"No, and no. We're supposed to be there now."

"Well, give me their number, and we'll call them when we're on the road." After getting the address of the sheriff's office, and the number of the gig, Jane looked up to see Daria fully dressed.

Daria smiled. "Hurry up."

It took about 15 minutes to get Jane dressed and to get to an ATM to retrieve enough money to free the band, but soon the girls were on the road. After they were, Daria reached over and took Jane's hand. Squeezing it, she said, "Love you."

Squeezing back, Jane smiled and said, "I love you, too, Daria. But you're sure saying this a lot today."

"Most important."

Jane blushed, brought Daria's hand to her lips and kissed it. "Indeed it is, baby."

A look went through Daria's face. "I'm stupid."

Jane played along. "Oh?"

Daria fished in her pocket and got out her cell. "Call Quinn."

Jane smiled. "And why would I do that?"

Daria's eyes narrowed. "No party."

"Gotcha." And then Jane was dialing first Quinn, and then the gig; she was actually successful on both points. Quinn promised not to have a party, and the gig understood about things happening, and offered to reschedule.

This had all taken about a half-hour, and they were about a third of the way to their destination, when Jane noticed someone by the side of the road, far ahead. "Let's give him a ride," she said.

Daria shook her head. "Serial killer."

Jane smiled. "I'm sure that he hasn't killed any breakfast cereal in his life."

Daria looked at her fiancé. "You armed?"

Jane shook her head regretfully. "Nope." Looking up again, she recognized the man. "That's Mr. O'Neill!"

Daria floored it.

After another hour, Daria and Jane were pulling up in front of the sheriff's office and jail. When they went in and asked the officer at the desk, he shook his head. "They're out at the VFW, working off their debt." After getting directions, it was the work of another few minutes to get to the VFW, with only two wrong turns on the way. They walked in to the sweetest sound in the world - Jen singing:

This one's for all you girls about thirteen
High school can be so rough, can be so mean
Hold onto, on to your innocence
Stand your ground when everyone's giving in

This one's for the girls
Who've ever had a broken heart
Who've wished upon a shooting star
You're beautiful the way you are
This one's for the girls
Who love without holding back
Who dream with everything they have
All around the world
This one's for the girls

The song went on, but finally ended to thunderous applause from all of the young girls listening. Jen caught a glance of her girlfriends out of the corner of her eye, dropped her mic and ran off to hug them.

"Love you," said Daria as she was getting squashed.

"That goes double for me," said Jane when it was her turn. "So I take it that you're free to go?"

"Almost," said Jen. "We need to do one more song for the sheriff's daughter, but after that, yeah."

"Cool," Daria said. And they listened to the Spiral run through "Freakin' Friends."

When the Spiral was done, Jen came over, then she frowned. "I'm sorry that I pulled you guys out here for nothing."

Daria smiled. "I'm not." She then kissed Jen.

Jen rode back with her girls. "So the gig just has to be rescheduled? Awesome!" She turned to Daria. "But why didn't you tell me that?"

Daria pointed with her thumb. "Ask Jane."

Jane shrugged. "Quinn thought she was making too many speeches, so she's limited, mostly, to two-word answers. It was easier for me to explain." They both heard the engine race as Daria floored it again.

Jen said, "Isn't that Mr. O'Neill?" Then noticing where Daria was headed, she screamed, "No, Daria! The paint job!"

Daria considered for a second, and turned slightly, just running over Mr. O'Neill's suitcase.

As they came home, Daria noticed several beer cans in the yard. She stuck her head in the door and yelled. "Quinn!" In a few moments, Quinn showed at the door. Daria swept her arm to include the many beer cans. "What's up?"

"Oh, well, you know, Daria. Stacy came over, and she invited Ted, and he invited Charles, who came with Jodie, and when they saw that she was here, Kevin and Brittany dropped by, which drew everyone else in." Seeing Daria's stare, she asked, "What?"

"Clean up."

"But - aren't you going to help?" Quinn's lip quivered.

"Your party."

Quinn let a tear fall down her cheek. "I guess," she said.

Daria threw her hands into the air in frustration. "All right!" she said, as she began to pick up beer cans. Laughing,her girlfriends joined her.

11. Episode Eleven

Daria turned over and stretched, cuddling up to the closer of her fiancés, which this morning was...Jen. She smiled as she gave her an absent kiss. On the other side, Jane was stretching, herself, and running her fingers through her hair. "Is it morning, already?"

Daria snorted, then smiled. "Morning, loves." She kissed Jane over the body of their fiancé, then skipped her way to the bathroom that Jake had had installed by one of his clients from another town. After she took care of her morning ablutions, she sat down at the small desk while her partners did the same. finally, they all went to the kitchen and started to have breakfast. At a stopping point, Daria raised her head and asked, "Discuss tomorrow?"

This temporarily confused her lovers. "Are you still on that two word, kick, Dar?" Jane asked.

"Oh, yeah." Daria had returned to her monotone.

"So discuss what with who?"

"House, Helen."

"House? But what about the...oh, that house," Jennifer said.

"I guess that we could do that," Jane said. "But what if you aren't over your speaking impediment by then? By the way, when will you be over it?"

"Soon, Jane." Daria smiled.

Helen Morgendorffer was feeling a bit wiped out by all the activities of the weekend when Jake parked the SUV in the driveway, so she let him get the luggage, choosing to walk in ahead. She stopped almost on a dime when she saw Daria, Jen, and Jane sitting at the table, waiting for someone, likely her.

Daria smiled, and said, "Hi, Mom."

Helen sighed. "Whatever you girls need, can it wait until I've used the restroom?" They all nodded, and she took some time and freshened up. When she came back down, she looked straight at her daughter. "So what do you need, Daria?"

Daria gave a Mona Lisa smile. "Jane'll explain."

Jane smiled. "Helen, we've loved living here with you, but we all have felt that we are squeezing your family a bit. We were wondering about any advice you'd have on maybe getting a place of our own?"

Helen sighed. "Well, I can answer you in several ways. As a lawyer, I can tell you that you are able to buy and own land at this point, although Maryland does not consider you to have reached your full majority until age 21. As a trustee of many of your funds, I'd tell you that they are not unlocked until you enter college, and using them in the way that you might be is not consistent with their rules. As a concerned friend, I'd wonder if you would want to get into all of the hassles that owning property and living would entail at this point, especially as I'm sure that you'll want to buy or rent a house in Boston. " She looked at Daria, her eyes narrowed. "As a mother, I'd ask you, Daria, if you're sure of your reasons for doing this." She saw Daria thoughtfully nodding.

She sat back and glanced around. "I've seen you all for the last seven months. How you act and react around each other. I'll tell you, I didn't really expect to see it, but I have to see, you're a very stable, and very loving triad. You work with each other, support each other, and in general act like a married couple. I don't think that that will be broken up in the time ahead of you.

"Having said that, I'm not sure that this would be the best for you. There are many, many little hassles that you don't see about owning property because your father and I take care of them. You could take care of them, yourselves, but why? In addition, I have a pretty good idea of your finances. If you do this now, you'll have to try and sell your property here to buy more in Boston. Since you have a deadline, you well may have to take a loss." She looked at each of them in turn. "If you believe that we don't support your relationship, let me take this opportunity to assure you that you're wrong. Jake and I made a decision, when you were hurt, Daria. Until it becomes legal for you to marry each other, and as long as you treat each other as such, we will treat you as a married triad, with all the - what are you laughing about, Daria?" She was surprised when Daria came into her arms and hugged her, still chuckling.

"Love you."

Jane snorted. "You love saying that, don't you, amiga?"

Daria grinned, and poked Helen. "You, speechifying." Then she broke down into giggles again.

Jen smiled, as well. "I think that means that we're going to shelve the housing project for now, Helen - can we call you Helen?"

"Of course, Jennifer. Could I ask a question, in return?"


"What is it with my giggling daughter's odd way of speaking today?"

12. Episode Twelve

Helen Morgendorffer was just filling up her cup of coffee when Daria came in the door from the garage. "Morning, Mom," she said.

"Daria, would you do me a favor and speak normally?"

"Sure, Mom." Daria winked at Helen. "By the way, thank you for saving me from another four days of two-word hell."

"This I've got to hear," said Helen, sitting down at the table. "So why did you do this?"

"Did Jane tell you about Quinn?"

"Yes, she did. It's not like her to be so blunt."

"I know. So when she said that, I was pretty sure that other people were thinking it, too. So I set things up so that I'd let other people talk, and not just have me bulldoze over them. I wanted to hear what they had to say, and have them want to hear what I had to say. Would you like to hear my rules for myself?"

"Certainly, dear."

"Well, to start out, I could only say two words at a time. Enough to communicate, not enough to bully with. And by "a time," I meant, "when someone talked to me in between, or after ten minutes had passed." Second, I built some exceptions in. This might be important, but it's not as important as someone's life, so if there was a crisis, all bets were off. Also, it was my words I was worried about. If someone asked me what someone else had said, I could tell them in full. Finally, I was either going to stop after a week, or when someone asked me to stop. Remember, this was all about other people not wanting to hear me all the time. If they asked, I was good. And so you find me here." Daria smiled.

"I see." Helen glanced at her watch. "I'd better head on to work. Have a good day at school!"

The girls were crowded around Daria's locker after a "special" meeting called by Mr. De Martino. "So, what did you think about the offer that the party barge made?" Jane asked.

"It's not bad, for the school, and I see why DeMartino's going ahead with it," Daria said.

"Kinda odd, how he made the point that he wouldn't be going, though." Jane grinned. Then she looked at Daria. "Hey! That's more than two words."

"Yes, yes it is, Jane." She thought. "My first thought is to buy two or three tickets apiece, and just not show up. Show our support without having to deal with everything." She shrugged. "There is a Sick, Sad World marathon Friday night."

Jen kissed her cheek, then shook her head. "Well, whatever works for you, but I was thinking that this would be a perfect night to pile up points and markers. You saw how the "popular" guys were going to treat it as a dress-up thing. We could do that, use our dresses from the last dance, and get points from Quinn. If she came, too, we'd get points from your parents, as well. Not counting how DeMartino would take us buying multiple tickets, and we'd get to have fun gambling, since it wasn't real money, anyway."

"I see your point," said Jane. She turned to Daria. "Whaddya think?"

"Eh, Sick, Sad World is best in small doses, anyway."

That Saturday, the girls walked up to the dock, their hair done up, their faces done by Stacy, and their dresses re-done (in just a few days) by Quinn. They were easily the equal of any of the girls in beauty as they walked up the ramp.

"This looks like less 'luxury,' and more 'liner.'" commented Jane.

"Yeah, I looked up its registry. It's a converted fishing trawler. Shouldn't matter for our purposes." They had just reached the high point of the ramp, where they boarded the ship, when they saw Coach Durgin and an athletic blonde, both dressed up in pretty dresses.

The strawberry-blonde coach smiled as she handed each of the girls a stack of chips. "Daria, Jane, Jen, I'd like you to meet Pat, my...friend." She winked at them, and turned to her partner. "Pat, I'd like you to meet Daria Morgendorffer and her -" she searched for a word.

"We're calling it fiancés, for now, Terry." Daria said. "Pat, I'm pleased to meet you. I'd like you to meet my fiancés, Miss Jane Lane, and Miss Jennifer Burns."

Pat smiled. "You all look so stunning!"

Jen smiled back. "We had a lot of help, mostly from Daria's sister Quinn, who designed and made the dresses, and her friend Stacy, who's a whiz at makeup."

"They did an excellent job! But tell me, why is one arm on each of your dresses a little baggy?"

The girls all smiled, parted the pleats on their dress arms, and put their forearms together, showing a beautiful red heart with the word "Love" written over it.

"You're not even a little bit ashamed, are you?" Pat was greeted with the shakes of three heads. "Well, good for you! Get your butts in there and knock'em dead!" When the girls had passed, she turned back to Terry and said, "You know, I think you're right. They're going to make some big footprints, before their time is through."

The girls had set down at the poker table, watching Jen win a good bit of chips over the first hour, when Daria felt nauseated. She grabbed Jane's arm. "Jane, nauseated, migraine." Jane nodded, leaned in and whispered in Jen's ear. As they got up and Daria walked out with Jane's help, they could hear Jen saying, "Here ya go, guys, everyone can have a share." When they were at the door, she was on Daria's other side.

"I thought you didn't get motion sickness," Jen said quietly to Daria.

"Didn't used to."

Jane reached into her purse, got some pills, and asked, "Can you keep it down?" At Daria's "OK" sign, she gave her the pills, a drink of water that she had grabbed on her way out, and they laid her down on a deck chair, Jen covering her eyes with a nearby towel before scooting behind her to be a pillow. It took about fifteen minutes, but Daria was staring to relax, when Kevin and Brittany came out the door.

"Oh, Kevvy, isn't it a beautiful night?" squeaked Brittany.

"Yeah, babe, and a hell of a moon." The pair started making out, during which Brittany squeaked a lot, when Jane tapped Brittany on the shoulder.

"Listen, guys, Daria's got a migraine. Would you mind making out a little further up the rail?"

The pair nodded, and Brittany quietly squeaked, "Tell her I hope she feels better!" as they made their way to the bow.

They seemed to have started going back to port, and Daria was relaxing once more, when they felt a big BOOM! from the other side of the ship, and they started heading for the shore, which was about a quarter- mile away at that point. Pretty soon, they all heard a sound like sandpaper going over the hull, and then the loudspeaker blared:

"Ladies and gentlemen, due to an unforeseen collision, we have beached just offshore, approximately ten knots north of the harbor. Should you wish to stay onboard, there will be food and beverages, and we expect to get into port in about five to six hours. "However, the navigator tells me that the shelf that we've beached on is about two and a half feet deep, is accessible from a ladder that we've dropped from the bow, and is wadeable to the shore. Unfortunately, the lifeboat draws three feet, so we won't be lowering it."

"Well, we'd better get to it," said Daria.

"Get to what?"

"The bow. The only thing worse, tonight, then wading a quarter mile half covered in water, is going to be waiting to wade a quarter mile half-covered in water."

Monday, Jake was reading the paper, where the headline read, SHIP SHAPE? He quoted aloud, "-and besides the criminal underprovisioning of lifeboats, sources have revealed that the only licensed pilot on board at the time had been drinking heavily. Despite the limitation of casualties to very minor injuries, the lawsuits from this incident are expected to close the Princess Fairy for good." He looked up. "Say, Daria, wasn't that the ship you girls were on?"

Looking around, noticing that her fiancés, as well as Helen were in the room, she reached out and tapped a part of the paper. Jake glanced down, then back up. "Helen!"

"Not now, Jake." Helen was heading out the door when she was stopped by Jake's voice.

"Helen! You've gotta look!" With that Helen sighed and turned around.

"Look at what, dear?" when she looked, she saw his face animated as he pointed at the paper. She glanced down to where his finger was pointing, the stopped, in shock, because she couldn't believe it.

by Daria Morgendorffer

She turned to her daughter. "You got published?" At Daria's nod, she hugged her tightly. "I'm so proud of you!" She looked at her watch. "Oh! but I've got to go! I'll see you tonight!" And as she hurried off, Daria's smile dimmed just slightly, then grew back to its original brightness, as her girls hugged her.

13. Episode Thirteen

Daria and Jane leaned back against the wall of the Zon, Daria's hand on her cane. "I honestly never thought that they'd get this far, did you?" asked Jane.

"Eh, it was always if they wanted it enough. And having someone as pretty as Jen and her voice up there helped, a lot, too." Daria crossed her arms, and they listened to the Spiral singing.

Jen: Who shot the hippies?

Chorus: Who locked them in a zoo?

Jen: Who gagged the beatniks?

Chorus: Who filled their mouths with glue?

Jen: Who crushed the bohos?

Chorus: Who turned their work to poo?

All: Hey, Mr. Normal, it was you!

Daria smiled at Jen, then noticed that Jane was looking off to her left. "Hey. Hey!" she said, bumping her girlfriend.

"I'm sorry, hon. It's just that guy was staring at me."

"And I can see how that pains you. Let's go to the bathroom and give him someone else to obsess about."

Jane sighed. "Okay."

Once they came back, Daria nudged Jane. "Looks like he did."

Following Daria's finger, Jane saw that the guy had indeed started talking with someone else, a girl with strawberry blonde hair, and - "Be quiet, Dar!" she whispered into her fiancé's ear. Then, grabbing Daria's hand, they walked up quietly behind the couple. The girl was talking a mile a minute.

"And I designed the band's outfit, though my sister's girlfriend did the banner and the CD cover. Did you see how they attract attention, are easy to move in, and are cool and simple to wear? Those are going in my portfolio." He whispered into her ear. "I love convertibles. Do you have one?" Before the boy could say anything, Daria came up and tapped her on the shoulder.

"So did you slip Mom and Dad's leash, Sis?" Daria asked with a smile.

"They said something about forgetting their earplugs, and went to the car for a bit," Quinn replied. "Tom, this is my sister, Daria, and her girlfriend, Jane Lane. Daria, this is Tom...I don't know your last name."

"Sloane, Tom Sloane," he said, holding out his hand.

"Daria Morgendorffer," she said, taking it. "Now what was this I heard about a convertible?"

He held his hands up. "I don't have one...unless you consider my Pinto with the rusting roof one."

"Only if you can roll up sheet metal at a moment's notice," said Jane.

"I was telling Quinn how much better this band is then when I heard them last year," said Tom.

Jane smiled and nodded. "Yeah, Daria finally gave them the kick in the ass they needed."

"That cute blonde joining them didn't hurt, either," he said with a smile. Seeing both Jane and Daria smiling smugly in return, he asked, "What?"

Quinn snorted delicately. "Oh, Tom, they're just happy that someone is complimenting their girlfriend."

"Their-?" His countenance cleared up. "Oh." He turned to Jane. "So you're the artist?"

Jane nodded. "Do you have a piece of my artwork, yet?" When he looked confused, she said, "I meant, have you bought a CD yet?" He grinned and held one up.

While they had been chatting, Daria and Quinn had been having a conversation of their own, consisting completely of gestures and facial expressions. At the end, Daria turned to Jane and said, "Honey, do you remember that Jen had talked about a hem coming loose? Would you tell Quinn about it while I talk with Tom, here, for a moment?" Jane nodded and took Quinn's elbow, while Daria walked a few steps away, leaning on her cane, and gestured for Tom to follow her.

When he came within talking distance, she put her hand on his shoulder. "Look, Tom, I saw you looking at Jane earlier." When he opened his mouth, trying to say something, she shook her head. "No worries on that score. I know Jane. Let's just leave it at that. But then, within a few minutes, you're very close to my sister. My underaged sister. I'll grant you that she'll be of age within a year, and if you're our age, that should be all right. But she's thinking you might be The One." Daria saw the shock on his face, and grinned. "She may be right. Quinn's very good with people, and she's likely dated ten times as many people as the two of us, combined." Daria, remembering the last weekend, shut up.

"At her age?" Tom asked.

"Yep. For about a year, she had multiple dates a night. She's off that, now, because she found something else to interest her."

"Fashion," Tom nodded.

"Exactly. And you should know that she thinks that you're slumming. Anyway, what I was trying to say was, if you're just looking for a companion for the night or week, you should find an elsewhere to be, as the show says. If you're looking for something with Quinn, be prepared to make it long term. Because if you just use her, I will find way to make you regret it. With or without a shovel." Daria ended with a grin. "Do we understand each other?"

"I think I can work with that," he said. "I think I'll go for the long-term payoff. Everyone in your family seems to be someone of substance."

She shrugged. "We try." A thought struck her. "Oh, a hint, be sure to complement the band's clothes, because -"

"-she designed and made them, and it's the Inaugural CD kickoff party," he finished. "She said, I listened," he explained. "She also said that you were a major help, both on the lyrics and in strategy."

Daria blushed. "I didn't -"

"I warn you, I've read the CD insert. Every new song has you as one of the lyricists. So I kind of doubt that you had nothing to do with the strategy." He looked up. "Why don't we take you back to your girl and my possible girl?" With that, he escorted her back.

"Finally!" said Jane when they walked up, and Daria smiled at Quinn. "It's almost time for -" she was interrupted by a loud squeal from the speakers.

Jen was at the mic. "Would Daria, Quinn, Jake, and Helen Morgendorffer, Stacy Rowe, and Jane Lane please come up on stage?" she said. As they made their way to the stage, she continued. "As most of you know, this is the kickoff party for our new CD. Every one of the people I just called up is family, and has made a big difference in how we got here!" She was about to say something, but Jake, who had just come on stage, said something in her ear. "Super cool! My girl Daria's dad, Jake, who happens to be our business manager, just told me that we've sold out of CDs tonight! Awesome! Just remember that you can get more from the net at! Anyway, we're going to do a song that's really special for our family here - Freakin' Friends!" And with that, the Spiral pounded out -

when the aliens come
when the death rays hum
when the bombers bomb
we'll still be freakin' friends
when the whip comes down
when they nuke the town
when dead clowns can't clown
we'll still be freakin' friends

freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends

Jen took the mic and went by each of their family:
when the skeeter bites
lightning hits our kites
when we miss our flights
we'll still be freakin' friends
when the number's called
when the garden's walled
when my tire's bald
we'll still be freakin' friends

She and Trent sang together:
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends

Nick came up and sang, looking at Max:
i was halfway down the plank
had a stick against my flank
then you pulled up in the tank
rock on!

Trent took over, singing from his spot at the center, looking at each of his family:
when we're parched with drought
and we can't catch trout
when my voice gives out
we'll still be freakin' friends
when the razor cuts
when they torch the huts
when i hate your guts
we'll still be freakin' friends

And everyone joined in the last chorus:
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends
freakin' friends, freakin' friends
'til we come to bad ends we're freakin' friends!


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