The Author as a Lesbian - Season 4




1. Episode One

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

A/N: For the sake of this fic, I'm saying that Lawndale High works a bit more like colleges than most high schools when it comes to winter break, and finishes their semester around December 7th-10th or so, and resumes the Monday after New Year's Day. Just clarifying. Separately, this is where everything has pretty much changed enough to be completely off the tracks. Looking through the next two seasons, besides IIFY?, I can see one or maybe two subplots (not episodes) that might still happen in this AU. Besides that, it's all new. However, looking back, I believe that I've held true to my original premise. Scary how things snowball, isn't it?

The amigas walked out the doors of Lawndale High with smiles on their faces. "Man, I am so glad to be done with this semester!" said Jen, running her fingers through her waist-long blonde hair.

"Oh, come on, this semester had something for everyone," Jane said. "New teachers, a new principal, new love for Jodie -"

"New assault and battery for me, new attempted murder on U-Charles..." Daria finished for her fiancé.

"Oh, and a new steady boyfriend for Quinn," said Jen. "I can go with what you're saying, Jane. But I'm still glad to be done. Especially since the Spiral's going to be doing a lot more gigs in the break. Did I tell you we sold out our second printing?"

"Oh, once or twice," said Jane.

"Or a hundred or two hundred," snarked Daria. She then raised Jen's hand, that she had been holding, and kissed it. "Seriously, we're proud of you." They had reached the SUV, and they all spent a few moments getting inside. Once they were headed out of the school lot, Daria spoke up again. "So when do you guys celebrate Christmas?"

Jen grinned. "You mean opening presents and stuff? We always did that on Christmas Eve, Dad said that he'd rather get some sleep than get woke up every hour by us asking, 'Is it Christmas yet?' I think he still lost some sleep because we were playing with our toys."

"We usually open presents on Christmas Day. Mom and Dad wanted Quinn to believe in Santa Claus as long as possible, but the last few years, she's been milking it."

Daria and Jen both waited for Jane to speak up. When she didn't, Jen opened her mouth, but Daria caught her eye and shook her head slightly. "So, Mom has asked me to drag you two into our tree trimming Saturday morning. Anything holding either of you back?"

Jane just shook her head, but Jen smiled and spoke up. "Nope. In fact, why don't we do my place after? Dad has a fake tree, but we really haven't put it up much since Mom - well, in a few years."

"We'll be there, Jen," Daria said as they turned into the Morgendorffer driveway.

When they had put away their bags and Jane had gone to the study room to work on a painting, Jen turned to Daria. "Why did you shush me in the car? All I was going to do was ask Jane what her family did for Christmas."

"That's what I thought you were going to do," agreed Daria. "The problem with that is that she didn't want to talk about it, which means that the subject isn't filled with happiness for her. I think we should talk with Trent about it, but off the top of my head, maybe the Wandering Lanes tended to still be wandering at Christmas? It does us no good to hurt her by dragging it out of her, though."

"I didn't think about that, but you're right. Anyway, what are you getting her?"

"I haven't decided yet. I'll probably get her two big gifts, one regular, and one from my writing."

"That's cool! and it gives me an idea..." Jen grinned.

Trent looked up when Daria and Jen came down the steps to the basement. For Daria, the place had completely changed since she had seen it last. Gone were all the bare walls and exposed joists, in their place was new equipment and soundproofing. "Very nice, Trent," she said.

"Thanks, Daria, but this is here because of what you said." He raised his eyebrow and gave a small frown. "You almost never show up here, Daria. Is there something wrong?"

"Um, that's kinda what we'd like you to tell us." She blushed slightly and looked down.

"Yeah, T-man. We were talking about Christmas stuff earlier, and Jane didn't act normal. She didn't join in, like she normally does. It was like -"

"She was withdrawn inside herself," Daria finished. "Is there something that we should know?"

Trent sat down on an amp and supported his chin with his fist. He sighed. "Yeah, there's something you need to know.

"See, Jane believed in Santa Claus a lot longer than most kids. It's kinda weird, but the fact that Mom and Dad were gone actually made her believe it more, not less. They'd send presents to me, and I'd put them under the tree, and they'd be there Christmas morning - and she knew that I didn't have enough to buy them for her. So she argued - a lot - with her classmates about it, and asked them to explain how she got them.

"This went on for a few years, but finally, when she was twelve, something happened. Mom and Dad forgot, there were problems with shipping, something else, I don't know. But her presents didn't show up until almost New Year's." He coughed. "It was horrible. She came down the stairs as usual, and there was nothing but my presents - art supplies - under the tree. It broke my heart - she just stood there, sobbing asking if she'd been too naughty that year." He took a breath and let it out.

"Oh my God," Jen whispered.

"It gets worse." Trent paused for a moment. "When the presents finally got there, almost a week late, she took one look at them, and she shut herself in her bedroom for almost the next week. She even missed the first day back to school. When she came out, she had painted about four pictures, all about Santa Claus dying in different gory ways. She kept that up in art class until some kids bullied her into not painting for a few months; and the next year, when I put the tree up, she asked me to take it down, because she didn't want to participate in a lie.

"Anyway, ever since, she hasn't been real enthusiastic with anything to do with Christmas."

The next day, Daria and Jane walked through the doorway into Cranberry Commons. "I wanted to thank you again, baby, for being my pack mule today," Daria said.

"Well, since you're buying lunch..." Jane snarked. They walked, hand in hand, and were almost to their destination, a store filled with Christmas decorations, when they came face-to-face with Sandi, Tiffany, and Brooke.

"Oh, look," sneered Sandi. "It's the dyke and her artgeek girlfriend." She put her finger to her lips and looked at the store that they had almost arrived at. "Isn't she the girl that was so naive that she still believed in Santa Claus when she was twelve? and after that Christmas, painted all those ugly pictures of Santa Claus? and -" She was stopped by Daria's hand in front of her face.

"Pardon me," Daria said, as she turned to her fiancé, saw the tears streaking down her chin, gently kissed her lips, and said, quietly, "Would you wait for me in the store, honey?" Once Jane had left, she turned back to Sandi. "Sandi," she said, looking directly into the girl's eyes - and there was no way to misinterpret Daria's visage as being pleasant, "You have some kind of problem with Quinn. I don't know why, as she hasn't interacted with you in any meaningful way for almost a year, but you do. I'm not happy about that, but unless she asks for help, my sister can fight her own battles. But lately, you've been involving me and mine in this. That had better stop, right now. We've done nothing against you, and if you continue on, we will act in ways that assure that you won't be happy. Do you understand?"

Sandi stuck her nose in the air. "Like I'm going to take orders from a cripple." She saw Daria's eyebrow rise. "Like we couldn't wipe the floor with you, and none of your 'friends,' are around."

Sandi was surprised when Daria smiled brightly. "Oh, please." Daria shook her head. "Then come on. Do it. If you think you can, I'm sure it'd hurt Quinn if I got hurt." She threw her cane towards the Christmas store. "There, now I don't have a stick to defend myself when you take me on, three-to-one. Oh, I forgot," she said as she hopped in a circle. She turned her head. "Now you don't have to look at my face." She waited a few moments, then hopped over to her cane, picked it up, turned around and walked up to them, leaning on her cane.

In her monotone she said, "Now I believe that if you have an ounce of brainpower, that you will take orders from this cripple. As I said before, unless she asks for help, I'm not getting involved . But this is the last free shot you get at me or mine. Capisce?" They nodded and turned away.

After they left, Daria walked into the store and suddenly collected an armful of sobbing Jane. "There, there," she murmured as she rubbed circles on Jane's back. When the sobs had subsided a bit, she pulled out her cellphone. "Jen? It's Daria. I think we definitely have a case SC on our hands. Ready on your end?" She listened, then replied, "Be there in about twenty. Love you." She closed her cell and put it away. "C'mon, Jane, let's head to the car."

"But- what about the decorations?"

Daria turned Jane and looked straight into her eyes. "You are far more important than any decorations." She softly kissed Jane, then turned toward the exit. "So let's get moving."

Jane was a bit shocked when they pulled up to a church. After they parked, Daria turned to her. "Jane, you know that I'm agnostic. I don't know whether there's anyone 'up there,' or not, and I'm highly skeptical of whether anyone else does, either. But I want to get you the best information on what's hurting you."

With that, they got out of the SUV, and were met at the door by Jen, who led them to a conference room. They sat down, Daria and Jen on either side of Jane. After a couple of minutes, a man in his thirties, dressed in clerical garb, came in and offered his hand. "I'm John Sullivan," he said. "Jennifer's a regular here, and I remember Daria, but I don't think we've met, Miss...?"

"Jane Lane," she said. She'd managed to clear up the tear tracks and puffiness from her face, and she even managed a smile. "I'm not sure why my girlfriends dragged me down here..."

"According to Jennifer, it has something to do with belief in Santa Claus?"

Jane blushed and started to get up. "I don't want to waste your time, with something so inconsequential, and me not even a Christian.."

"Relax. Sit down, Jane." The pastor smiled at her. "The most important questions are those of belief and faith, and Christ himself spent his time with sinners and tax collectors. So tell me about this."

Jane squeezed both of her fiancés' hands, and began. "Well, I believed in Santa a long while after my friends at the time called it horsehockey. You see..."

" -and so I decided that I wasn't going to participate in a lie, so we didn't have Christmas any more."

"And you blamed Santa Claus for not being real?" Reverend Sullivan asked, gently.

"Yes! No! I don't know." Jane ran her fingers through her hair. "If I couldn't depend on him, why go to all the trouble?"

"Perhaps because, to do what he does for us, it doesn't really matter if he's real, in most senses, or not?" Reverend Sullivan smiled. "I can tell you that there is someone that could have been the model for Santa Claus. He was the Catholic Saint Nicolas, and among other things, he, somewhat anonymously, gave three bags of gold so that three young girls could go free. Their day for him is on December the sixth. But I suspect that that's not really what you're looking for in an answer, is it?" He smiled. "Well, if you can get comfortable, and put up with me in lecture mode, I may be able to give you one.

"To start off, I know a lot of people reject Christmas and its related days because they say it's impossible for us to know Christ's birthday after so long, and with records being lost along the way. While I don't quite agree with them, I will admit that no one has come up with a definitive date for His birth. But the thing is, that's not really a problem. Christmas isn't the anniversary of Christ's birth, it's the celebration of it Christmas - Christ's Mass, to the Catholics. You could celebrate it during the summer, and it would have just as much chance of being His birthday. So why do we celebrate it in December?

"It's actually something kind of odd, that I was given to study in seminary. Many different religions celebrate something very similar at that time of year. You can call it Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Yuletide, or simply the Solstice, but it's the time where, in spite of the fact that the worst of times and conditions seem to be upon us, that love, whether of our God or each other, reaches forth and conquers hate. I would say, myself, that Santa Claus is an amalgamation of these ideas, simplified so that children can understand - and believe."

Daria picked up Jane's hand and kissed it. "Like I told you in the car, I don't know who is running things up there. But I do know that Christmas is all about love and including, and that's why I work with my family to put it together very year."

Jen picked up her other hand and kissed it. "We don't want you to feel forced, or uncomfortable, honey. If you don't want to participate with us, we won't be unhappy at all or love you one bit less. But we would be very happy if you joined us."

"Aw, hell," Jane said. "Where's that decoration store?"

Helen came through the door with a big bag of Clusterburgers in one hand, and her briefcase in the other. Today had been one of the thankfully much fewer times that she had been called in on a weekend, and she had had to leave the tree-trimming to the girls. "Girls! Lunch is here!"

"We're in here, Mom!" she heard from the living room, and as she passed through the entryway, she smelt candles burning, and heard Christmas music playing softly. When she turned to her left, everything was covered in tinsel and lights.

"Girls, that looks lovely!" she said, as she sat down on the sofa and offered up her burgers to her offspring. "You got that all done this morning?"

"Having all three of us working on it helped a lot, even if Quinn was over at Stacy's helping their family trim their tree." Seeing Helen narrow her eyes, she added, "No worries about that, Mom. I think three was the most this place could handle."

"So what are you going to do with the rest of the day?" Helen asked as she stretched out on the couch.

"Same thing, but at Dad's house," said Jen. "We haven't had a good Christmas setup in -" her smile dimmed for a moment. "Well, in too long."

When Frank Burns entered his house after spending the day hunting, he was bemused for a few moments, then it clicked. "Jennifer!" he called. Within a few moments, bells jingled and his daughter and her girlfriends were in front of him. "Sweetheart, why has the house been taken over by a tinsel demon?"

He was happy to see her smile widely. "We decided that it wasn't going to be just the bare fake tree this year, Daddy." Jen hugged her girls from their sides. "I decided that I was going to remind you these next few weeks how much I loved you, and Jane and Daria helped. We're even going to take the decorations down, afterwards."

Daria smiled, herself. "And if you don't mind, we'd really like to join Jen here on Christmas Eve with you all."

"I think that we can manage that," Frank said. "Ken, Gordon, and Doyle have all said that they were going to be here. I told them that you might be spending Christmas with friends, but I'm sure that they'll be glad to see you, honey."

"Great!" said Jane.

Christmas Eve was winding down, and there were only a few gifts left to be given. Jen took one from her bag and handed it to her father.

"Well, thank you, honey!" he said, then quickly tore the wrapping off and opened the box. "That's very nice...Oh, my God." And all they could see was Frank Burns bending over, bawling his eyes out as he hugged Jennifer.

"What was that?" Ken Burns asked Daria in a low voice.

"She got him a pocketwatch, and found the last picture taken of Frank and Louise, and had it put in the facing."

"That'd do it," he nodded. "Listen, we don't know exactly what it is that you three have going, and we pretty much don't care, as long as Jen's happy. But if you two hurt her, well, you'll have four men with guns who know how to use them looking for you."

Daria looked him in the eye and nodded. "Clear."

Christmas morning in the Morgendorffer household had one firm rule. No matter how soon Santa came, anyone downstairs or out of their room before seven a.m. would lose one gift per minute early. Needless to say, one application of this rule had ensured that the place was silent until seven a.m., and bedlam after. In practice, it allowed the adults time to get showered and dressed before dealing with presents, and on this Christmas, it allowed Trent and Tom time to show up for the festivities.

Both came in bearing gifts, but strangely enough, it was Daria, rather than Quinn, who drew Tom aside. Once they were a bit separated from the others on the driveway, she said, "Listen, Tom, I know you haven't known Quinn long, but she's got a bit of trouble called Sandi Griffin." She went on to describe the situation as it stood. "And she hasn't told you because she thinks that she can handle it. In fact, she might be able to, and I hope she does. I hope that I'm just seeing a long range shadow. But maybe I'm not."

His eyes were hard. "What do you need me to do?"

Daria gave her Mona Lisa smile. "Well, I was thinking of..." and she went on to describe her plan. By the end of it, Tom was grinning widely.

"Count me in."

Once everyone was inside and had hot chocolate in their hands, the gift giving commenced. There were many nice ones, including original paintings by Jane for her fiancés. But the two best of the morning were both for Jane. The first was the latest Mac computer, with a very large stylus and drawing pad, with promised help setting up, from Daria and Jen. Jane hugged her girls tight.

The other was a CD, from Trent, Daria, Jen, and the band. When she got it, Jane looked at it, bemused. "Well, put it in the player, Jane," urged Daria. Jane did so, sticking out her tongue at Daria in the process. What came out, causing Jane to sob uncontrollably, was:

Jen- You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.
But I look around me and I see it isn't so.
Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs.
And what's wrong with that?
I'd like to know, cause here I go again...

Trent -I love you, I love you,

Daria - I love you, I love you,

I can't explain the feelings plain to me, say can't you see?
Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me
Now can't you see,
What's wrong with that
I need to know, cause here I go again...

Jen - I love you, I love you

Jen & Daria - Love doesn't come in a minute,
Sometimes it doesn't come at all
I only know that when I'm in it
It isn't silly, no, it isn't silly, love isn't silly at all.

Jen, Daria, & Trent - How can I tell you about my loved one?
How can I tell you about my loved one?

How can I tell you about my loved one?
(I love you)
How can I tell you about my loved one?
(I love you)

"Silly Love Songs" is Paul McCartney's intellectual property, not mine. No infringement intended.

2. Episode Two

A/N: There be nekkid people here! Doing....things!

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!" The three amigas raised their glasses of sparkling cider in a toast, drained them and put them on the nightstands.

After soft kisses all around, Daria looked at her wives with a wide smile and asked, "So what did you guys resolve, for the coming year?"

Jen dipped her head a bit and said, "I resolved to keep helping make the Spiral the success that it can be." She smiled. "I think we might be able to get out of the regional market!"

Daria kissed her. "I resolved to make sure that I communicated with my wives just how much I love them, every day, if I can." She turned and felt under the bed while Jane embraced Jen from behind.

"Among other things, I resolved to try out this with you two tonight." Jen felt behind her and her hand landed on couldn't be. She looked behind her and down, and saw a glistening plastic dildo fastened to Jane's pelvis.

"Wow, Jane, that's a nice one, but what about -?" Jen was interrupted by Daria tapping on her shoulder. Turning around, after a kiss, she looked down and saw an even larger dildo attached to her.

"Would you like to be the filling in a sandwich?" Daria whispered into Jen's ear as she slowly slipped her semi-hard schlong into her sexy suitemate. Jen had answered with a deep kiss of her own, starting to thrust back and forth a bit, when she felt Jane's warm, wet fingers rubbing around her asshole, occasionally going in past the sphincter. When she started to moan, she felt Jane kissing her neck, whispering, "Relax," as she slowly pushed the smaller dildo into her ass.

Daria kissed her way down Jen's throat while she kept up the movements that had embedded her dildo all the way inside of Jen, occasionally slowing down so that Jane could push farther and farther inside Jen's ass. She made her way down to Jen's breasts, cupping one with one hand, holding Jen around the back with her other hand, which was also entangled in Jen's hair; I'm definitely thinking about growing out my hair, it's so much fun to play with! and her lips and teeth nipping and kissing Jen's fully erect nipple.

While she was busy with that, Jane had slowly shoved as much as she could inside Jennifer, and had grabbed her hair with one hand, her other stroking the breast and nipple that Daria wasn't. With her lips right next to Jen's earlobe, she whispered, "You're the naughty little meat in our sandwich, aren't you?" and with her teeth, tugged the lobe just a bit. Taking Jen's whimpering moan for assent, she leaned over and said to Daria, "I think our girl's ready for us to get this party started." And with that, she pulled almost all the way out of Jen, nipped her on the shoulder, then said to Daria, "Whenever you're ready."

What happened next was never perfectly clear in Jen's mind. Even the time it took was hazy. What she was sure of was that whenever Daria pulled out, Jane would push in, and that they took her to the brink again and again, with their dildos and mouths and hands, always slowing back down before the crest, until, finally, they couldn't stop the multiple orgasms arcing their way through her. Finally she collapsed, limp, as it all crashed down.

"Happy Fucking New Year," she whispered. Turning slightly, she gathered both of her wives in her arms, kissed their foreheads, and asked, "Can we clean the dildos and do that again with one of you?"

"Of course," said Daria with a smile, then turned to her other wife. "Jane, do you want to go first?"

Strangely enough, they missed the various football games that morning.

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!" Tom looked into Quinn's eyes and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. She smiled and her hug tightened just a bit.

"Thank you for asking me to your parent's party. It's all so wonderful."

He frowned a bit. "Well, if you weren't here, it'd be pretty boring. I'd have my choice between people who are too old to think of me as anything but a kid, guys my age that just want to go out and get wasted, and 'Muffys' who want to get in my pants so that they can have a share of the Sloane pile of loot." He shook his head. "Not one of them an appetizing choice. That's one of the reasons that I was slumming."

"Jeez, they can't make it on their own, so they're trying to hook you? What losers!" She shook her head and looked at the girls he had pointed out. "And they can't even dress themselves! They're all dressed the same, and hello, what works for a size zero doesn't work for a size ten!" She looked up at him. "Of course, then I have to ask what are you going to be doing?" She looked into his eyes. "Are you just going to wait for your dad to pass on, because, if you are, you're just like them." Quinn was glad she'd talked this over with Daria; her first instinct would be to avoid any conversation like this if at all possible.

But Daria had set her straight (she giggled at the thought). "Quinn, what was right when you were dating lots of guys - avoiding conflict and arguments - doesn't hold water when you're talking about someone that you want to be your steady boyfriend, and maybe more, later. Where you'd duck the conversation, just to get through the date and have fun, here you're trying to learn about him, where he stands, and if you two can make a go of it. So ask the hard questions, and if it splits you up, better sooner than later." Put that way, it was just common sense, but her reactions had been trained a different way.

"I'm going to go into business, sure," Tom replied to her. "If for no other reason, I don't want to be a drain on the family resources, and there's no one else to run our part of the company when Dad leaves us." He squeezed her hand. "But I plan to look in at least some different direction, because I don't necessarily like who my Dad had to become when he took over from Grandfather." A thought struck him. "In fact -" He closed his mouth.

"In fact what?" Quinn asked.

"Don't worry about it, it was just a thought."

She raised her eyebrow. "What thought?"

He raised his hands and backed up a step. "Okay, I'll tell you. Just remember that it's just a thought, and that I don't have any designs on your family."

Quinn raised the other eyebrow to match the first, crossed her arms over her chest, and settled her lips into a firm, thin line. "Go on."

"Well, it occurred to me that I would be coming into a significant part of my trust when everyone would just be coming out of college, or design school, or getting out of their first contract, in the case of the Spiral. Something that I was about to say when I had the idea was that I wanted to be invested, in one way or another, in something that I was interested in, not just something that made widgets and money that I never thought about besides the bottom line.

"The idea that came to me was that all of your family, as I told Daria once, were people of substance. I can tell you right now that all of you in your extended family are going somewhere. Most of you are at a point that, if you needed to, you could make a living off of your chosen professions. The quality of your various work is that good. And we're talking four guys in their very early twenties, your parents, and you five girls - all sixteen or seventeen years old. The only thing that might stop them is not having the resources when they're starting out. I was thinking of letting my trust fund be the bankroll for them, if and when they needed it, as an investment. It would be something that I was definitely interested in."

Tom shook his head. "But then I realized that if I told you that, it might very much look like I was horning in on you family's success, both now and in the future, and I didn't want to seem to be doing that. Truce?"

Quinn squinted for a moment, then nodded. "Truce." She smiled at him. "Right now, I think they have enough to cover themselves. But if we see a need coming up, I'll definitely point them your way."

"Great." He grinned. "Mind if we dance, now?"

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!" Helen and Jake toasted each other as the ball came down, enjoying their dance in the hotel ballroom the Helen's firm had rented.

Jake looked down at his beautiful wife. "It's been a hell of a year, hasn't it, Helen?"

"A hell of a couple of years, Jake," she said, laying her head on his chest as they swayed to the music. "Can you believe that we're where we are, the whole family, seeing where we started just a year and a half ago?"

"I don't know, honey." Jake seemed bemused. "But one thing that I could have told you then is that I'd be dancing with the most beautiful woman in the room, right here, right now."

Helen smiled. "You know, it's past midnight, and we have the room rented..."

"Race ya!"

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!"

Sandi stood next to Tiffany, crossed her arms, and harrumphed at the sight of Stacy and Ted dancing. "How did that loser manage to bring a junior guy to the dance, when we were unable to find even sophomore men of quality?" she asked Tiffany.

Apparently slightly too loudly. Stacy whispered into Ted's ear, and they came dancing by. As they neared the Fashion Club in Exile, Stacy spoke clearly. "Maybe it's because guys like to be around girls who make them feel good. They don't really want to be around bitches, and even putting out won't completely cover that. Just a thought." And with that, Stacy and Ted danced off in another direction.

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!"

All was quiet in the Thompson household. To be sure, there were noisemakers and party hats in abundance, but Mr. and Mrs. Thompson had gone to celebrate at a friend's house. Kevin and Brittany had come to the house with every intention of celebrating the New Year in a very loud and joyous manner, when they were distracted - by celebrating in a very loud and joyous manner.

"Five, four, three, two, one...Happy New Year!"

Pat smiled at the woman next to her on the bed. "Want to get out and bang some pots?"

Terry Durgin smiled, and kissed her partner on the lips lightly. "Nannh. We'll let the kids make the noise this year." And with that, they cuddled up and covered themselves with a thick blanket.

3. Episode Three

Daria, Jane, and Jen were walking in the mall the last weekend before school when they saw Kevin and Brittany. That alone wasn't odd, but - "Oooo, Kevvy, you're such a rebel!" cooed Brittany.

"A rebel without a clue," muttered Daria. She looked up and said, "Hi, Brittany, Kevin."

"Hi, Daria!" squeaked Brittany. "Doesn't Kevvy look like a rebel in his jacket?"

"Where's his motorcycle?" Jane asked. "That is a motorcycle jacket, right?"

"Huh?" asked Kevin.

"It's a motorcycle jacket. If you had that without the motorcycle, it'd be a waste of a good cow."

Daria sighed, and turned to her fiancé. "You're right, but just imagine what he'll do if we convince him of that. A summer of tutoring, down the drain," she said, quietly. Turning back to the couple, she said, "Yes, it's even more rebellious without a cycle, and with room for your pads, Kevin. Good for you."

Kevin grinned. "Yeah!" He turned to Brittany. "See, babe?"

"I do!" smiled Brittany.

"- and we had a really wonderful night," Jodie said. "It was kinda weird - my parents treated him better than they ever treated Mack."

"Perhaps they just saw the radiance that -" Charles coughed as an elbow made its way to his ribs. "I think, to them, financial divisions are far more important than racial ones."

"I'd have to agree with you, Charles," Daria nodded.

Jane smiled. "Hell, whatever makes it easier for you to be happy, right?"

Jodie nodded. "In fact -" She was interrupted by Ms. Ruiz coming up to them.

"Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo, mis amigos," the English teacher said.

"You, too," was the general response.

"I hope you're all ready to get back into English," she said with a smile. "And I understand that you got published, Ms. Morgendorffer."

Daria blushed slightly. "It was only a local paper."

Ms. Ruiz nodded. "True. But I'm sure that you're just as aware as I am how rare even that is, to say nothing of being on the front page." Her smile widened. "Your next assignment is going to be how you could improve the article. And the secret lesson in there is going to be that, with a lot of time, you can always do it better than when you 're struggling under a deadline. But you need to make it good enough the first time."

Daria nodded. "And this may be a significant part of my career - I am going to do a double major, Journalism and Creative Writing."

They were just coming out of English when the incident happened. Sandi had seen the three girls, and as they came together, knocked Tiffany into Jen. When both girls fell to the floor, she yelled, "Fight! Fight!" until she saw Daria take a step close to her.

Jane helped Jen up, then whispered into Jen's ear before they embraced. After several seconds, they pulled apart, just in time for the school security to show up.

The officers were about to tell everyone to be on their way when Sandi pointed at Jen and cried out, "She pulled a knife!"

Jen raised her eyebrow. "But you know knives aren't allowed in school." She looked up at the officer and said, "I guess you'd better take her to see Principal DeMartino, as well as myself and Tiffany."

Daria spoke up. "Do the videos from Li's time still work?" At the officer's nod, she continued. "Then you might want to look at them."

Mr. DeMartino was finishing up a part of the never-ending paperwork that was part of the job as principal when he heard a knock at the door, "Enter," he said.

The head security officer came in and sat down. "I've got several students sitting in the outer office. There was some kind of altercation, which my guys were just going to have everybody get up and get to class from, when someone yelled, 'fight.'" He sighed. "We didn't see any wounds, so we were still going to send everyone on when a girl yelled that another girl had pulled a knife."

Mr. DeMartino ran his fingers through his hair. "Jesus wept." He looked at the officer. "Do we have a female officer on duty?" The officer nodded. "Then have her search the girl that was accused while I talk to the others."

Three minutes later, Sandi Griffin and Tiffany Blum-Deckler were sitting in front of his desk. "Well, ladies, would you like to tell me your side of what happened today,while the other girl is being searched?"

"Uh, sure," said Sandi. "We were walking to class, minding our own business, when this burnout girl comes up and attacks Tiffany. I stayed out of it until she pulled out a knife. The security guys were right there, so she didn't have a chance to hurt anyone."

"Yeaahh," said Tiffany. "What she said."

At that point, the female officer escorted Jen into the office, had her sit down, whispered into Mr. DeMartino's ear, dropped a paper on his desk, and left.

"Ms. Burns, can you tell me what happened?"

Jen looked up. "Sure. That one," and here she pointed at Tiffany, "either fell, was pushed, or deliberately got under my feet as I was leaving English with my girls. This other one yells, 'fight!' and right when Jane helped me up, she starts yelling something about a knife. The officers were right there, and brought me here."

"I see. So, two contradicting reports. Not just minorly but in major points. Does anyone want to revise their stories?" Mr. DeMartino waited a couple of minutes, and there was another knock on the door. Another "enter," and the lead officer came in and put a videotape on the desk and left. After the door closed, Mr. DeMartino took the tape and put it in a VCR. After playing a minute or two, Mr. DeMartino paused the tape. "I see that this portion, at least, favors Ms. Burns. Ms. Griffin, you are quite obviously pushing Ms. Blum-Deckler into Ms. Burns." The tape ran another few moments. "And now we see that everyone's getting up, and you're yelling something." And approximately a minute later. "Everyone's up now, but you're yelling something else."

"But what about her knife?" Sandi's low, rough voice pleaded. "Isn't it against the rules to have those out?"

"Indeed it is, Ms. Griffin. In fact, it's against the rules to have them on school property." When he saw Sandi's face relax, he continued. "The problem is that none of the officers, nor I, have seen any evidence of anything that could be a knife on these surveillance tapes. And the officer who searched Ms. Burns found nothing." He brought his hands together in front of him. "In fact, everything supports Ms. Burn's version of events, and nothing supports yours. Do you have anything to say, Ms. Griffin?"

"Why are you listening to someone so unpopular like her?"

Mr. DeMartino sat for a moment, looking at Sandi, then leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily. When the chuckles had subsided, he leaned forward again, and looked straight at Sandi. "Ms. Griffin, I laughed for two reasons. The first is, we do not weigh testimony on how popular someone is. The second is, at this point in time, Ms. Burns is likely more popular than you. Since you appear to have instigated this incident, and attempted to defame your fellow classmates, three days suspension. Ms. Blum-Deckler, for supporting your friend's obviously false report, one day of suspension. You may return to class, Ms. Burns."

"- And Sandi had on her little 'pissed' face, but there was nothing that she could do," Jen said as they all laid on the couch. "By the way, thanks, Jane. If you hadn't taken my knife, I don't know if it would have turned out so well."

"Not a problem, baby. If worse came to worst, I could have dropped it somewhere in the Art room before they came for me."

"Speaking of coming for us," Daria said from Jen's other side, "the applications for Ashfield came in today." She looked at Jane. "You and I need to get our bodies of work together, and," she smiled and kissed Jen's cheek," we're going to have to figure out how we'll be able to do without this one while she's off being a rock star."

Mrs. Rowe sat down at the table with Stacy. "Honey, these grades are wonderful! You should be able to get into almost any college you want!"

Stacy's face fell just a bit. "But Mom, I really want to be one of the top makeup people. In fashion, or in the movies, I don't know."

Mrs. Rowe turned and looked at her daughter. "That's a bit vague, hon. Why don't we do this? We'll plan for you to go to college, until you research exactly what you need to get you where you want to go. Then we'll work toward that." She kissed Stacy on the forehead. "We want you to be happy, and want to help you be happy. But you need to have a good idea of where you're going, first."

"All right, Mom," Stacy said, then hugged her. "I'm going over to Quinn's, okay?"

Helen walked in the door to see her husband working at the kitchen table. "Jake," she asked, "what are you up to?"

Jake looked up at her with a smile. "I was just looking at the numbers that G-town gave us. At the rate we're going, they'll be through the advance before the band releases the second CD this spring." He hugged her. "Looks like they'll be a success."

Helen hugged him back. "And that makes it more likely it'll be a multi-regional tour this summer. I hope the girls can stand it."

4. Episode Four

That afternoon, the amigas were in one of the workout rooms in the school, Daria and Jane doing physical therapy on a stationary bike and treadmill, respectively, with Jen keeping pace on a second treadmill, when Quinn and Stacy came in. "Daria!" Quinn almost squeaked. "Did you hear what happened to Sandi and Tiffany today?"

"Um, since it was a direct result of what they did to Jen, and it happened right in front of Daria and me, you might say yes to that," said Jane.

"We were trying to decide just what we were going to do in response to them," Daria said, "since they had already gone through any good will that we had on the subject."

"We hadn't gotten far, just far enough to realize that we wanted to make a definite statement, not something that made this Sandi think that she could come back on any kind of equal footing," Jen said. "So how are your extracurriculars doing?"

"I'm doing all right. Between you guys, the Spiral, and myself, I'm building a nice little portfolio for myself that'll be of good use when I go to BSFD."

"I've done some research since my mom and I talked about this. It seems like there's lots of workshops designed to make you a makeup artist, but they're all short term, even though they cost a good bit. I need to decide whether I'm going to just go from high school straight to one or more of those, then try and get a job, or take them along with a more normal college degree in drama or the like." Stacy took a deep breath and let it out. "Also, most places say that any experience I can get using commercial products, even if it's volunteer work, will help."

"Hmm. Well, my first thought would be to start some kind of show, that would let you two show off your skills, as long as I don't have to contribute. But I don't know how we'd mesh it with what we're going to do to convince Sandi to back off. I wonder why she's so focused on us, anyway?"

"I don't know, Daria," Quinn responded. "Maybe when I left the Fashion Club, she saw that you were the strongest person behind me, and then focused on that, instead of me. I'm sorry." She looked down and blushed.

"You aren't responsible for what someone else does or doesn't do, Quinn," Daria comforted her sister. "That's all on them." She looked up. "All right. Here's what we're going to do. As far as Sandi's concerned, we're going to have to hold off for a bit." Seeing her fiancés shocked faces, she replied. "We can't do anything physical to her right now without it being obvious that it came from us - and she may be in a position right now that she'd go down just to bring one or more of us with her - and almost anything else is a nuclear option at this point. Something we can do, if pushed to it, but definitely not our first choice."

"Dar-ia," Quinn looked at her, slightly bewildered. "What are you talking, nuclear option?"

Daria looked at Quinn and said, quietly, "Having her taken away, possibly raped, sold into white slavery, or abducted by one of the DC or Boston gangs and 'disappeared.' Worse, having it explained to Linda Griffin that it would be harmful to her lifestyle to do anything other than pulling Sandi out of school and forgetting about her." She took a breath and let it out, speaking in a more normal tone. "These are all things that we have the ability to do, and that - if we are pushed and my family is threatened - I will do. But when you go that far there are always repercussions, so I think we would all prefer to stop short of those choices. Our best bet is to convince her that taking us on will bring her the reverse of what she wants, which is popularity and adulation." She looked around. "I would be more than happy to hear ideas on that subject."

Jane rubbed her chin while slowing to a trot. "You know, I think that I might have an idea, but it's going to require Charles' help, as well as Jodie's, probably. You see..." She went on to discuss her idea.

"You know, that just might work," Jen said as she finished cooling down. "It certainly can't hurt."

Just coming down from the shock of Daria's earlier explanation, Quinn shook her head. "We wouldn't do those things, would we, Daria?"

Daria let the stationary bike spin down, and leaned forward, holding out her hand. She squeezed Quinn's palm when they joined hands, then started to speak. "Quinn, if we are pushed enough, yes, I will. This is someone who, for no better reason than the fact that you refused to be bullied by her and I was someone who advised you how to leave that, has undertaken numerous attacks, mostly verbal but occasionally physical, at all of us. She has tried to get us into all kinds of trouble, and has tried to get others involved in attacking us. She has ignored our warnings, and has been too afraid to attack any of us, even me, even with her minions with her. It gets hard to predict what she's going to do, but you, Mom and Dad, Jane and Jen, even Stacy here, are more important than her, if she decides that she can't bear for us to be who and where we are."

Jane leaned over. "We've given her multiple warnings, we haven't tried to get into her business."

Jen flipped her ponytail over her shoulder. "We've been really clear on what she's done that she shouldn't. And we aren't talking about any of that stuff right away. But if she stays stupid, then yeah, she'll deserve what she gets, and we're going to give it to her. Nobody fucks with our family and walks away unbroken."

"Okay," Quinn said in a small voice. "So can we do something to help Stacy?"

"I think that we can, though you'll need to take a step back," said Daria. "You see..."

When Sandi came back after her three day suspension, it seemed that everyone was looking at her and smirking or acting horrified. After about five minutes of this, ignoring the flyers for a fashion show in a week, she went to the normal meeting place of the Fashion Club, where she saw Tiffany. "Like, Tiffany, what is the meaning of all the staring I've been getting? And where's Brooke?"

Tiffany dug into her backpack. "Saaandi, I think it haas somethiing to do with theese," she said, as she pulled several photographs out. "They were all over the floor this moorning."

Sandi took the pictures and looked at them, then almost dropped them in shock. They were photos of her on a date with Shawn MacLean, a boy that Quinn had briefly dated. In order to take him away from her, she had had to promise to do several acts in and around his car at Lookout Point - and follow through. Nobody had been around, and she had had some...other...information that insured that he wouldn't talk, so she thought that she would be safe. Now, however...

"Sandi, doesn't that gravel dig into your knees?" one of the guys asked, and everyone around started laughing at her.

"Who did this?" Sandi had not even stopped at her homeroom, but had headed directly to the office and pounded on Mr. DeMartino's door until he opened it. Now she was slumped in her chair, growling at the Acting Principal.

"I'm afraid that I can't tell you, Ms. Griffin," he said. "It turns out that a good deal of people dressed quite similarly this morning, then dropped their papers near the entrances. We can't even say which of the many people dressed like that it was." He shook his head. "It would seem that you are very unpopular in some circles, Ms. Griffin."

The next Friday, all of the female students, and half the males showed up at the fashion show, which was billed as a fundraiser for the Valentine's dance. Over thirty girls competed, including Jodie, Andrea Hecuba, all of the cheerleading squad, and Sandi Griffin, but, oddly, neither of the Morgendorffer sisters, Jen, Jane, or Stacy. Finally, everyone had been seen, all of the student ballots had been counted, and the decision was in.

The emcee, Coach Teresa Durgin, unfolded the sheet of paper with the winners on the sheet. "First of all," she said, "I'd like to announce that we raised enough money to easily cover the Valentine's Dance, so we will be having that on the fourteenth." After the applause died down, she continued. "Now,, what I'm sure the young ladies have been waiting for. First, our third runner-up, wearing a Quinn Morgendorffer dress, her own cosmetics, and Emo Girl shoes, Andrea Hecuba!" After the applause died down, Coach Durgin spoke up again. "Our second runner-up, wearing a Yves-St. Laurent dress, Stacy Rowe cosmetics, and Gucci shoes, Winner Lassiter!" The applause was slightly longer, allowing the tall, longhaired young woman to come down and accept her award.

During this time, Daria and Quinn looked over at Sandi, raising their eyebrows at her absolute confidence. They turned to each other and shrugged, and looked back at center stage.

"Our first runner-up, with a Quinn Morgendorffer dress, Stacy Rowe cosmetics, and Versace shoes, Jodie Landon!" The applause was very loud, and lasted a good long while. Finally, Jodie had come down and accepted her award, and quiet reigned.

"And now, our first annual fashion show champion, with a Quinn Morgendorffer dress, Stacy Rowe cosmetics, and Jimmy Choo shoes," Jen looked over and took a picture of Sandi when she realized that she hadn't won, "Brittany Taylor!"

5. Episode Five

Sandi Griffin sat down on her bed, clad in her fashion-club best and clutching Fluffy in her arms. "How could they do this?" she choked out, rocking back and forth. "They must have bought off the judges, because we followed everything that Waif told us. We should have been 1-2-3!"

"San-diiii..." Tiffany spoke up, slowly. "Why would they have bought the judges?"

Brooke nodded. "Yeah, none of them were even in the contest. Not Stacy, or Quinn, or even her sister or cousin or whatever."

"Bro-oke! What you're failing to grasp is that all of the runner-ups had at least one piece of Ku-win's or Stacy's stuff. Brittany had Ku-win's dress and Stacy's make-up." She smiled smugly for a moment, then frowned. "They got what they wanted."

"So? What do we care?" Brooke was just a little bit exasperated. "I get wanting to get her back for almost breaking up the club. I even get going after her sister first, to get her off-balance. But, Sandi -"

"Do you need to take a sabbatical, Brooke?"

"No, Sandi," Brooke half-whined.

"Then this discussion is over."

Mr. Dawson was leading them through an experiment. "Now, do we all have our beakers of ammonia?" Everyone nodded. "Now, carefully pick up your beakers of HCl..."

Sandi nudged Tiffany, who appeared to drop something next to Quinn. She got down from her seat and picked it up, dropping a lit firecracker in Quinn's shoe.

It went off, just as Tiffany took her seat again, and if Quinn had been looking, she would have seen Sandi switching one of her beakers.

"Hey!" Everyone turned to look at Mr. Dawson. "This isn't the time, or the place for horseplay. We are doing experiments with dangerous chemicals." He took a deep breath. "Look, I'm not going to ask who did that bonehead play. But if something like that happens again, I will find out, or everyone will get F's for the lab." He looked around. "All right. A quick lesson in lab safety. You've all been looking at me for the last couple of minutes, right? That means that you haven't been looking at your experiment. You may have moved something around without thinking about it, and you're talking about two toxic, clear liquids. So we're going to dump all of your liquids, and start again." He pointed at four of the students. "Sandi, Robert Joey, Jason, pick up the beakers, drain them in the sink, and we'll start new tomorrow."

They were about halfway done when Sandi picked up the beakers at Quinn's station, brought them up, and began pouring them into the sink at the same time. "Oh!" she said, and collapsed to the floor, the beakers falling and breaking in the sink.

Mr. Dawson took a small sniff. "Everyone out!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "Someone get the nurse and call 911!" He bent down and started dragging Sandi out with him, when he felt a tug to the side. He turned and saw Quinn Morgendorffer pulling with him. Once they had her out the door, he laid Sandi down. "No one goes back inside until we've aired out the place." He motioned everyone to sit. "If you haven't figured it out, there was some sort of airborne problem. I thought I smelled chlorine, which would have made sense, as far as how Ms. Griffin reacted, but we weren't using anything that could react to make it. If we were in a house, I'd think it was bleach. The reason I'm not giving mouth to mouth is that she's breathing on her own, if barely, and it's best in these cases to wait for the EMTs to deal with it." At that, the EMTs came up with a gurney, and Sandi was quickly taken away.

Mr. DeMartino had come up while the emergency workers were working with Sandi. "What happened, Chris?"

Mr. Dawson turned and sighed in relief. "Good to see you, Anthony. I think we need to involve the police." He looked down. "I smelled what I think was bleach, and that wasn't an ingredient in the experiment today. It may be some kind of honest mistake, but I'd rather be safe. Everyone's going to have to live without whatever they have in there until they finish investigating."

Mr. DeMartino lightly clapped his shoulder. "I understand." Raising his voice, he said, "You all need to go either to the lunchroom or your next class. If you feel a scratchy throat, report to the nurse. We should be able to allow you to get your things in here by the end of today,"

Through a good deal of grumbling, the students dispersed.

The next night, the Morgendorffers, the Griffins, the amigas, the former Fashion Club members, their parents, and Trent were gathered in the auditorium. Mr. Dawson, Mr. DeMartino, and a police officer stood in front of them, with their backs to the stage. Mr. DeMartino spoke first.

"I'm sure that you'll all be happy to know that Ms. Griffin will recover, though she will lose some lung function. The reason that I asked for you all to come is that we seem to have a problem here. Mr. Dawson?"

Chris stepped forward. "As most of you know, Sandi collapsed in lab yesterday after she poured out several beakers of chemicals. While I was getting her out of there, I thought I smelled chlorine or bleach, which was very strange, because we were not going to use it in the experiment yesterday. Since if you mix bleach and ammonia, it can be fatal, I had Mr. DeMartino have the police investigate."

The officer, whose badge read R. Wells, stood up. "We did investigate. One of the beakers that Ms. Griffin dropped had high concentrations of bleach in it, and the other had ammonia in it. Since the mixture of these can be incapacitating, we found what affected her. We tested the beaker for fingerprints, and we only found Ms. Griffin's. However, we were able to deduce that the beakers had come from Quinn Morgendorffer's position. Due to the apparent diversion of a firecracker, we looked again, this time at the other beaker, which had both Ms. Griffin's and Ms. Morgendorffer's prints on them, our position is that Ms. Griffin attempted a prank with the bleach, not knowing what it would do, and, in essence, poisoned herself." Seeing the angry look on Linda Griffin's face, he added, "It's the only explanation that fits all of the facts."

"What I want to know is just what is happening here?" said Mr. DeMartino. "We have gone through too much as a school to have to deal with this. Does anyone have an idea what is happening?"

Several people looked surprised when Quinn raised her hand. "I think I may have an idea what started it," she quavered a bit, "Though I don't know how it got from there to here. You see, when we came to Lawndale and joined the school, Sandi offered me the position of Vice-President in the Fashion Club. I liked fashion, and being popular, so I accepted. But after a few months, it was obvious that this wasn't the Fashion Club, it was Sandi's club. I had better things to do, as did Stacy, and we parted ways." She shrugged her shoulders. "But she and I haven't had any real confrontation since then!"

"That's because she's been attacking us, Quinn," Daria said. Seeing everyone's eyes on her she held up her hands. "Um, nothing physical, except for a week or so ago, when she pushed Tiffany into Jen. But she took several opportunities to tell us how horrible we were, and how she was going to kick our asses. Since she never got to the point of laying hands on us, we mostly ignored it." Seeing her mother's eyes on her, she continued. "We did set up the fashion show to let her know how far behind the curve she was, but it was far more for showing off Quinn and Stacy's talents. It worked on every level."

"Girls," Helen began, "You really shouldn't have -"

"Mom, we never touched her," Daria interrupted, "We never were even verbally aggressive, except to let her know that if she did go physical, she would regret it. We never went to her, she always attacked us, one way or another. Can someone deal with her, so that we won't have to?"

"Wait," Linda Griffin exclaimed, "You're taking the word of these girls and not even asking Sandi about her side?"

"No," Mr. DeMartino said, "As we've explained to you, we didn't ask anyone. We determined what happened independently. We've heard these girls give back story. I fully expect Sandi to come up with a completely different description of how things came to be the way they are. But Linda," and Mr. DeMartino leaned in and looked into her eyes, "that Sandi attempted to sabotage Quinn's efforts and managed to hurt herself is not in doubt. The question is what will you do to stop her from harming others in the future?" She looked down. "We will work on this until Sandi is physically fit to return to school. Should we not find a suitable answer by then, I will consider disciplinary actions at that time."

"So, what do you think'll come out of that?" Jane said as they got into the SUV and drove out of the parking lot.

"I dunno." Daria slammed on the brakes, hard, as a black BMW flashed by, inches in front of their front fender. "Asshole!" Taking a deep breath, she looked over at her fiancés. "All I know is two things. One, if she keeps messing with us, people will know what is happening. Two, if she gets physical with any of our family, I will make very sure that she is very, very unhappy."


6. Episode Six

Sandi Griffin moved her aching body around, then brought her hand to her throat as she started to wake up and felt the incredible soreness there. She opened her eyes, only to see Jennifer Burns standing at her bedside. What in the hell is she doing here? she thought. She tried to ask, but the words came out as a croak.

"Good Morning, Princess," she said. "I got elected to be here because they figured you might actually be up-front with me, and none of us were going to risk having you and Daria in the same room without anyone to hold her back." She raised her eyebrow. "You've done gotten on that girl's last nerve. You really don't want to know just what she'd have done to you if you had actually managed to do what you planned to do." Jen smirked. "You know that scratchy throat you're feeling, and the way you're short of breath? You did that to yourself, princess. You mixed ammonia and bleach. That's a very bad thing to do. They did it in World War I, because it made chlorine killed people, a lot of them."

Seeing the shock on Sandi's face, Jen went on. "Yeah, that's what you were going to do to Quinn. The only reason you aren't going to be tried for attempted murder is that everyone's figured out that you just didn't know what the hell you were doing. The only reason that you're alive is that Quinn risked her life to help Mr. Dawson get you to clear air." She watched as Sandi's face was shocked again. "Oh, yeah, the girl that you've been trying to punish figured that you were worth going back to where that nastiness was and getting you. According to the doctors, that made the difference, timewise."

Sandi croaked out, "Thank her."

Jen shook her head. "Do it yourself, later." She reached over and turned Sandi's chin until they were looking into each other's eyes. "What you need to do now, well there are a couple of things. First, you need to tell me why you have such a hard-on for my girl and her sister. Yeah, she left your club. Big deal. It's been a year or more. They haven't tried to do anything to you - well at least until you started to attack them," she amended. " - but you start doing this silly shit." She glared into Sandi's eyes. "And, quick jump to the second topic, be very, very glad that you didn't manage to carry out your 'prank'. If you had, Daria had been willing to do some shit that, well, it starts with things that are worse than death, and ends with, well something that ain't. You get my meaning?" Seeing Sandi's face pale, Jen nodded grimly. "Don't doubt for a second that she could do it, or that I would be right next to her." She raised her eyebrows. "Nobody hurts our family and walks away unbroken."

She took a deep breath and let it out. "Damn, speeches are usually Daria's thing. So, who or what pissed in your Cheerios™?"

Sandi swallowed, and then rasped, "They took away my club."

Jen snorted. "Dude, they did not take away your club. The most that you can say is that they broke your club in two."

"Huh? She left and took Stacy. On purpose."

"Uh-huh. Because you were bullying them into doing everything your way and wouldn't let them contribute. They left because they care about fashion, and you cared about being popular."

"But-" Sandi expected to get cut off, but Jen sat there and waited.

"Take your time. We're talking, not trying to win a debate."

Sandi finally continued. "But aren't they? The same? If you're one, you're the other."

Jen ran her fingers through her hair. "Not exactly, especially when you're like Quinn and you're looking to create fashion." She smiled. "Or Brittany, most of the time. She's pretty, and almost everyone likes her because she's a really sweet girl, but running around in a cheerleader outfit all the time? Definitely not fashion, according to Quinn."

Sandi nodded, pondering.

"But, come on, you knew that, Sandi. Heck, a month after she left you, Quinn figured she had dropped below the 'elite' popularity, and figured that she was lucky - she didn't have to do what was necessary to be one of them."

"But now I did."

"Ah." The light bulb went on. "You thought that with Quinn there, you wouldn't have to be two-faced and backstab to be popular, because that's what was important to you, but she left, and you were forced to be."

Sandi nodded.

"Only one problem with that. From everything that I hear, you were backstabbing her and Stacy while they were in the club. You were getting off on the competition, as far as I could see. You were definitely getting off on being in charge. And when they decided that they didn't want you to do that, you went on a year-long tantrum about it."

Sandi screwed up her face. As she was about to say something, Jen held her hand up. "It's okay if your thing is to want to control people. But you have to do that with people that want you to. Believe me, there are plenty of guys that would love you to do that...unless you're into girls?"

Sandi shrugged and shook her head.

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it," Jen said with a smile. "Anyway, we're getting off-track. What do you need so that you won't do something that triggers one of us doing something that most of us would live to regret?"

"I - don't know."

"Well, how about this. We'll have a truce until you decide what you do want. All right?"

Sandi nodded.

"Well, I hope you get as much better as you can." And with that, the blonde was out the door, her hair swinging from one side of her butt to the other.

Saturday morning, Daria came into the garage, walked over to Jane and hugged her from behind. "What are you up to, baby?"

Jane smiled. "Just my submission so that I can get into Ashfield. Keep your eyes closed."

"Always. What's it about?"

"Well, partly, us. Another part is history. Another part is...well, you'll see when it's finished." She put a cover over the canvas. "You can open your eyes now." She turned her head up, letting Daria kiss her. "Have you done yours?"

"I'm through the first draft. Now it's just revise, revise, and polish. But it should be done in time." She smiled. "All right, get up."

"Where are we going?"

Daria smiled. "That's for me to know, and you to find out...later." She reached behind her back and handed Jane a blindfold.

"Isn't that a bit kinky, Dar?"

"Just put it on, Lane."

Jane did, and Daria led her out to the SUV, helped her get in, and buckled her in. When she got in the driver's side, Jane heard Jen say, "So, did she put up much of a fight?"

"Not as much as you did," Daria replied as she pulled the car out of the driveway.

After about an hour and a half on the road, which they had filled with small talk, they felt Daria slow down, and maneuver. Finally, she came to a stop.

Jane spoke up. "So am I -"

She was interrupted by Jen. "We,"

"- going to be able to take these blindfolds off?"

"Patience, you two." Despite the blindfolds, both Jane and Jen could almost see the smirk Daria certainly wore. They got out, and Daria handed each of them packages to hold, then took Jen's hand and put it on Jane's shoulder, then took Jane's hand in her own. "All right, the ground is mostly smooth, but there are bumps. I'll try to lead you around them."

For almost another hour, they made their way where Daria led, apparently up a hill, their grumbling slowly increasing as time passed. Finally Jane, exasperated, stopped. "When are we going to be 'there,' wherever that is?"

"In about five minutes, if someone doesn't keep stopping." And she tugged on Jane's hand, finally getting her to move. Sure enough, in five minutes, Daria said, "All right. Stop, and turn to your left."

Both of the girls did this. "Now you can take off your blindfolds."

The sight that greeted the girls when they took off their blindfolds caused them to gasp in astonishment. Five feet in front of them was a drop off, which, if the other side of the valley they were apparently in was any measure, was several hundred feet. The valley was flanked by several rounded hills covered with trees, and directly across from them, a small mountain with a bluff facing them. Nowhere that they could see was another human being.

"I saw this on the web, and I decided that we all needed some time alone." She stopped and kissed her wives. "Since I was driving, Jen brought the food," she gestured to a basket of food in her hands, "and Jane brought stuff for after." In Jane's hands were her sketch book, Daria's journal, and a small easel. Turning them toward the picnic table behind them, she said, "Let's eat!"

7. Episode Seven

Quinn smiled as Tom seated her at what had become her favorite place for them to eat - a small Italian restaurant called Cipriani. From the way they did their menus, and the service, Quinn suspected that they charged even more than Chez Pierre, but there were almost no teenagers in sight. But the food was wonderful, and she was able to show off the very best of her creations. After their first date here, she had had a box of business cards made. Quinn blushed as she remembered that date.

Quinn's hand was cramping as she wrote out her information out for what seemed to be the thousandth time, after yet another sophisticated lady had asked her where she had gotten her dress, and she had yet again explained that this was her own creation. She looked up and kissed Tom. "I'm sorry we're going so slowly." After that was when he had suggested the cards.

She looked up to see Tom waving his hand in front of her. "Are you there, Quinn?"

"I'm here," she said, blushing slightly. "Just thinking about our first date here."

He grinned. "I was just a bit worried when I brought you home with a cramped hand."

"You know that you weren't going to get into trouble over that." She looked up, and her face beamed out a smile. "Oh! Charles and Jodie! Do you mind if I invite them over?" She waved at almost the only other teens they saw in Cipriani.

"Uh, sure, Quinn. But they might be here to be on a date of their own, you know."

It turned out that they weren't as wedded to the idea of a cozy dinner as Tom thought, coming over and greeting the couple. As a matter of course, he asked if they'd like to dine with Quinn and him, and they accepted immediately.

The reason became clear after they had the entrée, and were working on their desserts. Jodie finished quickly, put her gelato aside, and looked at her companions. "I'm really glad that we ran into each other here, Quinn. I've really needed to talk to you about some things, especially about the promise that I made to you about Daria, Jen, and Jane." She pushed her braids over her shoulders. "As a matter of fact, it's kind of serendipitous that Tom's here, because he might be able to help.

"I talked with several of Dad's lawyer's, especially those in Constitutional law, and pretty much what I got is that there is an interpretation of the Constitution that would allow a Supreme Court ruling to make it possible for the girls to be married, like they want to be. The problem is, so many people would be against that ruling that it would be almost impossible to enforce. We can't do anything about that right now. It would almost take a miracle to turn that around, and we'll have to leave that to Daria and her girls. What we - and I'm including you in this, Tom - can do is prepare the way." She looked around the table. "What we have right here at this table are representatives of the three richest families in Lawndale, with connections to over eighty percent of the wealth that keeps the people in DC who make laws about these things. Now they don't answer only to money. They also answer to groups of people with votes. But if the people change their minds, quite often the reason their representatives don't stay in step is that the people with money don't want the change.

"What we can do is to get the movers and shakers agreeing that this...idea, way, grouping, whatever you want to call what Daria and her girls have going on, is the best way as far as business goes." She looked at Tom. "I know that you and your dad can do this, if you want. Are you willing to?"

Tom sighed, reached over and gently squeezed Quinn's hand. "I'd have to be pretty stupid to say no, now wouldn't I?" he asked with a slight grin. Looking at the other couple, his smile grew. "As it happens, I believe that it's not only the right thing for Daria and her ladies, but that it's right for the country, and even good for business." Looking at their slightly shocked expressions, he asked, "What? almost since I've met Quinn, something like this topic has been on the table. You think that I wouldn't research it?" Putting his hands on the table, he continued. "I'm related, in some traceable way, to over half the wealth of the United States. Not that I'd ever inherit any large amount of that, but I'm the third cousin, fifteen times removed of a great deal of them, because there is a lot of intermarrying going on." He smiled at Quinn. "You know that Dad has met Daria, Jane, and Jen. He likes them a lot, and so for the last two months, we've been burning up the phone lines to do pretty much what you've proposed - because our analysis is just the same as yours. Most people don't care all that much, as long as they aren't inconvenienced. But if anything like this would come up, various religious groups would rise up to fight it. And that's not something that we can directly combat. All we can do is to make the way clear if they manage to change people's minds."

"Isn't it strange that we're the richest families in Lawndale, and we come from such entirely different traditions? Tom from old money, Dad as technology-rich, and Charles from speculators?" Jodie commented. "It means that our nets barely overlap. We might have a chance to make this work for Daria, if she can make it work for herself."

"...and that's what she told me, Mother," Sandi finished describing her meeting with Jennifer Burns to Linda Griffin. What should I do?"

"Well, the first thing that you should ask yourself, is can they do what they're threatening?"

"I don't know. I guess. They have all that lawsuit money."

Linda looked at her. "But would they be able to keep under the radar? They know that I'm your mother, they have to know that I'd investigate any disappearance of you very deeply." She looked down and to the left of Sandi. "They're bluffing. You ought to go ahead with whatever you have planned."

"But, Mother -"

"No, go ahead. Otherwise you're just giving into their bullying tactics."

Jane fitted the last slide into the box. "You ready, Dar?"

Daria came up behind her. "Ready, willing and able," she said, kissing Jane's pulse point, then nibbling her earlobe. "And my submission is finished, too." She handed her manuscript to her wife. "C'mon, let's get to the Post Office before it closes."

Jane turned around and searched Daria's face with worried eyes. "Do you really think we'll be accepted?"

"I not only think so, I know so," replied Daria, as she took Jane into her arms and kissed her deeply.

8. Episode Eight

Tom Griffin sat in his recliner after dinner, with Sandi still in the hospital and the boys up in their rooms, reading the paper and listening to his wife talk on the phone.

"Hello, Eric," she cooed. "Were you able to get a supply? Great! Say, Eric, my bonus this quarter had been delayed a week. Do you think you can...? No!? God damn it, Eric, I've always been good for - Oh, well, I'm sorry to hear - I understand, but -" She sighed. "All right, I 'll come up with it somehow." She hung up and looked at him. "Tommy..." she said in a sing-song voice.


Her face turned red. "No? I haven't even asked you!"

"No, you may not use house money for your coke buys." He lowered the paper. "Look, Lin, when you decided to get into this, we made an agreement. You could use all the money you made, if you wanted to, and you could still have a place to sleep and food to eat. But you cannot touch the money I make. That's for the house, and for the kids."

"But -"

"No. Honey, I love you, but those kids did not make a choice to get into this. If you want to get help with this, we can stretch the budget a bit for that."

"Ooohh!" And with that, she stamped out of the room.

Brittany sat up from where she and Kevin had been making out. "Kevvie?" she squeaked.

"Yeah, babe?"

"I was thinking about something that Daria said, when she was pootering - Tudoring - helping us. You know how she said that we had the skills to graduate?"

"Yeah. But I'm the QB!"

"Kevvie, think. It's late in the third quarter, and the visitors are ahead. If you don't do anything, they are gonna win. What are you going to do?" She turned toward him and kissed him. I want to be with my Kevvie in college."

Kevin looked down. That's right, and the - referee - that coach had a talk with isn't there any more."

"And didn't that scout for Great Prairie State say you needed to keep a C average?"

"Yeah, babe, and I have...almost."

"Kevvie!" He looked up and into the determined eyes of his girlfriend. "You," she said, "are gonna bring your grades up. Do we need to find you a Tu- a helper?"

"Do you think that we should do it?" Charles looked up at his girlfriend, Even though he had managed to get Jodie to drop most of her organizational involvement down to just 'membership,' she still was busy quite a bit of the time. He thought that it was a bit strange that while she was with Mack, she was almost forced to lead every group that she could, and now that she was with him, they were much more relaxed. Must be realizing that she needs to smell the roses after she was almost shot, he mused.

"I think it gives us that much more time together, without it being an official date. Besides, it helps Brittany, and she's such a sweet girl, and Kevin's not so bad." Jodie took his hand, and sat down in his lap. "So we get two for the price of one." She smiled as he gently touched her cheek, and brought her in for a long, slow kiss.

"Any time with you is a bargain, m'lady." Charles ducked her halfhearted swipe.

"One, two, three, four...."

Coming here, standing in front of
Those that fear, must be in control of
My girls
My life
My love...

While Trent was playing a bridge, the engineer called, "Cut!" and Jake came into the studio with the band.

"Wow, that was great!" he exclaimed. "Is it going to be on the next CD?" The band nodded as one. Looking around, he smiled at all of them. "I've got great news. First, you all have sold through your advance. We'll be getting monthly checks for you from G-town that we'll distribute." He looked over at the bass guitarist. "Nick, you'll be happy to know that you are completely paid up with child support. And one of the things that G-town set up was that any time you play a concert, rather than a bar or the like, you'll have four backstage passes for your families to use. So if your ex can make it, you'll be able to see her a bit this summer."

Trent nodded to him. "That's cool, Daria's dad." He winked.

"Yeah, cool," chimed in Jesse.

Jen looked at him. "Does this mean that they're going to pick up the option?"

"It looks likely."

She smiled. "That's not so bad. There's an option bonus on that, isn't there?"

He nodded. "Oh, I almost forgot. Here's the touring schedule for this summer." He handed the sheet over to Jen.

"Hmm...Baltimore, DC, Boston, Ashfield Art Colony?" She looked up at Jake.

"I told them that it'd be a good idea for you to touch base at least once with them, this summer, and that Trent would probably like it, too." He was going to say more, but was stopped by Jen jumping on him, hugging, and saying, "ThankYouthankyouthankyou!"

When she stopped hugging him, he turned, smiling, to the rest of the band. "Just so you know, the option, starting with the third CD, pays the band twenty-five percent more per CD, and so at that point, Helen and I will be taking in seven, rather than five percent, at that point, as we discussed."

Trent nodded. "You've earned it, man."

Sandi was puzzled when an old, junky car turned into the hospital parking lot. Her consternation only increased when her mother got out. "Mother!" she said when Linda walked through the door, "what is that?"

"It's a loaner, mine's in the shop." She walked up to Sandi. "And have you gone forward with your plan yet?"

Sandi pushed her nose up. "I'm still planning it."

"Too much planning can make things way too complicated."

"Yes, but it's my plan."

"Get going on it, then!" And with that, Linda went into the bathroom, where Sandi thought she heard her use her nasal inhaler.

Helen knocked on Jim Vitale's door. At the word, "come," she turned the knob and entered with a puzzled look on her face, as she wasn't sure what this meeting was about. As she was about to say something, Jim looked up and said, "close the door and sit down, please." Once she was seated, he sighed and looked at her. "We, as the firm, have a problem."

Her eyebrows rose. Helen hoped that she was reading this wrong, but this sounded like one of those discussions that ended with, "and the solution to the problem, unfortunately, is to let you go." She hadn't spent all of her time as a lawyer without developing a poker face, so she simply put it on, nodded, and asked, "Just what kind of problem do we have?"

"Eric's current senior associate, who had been given a key to his desk in order to better assist him in his duties, discovered a package containing approximately a kilogram of cocaine powder in one of his desk drawers this weekend while searching for some documents that Eric had left in another drawer. The police were, of course, notified, and happily, the associate's fingerprints were not on the bag. Unfortunately, Eric's were." He looked directly at her. "We are not involving ourselves in the criminal case, except of course to cooperate with the police to the best of our ability. What I, and the firm, need to know is your opinion on several matters, as a person that worked very closely with him and still is with us."

Helen leaned forward slightly. "Go ahead."

"Our first question is, do you believe that he would have so much for himself, or do you think that Eric was a...distributor?"

Inwardly, Helen smirked. In the middle of a blizzard of crap, and the man couldn't call one of his own a, "pusher." Outwardly, she cleared her throat, and said, "I'm not sure, Jim. It would depend on just how deep his addiction went, and how deep his pockets are. I would say that he wouldn't sell drugs for money until he didn't have money to pay for the drugs on his own. But that's just an opinion."

"Very well. Secondly, can you tell me who this is?" He held up a still from a security camera. "She seems to have been visiting Eric quite a bit in the last few months, yet he hasn't been billing hours to her, and nobody seems to know who she is."

"I do." Helen's mouth dropped open for a moment. "That's Linda Griffin. She's the VP of Marketing at KSBC, and her daughter goes to school with my youngest."

9. Episode Nine

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are owned by Glenn Eichler and MTV; no infringement is intended, and no money is being made.

"All right, Eric," Linda said in a flat voice while looking at the lawyer. "I've got my part. But it's going to be a bit before I can pull together any more, so where's my stuff?" She then noticed how he was sitting at the desk in the motel, his head in his hands. "All right, what's the problem?"

"Linda, I - I did a stupid thing," he said. "For safekeeping, I locked the - stuff - in my desk. The only people that have keys to it are me and my senior associate, who is well aware to not go in there without direct instructions." He sighed. "Instructions that I gave this weekend when they needed a certain set of papers and I was high."

She snorted. "So what? You and I together run through maybe a hundred, hundred fifty grams a month? In a lawyer's office? They won't even think about it."

"Um, Linda. You weren't the only person I consolidated orders with to get a better price. There's about a kilo in there. Not something they're going to miss."

"Do they have the cops on you yet?"

"I don't think so, but I'm pretty sure that my job's gone."

"Well, can you get more stuff from your supplier?"

"He doesn't take credit, Linda. And like I told you on the phone, I'm going through a divorce. I don't have the cash to front another buy."

Linda thought for a moment. "Let me go see what I can do. If what I've got in mind works, we should be able to make this buy soon." She tilted her head. "Even if it doesn't, we should be able to, and to come back for a repeat."

"All right, but if I don't hear from you by tomorrow night, or if I hear the police are after me, I'm gone."

Picking up her cell phone and hitting the button on the third ring, she said in a flat tone, "Daria Morgenderffer."

"Daria, this is Linda Griffin, Sandi's mother," the voice on the other end of the line said. "I'm calling on behalf of Sandi. She's home from the hospital, but it still hurts for her to speak much. Anyway, she wanted to talk about this truce you kids have?" In the middle of that sentence, Daria had turned on the speaker phone, and all the girls heard it.

"Uh-huh," answered Daria.

"If you girls would like to come by after school, I'm sure that Sandi would love to see you there. I won't be there, but I'll leave the door open for you, and you're welcome to come in."

"We'll be there."

"Excellent! I might manage to get off work early, so hopefully I'll see you there. Goodbye!"

"Goodbye, Mrs. Griffin," Daria said, then hung up. She looked at her wives, and ran her fingers through her hair, now down to mid-back. "Looks like we're going into the dragon's lair this afternoon."

Linda Griffin slowly closed her cellphone and leaned back against the wall with a smile. It all was going almost perfectly to plan. True, Tom hadn't given her access to the house funds to make the buy - and she would have replaced the money, plus some! - but she had thought of a way to kill two birds with one stone. Three, actually. Oh, heck, four. It had felt so good bashing Tom's head in as he was sleeping this morning. In fact, she thought she might have completely pulped the skull. When the police came and saw the note, saying, "It could have been you!" Sandi would have the Morgendorffer girls off her back, and she would have a chance to lead, for once. Plus, she could always hold this over Helen Morgendorffer's head. Who's the better mother slash businesswoman now, bitch? And finally, and not inconsequentially, the insurance money would finance quite a few more buys, and Linda would make sure that those buys paid for themselves, in the future. And if they didn't, well, Sandi was coming to the end of her usefulness. Linda didn't see how she could even hope to go to college. Maybe another tragedy perpetrated by those horrible Morgendorffer girls? Now she needed to get back to work, and make sure that the boys were all right at their aunt's.

"But why do I have to go, Daria?" Quinn asked as they walked down the street to Sandi's.

Daria took a deep breath, let it out, and said, in a mild tone, "You should know this, Quinn, but it's because you're part of this feud. We need everyone involved there, so that we can end it."

"I guess."

As they turned into the Griffin's driveway, Jane asked, "Don't the Griffin's have two boys, as well as Sandi?" Quinn nodded. "Then where the hell are they?"

"Maybe at some soccer game, or Mr. Griffin took them out so that they wouldn't get involved in this?" Jen shrugged.

"But that's Mr. Griffin's car right there," Quinn pointed, then looked at Daria. "Something isn't right here."

Daria nodded. "I'm going to have to agree." She looked around. "Everyone back to the sidewalk." She pulled out her cellphone and dialed a familiar number. "Marianne, this is Daria. I'm...well, I wouldn't say well, but I'm reasonably healthy. Listen, I need to talk to my mom." She waited a few moments, then nodded. "Um, I just don't know, but I think it may be. can you break into the meeting?" While she was talking, her face was going pale. After a few minutes, she spoke again. "Mom? I might be freaking out with no reason, but something seems very odd here. You remember when we had Jen talk to Sandi, to find some way to end this little feud, and how that ended? Well, this morning at school, I got a call from Linda Griffin, supposedly on Sandi's behalf, asking us to come by and discuss it with her. Well, we're right outside, and something pinged our radar. There doesn't seem to be anyone home. Yes, the Griffin's home. She's not? Linda said that she was. We got worried because neither of Sandi's brothers were around and Mr. Griffin's car was still here. She said that she would be at work. When this hit us, I had us all back off to the sidewalk. We just walked a bit on the driveway." Daria shook her head. "Wait, you're taking this very seriously. What aren't you telling us?" She sighed. "All right, we'll be here. See you in a few." She hung up.

"So what's up?" Jane asked.

"She wouldn't tell me. She said that she's calling the police, to not say anything, other than she'll be there soon, until she gets here." She sat down on the concrete. "So here we sit."

"Daria, I'm scared. There's something really wrong here." Quinn shuddered.

"I know, Quinn, I know."

Just as she finished the sentence, a police car rolled up, and two officers got out. One of them, a female, walked up to the girls. "Is one of you Daria Morgendorffer?"

Daria raised her hand. "My mom - our lawyer, said to tell you she would just be a few minutes, and for us not to talk without her."

"All right. Sarge told us to wait twenty minutes, and if we didn't get consent at that time, to go back to patrol."

Daria nodded, and they all waited. About ten minutes later, Helen's SUV rolled up. Helen and, surprisingly, Sandi, got out. Helen came up to the lead officer and offered her hand. "Hello, I'm Helen Morgendorffer. This is Sandi Griffin, a resident of this home."

The officer nodded. "Miss, do you have a driver's license?" Sandi nodded. "Can I see it? It's just to ascertain your identification, and that you live here."

Sandi sighed, and got her license out of her wallet, and handed it to the officer.

After checking it, he smiled. "Thank you, Sandi. May we search the premises? According to Mrs. Morgendorffer, there may be evidence of some crimes in there."

Sandi held up one finger. "Wait." And she went in, closing the door after her. About a minute later, they heard a scream from the top floor of the house.

10. Episode Ten

Both of the officers were running to the door before the scream had died away, and were through it within seconds. Quinn made as if she was going to get up, but Helen pointed back to the ground. "We think that Linda might have been setting you up, Quinn. You are not getting any fingerprints or DNA in there to confuse the issue." A few minutes later, the female officer came out, with Sandi glomped around her and bawling her eyes out.

When they reached the amigas, Quinn held out her hands, and looked straight at the officer, who nodded and passed Sandi into her arms. Daria caught Jane and Jen's eyes, and they both surrounded Sandi in a hug, while Daria followed her mother and the officer.

When they were a bit away from the girls, the officer held up her hands, dropped to her knees, and vomited over the lawn. After a few moments, the heaves stopped, and Daria offered her a bottle of water, which the officer gratefully accepted, swirling the fluid around and spitting it out.

"My God," the officer, whose nameplate read L. Sanders, said. "That was horrible. Someone had gone in there and beat that man's head until it was flat on the bed."

"Oh, Lord," breathed Helen. "I think that it was Tom Griffin, Sandi's father."

Daria's face paled. "And Linda wanted us - wanted Quinn - to walk in on that?"

"Worse. She wanted to blame you for that." She turned to the officer. "Officer Sanders," she began.

"Libby," she said.

"Libby, then. As I told your sergeant when I called this in, this had the smell of someone trying to incriminate my girls, since she was setting up a meet with someone who wasn't going to be there. I'd suggest that you get backup and be prepared to get as much information from Linda Griffin when she appears as you can. We'll of course cooperate in any way to help you out."

Officer Sanders nodded, and soon a quick conversation took place, after which they approached the girls huddled around the still-sobbing Sandi, who had quite obviously not managed to communicate anything to the girls. Daria bent over and whispered into Quinn's ear.

"Oh, no!" Quinn replied, and hugged Sandi harder.

Daria motioned to her wives and huddled with them briefly. "Listen, I just talked to that police officer. Sandi's dad is up in his bedroom with his head completely bashed in," and she saw them turn a pale green, "and from the facts as we know them now, they think Linda did it. Worse, they think she was going to try and pin it on us. What they want to do is to run a bit of a sting, and see if she'll incriminate herself. Can you do that?"

"I don't care how much of a bitch she is, poor Sandi," said Jen. "Can you imagine having nightmares about seeing him like that?"

"Whatever we have to do to bring that bitch down, Dar." Daria had never seen Jane so mad. "She does not get a pass for screwing her kid over like that."

Twenty minutes later, another cruiser had pulled up, as well as an unmarked car that had carried a pair of detectives. Helen was in the back of a cruiser, staying out of sight, while the girls were sitting on the curb, with their legs crossed, and their hands cuffed behind their back. They had heard from the 911 center that they had gotten a call about "some screaming," in the area, and the operator had kept the caller on long enough to find that she was calling from the KSBC building. And then she showed up.

Linda drove up in a junky older car. She got out, and went to the officers outside. "Pardon me, but why are you in front of my house?"

Officer Sanders turned to her, and said in a flat voice, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but that house is a crime scene. Do you live there?"

"Why, yes, I do. I'm Linda Griffin."

"Ah. Mrs. Griffin, did you pass along an invitation from your daughter to meet with those young ladies?" The officer pointed at the amigas.

"Why no, and if I did, she's in the hospital. Why would I invite them here?"

Just tying up loose ends, ma'am." The officer paused for a moment. "We're going to need the keys to the residence, ma'am."

"Why is that?"

"In order to do a thorough investigation. On a case of this magnitude, we need to dot all the i's and cross all the t's."

Linda nodded and handed them over. "I'd guess that you don't get many murders in this town."

"No, ma'am."

"Do you mind if I talk to the girls? Maybe their being here was some misunderstanding."

"As long as you don't try and get them to their feet."

Linda walked over to the girls, and in a low voice, said, "Well, this is what you get for not giving Sandi any respect."

Quinn looked up with her big eyes full of tears, and asked, "W-what do you mean, Mrs. Griffin?"

"I mean, who do you think brought you into the house? I'm going to smile when they put you away for good, and then again when I sue your mom for all that money you have in your trust fund." She watched as a tear made its way down Quinn's cheek. "Go ahead and cry, baby." She turned back to the officer. "Nope, I don't see where they got the idea of any invitation." She paused. "Where's Tom? What was the crime that was committed?" She schooled her features into a composed nervousness.

"I'm sorry to tell you, ma'am, but sometime earlier today, your husband was killed."

"Tom? Oh NO!!!" Linda started sobbing. After about five minutes, she raised her head, her eyes puffy, and a slight drip of blood coming down from her nose. "I hate to ask this, but when can I get a death certificate? Our insurance won't pay without it, and we've gotten into some hard times. I don't think that I can bury him without it."

"You'll have to check with the coroner, ma'am." The officer paused. "Ma'am? You're not going to be able to get back in there tonight. The department will cover a night in the Dutchman Inn for you."

Linda sniffed. "Thank you, officer..." and then she sniffed again. "I guess I'd better get over there while they still have rooms." She paused as she was about to get in to her car. "Please let me know when they make an arrest!"

"You'll be the first to know, ma'am." And Officer Sanders watched as Linda climbed into her car and drove away, then looked around. "And, we're clear!" She turned and unlocked the girl's cuffs, as another officer let Helen out of the cruiser.

"Well, she certainly talked as if she were guilty to us," Daria said. "It was all, 'I'm going to put you away for good,' and this was before she was told what the crime was."

"Oh, and she knew that it was a murder before we told her. Unless there's a problem with the physical evidence," Libby said, "We'll arrest her sometime tomorrow."

"Why didn't you do it now?" Quinn asked

"Because this way we get any accomplices that she may have, either on the murder, or on the drug charges." She sighed, and gave out a very small smile. "Don't worry, she'll be behind bars by this time tomorrow."

Daria looked down at the ground, then back up at her mother. "Mom, where will Sandi and her brothers go?"


11. Episode Eleven

Daria looked down at the ground, then back up at her mother. "Mom, where will Sandi and her brothers go?"

Helen frowned. "I - I don't know, Daria. For right now, Sandi will go back to the hospital. Wait, no, I had her checked out. I'm not sure where she'll go, and I don't know where her brothers are."

"Um, that might be something that the police should be interested in. What happens if, no when, she brings them to their motel room?"

Helen blushed. "You're right. Hold on." She turned and walked over to the unmarked van, where Quinn and Sandi sat, Sandi still sobbing. "Quinn, does Sandi have any family nearby?"

"Um, I'm not sure." She thought for a few moments. "I think that she has an aunt in Oakwood, but she only has a one-bedroom apartment. She said that we couldn't stay over when we were going to do something in Oakwood."

Helen knelt down by the pair. Stroking Sandi's cheek, she softly called out, "Sandi?"

"No! NO!" she sobbed.

"Sandi, honey..." Helen kept petting her. "I know it hurts, hurts beyond words, baby." Sandi shook her head back and forth. "Can you help me help your brothers, Sandi?"


Do you know your aunt in Oakwood's name and phone number?"

Sandi grabbed where her purse usually was. She looked up, and her tear-streaked face looked crestfallen. "It's in my purse." She coughed. "Eva Fulk, on Cambridge Drive. We didn't visit much, because she and Dad, Oh God!!" And she started to sob uncontrollably again. Quinn hugged her tighter, while Helen sighed and got up.

She walked over to the Sargent. When he noticed her, she spoke up. "Sargent, we have at least one, and probably two or more extra problems." She took a breath. "The Griffins had three children, Sandi," she nodded over at the girl, "and two boys. Linda believes that Sandi is still at the hospital, but she checked out earlier today. The boys are most likely at an aunt's who doesn't have enough space to keep them overnight, and moreover Linda Griffin knows where they are." She handed a piece of paper with the aunt's name and address on it to him. "The question is, what happens to these children?"

"I don't know, for sure, ma'am." He sighed. "For Sandi, we'll have to call in CPS." He paused. "There is one bright spot. About six months ago, the city set up an emergency foster program for children in crisis, which, if Sandi doesn't fit, nobody does. It has a group of experienced psychology professionals offer space in their homes for the short term. The person who set up the program, Dr. Lassiter, is first on the list." He looked down. "As to the boys, I'm not sure, for tonight at least. The lieutenant may want them to be right where they are, so that Linda doesn't get suspicious."

Helen raised her eyebrow. "So that she doesn't get suspicious? We are talking about the same woman who not only killed her husband, but, to use one of your officer's words, 'beat his head in until it was flat on the bed'?" She crossed her arms. "I don't know who's making decisions, but they may want to re-think their process. In your professional opinion, is the evidence that you have and are collecting enough to convict Linda Griffin of the capital murder of her husband?"

"Yes, but -"

"But trials are funny things, and evidence gets thrown out." Helen nodded. "Very well, give me your lieutenant's number, and you can start with CPS." She paused for a moment. "Oh, it may not be the best alternative, but my husband and I would be willing to take in the boys temporarily if it keeps them out of revolving foster care." After the Sargent punched in the numbers on her cell, she took her phone. "Hello, lieutenant. This is Helen Morgendorffer, and I'm at your murder site. Now, about those children..."

Sandi wasn't really aware of anything until she had been in several cars, and people sat around her doing paperwork. Occasionally they would ask her questions about her mother, that wasn't him. Daddy's alive. It couldn't have been him up there. He had to be there to take care of me, especially when mother was being a bitch. So that wasn't him. It was just someone else who had climbed into the window and laid down on the bed and... She didn't realize that she was sobbing again until someone gently grabbed her arms and looked into her eyes.

"Sandi? Sandi?" The woman asked gently. "I'm Karen Lassiter, and you're going to be staying here, at least until things get a little more settled. Do you understand?"

No. God no, she didn't want to understand, but she did. Sandi nodded. She looked up and around for the first time, and saw that she was in a kitchen. The woman talking to her was a middle-aged matron, with short brown hair. There was also a girl in the room, she looked familiar. " were in the fashion show." Sandi's voice sounded rough, even to her, even after the chlorine.

"Yes, I was. I'm Winner." She rolled her eyes. "Blame Mom, she decided that at least one of her children would be a Winner." But she said it with a smile. "Look, I don't think you'll be good for much for a while, why don't I take you up to your room?" And with that, she took Sandi's hand and led her up the stairs, letting Sandi watch her hair switch from side to side.

Her cell phone rang. Digging it out of her purse, she answered it. "Helen Morgendorffer."

"Thank God. Helen, you've got to help me."

"Eric. You understand that as an officer of the court not your counsel, I have to inform the police of your whereabouts?"

"Yes. Will you represent me?"

"I can't. Conflict of interest."

"Can you help find someone to represent me? I want to make a deal, I've heard something that scares me."


"Well, you know her, you introduced us. Linda Griffin."

Helen thought - for about a half second. "Go to the Third District. I'll have representation waiting for you." She hung up and dialed again. "Jonathon? I've got a client for you."

Quinn sat on the amigas' bed, surrounded on three sides by her sister and her girlfriends. She blew her nose. "But why, Daria? Why did she kill her husband like that? He - he was really a nice guy.." She was hugged by Daria.

"I can't say for sure, but if I had to bet, it was about drugs or money, and in the end, nothing was as important as getting another fix of one or the other to her."

"Promise that you'll stop me before I get that far, Daria?" Quinn shrunk in on herself.

"I'll do my best. But, Quinn, I don't think that you'll ever get close, especially seeing what it did to them." said Daria. "I'm amazingly lucky, myself. These two won't let me get far off the tracks at all." She leaned forward and kissed both of her wives.

"But what's going to happen to Sandi, Chris, and Sam?"

"I don't know about the boys, but last I talked with Mom, Sandi was going to be staying with a family in town. The Lassiters. I think Stacy did her daughter's makeup for the fashion show."

"Oh, Winner. She seemed nice. Quiet, though."

"What can we do?" Jen asked.

Daria shook her head. "Not much but let the police do their job and clean up the mess." She seemed about to say something when they heard the creak of the mailbox. "Jen, could you get that?"

Jen nodded, and in a few minutes was back with two large envelopes in her hands. "Just some junk mail for the two of you," she said, but she was wearing a huge grin, and jumping up and down.

"Burns, give," said Daria with her hand outstretched. "Or we'll stop doing the second thing we did on Valentine's Day."

The smile immediately left Jennifer's face, and she gave each girl her packet, saying, "Gee, you didn't have to threaten so much." She was going to say more, but Daria pulled her close and kissed her before opening her envelope.

"I got in." She looked at her other wife. "Jane?"

"Me, too." She looked at the brochures for a few minutes. "I take it that we're going to take one of these two-person cabins, rather than joining the masses in an 8-person?"

"You take right."

Jonathon J. Soriano listened as his new client laid out what had happened in the last few days. "- and she said that it might almost be better if it didn't work, because she could make something else work, maybe three or four times." Eric shuddered. "I'd like to get a deal, but I can't stand having her kid's deaths on my conscience - if they refuse, let them know."

He nodded. "You understand that you might be incarcerated for a long time?"

Eric nodded. "I made that decision. They can't."

"All right." Jonathon got up. "We'll try and get it done."

Linda Griffin knocked on the door of her sister's apartment, shifting from foot to foot.

"Come on in, Linda!" her sister's voice carried out to her. She opened the door, took a few steps in - right into the muzzle of a gun.

"Linda Griffin, you are under arrest for the capital murder of Tom Griffin -" the officer broke off as she turned and started running out the door. "Halt!"

Why in hell would I halt? she thought as she passed the door. A thunderclap sounded, and she was hit by a sledgehammer. Just a few feet more, and I can reach the car, she thought. What the hell? Her legs collapsed under her. But I've got to make it to my - And the darkness surrounded her.


12. Episode Twelve

Sandi raised her head up and saw Winner in her room, dropping off some clothing. "That doesn't look fashionable," she said.

"Oh, you're awake, finally." The taller girl looked her over from head to foot. "You're excused from classes for the next week, though you might want to study to get ready for finals."

"Why am I-" Sandi covered her mouth with her hand as the horror struck again. This time, she decided to fight it. "Have they found -" and here she had to close her eyes and compress her lips for a moment, "who k-killed my Dad?" She heard Winner gasp. "What? I s-saw him. He didn't slip in the shower!"

She turned to Winner, who had gone pale and was now stroking her cheek. "Sandi, baby, I just didn't realize that you didn't know."

"Know what? And why am I here, and not with Mother, Chris, and Sam?" Her heart dropped when she saw Winner's expression.

"Chris and Sam are fine, they stayed overnight with your aunt in Oakwood." Winner took a deep breath. "When the police investigated, they found that your - that Linda had killed your father."

Sandi closed her eyes, tears leaking down her cheeks.

"They tried to arrest her at your aunt's. She tried to run away, but she's - she was going to be arrested for capital murder. The officer was instructed to use lethal force."

"She's -" Sandi couldn't seem to make the next words come through her throat. Happily, Winner understood.

"She's at Cedars of Lawndale. They don't expect her to survive the night, and if, by some miracle, she recovers, they're going for the death penalty." She turned Sandi's face to her own. "They told me that she had plans to kill you for the insurance money."

"I want to see her." Sandi spit out.

"I thought you might." Winner gave her a little smile. "Let's go now, then. I think we need to have a talk when we get back."

The girls were working on their various homework and research projects, when Quinn came in. She flopped on the bed, and said, "I just want to be able to do something for Sandi!"

Daria pushed back from her desk and turned to face her sister. "I'm proud that you're the kind of person that feels that way, Quinn. And that's one reason I brought the issue of the boys up to Mom. But right now the police are investigating, the hospital is taking care of Linda, and the Lassiters are helping Sandi." She sighed. "If you want to see her, I'll take you over tomorrow." She scooted back to her desk. "Right now, I'm having trouble wrestling with this article."

Quinn came over, and saw the headline. Family Tragedy Strikes. She lifted an accusing face to Daria, and saw the tears streaming down her cheeks. Without another word, she hugged her sister, kissed the crown of her head, and walked up to her room.

The absolute only reason that Sandi was getting in to see her mother was that she was next of kin. There were several policemen set to prevent the many cameramen and newspeople who were shouldering their way to the best interview position. Winner had called the hospital before they left, and a policemen met them at the door.

"Follow right behind me. We are going straight to your mother's ICU room, then to see her doctor, and then straight back to your vehicle." He looked up at Winner. "Miss Lassiter, you will be left at the ICU door, and again at the doctor's office door. Is that clear?" And with that, he turned and they made their way in. They had gotten perhaps fifty feet before newspeople converged on them.

"Miss Griffin, could you comment on-" "Sandi, how does it feel to have-" "A picture, please, Sandi?" "Was your father a former Columbian drug lord?" "Are you a lesbian?" The questions were innumerable, and it took all of her will to not round on them for the vile insinuations that they had made. But she did, and finally they made it to the ICU, where she saw her mother lying on the bed, tubes inserted wherever Sandi could see, and apparently a machine breathing for her.

Sandi bent over the bed, looking at her mother for what she knew was the last time in her life, and whispered, "You bitch, you killed Daddy. He was worth a hundred of you." It took another act of will to refrain from spitting in her face. She composed herself, and looked to the policeman. "I'm ready." He nodded and led her out, through the mob of reporters, and to a doctor's office. She sat down opposite from the doctor's desk, and looked into her eye.

"I take it you're Sandi Griffin?" she asked. Sandi nodded. "All right, here are the bare facts. Your mother was shot, and lost a good deal of blood before she could be operated on and get transfusions. Due to that, she didn't get oxygen to the brain for an extended time. It was on the edge of where it would be impossible for the brain to survive. At this point, absent any orders to take exceptional measures to keep her alive, if we do not detect brain waves, we will disconnect life support in six hours. Do you wish us to take those exceptional measures?"

Sandi looked at her with dead eyes, and shook her head. "Thank you for seeing me," she rasped, and held out her hand. The doctor took it, and then Sandi was on her way back through the same rude reporters, hooking up with Winner, and getting back to the car, where she held her stone face until they were out of the lot, and began to sob again.

"Mr. Schrecter?"

Eric rose and replied, "Yes, your Honor?"

"I have read the terms of the plea agreement that you and the prosecution. In return for information that you provided in another case, full allocution, state-mandated rehabilitation and counseling, your sentence will be reduced to one year's probation." The judge shuffled some papers. "Do you agree to that?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Well, get to it."

"Your Honor, a couple of years ago, an associate of mine offered me some cocaine. I had never tried it, but I wanted to remain among the 'cool' people, where I'd always been. So I tried it once. But once became once a month, became once a week, became once a day. And I found out that as a lawyer, I had more contacts to suppliers. I was able to get coke at lower prices because I could buy more at once...somewhere in there I lost my sense - my common sense. I was busily ignoring my divorce - brought on by the fact that I was getting high far too much - when I made the mistake that has probably saved my life - I had made a big buy and accidentally allowed one of my juniors at work to search where it was. That brought about a meeting with one of the associates I was buying for, and led to me turning myself in." He sat down.

"As long as you fulfill the other strictures of the agreement, you are sentenced to one year probation. Sentence suspended on a term no less than twenty-four months, no more than sixty months at the state prison, to be expunged when you satisfy all the terms of your plea agreement." He hammered his gavel. "Next case."

When they got back to the house, Winner pulled Sandi to her bedroom, where they both sat down. Winner brushed Sandi's hair out of her face. "Sandi? Hon?" Sandi didn't reply. She tilted Sandi's chin up. "Would you mind if the daughter of a psychologist and someone who's been in school with you for the past year takes a shot as to what the real problem is?"

Sandi stared at her. "Win-ner, I think that my real problem might be that, whatever happens, I've lost both my parents in the last day or so!"

"That's part of it, but it's more something that contributes to things. It means that more and more other people have control over what you do. And you hate that. It makes you feel weak."

Sandi thought back to some things that that Burnout had said. "And what if I do?"

"Well, the answers simple. To make you feel better, have a part of life where you control yourself and everyone in it."

Sandi shook her head. "Wasn't that part of what got me into this? When Quinn and Stacy left?"

"Ah, but then you were trying to be control someone who didn't want to be controlled."

Sandi's eyes grew wide. "You? Um, Winner, I don't know if you know, but I'm not, 'that way'."

She saw Winner smile gently. "You don't have to be, Sandi. You can be, but what's important here is who's controlling the choices, not who's slipping tab A into slot V." She stroked Sandi's cheek again. "Now to get things straight, I may not want to do - or have done to me - everything that you want to do to me or to have me do. And when we're doing this, we won't usually want to stop on a 'no'. So whenever you hear me say 'red', that means stop. Do you understand?"

Sandi sat for several minutes. Finally, she looked at Winner. "You really want to be controlled? I don't want to get myself in deeper." Winner shyly smiled and nodded. "All right, pull your jeans and panties down, and get over my knees." Faster than Sandi could have believed, the larger girl was draped over her. She raised her arm, and brought her hand down, hard, on Winner's bottom. "Start counting," she said, raising her hand while tears streaked down her face.

Helen slipped into bed beside Jake who, as it turned out, was not completely asleep. "How is everything?" he asked sleepily.

"You know, I don't know. Linda Griffin died an hour ago."

Jake shuddered. "I don't know whether to feel happy or sad about that. I mean, she was a human being, but - "

"She did kill Tom, and would have killed Sandi, when her coke money ran out, I know. She visited her, you know. Told the doctor not to take extraordinary measures. She must be broken completely, poor thing."

Jake shook his head. "I'm glad that she's in a psychologist's house, so they'll catch anything."

Helen smiled. "Me, too." She took a breath and let it out. "When I was talking with the police, they told me that there had been more people commenting on and complaining about the girls lately. I explained that the girls weren't breaking the law, and he agreed, but it still worries me."

Jake smiled back. "Not me. Give me our four girls against the whole state, and I'll bet the ranch on the girls, every time."


13. Episode Thirteen

Jennifer handed Daria her laptop in its case. "That's pretty much it," she said. "You think that that'll keep you two for the next ten weeks?"

Daria straightened up after storing the computer. With all we packed, I think we're good for ten months. Excepting this blonde that we've both become attached to, of course." She reached up and pulled Jennifer's head down for a long kiss.

"Well, besides that," Jen said with a blush, "I can understand why you both want to take a vacation from this town." She showed a sad smile. "This last week hasn't been the best, has it?"

"No, no it hasn't."

"Come on!" Quinn said as she ducked her head in the door of the garage. "We'll miss the visitation."

Daria raised her head, and saw Quinn and Stacy, both in black dresses, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. She looked down, and smiled at the fact that she was wearing a black shirt and jacket, rather than her usual colors. She sighed, and replied, "Not that I would be horribly discomfited by that, considering what that woman did."

Quinn put her hands on her hips. "Daria Morgendorffer, weren't you the one who said that you wanted to do more to help Sandi? Here's your chance. You can show her that she's not alone."

"I know, Quinn, I know." With a glance, she caught up Jane and Jen, and they headed out to Daria's SUV, where Stacy was waiting. In just a few minutes, they arrived at the funeral home, where they saw Sandi, Winner Lassiter and what must have been Ms. Lassiter sitting on the pew nearest the two coffins, one very well made, and the other apparently made of low-grade plywood, and unpainted.

Sandi sat on her bed, not quite sobbing, looking at the pretty black dress in her hands, and trying to will herself to put it on.

Winner walked in, already dressed in her long-skirted dress, took one look at Sandi and knelt at her feet. "Having trouble putting it on?"

Sandi nodded. "It's like, if I put it on, I'll have to go...and it'll make it real - that he'll be - " her voice caught in a sob.

"Sandi, baby?" Winner said gently. "I know it hurts, but he's gone." She stroked Sandi's cheek. "And all the dress choices and not showing up in the world won't make him not gone." She rummaged in her purse, pulled out a couple of objects. "I tell you what, why don't you take these," and Sandi saw that what Winner had pressed into her hand was a black lace choker with a small padlock and key, "and put them on me. Then you can control when they're taken off. You can keep them on me to remember them for a long time."

Sandi looked at Winner with tear-filled eyes. "So you'd have to remember him?" Winner nodded, and moved her hair out of the way while Sandi fastened the choker with the padlock. When they heard the 'click,' she put the key into Winner's hand. "Give it back to me when I finish dressing."

Quinn led the four others to the front of the room, stopped in front of Sandi, and gathered her in a hug. "I'm sooo sorry that all of this has happened."

Sandi hugged her for a moment, then held her at arm's length. "I am. too," she said, tears streaking down her face, "but I have to face that he's not -" a sob escaped her throat, "-coming back, and do my best to move on." She was about to go on, when Stacy barreled into her, sobbing almost uncontrollably. She slowly peeled the girl off. "Stacy, thank you for coming. I hope you remember my father with more joy than tears. I know that I do." Quinn nodded sheepishly, and led Stacy away.

Daria stood in front of her wives. "Sandi, I know that we've had our rough spots, but if you need anything at all, get in touch with us, and we'll see what we can do." She patted Sandi's shoulder, and the amigas went to sit down. In the next few minutes, Helen and Jake, Tiffany Blum-Deckler and her parents, Mystic Spiral, Tom, Angier, Kate and Elsie Sloane (though Angier Sloane had had some words with the director before they sat down), Charles Ruttheimers II and III, Jodie, Andrew, Michelle, and Rachel Landon, and, strangely enough, Andrea Hecuba came to give their condolences. Just before the service started, Principal DeMartino, Coach Durgin, and Ms. Ruiz came through the doors, though they were motioned to the pews rather than Sandi. And that was it. Everyone else had either not been made aware, or had more important things to do on that night.

Screw'em, Sandi thought. She let herself cry at the thought of her lost father. He had requested cremation in his will, and so there wasn't going to be an interment. Sandi had requested that the funeral director choose the absolute cheapest legal way of disposing with Linda's carcass, which is why the pine box was next to her father's, and would be tossed in the furnace after Tom Griffin's pyre had burned down. And anyone who couldn't bring themselves to comfort me...I'll remember them.

After the service, Angier Sloane stood and spoke up. "If everyone would join together in the side room, I've asked that there be refreshments laid out." Letting out a breath, he continued. "More to the point, there are some issues that are of interest to almost everyone here, and I'm not going to say that anyone is not invited." Everyone took the bait and followed him in.

Once everyone was seated and had their refreshments, Tom Sloane stood up. "Good evening, everybody, I'm Tom Sloane, and I'll be a senior in Fielding Prep next year. This year, I started dating Quinn Morgendorffer. As part of our "get-to-know-each-other" talks, she told me about the sister and the two women that she loved, and a certain English paper that she had written about what she wanted. To be blunt, the relevant part of what she wanted was to marry her loves." He looked around. "Now, if you're like me, you would have thought that this was just pie-in-the-sky wishing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only had she been living with them in an arrangement very like marriage, but that they had made agreements with up and coming politicians," he nodded at Jodie, "entrepreneurs," Charles, "and entertainers," Mystic Spiral, "as well. Of course, through Quinn, they attempted to recruit me, as well. To be honest, I wasn't sure about whether I was in favor of this, until I talked with my father. Dad?"

Angier Sloane stood as his son sat. "I'm going to make my case for allowing multiple partner marriages from a purely business standpoint." He looked at them. "The most expensive labor that we, as business owners, have, is a single parent. They have to take the most time off to care for their children, they have the highest medical cost per breadwinner, the highest stress for themselves, no matter how you cut it, they're expensive. Married couples are better, but not amazingly so, and if something happens to one partner, the other has to take all that time off again. We, as business owners, would gladly support multiple partner marriages, if the citizens would." He sat down.

Andrew Landon got to his feet. "I'll admit that I hadn't thought about this before Jodie brought it to me. But, like Angier, I went and looked through the numbers, and I'll tell you that the problem is even more acute in the technology sector. With so many skilled jobs, having to worry about a dependent can take away a productive day as much as not being there at all. This is not just my company, this is every company in the sector."

At this, Michelle Landon stood up. "And this isn't even taking in the loss of potential we have when we have professional women getting pregnant, and having to drop out of jobs to take care of the children." They both sat down.

Helen got up. "From a legal standpoint, there are some...interesting issues. At this time, it's illegal to enter into a multiple partner marriage, however, if attacked in just the right way at just the right time, there's a possibility of successfully making it legal."

Mr. DeMartino slowly stood. "As educators, we would welcome these types of marriages, as it would allow an adult to be at home when our students left us. It would be much more stable." He took a breath. "Of course, as individuals, many of our beliefs would be in conflict with this."

"And that's the tripping point. Organized religion." Daria, with help from her wives, got to her feet. "Whenever people look like they're going to be rational about these things, there comes a huge cry from the organized sects, who are worried about the power that they will lose. They manage to turn the average citizen against it, although in recent years the line has gotten more and more narrow." She looked at her mother. "You're right,, there is a possibility. But not if we three go out and say, 'Oh, we want to be married, and you won't let us!' People will perceive us to be spoiled bats. This is America. The way to win is for us to invite attack from the religious fanatics, and escalate, escalate, until we win." She looked around. "Not only that, but we will need everyone here to help. The businessmen to help grease some wheels, and throw sand in others, the people at school for both intelligence and stopping things before someone gets killed. Others to spread the word among people who wouldn't read any company-run rag."

Charles Ruttheimer II raised his hand. "I mean no disrespect, your girlfriend helped save my boy, and my gratitude goes a long way. But how do we know that you're the one to lead this charge? What will you say when you're in front of the Supreme Court, and they ask you why they should rule in your favor?"

Daria smirked, and told him. Everyone joined in within two minutes.

Priscilla walked in front of Daria as she made her way to her next final. "I just want you to know that we have a new pastor, and he's not wishy-washy like the one before. We may have to have a mass prayer for your soul."

Daria raised her eyebrow. "Deciding not to go by your own rules?"

"He says that you're an abomination, and that the normal rules don't apply."

Daria sighed. "Well, just realize that if his breaking of the rules gets to be physical, or harassment, we will use the courts."

"Devil!" Priscilla cried as she made her way down the hall.

"But, anyway, we'll be away from this pressure cooker for a while," Daria said before she kissed Jen again. "Lane! What's the holdup?"

Jane appeared at the door, easel in her hand. "Hold your horses, I'm coming!" As she passed her, she gave Jen a long kiss of her own. "Wish you were coming, too, babe."

Jen smirked. "I'll see you on the Fourth, and we'll talk just about every night between now and then." She swatted Jane's rump. "Now get on the road, woman!"

"Attack! Attack! Brutality!" Jane said as she got into the passenger seat. "So," she said to Daria, "where are the directions to this place?"


14. Is It Fall Yet?

Pastor Akers held up his hands, and the murmuring in the sanctuary stopped. "Brothers! Sisters!" He looked around at everyone focusing on him. "We have been patient, we have quietly remonstrated to these witches. We have asked the police to do their duty, and remove these abominations from our community. What response have we gotten? 'Let your God wreak vengeance upon us,' and 'they aren't breaking the law.' " He picked up his glass of water and took a sip. "They may not be breaking Man's law, but they are certainly breaking God's. The question is, what are we, the community of God, going to do about it?"

He waited until the muttering had died down, then in a level voice, said, "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. But He often works through human tools. Why can't we, those of us who know best how He thinks, be His tools in this? And our first act is well within the laws of this land." He went on to describe what they would do.

After the service, he plopped down in his office chair, and looked at his associate pastor. "So, whaddya think, Mike?"

"I think that by this time next year, we'll be the 'religious people' to go to for this area, and attendance and tithing will double, conservatively. And we'll have that little witch out of Priscilla's high school, so she can spread the word better."

Garry Akers did nothing but lean back and sport a huge grin.

Daria finished putting the last of their supplies into the cabin, and turned to kiss Jane, who had just brought her last load. "So what do you think we should do?"

Jane smiled as she tugged on Daria's hair. "Much as I'd love to continue what we were discussing in the car, I think that we probably should participate in what this 'community' is supposedly for. Let's head to their dining hall."

Daria was slightly shocked to see the man who had advised her to take this program waiting for her at the door to the dining hall. "Daria!" he exclaimed. "I'm so happy to see you. I've seen some of your work." He looked over at her companion. "You're her friend...wait a moment, Jan? Jane?"

"Very good!" Jane smiled. "I'm here for the art side." She shook her head. "They seem to think that I'm good enough. Plus the director knows my mom."

"Charles Woods, this is my wife, Jane Lane. Jane, I believe you met him when I did."

Mr. Woods seemed a bit hornswoggled. "Lane...director..." he looked up. "Are your parents Vincent and Amanda Lane?"

Jane seemed to be taken aback. "Yes...why?"

"Because half of the staff are Friends of Amanda."

Daria raised her eyebrow. "It sounds as if you are capitalizing those words."

Mr. Woods blushed slightly. "I was. Would you mind if we sat down, and we could discuss this over dinner?"

When they had filled their trays and sat down, Mr Woods had motioned for another teacher to them, and had introduced her as Yi Ze Li, who was in charge of realistic painting. "Jane, your mother and father have connected with almost every group of creative people in the States, and quite a few overseas. I'm sure that you're aware that, well, she's a very lovely person who causes almost everyone to like her immediately, but if it isn't about her art, her mind drifts away from almost everything, including her safety and people close to her." He looked down. "So, many years ago, a group of us got together and decided that we'd watch out for her when she couldn't watch out for herself. We call ourselves, of course, Friends of Amanda."

"The things you learn about your parents," Jane said with a wry grin. "And you're both 'Friends of Amanda'?"

Mr. Woods nodded. "As I said, half the staff is." He gave a slight smile. "I'd venture to say that the Friends of Amanda numbers in the tens of thousands. If you go to any meeting of creative people, all you have to do is ask, and there will likely be someone - or several someones - who will help her. Or you."

"Wow," said Daria, "You didn't know that you were art royalty, Jane?"

Yi Ze Li, who had told them to "just call me Li," chuckled at this. "No...This has nothing to do with her work as an artist. She'll have to find her own way there. But as a daughter of Amanda, she'll be able to get help, maybe a place to stay, or a ticket home, almost everywhere."

"That's comforting." Jane smiled.

"Please don't tell your mother about it," Mr. Woods said. "We don't want to embarrass her with it, we just want to be a safety net."

"She won't hear about it from us," Daria said. She turned to Jane. "You know, the way she reacted, I think my mom is a Friend of Amanda." Turning back to Mr. Woods, she said, "The way that she accepted us three when we came out to her, I believe that Jane, myself, and our wife Jen would all like to become Friends of Amanda."

Mr. Woods raised his eyebrow. "A third wife?"

Jane smiled. "That's the way we feel. We made it formal before we came here, and we're just waiting for the laws to catch up. What do we have to do to become these Friends?"

"You've done it," he said, smiling. "You made the decision, and told current Friends about it. Now, if she needs help in Lawndale,"

"- Or in Boston, when we graduate," Jane smiled.

"Someone might contact you." He shook his head. "In any case, that wasn't what I wanted to talk to you about. Daria, I've seen examples of your journalism. You're very good, as you should know, getting two commercial bylines before your senior year. Now, this Melody Powers that you've submitted. Do you plan on putting your stories together for a novel?"

Daria steepled her fingers. "I'm not sure. I had originally written them as short stories to be read." She blushed slightly. "They seemed to go over well."

"Well, with a little work, you might be able to polish them and make it a salable novel. In fact, that's one of the things that I'd like you to do over the summer. Some of the other things would be to attend a workshop on finding the right agent and publisher, as well as the classes you've chosen concerning genre work."

Daria nodded. "I think that we can work something out."

"And you, Jane," Li said, "you're amazing, and not just for your age, in your impressionist paintings. But something that a lot of customers want is realism in their paintings. They want a flower to look like a flower. I think it might be of benefit to you to try for higher realism during your time here, if for no other reason than to prove that you can do it."

Jane chewed on her lip. "You know, I can see your point. Getting more weapons to attack any one work isn't a bad thing." She paused. "Okay."

Charles and Jodie, along with Sandi and Winner, were in line to see a movie when they heard a voice behind them. "You'll get yours." They all turned around in surprise, and it was Priscilla.

"What?" Charles asked.

"You'll all get yours. Supporting those witches. You know the Bible says that you shouldn't suffer a witch to live! And the way they live together." Priscilla shuddered. "It's an abomination!" She looked very closely at Sandi and Winner, before stalking off into the night.

Jane sat back in shock. To think that this poser had managed, not only to have accepted, but to be considered important, this bunch of props thrown together? She smirked. But he hadn't managed to sell it, had he? Or it wouldn't be there. She couldn't stop herself, when someone asked the "artist" about his inspiration, she muttered, "His alimony." This seemed to amused the girl sitting next to her, who snorted quietly. They looked at each other and winked.

Later, when one of the girls told him that she thought he was the country's greatest living artist, the girl muttered back, "Who's trying to get in who's pants, here?" Jane had to cover her mouth. When they finally had 'Enough of the old windbag's ramblings for today,' Jane couldn't hold it in.

She cracked up. Once her chuckles had subsided, she held out her hand. "Jane,"

"Allison." The taller girl took the hand. "What a guy."

"Well, at least we know the purpose of this provide our good Mr. Dotson with dates."

"At least we won't have a problem if we mix up our works with his. Ours will have talent behind them."

Daria held up her hand. "What happens when we have to report on something that affects us personally?"

The teacher paused for a moment. "Have you had such an experience?"

Daria crossed her arms. "Unfortunately."

"How did you deal with it?"

"Not well. I cried all the time that I was putting words to paper."

The teacher nodded. "That's one way. Perhaps a better way is to compartmentalize the experience while you are reporting, then experience it afterwards." She sighed. "You have to let the feelings out, or they'll break you. How you do that is up to you."

Jane and Daria approached a table half-full of artists at the dining hall. "Mind if we join you?" Jane asked.

"Sure," one of the girls, whose name was Paris, said. They then continued their discussion on the class. "Daniel? That man's a genius. He said my white on white painting was a stroke of inspiration."

"I don't know that I'd say he was a genius," Jane said.

"No offense, Jane, but aren't you still in high school? How much can you know about art at this point?" Jane started, but felt Daria's hand on her arm.

"I'm sorry, you said that your name is Paris?" The short-haired blonde nodded. "No offense, Paris, but have you sold any of your work?" The girl shook her head. Daria smiled. "Then how much more can you know about art than Jane, who has sold several works for multiple thousands of dollars each?"

Paris appeared to be crestfallen. "You're right, I'm sorry, we're all supposed to be professionals here." She looked at her other companions. "Are we done?" They all stood up and walked away.

"Eh, I guess they were looking for someone to feel better than," said Jane.

"Not going to be you, as far as painting." Daria squeezed Jane's hand. "And even though I was pushing it, calling two, several, they did have to go through a corporate buying process. More than one person had to okay your album covers."

Jane nodded. "I hate say it, but I am learning things here. Li is showing me lots of techniques for realism."

"And I think that I'll have my first book ready for an agent or publisher by the time we're done here."

"Plus, two weeks, and we have Jen!" They both smiled widely.

My Love
I wait for you, in this hollow,
My mate, so true, where you go I'll follow.
My love...

And then Trent came up to the mic. "That was 'My Love,' and we're Mystic Spiral. If we run out of CDs, you can get more on the website. We've had a good time, but it's time for us to head to our next gig."

After they came offstage, Jen was on her phone. "Hi, babes. Yeah, still gonna be there Friday. Oh? What?" Her face suddenly went flat. "She WHAT? And what did Daria do?" She let out a breath. "All right. I take it that you don't need me until Friday? Okay. Love you, babes." With that she hung up. "Bitch."

Trent, busy packing his guitar, looked up. "Trouble?"

"Some skank tried to hit on Jane, hard."

Allison gave an inward smile. Her plan to seduce Jane was working well. First, a bet of dinner where she didn't lose, either way. Now at dinner, she was feeding the pretty girl wine like water, along with double entendres. Finally, a trip to her bedroom to look at her pastels, and-

The door to the Hungry Pallette slammed open, and Daria stormed in, stomping directly up to the table with the two girls.

Jane raised her head. "Hi, Daria." She smiled. "All-i-son's been showing me how wine tastes." She continued in a sing-song voice. "And she's been checking me out..."

Daria bent down next to her. "We'll get you home soon, Jane."

Allison stirred. "If I could interrupt -"

Daria turned and glared at her. "No, you may not. Not only are you hitting on my wife, which you could have found out if you had had eyes," and here she showed the matching rings on their left hands, "but you are plying an underage girl with alcohol. If you don't want me to deal with you as you deserve to be, you'll cover the check and get out of here, before I finish with Jane."

Allison stood over a foot taller than Daria, and wasn't skinny, to boot. But something warned her. She dropped a bill on the table, and walked away.

"Wow, now I know why I shouldn't drink much," Jane groaned as she held her head in her hands. "Bless you," she said as Daria handed her a big glass of water and two aspirin. When she had finished them, she looked up at her wife. "Why was she pushing all the wine on me?"

"Well, Jane, it appears that someone besides Jen, me, and Evan think that you're beautiful." Daria kissed Jane's forehead. "And, also, you weren't direct enough when you told Allison about us."


"You did tell her about us?" Seeing no response, Daria raised an eyebrow.

"It never came up! She never saw us together!" Jane held her head. "I screwed up, didn't I?"

"Not horribly. We'll just have to make sure that she's very aware, especially Friday." Daria cuddled up to Jane and kissed her deeply.

The director of Elections for Lawndale County looked up as he heard the "thump" on his desk. "Yes?" he said.

The man in front of him said, gruffly, "We have a petition to make it unlawful for dykes to live in groups of more than two in the county, and another to have the election in two weeks. We have all the requisite signatures." Some forged when their owners wouldn't agree to do as the Lord commanded, he thought but did not add.

"I see." The director started thumbing through the documents. "We'll have to check your signatures and your math, but if you have what you say, then we can have the election then." He wondered why Angier Sloane wanted these idiots to have such an easy time of it, but, far be it from him...

The band arrived early Friday, and dropped Jennifer off before heading to their hotel. It was the better part of an hour before the girls got past their greetings, and after another half-hour (for showers), they decided to go through the day together, alternating classes. Their first class was Dotson's; while they were walking to it, instead of Daria being in the middle, as usual, Jane was. When they saw Allison, Jen pulled out her lockblade and started cleaning her fingernails with it. Jane spoke up. "Allison, I'd like you to meet my wife, Jen Burns, and you already have met my wife, Daria Morgendorffer."

Allison raised her eyebrow. "Both?"

Jen nodded. "We love each other." Her eyes narrowed. "Speaking of, you are aware that you pulled a bonehead play, right?"

Allison met those eyes for a moment, then looked at the ground. "Yeah." She looked back up at the girls. "I'm sorry, Jane, I did things that I shouldn't have."

"That's all right, I hadn't told you about my girls."

Daria put her hand on Allison's arm. "It's not all right, and for more reasons then Jane said. It's not much of a step to putting ruffies in her wine."

"I know."

"So we won't hear about any problem with that?"

Allison blushed. "No."

The rest of the day was enjoyable, with Jen "ooh-ing," and "ahh-ing" at the right times. They went to the concert; Daria and Jane danced right in front of their wife, and afterwards, they all cuddled on the floor, there being no other place that would hold them.

Sandi and Winner were walking through Cashman's when they happened upon Brooke. The brunette looked shocked to see her former president. "Sandi! I was so sorry to hear about your parents!"

"Not sorry enough to actually come to the funeral," Sandi muttered, before saying, "Thank you for your good wishes, Brooke."

She was about to move past her when Brooke exclaimed, "Oh, my God! You're one of those wicked women!"

Sandi stood stock still. "Would you care to ex-plain yourself, Brooke dear?"

"I don't know how I didn't see it before! All you do is run around with other girls! You're one of those lesbos!"

Sandi gripped her fists so hard that her knuckles were white. "Brooke, you are mistaken. I have in the past spent time with boys, and will in the future. Intimate time. I am not a - a lesbo. Since you obviously don't have the fashion sense to spot one, you may consider yourself on permanent sabbatical from the Fashion Club." She turned to Winner. "Come on, Winner, we're going home."

When Jennifer had left, Daria pulled Jane out to a high meadow where students seldom went. "Jane," she said as they sat down - Jane at her easel and Daria at her journal - "I have a feeling that this is going to be the last bit of peace for us for a while. You see, while Jen was packing up, I got a phone call from Quinn. It seems that Priscilla's church has tried to outlaw us, and they're going to have an election before we get back."

"Is that legal?"

"Well, they think it is, anyway, and we have our own reasons for wanting it this way. But what it means is that all hell is going to break loose when we get back. So I wanted this one day of peace." She nuzzled Jane's neck, and kissed her earlobe. "Any objections?"

"None at all. Oh, did I tell you that Li bought three of my paintings?"

"You didn't. Did I tell you I sent the Melody Powers contract home for Mom to check and sign Thursday?"


And with that, the two girls leaned back in the grass.

When they got home, Sandi said to Winner, "my room." Once they arrived, she turned and told Winner, "Kneel."

Winner did so, but a "Why?" escaped her lips, especially when she saw Sandi pull off her jeans and panties.

Grabbing Winner's pony tail and pulling her between her legs, Sandi said, "If I'm going to have the name of a lesbo, I certainly am going to try it to see if I like it!"

The girls were exhausted as they drove home from Ashfield. It had been rewarding, but the hardest kind of work, and now, there was nothing that either of them wanted to do, other than going home and cuddling with Jen, who had gotten home the week before. As they drove onto their street, they saw a pair of police cruisers parked by the curb. Intrigued, they turned into the driveway. As they got out of their SUV, an officer approached Daria, while another approached Jane.

"Daria Morgendorffer?"


"Do you live in that garage with Jane Lane and Jennifer Burns?"

"Ye-e-ss. Why is it your business?" She could see Jane being similarly interrogated.

"Turn around. Daria Morgendorffer, I'm placing you under arrest for violation of County Ordinance 123.45, multiple occupants of a single room of the same gender prohibited. You have the right to remain silent..." He droned on as he cuffed her, and she saw Jane and Jen cuffed, as well. This is such a wonderful day.


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