The Chosen One
a Daria fanfic by
"So what was this surprise you had for me, Jane?" asked Tom. The two of them had slipped away from the party and were in the laundry room with the door closed. Tom was wearing his usual outfit: black pullover, cargo pants and sneakers, but Jane had been wearing a trench coat that hung down nearly to her ankles.
Tom had noticed two other differences from Jane's normal appearance. Instead of her usual asymmetrical bob, her hair was...wild. Spiking out in some places, curling into tendrils in others....Tom definitely liked the effect. He wondered if she'd decided to change her entire look. The other thing he'd noticed was a pair of boots sticking out from under the coat that were obviously different than Jane's usuals -- black high heels? He had to admit to himself Jane had him wondering what other changes she was concealing under that coat.
Jane smirked at Tom, and he suddenly realized he'd been staring. "Turn around a sec, wouldya?" she asked. Tom obediently turned his back to Jane, and as soon as he did he heard the rustle of fabric as Jane undid the buttons of her coat and let it slide to the floor. "Ah, crap," he heard her say, "why...won'this...stupid....thing...ah, there. You can turn around now."
Tom turned back to face Jane, and his jaw dropped. His gaze traveled upwards, past the high black boots, over those legs...up the front of Jane's torso, unable to help absently wondering how in the world she was keeping the outfit she was wearing on...finally coming to rest on Jane's face as she finished fiddling with the high white collar she'd obviously been keeping folded-down under her coat.
"Like what you see?" asked Jane.
"Uum...uhb...uhh..." Tom replied. His face felt hot.
"Anyone ever tell you how cute you are when you blush?" asked Jane.
"Vampirella," said Tom suddenly, both snapping out of his near-trance and recognizing the costume.
"Didn't know you were a fan," said Jane with a smirk.
"So, uh, why did you decide on the change of look?" Tom managed to ask.
"Well, it was that or have Daria tiger-stripe my hair to match that new painting of mine. But then I remembered she doesn't have any experience doing hair, and the way we've been getting along lately things...wouldn't've been pretty, if she'd managed to screw it up. Besides, it's easier to change back this way. Now c'mere before you start drooling."
Tom strode over to Jane, they put their arms around each other and began to kiss. Soon Jane surprised Tom yet again as her hands began to wander, more...aggressively...than they had in previous sessions together. Jane began kissing the side of Tom's neck, lightly, ticklingly. Then she began nibbling, pausing between nibbles to whisper in his ear.
"Don't think I haven't noticed the way you and Daria've been looking at each other," said Jane.
Oh great, thought Tom. A boyhood fantasy about to come to life and Jane's launching into those weird accusations she's been making lately.
"Maybe it hasn't occurred to either of you," she continued, "that maybe, just maybe, li'l Janey might find someone else. Someone who could...show her....things....she'd never known before."
Okay, now things were getting excessively weird thought Tom. He started to push away from Jane but suddenly she clamped her arms around him and pulled him tight to her. He tried pulling away, and was amazed at how strong she suddenly was. More like having somehow had a stone statue fitted around him than being held by his girlfriend...and speaking of stone, why did Jane suddenly feel so...cold?
Tom felt Jane's breath on the side of his neck as she opened her mouth wide. A hickey? but neither of them liked those. What the hell was--
Tom suddenly cried out in pain as Jane's mouth closed hard, sharp fangs tearing into his flesh.
Daria stared hard at the closed door to the laundry room, arms folded over her chest, a frown on her face, dead-certain of what was going on within. She could hear Tom's fevered-sounding groans, and she found the growling, snarling animal noises Jane was making nothing short of revolting. And she didn't even want to know what was up with the peculiar wet slurping sounds she kept hearing.
"So that's why Jane dragged me to this party, so I could listen to Tom 'make a woman of her' through the makeout room door?" Daria said to no one in particular. Great. Just great. Now she'd never see Jane anymore. She turned to walk away. Jane would find other friends, she was sure, maybe now she could even have 'womanly talks' with --
"Brittany!?" exclaimed Daria in surprise. She hadn't seen her at this party, and it wasn't even one of the popular crowd's bashes. Daria thought for a moment that Brittany might've been there slumming, like that time at the Zon, but she was still wearing that cheerleading outfit of hers. Brittany did not look happy, and Daria noticed that she was making directly for the door to the laundry room. Does she think Kevin's in there with someone? Daria wondered. Then she gasped and stepped quickly aside as she noticed the wickedly-sharp wooden stake Brittany clutched with a whiteknuckled grip in one hand.
As Daria got out of the way, Brittany broke into a run and hit the door with a flying kick that opened it, and then some, disappearing into the resulting opening. Daria just stared after her. Had she really just seen Brittany do that? But the door frame...she'd've had trouble crediting someone Mack's size with doing that kind of damage. Then the most chilling sound Daria had ever heard caused her to look past the doorway into the room.
She could see Brittany from behind, crouched, facing the dryer. Jane was crouched atop the dryer, glaring at Brittany and -- that sound! -- hissing like an enormous cat. She was wearing that costume she'd shown off to Daria earlier (and that had contributed to her assumptions about what was going on in the room), but Daria barely noticed. Jane's eyes were glowing red in the semidarkness, like the flash reflection in a bad snapshot. Seemingly the entire lower half of her face was smeared with something dark and glistening, the most notable exceptions being two white...fangs!?
Then Daria noticed the stake in Brittany's hands, Brittany obviously tensed to lunge at Jane.
"NO!" cried Daria reflexively. Brittany glanced back at the sound, and Jane sprang at her, hitting hard and knocking Brittany to the floor as the stake went flying.
"Hye-YAH!" yelled Brittany, flipping Jane off her -- and nearly ceiling-high into the air. Jane somersaulted gracefully at the top of her trajectory, and landed on her feet, just inside the door to the laundry room, her back to Daria.
Jane charged again, but Brittany dove out of the way, rolled and came up with the stake in her hands. Jane checked her lunge and turned it into a spring that carried her through the closed window and into the darkness outside.
For a moment -- one that seemed a very long time -- Daria just stared. Then Brittany bent over something crumpled on the floor and Daria's gaze traveled downwards and focused on what it was.
Tom lay on the floor of the laundry room, eyes closed, deathly-pale, a horrible-looking wound in the side of his throat.
"Oh, no!" said Brittany, "did I get here too late?" She administered a series of light slaps to the side of Tom's face and said "Tom...Tom!...stay with us, Tom!", her voice rising to something like her characteristic squeak on the word "with", which was enough to draw the only reaction either girl had seen from Young Thomas since they found him.
"Mmmwhuh?" Tom groaned faintly.
Brittany suddenly looked up at Daria. "Daria, go call nine-one-one!" she said, in a voice that somehow rendered questions momentarily irrelevant, "now!"
Brittany pressed on the torn blood vessels in Tom's neck, trying to keep things under control until help arrived. Daria dashed off, pushing her way through the crowd of partygoers that'd started to gather as she went in search of a phone.
The party was definitely over. A small crowd of guests milled around on the front lawn; most of them had fled as soon as it became obvious an emergency was in progress, not wanting to get caught in the fallout from whatever it was. Daria saw Brittany talking to the EMTs and the police who'd arrived on the scene, could even hear part of what was being said as she tried to blend into what was left of the crowd.
"...and then, like, whoever it was jumped right out the window! I don't know what they did to that poor guy, but he was, like, all bloody and stuff! I tried to remember about some stuff Coach Morris told us to do in the first aid unit in gym class one time, and," Brittany twirled the hair from one of her pigtails absently around a finger as she concluded, "is he, like, gonna be all right, 'n', stuff?"
"We don't know yet," answered the EMT she'd primarily been talking to. "He's lost a lot of blood, but you managed to get that under control. He's unconscious, though, and even if he does pull through it'll be awhile before we have an idea how much permanent damage there might've been."
The conversation continued, but the beyond the snippet Daria had caught it faded into background noise as she tried to digest what she'd just heard. Tom was alive. She felt relief flood through her -- more than she might've felt had it been someone else -- and felt confused by that. She'd felt confused about Tom a lot, lately. At least as important was what she'd heard -- and hadn't heard -- from Brittany. She'd been...playing dumb with the authorities, employing her usual bubbleheaded cheerleader routine as a technique. Was Daria going to have to reassess her opinion of Brittany's intelligence? Most important of all she'd heard just then, though: "...and then, like, whoever it was"!? They both knew who it'd been. Why was Brittany -- was Brittany -- protecting Jane?
And what about Jane? The images of what Daria had seen only a few minutes before, that she'd put out of her mind in order to handle the situation, came flooding back. Had she really seen what she'd thought she'd seen? Could she have? It was like something out of a bad movie, something unreal, but here was the broken window, and the paramedics, and the police, and Tom barely alive being taken away in an ambulance and...
Daria found herself swaying on her feet. She'd read, of course, about people fainting in extreme situations. For the first time she found herself wondering if she were about to. Suddenly, she saw one of the kids from the party who'd actually stuck around -- nobody she knew, but then she knew so few people, really -- talking to one of the police officers...and pointing right at Daria as she talked.
Oh, crap, Daria thought as the officer started towards her. What the hell am I going to tell him without sounding like a babbling idiot or a mental case? Should I tell him it was Jane? No, I can't tell him that! She felt herself edging towards panic. What was she going to do? Her vision tunneled-down on the approaching cop so that she barely noticed -- and didn't spare a thought for -- another vehicle pulling to a halt on the street.
"Excuse me, miss?" said the policeman. "I understand it was you who placed the emergency call? I need to get a statement if you feel you're up to it."
Daria opened her mouth to speak, but couldn't decide on words. Just then a familiar voice -- a stern, cross, very familiar voice said "She doesn't have to answer any questions yet. You have all the information you need for now and this witness to whatever happened isn't going anywhere: you can talk to her when she's in better shape to give a statement."
"Mom?" Daria managed to ask.
Daria stared in horror at the scene in the laundry room. At first she'd thought, when she'd opened the door, that she'd walked in on Jane giving Tom a hickey, though he seemed awfully...limp, there in Jane's arms. Then Jane had suddenly looked up at Daria, her eyes glowing red, blood running down her chin.
"Oh, hi, Daria," said Jane in an exaggeratedly faux-cheerful voice, smiling broadly at Daria. "Tsk, tsk, walking in on Tom and me during our private moments -- might lead to seeing something you'd rather not."
Jane let go of Tom's body and it slid to the floor a lifeless husk. Daria's mouth fell open at the sight, Jane glanced down for a moment, then back up at Daria.
"Oopsie," said Jane, "looks like you won't be stealing my boyfriend after all. You'll have to find some other way to spice up your budding social life. Or maybe not."
Jane stepped over Tom and then suddenly she was across the laundry room and had ahold of Daria, irresistibly strong, bending her head to the side, icy breath on her throat.
"Don't worry, Daria," said Jane. "It'll hurt, but only for a little while. And you'll never have to worry about losing your best friend...or falling for her boyfriend....or being alone...or afraid....or anything," Jane's voice took on a nasty, gloating triumphant tone, "ever again."
Daria tried to struggle, but it was as if she were clamped in place. Suddenly Jane bit down, hard, on the side of Daria's throat, just under the corner of her jaw, where -- Daria knew -- the artery was. She made a last, frantic attempt to push away, but it was as pointless as before. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt, even though Daria could feel her flesh tearing as --
--she sat bolt-upright in her bed, wide-eyed, panting. After a moment, she realized where she was: in her room...at home....safe? So it'd been a nightmare. Only a dream. Had it all been only a dream? Daria buried her face in her hands for a moment, took a deep breath, tried to remember what'd happened. Something bad had happened to Tom, but the details she'd thought she'd remembered were clearly, plainly impossible. She'd managed to make up a story that seemed to make sense when she'd finally had to make her statement to the police, about an unknown assailant, whom she'd just glimpsed escaping through the window. No one had contradicted her story, and it had made more sense even to Daria than what she'd originally seemed to see...that night. She'd begun to doubt what she'd seen, to rewrite that evening's events in her mind, 'til she was no longer sure herself what'd happened.
Daria swung her legs over the side of her bed and stood up. She'd made up her mind that she was going back to school today. She wondered if Jane would be there.....
It was cold inside the concrete culvert, and a trickle of dirty water flowed along the bottom of it. Jane sat alongside the stream, her back against the side, her forehead resting on her drawn-up knees, shivering. there was no light to speak of this deep inside -- driven by some kind of...instinct, Jane had crawled into the culvert, as far away as she could get from the painfully bright morning sun. Literally painful -- the sunlight hurt, in a way she'd never felt before.
Jane's stomach lurched, and she set her jaw determinedly. She was not going to be sick again. Another lurch. Okay, maybe she was, but this time she was definitely going to keep her eyes closed when it happened. After a little while the nausea subsided and Jane relaxed a little, but she still felt so....cold.
What was just as bad, her mind didn't seem to be...right. Memory was confused, fragmented...Jane was vaguely aware that something....bad had happened, and she had a horrible feeling she'd had something to do with it. It involved...Tom?...somehow? Jane hugged herself more tightly and stared miserably into the filthy stream of water -- wondering vaguely how she could see it in the darkness -- and wished Daria were there. She'd know what to do.
Daria trudged wearily to her locker. Her first day back at Lawndale High after the...events....of the other night hadn't gone well. Despite abundant real-life evidence to the contrary, she'd gone to school that morning hoping -- however dimly and faintly -- to see Jane there, for what she'd seen or thought she'd seen in the laundry room to've been some sort of horrible misunderstanding.
No Jane, though. Not on the way to school, not at their lockers that morning, not in any of the classes they had together. Daria had put her head down on her desk the first time she'd heard her friend's name called repeatedly with no answer during roll call. Of course, on some level she'd known what was going to happen. It was why she hadn't stopped by Jane's house on her way to school that morning. It was why, even though she kept telling herself she was going to try calling Jane when she got home she was already doubting she'd have the will to.
Mechanically, Daria worked the combination to her locker. As she swung the door open something that'd been clinging loosely to the inside of the locker door was jarred loose and tumbled down to land at her feet. Daria gasped and jumped as it did.
"Good one, Morgendorffer," she said to herself. "It's not like this whole mess has you tightly wound or anything."
Daria looked down at the object that'd fallen from her locker. it was a folded sheet of paper. Someone must've slipped it through one of the vent-slits in the locker door, she thought as she bent down and picked it up. Lavender, unlined, imperfectly torn along its perforated top. She'd seen paper like this before -- discarded notes passed between a certain cheerleader and a certain quarterback...
As Daria unfolded the note -- for that's what it was -- she immediately recognized the pink quill pen at the top of the page and, next to it, in italic lettering, "Brittany's 'Pad'". Below this printed header, in purple ballpoint, was a terse note:
"Daria: I need to talk with you about...stuff. Could you meet me after cheerleading practice today? That'd be, like, 4 or 4:30 at, you know, the football field? thanks, Brittany."
Daria sat high up in the bleachers at the Lawndale High football stadium. Along the sidelines of the field below, she could see the cheerleaders practicing while the football team conducted their own practice on the field itself. Though the fact that Brittany was obviously distracted and unenthusiastic was of some interest to her, overall she found the spectacle boring and she waited impatiently for it to be over.
Finally one of the cheerleaders -- the brunette with the topknot-ponytail, Daria never could keep their names straight -- finished trying out a new cheer and the group broke up for the day. Daria could see Brittany speaking briefly to the other cheerleaders, but couldn't hear what was said, then she walked towards the bleachers alone while the rest of them headed for the locker room. Brittany waved at Daria as she started up the stairs to the bleachers and Daria stood up and started walking down to meet her.
"Uhhm, Daria, which way do you live, I mean where's your house from here? I'd like to walk home with you," said Brittany.
"That way," Daria answered simply, pointing.
They started walking in silence, neither of them sure how to begin. Finally, Daria said "Brittany, did I actually see what I thought I saw the other night? I mean, Jane attacking Tom and --"
"Yeah," said Brittany. "Jane's, like, not really Jane anymore. She's just what she looked like -- a vampire."
Daria tripped over her own feet without noticing, almost fell but suddenly felt Brittany catch and steady her.
"Brittany, that's not possible," Daria managed. "There's no such thing as vampires."
"Daria how can you say that?" squeaked Brittany. "Haven't you, like, ever watched any Dracula movies or anything?"
I might end up fainting after all, thought Daria. Reality was insisting on staying just a little too surreal these days. She swayed a little on her feet but kept walking. "Brittany, those're movies -- you know, actors, special effects..."
"But, like, then, how come she was so strong, and could like, jump really high and stuff?" countered Brittany. "And what about her eyes and teeth?"
"Those last two can be faked, that's how they do it in the movies," Daria replied. "And as for the first two...." She swallowed, took a deep breath before continuing. "Jane hasn't been all that stable lately, she's been going through a lot, and...."
Daria couldn't continue. She just couldn't bring herself to accuse her best -- no, make that only friend in the world of having gone violently insane.
"Jane isn't crazy, Daria," said Brittany in a quiet, slightly sad voice. "It's a lot worse than that. Maybe you should come to my house with me instead of going straight home. We can talk for awhile there."
Brittany's room did not look the way Daria had expected it to. Most of the space inside was taken up by athletic equipment and martial arts weaponry...and propped in one corner was a bundle of....sharpened wooden stakes. Daria sat down heavily in a chair next to Brittany's bed.
"Okay, let's have your version of things, complete and from the top," said Daria to Brittany. "Might as well ride the nightmare out and see where it leads."
"Well," Brittany began, "It started one day
when I stayed after cheerleading practice to work on some tumbling.
I just looked up and suddenly there was this...guy standing
there. He was pretty old, like as old as our teachers, maybe older.
He congratulated me on my tumbling, I said thanks, that it'd always
come really easy to me, and it has -- that and, like, military
stuff, like that time the school went paintballing. Then he told
me his name was Merrick and that I was the Chosen One. I didn't
know what he was talking about at first, especially all these
weird things about vampires and ancient evil and...stuff. But
he knew things, like about this big ugly mole I had removed
back in junior high -- only he called it a birthmark -- and about
these dreams I'd been having...where I was other people,
in other times and places, and how there were vampires in all
of them and I was always fighting against them...and then he threw
a knife at my head -- and I caught it!"
"What'd you do then?" asked Daria.
"Well, I hit him, of course!" said Brittany. "I mean, didn't you hear the part about the knife, Daria? I hit him pretty hard, too, harder than I usually hit Kevvy when he's, like, being a jerk or something -- and I didn't even break a nail! But then afterwards, he talked me into going to High Hills Park that night, and we ran into --"
"Let me guess," Daria interrupted. "A vampire."
"Two of them!" replied Brittany, "they're real, Daria! And I ended up staking them both! I started training the next day -- martial arts and learning vampires' habits and, stuff, and almost every night since then I've been out hunting vampires, trying to find the lead one for this area -- the one who originally made all the vampires here in Lawndale."
"So, what happened to this 'Merrick' guy?" asked Daria, "do I get to meet him?"
Brittany looked down. "He, uhm, sortof got killed. The night I -- we -- got the lead on Jane, the night before...at the party. You know."
"About Jane," said Daria, "how can we help her?"
"I don't think we can, Daria," Brittany replied. "At least I never learned anything you can do once someone's a vampire except destroy them."
For a long time neither girl said anything. Daria stared at the floor, her expression unreadable.
"I'm sorry, Daria," Brittany finally said.
For a bit longer Daria still had nothing to say. Then she looked up and fixed Brittany with her gaze. "So where do I fit into this, Brittany?" she asked. "If Jane's 'not Jane anymore' it's not as if I could invoke our friendship and hope to influence her."
"You're really smart, Daria. You know lots of stuff and you, like, can think of stuff and know how to find stuff out. I'm, well, I can't think as good as you can, you know? You could really do a lot of good, if you helped me. I don't know where to find the top vampire in Lawndale, I don't even have any idea who it could be. If you'd help me...." Brittany's voice trailed off and she looked pleadingly at Daria, vacantly twirling hair around one of her fingers.
Daria waited a moment before replying. Something Brittany had said had gotten her thinking. '...and you, like, can think of stuff and know how to find stuff out,' she'd said. Finally Daria spoke.
"Okay, Brittany, I'll help you on one condition," said Daria. "Give me a chance to try and find a way to help Jane...no stakes unless there ends up being no other way. If we can agree to that, I'll work with you."
Brittany's only immediate reply was a conflicted expression and one of her characteristic squeaks.
Daria took off her glasses, pinched the bridge of her nose, rubbed her eyes. She knew that the best way to avoid eyestrain with a computer monitor was to take a break every so often and focus on some distant object for a moment, but she'd been too singlemindedly engrossed today. She'd managed to get out of going to school by faking illness, and had kept at her researches well into the evening. Wonderful tool, the Internet. It offered access to all kinds of information -- even if some kinds of it turned out to be more readily-accessible than others. There'd been all sorts of garbage to wade through early-on: Hollywood-movie stuff...the better-known folklore she'd already been familiar with....and of course the porn...it'd been a long, often frustrating search for what she was looking for, but now Daria felt she was close. She put her glasses back on and peered at the screen as the page finished loading.
"Hmmm..." she remarked absently, clicking on a link. "Hmmm!", a bit more emphatically this time. Now this was the kind of thing she'd been searching for! She read a few paragraphs farther down, and began to feel disappointed. The author of this particular web document had heard that there was supposed to be a cure for vampirism, but didn't know what it was. However, they did know where it was supposed to be contained. She read the title of the book displayed on the screen, peered at a somewhat hard-to-interpret gif, allegedly of one of the pages.
"Great. Now I'm going to have to find someone who can read Latin to translate for me," said Daria to herself. "That's assuming this isn't a hoax, of course, and that I can track down a copy of this book."
The second of these problems yielded to a quicker answer than the first. Unless this was a truly massive hoax, the tome in question did exist, though copies were extremely rare.
"And here I was hoping Amazon had one," said Daria in an ironic waste of sarcasm.
Eventually she was able to track down several university libraries that had copies of the book in their collections...one of the most complete was within day -- or maybe overnight -- tripping distance, if Daria knew her Massachusetts geography.
So make that a two-item shopping list, thought Daria: someone to translate the Latin the book's written in, and someone to give us a lift to the library it's in.
She was pretty sure she could get help from Brittany on the latter item, but what about the first? She remembered Tom telling her, in one of their discussions, that he was in second-year Latin at Fielding Prep. Unfortunately, Tom was in no shape to be taking a lengthy trip to go poring over moth-eaten tomes. Although...
First impressions can be funny things. Daria had only heard of Tom's sister Elsie second-hand from things Tom had mentioned. Upon first seeing her when she answered the door of the Sloanes' house, the detail that would end up sticking in Daria's mind, the thing she'd come to associate with Elsie, was her eyes: red, puffy and with dark circles underneath. Funny. From Tom's descriptions, it seemed the two siblings got along almost as well as Daria and Quinn did. Would Quinn be this affected if something horrific happened to Daria?
"Uhm, hi. Elsie? My name's Daria. I'm...a friend of Tom's," Daria began. "I was wondering if there's....been any news."
Elsie sniffled a little, then composed herself before answering. "They're pretty sure now that he's going to make it," she said. "The big question is going to be whether there was any serious brain damage from blood loss. He's been...in and out of consciousness a few times, but not long or completely enough to really tell anything yet. And of course he hasn't been able to say anything about what happened to his girlfriend -- she's gone missing, you know. I met Jane a couple of times, she seemed pretty nice....I hope nothing terrible's happened to her, too."
"Actually, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about. Jane and I are...well, really close friends. We have been for awhile, and, um, it's kind of complicated," said Daria, "may I come in?"
"You need what?" squeaked Brittany over the phone.
"A lift to an out-of-town college," said Daria. "I think I've found a way to help Jane, but I'm going to have to do some research into the particulars. And we're going to have to hurry -- according to what I've already managed to find out, you can only cure someone of vampirism if they haven't killed anyone yet."
"I'm pretty sure I can get Kevvy to do it for me," Brittany replied. "Where and when?"
"The sooner the better," said Daria, "and as for where --" she gave Brittany the address, then added "and there'll be another passenger to pick up with me...the book I'm looking for's in a language I don't know how to read, so I have to bring somebody who can translate in on this."
"Uhhhm, okay, I guess," said Brittany, "see you there as soon as I can get Kevvy motivated. 'Bye."
"Bye," responded Daria, disconnecting the phone. She got up off her bed and began moving around her room, putting various items in her backpack. When she had everything she thought she'd need, she quietly left the room, tiptoed downstairs, and was almost to the front door when --
"Hold it young lady!" came a quiet voice from behind Daria.
"Quinn? Don't tell Mom and Dad I snuck out, okay?"
"And why shouldn't I?" asked Quinn. "What's in it for me?"
Daria, for the moment, found herself at a loss for negotiating strategies. Her mind was too much on other matters. She found herself telling her sister the plain unembellished truth -- or at least as much of it as she thought wouldn't risk getting her committed.
"Jane's in trouble, Quinn," said Daria. I'm going to have to make a trip out of town to try and help her. I'd as soon Mom and Dad didn't know -- it'd just...complicate things. So could you please just not tell them, at least not yet?"
For a moment Quinn just stood there, not saying anything. Taking this as a 'yes', Daria turned and started out the door, when she heard something that stopped her.
"This is about...whatever happened at that party, isn't it?" her younger sister asked, a slight but unmistakable note of worry in her voice.
Daria stopped, paled, and turned slowly back to face Quinn. "How did you know about that?" she asked.
"Well, duh," replied Quinn, "who do you think called Mom to come bail you out when those cops wanted to...disinter you? I got my own ride home."
"You were there?" asked Daria incredulously.
"Well, I can't only go to the popular kids' parties," replied Quinn. "As vice-president of the Fashion Club, it's my duty to stay on top of the entire social scene. When I saw you were there, I made it a point not to get mixed up with you, but of course I kept an eye out in case you spotted me. When I saw there was trouble and that you were part of it, I decided it was better to involve our parents than risk the kind of embarrassment you could end up costing me if you wound up in some kind of trouble."
"Gee, thanks sis," said Daria, "good to know you're looking out for me."
"Don't mention it," answered Quinn, either missing the sarcasm or pretending to. "Now what's going on, exactly."
"I can't tell you, exactly," said Daria.
"So why should I help you?"
Daria sighed, then said "Look, Quinn, what's going on is pretty serious. I'll tell you about it all later -- you and Mom and Dad -- but for now I'm in a hurry. There're things I need to do now, things I'm worried it might already be too late for. Besides, I don't want to involve you...I'm not sure it'd be safe to."
"Really?" asked Quinn, the worried tone creeping back into her voice.
"Really," said Daria seriously. She then sighed again. "Look, Quinn, I can't control who you tell what, and I'm not going to try. I'm asking you to not tell Mom and Dad I've gone on this little road trip, and to trust me to tell all of you what's going on when I get the chance. Okay?"
"Whatever," said Quinn dismissively as her sister turned to go.
"Take care of yourself, Daria, whatever's going on," she added, her voice inaudibly soft and Daria already at the end of the walkway.
"Kevvy!, watch the road, not our passengers!" snapped Brittany, slapping him on the shoulder for emphasis and nearly causing him to swerve into the next lane. She'd noticed him checking out Elsie almost since they'd picked her and Daria up at the Sloanes' house a few hours ago. She'd also noticed Elsie stoically ignoring Kevin's staring and leering, but that was beside the point. They were supposed to stay faithful to each other, at least 'til graduation!
"Looks like we're just about to our offramp," came Daria's voice from the backseat. When Brittany glanced back at her she pointed to a highway sign that said 'Arkham, next 5 exits.' Below that, a smaller sign declared: 'Miskatonic University, next right'.
"Yep, that's our exit," said Daria.
"You hear that, Kevvy, this's where to pull off," squeaked Brittany, again adding emphasis to the last word with one of her swerve-inducing armsmacks. Kevin managed to regain enough control to steer into the exit lane and onto the offramp.
The Assistant Librarian at the Rare Books Collection at Miskatonic University had learned to dislike her job. For one thing, there was the fact that so many of the tomes in this particular collection were so...creepy. She'd tried looking through a few of them, once. She'd limited her involvement with them to making sure they were all accounted for, in good condition and properly shelved ever since. And then there were some of the people who came here wanting to study them. Now there were some memories that still made her cringe. One of these days she was going to transfer to a normal school, she kept telling herself -- someplace like Raft or Vance. What'd she been thinking when she'd made this place her safety? That she'd get into Bromwell, of course. Okay, lesson about overconfidence learned...so why did --
She'd been lost in her own thoughts and hadn't heard anyone come in. At the sound of the voice behind her, the librarian gasped and jumped.
"My, you scare easily," said the young woman with the glasses, auburn hair and green jacket. "I'd really like to glance through this book...." she pushed a slip of paper across the counter at the window into the Rare Book Room.
"Are you a student here?" the librarian asked, "we have rules about non-students looking at these books." Please let this not be another weirdo...she read the title on the paper and her heart sank. "Absolutely not," she said.
"I've traveled a great distance," said the girl. "With those two," she added, gesturing back over her shoulder to where a blond, buxom girl in a blue-and-yellow cheerleading outfit was squabbling with a boy in a similarly colored football uniform -- loudly enough to begin to annoy the other patrons. The librarian also noticed a third girl, standing off to one side, one who actually looked like she could be a student here, who seemed embarrassed and like she was wishing she were somewhere else.
"C'mon, just give us a few minutes with it," urged the girl with the glasses. "Then I promise we'll move this show elsewhere."
"Okay," the librarian relented, "but bring it right back here when you're done."
Daria collected the book, and the four Lawndalians moved to an unoccupied table.
Brittany peered at the flaked and darkened gilded lettering on the book's cover.
"Dee...uhm, I mean....dey?..." she said, twirling hair around her little finger as she tried to make out the book's title and how it should be pronounced.
"De Vermis Mysteriis," said Elsie. "It means 'Mysteries of the Worm'."
"Hey, babe," said Kevin sotto voce to Brittany, "maybe later I could show you some mysteries of...OW!"
Annoyed library patrons frowned at the foursome. There were a couple of shushes audible, too. Daria silently hoped they could get the information she was looking for before Kevin and Brittany managed to get them thrown out of there.
"Okay, I'm pretty sure this's the section we're looking for," said Elsie suddenly. Daria readied her notebook and a pen as the youngest Sloane began working on the nearly-illegible faded blackletter text and execrable Low Latin.
"No wait...damn, that's supposed to be ablative case....stupid fourth declension nouns...okay, here's what this next paragraph says..." thought Elsie aloud. Slowly, a translation of the alleged cure for vampirism emerged.
It wasn't going to be easy.
Or all that safe.
It was going to be done, though, Daria decided. For Jane. She scooped up the oversized, motheaten leatherbound volume and headed back to the Rare Book Librarian's window.
On the way back, Daria heard her stomach rumble. Somewhat surprising, after the procedure she'd just taken down notes on, but she found she was hungry. Undoubtedly something to do with not having eaten anything since her usual nutritious sugartart breakfast, and it by now being early evening.
"Uh, anybody else hungry?" she asked when she arrived back at the table. "I thought maybe we could discuss strategy, you know, what to do next? My treat."
Maybe it was the last part of the offer, but there were general murmurs of assent all around.
"We could try going into town and finding someplace, or we could try checking out the student union here," suggested Daria. "I'd almost rather go for the latter, seeing how late it's getting."
And so, a few minutes later, after getting directions from the librarian, the four of them stood in front of Miskatonic University's student union.
"I don't get it," said Brittany, eyeing the bronze plaque next to the door. "Who's Herbert West, and why'd they name the cafeteria after him?"
The night was unseasonably cold. Or maybe it's just me, thought Daria, hugging herself as she walked along. Despite all their brainstorming, none of them had been able to come up with any good ideas as to how to either find Jane or get her to come to them. Eventually, the best they'd been able to come up with was for Daria to wander Lawndale after sundown, hoping to draw her (former?) friend's attention.
She'd reasoned (not entirely to the others' satisfaction or, truth be told, her own) that, since Jane seemed to have some kind of grudge against her and Tom, it was at least slightly more likely that her presence would draw Jane than the other vampires that were rapidly turning Lawndale into someplace where it was unsafe to venture outdoors after dark.
A gust of wind rustled some leaves nearby, and Daria started. Every noise was making her do that, unsurprisingly enough. Even though Brittany, Elsie (who'd insisted on coming along despite having been told of the dangers involved) and Kevin (who simply didn't know any better) were dogging her every step, just out of sight, Daria still felt terribly alone and vulnerable.
By this time she was working her way to the outskirts of town, and was approaching the closest thing Lawndale had to a landmark, the Giant Strawberry. As Daria got closer, she could hear...voices from the vicinity of the base of the Giant Strawberry. Raised voices. Arguing voices. Familiar raised arguing voices. Hardly daring to breathe, Daria crept closer. She could swear one of the voices sounded like Jane...the other voice, a high-pitched, nasal male voice, sounded like....Upchuck!?
Sure enough, as Daria got close enough to make out the figures (they were out away from the streetlights, but the moon was a waxing gibbous, nearing full), she could recognize Jane, still dressed in the tattered grimy remains of her Vampirella costume, and Charles Ruttheimer III, dressed (as far as Daria could tell) like he always was. Daria was getting closer to them now, and although she couldn't yet hear what they were saying (the wind was blowing their voices away from her) she could see them pretty clearly. Upchuck was gesturing grandly as he spoke, and he was standing so she couldn't see his face. Jane was hugging herself as if she were cold -- much as Daria had been doing only moments earlier -- and looked pretty thoroughly miserable. In fact, Jane looked a combination of frightened, slightly ill, and above all...lost. There was just no other word to describe it.
Just then, almost as embarrassing in its clichedness as frightening in its implications, Daria stepped on a small dry twig, the snapping of which, upwind of Jane and Upchuck, may as well've been a gunshot. Both of their heads whipped around to face Daria, and any thoughts that Charles was just an innocent would-be victim were immediately put to rest. Inhuman fanged snarls on both their faces, two sets of eyes glowing red in the moonlight, they both sprang towards Daria, almost too fast to see, as she stood rooted to the spot in terror.
Suddenly, streaking past her as fast as the vampires were moving, Brittany dashed at Upchuck. Moving fast, but at a more humanly believable speed, Elsie ran at Jane -- a stake in her hand. As all this was happening, there was an unearthly terrified shriek from behind Daria, where her two companions had come from, and Daria recognized Kevin's voice as, screaming and gibbering in terror, Lawndale High's star quarterback fled back toward town as fast as he could run.
The sight of Elsie charging at Jane, stake in hand, snapped Daria out of her initial frozen reaction -- she couldn't save her friend if she was dead! But she needn't have worried. Jane knocked Elsie to the ground with a mere cuff as she blew by her...and then she was on Daria, knocking her to the ground, kneeling astride her chest, pinning her down....
"You!" snarled Jane. "I thought you were my best friend, and then you try to steal my boyfriend! Do you have any idea how angry that makes me!?"
Staring up at Jane, in what she was sure were the last few seconds of her life, Daria suddenly got a last, desperate idea.
"So," she said, managing to meet Jane's gaze and keep her voice calm, "now you're going to kill me just like you did Tom?"
Daria had guessed right. Suddenly, even if only for a few seconds, the lost, frightened Jane she'd seen before was back. She let go of Daria's arms without even seeming to realize it. Daria felt her hand fall to something round and heavy...a cobble.
"Tom's...dead?" asked Jane in a small, distracted-sounding voice.
In reply, Daria whipped her arm up and around with as much force as she could get behind it. The stone met Jane's temple with a sickening wet crunch, and she rolled off of Daria, onto her side, and lay still.
The blow would have killed a normal human; Daria had felt Jane's skull give under the force of it, and looking over at her friend she felt her chest constrict at the sight of how dented-in the side of Jane's head really was. But it took more than that to kill a vampire...or so Daria hoped.
Just then, Daria became aware of a fight going on a little ways off, closer to the Giant Strawberry, a fight that was just ending. Brittany ducked under Charles's last attempt to grab her, and thrust up, under the sternum, staking him through the heart.
"AIIEEEEE!" screamed Upchuck, reeling backward. "OWWWWW! "
He managed to catch his balance and, at least for the moment, stay on his feet. "Arrrgh!" he cried in pain, "aaaaggh!" as he sank to his knees.
To the amazement of both Daria and Brittany, Upchuck continued his caterwauling. Even Elsie (who'd been stunned by the blow she'd received from Jane, but not seriously injured) looked up at the show the expiring scion of the Ruttheimer family was putting on.
Finally, Upchuck lay still, his back propped against the base of the Giant Strawberry.
"I've never seen one take that long to die!" remarked Brittany, once again engaging in her nervous habit of twirling hair around her finger. Then she took in the rest of the scene, her attention having been occupied with Upchuck 'til then. She hurried over and helped Elsie to her feet, then the two girls walked over to where Daria and Jane were.
Daria was staring fixedly at the side of Jane's head. The wound, terrible as it was, was already visibly beginning to knit and to heal. "I don't think we have much time," she said to the other two girls. "And with Kevin halfway back to town I don't know how --"
"Oh, I can get his car started," Brittany assured her. "Kevvy's lost his keys so many times I finally put one of those magnetic thingies with a spare in it under the bumper. But I really think you're right, Daria -- we'd better hurry."
Daria took hold of Jane under her arms, surprised at how heavy she was unconscious, and with some effort managed to lift her as Brittany took hold of Jane's ankles and helped.
At just that moment, Upchuck suddenly started up again, startling Daria and Brittany enough that they almost dropped Jane.
"Aahhhhh! ooooogh! aarrrggh!" cried Upchuck, carrying on like this for several moments before finally sinking back down against the side of the Strawberry. The three girls watched him after this, keeping an eye on him even as they carried Jane to Kevin's jeep, but he didn't move again.
Step one down, thought Daria grimly. Now to see if De Vermis Mysteriis was worth the vellum it was hand-copied on...
Daria cinched the ropes tight, and knotted them. There was an insane amount of rope, cord, etc. lashing Jane to her bed at Casa Lane...anything that could be used for tying that Daria had been able to scrounge back at her own house. It was most of what she'd put into her backpack before they'd headed out for Miskatonic University, figuring they'd probably have to restrain Jane somehow when they caught up with her. Daria hoped it'd be enough. She had no real idea just what the limits of a vampire's strength were, and a brief conversation with Brittany on the subject had revealed that neither did the Slayer, beyond the fact that "they're, like way stronger than normal people, and they can move faster, too."
Jane, still unconscious, looked like something out of Gulliver's Travels, thought Daria to herself. With that much tiedown, the bed frame would likely fail before the ropes did. And if that happened, what would? -- no, Daria knew what would happen in that case, and that she wouldn't be able to stop Brittany if it did.
"Jane, I really hope this works," she said to the figure on the bed. Daria jumped as her friend suddenly stirred a little, and made a faint, indescribable sound. Best friends or not, she found herself wishing the others would get back soon.
Just then, Brittany and Elsie carried the limp form of Trent Lane into Jane's room. Daria's eyes widened. She'd been expecting them all to walk in together.
"Uhm, Brittany, you didn't...do anything to him, did you?" she asked.
"Nah," said Elsie, answering for Brittany, "we just couldn't wake him up, that's all."
They laid Trent out on a camp bed they'd hurriedly set up next to Jane's bed, and Daria got busy with the last of the supplies she'd stowed in her backpack, based on the vague descriptions of vampirism's cure she'd been able to find online. -- these from T.G. "Bones" Boniske's Bones Medical Teaching Supplies of Asheville, North Carolina. Daria hoped her reading on how to do transfusions would be enough for this task.
Daria tied off an arm on both Jane and Trent with rubber tourniquets, then inserted the needle at one end of the tube into a vein in Trent's arm and taped it down. He never even moved. Then it was Jane's turn, Daria faintly ashamed of how frightened she was, her hands shaking so hard she could barely do the job. Finally it was ready, both needles inserted and taped in place. Daria removed the tourniquets and the blood began to flow, from Trent's veins into his younger sister's.
She wasn't quite sure what to expect, but none of them were ready for what happened next. As soon as living blood hit Jane's system -- directly, not by being drunk -- she came full-awake, glowing eyes, fangs and all, with an earsplitting shriek, veins standing out all over as she reflexively strained against the ropes that held her down. The scream and the convulsion went on and on, the creaking of the bed frame beginning to fail drowned out by the sound until the crack of the frame letting go and at least some of the ropes breaking -- just as Jane went silent and collapsed onto the remains of the bed.
The sound -- or maybe the recognition of who it was coming from -- was enough to awaken even Trent.
"Janey!" he called out, his voice tight with worry, as he sat bolt-upright on the cot. For a moment he was disoriented, then a soft, pained whimper drew every eye in the room to the splintered remains of Jane's bed, and he took in the scene, his gaze finally falling to the IV tube still attached to his arm.
"Whoa," observed Trent. "I think something weird's going on."
A few minutes later, they'd actually gotten Jane sitting up, in the armchair across her room from what was left of her bed. Both she and Trent had their arms folded around balls of gauze where the needles had been. Daria and Brittany, with occasional addenda from Elsie, were just getting to the end of the story of what they'd done. Trent was looking a little confused, a little dubious, but mostly concerned. Jane was looking rather intently at a spot on the floor.
"Daria....thanks," she finally managed to say. "About the only thing I remember from when I was --" her voice failed momentarily, then she continued. "I kept thinking that if you were there you'd know what to do. Of course if you were I'd probably just've --"
Suddenly Jane cringed, seeming to shrink in on herself. Her gaze went towards Elsie, but didn't quite make it. Finally she spoke again, looking at no one in particular. "Is Tom really..?" she couldn't finish.
"I lied," admitted Daria. "What we did for you -- or maybe to would be a better word -- wouldn't've worked if you'd actually killed anyone. I just told you that in the hopes that there was enough of you left that it'd give you pause. I'm sorry, I couldn't think of any other way."
For a moment Jane didn't respond, then she nodded, once, just the tiniest, briefest of motions.
"Hey, Janey, you sure you're gonna be okay?" asked Trent.
Jane drew in a deep breath, held it a moment, let it out. "Yeah," she said, "right now I feel kindof sick, and so weak the runt of 'Mr.' Whiskers' latest litter could kick my ass, but...yeah, I actually feel like I'm going to be all right."
"Jane?" began Brittany, "if you're up to it, there's something I have to ask you."
"Shoot," came the reply.
"While you were, you know..." said Brittany, not quite sure how to phrase the question.
"A bloodsucking freak?", Jane filled-in for her.
"Uhm, yeah," replied Brittany. "Did you...by any chance....I dunno, hear anything about, uh, the head vampire around here? Who he, or she--"
"He," interrupted Jane. "He's the one that...the one who..." her voice faltered again.
"Jane, it's nothing to be ashamed of," Daria began.
"Of COURSE it is!" snapped Jane with a vehemence that startled everyone. "He didn't do it against my will! Here's poor little Janey, in the process of losing her boyfriend to her best friend--"
Daria flinched a little at that assertion, still not entirely comfortable with accepting the idea.
"--and maybe losing them both in the process, so she's feeling sorry for herself, and spiteful, and along comes this cool, good-looking guy who knows just what to say, just how to get her to agree to things, and before she can take the time to think about what's happening..." Jane stopped talking. A moment later a tear splashed to the floor.
"Jane?" said Brittany gently, "who is it?"
Jane swallowed, took a deep breath....and told them.
A shocked gasp suddenly had every eye in the room on Daria. Her eyes were wide, her mouth open in shock, and she'd gone even paler than usual.
"What?" asked a chorus of voices.
"Quinn!" came the horrified reply.
"I'm glad you decided to go out with me again, Quinn," said her date as they parked near the edge of the quarry.
"Oh, Skyler, you're Number One in my book!" Quinn assured him.
"By more than fourteen points, I hope," came the reply.
Quinn laughed, somewhat weakly. She still felt a little embarrassed and guilty over that fiasco with the Teen Life Runner last year.
"Don't worry," she said, "I don't keep score like that anymore!"
She still had her own system for rating dates, of course, but she'd learned to be be more discrete. After all, what was dating if not a competitive social game to score the most points?
And Skyler was certainly a major score -- rich, handsome, a guy lots of girls wanted to go out with. Girls including Quinn's friend -- and main rival -- Sandi Griffin. Sandi'd been out with Skyler a few nights ago, and Quinn had managed to get details by way of a cellphone conversation with Sandi during the date. Sandi'd called to brag about how fancy the restaurant had been, about how much money and attention were being lavished on her...of course, that hadn't been a very bright move on Sandi's part, since it'd given Quinn a handy set of baseline figures to aim for when she'd agreed to go out with Skyler a few nights later.
Quinn had, of course, managed to surpass all Sandi's accomplishments on this evening's date...she couldn't wait to get back to Sandi with the details. Of course, it was kind of odd that Sandi hadn't been in school the past couple of days....
"I think you'll find there've been a few changes in me, too," said Skyler, leaning across the front seat of the Neuveau Riche sports sedan, obviously meaning to kiss Quinn.
Ewwww! Why did guys always want to do that stuff on dates? It was sloppy, it was gross, it messed up her makeup and....just eewwwww! She started to raise her hands, to block Skyler and push him away from her, when he suddenly grabbed ahold of her -- hard.
Quinn began to struggle, tried to think of what Ms. Barch had told the girls in her class to do in...these situations....when she looked into Skyler's face and froze in terror.
"O God...O God...." said Quinn in a tiny, fright-choked voice. "You're...you're a....are you going to...drink my blood?"
For whatever reason, Skyler seemed to think this was funny. He loosened his grip on Quinn's arms momentarily, threw back his head and laughed.
"Your blood?" he said, "oh, there'll be plenty of time to take your blood. Tonight I'm going to take your--"
Suddenly the passenger-side door was jerked open, and before Quinn -- or Skyler, for that matter -- fully registered what was happening she was yanked out the door with a frightened squeak, hauled to her feet and shoved away from the car with the shouted admonition "DAMMIT, QUINN, RUN!"
Quinn sprinted a half-dozen or so yards, then stopped and turned back to face the car as the fact that she recognized the voice that'd been doing the shouting registered.
"Daria!?" she said incredulously.
"Gee, Quinn, looks like this date's turned into a complete social disaster," came Sandi's haughty nasal contralto from over Quinn's shoulder.
"Sandi!?" said Quinn, whirling to face her friend, "we've gotta get out of here! Skyler's a--"
Then Quinn got a look at Sandi, and the scream that'd been missing from her responses to the past few moments' events finally broke loose.
They really can move faster than us, thought Daria dazedly. She hadn't seen Skyler move, but she'd definitely felt the blow. Her glasses had flown off, landing who-knows-where, and she'd hit the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of her and to make her -- yet another cliché with a kernel of truth to it -- see stars.
Not that she could see any actual stars -- without her glasses, the night was just a dark smear, Skyler a slightly-less-dark one as he loomed over her.
"You'd think a brain would've been smart enough to know better," he gloated.
"You get away from her, Skyler Feldman!" said Brittany, advancing on him, stake in hand, flanked by Trent and Elsie, both similarly armed.
"So, you have got friends besides that weirdo art chick," sneered Skyler. "That's okay," he continued, spreading his arms wide in a dramatic gesture, "so have I."
At this cue, there was the sound of several people emerging from the trees. Without her glasses, Daria couldn't see who they were, but she had a bad feeling about the dismayed tone in Brittany's voice as she said "oh no -- NIKKI!?"
Skyler laughed, long and loud. "I thought I was important before -- rich, popular, good-looking, but now, now I'm more like...a GOD!--glurk!"
Glurk!? thought Daria.
"Now you're more like a coat rack," came a familiar sardonic voice.
"Jane!?" Daria gasped.
"You didn't think I'd sit this out and miss all the fun, did you?" her friend replied. "Lose something, amiga?"
Jane pressed something into Daria's hand -- her glasses, scratched, dusty, but unbroken. She slipped them on and accepted the hand up Jane proffered.
As Daria got back to her feet, she noticed Skyler, lying on the ground, the point of the stake that'd been rammed through his back protruding from his chest.
Then Daria began to take in the rest of the scene. Elsie had missed with her first shot and was now grappling with Brooke, the former Fashion Club wannabe Daria sortof remembered from that plastic surgery brouhaha awhile back. It wasn't looking good for Elsie -- she was obviously outmatched in strength, and Brooke was slowly forcing the stake from her hand...and bending her head to the side....
Trent was facing off against that guy from school who'd always reminded Daria of Shaggy from "Scooby Doo".
"Hey, look -- air!" said Trent, pointing upwards.
Unbelievably enough, 'Shaggy' fell for it, and Trent staked the momentarily distracted vampire. Catching sight of Elsie's predicament, he ran towards the scene of that struggle. Hearing his approach, Brooke spun to face the new threat, Elsie managed to wrench an arm loose and, as Brooke turned back to face her, jabbed her stake into her opponent's ribcage. Brooke reeled backwards, staring down at the wooden shaft as her hands hovered uncertainly around it. Looking confused, she turned and started away from Elsie, just as Trent arrived at a full run, tried too late to stop himself, and ran right into her. At the last instant before they collided he threw up his hands, just happening to catch hold of the stake protruding from Brooke's chest, driving it the rest of the way home.
Brittany was nothing short of incredible. Two vampires had converged on her simultaneously, the girl Daria sort of vaguely remembered as "Kevin's first" from when those two modeling agency scam artists had come to Lawndale High, and one of the other cheerleaders. When they got to where Brittany had been, she wasn't there. Daria hadn't even seen her move, and from the vampires' expressions of dull shock as they stared at the length of wood suddenly protruding from "Kevin's First"'s chest, neither had they. The blonde vampire crumpled to the ground and the cheerleader -- Daria recognized her as the topknot-ponytailed brunette she'd seen at cheerleading practice just the other day -- turned to Brittany, who was standing about thirty feet away, and bared her fangs.
"Hey, Britt," she snarled, "gimme a 'D'...gimme an 'I'...." as she charged at Brittany, "gimme an 'EEEEE'!" she finished as she launched herself into the air.
Brittany's only vocal reply to this was a truly miserable-sounding squeak, but her reactions weren't slowed at all -- she sprang into the air, vaulting over her opponent's attack and landing gracefully on her feet while her attacker ended her leap in a long and painful-looking slide along the ground.
"Nikki, stop!" pleaded Brittany.
Nikki's only reply was an enraged growl as she sprang to her feet and charged Brittany again. This time Brittany charged-and-leapt, too, and they passed each other in midair, trading -- and blocking -- invisibly fast blows as they did before both landing on their feet. They immediately turned to face each other and wordlessly repeated this feat.
The third time, things went a bit differently: while Brittany's spring ended in the same nimble recovery as the first two, Nikki suddenly plummeted to the ground in mid-arc, landing flat on her back so hard Daria would've sworn she could feel the ground shake even from where she stood. The butt of a wooden stake protruded from the center of Nikki's breastbone.
"Oh, nooo!" wailed Brittany, running to where her friend had fallen. Daria and Jane looked from this scene to each other, then down. Suddenly, a thought struck Daria -- what had become of Quinn?
Sandi Griffin couldn't remember ever having laughed so hard before. She just couldn't help herself. It wasn't just the look on Quinn's face when she saw what'd happened to Sandi, or the way she'd then reeled about a step-and-a-half backwards, then fallen flat on her butt and just sat there staring with her mouth hanging open. Sandi just felt so...exhilarated since Skyler'd brought her over the other night. It was like -- no, it was better than -- what she'd imagined being drunk or high would feel like.
She still had definite designs on Quinn -- her new self was filled with the strangely non-contradictory desires to tear a hated rival's throat out with her teeth, and to bring her best friend to herself -- to make Quinn like she was. At the moment, though, she was enjoying herself too much to do either. She was laughing so hard tears were starting to flow. Sandi threw her head back to try and draw a breath, and her mirth choked off with a startled "Uhr".
Sandi suddenly realized she was the only vampire there who hadn't been staked -- including Skyler. Not only that, but all of the mortals were still alive and ambulatory...including the Slayer, though Brittany seemed to be....distracted...at the moment. A vertiginous, panicked sensation hit Sandi as she suddenly realized she was going to have to change all her plans.
First priority: escape! She could figure out what to do next later. And so without a word, Sandi Griffin -- or what had been Sandi Griffin -- turned and fled, vanishing into the night.
Daria lay on her bed, so distracted by her thoughts that she kept losing count of the ceiling cracks. After a few days of waiting for things to get back to normal, it was starting to become obvious that "normal" was going to have a new baseline-value.
Daria and Jane had gone to visit Tom at the hospital yesterday. He was awake and alert, and as for the possibility of his being brain-damaged, when the subject was raised he'd quipped "well, I was going to greet the two of you by saying something about life being like a box of chocolates, but I decided that might not be a good idea."
He'd been surprisingly magnanimous about the attack, saying he preferred to think of it as "just an unusually messy breakup."
Jane had looked momentarily stricken on hearing that last word, then she'd sighed and agreed, in a quiet, dejected voice "yeah, I guess there's just no making up with someone after you've literally gone for their jugular."
The exchange had forced Daria to admit to herself -- as if the outrageous horrors of the past few days hadn't been enough -- that she was going to have to figure out -- soon -- just what her own feelings for Tom really were, and what, if anything, she was going to do about them.
Brittany had been out hunting for Sandi every night since that night at the quarry, with no luck. It was looking as if Sandi had skipped town completely. In a phone conversation earlier that day, Brittany had worried-aloud that she'd have to widen her search, "or Sandi could become the head vampire somewhere else and start a whole new colony!"
"And what about whoever made Skyler?" Daria had asked, not only a reasonable but obvious question, as far as she was concerned. "He couldn't've been a vampire for all that long."
"I hadn't thought of that!" Brittany had replied, without a trace of irony or sarcasm...a statement that had haunted Daria, raising as it did the vexing possibility that Brittany might need Daria's help on an ongoing basis.
Quinn had been in Daria's room just a few minutes before, wanting to talk about Sandi. By now she'd heard the story of what'd happened with Jane, and she wanted to know if they could do something like that with her friend.
It had been tempting to say something about needing a tranquilizer gun if they were going to get the 'blood of Sandi's blood' from either of her brothers -- or her mother, for that matter -- but instead she'd thought hard before answering. Thought about what would've happened to her if there hadn't been a nice big rock handy at a crucial moment...if Jane hadn't been reacting ambivalently-at-best to having been made a vampire....about how each passing night made it less likely they'd find Sandi before she'd killed someone...
Finally, Daria had taken a deep breath, met her sister's gaze, and replied "I don't know, Quinn."
Quinn had nodded, then slunk dejectedly back to her own room, leaving Daria there to brood on recent events. The brooding was starting to get old, though, and she realized she already knew what had to happen -- what she had to do. She picked up the phone and dialed. It was answered on the third ring.
"Taylor residence," said a female voice. Not Brittany's -- not quite high-pitched enough.
"Ashley-Amber?" said Daria, "this is Daria Morgendorffer. Is Brittany there? I need to talk to her."
DISCLAIMERS: Daria and all associated characters are the property of MTV/Viacom. Since the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer is on Warner Brothers' teevee network, but the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which this story's Slayer was more closely based on) was a 20th Century Fox film I admit I'm a bit confused as to who exactly owns the character, though I'm at least certain it's not me. I'm not sure who owns the character Vampirella. I don't own the rights to any of these characters I've borrowed, in other words, or much of anything else for that matter, a fact which this story is not going to change (in other words, I'm not making any money off this.)
SHOUTOUTS: This story originally ran in the form of a serial (as in written and posted in installments) on The Paperpusher's Message Board, in a slightly different (and slightly inferior) form than what you've just read. The fic was originally inspired by an illustration by Kemical Reaxion of Jane in a Vampirella costume that she did for a story written by brnleague99, so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them both.