Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
This is the fourth John Lane story
The Maze Thing
Despite the noise level in Lawndale High's cafeteria, lunch with Daria Morgendorffer continued to be one of the high points of John Lane's day. It was the one time they could relax together. The school crowd regularly ignored them; there were no Morgendorffer parents' watchful eyes, nor frequent offers to make snacks.
An oddity for any almost any school, John even liked a lot of the cafeteria food. In the years after his parents began their almost continuous travel lifestyle, lunch at school had been the one solid daily meal that John could depend on. Even since Daria's parents had become his guardians, their regular diet of frozen lasagna still made school lunch appealing, and it had also driven him to check out The Joy of Cooking from the library in a desperate bid to learn how to cook.
"So, now Kevin's my lab partner," Daria complained over her lunch.
John finished his bite of food. "Next best thing to working alone."
"Oh, no." Daria shook her head. "He likes mazes."
John thought out loud. "Maybe you could get a wind-up toy to distract him."
"His wind-up toy is working with Upchuck."
John's laugh resulted in milk going up his nose, forcing him to turn with a napkin to his face as Lawndale's dim star-quarterback, Kevin Thompson, walked up to the table.
Kevin grinned stupidly and said, "Hey, Daria. Mind if we do the maze thing at your house? My cable's broken."
John smiled at the look on Daria's face as she said, "Sure, Kevin. Why don't you come over after dinner tonight? Eleven-eleven Glen Oaks Lane." She pulled out a pencil and drew a map on a napkin. "Here are the directions."
"Wow. Thanks. See ya tonight."
Kevin walked away after stuffing the napkin in his waistband
"That was special; now what do you have planned for the goon?" John asked.
"Another wind-up toy to keep him busy while I build the maze and get it right."
"That could be fun. Want some help?"
"I don't think something inspired by Escher would be a good idea."
Seated on the floor next to Daria, John scratched a gray-striped cat under the chin, while she petted a yellow-striped cat in her lap. Daria's father, Jake, was asleep on the sofa behind them.
From the living room television, an announcer said, "It's nine-one-one in the morning and one-nine hundred in the evening. The phone sex/EMS dispatcher when Sick, Sad World returns.
Coming into the living room and sitting on the sofa with Jake, Helen, Daria's mother, switched the television off and said, "Daria, I heard you're working with Kevin Thompson on a science project. He's quarterback of the football team, isn't he?"
In her lap, Zachary joined Daria in glaring at Quinn.
"Brittany was sobbing in the bathroom," Quinn said from where she sat on the floor in front and to the right of Daria.
"Must've been worried about who's going to wind her up," John said under his breath, but just loud enough for Quinn to hear and give him an annoyed gaze.
Helen leaned toward Daria. "Science is fascinating. Tell me all about it, honey."
"I can't. I signed a confidentiality paper. The other scientists would be mad."
"Oh, forget it, Daria." Groaning, Helen turned to her other daughter. "Quinn, how was your day?"
Quinn quickly started in with, "It sucked. First, my teacher gave my paper on Cleopatra's makeup don'ts an 'F'. Like he would know. Then my heel broke. Then, like, the day was almost over and only two guys had asked me out. Luckily, just before...
"Daria," Helen said in desperation, "please tell me about the project."
Daria sighed and said, "It's about how behavior is affected by positive or negative reinforcement."
Looking at Taylor, John said, "Um...I just thought of something. Am I right in assuming that hungry cats will be considered negative reinforcement?"
Daria looked down in her lap at Zachary. "Oh, crap. Okay, we'll just have to keep the mouse in the garage and these two hairball machines in the house."
"Yeah, I know. I'll run to the vet tomorrow for more hairball medicine," John said preemptively while looking at Helen's disgusted face.
"Eww!" Quinn squealed.
"You're not the one that cleans it up," John fired back. He looked down at the contented cat on his lap licking its paws and wiping its face. "That's it, contribute to the problem."
Helen returned to the previous subject. "Maybe if you and Kevin work well together, he'll associate you with feeling good and want to include you in his circle of friends. You too, John."
"Mrs. Morgendorffer, he still associates me with green jello-filled Easter eggs that I told him were from Martian bunnies, back in third grade," John said with a smile of remembrance.
Daria leaned over, "Good one."
Looking worriedly at Daria, Quinn said, "Maybe I'll help with the project. I'm into science."
Helen's eyes focused on her. "Quinn, that's great!"
Daria asked, "What exactly do you like about it?"
"Um, like, now they can make perfume without hurting little bunnies." Hearing the doorbell, Quinn jumped up and said, "Door!"
In a Pavlovian response to the telephone ringing, Helen said, "Phone!" and dashed to the kitchen.
Quinn stopped at the door. After taking a moment to assume the proper attitude and poise, she opened it and said, "Hey, Kevin."
Daria grabbed the television remote and walked up behind Quinn.
Kevin said, "Hi, Quinn. Hey, Daria. I'm ready to start this maze thing."
Quinn grabbed his arm and said, "I'm helping. Let's go."
"Wait a minute, Kevin." Daria waved the remote toward the living room. "There's something I want you to see."
She led them into the living room. Confused at seeing John, Kevin said, "Hey, I didn't know you were in our science class. You working on the maze, too?"
John dislodged the cat and stood. "Kevin, I live here."
After a laugh, Kevin said, "Good one. Dude, we've been in school together since third grade, how could you live here?"
Your second trip through third grade. As John shook his head in frustration, Daria clicked on the television. "Look, Kevin: the Pigskin Channel. Great big guys slamming into other great big guys. Fun."
Mesmerized, Kevin sat down next to the still snoring Jake, saying, "Cool."
The television blared, "The Pigskin Channel! Classic football games twenty-four hours a day, every day, all this month."
"Good thing I have nothing planned," Kevin said.
Daria leaned toward John and said, "Time to make our exit."
John looked at Kevin. "Before the brain damage becomes contagious."
Quinn moved up next to Kevin. "Kevin, if you want a pillow or anything, there's one on that chair."
"Thanks, babe. Just put it behind my back." Kevin leaned forward without breaking concentration from the television.
Quinn narrowed her eyes at Daria. "Shouldn't you be working on your project? You know, teaching a mouse to fetch or whatever?"
"Looks like there's plenty of fetching going on already," Daria said and headed to the garage.
Briefly looking over his shoulder, John said, "Sometimes I worry about that boy."
Daria looked at him. "Oh?"
"Daria, your sister is prancing around and almost throwing herself at him, and he's watching football reruns."
"When you put it that way."
With an old sheet placed on the carpet to protect it from spatters, John had his easel set up in the windowed corner of the living room. He painted Kevin as a knight in scruffy armor, cheering along the sidelines of a joust and oblivious to Quinn, wearing too much makeup and dressed in a tight sideless gown.
Kevin jumped from the sofa and almost knocked over a tray table holding the remains of dinner. "Go, go, go!"
Quinn stood next to him. "Gee, Kevin, I hope the steak isn't too medium rare."
Take-out from Up Front Steaks. You'd think he'd notice the little plastic tag that says, "Medium Rare" stuck in it. John snickered. Kevin, you make my brother seem observant.
Kevin yelled at the television, "You suck!" before saying to Quinn, "That's my team! Oh, the steak? It was cool. And I really like this yellow dip. Hey, tomorrow night, let's have sloppy joes."
Quinn seductively moved closer and cooed, "Um, I was thinking tomorrow night you might take me to Chez Pierre. The food there is, like, really good and the waiters are, like, really foreign."
"Gee, babe, there seems to be plenty of good food right here." His attention drifted back to the televised football game and he sat down.
Unused to such a response, Quinn said, "Yes, but..."
She was cut off by Kevin jumping back up, yelling, and pointing at the television. "Agh! You suck, you suck, you suck!
Quinn stood staring in disbelief at Kevin, ignoring the doorbell when it rang. John shrugged and said, "I'll get it."
When he opened the door, he saw Kevin's cheerleader girlfriend, Brittany Taylor, dripping wet. John said, "Um...Brittany. What happened?"
"Ugh. That despicable Upchuck made me change the water in his fish tanks!" She reached up and wrung water out of her hair.
How did you get completely soaked in the process?
Brittany tried to look past him. "Is Kevin here?"
John shrugged and stepped back as Kevin said, "Hey, Quinn, what's for dessert?"
Brittany's eyes blazed with anger when she saw Kevin. "Oooh!" She stamped a foot and marched away with both hands clenched into fists.
John said, "Bye, Brittany," and closed the door. "Kevin's in deep doodoo now."
With a bag of groceries held in one arm, John got out of his brother's blue bomb of a car and said, "Thanks for the ride, Trent," just as Daria got out of the other side.
She said, "I don't believe I just watched you shop for real food," and shut the car door.
Trent stuck his head out. "See you two later. I'm supposed to pick up Monique to show her my new place."
John waved with his free hand. "Later."
After Trent pulled away, John crossed the pavement and Daria fell into step next to him as they went to the door. She said, "I wouldn't have thought the old storeroom of Axel's Piercing Parlor would be some place he'd want to show off."
"They've both known Axel for years."
"And from the looks of it, are regular customers."
"How's he paying for it?"
"Trent told me he got a solo gig for nights the band isn't playing."
"That's what I'm worried about, he won't say."
"Daria? Could you get the door, please?"
Daria smirked. "Why certainly, my dear sir." She held the door for John as stepped inside.
"The bag's starting to go," he said as he rushed to the kitchen. Just as he got the bag onto the edge of the kitchen counter, it gave way.
Daria followed him at a normal pace. "You're really going to try to cook dinner?"
He started pulling some basics out of the bag. "Desperation, Daria. I can only eat so much lasagna."
"We Morgendorffers are genetically predisposed to it."
"Or just well trained."
"Eww, John. What are you doing with that?" Quinn asked as she entered the kitchen.
"I'm going to attempt dinner."
"Stay away from my stuff, okay?"
John looked the bakery box on the counter. "A cake?"
"Oh, just a little something for Kevin." She shot a glare at Daria. "Something you wouldn't understand."
I understand. Daria just doesn't need such enticements. He shrugged and said, "I only need the stovetop, so we should be able to stay out of each other's way."
Quinn spun around to leave. "All right. I need to get ready for Kevin. Don't touch it."
Daria lightly laughed. "Well, while you have fun, I want to work on the project for a while."
Lowering his voice, John said, "Why are you giving Kevin such a free ride on this? You're doing all the work and he'll get the same grade."
"Because I want a good grade. I've watched him in science lab and he's a rolling disaster. He hasn't done a single experiment in which he didn't break something or otherwise completely foul it up."
"So, you're covering your own."
She nudged Zachary away from the garage door with her boot. "No, you're not welcome. Souris du jour is not on the menu for you tonight."
After Daria closed the door, Zachary nosed around for a moment, and then moved against the kitchen counter and settled down with a straight shot for the door when it opened.
"John, my man, what's up?" Jake said entering the kitchen.
John wiped his brow with his arm as he struggled over chopping onions. "I'm attempting to make some dinner. Um, I'm still going to need a little time." He looked at the book propped on the counter.
"The lasagna's in the freezer."
"I thought I'd try something different. Um...kind of a thank you for everything."
"Wow, have fun."
Quinn carefully slid the cake onto a serving plate and folded the box. "Hi, Daddy."
"Hey, Quinn. Looks like you've been busy, too. Ol' Mom better watch out or she'll lose control of her kitchen." Jake grinned and went out to the living room. Moments later, he was snoring.
John picked up the book and flipped to the glossary. "What the hell does that mean?"
Later that evening, Daria raised a gate to allow the white mouse into the completed maze. Just as it was starting to move, Kevin walked into the garage from the kitchen.
She looked up at him. "Kevin, what are you doing here? Did you get lost?"
Kevin chuckled and said, "No! I mean, sort of."
John exclaimed, "Dammit!" as he abandoned the skillet he was tending and dashed around the counter.
Unfazed, Kevin said, "Hey, cool! You finished the maze! That must've taken, like, forever."
John rushed past Kevin, stooping low and slamming the door shut behind him. "Come here, you little sneak."
Daria noticed Zachary dash across the room and she scooped up the mouse. Kevin. You idiot.
Kevin reached down and accidentally broke a door off in the maze. He held it up and said, "Oops. Sorry."
Cat and collateral damage. Why I wanted to keep him away. Daria said slowly, "Kevin... I want you to put the door down and step away from the maze, and no one will get hurt."
"Gotcha!" John came out from under the maze table with Zachary in his arms.
Daria smiled at him. "Thanks."
"Hey!" Kevin noticed the mouse in Daria's hands. "Is this the mouse we're training?"
"You don't recognize him after all your hours together?"
While the cat squirmed in his arms, John said, "No, your dinner is inside the house," as he neared the door.
Kevin asked Daria, "Hey, can you make him stand on his head?"
Daria held the mouse and kept an eye on the cat. "Not right now. He's exhausted from jumping rope."
Quinn opened the door and Taylor slipped into the garage between her legs. John pushed past her and grumbled, "Dammit!"
Quinn held the cake up and said in a cheery voice, "Look what I made, Kevin."
John tossed Zachary out of the door and closed it before turning to hunt Taylor. I know where I want to put that cake.
"No ice cream?" Daria needled Quinn before looking at Kevin. "I wouldn't put up with that if I were you."
Barely noticing the cake, Kevin said, "Uh, yeah. Thanks, Quinn. Leave it by the TV."
"Yah!" John lunged and grabbed Taylor.
Quinn frowned at Kevin. "Leave it by the TV. It's like we're already going out."
Just as John started for the door, Brittany opened it and Zachary darted back in the room.
John mumbled, "Stupid bimbo."
Daria moved the mouse over to its cage and put it in, whispering, "Looks like you'll be safer there."
Brittany pointed at Kevin. "There you are!"
Kevin gave her a sly smile. "Yo, babe."
She stomped up to him with fists clenched. "So, like, what have you been doing all night?"
Kevin looked at Daria, and then back at Brittany. "Um... working?"
John tossed Taylor out and closed the door again. He turned, giving Brittany a dirty look.
She looked over the maze. "Wow, this looks really complicated. Kevin, you're so smart. Explain it to me."
"Uh... well, see, there's this path." Kevin grinned in surprise. "Wait...hey. Oh, there's two paths. Cool!"
John stalked Zachary again, crawling under the table.
"Working, huh?" She glared at the cake. "You could at least hide the evidence. Now tell me, what's going on here?"
"Relax, Brittany." Daria pointed to the confection. "Have a nice big piece of the chocolate layer cake Quinn made just for Kevin."
Brittany squealed, "Ooh! You, you...vixens!"
Zachary backed away from Brittany's voice, right into John's grasp. He told the cat, "Yes, she can be very scary."
Grabbing Kevin's arm, Brittany barked, "Come on, we're leaving."
Kevin protested, "But it's only half time! I mean... Daria needs me."
Daria couldn't resist. "Yeah. He has three more doors to break."
Not exactly realizing it, Kevin agreed. "Yeah."
A pager clipped to Brittany's waistband went off. She looked at it in disgust and let go of Kevin. "Ugh! All right, Upchuck, I'm coming." She faced Daria squarely. "But I'm warning you, Miss...Smartiness. I know how to fight for my man."
Kevin abruptly said, "What man?"
Brittany yanked the door open and ran out through the kitchen to the front door. Taylor trotted back into the garage.
John growled in frustration.
From the living room, Jake called, "Is that smoke?"
John looked at his slice of pizza and said, "It was real nice of your folks to give us money to have pizza for dinner tonight."
Daria lifted her slice. "I think the smoke screen in the kitchen last night had something to do with it."
"I didn't know olive oil would smoke that easily. Besides, if I hadn't had to keep chasing after the cats those idiots kept letting into the garage, nothing would have happened."
Kevin walked up to the booth. "So, Daria, we still have a lot of work to do on this maze thing, right?"
Daria finished her bite. "Yeah, but I don't expect you to maintain your laser-like focus of the past week."
"Cool! Whatever. Hey, maybe I'll stop by the garage tonight...after the Steelers game."
"That's not really necessary."
"Oh, wait!" Kevin grinned stupidly. "I can't. I promised Quinn I'd help her practice her back massage technique."
John muttered, "But we can barely hold hands."
In a nearby booth, one of Quinn's customary suitors, Joey, said, "Kevin's been hanging out at that Daria chick's, like, every night this week."
A second, Jeffy, said, "But that chick's a brain."
The third, Jamie, said, "And she still hangs out with that art guy. Maybe one guy just isn't enough for her."
Joey grinned. "We gotta find out."
As they walked into Pizza Prince, Brittany complained to Jodie Landon, "Ooh! Can you believe Daria's trying to take Kevin away from me?"
Tiredly, Jodie said, "I can't believe anyone would try to take Kevin away from you."
"Thanks." Brittany smiled at Jodie. "You're a friend."
As Brittany walked over toward Kevin, Jodie had a look of "Just think of how much good karma I'm building up."
When she reached him, Brittany said, "Kevin, the new Whitney Houston movie is out and I want you to take me, tonight."
"Can't, babe. Got to work with Daria." Kevin leaned toward Daria. "You know...science."
Daria told him, "That's all right, Dr. Pasteur. You can take a night off."
"Really, you can," John added.
Kevin desperately whispered, "Daria! That's a chick movie!"
Annoyed, John said, "Kevin, go see the damn movie."
"Kevin, I heard that." Brittany lanced him with her eyes. "What show are we going to?"
Panicked, Kevin yelped, "Oh-oh. Gotta go. Practice!" and ran from the building.
Brittany menacingly leaned toward Daria. "If you think you're going to take Kevin away from me, you're wrong. Because he's my Kevin, and you're...you're a...a brain."
Her annoyance building, Daria said, "You know, Brittany. That was actually a very astute observation about the likelihood of my dating your boyfriend."
John looked at his pizza. "But you might want to keep your eye on Quinn."
Brittany swiveled her head to notice John for the first time. "Ooh!" she fumed and marched away.
Leading the other two toward Daria, Joey said, "Damn. Brittany's worried about her stealing Kevin?"
"Man, Daria must really have something going," Jeffy said.
Jamie stopped the other two. "Hey, the John guy is there. We better stay cool for now."
Quinn walked by and tossed her hair. "Joey, Jeffy, Jamiel. Which one of you guys wants to walk me home?"
That instantly diverted their attention away from Daria and they looked like the Three Stooges on a particularly uncoordinated day following Quinn out of the restaurant.
Daria looked at John. "You okay?"
He looked at his hand, turning it around. "Ever feel like you're invisible?"
Hurt and frustrated, Brittany dropped into a booth and said to Jodie, "How can I compete against sisters? There's only one of me."
Jodie sighed. "Brittany, you're not competing against Daria. She has John."
Brittany's eyes burned. "John. How can someone like Daria keep two guys happy?"
After it beeped, she glared down at her pager. "Dammit, Upchuck!"
Jodie said, "Brittany, trust me, Daria is only interested..."
Brittany ran to the door. As she opened it, she grinned. "John."
The next afternoon, John's lunchtime conversation with Daria burned in his memory as he pushed himself hard at track practice.
Daria dropped her tray on the table in disgust and sat. "Did I suddenly get a boob job and nobody bothered to tell me or something?"
John said, "Trust me, I would have noticed."
"That's not funny."
"Whoa, what happened?"
"Joey, Jamie and Jeffy all propositioned me today."
"Did they all suddenly confuse you with Quinn?"
Daria shook her head. "No. They knew it was me. They are suddenly under the impression that I am highly...um...active."
"Where in the hell would they get that idea?"
"I didn't think it was possible for them to have ideas. Why did they have to start with that?"
"Crap." John thought back. "Those idiots were at Pizza Prince last night. I bet they heard Brittany's whining."
"After Kevin's 'Daria needs me' comment. Great, that's all I need. They must think I've become his new wind-up toy. Dammit!"
John reached across the table and took her hand. "I can't do much about what the idiots think."
Daria accepted the reassuring grasp. "Thanks."
John ran harder to wear out his anger. Morons. Getting ideas from Kevin. Dumber than I thought. He ran harder. If they try anything...or if they hurt her at all. Finally, he sprinted. What if...no, she wouldn't.
Daria placed a hand on his upper arm as they walked home. "You really look beat; hard practice?"
"Yeah. How's the newspaper?"
"About the usual. Jodie tells me that Brittany is convinced I'm trying to steal Kevin." She frowned. "The thought of that turns my stomach. And Quinn's three sycophants, they're just disgusting."
She wrapped her arm around his and pulled closer. "Thanks for not getting all testosteroned over them. The thought of guys fighting over me is revolting."
John gave her a weak smile. "Considering my lack of fighting skills, starting a fight with any of those football players wouldn't be a good idea. But, I'll take the compliment anyway."
"I have you. Why in the world would I be interested in those clowns?"
Okay, I hope things work better this time, John thought while sautéing onions in a skillet. I've got the temperature right and I'm staying here. Quinn's on a serious phone relay, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer aren't home yet, and Daria still thinks I'm special.
He looked over at the cats in contented sleep near the sliding glass door. "Plus, you two are stuffed with fresh salmon and have no interest in mouse."
"But, I might be interested in you," Brittany said from the corner.
"Kevin's not here."
She walked over, swaying hips and twirling her hair. "I'm not looking for Kevin."
"Daria's up in her room, though I wouldn't recommend going up there right now."
Brittany walked around the counter. "You are kind of cute. I bet you're feeling left out, too."
"Um, Brittany? No, not really."
She traced a finger along his arm. "Come on."
John stepped back. "Brittany, what are you doing?"
"Oooh. Shy. I kind of like that." She abruptly wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
Looking in from the living room, Quinn dropped the telephone. "Ewwwww!"
Panicked, John tried to pull away from Brittany.
Rushing into the kitchen, Quinn screeched, "Gawd, Brittany! You said you were looking for Kevin!"
John managed to pry Brittany's arms from his neck and back away, sputtering. "What the hell was that about?"
Quinn grabbed Brittany by the shoulders, shaking her. "Brittany! Come out of it! An art geek? There are plenty of football players out there. Not to mention Basketball players. What are you thinking?"
Brittany pulled away and looked at Quinn.
Quinn pleaded, "Don't throw it all away!"
John snuck over and turned the heat off on the skillet.
"Daria's trying to steal my Kevie away! So I'm going to steal John from her!"
Quinn stepped back as if hit by a thunderbolt. "Daria! What am I, chopped liver?! Kevin's hanging around here to see me, not Daria."
Brittany glared back. "You're washed up. That's why Joey, Jeffy and Janie all hit on Daria today at school."
"They were after Daria. She's the hot Morgendorffer now. She can have those jerks. I want my Kevin back!"
"She wouldn't dare take them!"
With the two girls distracted, John snuck past them and made for the stairs. Just as he neared them, Daria made the U-turn at the base and faced him.
She said, "What is going..." Daria stopped in mid-sentence and stared at John's face, biting her lower lip.
"Brittany and Quinn are...you okay?"
Daria reached up with a slightly shaking finger and touched the smeared lipstick on John. Fearfully, she asked, "How?"
John looked at the red stain on her fingertips. "Oh, crap."
"Brittany kissed me."
Daria's eyes closed in pain.
"I peeled her arms off of my neck and backed away."
Daria opened her eyes, hopefully.
"And escaped as fast as I could."
Daria swallowed. "Please be honest."
"I am. Quinn must have let her into the house. She surprised me." John shuddered. "Stop and think. She's kissed Kevin. Would I willingly put my lips on anything that had been who-knows-where on him?"
Daria put her arms around him. "When you put it that way. I'm sorry."
"I must look pretty guilty."
"Trust me, bright red lipstick does nothing for you."
John laughed in relief.
Daria narrowed her eyes slightly. "However, considering I don't know where Brittany's lips have been..."
John paled. "I want to go wash my mouth out with soap."
"That explains Brittany, what's my darling sister mad about?"
"Um...Quinn's mad because Brittany's mad at you and not her for taking Kevin, plus Brittany told Quinn about, um, the passes that were made at you this morning."
"Please don't ask me to try to explain any more."
The doorbell rang. Daria sighed and went to the door to find Kevin.
"Um...Bad time? Kevin asked, upon hearing Quinn and Brittany's raised voices.
Daria reached out and grabbed his arm, dragging him into the house. "For once in your life, I'd say your timing was impeccable."
"You calling me a bird?"
"Forget it, Kevin."
Kevin looked over his shoulder. "Uh, maybe I should go."
She got behind Kevin and pushed him toward the kitchen. "Go."
Daria whispered to John. "Please play along, and I owe you."
With this lipstick still on my face, I better. "Sure." As John went by the sofa, he noticed Jake asleep on it. How can he sleep though this?
"And just why do you have this stupid plastic bear full of honey with you?" Quinn asked snidely.
"Because that filthy Upchuck wanted it and he threatened to show photos of me with...ooh!" Brittany feebly retorted.
Daria sternly said, "Enough," and pushed Kevin into the room.
He looked at Brittany and gulped. "Hey, babe."
Daria cleared her throat. "Brittany, do you want Kevin back?"
Daria looked at Quinn. "What about Jeffy, Joey and Jamie?"
Quinn waved a finger. "Jamie...that's it."
"What about them?"
"Daria, they're mine."
"Good." Daria looked around slowly. "Here's the deal. Brittany, I'll trade you Kevin for John."
Brittany brightened. "Okay, but what about Quinn? She's also chasing my Kevie."
Daria looked at Quinn. "You lay off Kevin and I'll send your puppies back to you."
Quinn looked doubtful. "But..."
Daria leaned forward. "Do you want the Fashion Club to know they've asked your cousin out?"
"Eep! Okay, you win. I'll lay off Kevin."
"Good, now everyone's got what they want."
Quinn, Brittany and Kevin muttered, "Yeah." John nodded.
"Good!" Daria pointed to Kevin and Brittany, and then to the sliding glass door. "You two, out. Go do...something. Only, make sure it's someplace else." When they looked at each other, Daria snapped, "Now!" They bolted out of the door.
Daria turned around and noticed the telephone still on the living room floor. She pointed at it and said, "Quinn, is that your call?"
Quinn spun. "Oh!" She ran over picked it up and said, "Sorry, minor crisis. Forget anything you heard. Now, where were we...?" She rushed away and up to her room.
John said, "Good one," as he went to the skillet and turned the heat back on. "Now, where was I?"
Daria then noticed Jake standing in the living room with his eyes wide and mouth opening and closing like a goldfish.
Daria went up to him. "Dad? Dad?"
Jake focused on Daria. "Gah!" He stepped back in shock. "What happened to my innocent child?"
"Swapping boyfriends around like...like...like..." His eyes grew to gigantic circles. "...an old sixties commune!" His eyes rolled back and he slumped to the floor.
"No, Dad. You must have dreamed that," Daria told her father as she gently rubbed a glass of ice water over his forehead.
Propped on the sofa, Jake said, "Uh, are you sure, Kiddo?" He accepted the glass and took a drink. "Thanks."
Expressionless, Daria looked at him. "Dad, do you really think I would do something like that?"
"So you must have dreamed it." Daria tugged on his loosened tie. "Remember, don't tie it so tight. You must have slowly cut off oxygen to your head until you passed out."
"It was pretty scary. Please don't do it again."
"Good. Don't tell Mom; she'll want to inspect your tie every morning."
"Now, enjoy the game."
"Hey, is Kevin coming over?"
"No, Dad. His part in the project is done."
"Ah. Too bad."
"Take it easy."
Daria walked back to the kitchen, sniffed, and smiled. "That actually smells good."
"How's your dad?"
"Okay, he only fainted. Thankfully, he bought the dream story."
"That one almost bit us on the ass."
"Your mom would lock both of us in our rooms until we went off to separate colleges, on different continents, if she thought that."
John stirred the ground beef and onions in the skillet before checking the peas and carrots heating in a small saucepan and the instant mashed potatoes in another.
Daria leaned on the counter, looking tired and confused. "John, how did that happen?"
"How did I suddenly go from outcast to the hot chick a bunch of guys wanted and girls worried about?"
"Daria, maybe your cover is thinner than you thought. I know how pretty you are. If anybody was given a reason to see past the cover, they'd see that too."
"I suppose. I've worked hard on this cover. I didn't expect it to fail that easily."
"I liked not having any competition."
Daria looked at him questioningly. "Competition? Those three?"
John studied the skillet. "I felt safe knowing that others...weren't interested. When I knew that they were..."
"You were jealous."
John looked away.
"If I can be jealous of lipstick, you can be jealous of other guys asking me out."
"Though the lipstick was more obvious."
"Only one girl made a pass at me. You had three guys make passes at you."
"Well, did he behave?" John asked Daria over lunch.
"As well as could be expected." Daria waved a fork. "I told him to strike manly poses while I explained the experiment. It kept him busy enough that he forgot to talk."
"It helped to get him a C."
"While you got an A. I'm glad I don't have Ms. Barch for science."
"Outside of Mack, I think that's the only C I've seen her give a guy. She really hated that."
"So after everything, Kevin still came out ahead. Best science grade he's ever had."
"I think you would have liked the colors Ms. Barch's face turned when she did it."
"Okay, so there was the amusement value."
"You take what you can get."
"Going onto other subjects, did the three puppies try to hump your leg this morning?"
"I explained that Brittany hit her head and went after you, so Kevin was only going after me to make Brittany jealous. They bought it."
"Hit her head?"
"Would you want her going after you with her equivalent of a clear head?"
"When you put it that way..."
Upchuck walked past, talking to himself. "Cost me a good science grade, will you."
From the other side of the cafeteria, Brittany squealed, "But Kevin! We'd broken up that week!"
Dialog from The Lab Brat by Peggy Nicoll and Glenn Eichler via the Outpost-Daria transcript.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.