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 forty-second John Lane story
John reclined on his bed and repeatedly tossed a small sketch pad into the air and then caught it. "Come on, Daria. This'll be our last chance. Next year, we'll be in college."
Looking out the window at the fall foliage, Daria said, "Don't give me that. If anything, there will be even more chances then."
"It'll be fun. And don't say that you don't do fun. I know better and Halloween is all about fun."
"Yeah, and I'm sure you already have something in mind for us to wear."
"Well...kind of. At least for me."
"Okay, I know what I'd like for you to wear, but..."
John set the sketch pad aside and held up his hands. "I'm not stupid enough to say it out loud. Keeping all of my body parts attached is a personal priority."
After a chuckle, Daria sighed and said, "I'll think about it." When John grinned, she said, "Think about it."
"Think about it. Check."
John said, "You know, Brittany always has high quality junk food at her parties. Free junk food."
"You're evil," Daria said.
"Think of the column ideas you could get."
"You want to sketch people."
"And watch our fellow students act even stranger when they think that nobody knows who they are? You bet I do."
"You're very evil."
"Flattery will get you a lot of places, but I'm trying to convince you to go, remember?"
"You're not doing a very good job."
John decided to use his last gambit. "If we stay home, you know your mother will put us to work handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Do you want to spend the night dealing with an endless stream of sugared-up kids?"
"Okay, you win. We'll go to Brittany's party." Daria looked at him and said, "But to warn you, there's as much chance of me wearing an Emma Peel catsuit as there is of you wearing one."
The Fashion Club had gathered in Sandi's bedroom and all were listening intently as she said, "Brittany's Halloween party is a golden opportunity for us to show that proper fashion sense does not have to clash with creative costuming."
"I know," Stacy said. "What is with all that blood and icky stuff?"
"Eww," Tiffany said. "And costumes make a lot of people look fat."
"We're going to have to coordinate everything carefully," Quinn said.
"We can do a theme!" Stacy said. "Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
"Yeah, Buffy," Tiffany said.
"Nice try," Sandi said. "But I don't think so. I would have to be Buffy and I don't do wooden stakes. Quinn would be passable as Cordelia and you might work as Willow."
"Willow?" Stacy said, panicked. "But...I can't be a computer-geek witch."
"See what I mean?" Sandi said. "We'll have to think of something else."
Quinn leaned back and thought, Hmm, Buffy...
Sandi shifted and flexed her leg, still stiff from the recently removed cast. "Quinn, did you say something?"
"No, Sandi, I was just thinking," Quinn replied. Coming up with a quick diversion, she said, "What about going as the Allspice Girls?"
Sandi shook her head. "After what they wore on their last concert tour?"
"Good point," Quinn said. "Scratch that. Hey, Tiffany. Do you have an idea?"
"We can go as the Fashion Club."
"Tiffany," Sandi said. "We are the Fashion Club, remember?"
"Then finding something to wear will be easy."
"That's not how it works," Sandi said.
"Maybe it will be easier if we come up with our own costumes," Quinn said.
"I like that idea," Stacy said, abandoning her earlier suggestion. "Then we can coordinate everything later in the week."
"Maybe I can go as you, Sandi," Tiffany said.
"No, you're not going as me, Tiffany. Everyone, I'm making an executive decision. We'll go with Quinn's plan." Sandi rubbed her forehead and said, "It'll be easier that way."
From: James A. Vitale
To: All Staff
Subject: Halloween Party
All partners, associates, staff, and their families are cordially invited to the firm's Halloween party at the Hamptonshire Country Club. Festivities will begin Saturday at 7:00 PM. Costumes are heartily encouraged and prizes will be awarded.
James A. Vitale, Esq.
Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter and Schrecter
Attorneys at Law
Reading the e-mail on her office computer, Helen thought, Cordially invited, my ass. Daria would say that this is as voluntary as one of Ms. Li's assemblies. Once I become a partner, this had better be worth it.
She started to compose her acceptance. John will see this as another way to be creative, so he's really not much of a problem. Quinn will have to reschedule something or another; she always does. Daria...God, I wonder what it's going to cost me this time. She hit "send" and had one more thought, At least with Jake wearing a costume, it might be easier to get someone to talk to him.
When he heard the news, Jake almost bounced off of his dining room chair. "Costume party? What a great idea!"
That was the easy one, Helen thought as she watched the others around the table.
"But Mo-om, I'm going to Brittany's party that night," Quinn said. "The Fashion Club has already had one meeting on coordinating our costumes."
One event to reschedule. Can I call them or what?
Daria said, "Why don't you do both? After the first hour, all of the partners will be plastered and won't have a clue about who stuck around, anyway."
"Great!" Quinn said.
Helen looked from Quinn to Daria and then back. "I have to admit that she's right. Stay for at least an hour at the company party, and then you're free to go. What about you, Daria? What's this going to cost me?"
Daria glanced at John. "Um, to be honest, I was hoping to use the same excuse. John already talked me into going to Brittany's party, too. He's got something in mind and if I don't let him get it out, he'll be grumpy for a week."
John shrugged and swallowed a mouthful of food. "I'm an artist, so shoot me."
Helen said, "That was easy. Almost too easy. What's the catch?"
John looked around the table and said, "Well, I'm going to need to make a trip to a theater supply store for prosthetic supplies."
"I'll need your credit card to buy what I need," Quinn said.
It was Daria's turn to shrug. "I don't know. Maybe I'll cut a couple of holes in a sheet."
Jake had a far-away look and a grin.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, Helen. They all agreed without a fuss. "Deal."
Rolling around Daria's room on the office chair, John said, "There's a lot of things we can do around a ghost. Eerie, pale makeup. Streamers, glow paint..."
"I wasn't kidding about a sheet," Daria said, sitting on her bed and trying to read.
Not letting Daria's attitude deflect him, John said, "Okay, we can have fun with that. Like, hitting a thrift store for an old eighties kid show sheet."
"Trying to make the most out of the situation."
Teasing, Daria said, "You know, there are times that you almost sound like the Fashion Club, only going after cool art instead of fashionable clothes."
"And you're always going for cool writing," John said.
Daria set her book down. "We better not let that get out. We didn't say a thing."
"Not a thing."
"Or hear it."
John suddenly had a thought and lifted a finger to his temple. "I have something."
"Now, I'm worried," Daria said.
"No, no. Something simple and...yeah, it should work."
A couple days later, Helen looked into Daria's room and saw her sitting alone at her computer, writing. "Hi, sweetie."
"The Halloween party's only a couple days away. Do you have something in mind?"
Daria tilted her head toward John's room. "John's doing something in there and I'll find out tomorrow when he's done."
"You'll find out when he's done?"
"Mom, you know how he gets. All I'm sure of is that he picked up white pants, a white pullover shirt, a white sheet, some see-through white fabric and some white gloves."
"I'm almost afraid to ask. What is he doing for himself?"
"He picked up a bunch of latex and stage makeup to be a zombie. Probably something pretty gruesome, judging on how much corn syrup he bought for fake blood."
"Corn syrup? Not in my truck, he's not."
"We're taking our car, remember? Brittany's party?"
"Of course. I was...forget it. It'll give your father and me a little extra time together. Don't worry."
"And I'll try not to imagine."
Her voice quiet, Quinn stood at the corner of Daria's room door and said, "I need your help."
"I'll gladly proofread, but you know I won't write your homework."
"Not that. God, Daria. Even I'm not that dense."
"You're not dense..." Daria said, and then teased, "...except when it suits your plan."
Quinn glanced away but didn't say anything.
Daria said, "What do you need?"
"Um, help dyeing my hair."
Daria wiggled a finger in one ear. "Could you repeat that? I thought you said something about dyeing your hair."
"Why don't you get help from the Fashion Club?"
"It's, well, a surprise for Brittany's party."
"The Fashion Club isn't making a coordinated effort?"
"We decided to do things on our own."
"You couldn't agree on a theme."
"And you want to use one of those they rejected."
Quinn nodded again.
"I have exactly zero experience at hair dyes."
"I know, but you, like, know how to listen and read instructions and stuff. It's easy to learn, not like reading Dostoyevsky or anything."
Daria smiled and said, "Just for pronouncing that right, I'll help you."
With a towel draped around his neck to soak up sweat after a good run, John stopped at the edge of the kitchen and stared in disbelief. Once he finally registered that what he was seeing was reality, he said, "Forget everything else. That is the surest sign of the Apocalypse."
"Which one?" Daria said, pulling the rubber gloves from her hands. "Quinn as a blonde or me helping?"
"The whole composition. Either the world is about to end or I've entered some kind of alternate reality."
Looking in a hand mirror, Quinn said, "Don't panic; it's only temporary. You don't think I'd damage my hair by actually bleaching it, do you?"
"That still doesn't explain Daria helping," John said.
Daria gave him a quick kiss on the cheek as she walked past him. "Positive reinforcement."
When he looked back at Quinn, she made "shooing" motions and said, "Take the hint."
Looking in the mirror to adjust the tall "Bride of Frankenstein" wig on her head, Helen said, "I can't believe that these were the only couple's costumes left in the store."
Reaching a finger under his Frankenstein's Monster mask to scratch his face, Jake said, "Wouldn't it have been easier to use one of those we have..."
"No!" Helen said. "Those don't leave this room. Well, unless the kids are away, but those costumes never leave this house."
"Yes, dear," Jake said. "I'll go check on the kids to see if they're ready."
"Make sure Daria is making some real attempt at a costume. You know how she can be."
"Oh, don't worry, honey. If John made something for her, she'll wear it."
Helen turned. "You're right."
"Be right back."
Jake practiced walking with his arms held out as he went to John's room. He knocked and said, "Ready?"
Wearing some good-quality appliqué makeup, John appeared at the door looking like a classic zombie. "Except for the last of the blood, and that'll have to wait until I get to the party."
Jake shuddered and whispered, "Eww," but said out loud. "Cool costume! I'll go check on everyone else."
Bemused, John shook his head and then trotted downstairs to wait for the others.
"Quinn," Jake said as he knocked on her door. "Are you ready?"
Holding a wooden stake and wearing a cross necklace, Quinn opened the door and said, "Sure, Daddy." Looking over his costume, she said, "Classics always work."
"Thanks," Jake said. He walked toward Daria's room, but stopped and asked, "Who are you supposed to be?"
Quinn sighed. "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. You know, from the TV show."
"Oh, um, sure," he said. "That's the one you watch all the time, right?"
"Okay, just checking."
"I'll see you downstairs."
"And I'll check on Daria."
Over her shoulder, Quinn said, "Good luck."
At the final door, Jake knocked and said, "Kiddo?"
"Coming," Daria faintly said. When she opened the door, Jake took a short step back from the apparition in white.
Over the white pants and pullover, Daria had a white sheet pinned at the neck like a cloak and one corner drawn over her head as a hood. Her face was loosely wrapped in see-through white cloth, hiding it from sight and giving the quick impression of an empty hood. She wore white gloves and an old pair of white shoes. As a last detail, she held a quill pen.
Daria stepped out of the room, saying, "Boo."
Recovering, Jake said, "Very, um, ghosty."
"That's not a word, Dad."
"But it works."
"Come on, Dad," Daria said, pulling on his arm to lead him to the stairs. "You're going to use that word all night, aren't you?"
"Do you think I should?"
"Kiddo, are you supposed to be any particular ghost?"
"Nah, I'm just one of any number of ghostwriters."
While Winged Tree was the country club of old money and those that wanted to impress old money, the members of Hamptonshire Country Club considered themselves to be the working rich. Among them were doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs, including every partner of the law firm.
Jake brought the Lexus to a halt in the parking lot, followed by John driving the blue bomb and finally Tom's car, where Quinn was riding. Getting out of the car, Helen paused to make sure the wig was once again in place. At the same time, John used the side mirror to complete his blood makeup.
His hair also dyed blond, Tom got out of his car and said to Quinn while watching the others, "I'm still trying to figure out how you talked me into dressing up as Spike."
She said, "I told you, silly, that going as Angel would be too predictable."
"Yeah, nobody who knows me would ever predict that I'd dye my hair."
"Helen! I'm so glad you could make it," Eric Schrecter said behind his Michael Myers mask. From the slur in his voice, it was clear that he was already intoxicated. "Your costume looks great."
"You know I wouldn't miss it," she replied.
"Jake!" Eric said next.
Jake noncommittally said, "Hi, Eric."
"And your wonderful children," Eric said as he glanced at Quinn, Daria and John.
All three nodded, but kept their distance.
Helen said, "Thank you, Eric."
"And who's your guest?"
"Tom," he said. "I'm here with Quinn."
"Hello, Tom." Eric stepped aside and waved a rubber knife toward the main hall of the country club. "Please come in. All of the partners are already here."
After they were out of range, Daria whispered to John, "Eric as a psycho killer. Why am I not surprised?"
Tom said to Quinn, "I've always wanted to walk into a lion's den."
"Huh?" she said.
"The rivalry between Hamptonshire and Winged Tree is legendary."
"I never heard of it."
"Well, legendary among the members."
Not needing padding to get the proper size, Jim Vitale approached wearing a Don Corleone costume. "Good evening, Helen," he said in a passable Marlon Brando imitation.
"Jim, it's a pleasure to be here."
"Help yourself to the bar and the buffet table, everyone," Jim said.
Making a beeline for the buffet, John said, "Don't worry about that."
Jim chuckled and said, "Teenage boys and their appetites. I'm glad mine is off to college. It's cheaper than feeding him at home."
Jake looked down for a second in thought and then said, "I'll go keep an eye on him."
Quinn whispered to Daria, "Was that what I thought it was?"
"Yes," Daria whispered back.
"It's kinda cute."
"It's a big improvement on constant paranoia."
Jim noticed Tom still standing by and said, "Helen, why didn't you tell me that you were bringing such a distinguished guest?"
"To be honest," Tom said. "Quinn hadn't talked me into coming along until last night."
"I suppose we can tolerate a spy in our midst for the evening," Jim said.
Tom patted his clothes and said, "I left my ball point pen camera at home, so I can't be much of a spy tonight. Maybe I can do better next time."
"Next time," Jim said. "I must mingle. So long."
After he was gone, Tom said, "That was awkward. Sorry."
"Don't be," Helen said. "I know that tone of his voice. He was...amused."
"He sees things differently than the rest of us."
"Why am I not reassured?"
Standing with John next to the buffet table with the face mask pulled down so that she could sip from a cup of punch, Daria said, "A mafia boss, two different psycho killers, a cyborg assassin, a bloodthirsty dictator, and a parasitic alien. Mom's bosses sure like to send a message."
"Are we sure we want your Mom to become one of them?" John said around munching on some coconut-crusted shrimp.
"As improbable as it may seem from our viewpoint, she might get them to be not so uptight."
"If she does that, I think it would qualify as doing six impossible things and I don't care if it was before or after breakfast."
Tom and Quinn made an escape from Eric's brother, Matt, and joined Daria and John. Quinn said, "Did he have to go so overboard with the fake slime?"
Tom said, "I don't think it was fake."
Quinn slapped his arm and said, "Eww."
"Okay, change of subject," he said. "Who's that running around as Joan of Arc?"
"Mom's assistant, Marianne," Daria said. "Let's hope she's not trying to tell us that she hears voices."
"I was figuring it was more of a statement that you have to be a sword-swinging saint to put up with this crowd," Tom said.
"Everybody dance!" Eric yelled, drawing everyone's attention to where he was standing on a table next to the nervous DJ.
"Eric's hit stupid drunk," John said. "Isn't that our signal to get out of here?"
"Loud and clear," Daria said.
Quinn said, "Sounds like a good idea to me."
"The three of you running away? Now I'm really scared. Let's go," Tom said.
"Can I come, too?" Jake meekly said from where he had been grazing at the buffet. "Nobody wants to talk to me."
"Sorry, Dad," Quinn said. "High school party."
"Military schools never had parties."
Daria leaned against John and said, "Dammit."
"I smell someone's conscience rearing its head," he said.
"Dad," she said, "We won't subject you to Brittany's party, but John and I will stay here and hang out with you."
"Really?" Jake said.
John said, "Quinn, Tom, go on and give our regards to Brittany and company."
"Are you sure?" Quinn said.
"Yeah," Daria replied. "We'll be fine. Besides, I think I've learned that one party per night is my limit."
"Okay, see you later," Quinn said.
As he followed her, Tom said, "Good luck."
"You too," John said.
Jake said, "So what do you want to do?"
"Making sarcastic comments about bad behavior usually works," Daria said.
"You mean like if Matt keeps annoying Marianne like that, he's going to need armor?"
"That's a good start," John said.
Standing in the Taylor living room, Quinn explained to Brittany, "The last I saw Daria and John, they were at the buffet table talking. You know how they can get."
"Oh, yeah," Brittany said. "They get distracted with each other so easy."
"Don't I know it. I have to live with them."
Tom chuckled at that.
Tipping her head at him, Brittany said, "Is he your steady date, now?"
"Um, no," Quinn said. "We're..."
"You know, Tom said. "Just kind of hang out together."
"I should've known you'd do something from a theme we didn't want to use," Sandi said, standing behind Quinn.
She turned and was surprised to see Sandi dressed as the character Faith. "And I'm not the only one."
"I couldn't let a good idea go to waste."
"Hmm, Buffy and Faith," Tom said. "I think I'm going to like this party."
"Don't get your hopes up, Tom-boy," Sandi said. Then to Quinn, she added, "You've been out with him at least five times. Is there some change in dating status that we need to be aware of?"
"No," Quinn said. "We're just friends."
"Sure, you are."
Watching Mr. Riordan, Daria said, "It's the mustache. He couldn't pull off the Stalin look without it."
Jake said, "You have to wonder if he grew it like that on purpose."
"Hmm, a closet communist," John said. "In his circle, that's really something you'd want to keep hidden."
"Jake, there you are," Helen said, hurrying over to the table.
"I've been hanging out with Daria and John," Jake said.
Noticing the teens for the first time, Helen said, "Oh. I thought you were going to your friend's party."
"Change of plans," Daria said.
Helen said, "I hope you're ready to leave, now. I am and I don't want you here alone."
John shrugged. "I could make a run for it. A guy can only take so much high-quality junk food. I need some pizza and cheese fries."
"Pizza sounds good," Daria said.
"Let's go," Helen said, rounding up her family.
"What's the hurry?" Jake asked.
"Half the partners are drunk and sometimes it's best not to see them at their worst," she explained. "That way they don't have to worry about if you saw something that can be used against them later."
"Paranoia preemption, I get it," Daria said.
Helen patted her on the shoulder. "Exactly."
Jeffy looked across the room at Tom and then said to his friends, "Quinn's with that guy, again."
"What's up with that?" Joey asked.
Jamie said, "Who does he think he is?"
"We need to talk to him."
"Yeah," Joey said.
"Let's go," Jamie said.
Other Lawndale teens moved aside and watched as the three boys marched across the living room.
Tom noticed and said, "Can I help you?"
Jamie said, "Who do you think you are?"
"Last time I checked, I was Tom Sloane pretending to be Spike."
"What are you doing with Quinn?" Jeffy said.
"Hanging out. Talking."
"Nobody talks to Quinn," Joey said. "They listen."
"You mean to tell me that you've never said a word to Quinn?"
"Um," Joey said.
"Hey, I've talked to her," Jamie said.
Nudging him aside, Jeffy said, "I've talked more."
"I have," Joey said.
"Me," said Jamie.
"No, me," Jeffy said.
"I'll show you who's talked more," Joey said, throwing a punch at Jeffy.
Jeffy ducked and counterpunched, hitting Jamie instead.
Tom stepped back as the three started throwing punches at random.
"Oh, no," Quinn said as she got back to Tom after talking with Stacy and Tiffany. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Tom said. "But I think they were trying to intimidate me. Do you know them?"
She sighed. "I used to think it was cute when they did that."
"This isn't the first time they've tried to beat each other up?"
"It's not even the first time in this room. Sorry."
"Why are they doing it?"
Further embarrassed, Quinn said, "Trying to impress me."
Using a bullhorn, Brittany barked at the fighting boys, "Stop it! It took the maid a week to clean up last time!"
Quinn pulled on Tom's sleeve and said, "Let's go."
Joey, Jamie and Jeffy stopped and looked around. Joey said, "Huh?"
Brittany lowered the bullhorn and said, "That's better. Don't do it again."
"What?" Jamie said.
"Fighting," Brittany said. "Don't do it."
"Oh," Jeffy said. He looked around and then said, "Um, guys. Where's Quinn?"
"Ah, man, she's gone," Joey said.
"That's what you get for starting it," Jamie said, advancing on Jeffy.
"He started it!" Jeffy said, pointing to Joey.
Brittany got in Jamie's face and, with eyes wide, growled, "Don't do it."
Driving home, Daria spied a sleek sports car ahead weaving and then slowly pulling off the road and up onto the sidewalk to barely stop before hitting a street sign. "Let's give that one a wide berth," she said, beginning to shift the car into the far lane.
"Hey, that looks like Eric's Jaguar," John said. As they got closer, he saw the "LAWSOME" vanity plate and said, "That's Eric."
"Are you sure?"
"Who else would have a license plate like that?"
"You've got a point," Daria said, pulling their car up behind it and stopping. "We need to get his ass home."
"Why?" John asked. "A night in the drunk tank never hurt Trent."
"But it'll put him in a bad mood, which he will take out on Mom, who in turn..."
"Yeah, stuff goes downhill, I get it. What's the plan?"
"You push him over and drive his car."
"You're going to let me drive the Jag without a fight?"
Daria glared at him. "I'm not sharing a two-seat car with a drunk."
"Good point. Better make sure his head is hanging out the window. Oh, uh, where does he live?"
"Check to see if his registration is in the glove box."
John looked inside the compartment and said, "Found it."
Daria said, "Good."
John parked the Jaguar in the driveway of the Schrecter home and got out. Daria pulled in behind and stopped. She got out and went to John.
He said, "We made it without him decorating the side of the car. Now what?"
Daria looked into the car to see Eric asleep in the passenger seat with his head against the window frame. She said, "We got him home safely. Everything else is his problem. Let's go."
John jogged to the passenger side of the car and got in while Daria went to the driver's side. "That thing is a sweet ride," he said. "Too bad we can't talk your dad into having a mid-life crisis and buying one."
"We both know that Dad's mid-life crisis would more likely involve buying an action figure collection than a fancy car."
"Oh, yeah." As Daria drove the car away, John said, "So I guess we did our good deed for the day."
"And nobody is the wiser. Just the way I like it," Daria replied with a gentle smile.
Standing in the doorway, Quinn looked at her parents in the living room and said, "I got home before Daria and John?"
"Yes, you did," Helen said. "They said that they were going to stop for pizza. Knowing them, it was probably more like a pie than a slice."
Headlights flashing in the windows announced John and Daria's arrival. Quinn leaned against the door frame and waited. When they approached, she said, "It's about time you got home."
John shrugged. "Eh, we went for an extra order of cheese fries. So shoot us."
"You're home early," Daria said. "Have the police already been called to Brittany's?"
"I wouldn't...oh, probably," Quinn said.
"So, we didn't miss anything outside of the usual," John said.
Daria said, "Then we came out ahead. That's the way I prefer to end an evening."
Harriet Schrecter checked the driveway monitor and saw her husband's intact car in the driveway. "At least you didn't kill anyone getting home. I could've strangled your brother when he called and said you were driving and he didn't do anything to stop you." After a moment, she noticed which side of the car Eric was on and said, "How did you get home?"
She rewound the security tape and watched Eric's car pull in, followed by the blue bomb. While watching Daria and John talk in the driveway, she said, "Helen's children. How interesting."
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.