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 fifty-first John Lane story
Jodie Landon groaned, "Please, please show up, if only to protect our sanity."
Seated across the cafeteria table from Jodie, Daria said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not protecting anyone's sanity at the cost of my own."
Seated next to Jodie, Mack said, "Why don't you put a Nietzsche twist onto it? That which doesn't destroy you makes you stronger."
Next to Daria, John said, "But the prom could very well destroy us, or at least the higher functions of our brains. If it destroys you, it doesn't make you stronger."
"You don't have to go," Daria said. "Nobody is holding a gun to your head."
"They might as well be," Jodie said. "The sad reality is that Mack and I are stuck. Completely stuck. We're begging you for some moral, immoral or amoral support."
"We don't care which," Mack said.
John said, "We already have plans." He glanced at Daria. "We made them a year ago."
Jodie sighed and rested her forehead on her hand. "Damn you two with your foresight and planning."
"It's mostly her," John said. "But I have to admit, it rubs off after a while."
"So, what are your plans?" Mack asked.
"If all goes well," Daria said, "a return trip to Washington. You can't see everything in one day."
"In that case, have some fun for us," Jodie said. "You can tell us about it when you get back."
Daria replied, "For you, I think we can do that."
At the dinner table with the rest of the family, Quinn said, "Mr. Sloane offered to let us use the limousine and driver he has on retainer for important business guests. Besides, Mrs. Sloane said that she wasn't allowing a tuxedo and a good prom dress anywhere near Tom's car."
Helen said, "I knew I liked her."
"Wow! I bet it's real nice, too," Jake said, excited for his daughter.
"It's a Bentley. The same kind used by the Queen of England."
John said, "Sweet."
Daria looked at John. "You're impressed by the car?"
"If you're going to go for over-the-top extravagance, a Bentley limo will do it," he said.
"We could be talked into giving you and Daria a ride to the prom," Quinn said.
"Won't be needed," Daria said. "I am curious about what you are doing about the two-prom problem."
"Lawndale's prom starts at seven and Fielding's at eight. We'll leave Lawndale's early and be fashionably late to Fielding's. A win all the way around. It will be even more of a win if you and John come along?"
"If you give us a ride to the prom and then leave for Fielding, how will we get home?" Daria said.
"We'll send the driver back for you, silly. I have it all planned."
"Except for the part where John and I will be in Washington, D. C., for the day."
Helen said, "Quinn, they've made their decision."
"You know as well as I do that they won't be happy at a prom, but they will be happy at a museum. They're not trying to talk you out of the prom to go to a museum, are they?"
"No," Quinn said, accepting defeat.
Daria said, "Thanks, Mom."
"I learned my lesson last year. But I will ask you to do one thing this time."
"Sure," John said.
"Check the weather reports before you leave."
Daria stopped by John's room. "That was suspiciously easy."
Hot-gluing decorative shells onto a free-form sculpture, John said, "What was too easy?"
"Quinn giving up so quickly on talking us into going to the prom and Mom not even trying."
"Oh. Yeah, that was odd, but I'll take it."
"Maybe I'm being too suspicious."
"Or I'm not being suspicious enough. Either way, why don't we do something more productive, like thinking about our trip?"
"Okay. I think we need to visit the Library of Congress this time."
"We can do that. Though knowing us, we may not make it anywhere else."
Daria said, "Then it makes planning easy."
"I like the way you think."
"Nothing, just a thought about my mother."
Next, Daria pushed the door to her parents' room open. "Mom?"
"Yes, sweetie?" Helen said, propped up on the bed and sorting through briefs.
"Your support means a lot."
"You've earned it. Besides, I've learned that some battles are not worth fighting."
"I can be a little stubborn, can't I?"
"I haven't the foggiest idea of where you may have gotten it from."
"I didn't think you would."
Helen smiled. "Don't forget to take more pictures."
"Please, Mom, like John is going to forget."
"You're right. But make sure you take a couple of him. Otherwise, he won't be in a single one."
"Orders received and will be carried out."
"I have one more order for you, Daria."
"Have a good time."
"I'm off for a run!" John called as he opened the door. "Back later."
In the living room, Quinn waited until John closed the door before she asked Daria, "Where is he going?"
"For a run," Daria said.
"With a wallet full of cash? He's doing more than running."
"How do you know that he has a wallet full of cash?"
"Daria – I know what a full wallet looks like in a guy's back pocket and since John doesn't have credit cards, it has to be cash."
"How did you see that he…wait a minute. You were looking at John's ass?"
"Me and almost every other heterosexual girl at school. Tell me that you've never checked out Tom's ass."
"Exactly. And I noticed that there was a fat wallet on top of John's. So, what's up?"
Daria sighed. "Preparation for our trip."
"Okay, care to elaborate?"
Quinn crossed her arms. "Daria."
Daria crossed hers in return. "I'm not asking for details about what you and Tom have planned, am I?"
Quinn frowned. "No."
"But you know what Tom and I are doing. I don't know what you and John are doing."
"Spending the day at the Library of Congress and dinner at a good restaurant."
"If that's all, then why is he sneaking out with a big wad of cash?"
"Good try, Quinn, but I still don't wish to elaborate."
"You're up to something."
Quinn narrowed her eyes. "I'm going to be watching, sis."
"Enjoy your run?" Quinn asked when John arrived home.
"It was there," he replied.
"Why are you so suddenly interested in my run?"
"Because you and Daria are going off on a big date this weekend, you left with a big wad of cash in your wallet and you returned without the cash. Don't deny it; you're not that good of a liar."
John glared at Quinn.
She said, "You're up to something. Something very romantic."
"Which is between me and Daria. You will find out in time."
"You're no fun."
"Yes, I am," John said. "And what we have in mind will be more fun if you don't have advanced word."
"Sheesh, it's not fair that it's always two against one around here," Quinn said.
In the hallway outside of Mr. DeMartino's class, Jodie approached Daria. "I would advise you and John to steer clear of Ms. Li today."
"We do that as a matter of course," Daria said, "but what's special about today?"
"Ticket sales for the prom are off over ten percent from last year."
"And she's blaming us for starting a trend?"
Jodie said, "Is it really blame when it's the truth? Mack and I have heard from several people that they're not going to the prom after hearing that you and John were not."
"So? If you could figure a way out of it, you and Mack wouldn't go."
"Exactly. That's why I know that Ms. Li is right."
"Okay, so we stay away from Ms. Li."
Jodie quickly looked at the principal rapidly approaching and said, "Too late."
Daria said, "Yes, Ms. Li?"
Ms. Li barked, "Are you aware of the trend you and Mr. Lane are setting?"
"I've just been informed, but I don't see the problem since you didn't have an issue with us missing the prom last year."
"Last year, you hadn't started a trend that had seriously impacted prom revenues."
"It's not like we're forcing anyone to do anything," Daria said.
"No, you're setting an example that they follow."
"It's not like we're making the slightest effort to convince anyone to follow our example. Well, except for Jodie and Mack, and we completely failed at that."
"Other students look up to you, so you don't have to make any effort."
"Ms. Li, we made the choice on our own for our reasons and I hope that is the example that these others are following, if they are following anything. Otherwise, there really is nothing we can do since we've already made plans for tomorrow."
Ms. Li frowned. "Very well, Ms. Morgendorffer. I will simply ask that in your short remaining time at Lawndale High, you remember that you are an example."
"I'd much rather forget, but after today, I don't think that I can."
After Quinn got into the car, Tom said, "Okay, now why did you ask me to pick you up from school in my mom's car? Please don't let it be something prom related."
Buckling the seat belt, Quinn said, "Because Daria and John haven't seen your mom's car."
Tom pinched his nose. "You want to spy on your sister and her boyfriend?"
"This is important, Tom. Yes."
"What are we looking for?"
"I don't know."
"So why are we looking?"
"Because they're up to something."
Confused, Tom said, "I'm guessing that they are doing something out of the ordinary."
"From what I've seen, they do that all the time. So, why are we spying on them?"
"Because Daria's my sister."
"Elsie's my sister and I have no desire to spy on her."
Quinn gently slapped the back of Tom's head. "Elsie isn't romantically involved with anybody."
"Ah, I see. I think."
"They're getting into their car. Follow them."
Going through downtown Lawndale, Tom said, "I think they know we're back here. Daria keeps looking back at us with a frown on her face."
"How does she know it's us?" Quinn asked.
"I'm willing to bet that if we can see her, she can see us."
"You shouldn't have gotten so close!"
"There wasn't much I could've done when several of the cars between us turned off and they could clearly see us."
"Okay, okay," Quinn said. "Let's just go to your house and I'll try to figure out what they're up to later."
"My house? I should warn you that Elsie is dying to know what you're planning to wear tomorrow."
"I can give her the Reader's Digest version for now and then she can see it tomorrow."
When Quinn got home, Daria and John were on the sofa, watching television. Quinn sighed and said, "You saw us, didn't you?"
John said, "Tell Tom that he would make a lousy spy."
"Or undercover cop," Daria added.
"You win," Quinn said. "I'll stop trying to figure out what you're doing. Just promise me one thing."
"What's that?" Daria said.
"Tell me everything when you're done with whatever you're doing."
John said, "That can be arranged."
"Hey, Quinn," Daria said. "Have a good time tomorrow."
"Thanks, you too."
Hearing sound from the kitchen when she came down the stairs in the morning, Daria said, "Dad?" when she noticed who was there.
"Good morning, kiddo!" Jake said. "Ready for your big adventure?"
"Not until after breakfast, which it looks like you're making."
Turning a pancake on the griddle, Jake said, "I'm trying your mom's recipe."
"Cool, coffee," John said as he entered the kitchen and headed directly to the coffee pot.
After pouring a cup and taking a drink, he noticed who was also in the kitchen. "Oh, morning, Jake."
"Hey, John. Ready for some pancakes?"
"Morning – food – yes."
"Great!" Jake lifted two plates and said, "Follow me."
He set the plates on the table, next to the preset utensils. "Enjoy."
Taking her seat, Daria said, "You're in a good mood this morning, Dad."
"I am." Jake sat on the other side of the table. "Because I have three great kids."
"There's something more, isn't there?" Daria said.
Jake shrugged and smiled. "You and John are going on your trip. Quinn's getting ready for a big prom night with Tom. I – I feel like I've done something right that my dad never did."
"As a latecomer to the situation," John said. "I'd have to agree with you."
Jake smiled more. "Great. Now, eat up. There's plenty more," he said, pointing to a rather large mixing bowl that held enough batter to feed the entire household breakfast for the next couple of days.
"I'll do my part," John said, eagerly attacking his breakfast.
"Hi," Quinn said as she walked in.
"Come on, Quinn," Jake said as he stood. "Have some pancakes."
She paused in thought before saying, "Okay, Daddy."
"Coming right up!"
By the time Quinn had taken a seat at the table, Jake had set a plate in front of her. "Enjoy!"
Quinn looked at Daria and mouthed, "Is he all right?"
Daria said, "Dad's in an exceptionally good mood. Roll with it."
When he saw Quinn pour syrup on her pancakes, John said, "Wow. That might be a sign of the apocalypse."
"I'm going to need a lot of energy today and I won't have much time to eat," Quinn said.
"Yeah, if last year's preparation is any clue," Daria said.
"Looking perfect takes time and a lot of work. Tonight, I'm going to look perfect."
"I bet you are," Jake said, sitting back down. "It's going to be a perfect day all the way around."
"Don't jinx it, Dad," Daria said. "But I like your sentiment."
After a stop at the Madison Building to register for and obtain Reader Identification cards, John and Daria walked to the Jefferson Building and the heart of the Library of Congress. After a quick tour of the rest of the facility and a stop at the Computer Catalog Center to find call numbers for their desired books, they entered the destination of their trip: the Main Reading Room.
Just past the entrance, they stopped and looked up, entranced, at the great dome and ornate stonework that surrounded the circular room. Daria was the first to speak, whispering, "I could get used to a library like this."
John whispered back, "Is it too late to find colleges near here?"
"Yeah, but I understand that Amtrak has direct service from Boston to D.C. I see more trips in our future."
"We should find a seat."
"Oh, yeah," John said. They found adjacent seats at the large, ornate study carrels. After noting the seat number on their book request forms, they went to the central service desk.
"May I help you?" the young librarian said.
Daria presented her request forms and ID card. "We would like to see these books, please."
"Yes, please," John said, doing the same.
After checking the IDs, the librarian said, "Please have a seat. Your books will be delivered to you in about fifteen to thirty minutes."
Daria said, "Thank you."
When they returned to their seats, John said, "All this and book delivery, too. This is a library with style."
A loud growl caused the gentleman seated next to Daria to look past her at John, frown and then go back to his reading.
"Sorry," John whispered.
After checking her watch, Daria whispered, "It's almost five and we skipped lunch. I think it's time to feed the beast."
"I'd hate to take you away from your reading," John said, followed by another stomach rumble.
Daria closed her book and said, "I'd hate to be thrown out of the Library of Congress because your stomach disturbed the other patrons. We can try to make it back before we go up to Boston."
"Okay, you win," he said, closing his book.
They returned their books to the service desk, where the librarian gave a polite, "Have a good day," as she accepted them.
After leaving the reading room, Daria said, "Any ideas of where to eat?"
"Someplace close. We're right behind the Capital." John removed a guidebook from his pocket. "There has to be plenty of places to eat around here."
"Heaven forbid that a member of Congress should go hungry."
"My thoughts, too. Hey, there's a whole bunch of places right down Pennsylvania Ave. from here."
Daria studied the guide. "How can we pass up a place called Filibuster Pizza?"
"Okay, you're thinking about something," Tom said.
Seated at a private table for two at an elegant restaurant with Tom, Quinn said, "What?"
"I said, you're thinking about something."
"Anything you wish to share?"
"Wondering about Daria. I hope they found someplace nice like this."
"I'm sure that they found someplace that makes them happy."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"Given their past behavior, I would give a good chance for a pizza place, but what does it matter?"
"I want the best for my sister." Quinn looked around at the fine setting. "But yeah, a pizza place is probably best for Daria, in her own way. I don't understand it, but I've learned that I can't change it."
"That sounds like a reasonable outcome," Tom said. "You still think that they have something extra planned."
John patted his stomach and leaned back in the booth he shared with Daria. "Oh, that was good."
"I've never seen so many toppings on a pizza," Daria said, equally stuffed.
"The sliced garlic was excellent."
"So was the six-cheese mix."
"And the prosciutto ham."
"Heirloom sweet peppers."
Daria said, "The description was right. Pizza corrupts and Absolute Pizza corrupts absolutely."
John lifted his soda glass. "Here's to corruption."
"What's next? It's still a little early."
"I want to see the other side of the Mall. How about the Lincoln Memorial?"
"It's a long walk."
"Hold on," Daria said, unfolding a bus map. After examining it and checking the schedule, she said, "We can grab a bus in ten minutes that will take us there."
"Bus is better than walking." After a burp, he added, "Especially after how much I just ate."
Holding her hand, Tom helped Quinn out of the limo and they turned to face the Lawndale High prom entrance. "Shall we?"
"Please," Quinn said, enjoying the formality.
"You really do look lovely tonight," Tom said, complimenting Quinn's sleek and elegant gown.
"You look handsome," she said. "You know how to wear a tuxedo and not look like you were forced into it."
"I was trained from a young age."
Quinn smiled as they neared the door. "Ready to make a grand entrance?"
"If you're going to make an entrance, you might as well make it memorable," Tom said.
"Memorable. I like that."
The sun was low behind the Lincoln Memorial when the bus arrived. Daria and John walked up the steps and took time to look at the timeless sculpture.
"It makes you feel…I don't know," John said.
"Like…that we haven't accomplished much compared to others. Humbling."
"We are still teenagers."
Daria sat on the top step, still looking at the statue. "Teenagers with more advantages than we know what to do with."
"I count myself lucky," John said, sitting beside her.
"You've had to face some real challenges. Let's face it; I've had it easy."
"You got a lucky break in life. I got one too."
Daria turned her eyes to John. "I got a lucky break in meeting you. I had walled myself off pretty good. You helped to free me."
"I was pretty isolated myself. We freed each other."
In silence, they turned and looked across the long reflecting pool to the east and the Washington Memorial.
John said, "I made a promise to you last year."
Daria grasped his hand. "You did."
John reached up and pulled the ribbon around his neck, which had been hidden under his shirt, over his head. He opened the simple knot and placed the ring it held onto Daria's open palm.
"Will you marry me?"
Quinn spun with glee as she and Tom walked to the front door of her house. "I'm never going to forget tonight!"
He said, "It was a very pleasant evening. I was most amused when your gown rendered Sue speechless."
Quinn stopped and rested her cheek against his shoulder. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. And, thank you."
They stopped at the door. Quinn placed her hands on Tom's cheeks and kissed him. "Everything was perfect."
"So let's have the perfect ending." Tom gave Quinn a long, soft kiss. "Good night."
Quinn smiled. "Good night."
Following a polite, formal nod, Tom turned and walked back to the limo. At the door, he turned and bowed to Quinn.
She curtseyed in return and waved as the car drove away. Sighing with contentment, she opened the door and stepped inside.
Helen was waiting about ten feet away from the door. She had a wide smile and asked, "How was your evening, Quinn?"
"It was perfect. Just perfect. I'm going to remember this for my entire life."
"I'm glad you're happy." Helen reached out and hugged Quinn.
"Me, too!" Jake said, coming up to them. "Did they take pictures?"
"Of course, Daddy," Quinn said. "We should get the proofs in about a week from Fielding and about two weeks from Lawndale."
Jake said, "I can't wait to see them."
Looking around, Quinn said, "Are Daria and John home yet?"
Helen said, "We're expecting them soon. They called from a rest stop on the interstate to let us know they were on the way."
"I hope they had a good time, too," Quinn said.
"Daria seemed to be in a surprisingly good mood," Helen said.
Quinn hurried up the stairs. "I'm going to change and come down to wait with you while I tell you about my night."
After opening the door and seeing the rest of the family watching, John said, "Um, it's not even midnight. I didn't think we were that late."
"We were out all night last year," Daria said.
"Oh, sweetie," Helen said, "you're not in trouble. We only wanted to hear about your day."
Quinn said, "Come on, Daria, spill."
After a quick look at John, Daria said, "We had a great day at the Library of Congress. Can I have one when I grow up?"
"It was really nice," John said.
"And then we had the best pizza I've ever eaten at a little place southeast of the Capital," Daria said.
"You had pizza?" Quinn said. "I should've known."
John said, "It was a killer pizza and worth every penny."
Jake said, "Do you remember the name? You know, for the next time I'm in D.C. for business."
John said, "I grabbed a takeout menu as a souvenir."
"Yes!" Jake said.
Helen gave him a glance. "Just remember your cholesterol, dear."
"I've been good," he said. "So, kids. Anything else exciting?"
"We watched the sun set from the Lincoln Memorial."
"That sounds so romantic," Helen said. "I'm sure you're going to remember that for a long time."
Daria took a breath and said, "I think I'm going to remember this more," before showing her hand with the ring. The single, small diamond glittered in a circle of six tiny emeralds.
"Oh, my," Helen said.
"Oh, my God!" Quinn said, rushing up.
"Wait. What? Oh, um…oh!" Jake said, suddenly becoming glassy-eyed.
Daria said, "Before you get into a panic, we aren't planning on anything soon."
"Daria, sweetie," Helen said. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but you and John are so young and…"
"That's why we're waiting," John said.
Jake gulped. "Waiting? How long?"
"Until after we graduate from college," Daria said.
"Oh, thank God," Jake said.
"That's an awfully long engagement," Quinn said.
Daria said, "It is, but Mom's right. We've read the stats about persons our age marrying – and it's a little scary."
John said, "Therefore, we decided to wait. To give us more time to grow and to make sure we know what we're doing."
Helen realized she had been holding her breath and let it out. "That's…very responsible of you."
"We've learned to be that," Daria said.
Smiling, Quinn said, "Okay, Daria. You outdid me tonight, and for this once, I'll let you get away with it. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Quinn," Daria said.
John put his arm around Daria and looked at her. "Daria's worth the wait and always will be."
Not at all embarrassed to be in front of her family, Daria kissed him and said, "You're worth it, too."
Jake said, "So, you're going to get married, but not right away. Okay, I can deal with this." He looked up. "That's right, Dad. I can deal with this. Daria knows what she's doing."
"Thanks," John said. "That was a nice vote of confidence."
"You are so going to be the talk of school on Monday," Quinn said. "And I don't have to say a word. That ring is going to be scoped out as soon as Daria walks onto campus."
John winked at Daria. "We can be the example that Ms. Li wanted us to be."
"I like the way you think," Daria said, giving him another kiss.
Helen stepped back and put her arm around Jake, who returned the gesture.
Quinn folded her arms and watched with pleasure. Good luck, sis.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Ipswichfan for beta reading.
August - October 2011