Meanwhile In...

a Daria Fanfic

by Wyvern337

....The Great Cavern...

Vincent Lane peered intently through the viewfinder of his camera as he focused on the complex stalactite formation. They were unlike anything he'd ever seen before, and he wanted this shot to be perfect.

There were already several spotlights focused on it, but in order to get the depth of field he wanted he'd had to stop down to an f 8 aperture, and even with the tripod he was using that was going to mean additional light -- at least if he wanted to keep the exposure reasonably short. To that end, he'd brought in the most powerful flashgun he'd had with him...that should be enough to chase the shadows away.

Vincent finished setting up his shot, took a step back from his rig and looked up at the rock formation as he took up the cable release and began to depress the shutter. For the first time his guide at Great Cavern State Park noticed just how serious the lighting equipment he was looking at was, and began to voice some misgivings.

"Uh, Mr. Lane," he began, "there are a number of unusual and even unique life forms in these caves. A sudden, really bright flash of light might--"

"Eh, what's that?" Vincent asked, even as he tripped the shutter release. The bank of xenon flash tubes were tripped at the same instant and, for a few hundredths of a second, something very much like full daylight came to the vault of the Great Caverns where the two men were standing.

Hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of bats that had been resting in crevices near the ceiling of the chamber came boiling out of their hiding places, spooked by the sudden, unnatural flood of light. Faced with something unknown, they instinctively headed for the cave's exit. Vincent watched, fascinated, as the bats swarmed towards him.

"Get down, you fool!" shouted his guide, and pulled him down towards the floor of the cave, just ahead of the leading edge of the cloud of bats. Rather than literally filling the cavern, the bats stayed near the roof of the cave, flying over the heads of Vincent and his guide as the two of them crouched near floor-level. In little more than a minute, the bats had cleared out of the cavern.

"Don't you know any better than to stand in the path of a swarm of panicked cave bats?" asked the guide.

"They seemed pretty harmless to me," retorted Vincent.

"Sure, the ones that weren't rabid," came the reply. "Or were you hoping to get bitten by one of those?"

Ignoring his guide's carping, Vincent looked back up at the nest of stalactites he'd just photographed. He found himself grinning crazily. It'd taken hours to set up that shot -- the shot of a lifetime, at least for most photographers -- and by God, he'd gotten it!


...The Sweet Mud new Age Spa and Crafts Colony...

Amanda Lane curled her toes as she settled back in the mud bath, feeling the warm mud squish between them. This week-long clay intensive had been such a good idea. She hadn't felt this creative and generally rejuvenated in...well, she couldn't remember how long. She leaned her head back on the folded towel at the edge of the mud bath, closed her eyes and sighed contentedly as she thought about her stay there at the spa.

After a few moments, Amanda's brow furrowed slightly as she realized something wasn't quite right, that despite everything something was, well, was bothering her. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on. What could it be? Everything here was perfect, including the pottery she'd been working on. Why, that urn she'd been working on was amazing....she could hardly wait to show it to her family. When they saw how ornate and intricate it was, Vincent and the children would...

Suddenly Amanda realized what the problem was.

It was obvious.

Had been staring her in the face the whole time.

And as soon as she got up out of this mudbath and showered-off, Amanda knew what she was going to have to do about it.

Obviously, her work had become too intricate and involved. As soon as she was finished with the urn -- maybe she'd even get started before then -- she was going to really get back to potter's wheel for her next work, she was going to fabricate it out of joined pinchpots, maybe with a coil-formed neck. Yes, that was the ticket, really starting over from simplest forms....


...The Pine Top Motel....

"Look, it's perfectly simple," said Summer Lane to the desk clerk, failing to keep her voice at normal conversational volume but not really trying very hard to. "I'm looking for two children, a boy, dark hair, about this tall," she held out a hand, palm down, at about the height the top of Adrian's head would be above the floor, "and a girl, blonde hair, about..."

Abruptly, Summer stopped talking, and leaned against the cheap veneer paneling of the motel lobby. Leaned and then sagged. She was so tired of this! Why did her kids keep running away? How many more times was she going to have to go through all this relentless chasing? Summer felt her throat tighten, and her eyes began to burn. With a sudden stab of embarrassed anger, she realized the burning sensation was because she was starting to tear-up.

No, she told herself, I am not going to break down here not going to lose it I have got to keep it together...

"Uh, ma'am?" came a concerned voice. Summer snapped out of her reverie and opened her eyes, focused on the polite older woman there behind the counter, looking back at her with...sympathy?..pity?!

Well, maybe I don't want your pity! thought Summer venomously. Maybe the dysfunctional freak who has to chase her children all over the country on a regular basis doesn't want you to feel sorry for her! Maybe...

....I should get a damn grip.

"Yes?" Summer replied, managing to keep her voice level.

"I think I remember seeing your children," said the clerk. "They were through here about a week ago. I'm sorry but I'm not exactly sure where they went...though come to think of it they did keep talking about deserts, and how they'd be the place to be this time of year. I think I heard the boy say something about Arizona....but I'm afraid that's as much as I can remember. I'm sorry..."

"No, no, that's okay," said Summer. "You've helped me out a lot."

Well, maybe 'a lot' was an exaggeration, but at least now she had a lead -- a commodity she'd been out of just moments before. Summer turned, walked out the door to the Pine Top Motel's lobby and into the parking lot. As she started to get into her car, she paused to take stock of her surroundings. It was cold, and she didn't like the look of those clouds. It felt like it was going to snow.

Good reason to keep moving, she thought as she closed the car door and started the engine.


...The Hitch Hutch Wedding Chapel ("where 'I do' is drive-thru")....

"I can't believe we're doing this!" said Sheila from the passenger seat. "We've only known each other for, what, now?..."

"It doesn't matter," said Wind Lane, gazing adoringly over at his bride-to-be. "It already feels like a thousand lifetimes."

Sheila giggled. Wind was so cute when he said things like that -- and it seemed like he was always saying things like that. She guessed that was why she liked him so much.

The car at the Hitch Hutch's drive-thru window pulled away. Only two cars ahead of them now. Wind managed to tear his eyes away from Sheila long enough to pull forward another car length. It wouldn't do to have a fender-bender now, on the happiest evening of his life. Wind remembered how elated he'd been earlier in the day, when he'd found out the guy who'd married he and Katie wasn't who he said he was, so that 'marriage' probably hadn't been legal, or legally binding, or whatever. But if he thought he'd been happy then, he'd learned what happiness truly was when, on the spur of the moment, he'd proposed to Sheila, and she'd said yes! Of course there'd been only one thing for it at that point -- to buy an...affordable....set of wedding bands at a local pawnshop and head over to the Hitch Hutch. And on this day of all others! So much to be thankful for...

The line at the window moved again. Only one car ahead of them now. Sheila suddenly leaned over and kissed Wind, smearing her plum-colored lipstick a little in the process. As they broke the kiss, Wind gazed into Sheila's sparkling blue eyes, reached over and stroked her short, black hair and thought about how different she was from anyone he'd ever known before...and yet somehow it seemed as if they'd known each other their whole lives. Certainly Sheila wasn't like any of the women Wind had been married to before -- take that red-haired firebrand Katie, for instance. Or, before Katie, bossy, blonde Claudia...

The last car ahead of them pulled away. It was their turn. Heart pounding, Wind put the car in gear. He steered with one hand as Sheila reached over and took hold of his other, giving it a squeeze. They pulled up to the Hitch Hutch's drive-through window.

"Hello, lovebirds," said the minister....


...Somewhere near the Nicaragua-Honduras border....

The bus hit a pothole in the road -- if you could even call it a road -- and the resulting lurch shook Penny Lane awake. Daylight again already, and they still weren't there. Not that she was surprised, of course: she'd long since gotten used to the pace of transportation in the remoter parts of Central America. She was just anxious to get herself reestablished and set up her crafts stand again.

A raucous squawking from the other end of the bus drew Penny's attention. Chiquito was having a disagreement with a cageful of chickens. After a few choice comments the parrot decided arguing with caged birds was beneath his dignity and flew back up towards the front to perch on Penny's shoulder.

Penny looked out the window at the passing scenery. The Nicaraguan job market had been a disappointment, but she knew Honduras would be better. Soon she'd have her native crafts stand set up again, and this time she knew just what would sell...hand-crafted gecko skin coin purses! Things had been going less well than they should've, but they were going to turn around now, she was sure of it...


....The Petrified Forest, the Arizona Desert...

"Courtney, it's my turn to wear the gloves!" complained Adrian. Coming to the desert for the winter had seemed like a good idea back when they'd thought of it. It hadn't taken them long, though, to find out just how cold it got around here -- and they hadn't thought to bring along much in the way of cold-weather clothing.

"Tough," replied his sister. "I think I'll just keep wearing them for now, unless you want to take them from me."

Instead of fighting Courtney for the gloves, Adrian tucked his hands under his arms and scowled. "Okay," he said after a moment, "but that means you get to be the one to break off the chips this time."

Courtney didn't say anything in reply. Instead the two of them kept trudging farther into the field of fossilized trees. Adrian wondered whether it would be a better idea, now that they had this job breaking bits off of the petrified trees for the souvenir stand, to spend any money they managed to get saved-up on more winter clothes or on a pair of bus tickets the hell out of there. Of course, the second of those two options might prove more difficult now that they had--

"Hey Courtney, where's the dog?" asked Adrian, looking around.

"I dunno," replied Courtney, also scanning for the stray they'd recently adopted. After a few moments Adrian whistled and the mutt promptly bounded out from behind a petrified tree trunk and ran over to the two children, wanting to play.

A quick check of the ground revealed a stick that was actually wood. Adrian picked it up as Courtney located the petrified tree that'd been supplying them with souvenir-stand chips and started banging away.

"Wanna fetch the stick, boy?" Adrian asked the dog, showing the stick to the animal, which barked enthusiastically in response. Adrian flung the stick away and the dog bounded off after it.

"Next trip out here, we switch places," said Courtney, pausing to look up from the hammer blows she was raining on the chunk of petrified wood.

Adrian shrugged in reply. That suited him well enough. When you thought about it, things weren't really all that bad. In fact, they even had some things to be thankful for...


....a Roadside, Somewhere in Carter County...

"I thought the Tank was supposed to be indestructible," said Trent, searching-around under the hood for something he recognized.

"It is," insisted Max, "it's just not running right now, that's all. It's not destroyed or anything."

Trent tucked his hands under his arms and looked up from he and Max's work.

It's a good thing we brought jackets, he thought as he watched the fat, fluffy flakes of snow from the front that was blowing through beginning to fall. The Tank had failed them, as it occasionally did, on their way to Mystic Spiral's latest gig. They'd get it running again soon, they always did, but still...

"Hey, you guys, snow!" called Nick, demonstrating his usual flawless grasp of the obvious.

"Cool," said Jesse.

"Look, you guys -- a snow angel!" said Nick, and threw himself backwards onto the still-mostly-bare ground with a resounding thud.

"I think it'd work better if you waited 'til there was more snow on the ground," said Trent.

"Ow! I think I might've gave myself a concussion or something," complained Nick.

"Cool," said Jesse.

Trent looked along the road, towards where the Spiral had been headed when the Tank broke down. This wasn't so bad, but he'd much rather be on stage performing. There or...

Trent turned and looked back the way they'd come, back toward...



"Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Check. Well, a kiln's close enough to an oven, anyway, I guess, and it should be close enough to that temperature by now. Peel back foil over dessert portion. Now how'm I supposed to tell which one's the dessert without peeling it all off?"thought Jane aloud.

She looked up from what she was doing, out the kitchen window. She could see the snowflakes falling outside, as they had been since right around sunset. The faint, ghostly outline of the gazebo was just visible in the backyard, highlit here and there with brighter patches of white where the snow had begun to stick. Jane changed her focus to the pale image of a dark-haired young woman in the glass of the kitchen window. One end of her mouth turned upwards in a smirk.

"Hey Janey," she asked her reflection, "didn't somebody say something once about being careful what you wish for?"


"The more debased they [the holidays] become, the less reason there is to celebrate them. That means the less reason for my family to get together until presto I'm finally alone on Thanksgiving with a TV dinner." -- Jane Lane, "Depth Takes a Holiday"




Disclaimers: Daria and all ancillary characters are the property of MTV/Viacom. I'm just borrowing them for a little while, for strictly non-profit purposes.