ROCKABY SWEET BABY JANE a "Daria" fanfiction by Ranger Thorne

Daria & Co. Are not mine. If they were, I'd need a lot bigger house.

Daria knocked again, then waited for the door to open. Frowning, she looked at where the button for the doorbell had apparently been pried loose. The thought of using her boots to make more noise was just going through her mind when the door opened. Looking at the man who opened the door caused her to gasp.

Trent had a black eye and a busted lip. His shirt was torn, showing his thin but toned stomach. Daria noticed that one of his ears was bandaged, and that the other was missing an ear ring. "Hey, Daria," he said as always.

"God, Trent," she asked before she could stop herself, "what happened?"

"Huh? Oh." He felt his lip, "I, uh, got in a fight."

"Oh, good," she crossed her arms and scowled, "I was afraid you'd been running with the bulls. Or wrestling tigers."

"You should see the other guy," Trent's voice had dropped, becoming more of a growl.

"What brought this fight on?" she asked.

"Uh," he looked away, "I really don't want to talk about it."

"Tough," she said, pushing him into the house. As she closed the door, she asked, "Now, did a doctor look at you?"

"Nah," he waved a hand, "I've been worse."

"Not that I've seen," she reminded him. "Come here," she ordered, taking his hand. Sitting him in a chair in the kitchen, she looked him over. "Your chest hurt?" she asked.


"Any pain at all?"

"My lips hurts when I try to smile."

"So much for my practicing my stand-up routine, then," she said, immediately regretting it when he tried to laugh.

"Ow, ow, ow!" Holding a hand to his lip, he glared at her.

"Sorry." She checked the ear with the missing ear ring, then nodded as she saw that the ring was just missing, not pulled through the ear. The other ear, however, had one hole that had been torn though. "You need to see a doctor about this, Trent," she said as she tried to gently re-bandage it.

"I'll be okay," he protested.

Daria knelt down so that her face was right in front of his. "Trent, you've never broken a promise to me. So, promise me that you will see a doctor about that ear tomorrow."

Her eyes held him fast. Finally, unable to take it, he nodded. "Okay."

"Good." Straightening, she pulled out a chair for herself, "Now, you mind telling me what the hell you were fighting over?" When Trent opened his mouth, Daria placed a hand over it. "And don't tell me you 'don't want to talk about it.' There's only two things you'd fight like that over. And if it had been music, the rest of the Spiral would be here suffering with you. So it could only be Jane."

He looked at her for a long time. As he did, he remembered the small girl with glasses and a lack of self-confidence who'd shown up with Jane a few years before. Now, a strong woman was looking at him from behind those glasses. A woman who, he knew, would get the truth out of him sooner or later. Besides, Trent knew he needed an ally.

"Yeah," he finally admitted, "it was over Janey."

"Someone insult her or something?"

"It was a guy named Paul Davidson," Trent said, lowering his head. When there was no reply, he looked up at her, "Didn't Janey ever tell you about him?"

"No." Daria shrugged, "Any reason why she should have?"

An internal debate waged in Trent's mind. If I tell her, Janey will kill me. But, if I don't Daria will. Hmm, I wonder who will do it faster? "Okay," he nodded, "but you have to promise to make sure Jane kills me quick."

"It's that serious, eh?" Daria leaned back in her chair, "Okay, Trent. I'll promise that she'll have to go through me to get you. How's that?"

"You don't live here," he reminded her.


"Okay, okay." Closing his eyes, Trent swallowed hard. When he spoke, his voice was softer. "Paul is the guy who got Janey pregnant."

"Jane's pregnant?" Daria asked, shocked.

"No," he shook his head, "she was pregnant. It happened about a year before you moved here."

"Wait," she held up a hand as her eyes nearly came out of their sockets. "You mean to tell me that Jane was pregnant as a Freshman in high school?"

"Yeah. You see, Paul was a Senior, and hung out at the Zen a lot. We got to be friends, so he came over here a few times and met Janey." Trent looked at her, "I don't know how long they were doing it before I came home one day and found them."

"Ugh," Daria closed her eyes and shook her head, "I don't even want to think about that."

"The truth was worse than the reality. Jane was still a kid, remember?"

"How old was this guy?" she asked.

"He was eighteen." Trent frowned, "When Dad found out, he was home the next day." He shrugged, "Only time I've seen him give up a job for one of us." Clenching and unclenching his hands, he went on, "He pressed charges of statutory rape on the dude. But, Paul vanished. We never knew what happened to him."

"But Jane was pregnant?"

"Yeah." Trent took two deep breaths before saying, "When she found out about Paul disappearing, she went ballistic. She didn't talk to me until the day she realized something was wrong. I was the one who bought the pregnancy test." He swallowed, "She cried for almost two days."

"But," Daria shook her head in disbelief, "what about the baby?"

"She put it up for adoption. Janey was devastated, but realized it was the best for the baby."

"Oh, god," Daria sat back in her chair. "And the guy so did is back in town?"

"Yeah." For the first time since she had met him, Daria saw Trent look murderous. "He just walked up and started talking like nothing had happened."

"Did he know about the baby?" Daria asked.

"No. And I don't want him to know." Clenching his fists, Trent growled, "You know that red shirt Janey always wears?"


"It was his. She started wearing it because he left it here. Then, after he went away, she wore it to show whose side she was on. Then, after the baby, because it was the only thing she had left of either of them." Daria was surprised when he reached out and took her hands in his own, "If she finds out he's here, she'll go with him. Janey's been waiting for him to come back for her since he split."

"She wouldn't do that," Daria told him. "And, even if she did, it's her decision, Trent. She deserves to know."

"But she might run away with him," Trent said, suddenly sounding tired. "I, I don't think I could handle that," He told her as he looked at the floor.

Unsure how to respond, she looked down at the hands that were holding hers. For the first time, she noticed that his rings were missing, and that his knuckles were as beat up as his face. "Your rings are gone," she muttered.

"My hands are too swollen to wear them," Trent replied.

"Don't they hurt?"

"A little," he admitted with a shrug.

"You should have told me," she said. "You don't want them to get infected."

"I washed them," he said, looking at his hands. "I think."

Despite her shock, Daria smiled at him. "Trent, you are a one of a kind piece of work."

Looking up, he saw her smile. "Thanks, Daria." He turned serious, "Uh, you're right about Janey knowing." He sighed, "I'll tell her when she gets home."

The opening door caused the two to look at each other in panic. Then, a familiar voice called out from the living room, "Hey, what the hell happened to the doorbell?"

Catching sight of someone in the kitchen, Jane walked in, then stopped as she took in the scene. Trent had been in a fight, but Daria had obviously already checked him over, judging by the fresh-looking bandage on his ear. They were sitting in chairs, Trent facing her and Daria facing away. Trent was looking at her face with worry bordering on fear. Daria, however . . . Why is she staring at my stomach? Jane wondered. A few seconds later, Daria's eyes rose to meet hers. She looks guilty. She kiss Tom again or something?

Daria looked at her friend. Jane was in her running outfit, which was sticking to her from the sweat. Her running shoes were an old pair that she refused to part with. She looked perfectly fine. Unbidden, Daria's eyes went to Jane's abdomen. There was a baby there, she thought.

"Uh, guys," Jane pointed over her shoulder with a thumb, "what happened to the doorbell?"

"You locked the door when you went running," Trent shrugged.

"Dammit, Trent," Jane put her hands on her hips, "I told you I put a key in the sculpture."

"I wasn't really thinking too good at the time."

"Wait," Daria looked from one to the other, confused, "you have a key in your doorbell?"

"Penny hid one there," Jane explained as she wiped some sweat from her forehead. "You use to be able to pry off the cover and get to it." She looked away and shrugged, "But Dad decided to screw it in a couple of years ago. Something about too many people knowing about it."

"Oh." Daria bit her lip and looked away.

"Now, for my next question," Jane moved closer to Trent, then leaned over. "Why were you fighting this time?"

"No reason," he said.

Raising an eyebrow, she said, "Trent, there are only three reasons you fight. If it was music, the rest of the Spiral could be lying in the living room talking about how tough they are. If it was Daria, she'd be --"

"Excuse me?" Daria was staring at her. "Trent wouldn't fight over me."

Jane chuckled as she glanced first at her friend, then down to where the two of them were holding hands. "Daria, I'm afraid that, for all intents and purposes, you've been adopted." The grin was almost vicious, "And Trent will fight for his little sisters."

"Oh." Daria swallowed, glanced at Trent, then dropped her eyes and blushed.

"Now, where was I?" Jane thought for a second, then went on, "Oh, yeah. If you had been fighting over Daria, she'd have pried that information out of you, then gone home to hide in her room. So," she frowned, "why the hell were you fighting over me?!"

Trent glanced at Daria for a second. "Remember your promise," he told her. When Daria's eyes widened, he smirked. Then, all the humor vanished as he looked at his sister and said three words, "I saw Paul."

Jane moved as if she had been shoved. The doorframe caught her before she could stumble back and fall into the living room. The color was gone from her face and her lip was trembling. Looking from her brother to her friend, a sudden realization hit. "You told her!"

"I had to, Janey," Trent explained. "You know she'd get it out of me. Especially after seeing me like this."

"You promised you'd never tell her, Trent!" Jane pulled herself upright and moved toward him. "How could you?"

"Jane," Daria stood and blocked her path, "I'm not the issue, here. Paul is. Him, and why you didn't tell me about what happened."

Jane's mouth moved, but her lips didn't part. Finally, she nodded. "You want to know why I didn't tell you? Okay, two reason. One, it was none of your damn business."

"Okay," Daria nodded.

"Two," she squinted her eyes shut and looked away, "since you didn't know, I wouldn't have to wonder when you'd ask about her." Jane's voice lost its strength, "I wouldn't wonder if you'd think I'd got knocked up every time I got sick or if I'd slept with a guy I was dating. Dammit," she slumped, "I didn't want you to feel sorry for me." She looked back to see that Daria was looking at her. "See, that's the look I didn't want to see." Turning, Jane ran up the stairs.

"Oh, that went well," Daria grumbled.

"Oh, yeah," Trent agreed as he dropped his head.

Jane entered her room and grabbed the pile of clothes she had set out for herself. She stopped before she had taken a step to stare at the red shirt on top. She dropped the pile on the bed, then went to the closet. Reaching back into a corner, she pulled out a worn red shirt that had seen better days. She clutched the front with both hands and brought it to her face. Jane wasn't sure how long she had stood there before a knock sounded on the door.

"Go away," she told them.

Opening the door, Daria said, "Sorry, that is not an option."

"It is if I say so," Jane didn't turn to look at her.

"You don't mean that." Daria looked at the shirt in your hand, "I always wondered where you got the idea to wear those shirts."

"Why don't you just go away, Daria," Jane snapped at her. "After all, I'm damaged goods."

"And you weren't yesterday?" Jane turned to glare, but Daria went on, "Look, Jane, I'm sorry if you think this changes how I think of you. And, in all honesty, it might. But not what I think of you. You're still my best friend. You're still the woman who thinks and breathes art. So, you made a mistake when you --"

"She wasn't a mistake!" Daria stepped back as Jane turned on her. "She was perfect, Daria. Perfect. Flawless." She looked at her hand as if seeing something that was no longer there. "Her hands were so tiny. She could barely wrap her hand around my pinky. And she had such a strong," her voice began to break, "strong grip." Tears had started to run down her face as she fought back a sob, "She didn't want to let go."

Two instinct fought Daria over her actions. One insisted that she keep her distance, avoiding contact. The other, though, moved her to take her friend in her arms. Jane put her head on the shorter girl's shoulder and wept. For a long time they stood there. Finally, Jane pulled back and wiped her eyes. "Sorry about that," she muttered.

"Eh," Daria shrugged, "I needed to clean this jacket anyway. Although," she glanced at her shoulder, "I think it's supposed to be dry cleaned."

Jane smirked, "Thanks, I needed that. Look," she glanced at the shirt she still held in her hand, "I really need a shower. You want to hang around until I'm done? I'll tell you the whole sorted story if you like."

"Trent gave me a brief version," Daria told her. "If you want to talk about it we can, but we don't have to if you don't want to."

Sniffing hard, Jane held out the shirt. "I think I want to, Daria. I even think I need to. Check out the pocket while I'm gone." Grabbing the clothes, Jane left the room.

Daria reached into the shirt pocket and pulled out a snapshot. In it, a dark-haired baby with blue eyes stared at the camera. Must be Jane's kid, Daria thought. No, she corrected, Jane's daughter. I guess she's cute, but I'm not an expert. The girl was dressed in pink, and was holding the pinky of a thin hand. The hand was even more pale than usual, but Daria was able to recognize it as Jane's. She was smiling at it when her friend returned to the room, clean and dressed, but with her hair still damp.

"I think you're right," Daria told her, "she is perfect."

"Thanks, amiga," Jane whispered as he took the photograph. She looked at it for a long time before either spoke.

"Um," Daria looked uncomfortable, "I'm kinda surprised you have a picture."

"It's not normal, I know." Jane's eyes never moved from the photograph. "It was a condition of the adoption. I got her for a half hour. I just wanted to be sure she was healthy before I gave her up. Trent took the picture. Well," she looked up and smirked, "he took a whole roll, but this is the only one that came out."

"The important one."

"Yeah," Jane's eyes moistened again, "the important one."

"You want to talk about it?"

Jane shook her head slowly, "No. I thought I did, but," she shook her head again, "I don't. You know. And you didn't turn your back on me the way the others did."


"Almost everybody." Jane shrugged, "Remember that thing for Mr. O'Neill where we had to fail at something?"


"I wasn't trying to be conventional." Setting the picture gently on her dresser, Jane said, "I was trying to be the Jane Lane I was when I first started high school."

"You use to dress like that all the time?" Wrapping her arms around herself, Daria shivered.

"Very funny," Jane smirked as she came over to sit next to her friend. "But, yeah," she nodded, "I dressed like that all the time."

"Mmm," Daria frowned. "I take it having the baby changed all that?"

"Ms. Li kinda frowned on anyone being friendly to the little girl who let herself be sullied like that." Jane scowled, "I was alone from the moment word of my pregnancy got out until the day you showed up."

"Better late than never," Daria gently nudged her friend with an elbow.

"No," Jane shook her head, "you were just in time. I wasn't ready for you before then."

"Wait a minute," Daria suddenly frowned, "were you put in that Self-Made-Scream Class before or after you got pregnant?"

"Self-Made-Scream?" Jane grinned. "I like that. I can even see the beginnings of a painting on that one."

"Thanks. Now answer the question."

"It was after." Jane chuckled, "That's why I thought it was funny that Mr. O'Neill didn't recognize me when we went up to take the test."

Daria looked away for a moment, then back at her. "Wasn't there anyone who supported you at all?"

"Ms. DeFoe wanted to," Jane said with a shrug, "but Ms. Li kept a lot of pressure on her."

"What about Jodie?"

Jane laughed, then said, "Daria, if hadn't been for her I wouldn't have made it."

"Excuse me?"

Jane shook her head, "Well, despite her cornering me in front of my locker one day and reading me the riot act for being a bad example for the other girls, she helped me out a lot. She even gave me a gift certificate for a maternity store. A big one, too."

"But she kept it a secret, right?" When Jane nodded, Daria scowled and said, "Sounds like she was ashamed to admit that she liked you."

"It was more she wanted to make sure nothing was done to me by pretending to be on the other side. Kinda like having my own spy," Jane grinned. "It was kinda cool. I'd find notes in my locker sometimes, telling me to avoid certain doors or halls. Nah," she shrugged again, "Jodie's okay in my book."

"So, why didn't you two become friends?"

"The slut and the super-student? Don't think so."

"Something I can't figure out," Daria said, "is why no one ever mentioned this to me. You would think that, with all the trouble you had, someone would have thought to tell me about it."

"Simple," Jane replied, "remember what I looked like then as opposed to now?"

"Ah," comprehension preceded a nod, "they took you at face value, thinking you were a new student."

"Or at least not making the connection to the 'other' Jane Lane."

"Which they all thought of as 'pregnant girl.'" The frown that appeared was harsh, "Damn them all. Damn them for doing that to you."

"Daria," Jane put a hand on her friend's shoulder, "don't worry about the school. I'm over that."

"But if they treated you like that they'll treat someone else the same way."

"Actually," Jane sighed, "there have been others. I wish they'd been treated better, but at least I was able to give away my fat clothes."

"Damn them all," Daria softly repeated.

"Daria, you can't expect Shakespear from a Playboy Bunny," Jane pointed out. "I finally accepted the fact that things there are never going to change. It's why I try to avoid all that crap and just get through the day."

"And the track team?"

"Vendetta against Morris," Jane answered with a shrug. "Evan was just a passing fancy, before you ask. I never even touched the boy."

Daria scowled and sighed. "Jane, remember how you said that you didn't tell me because I'd wonder if you'd slept with any guy you went out with?"


"You're defending yourself about a guy as if I'd already asked. And," she glared, "I wasn't going to. So stop it."

After running her words back through her mind, Jane slumped. "Ah, hell. Look, just kick me next time, okay?"

"Or sick Trent on you."

"Yeah, he's a little tiger, ain't he?" The two glanced toward the door before Jane said, "I bet he turned and saw Paul, then just started hitting him."

"Would Trent do that?" Daria asked.

"He swore if he ever saw Paul again he'd kill him. And believe me, he'd try. Trent saw the brunt of the whole affair." Jane flinched, "No pun intended, of course."

"Of course." Daria adjusted her glasses, then said, "He told me he was the one who found you."

Putting a hand over her eyes, Jane grimaced, "Oh, yeah. That was a mess. We thought Trent would be gone for hours, and no one else was home. So, we were on the sofa when he came in." She looked away for a moment before speaking again, "It was terrible, Daria. I'd never heard Trent really yelling before. I held him back while Paul made his escape. I," she stopped, then started over, "I think he would have really killed Paul right then and there."

"So he called your dad?"

"No." Jane dropped her head, "I did. I was trying to get Dad to see how Paul wasn't doing anything wrong so he could get Trent to back off. But, to my surprise, he took Trent's side. It's kinda funny, Daria," Jane looked at her and smirked. "You see, by the time she was my age, Mom had already been pregnant once. And summer had her oldest about the same time I did. Of course," the smirk vanished, "they didn't make it. But mine did," her voice sounded proud. "My baby made it. Perrin lived."

"Perrin is her name?"

"It's the name I gave her. It means . . ."

"Traveler. It's Latin," Daria said.

"You're good," Jane told her.

"I study names for characters," Daria replied with a shrug.

"Hmm. Anyway," Jane went on, "I call her that because she had to travel away from me." She bit her lip. "Damn, I haven't gotten weepy like this in years."

Daria sat, silent. "You know how I am with kids, right?"

"I saw you at the Gupty's, Daria," Jane said, smirking.

"Well, I just wanted you to know that, despite not being good with kids, I wish I'd gotten to meet Perrin." Daria stood, "We were going to go out for pizza, but I don't think I'm hungry."

"Me neither," Jane admitted. "And . . . I think I need to be alone for a while."

"As long as you stay alone," Daria wagged a finger at her even as she smirked.

"Damn, Daria," Jane said, chuckling, "I'd say you sound like my mother, but she never said anything like that." She sobered, "And I will be alone. Here, in my room. By myself."

"Just you and memories?"

"Me and my demons." Jane looked toward the foot of the bed, "And my memories of an angel."

I'm blaming Trent for this, Daria thought as she quickly hugged her friend. Then, she turned and left.

Jane was silent as she stood and retrieved the picture from the dresser. Then, as she sat on the bed, she held the photo to her heart and whispered, "My little angel," as tears ran down her face.

Quinn came into the Morgendorffer kitchen to see her sister staring out the window. When she didn't move as the refrigerator opened and closed, Quinn asked, "Daria, what's wrong?"

"Huh?" Daria jerked around to look at her. "Oh, sorry. Thinking." She shrugged, "Brains do that."

"Yeah," Quinn smirked, "of course they do. But they don't usually look like they were in a trance while doing it."

"And when did you become an expert on what brains do?" Daria asked, scowling.

"Years of observation," Quinn replied with a smile. Then, the smile faded, "Something is obviously troubling you or you'd be out the door and on your way to Jane's by now." She looked at her, "You didn't kiss Jane's boyfriend again, did you?"

"She doesn't have a . . ." Daria shook her head. "No, I didn't." Standing, she looked at her sister and sighed. "Quinn, I," she stopped. "Be careful when you're out on dates, okay?"

"I always am," Quinn told her.

"Good." Without another word, the elder sibling left the room.

"She is so weird."

"Hey." Daria jumped at the sound of Jane's voice. Looking up, she realized she'd walked the entire distance on automatic. "You okay?"

"Uh," she looked at Jane, who was kneeling by the front door, obviously fixing the doorbell. "Fine. Really."

Standing, Jane frowned, "You're still upset over yesterday, aren't you?"

"Not upset," Daria admitted, "just uncertain."

"Uncertain about what? Nothing's changed, really. You just have more info on how twisted my life is."

"And how shallow and useless the people of Lawndale are," Daria explained. "If they would do that to you, they would do that to me . . . or Quinn."

Jane looked confused. "How'd your sister become a part of this?"

"She dates a lot," Daria reminded her. "I don't know what she does on dates, but she can't ask Mom to get her on the pill because she would instantly lock both of us in closets until we're forty."

"Such a mature attitude about sex," Jane observed.

"My parents believe that the only people in the world who are allowed to have sex is them," she explained. "So, if Quinn is sexually active, she's using methods that are a lot less reliable. And you know the popular eat their own."

"Considering the topic, could you rephrase that?" Jane requested.

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah, I know." Jane sighed, "Look, Daria, if she did get pregnant, she'd face the same crap that I did. But," she went on, "she'd have a better support system. You know your Mom would eat Li for breakfast if she tried anything. And I have a strong feeling that Quinn's sister would put some serious hurt on anyone who damaged one hair on her head."

"Those are fighting words," Daria said, trying to sound angry. When she spoke again, she sounded tired. "I guess I'm being paranoid. Quinn doesn't think enough about any of the guys around here to even let them get in a good feel, much less into her pants."

"Probably." Turning, Jane hit the button, setting off the doorbell. She hit the button a few more times until they heard Trent's voice yelling that he was on his way from upstairs. Leaning in, Jane yelled up, "Hey, Trent! It's just me testing the doorbell! Go back to sleep!"

Trent appeared at the top of the stairs wearing only his boxers. "Ah, man. Hey, Daria," he waved at her.

"Uh, hi Trent. Don't forget your promise."

"Huh? Oh, yeah." Trent nodded as Jane grabbed her backpack, then closed the door as they left.

"He promised something?" she asked Daria as they headed down the walk.

"Trent is supposed to see a doctor about his ear." Daria smirked, "I told him that, since he'd never broken a promise to me, he had to make one so I'd know he'd keep it."

"You know, I don't remember Trent ever making a promise to you," Jane said after a moment of thought.

"Neither do I. Unless you could that fiasco with that class assignment as a promise."

"The word was never used," Jane pointed out. She smirked, "You tricked Trent into going to the doctor, didn't you?"

"We'll see after school, Jane." She frowned again. "Jane, how many of the teachers are the same as in your Freshman year?"

"Daria," Jane rolled her eyes, "get over it. It's the same idiots in front of the class as in the class. I've gotten past it, so don't drag it all up again, okay?"


They walked for a bit before Jane noticed the glances Daria was giving her. Stopping, she crossed her arms and glared. "Dammit, Daria, this is why I didn't want you to know. You're going to agonize over this until it drives me crazy. Now, what's on your mind?"

"Sorry," Daria said, slouching even more than usual. "It's none of my business." Turning, she started to walk away, "I'll just --"

"Freeze, Morgendorffer," Jane snapped. "Now spill the question before I gotta get rough with ya'."

"I don't really mean to pry."

"Would you ask me already?" Jane looked up and held her arms out to the sides as if asking for diving help. "Please get this over with so we can get back to our regularly scheduled torture."

There was a delay before Daria quietly asked, "What about Paul?" As she had the day before, Jane took a step back. "You act like you're afraid of him."

"No," her voice lost its strength, "not him. Of who I was around him."

"Excuse me?"

Jane swallowed, then spoke in a more normal voice, "Remember how you were around Trent when you first met?"

"Uh," Daria frowned, "yeah. I was an inarticulate moron."

"You were Albert friggin' Einstein compared to me when I met Paul." Jane started walking as she spoke, "That's one of the reasons I kidded you about it. You see, Paul noticed me, despite my amazing impression of drooling furniture. When he realized how smitten I was, he began to take advantage of me. It took a while before it became physical. Well," she shrugged, "a couple of weeks. At the time I would have done anything for him." She looked away as she quietly added, "And pretty well did. God I was an idiot."

"But you're not like that now, right?"

"I don't know." She looked at her friend, "Daria, I'm afraid of what I'll do if I see him. I, I might turn back into that little girl who adored him."

"Hmm," Daria muttered. "So, how does that relate to me and Trent?"

"I was afraid you'd turn into the same thing."

"Trent wouldn't do anything like that," Daria said, surprised at herself.

"He's a guy, Daria," came the reminder. "He might not have gotten you pregnant, but he would have eventually taken advantage of you in some way." She smirked, "Even if it was just to bring him a soda."

There was a few seconds of silence. Then, Daria said, "Thanks for not letting that happen."

"No problem."

"I'm going to let this go, but I think I just need a little time to get use to it. But I won't bring it up until you do."

"I understand. I had a year to get over it, so I shouldn't expect you to do it in a few hours." Jane didn't see Daria glance at her once, then frown.

True to her word, Daria didn't mention the taboo topic while they went through their daily routine at school. But, Jane would occasionally catch her friend looking at her or, once, looking at her own stomach while she rested a hand on it. She let it go, however, until they were leaving the building for the day.

"Daria," Jane began, "I don't mean to pry, but why were you looking at your stomach during Mr. DeMartino's class?"

"Huh?" Daria, obviously distracted, turned to look at her.

"You had a hand on your stomach and was staring at it like you'd sprung a leak," Jane reminded her.

"Oh." Daria nodded, then reached into her backpack and pulled out her notebook. She opened it to a page, then handed it to Jane.

Curious, Jane read from the page. "Possible story. Melody finds her 'protection' fails and she is pregnant." She looked at Daria, "You're using this as a basis for a story?"

"Not exactly," Daria explained. "And I'm not even sure I'm going to write it."

"But it says it right here," Jane handed back the notebook.

"Jane," Daria explained as she put the notebook away, "you use painting to work through things, right?"


"I write. I put it my journal, sure. But, sometimes, I have to work things out by putting Melody through it." She frowned, "Did I ever tell you why we moved from Highland?"

"I thought it was because your mom found a job here."

"No. If that had been the case, Mom would have come ahead and we would have followed after the school year." Looking at her friend, Daria said, "Mom 'found' my notebook open to a story I wrote. In it, a character named Eloise Pierce was planning to blow up the school."

"Let me guess, your Mom thought you were going to do it?"

"Got it in one, Jane." Daria smirked, "I wasn't going to, of course. But, I had taken out my frustration on how bad the school was out in the story. So, Mom knew how unhappy I was. Even Quinn hated the place. Not that she'd ever admit it."

Jane chuckled as they came around the corner. The Pizza King was ahead of them, it's aroma already reaching their noses. "Did they have a Pizza King there?"

"No. Didn't have much of anything there." A young man came out of the door as they approached. "It was pretty ghastly dull, as a matter of -- Jane?" Daria turned to see that she was alone.

"Excuse me." Turning, she saw the man who had just come out of the restaurant standing there.


"Did you say 'Jane?'" Daria now noticed that the man's face was bruised and cut in places.

"Uh," It's got to be Paul, her mind screamed, Jane wouldn't hide unless it was him. "No, I said 'blame.' I was talking to myself about who was to blame for how high gas is."

"Oh." He smiled a little, then flinched as a hand came up to his lip. While he was distracted, Daria took in his appearance. He was about the same height as Trent, but heavier. He had a few extra pounds around the middle and in his face. He had dark blond hair that was cut short, and gray eyes. He was wearing jeans, a black polo shirt and white sneakers.

I wonder what he looks like without being beaten up? Daria asked herself. I don't see why Jane would be so ga-ga over the guy. Hmm, then most people wouldn't see why I like the way Tom looks, either. "I know talking to myself is a bad habit," she admitted, "but that way I don't lose any arguments."

"Never thought of it that way. Well, sorry to bother you." He walked to a car, got in, and drove away.

After thinking for a second, Daria went around to the edge of the building and found Jane leaning against the wall, nervous.

"Is he gone?"

"No, he possessed my mind and is forcing me to obey his will," Daria said, sounding contrite.

"Not funny, Daria," Jane said, stepping away from the wall.

"Neither is suddenly finding that I'm talking to myself." After watching Jane try to say something and fail for a few seconds, she said, "Jane, you're gonna have to face him, sometime."

"Am I?" Walking past her, Jane said, "I thought I just did a damn good job of not talking to him. And, you know, not talking to him sounds like a damn good thing to do." Opening the door to the restaurant, she slipped inside.

"Hey, Janey," Trent said as he walked past her in the hall.

"Hey, Trent," she replied. "You're healing up nice."


"How's the stitches?"

He scowled, "The doctor said they'll be out in a few weeks. No more ear ring, though."

"You gonna pull them all out?"

"Just the one ear, I guess." He smirked, "I'll have a cool scar, anyway."

"You ever intend to tell me what the hell happened?"

He stopped at the door to his room. Without turning, he said, "There's nothing to tell."

"You beat up on the father of my child and there's nothing to tell?" She walked up to him, then reached out to turn his chin until they were eye-to-eye. "What. Happened?"

Looking down, Trent shrugged. "I, uh," he sighed. "He came up and said hi. I didn't recognize him until he asked about you."

"And you hit him." It wasn't a question.

"No," he corrected. "I told him to keep away from you. I didn't throw the first punch, Jane. Honest."

Jane looked at him for a long moment. Finally, she nodded and said, "I believe you, Trent. You've told me about stuff more stupid than this before."

"I don't know what he's doing here, Janey, but I don't like it." He put a hand on her shoulder, "Janey, please stay away from him."

"I'll try, Trent," she whispered. "But I can't be a prisoner in my own home. Besides," she shrugged, "he knows where I live."

"Think it's too late to move?" Trent asked with a smirk. "I think Dad is in the Bahamas somewhere."

Jane laughed, punched him lightly in the arm, and replied, "Idiot."

"What are you gonna do, Janey?" Trent looked worried and tired.

She shrugged, "What I've done since the day I found out I was pregnant. Just try to stay sane enough to make it through high school and get out of this crappy town."

"Yeah," he agreed. "I'm thinking of leaving, too."

"Where will you go, Trent?"

"California, maybe." He smirked, "Or New York. Even Nashville would be better than this."

"Yeah," she grinned, "I can just see you playing guitar for some bunch of rednecks."

"Now, now," Trent's smirk became a grin, "just because they've been to drunk to fish is no reason to make fun of them."

It took a few seconds for Jane to stop laughing long enough to say, "Oh, where did you hear that?"

"Jesse's dad had a CD with stuff like that on it," Trent explained. "Jesse had me listen to it so I could explain some of it to him."

After another laugh, she nudged Trent's arm. "You made my day, bro. Go get some sleep while I try to get this image of Jesse trying to figure out how to work a fishing pole out of my mind."

"That was funny to watch," Trent said with a nod. Then, yawning, he went into his room and closed the door.

Jane was on her way to her room when the doorbell rang. I thought Daria had a date with Tom, tonight, she thought as she headed for the stairs. If it's Jesse I'm going to laugh myself to death. Smiling, she opened the door, then froze.

His face was a lot less swollen than it had been outside of the Pizza King. His hair, which had once been shoulder length, seemed too short. But, it was Paul. "Hi," he said, smiling.

"Hey," she said, fighting the urge to scream and run. To or from him, though, she wasn't sure.

"I've been looking for you."

"Well," she shrugged, "looks like you found me."

"I missed you."


He held up his hands, "Now wait a minute, Jane. It was either run or go to jail. We both know I didn't force you into anything."

"Paul, I was too young to know better," she stated.

"You're old enough now."

She stared at him. "You have got to be joking."

"All I'm saying is that we can start over. You know," he shrugged, "get to know each other again."

"No," she shook her head. "I don't think I could survive that again."

"Jane," he smiled, "we were good together. You've never had better, have you?"

"That is none of your damn business," she stated coldly.

He stepped closer and took one of her hands in his. "Admit it," he whispered, "no one has made you feel the way I did."

"No one else has ever given me labor pains, you mean," she snapped before she realized what she had said.

"What?" He stepped back. "Labor pains?"

"As in having a baby, yes." Having spilled the beans, Jane pressed the issue. "And where were you when your baby was being born, huh?"

He shook his head as his jaw dropped open. "I, I had no idea." Leaning his head to one side, "You kept him?"

"She was put up for adoption," Jane stated. "After all a single girl that age without anyone to really help her out couldn't do much for a baby, could she? Or," she frowned, "were you asking if I aborted the child."

"No," he protested weakly, "of course not."

"Of course not," she repeated back to him.

"I know you wouldn't kill our baby," he said, smiling again. "You're too caring a person to do that. Too loving." He brought a hand up and ran the back of his fingers along her jawline.

The familiar sensation caused a tingle to run down her back. "Please don't," she whispered.

"You remember what it felt like, Jane?" He was whispering in her ear now as his hands slid up her bare arms. "I see you still wear a shirt like mine."

"Paul, stop." Stepping back, she broke contact with him. "I'm not that little girl anymore. You can't just walk in and pick up where you left off."

"Well, then, let's start over." Paul held out a hand. "Come on, Jane, give me another chance."

She stared at his hand for a long moment. But, before she could answer, a voice came from up the stairs.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Trent, shirtless but still wearing his pants, came down the stairs, looking angry.

"I wanted to talk to Jane," Paul said, looking nervous.

"I told you to stay away from her." Trent kept advancing, causing Paul to retreat.


The two turned to look at Jane. "I'm not a piece of furniture you can win or lose in a bet. My choices are MINE to make." She pointed at Trent, "YOU, go back to your room. And YOU," she pointed at Paul, "get out of here before I make sure you never get another girl pregnant." When neither moved, she took a deep breath, then yelled, "NOW!"

A slightly worn and rusted Jaguar pulled up to the curb, allowing Daria to exit. Leaning down to the open window, she told Tom Sloane, "I'll be right back. I just need to tell Jane something. Halfway down the walk, she suddenly flinched when she heard Jane's yell coming from the still-open door. Forewarned, she stepped aside as Paul ran past her. Turning, she watched him bounce off the Jaguar, then run down the block to his own car. With a smirk, she proceeded to the door. Leaning in, she saw Jane alone in the living room. Her expression was a cross between anger and satisfaction.

"Was that fun?" Daria asked.

"Yeah," Jane nodded, "it was."

"Always wondered what it looked like," Daria mused as she came in. "So, I take it Paul showed up?"


"And you chatted?"


"Get things resolved?"




"If you keep answering questions like that, I'm going to start calling you Jane Wayne," Daria warned her.

"Sorry," Jane said, scowling, "but I was just wondering who would have won."

"Won?" Daria blinked at her.

"He was trying to get me back, Daria." Jane walked to the sofa and sat. "I was telling him 'no,' but a part of me wanted to say 'yes.'"

"Why would you have anything to do with him, Jane? He left you."

"Only after Dad tried to have him arrested," Jane pointed out. "And even that was hypocritical of him. Summer was bringing all kinds of guys home by the time she was that age. Penny was active, too, but she didn't bring them home. But me," she threw up her arms, "I'm the baby of the family. Dad is around so seldom he can't believe I'm growing up at all. To him I should be wearing diapers and sucking my thumb."

"And I thought Dad was bad about my age. But, at least he's got the right decade." Daria frowned, "Look, Jane, I wasn't around then. But, I think your family did the right thing. Even if they didn't for the other girls."

Standing, Jane looked into the eyes of her friend. "If they hadn't, Daria," she said in a low voice, "Perrin might be with me today. And, as much as I like you, I'd pick her any day of the week." Not waiting for a reply, Jane went up the stairs.

"Jane," Daria's voice came through the door, "I need to tell you something."

"Not now, Daria," Jane said from the bed. Hearing a rattling in the door, she sat up and yelled, "I said 'not now!'"

The door opened and Daria stepped in. Holding up a hand, she said, "I'll say my piece, then leave." When Jane said nothing, but sat on the side of the bed, she took a deep breath then began, "Using my Melody Powers story idea, I got Mom to talk to me about this state's adoption laws. They're pretty strict for people who give them up, but children who've been adopted can find their birth parents when they turn eighteen. I don't know if that's a help or not, but maybe she'll try to find you some day."

"It doesn't." Taking a few deep breaths, she said, "Look, Daria, I know you're trying to help, but stop barging in here."

"Okay." Daria turned to go, then stopped. Turning back, she said, "Jane."

"What?" came the annoyed reply.

"If I was in your shoes, I'd choose my baby, too."

Jane watched her friend leave as the anger ebbed away. Turning, she buried her head in a pillow and let go with a scream of frustration.

Jane was waiting when Daria came out of her house the next morning. "Hey," she said as her friend approached.

"Hi." Daria looked at her, and, hidden behind the frames of her glasses, raised an eyebrow. "What's with the wardrobe?" Jane was wearing blue jeans and a large gray sweatshirt.

She shrugged, "Just felt like a change. And I burned the outfit I wore for O'Neill, so I was kind of stuck. I found this shirt in Penny's room and, since my shorts would just make it look like I was pantless, I grabbed my jeans."

"I see the boots are still under there," Daria observed.

"If you try to look 'under there' for anything else I will use these boots on you," Jane said with a grin.

"The thought never crossed my mind." In unison, the two turned and headed toward school. "You mind if I ask what brings you to my door this find morning?"

"'Fine' and 'morning' are contradictions in terms, amiga."

"Okay, then how about what brings you out at this ungodly hour?"

"I uh," Jane shrugged, "wanted to apologize for yesterday."

"That's okay."

"No, Daria, I was mad at Trent and Paul and I took it out on you." Jane looked over at her, "I'm really sorry about that."

"Jane, I knew you were upset. Besides, I couldn't stay long. I didn't tell him why, but I had Tom stop by your house so I could pass on what I'd learned." Daria looked away, "I should probably apologize to you. The more I think about it, the more I realize what I said probably only made things worse."

"It did for a little while," Jane admitted with a nod. "But when I fell asleep, I dreamed that she found me. I was in a studio painting when she walks in. Her hair is dark and pulled back into a pony tail. Heh," she grinned, "believe it or not, she was wearing a green jacket like yours."

"Probably from when you were inhaling the fumes the other day," Daria guessed. "Uh, I hope you feel better, now."

"I do. Thanks." As they walked, Jane took a deep breath, then said, "You know, for a morning, it's not that bad."

"If you're going to start talking like that, I'm going to go home." The two shared a smirk as they went down the walkway.

"Hey, you and young Thomas going out tonight?"

"No," Daria scowled. "He has some kind of meeting he has to go to with his dad. It seems he has to go because he's one of the heirs to the powerful name of Grace Sloane and Paige. It's one of the reasons we were out last night."

"Ah, the weight of responsibility." Jane shrugged, "Kinda glad I don't have that problem."

"No, you're not," Daria corrected.

"Yeah," Jane deflated slightly, "you're right. Damn, I miss the days when you didn't know any better." Looking over, she saw the skeptical look. "I hate you."

"Join the club."

"Now, now, Morgendorffer," Jane waved a finger at her, "talk like that will land you back in Mr. O'Neill's party room."

"Gee, maybe I could break your record."

"But then you'd miss the UFO conventions."


As they walked, Daria began to notice her friend looking nervous every time a car drove past. Finally, she sighed and said, "Jane, he drives a gray Ford Taurus."


"You're looking for his car. If you had peeked around that corner the other day, you would have seen him drive away in a gray Ford Taurus."

"Oh." Jane chuckled, "I just don't want him to ambush me again."

"Well, now you have another piece of information to add to your arsenal. Can we go on to school, now?" Rolling her eyes, Daria muttered, "I can't believe I said that."

"I guess those subliminal messages over the intercoms are working."

"I'm going to have to listen to Mystick Spiral more so I'll be too deaf to be brainwashed."

"Ah," Jane held up a finger, "that reminds me. I was going to ask if you wanted to go with me to the Zen tonight. It'll get both of us out of the house without the burden of male company."

"Hmm. Okay," Daria nodded. "I think the Fashion Drones are having a meeting at the house, anyway. So I have to either leave or buy that sword I've always wanted."

"I thought that was a guillotine," Jane mused as they walked up to the school's door.

"Picky, picky."

"You sure about this?" Trent asked as they pulled up in front of the Morgendorffer home.

"Trent," Jane scowled, "if I'm going to run into him again, I'd rather it be in a public place. And, if I do, I'd want my best friend there to guard my back."

"Did you tell Daria?"

"Uh," Jane scowled, "no. It slipped my mind." Looking at him, she added, "You know, some of us don't have to say everything that comes to mind."

"Hey," he frowned at her, "how long do you think it would have taken her to figure out something was wrong? The second Paul showed up it became inev, uh, impro, no." With a grunt of disgust, he finally managed, "She would have found out."

"But I could have told her my own way!" she insisted. Slumping against the seat, she waved a hand, "Dammit. I finally stopped thinking about her every time I wake up in the morning, and that bastard has to show up again."

"You gonna go get her?" Trent asked.

"Yeah, I'll get her." As if carrying a large weight, Jane climbed out of the car. Reaching the door, she was stunned when Daria opened it, stepped out side, closed the door behind her, then walked away. As she did, the auburn-haired young woman grabbed Jane's sleeve and pulled her along.

"We need to go," Daria informed her. A few seconds later, screams echoed from inside the house. Smirking, she added, "Now would be a good time." The two hurried down the walk and almost dove into the back seat of the car as the door to the house opened.

"What the?" Jane looked in disbelief as four girls with blue faces came charging down the walk. "Trent, get us out of here!"

"Whoa," he stared for a second, then put the car in gear and pulled away. After rounding the corner, he looked up into his mirror to where Daria was sitting. "Cool trick."

"Thanks," Daria said, smirking. "I'll be paying for that one later, though."

"What'd you do?" Jane asked, impressed.

"A chemistry lesson. I put a few things into a mud mask they were going to try out." She smirked, "I left directions on how to get rid of the color, but I don't think they'll take the time to read them."

"Damn," Jane shook her head, "I'm glad you're on my side." She laughed, then said, "Chemistry at work in the modern world."

"I aim to please."

Mystik Spiral was almost through the first set when a movement near the door caught Jane's eye. "Oh, no," she said loudly enough to get Daria's attention. Two members of the Lawndale Police Department had come in, followed by a by-now familiar figure.

"What's Paul up to, now?" Jane muttered. She watched as the officers spoke to the bartender, who pointed up to the stage.

"Oh, hell," Daria said as she realized what was going on. "Jane," she said into her friend's ear, "didn't you tell me that Trent didn't throw the first punch?"


"Do you think he has any witnesses?"

As comprehension dawned, Jane looked at her for a second. Then, she turned and started for the man who was smirking as the police stopped the concert. A hand on her arm, though, stopped her. "He's gonna get Trent into trouble," Jane protested.

"And you with him if you're not careful," Daria pointed out. "Besides, he's heading this way."

Looking around to where she'd seen him, Jane saw that Paul had almost reached them. In the distance, she could hear the cops talking to Trent, but her concentration was on the man who was now in front of her.

"Hi, Jane," he said, smiling. "Who's your friend?"

"Your worst nightmare," Daria supplied.

"You heard the woman," Jane told him with a growl. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Paul?"

"Helping the cause of justice," he replied. "I was attacked and beaten, and now the man who did it is going to jail."

"Trent didn't throw the first punch," she stated.

"Says him," Paul told her with a smirk. "I remember it differently. Besides," he shrugged, "who's going to take the word of some slacker musician over an upstanding member of the community?"

"You low life scum sucking muck raking son of an white trash --"

"Jane!" Daria's voice stopped her rant. Looking at Paul, Daria scowled, "If you take this to court, there will be witnesses that will testify to the truth. So," she went on, "you have something else up your sleeve."

"Okay," he crossed his arms and smiled. "I've talked to a lawyer, and the adoption wasn't legal."

Her blood ran cold as Jane said, "What?"

"No one got my permission," he explained. "So, the adoption isn't legal. So," he went on, "I'm suing for custody of my daughter."

"You bastard!" Jane spat. "Leave her out of this. Her life's been torn apart once, don't do it again."

"She should be with her family. And since you didn't want her --"

"Didn't want her?" Daria could feel the anger coming off of Jane in waves. "I spend every waking moment wishing she was in my arms. It tore me apart to give her up. But it was the right thing to do!" Her voice took on a dangerous tone, "You leave my baby alone."

"She's mine, too, Jane," Paul said, smug. "And you're not going to get in the way."

"How you gonna stop me?" she growled.

"You get in the way, your brother goes to jail. You keep your mouth shut, and he goes free." His smile faded a little, "You gave her away, Jane, so it shouldn't make a difference where she is. Look at it this way, she'll be with her daddy."

"She's got a daddy," Jane told him. "And a mommy. Ones who were better able to care for her than either of us. They've loved her and been there when she has nightmares. She's in a good home and I'll fight like hell to keep her safe and happy."

"You don't know that, Jane. In fact, you have no idea what her life is like. She could be ignored and left alone. Like you were, in fact."

"Don't even try that crap with me." Stepping right up to him, she glared into his eyes, "You know she's better off without either of us in her life. So, why are you doing this?"

He laughed, "I want my kid. Of course, if you're so worried, you could always come with me." Paul's voice dropped to a near-seductive tone, "Think of it, Jane. The three of us. Me, you, and our little girl."

"You'd find a way to ruin it," Daria interjected. "By the way, are you up to raising a baby?"

"How so?"

"It takes a lot of time to raise a child," Daria explained. "And they aren't cheap."

"I got a job."

"Enough for day care, diapers, and food?" Daria crossed her arms, "You're what, twenty-one?"

"Twenty-two," he corrected.

"Which means you're not out of college. So, unless you've managed to have a really cushy job drop into your lap, you're a wage slave. And that means, if Jane did take leave of her sanity and join you in this little trip to where the windmills live, she'd end up throwing her chances of an education and future in the dumper with yours." Looking at Jane, Daria added, "And it would be all for naught, as you would leave her as soon as you saw what you considered to be a better catch."

"Leaving the two of us to fend for ourselves," Jane concluded with a nod. "No, I won't be dragged into this."

"Then just stay out of it. After all," he dropped his arms and moved away, "we wouldn't want the fight to be a three-way one, would we? Think of the baby."

Jane started to go for Paul, only to be held back by the shorter woman. "Let me go, Daria," she pleaded. "He can't have her."

"We need to take stock of the situation, Jane," Daria said in an intense whisper. "Besides, Trent's gone and we need to figure out what to do about that."

Jane was shocked to realize that, not only had the cops taken her brother away, but most of the crowd had simply wandered off. "Dammit," she grumbled. Looking at the stage, she could see the band was still standing there, seemingly in shock. "We better see to the band," she told Daria.

"Then we'll go to my place," Daria said. "We need to do some digging and the Internet will be our shovel."

"I'd prefer a back hoe," Jane commented as they headed for the stage.

"We're not digging a grave, Jane," Daria warned. "Well, not a physical one, anyway."


"Any idea why he's doing this?"

"No idea," Jane shook her head. "Dammit, he's bound to have found some other girls by now. Why's he picking on me?"

"Because he's scum," Daria told her. "You know, sometimes I can see where Ms. Barch gets her ideas from."

"Not all of them are bad, Daria," Jane argued. "Tom turned out okay."

"After he kissed me while still dating you," Daria griped. "As if you hadn't had enough man trouble in your life."

Jane chuckled, "Considering the problems I'd already had, forgiving the two of you for that was easy. Besides," she grinned, "he fulfilled his purpose."

"Purpose? Do I want to know?" Daria looked nervous.

The chuckle became a laugh, "God, Daria, calm down. All he did was show me that I was someone a guy could be interested in without wanting to jump in the sack." She shrugged, "I needed that. So, you can have the rest of him. I got the part I needed."

"Okay, but if you've voided the warranty I'll be coming for you," Daria warned.


Daria walked into the bathroom to find herself alone with Jodie Landon. Jodie was checking her hair when she saw Daria in the mirror. "Hey, Daria," she said.

"Uh, hi." Jane's words flashed through her mind. "Daria, if hadn't been for her I wouldn't have made it."

"You okay?" Jodie asked. "You look nervous. And you never look nervous."

"Uh, Jodie," Daria bit her lip, "I need to say something, but it needs to be in confidence. Not even Jane can know."


"Jane told me how you helped her out when she was pregnant."

"She told you about that?" Jodie's eyes were wide. "She swore me to secrecy."

"She swore at me when I found out," Daria said with a smirk. "Look, I just wanted to, uh, thank you for helping her. I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't been here for me to find."


Daria took a deep breath, "You know, I don't go in for extracurriculars."

"That's an understatement," Jodie agreed.

"Well, if someone like Jane comes along and you need help helping them, just, uh," Daria dropped her head and shrugged, "let me know. Okay?"

"Even with what happened to Jane, I'm kinda surprised," Jodie admitted, leaning against the sink.

"Not as much as I am," Daria admitted. "Look, Jane told me a little about how she was treated when she was pregnant. I don't want anyone else to have to go through that."

"Well, we're good right now," Jodie told her. "And, I hope, it'll stay that way. But if someone turns up expecting, I'll give you a call, okay?"

Daria took a deep breath, stood up straight, smirked, then saluted. "I await your orders," she said.

Jodie chuckled, then gave a half-hearted salute in reply. "You are something else, Daria."

"And if I ever find out what maybe I can sell it and make some real money," Daria replied.

"Have a nice chat?"

"Ah!" Daria jumped at the voice from behind her. Turning, she saw that Jane had been leaning against the doorway leading into the bathroom. "Jane, don't do that."

"Sorry," Jane said as she fell into step beside her friend, "I forget that you can't see to the side that well. So, how'd it go?"

"How did what go?"

"I saw Jodie go in there just before you suddenly had to take off. So," she shrugged, "I figured you wanted to talk to Jodie about what happened. It's okay, Daria, really."

"Hrm," Daria murmured. "Okay, you got me. I did go in there to talk to Jodie. But, I really wanted to tell her that, if, you know," she shrugged, "another girl got pregnant, that I'd help."

"You volunteered?" Jane looked shocked. "Why, Daria, maybe you'll join the Human race after all!"

"Just in time to strangle my best friend," Daria said, glaring.

"Hey," Jane was grinning, "I'm just teasing you, amiga. Besides, I told Jodie the same thing at the beginning of my Sophomore year. We could be working together to help some poor girl. Won't that be fun?"

"You sure it wouldn't bring back some bad memories?"

"Nah," Jane waved a hand. "Besides, I can tell them what to expect. Which," she frowned, "was unpleasant. Especially the labor pains part."

"I've heard enough horror stories about that, thank you."

"All part of the service that we offer," Jane told her, her smirk in place once again. It slipped slightly as she asked, "So, what's the plan, now?"

"You sure you don't remember any clues as to where he went after that warrant was issued?" Daria asked again.

"No," she shook her head. "He'd talked about relatives he had around the country, but there weren't any he got along with. Except," she stopped, "there was a cousin in Iowa somewhere."

Getting in front of Jane, she stopped, "Think, Jane, where in Iowa?"

"Uh," Jane bit her lip and bounced in place as if she needed to got to the bathroom, "come one," she coaxed herself. Finally, she shook her head, "I'm drawing a blank. I want to say it had something to do with cars, but I don't think they build cars in Iowa."

"These days you never know," Daria told her. "We'll check the computer when we get home."

"It wasn't much help last night," Jane pointed out as the twosome started down the hall again.

"We didn't know where to look," Daria reminded her. "There are thousands of Paul Davidsons out there."

"The schmuck is out there," Jane said without humor. "And if I try to stop him, Trent goes to jail."

"We don't know that, Jane," Daria reminded her friend. "All we need are a few witnesses to the fight to say that Paul threw the first punch."

"Someone who doesn't come across as a dope fiend, you mean," Jane corrected.

Daria was about to reply when they spotted Charles "Upchuck" Ruttheimer III approaching. "Well, well," he said in his faux-suave voice, "if it isn't the lovely Miss Morgendorffer and the equally stunning Jane Lane. A fine pair of ladies, who seem to be without an escort."

Jane sighed and looked at Daria. "Please forgive me."

"For what?"

There was a brief second where Jane just looked at Daria and smiled. Then, she turned and, putting a hand on either side of his head, placed her lips against those of the red-headed young man. The kiss lasted a few seconds, then she stepped back.

"For that," she told Daria. The two headed down the hall, leaving a confused and dazed Charles Ruttheimer.

"What was that for?" Daria asked as the sound of a body collapsing behind them was ignored.

"I just needed to thank him for not being Paul," Jane explained with a shrug.

"There are a lot of guys who aren't Paul," Daria pointed out. "You going to kiss all of them?"

"No, just Upchuck. You see," Jane looked over at her, "he's the closest the school has right now. And if he's that harmless, we're not doing that badly."

"But he's still annoying," Daria pointed out.

"If I haven't killed him," Jane said with a smirk.

"We couldn't be that lucky."

"You mean he couldn't be that lucky," Jane corrected with an evil twitching of her eyebrows.

It was a few steps later when Daria spoke again, "You mind if I ask you a question?"

"You've got pretty well all my secrets already, so what's one more?"

"Why the old outfit?" Daria looked over to where her friend was back in the red shirt/black shorts outfit she'd worn for so long. "After what's happened, I'm surprised that you'd have anything to do with that shirt."

Jane chuckled, "Daria, I don't wear this because of Paul. I wear it because of Perrin."

"Trent said . . ."

" Trent doesn't know. No one does because I never told anyone," Jane interrupted. "You see, I went into labor in the middle of the night. Dad and Trent panicked." She smirked, "If I hadn't been in so much pain, I'd have laughed myself into a coma watching the two of them. Anyway, they forgot my suitcase. So, afterward, all I had to wear was a hospital gown." She looked stern, "And I wasn't going to be in a lousy gown for the only pictures I'd ever have taken with my daughter. So, Dad loaned me his shirt." She plucked at the lapel of the shirt she wore, "Like this one. If more than one of those pictures had come out, you'd see that I was wearing one like it in them. So," she shrugged, "I wear this shirt in memory of my little girl."

"I wish I could have seen her," Daria said, soberly.

"Me, too. But I meant what I told Paul. She's better off. I was too young to take care of her, and my family is, well," she shrugged again, "my family. If I ever do have another kid, it'll be when I can take care of them."

"You know," Daria looked at the table, "you've got more guts that I do. I don't know if I could have faced having a baby now, much less back then."

"From what you've said, I'd hate to think who the father would have been," Jane teased.

Looking up, Daria smirked, "I hate you."

"Oh," Jane grinned and waved a hand at her best friend, "stop getting all mushy on me."

"You'll be nice and mushy after you've been buried for a few months," Daria grumbled. She fought down a look of satisfaction as her complaint caused Jane's grin to widen a notch.

"Chevrolet?" Daria asked Jane a short time later. They were in Jane's room, with Daria on the computer and Jane on the bed. She was stretched out with her head hanging over the end.

"No, but it'd be a cool town to live in," Jane replied.

"Hmm," Daria frowned as she looked at the search engine, "there isn't a Chevrolet, Iowa, anyway. There's a Ford, though."

"Paul always hated Fords," Jane noted. "I'd remember if he'd gone there." She rolled onto her side, "It was 'Fort' something. He commented on how he never saw the fort."

"Fort something to do with cars." A few seconds later, Daria turned and smirked. "Fort Dodge, Iowa."

"That's it!" Jane sat up, putting her legs over the side of the bed. "But," her mood slipped slightly, "how does that help us?"

Daria tapped a few keys, then, as the new page was loading, turned to Jane. "You said yourself he must have found some other girls by now." She looked around, then grabbed the pen and paper she had waiting. "If he was interesting in one bit of jail-bait . . ."

"He might have been interested in another," Jane said, standing. "You checking some crime database?"

"No, getting the phone number for the police department." Daria looked at her, "You want to call or shall I?"

"That depends," Jane replied, "do I get to introduce myself as Jane 'Jail-Bait' Lane?"

"You enjoy the oddest things."

"Find it where you can get it, Daria," Jane told her. "You never know what tomorrow will bring."

"Probably an ulcer," Daria surmised.

"Or a recurring migraine," Jane added.

"Speaking of pains," Daria said, changing the subject, "were you able to get a hold of the legal clinic?"

"Yeah," Jane frowned. "They won't help us. It goes back to whatever happened with Trent and that bookstore." She shrugged, "No idea, but the woman on the phone gave me the impression that it wasn't pretty."

"Then that only leaves us one option."

"You don't mean --" Jane looked nervous.

"Yes." Daria swallowed hard, "We have to talk to my mother."

A couple of hours later, the two came into the Morgendorffer house. "She's here, somewhere," Daria said, "her car's here."

"I still wish we could just lie our way through it," Jane said.

"She's a lawyer, Jane," Daria reminded her, "they're trained to smell lies."

"Political rallies must be murder," came the reply.

They looked in the kitchen, but only found Quinn sitting at the table talking on the phone. There was one glance in their direction before she turned her back to them and kept talking.

"Why are you smiling, Daria?" Jane whispered.

"An idea for another time, Jane," Daria replied. "It'll do well for revenge. I'm still one up right now, and I'd rather not risk Mom's wrath when we need to pick her brain." At the base of the stairs, Daria turned to Jane and said, "She sometimes does work in bed. It's not too late, but let me check. Wait here, there's not much room up there."

"Sure." Jane wandered over toward the sofa, but stopped when a movement beyond the sliding glass door caught her eye. Going to the door, she saw a darkened figure wandering aimlessly around the yard, looking up. Gathering her courage, Jane opened the door and stepped outside.

Turning at the sound, Helen saw Jane come into the back yard. "Oh, hello, Jane. Did Daria come home with you?"

"Yeah," Jane said, closing the door behind her. "She's upstairs. We, uh, I mean, I was looking for you."

"Oh? Is this personal or professional?"

"Uh," Jane looked down, "professional." She brought her eyes up to meet Helen's, "Trent was arrested for assault." Her voice picked up nervous energy as she continued, "He told me he didn't start it. I believe him, Mrs. Morgendorffer. He wouldn't lie about that to me."

"Are you sure he didn't, Jane? Maybe he was too embarrassed and lied to cover it up."

"He wouldn't. Not to me." She wrapped her arms around herself, "And not about this."

Even in the semi-darkness, Helen could see something was eating at the girl. "Let's sit down," Helen suggested. The two of them made their way to some of the seldom-used lawn furniture. After they sat, she leaned forward and asked, "Jane, what's wrong? I know you're worried about Trent, but there's more to this, isn't there?"

Jane thought for a long moment. Then, she asked, "What was it like when you brought Daria home for the first time?"

Surprised by the question, Helen sat back. "Uh, it was wonderful. She was tiny and beautiful and perfect. Jake and I would sometimes just stand there and watch her sleep." Helen smiled, "I never felt more complete as a person than those first few weeks. Of course," she shrugged, "that was before school started again." Her expression reflected her curiosity as she asked, "Why ask me that?"

It was a few deep breaths and some lip biting before Jane finally said, "I had a baby, once."

"Yeah, I know. Go on."

"You know?" Jane's eyes nearly came out of their sockets.

"Quinn told me." Helen shrugged, "She said you'd had a baby your Freshman year, but you'd put it up for adoption. I already knew you, and knew you wouldn't promote such behavior." Her eyebrows furrowed, "This has something to do with the baby?"

"The father is the one who's trying to send Trent to jail," she told the lawyer. "He said it was so I wouldn't try to keep him from getting custody of my daughter." Leaning forward, her passion became evident in her voice, "I can't let him have her. She's in a good home and I don't want her pried away from the only parents she knows. I," she lost steam, "I need help. I gotta help Trent, but I gotta help my baby, too."

The door behind them opened, admitting Daria to the back yard. "Uh, hi, Mom," Daria said as she approached. "Having a nice chat?" she asked.

"Oh," Jane smirked and waved a hand toward Helen, "your Mom was just telling me what a delight you were as a baby."

Looking at her mother, Daria frowned, "If you start digging out pictures, I'm moving out."

Helen had grown accustomed to hearing the two go at it, but decided to get back to the matter at hand. "We were discussing why Trent is in jail, Daria. Why don't you pull up a chair?" Having sobered the mood, she waited until her daughter had pulled a seat around and was firmly ensconced within. "Now," she looked at the two girls, "tell me about the father. Any idea why he's back now?"

"Some," Daria told her. "We just got off the phone a little while ago with a nice officer with the Fort Dodge Police Department in Iowa."

"He likes girls that are a little under age," Jane continued.

"How 'little?'" Helen asked.

"About twelve to fifteen," Daria supplied. "A fresh batch of warrants were issued against him."

"Well, then," Helen shrugged, "we'll just tell the police and he'll be arrested and sent packing back to Iowa."

"And what about when he gets out of jail?" Jane asked. "He could try to contact her again."

"By then won't she be old enough to tell him where to go?" Daria asked.

"Depends on the sentencing and the judge," Helen said. "If the judge thinks he's trying to clean up his act so he can raise his kid, he might be lenient."

"I shouldn't have told him about Perrin," Jane berated herself. "If I'd kept my big mouth shut this wouldn't be happening."

"And if he found out later and you didn't know about it?" Daria asked. "Don't do torture yourself, Jane." She smirked, "That's my job."

"Daria is right, Jane," Helen told her.

"It's her job to torture me?"

"No," Helen rolled her eyes, "you shouldn't tear yourself up over telling him. He is the father, so he should know about her. But," she continued before either girl could interrupt, "that doesn't mean he should have custody." Standing, she said, "Let's go inside so I can take notes, then tell me the whole story."

By the time Jane, with occasional comments from Daria, finished, Helen had a page filled with notes. "I just don't know what to do," Jane said as she finished. "If he gets his hands on her, it'll break her heart."

"Well," Helen glanced at her eldest child, "that explains why you were so interested in adoption law."

"Mm," was Daria's only reply.

"As for Paul getting custody, what does he do for a living?"

"Uh," Jane thought for a moment. "You know, I don't know. His parents were pretty well off, but they died before I met him. He lived with his grandfather out near Sedimentary Hills."

"That's one of the most exclusive areas in the county," Helen observed. "You have his grandfather's name?"

"Richard Davidson." Jane nodded, "Yeah, that's it. I met him a couple of times. He seemed like a nice guy."

"Do you think he might know about the baby?" Daria asked.

"It wasn't much of a secret at the time," Jane recalled with a frown, "so he could have found out."

"I'll make some calls tomorrow, Jane. But," Helen looked apologetic, "the only thing that might keep him from winning custody is if these warrants turn out to be severe enough for extradition."

"And even then he can sue when he gets out of jail," Daria reminded them.

"Damn," Jane said in a weak whisper. "He's gonna destroy her life. Well," she asked with a one-shouldered shrug, "what about Trent?"

"We need some witnesses that will testify that Trent didn't throw the first punch." Glancing from one girl to the other, Helen added, "He had reason to hit him, so we need to prove he was defending himself."

"We'll go down to McGrundy's tomorrow," Daria offered. "That is where it happened, right, Jane?"

"Huh?" Jane had been lost in thought. "Oh, yeah." Frowning, she said, "You know, some of the people might be over at the Zen. How about I check there, instead?"

"Split up and hit two places?" Daria nodded, "Okay, it's not too bad in the afternoon."

"Cool." Jane stood, "If you don't mind, I think I need to get some sleep." Looking at her friend, she said, "Good bye, Daria." Walking away, she didn't wait for a reply.

"She's rather upset," Helen observed. "Not that I can blame her." Seeing that Daria was looking toward the living room, she asked, "What are you thinking about, sweety?"

"She said 'good bye,'" Daria pointed out as they heard the door close. "She never says that." Turning back to Helen, she said, "She's going to do something crazy, Mom. I just wish I knew what it was."

"You don't think she'll try to hurt him, do you?"

"If it came down to it, would you hurt someone for me or Quinn?" Daria stood, "I think I need to make a phone call."

"Okay, dear." Helen watched her daughter leave, then looked down at the notes in front of her. "This is tough," she thought aloud.

Daria closed the door to her room, then picked up her phone and dialed a number she was still too nervous to commit to the speed dial. When a woman answered, she said, "Uh, hi. This is Daria. Could I speak to Tom, please?"

Tom Sloane was lying on his bed with an arm covering his eyes when there was a knock at his door. "Tom," his mother's voice carried through the door, "Daria's on the phone."

"I got it," he called as he picked up his receiver. Waiting for the click as his mother hung up, he then said, "Hey."

"Uh, hi." Daria lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "How was your day?"

"Same old stuff as every other day. Could have spent the time better with you. Speaking of you," Tom said as he stretched out on the bed again, "to what do I owe the honor of your call?"

There was a few seconds pause, then Daria asked, "Tom, do you know a Paul Davidson?"

"I've met him a few times," Tom admitted. "He left town a few years ago, though. Why?"

"Uh, he's back," she told him. "Look, Tom, I can't tell you why, but anything you can tell me about his family would be a big help."

"Well," Tom shrugged, "his grandfather is a friend of my Dad's." He frowned, "Hmm, Dad said something about him having cancer. I don't think he's expected to make it."

Daria sat up. "Tom, who inherits his money?"

"Don't know. Daria," Tom asked, "are you in trouble? Can I help?"

"I'm not," she replied, "and you are. Uh, I really hate to ask this, but could you ask your father about Richard Davidson?"

"You know his name? Daria, what's going on?"

"I can't tell you, Tom. Look," Daria closed her eyes, "it doesn't concern me directly. But it's vitally important to at least four people. Please?"

"Please?" Tom couldn't help but smirk, "Now you're playing dirty." The smirk faded, "I'll see what I can find, okay?"

"Call me if you learn anything."

"Hey," he shrugged, "no problem."

Jane managed to keep herself under control until she was in her room. Five minutes later, however, her easel had been reduced to near splinters. The painting she had been working on had been thrown violently aside as she vented frustration and anger on the easel under it.

"Artist! Hah!" she taunted herself as she glared at the still-intact work in progress. "More of a fool! God!" She sat on the end of the bed. Seeing the chair, she kicked it, causing it to fall over and slide a few inches. Putting her head in her hands, Jane was silent as she thought. Finally, she undid her boots, turned off the light, then lay on top of the covers.

"I'd forgotten that his family has money," she muttered to herself. "He'll get off on those charges. And he'll get my," she growled in the dark, then forced herself to say, "our baby. Dammit, why did I have to open my big, stupid mouth!" Rolling over, she buried her face in the pillow as the past few days went by in her head. She stayed that way for a while, then rolled over onto her back. Occasionally, she would pound her fists into the mattress. "Why does he want Perrin? I mean," she waved her hands upward, "babies cost money. Why would he . . ." Suddenly, she sat up.

"Oh," she said in the dark. A few seconds later, the light was on and Jane was digging through the pile of clothes on the floor and in the closet. A few were gathered, then given the sniff test. After she grimaced, Jane left the room with the clothes in her hand.

Daria finally gave up and turned off her alarm a half hour before it was supposed to go off. "Damn all night worry session," she grumbled as she shuffled down the hall to the bathroom. When she returned, her hair was still damp from her shower, and she was in her usual outfit. Carefully, she gathered her things then went downstairs. She had her breakfast finished and was reading in the living room when her mother walked past, in her usual hurry.

"Hey, sweety. Can't chat, meeting."

Shortly after that, Jake came by. "Hey, kiddo," he said, stopping. "You're up early today."

"Uh, yeah," Daria admitted. "This is the day Tom and I were planning on running off to Las Vegas to get married."

"M-m-married?" Jake stared at her.

"Don't you remember? After all," Daria couldn't help herself, "it was your idea."

"My idea?" He was starting to look pale.

"I'm teasing, Dad," Daria told him. I almost gave him another heart attack, Daria realized. "Uh, I'm sorry if I upset you."

"Uh," Jake blinked a couple of times before he recovered. "Good one, kiddo. You really come up with some wowzers." Plastering a nervous smile on his face, Jake beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen.

Daria turned to look straight ahead as she mentally berated herself. Oh, good one, Morgendorffer. Not only can you not help Jane figure out why her ex is back, you nearly killed your own father. Some brain you are. As if in punishment, Daria grabbed her books and headed out the door to start her school day.

Paul Davidson was sitting in the living room with an empty glass sitting on the table in front of him. The television was showing a rerun of a sitcom that he was ignoring in favor of a catalog on luxury boats. The ringing phone got his attention. "Hello?" he asked.

"Hello, Paul." The voice was cool.


"It's me." Jane was seated on the chair she had kicked earlier. A look of near pain was on her face.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked.

"I figured out what you're after. And," she bit her lip before going on, "you can have it."

"Oh, are you so sure you know?" He smirked to himself as he looked around to make sure he was alone.

"I remember what you told me about your grandfather's will. We both know what you want and why. I'll give you what you want, Paul. But only on my terms." Jane stood and looked at the lion emblazoned on the banner as if to draw strength.

"Oh," he put his feet up, "so you called to talk about terms, eh?"

"Yeah," Jane nodded, "I'm calling to name the terms of my surrender. So," she said as she put a hand over her shirt pocket, and the picture within, "you want to talk or not?"

Jane looked surprisingly refreshed. "Hey, Daria," she said as she stepped out of the house. As they fell into step, Jane looked at the sky, the houses around them, and even the cracks in the sidewalk as if seeing them for the first time.

"You okay?" Daria asked.

"Got a good night's sleep," Jane explained. "You look kinda tired, though."

"Up late trying to figure out what Paul is up to."

"Oh." Jane looked away. "Look," she turned back, "I should have told you about all this before now. I'm sorry that I didn't."

"Jane," Daria tried to say.

"No, Daria, let me talk. If I had told you, maybe this whole mess wouldn't be the mess it turned into. And I should have been as honest with you as you were with me after you kissed Tom. I mean," she shrugged, "you didn't keep the truth from me. And I hope you can some day forgive me for keeping the truth from you."

"Jane, you make it sound like you're leaving for parts unknown or dying of some disease," Daria said, becoming concerned.

Jane laughed, "Trying to be cheerful, Daria?" Becoming serious, Jane shrugged, "I just wanted you to know how I'm feeling about the whole thing."

"Mom is supposed to get things started with Trent today," Daria reminded her in order to change the subject.

"Good," Jane nodded. "Then all we have to do is survive the day."

"Well," Daria frowned, "considering where we're going, that's easier said than done."

"No kidding," Jane said aloud. But, in her mind, she said, Where I'm going you can not follow, my friend. For I have made my deal with the Devil.

"What do you mean, the charges are dropped?" Helen asked into the phone. Confused, she looked at the papers on her desk as she listened to the voice in her ear. "Just this morning? And you didn't think it was suspicious? So, when was Mr. Lane released? Twenty minutes ago? Well, thank you, officer." Helen hung up the phone, then frowned. "Why would he just up and drop the charges against Trent like that? Unless," the frown deepened, "he's already go what he came back for. Damn."

As Daria and Jane left their last class, Daria turned to head toward their lockers. It took a few seconds for her to realize that Jane hadn't turned with her. Looking around, she could see no trace of her friend. "Jane?" she said to no one. Confused, she went to her locker, then headed out of the building, still without seeing her friend. What she did find, however, was Tom's car sitting at the curb, with Tom standing by the passenger side door.

"Tom, what are you doing here?" she asked.

"I come bearing words of wisdom," he replied. Glancing around, he asked, "Jane not come to school today?"

"I think she was kidnaped by the elves beneath the school," Daria reported.

"Hmm, I think we have trolls under ours," Tom told her as he opened the door.

"How gallant," she remarked as she got in. "We're not going to talk about Jane, are we?"

Tom closed his eyes and shook his head, "God, I'm never going to live that down."

"No," Daria said with a smirk. The smirk faded, however when she asked, "You said something about words of wisdom?"

"Yeah," Tom looked around once more for Jane, then shrugged and started the car. "I talked to my Dad last night about the Davidsons. It seems that Paul got a girl pregnant a few years ago and skipped town." He didn't see the scowl on Daria's face as he pulled into traffic. "He split for somewhere. Probably a good thing, considering that he'd been cut out of the will just a few weeks earlier for fooling around with another girl. And that one was a minor."

Some things don't seem to change, do they? Daria thought. When she spoke, she said, "No money, eh? Serves him right. So," Daria asked, "who did he leave the money to?"

"That depends," Tom explained. "It seems that old man Davidson has somehow managed to keep tabs on the baby." Rolling his eyes, he explained, "The girl put the baby up for adoption."

"Yeah, go on."

"Well," he shrugged, "it seems that everything goes to Paul only if he gets married. Otherwise, it goes to --"

"JANE!" Daria went pale. "Tom, we've got to find Jane."

"Jane? I thought she --"

"No time to explain. Go back to the school, now!" Daria clenched her fists and held them in her lap. Just under her breath, she whispered, "She knew. She knew and she's going to do it." Tom, who hadn't understood a word she had whispered, was clearly able to hear Daria when she yelled, [b]"DAMMIT!"[/b]

The car was waiting just down the block from the school in the opposite direction of her house. As Jane climbed into the passenger seat, Paul leaned over and said, "How about a kiss for the hubby-to-be?"

"How about a steel toed boot to the crotch," Jane replied, making it clear it wasn't a question.

"Now, now," Paul scowled, "we have to make this look good for my grandfather." Turning back to the road, he grumbled, "Before he changes his will again."


"I'll do my part," Jane said, buckling up. "But you better uphold your end of our deal."

"Yeah, yeah," he waved a hand. "I'll leave your precious baby alone if you marry me and stay that way until the old man kicks off and I get the money."

"They you leave me and the baby alone for good."

His face hard, Paul said, "But until then, I expect you to act like a wife."

"Cook and clean? Paul, I don't even cook for myself."

"That's not what I mean," he leered.

"You are not getting anywhere near my pants," she stated flatly.

"Then I might as well pull over right now," he turned on the blinker.

"Damn you to hell, Paul Davidson," Jane growled. "If I could find some other way to keep you away from my baby, you'd be in some serious pain right now."

"Tell it to the Justice of the Peace."

It was a sight that Jodie never thought she'd see. Daria Morgendorffer was looking around, frantic. Finally, she ran up to Jodie and breathlessly asked, "Jodie, have you seen Jane since school ended?"

"No," Jodie shook her head. She started to ask what was wrong, but she was suddenly alone as a blur of auburn and green raced away as fast as someone wearing heavy boots could go.

"Tom," Daria gasped as she almost dove back into the car, "do you know where the Davidsons live?"

"Uh, yeah," he said, confused. "Daria, what's going on?"

For several seconds, Daria stared at him as she thought. Which is the bigger betrayal? To tell him the truth or to keep it a secret and later find out he had some information that might have kept Jane from making the biggest damn mistake of her life? Finally, she swallowed and said, "You know that girl that Paul got pregnant?"


"It was Jane." Daria had never seen someone's jaw drop open before. At least, not like that. Tom blinked as if he had been hypnotized for a few seconds. "Tom," she waved a hand in front of his face, "snap out of it."

He shook his head, then said, "Are you sure, Daria?"

"She told me herself. Now, do you want to go stop her from making a major mistake, or do I have to pretend I'm a track star?"

"We're out of here," Tom said, throwing the Jaguar into gear. He pulled out into traffic and accelerated past the speed limit. "I guess this time having money will come in handy," he commented.

"How so?"

"I'll be able to afford the speeding tickets."

"So," Jane asked as she got out of the car, "why are we here, again?" Jane was looking at the mansion she hadn't been near in years.

"I want to put on a suit," he explained. "I also got you something nice to wear."

"I'm fine, thanks," Jane replied.

"Jane, I want you to look good for our wedding."

"You'll marry me if I looked like something out of a '70's disco movie," she reminded him. "Just remember that you need me to pull this off."

"I win either way, sweetheart," he grinned. "You marry me, I get the cash. You don't, I sue for custody, and I get the cash with the kid." Shrugging, he led the way to the door, "This way I don't have to potty train."

"You mean you're not?" Jane asked. "I guess that would explain a few things."

He turned to glare at her just as the door opened. "Paul?" a hoarse but stable voice asked. "I thought I heard you out here. Oh, hello."

"Grandpa," Paul said, smiling, "you remember Jane Lane, right?"

"Jane?" Richard Davidson looked at her for a few seconds before smiling, "Well, it is Jane. Welcome back, my dear."

"Uh, hi, Mr. Davidson." Jane shook the man's hand as she looked at him. My god, she thought, what happened to him? She recalled a tall, squared shouldered man with a full head of gray hair and an easy smile. He had been easy to talk to and laughed a lot. Now, she was looking down at a bald man in an electric wheelchair. His shoulders seemed to sag under an invisible weight, and his muscles had atrophied. Only his green eyes seemed to be as bright as they had been.

"Been too long, Jane," Richard said. "So, what brings you here on this fine day?"

"We're getting married, Grandpa," Paul announced. "I wanted you to know first."

"Married?" Richard looked at Jane, "You're gonna marry this deadbeat?"

"Grandpa!" Paul said, trying to grin. "You're gonna scare the love of my life away."

"One can only hope," came the reply.

"We're going to go to the Justice of the Peace," Jane informed him. "Paul wanted to put on a suit for the occasion."

"Well, that's nice," Richard forced a smile. "Paul, why don't you go put on your suit while I keep your intended company."

"Uh," Paul glanced at his grandfather, then at Jane, "sure. I'll be right back."

Paul had barely gotten inside when Richard closed the door and asked, "Young lady, what exactly are you doing this for?"

"What?" Jane felt a rock hit her stomach.

"Why are you marrying him? Didn't he cause you enough trouble the first time?"

Jane could only stare. "Uh," she managed, finally.

"I'll have my driver take you home, if you like," he offered.

"No," she shook her head, "I want to do this. I need to do this."

He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay. I guess the heart doesn't listen to reason the way we would like at times."

"No," Jane repeated. Then, she added, "The heart listens only to itself." Dammit, she mentally added.

Smiling, Jane 'neglected' to mention the baby as she and Richard talked about her life since he'd last seen her. Finally, Paul came down the stairs wearing a navy blue suit with a white shirt and red tie.

"You're looking good," Jane told him. For a money-grubbing sleaze, she added.

"Thank you, dear," he smiled. "I have a dress upstairs for you." The corner of his mouth that was away from his grandfather smirked as he said, "Please try it on."

Seeing the old man looking at her, Jane capitulated. "I'll be right back."

As she climbed the stairs, she heard Paul say, "It's in my room. You remember where it is?"

"I remember," she grumbled to herself as she nodded. Quickly, she found the room, then looked at the dress on the bed. It was, in fact, not a dress. Instead, it was a white skirt with a blouse. A pair of hose and even a pair of shoes were sitting next to it. "Oh, great," she said to herself, "he wants me to wear white. A little late for that, isn't it, Paul?" she asked with a smirk. She bit her lip as she glanced at the door. Finally, she sighed and began to undress.

"You better take good care of her," Richard was saying as Jane reached the top of the stairs. Turning to look, his eyes widened in approval. "You look beautiful, Jane," he told her.

"Thanks," she said, blushing a little. Now I know how Daria feels about compliments, she thought to herself. She had kept her red shirt and her boots. "The shoes didn't fit," she told Paul.

"That's okay," he said, smiling. "You're still gorgeous." Again using the side facing away from his grandfather, he winked at her. Then, he leaned in and kissed her. "We should go," he announced as he took her hand.

"Yeah," Jane tried to not sound like it was a death sentence. For Perrin, Jane. Just remember who you're doing this for.

As they exited the house, Richard waved from the entryway. Acting gallant, Paul opened Jane's door for her. Then, as he climbed behind the wheel, he sighed. "He said he's going to schedule us a honeymoon while we're gone," Paul told her.

"How about separate vacations?" Jane asked. "Would that work for you?"

Paul was pulling down the driveway as he looked over and glared at her, "Look, Jane, you called me, remember? Now, after today, you are going to be the good little wife or I will sue for custody. And you know I can do it, too."

"The only thing keeping me from killing both of us," Jane told him, "is the fact that I know you're going to be out of my life some day." Crossing her arms, she looked out the side window as they pulled onto the street. "Until that day I'm just going to burn off any bad karma I've picked up over the years."

The gray car pulled around the block just as a rusted Jaguar rounded the other corner. Tom and Daria reached the house and climbed quickly from the car as Daria finished filling him in. Richard was still sitting with the front door open as they reached him.

"Tom Sloane?" he asked. "Good lord, boy, what has you in such an uproar?"

"Mr. Davidson," Tom said, "have you seen Jane Lane?"

"She was just here with Paul." Richard looked at Daria, "You supposed to be the maid of honor?"

"Uh, no," Daria shook her head, "I'm supposed to be the one who yells 'yes' when they ask if anyone has a reason why they shouldn't be married."

"Uh, oh," Richard frowned. "Maybe you better tell me what's going on."

"If they've already left we might be too late," Tom said, frowning. He pulled his keys from his pocket, then pulled a cell phone from another. "Here," he handed both to Daria. "You go stop Jane while I explain what's going on. I'll call you when I'm done."

"Me?" Daria stared at the keys in her hand. "Drive your car?"

"Daria," Tom frowned, "Jane needs you. It might not look like much, but it's still a Jaguar. It'll get you there."

"Right." Daria swallowed, then looked up, "Jane needs me." She glanced at Richard, "Excuse me."

As he watched Daria walk to the car, Richard said, "Feisty young lady, Tom"

Unable to suppress the smirk, Tom replied, "Just don't let her hear you say that."

The Lawndale court house was situated on one side of the parking lot, with the Municipal Center, where the actual work was done, on the other. The gray Ford pulled into the lot and the soon-to-be newlyweds exited.

"I still can't believe you're driving a Ford," Jane mused.

"It was cheap," Paul said with a shrug.

She looked at him in confusion for a second, then said, "You mean you're actually out of money?"

"If you must know," Paul frowned, "I've been saving it for a while. Grandpa cut me off a while back."

"After he had to 'take care of' a few legal problems for you?" Jane smirked.

"Something like that." He glared at her, "You just better be careful in here."

"Or what, you'll start a career of abuse?" Jane looked over at him as if studying a bug. "Paul, if you ever think about abusing me, remember one thing, I can get superglue and I know where you sleep. So," she looked away, the smile becoming a scowl, "unless you want your tallywhaker glued shut in the night, you'll behave yourself."

"Hey," he said in way of protest, "you're not the only one who can do that. And you know what they say about payback."

The anger Jane had been hiding was suddenly blazing in her eyes as she turned to look at him. "My point exactly, Paul. You ever make a move on me or try to hit me and I will pay you back with enough interest to overload Fort Knox." She opened the door to the courthouse, "Now, let's get this travesty over with."

BETA SENT 4/11/5

"Helen Morgendorffer."

"Mom?" Daria spoke into the cell phone as she negotiated traffic.

"Daria?" Helen came around her desk and sat. "What's wrong?"

"Mom, Paul's grandfather wrote a screwy will. Paul's not after the baby. He's after Jane."


"Paul has to be married to get his inheritance," she informed her mother. "I think he's somehow convinced Jane to marry him, because they're on their way to the Justice of the Peace."

"Daria," Helen rubbed her forehead, "that's her decision to make, you know."

"Mom," Daria grumbled in warning.

"I know, I know," Helen stood. "But I just want you to remember that Jane is eighteen. If she really wants to do this, you can't stop her. And, by the way, the charges against Trent were dropped."

"Well," Daria thumped the wheel as the light changed, "that's one good thing, anyway. Too bad we can get him arrested for the statutory rape charges in Iowa."

A light went off in Helen's head. "Hmm, you said they were heading for the Justice of the Peace?"

"Yeah." Daria gently pushed the accelerator as the light turned green.

"I'll see what I can do from here," Helen promised. As she reached with her free hand for her Rolodex, she said, "Good luck, sweety."

"Thanks, Mom." Daria turned off the cell phone and tossed it into the seat next to her. As she wound her way through traffic, she hoped she wouldn't be too late.

"Just sign here," the secretary said to Paul. As he signed the form, she looked at Jane and smiled. "I remember being your age," she told the raven-haired woman. A wistful look crossed her face, "Ah, to be young and in love again."

"Uh," Jane was at a loss of how to reply. "Yeah, young and in love. But," she shrugged, "I think nerves are getting to me. After all, this is a big step."

"Oh," the woman waved a hand, "you'll be fine."

"Yeah," Jane looked over at her husband-to-be. To be hated, she mentally added. "I'll be fine." Don't know about him, though. I wonder if I can fake it well enough to get away with it when I shove him in front of a bus?

"Now it's your turn," the woman was saying as she held out the pen.

The Jaguar pulled into the lot and stopped. Daria got out and, after locking the doors, headed for the Municipal Center. What the hell am I gonna do when I get there? Daria wondered. Mom was right, this is Jane's decision. What if I can't talk her out of it? She came to a halt for several seconds. Biting her lip, Daria looked at the doors. Then, taking a deep breath, she nodded and said, "Either way, I'm not losing my friend. Look out, Jane," she added as she moved forward again, "here comes either your salvation . . . or your maid of honor."

"Somehow," Jane said in a barely civil tone to Paul, "I didn't think we'd have to stand around and wait when we came down here."

"No kidding," he agreed. "I'd like to get this over with."

"Now you've gone and ruined the romance," Jane told him.

"The only romance I want out of this is --"

"Mr. Davidson and Miss Lane?" The clerk stuck his head out of the office.

"Here," Paul stood up and, taking Jane's hand, nearly yanked her to her feet.

"Ow!" Jane shook her hand after pulling it free. "Dammit, Paul, don't do that!"

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Paul sounded almost sincere.

"Yeah, yeah," she stalked past him. "Tell it to the judge."

Daria ran from the Municipal Center toward the court house. She got halfway across the parking lot before she stopped for air. "Damn," she gasped, "it," another breath. "I've got," more air as she started walking, "to get some," a final gasp, "exercise." She was almost hit when the Mercedes raced into the parking lot. She watched as the car pulled into a space next to the Jaguar before she turned to make her best time toward the building.

"So, you two want to get married." the Justice of the Peace was a small round man with a swath of gray hair going around his otherwise bald head. He had small spectacles perched on the end of his nose, and a harmless look about him. The name plate said 'Judge Jerry Read.' Judge Read looked at the couple in front of him. "This is a big step."

"Yes, sir," Paul was all civility. "We're looking forward to starting our lives together."

He looked from Paul to Jane. Despite her efforts, Jane knew she didn't look too thrilled to be there. "You having second thoughts, Miss?"

"No," she shook her head. "I'm just a little nervous." She managed an honest smirk, "Usually when I get upset I go running. So, I'm fighting the urge to go running screaming into the night."

"Ah," the judge nodded and smiled. "Well, let's get to it, shall we?"

Daria came into the office and up to the desk in a single motion. "Have you seen a woman about my age come in here?" she asked.

"A couple," the lady told her.

"This one has black hair and blue eyes," Daria said. "Three earrings in each ear?"

"Oh," the woman smiled, "she's in with the judge now. Are you part of the wedding party?"

"If I must," Daria told her.

"Go right in."

"Okay, now, do you, Paul, hello, can I help you?" Judge Read looked past the couple to the young woman who had just entered the room.

"Daria?" Jane didn't know wether to be thrilled or horrified that her best friend was here.

"Uh, hey, Jane." Daria looked at the judge, "Your honor, could I talk to Jane for a minute, please?"

"Miss," he scowled, "I don't have all day."

"I know," she said, practicing the tips her mother had dropped over the years for dealing with judges. "And I apologize for taking up your time. I just need a couple of minutes."

He frowned, but nodded. "One minute. Then we either have a wedding or you three get out of here."

Daria all but dragged Jane out of the office. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she hissed.

"I know what I'm doing, Daria," Jane replied.

"Jane, I know about the will. But that's no reason to marry this jerk."

"You know?"

"Tom's dad told him."

"Oh, great," Jane rolled her eyes, "now Tom knows."

"Sorry, but he needed to know. As a matter of fact," Daria said, "he's talking to Paul's grandfather right now. Odds are he'll change his will."

"I hope not," Jane muttered.

"Excuse me?"

"I mean," she shrugged, then stopped. "Dammit, Daria, if this doesn't work, he might really try to get Perrin. I mean, he's not a felon or anything. And you know he's not going to go back to Iowa."

"Jane," Daria began.

"Look," Jane put a hand on Daria's shoulder, "if I do this, he can't get his hands on her without me being there. I, I," she gritted her teeth, then went on, "I just need to do this so I can make sure he leaves her alone."

"Jane, this is ridiculous," Daria told her.

"It's my choice." Jane stood up a little straighter.

Their eyes locked for a few seconds before Daria dropped hers. "Okay," she muttered, "then let's get this over with." Looking up again, she asked, "You got room for a maid of dishonor?"

Jane smirked fondly, "Only if it's you, amiga."

"Okay," Read said a minute later, "let's try this again." He took a deep breath, then began.

"We gather here today celebrate the marriage of," he glanced down at his notes, "Paul Davidson and Jane Lane. Oh, for the love of Mike," the judge grumbled as the door opened.

"Sorry," Tom said as he stepped inside.

"Tom," the judge asked, "are you a member of the wedding party?"

"Oh, hi, judge," Tom waved half-heartedly. "Actually," he smirked, "I was hoping to talk to the bride for a minute."

"You, too?"

"Um," he shrugged, "yeah. You know how we kids are."

"Yeah, right. 'We kids,' indeed. One minute, Tom. Any longer and I'm gonna tell you father about that girl you had in you car when I caught you in my driveway."

Daria followed Jane and Tom out of the office, but not before she saw the two of them turn red. Well, she thought as she fought off a bit of jealousy, I guess we know who the girl in the car was.

"Oh, god," Jane muttered as she looked from Daria to Tom, "I can't believe this is happening."

"Uh," Tom looked at Daria.

"Never mind," she told him. "Why did you come down here?"

"Well," he replied, "you didn't answer the phone."

"Oh, hell," Daria rolled her eyes, "I turned it off after I talked to Mom. It's in the car."

"Yeah, so I raced down here as fast as I could." He looked sheepish, "Sorry I almost ran you over. I would have stopped and rolled down the window, but the switch was broke."

"Hey," Jane scowled, "your turn to feel humiliated comes later. Mine is ongoing as we speak."

"Sorry." He looked at Daria once more, then turned to Jane. "Look I talked to Mr. Davidson, and told him what Daria told me. He's going to change his will. You don't have to do this."

"I do, Tom," she corrected him. "This isn't just about money. It's about Perrin. If he's free, he can sue for custody. And, since he never signed away his rights, he's got a chance to win."

"Jane," Tom began.

"No," Jane cut him off. "Look," her glance took in Daria as well as Tom, "I appreciate you two doing this. But I have to keep him away from my baby. Her being safe is the only thing that got me through losing her. If he got her, he'd just treat her like a," she stopped, unable to find the right words. "I can't let him take her away from the only home she's ever known. I just can't." Her eyes seemed to carry a load of grief and worry. "Please don't stop me."

The judge had gone behind his desk and was looking over some paperwork. Paul was sitting in one of the chairs opposite the desk. Both stood when the door opened and the three came back in.

"Are we ready, yet?" the judge asked.

"Sorry," Tom said. "I just wanted to make sure before I agreed to witness."

"Uh, yeah," Daria added. "Me, too."

"You should have taken care of that beforehand," Read told Paul. Then, he smirked, "And I should have as well. If they hadn't come in, we'd have to do it over again for two of my staff."

Paul smirked, "I guess it's our lucky day."

"I hope so." Read gestured the couple into position. "If anyone else comes through that door, I'm going to become very upset. Now," he again took a breath. "We gather here today celebrate the marriage of, Paul Davidson and Jane Lane." Looking at Paul he said, "Mr. Davidson, repeat after me, please." When he got a nod, he began. "I, Paul."

"I, Paul."

"Take thee, Jane."

"Take thee, Jane."

"To be my wedded wife."

"To be my wedded wife."

"To love, honor and get out of here, I'm busy!"

"Sorry, your honor," Helen Morgendorffer's voice came from the door. "But I'm afraid that I'm going to have to interrupt the proceedings."

"Mrs. Morgendorffer, isn't it?" Read asked.

"Yes, your honor," she replied as she came closer.

"You do realize that I am still a judge, right?" He scowled, "And that I am fully capable of several actions that would hinder your ability to practice law?"

"Yes, your honor," Helen was calm. "But I thought I would let you know why the police are going to be knocking on your door any second now."

"The police?" The judge and Paul said in unison.

"Doesn't someone owe someone a soda at this point?" Tom whispered to Daria.

"Yes, your honor," Helen replied, ignoring Paul.

"And why, pray tell, will the police be barging into my office?" Read moved behind his desk and, with the appearance of taking the bench in a courtroom, sat behind it. "This had better be good, Mrs. Morgendorffer."

"Oh, sir, it is." She raised an eyebrow, "Would you like to hear it from the beginning?"

Rolling his eyes, the judge said, "Sure. Maybe I'll get a laugh out of it."

"I wish it was a joke," she told him. "You see, your honor, three years ago these two," she motioned toward Jane and Paul, "became sexually involved. The results of which was a baby girl. Now," she began to move back and forth in front of his desk, reminding Daria of how she would act in a courtroom, "before the pregnancy was discovered, Mr. Davidson's activities with a minor Miss Lane were discovered by her family. A warrant," she pulled out a folded sheet of paper from her jacket, "was issued by the District Attorney for his arrest. But," she put the paper in front of the judge, "he left town before it could be served. There is evidence to support the supposition that he went to Iowa. Where," she pulled another sheet from the same pocket, "he engaged in similar activities. And, had charges of statutory rape brought against him once more."

The judge picked up the papers and looked at them. When he looked at Paul, Read no longer looked harmless. "Son, this is serious stuff. While Miss Lane," he nodded his head in her direction, "might be inclined to let you off, these other charges are not so easily ignored."

"Oh," Helen cut in, "they aren't the worse charges, your honor."

"How's that?" he asked.

"The charges were pressed in Iowa," she reminded him. "By fleeing across state lines, he's become a fugitive from federal law." Daria noticed a slight smirk as her mother added, "And you know how the feds love to bring in the ones who think they've gotten away."

"Now, wait a minute," Paul interrupted.

"Now, as for the baby," she rounded on him, "I've done some digging. Did you know that, since the baby was the result of statutory rape, you have no parental rights under the law?"

"I don't?" Paul asked, shocked.

"He doesn't?" Jane asked, seeming to almost hop off of the ground.

"He doesn't," Read confirmed. There was a knock at the door, "You might as well come in," he called out. When two Lawndale police officers stuck their heads inside the room, he added, "I must say, it's nice when people knock." Looking at Paul, he frowned and said, "Mr. Davidson, you have problems. Fortunately, you won't be sharing them with anyone for a while." Standing, he looked at the officers, "Gentlemen, you may take this weirdo out of my office."

"Yes, sir," one of them replied. He quickly searched Paul, then cuffed him and took him away.

Paul looked over at Jane. "You planned this, didn't you?"

"Oh, please," she shook her head. "I'm as surprised at all this as you are. Now get out of my sight before I decide in the future to send your cell mate a tube of super glue."

"Meep," Paul managed to utter as he was led away.

"Super glue?" Tom asked.

"Trust me," Daria interrupted, "you don't want to know."

The four of them stood outside the court house after having been chased from Read's office. Daria and Helen were inscrutable. Tom looked slightly guilty. Jane looked confused.

"I can't believe this," she shook her head. "You guys did this just to keep me from marrying that loser."

"Well," Tom shrugged, "we couldn't let you do that to yourself."

"Even after we broke up?" Jane asked. "God, Tom, I could see you helping out Daria, but this," she waved her hands, "I mean . . ." She sighed, "Sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

"I know what you mean," Tom replied. "And just because we're not dating doesn't mean we're not friends."

"Jane," Helen smiled at her, "you're like family to us. How could I not help?"

"Besides," Daria added with no change of expression, "wait until you get her bill."

"Daria!" Helen looked at her daughter. Then she noticed the smirk on Jane's face. Thinking fast, she said, "I was going to give her a discount." She was rewarded when Jane's smirk became a grin and Daria looked surprised.

"Good one," Daria muttered.

"Yeah," Jane's grin faded into a look of embarrassment, "well, I just wanted to say thanks. I mean, I would have done it. But," she shrugged and looked up, "thanks to you guys I didn't have to. Perrin's safe and I didn't have to marry that grabby pervert."

"But you will have to live with the fact you almost did," Daria told her.

"You mean you're never going to let me live it down?"


Helen shook her head. "I've got to get back to work," she told them. "Eric is going to wonder where I went. And lord knows the place will fall apart without me." She smiled at her daughter, "I'll see you tonight, sweety."

"Later, Mom."

Looking at Tom, Helen said, "Be seeing you, Tom."

"Bye, Mrs. Morgendorffer."

"And Jane," Helen looked at her, "I'm thinking of bringing some Chinese home tonight. Would you care to join us?"

"Uh . . ."

"She'll be there," Daria told her. Turning to Jane, she said, "You can wait until you get home to have a breakdown."

"Uh . . ." Jane repeated.

"Good. Later." The lawyer turned and walked in the direction of her office. There was, Daria noticed, an extra spring in her step.

Daria was on the couch when the door opened, allowing Helena and Jane to enter the house. Helen was in a navy version of her usual outfit, while Jane was wearing a red one. She had on her black stockings and gray boots, along with a black shirt under the jacket.

"Hey," Daria said, standing. "Any word?"

The two looked at each other for a second, then grinned. "They locked him away," Jane almost shouted.

"He got the maximum for Jane," Helen added. "And he'll still have to face charges in Iowa."

"The father of one of the girls was there," Jane told her friend. "He looked really angry. I think he wanted Paul to go free so he could deal with him himself."

"Well," Helen set her briefcase down, "that won't happen for a while."

"Good," Daria said. She looked at Jane, "You know, that's not a bad look for you. Business out fit and steel-toed boots."

"You know," Jane looked down, "I kinda like it."

"It's a very professional look," Helen told them both.

"Hey," Jane suggested, "I know where you can get some boots like these."

"Uh," Helen shook her head, "I don't think I could carry it off the way you do." She headed toward the kitchen, "You staying for dinner?"

"No," Jane shook her head. "I think I'll go for a run. Then I have to wake Trent up for his gig tonight." She looked at Daria, "Want to join me?"

For a second, Daria thought back to the parking lot. With a sigh, she surprised both Jane and Helen, "If you promise to not run me to death."

"Hey," Jane grinned, "I'll take it easy on you. I promise."

Helen watched them leave, then gave an amused snort before turning to go start the lasagna.

"Mrs. Sloane?"

"Yes?" Turning from her mailbox, Jane looked at the woman who had addressed her.

She was in her early twenties, with jet black hair and blue eyes. She was wearing black slacks and a white polo shirt under a blue jacket. Her short heels made her taller than Jane by a couple of inches. Nervously, she bit her lip and waited.

"You need something? An attorney? Food? Aardvark repellent?"

"Uh," she fidgeted, "were you Jane Lane? I mean, are you you, uh, her, uh Jane Lane?" She closed her eyes and scowled as she mangled the question.

"I was, I mean, I am." Jane looked at her in confusion. "Do you need a lawyer or not?"

"No, ma'am," the woman shook her head.

"Then why are you here?" And why do you look so damn familiar? she mentally added.

"Uh, id, I mean, did, oh, god." The woman buried her face in her hands. Then, she tried to walk away from Jane, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you."

Jane grabbed her arm. "Hold on, missy. You'll only come back and try again later. So why don't you just go ahead and tell me what's bothering you. Why don't you start by telling me your name," Jane suggested, trying to get to the heart of the situation while wondering if she really dared to know.

"I'm Katrina Miller." She sniffed once, hard. "Did, did you have a baby?"

Jane, now even more confused, looked down, "What, I look like I've got baby-fat on me?"

"No," Katrina laughed nervously, "not now. About twenty-three years ago. In Lawndale."

Her breathing stopped. "How," she managed to get out, "how did you know that?" Could it be? No, I'm not that lucky.

"The adoption records," Katrina said as she started biting her lip again.

"Those records are supposed to be sealed. Who let you see them?" Jane demanded breathlessly.

"Uh," Katrina stepped back, nervous, "they let the children look at them."

"The children?" Jane's eyes suddenly went very wide. "You?"

After a second, Katrina nodded twice. "I found out I was adopted a couple of years ago. I've been looking for you ever since."

Looking more closely, Jane saw that the girl's face was shaped more like her father's than Jane's. But the eyes . . . "It's like looking into a mirror," Jane whispered.


"Nothing," Jane shook her head. "Uh, look, why don't you come in. We can talk. You know, about things."

"Sure." Katrina swallowed, "about things. Yeah."

The young woman followed Jane to the door of the house. "I almost didn't find you," she admitted. "If it hadn't been for the Shumar anti-trust case you did last year I wouldn't have."

"I knew going into law would pay off someday," Jane said with a nod.

"You still do art?"

"Yeah. Sometimes." Jane looked at her and smirked, "You realize that if I find out this is a trick I'll have to kill you."

"If I find out I'm not, the information alone might do it," Katrina said with a worried frown. "I've wondered about you since I found out I was adopted."

"Well, then," Jane opened the door to the house and gestured the younger woman ahead, "enter freely and of your own will."

With an exaggerated eye roll, Katrina obeyed as she said, "Yes, Mom. Uh," her eyes went wide, "I mean, well . . ."

"I know what you mean," Jane said, smiling. "And it's the nicest thing anyone has ever called me." I don't know if she's really Perrin or not, she thought to herself as she closed the door behind them. I guess we'll have to be tested to know for sure. No, Jane smiled, I can tell. My baby is home.