Shipping Charges Apply

A Daria Fan Fiction

By Yui Daoren


<<Return

Introduction


Daria stood, her bokken held in front of her in a ready position and mirroring her opponent's stance. Daria waited for any sign of change. She watched for a twitch of his bokken, beads of sweat behind his facemask, or an uncomfortable shift beneath his Bôgu. She concentrated on the skills she had taken the class to hone: silence, patience, observation, stillness.

The tip of his bokken raised almost imperceptibly and Daria lunged into an energetic attack. For a few moments stretched into a seeming eternity the two bokken clashed until the tip of Daria's rested solidly on the chest armor of her opponent. The instructor called her point and she backed off and knelt, setting her bokken in front of her.

"Yoroshii." The instructor complimented Daria.

Daria nodded her head in recognition, but did not respond in the traditional manner. She had not been able to bring herself to conform to the rigid Japanese traditions. Fortunately, her instructor didn't seem to care.

"Yasumu!" The instructor commanded they rest.

Daria removed her facemask and set it by her bokken. Adjusting her glasses, she settled back and closed her eyes to think. Freed to reinstate its usual pattern, Daria's mind quickly returned to the reason that she had started Kendô classes in the first place. She had left her home to visit Jane after her parents had finally stopped with that day's fight. After months of suffering though their verbal abuses of one another, she had asked Jane was she did when she was frustrated. Daria was not surprised by Jane's answer: Jane went for a run. Daria had thought that such physical pursuits were not for her until she had come across an advertisement for the dojo she was now in. She had surprised herself, finding the idea of learning a martial art appealing.

She was further surprised when she found the first class so exhilarating. She was now entering her fifteenth month of classes, and she was thankful for having found them. She was good at Kendô and had advanced quite a ways. More importantly, she had learned to be exceptionally patient and that had meant being able to deal with her parent's deteriorating marriage.

The physical benefits were not unnoticed either. She was happy to discover that she needed less sleep since she slept more soundly. Little benefits like being able to run up stairs or carry her book back with less effort also manifested. Although she still disliked the class, it had become easier to coast through Ms. Morris's PE class.

After class was dismissed, Daria gathered up her Bôgu into it's carrying bag and slid her bokken into the bag's sheath. Now dressed in a black tee shirt and jeans she hauled the bag over her shoulder and headed for home. She hoped her parents weren't there.


Entropy


Daria pushed open the front door, which was already ajar. Cautiously she entered her home, listening for signs of intruders. As she mounted the stairs, a package of frozen bagels sailed out from the kitchen, followed by a stream of insults from her mother, and an angry Jake followed that in turn. Daria watched quietly as Jake left the house, slamming the front door behind him.

Daria impassively continued up the stairs and then toward her room so she could put away her Kendô bag and then go visit Jane or find some other excuse for not being home.

She paused in front of Quinn's door she could hear Quinn's stereo playing some boy-band song. Quinn had not taken her parent's fighting very well. Quinn had claimed it was worry over her popularity one the seemingly inevitable divorce occurred. Quinn claimed to be worried that whichever parent she ended up with would move away from Lawndale, forcing her to start again 'from the bottom' or would not be able to provide the monetary support being attractive and popular required.

Daria knew better. Quinn needed a stable home. She lived a precarious life, never knowing if she was going to fall from popularity or be discovered as a 'fake'. If she didn't have a place to retreat to, she wouldn't be able to handle the stress. Quinn didn't seem to know how to live in any other way, and so was quite worried about the consequences of the family's disintegration.

Daria considered her own position as she continued toward her room. She was less worried as she only had one more year of high school to survive before disappearing into college. She was confident she could survive on her own as it was if need be and so wasn't as directly concerned about it. Still, living in what amounted to a war zone took its toll. Without Kendô, Daria guessed she'd have moved in with Jane long ago.

Daria tossed her bag onto the floor by her bed with a loud thump. She sat at her desk to write for a while. With Jake out of the house, Daria decided to wait on visiting Jane for fear she might overstay her welcome in the Lane home. That was decidedly a risk she did not want to take.

Her writing was interrupted when her door opened and Quinn walked in. Looking slightly nervous, Quinn stopped and looked at the unearthed human skeleton poster for a moment, tracing the skull and a few ribs with her finger, then sat on the end of Daria's bed. Daria watched impassively as Quinn fidgeted and shuffled her feet.

"H... Hi Daria." Quinn stuttered her greeting.

"Hi sister." Daria answered.

Daria was surprised to see a brief, miniscule smile flash across Quinn's features. If Quinn needed Daria to call her 'sister', then certainly the situation was truly forlorn.

Quinn sat quietly for a few moments more, drawing breaths as if ready to speak only to remain silent as she exhaled. It was obvious she wanted to talk about something and Daria expected she knew exactly what but lacked the courage to begin.

"So, what's up?" Quinn asked.

"Nothing much. Worried about the parents." Daria said, trying to help Quinn broach the subject.

"Yeah. It's getting bad."

"Terrible. Mom threw bagels at Dad."

"Don't worry, Daria." Quinn said with much sympathy. "I'm sure they'll be ok. You know, not get a divorce or anything."

Daria cocked an eyebrow.

"I heard Mom tell Dad that. They're going to stay together for me." Quinn said it as if happy to be the reason they're staying together, but there was some suggestion that she was worried that it wasn't right.

"Mom said, in so many words, that they were staying together for your sake?" Daria asked, trying to sound conversational.

"Yeah. I thought you'd like to know. You know, so you won't worry." Quinn said, a small mirthless chuckle in her voice.

"Thanks, Quinn." Daria said flatly.

Quinn stood and headed for the door.

"I gotta get ready for my date. See you!"

Daria watched her leave. Shaking her head, she pondered what Quinn had told her. If her parents were staying together for Quinn's sake, and Quinn knew it, Quinn may well consider the whole situation to now be her responsibility. That would be something Quinn was simply not prepared to handle.

Daria's thoughts were disturbed again when she heard her father return. Moments after the front door closed the argument resumed, as if there had never been an interruption.

Daria put her pencil and notebook back inside her desk and went into the hall. She paused, trying to ascertain where in the house her parents were. The last thing she wanted to do was to be noticed while they were in the quarreling mood. She decided they had moved into the kitchen, so she headed down the stairs and out the door as quickly and quietly as she could manage.

When she was several houses away and no calls from her parents had disturbed her, she decided she had been right about her parent's position in the house, or close enough not to get noticed.

Her mind returned to Quinn. She wondered if Quinn's shallowness would keep her from realizing the position her parents had put her in. If so, then Quinn was fine and Daria could coast through the status quo until college. If not, well, then Daria really didn't know what to do.

Daria knocked on the Lane's door. She waited for a few moments and then knocked again.

The door opened and Trent stood before her, a small smile on his face.

"Hey Daria." He welcomed.

"Hey Trent." Daria answered, a short-lived blush showing on her cheeks. Daria admonished herself. Even after all this time, he still had that affect on her.

"Jane's in her room."

Daria nodded thanks and headed up the stairs.

Standing in the doorway to her best friend's room, Daria watched as Jane scowled at a blank canvas, then took four brushes full past capacity of paint in each hand and attacked it. Within seconds, the canvas transformed into an emotion... one that Daria was feeling.

"Speed painting?" Daria asked, startling her friend.

"Kind of." Jane said as she recovered from her startle and began to clean her brushes. "I'm experimenting with expression of emotion through color and I didn't want to chance over-thinking it."

Daria nodded her head and looked at the canvas.

"Frustration." She said.

"Bingo." Jane answered.

Daria flopped herself down in Jane's big, comfy chair.

Parents again?" Jane asked, knowing the answer.

"Well, that and some new information I'm not sure what to do with."

"Yeah?" Jane encouraged as she set up a new canvas.

"Quinn stopped in to see me. She heard my Mom say something to the effect that they were staying together for Quinn's sake."

Jane looked up at Daria, one eyebrow cocked in surprised worry.

"That's quite a bit of responsibility for the little airhead." Jane said.

"I'd have to agree assuming she sees it that way."

"As much as I hate to admit it, Daria, she's not..."

"...Not that stupid. I know." Daria sighed and leaned back into the chair, looking at the ceiling.

"So..." Jane led.

"So I find I want to do something about it."

"Like?"

Daria sighed again. "No clue."

"Fix things with the parents?" Trent asked as he entered the room.

"Gah!" Daria yelped in surprise, then blushed.

"Jeez, Trent! You trying to give us heart attacks?" Jane snapped.

"Sorry. I just heard you from the hallway." Trent said as he went to sit on his sister's bed.

"Eavesdropping and skulking?" Jane smirked.

"Overhearing and skulking." Trent replied deadpan. "So, what do you think, Daria?"

"Um, about?"

"Fixing things with your parents."

"Considering that three professional marriage councilors have failed to improve the situation, Trent, I'm not sure that I'd have any hope at all."

Trent waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "They don't know what they're doing, man. Just look at Wind."

"Point." Jane said, pointing her brush at Trent.

"As I understand it, Trent, Wind's relationships are all borne from sexual attraction and a rush to marriage based on his need to be loved. I doubt anyone could fix a marriage begun that way."

"Point." Jane said, pointing her brush at Daria.

"Still, I think they try to work on issues without first giving the couple a reason to want to. I'd consider this your opportunity to remind them why they got married in the first place, then maybe they would be more willing to work on the issues that are tearing things up."

"Point." Jane said, pointing her brush at Trent.

Trent and Daria stared at Jane for a moment.

"What?" Jane asked, sounding perturbed.

Daria turned back to Trent. "Ok. Have any suggestions?"

"Well, it's all about romance."

"Oh, yeah. Trent, show her what you mean by 'romance'." Jane said, wiggling her eyebrows at him.

To Daria's surprise, he blushed.

"Uh, I was thinking something simple, like dinner." Trent said, staring at his feet.

"Hmm, and restrictions on conversation." Daria said, thoughtfully.

"Huh?" Jane looked at Daria.

"Well, there are certain things you can't even mention around them without setting off a fight. A controlled environment might just be the ticket. With subject restrictions and a list of suggested topics, some photos from their early years of marriage... you know, that just might put a dent in their problems." Daria said, looking appreciatively at Trent.

"Well, how about we set it up for Friday?" Jane suggested enthusiastically.

"I can't cook much that isn't a matter of heating frozen food." Daria said.

"Nether can I, but Trent here has proven to be a fair cook when he wants to be." Jane said, looking at her brother from the sides of her eyes.

"Really? Would you be willing to..."

"Sure, Daria, I'd love to." Trent said, his haste betraying his anxiousness.

Jane gave him a satisfied smirk.


The Brink of Destruction


Daria opened the door to her home, her Kendô bag strap digging into her shoulder. Today's lesson had been very intense, her instructor wanting to see who was ready to test for the next level.

When the door opened, she was assaulted by the loud and angry voices of her parents. They were yelling at one another, so caught up in their anger they didn't realize the other wasn't listening.

Daria began to head up the stairs, but paused when she heard Quinn turn up her stereo. Daria sat her bag down at the foot of the stairs, drew her bokken and headed toward the kitchen.

She stood at the entrance and listened to the incoherent noises her parents were making for a moment, in a vain hope she could figure out what the argument was about. So intent were they her presence went completely unnoticed.

Daria sighed, unable to decipher their ranting. She took her bokken and rapped it on the floor loudly. Both of her parents were startled and turned to look at her.

"Would you two mind not doing this right now?" Daria said flatly.

Helen's face went red.

"Daria! This is none of your business!" She yelled.

Daria opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by Helen.

"Damn it, Daria! How could you even think of butting in now? You've been so damn distant lately! One would think you didn't even live here anymore. And your damn cynical attitude has gotten on my nerves far more than ever before! Let's not even get into your sarcasm! I can't ask a simple question without you attacking me with it. I'm very disappointed in you right now, Daria. Your attitude is terrible, and you're being terribly rude interrupting your father and I." A shaken finger and deep scowl accompanied Helen's admonition.

Daria's eyes narrowed. "I'm going to remind myself that you're not actually mad at me right now. This fight you are having is my business. It's having a detrimental eff..."

"How dare you! How would you like to be grounded for the next few weeks for talking back?" Helen barked.

"Fine. Tear one another apart, then. Just remember that when you fight, Quinn is hurt, too. She can't take this." Daria said as she turned to leave.

Helen and Jake watched her go, their jaws slack.

"Quinn hasn't said anything." Jake commented.

"Jake! You imbecile!" Helen turned on him again.

"Hey!" Jake yelled.

Soon they had returned to their simultaneous rants.


Trent arrived with a cooking pot full of marinade and game hens. He had begun preparing them that morning. Jane followed him through the door carrying bags of groceries.

"Thanks for doing the shopping, guys." Daria said as she helped Jane with some of the bags.

"No problem." Jane answered.

Trent was in cooking mode. He quickly acquainted himself with the kitchen and began preparing the birds for roasting. Daria tried to help several times, but was politely rebuffed. Finally Jane grabbed two sodas and dragged a protesting Daria into the living room to watch television.

"Don't worry." Jane explained. "He'll let us know if he needs anything. He gets like this when he's cooking."

Daria shrugged and accepted the offered soda.

"You know he got up at six this morning to make the marinade? If you ask me, Daria, this is true love."

Daria rolled her eyes even as she blushed at the thought. "Jane, if you want to leave here with lungs..."

Jane snickered and turned on the television. Flipping channels, she quickly located their favorite show.

"Can a vegetable be a paramedic? Meet the First Aid 'Mater, next on Sick Sad World!" The television announced.

"Aren't tomatoes really fruits?" Daria asked.

"Only in San Francisco." Jane answered.

They watched the parade of the bizarre, the strange, and a lot of the stupid for several hours. Several times, Jane would have to repress giggles when Daria would turn in her seat to watch the kitchen - or it's occupant - instead of the TV.

Jane turned off the television and they both stretched out their stiff muscles.

"Let's set up the dining room?" Daria suggested.

They busied themselves with the dining room, Daria putting away all but two of the chairs. She gathered several framed photographs of her parents from around the house, including pictures from their wedding and honeymoon, and arranged them on the table. Between the settings, she placed her list of suggested conversation topics and the list of forbidden topics.

Trent had everything on 'pause' in the kitchen. Everything was ready.

"Ok, now lets just hope neither decide to work late."

"Trent and I have to take off. Mom's home and she wants to eat with us." Jane said.

"You have everything handled? Do you need me to stay a while?" Trent asked.

"No, I should be able to take it from here. Thanks for doing this for me, Trent." Daria smiled diminutively.

"Not a problem, Daria."

Jane smiled broadly at their exchange then led her brother out the door.

"See you tomorrow!" Jane called over her shoulder as they walked to Trent's car.

Daria waved and closed the door, and waited.


Daria set the plates of food in front of her parents, who looked at the feast appreciatively. Soft chamber music played on Daria's small portable stereo in the corner of the room. The lights were dimmed and two lit candles flanked the photographs on the table.

"Ok, you've read the rules, right?" Daria asked

"Yes, dear, but I'm not sure..."

"No, no. I'll take the food back if you don't follow the rules." Daria joked with her mother.

"Okay, dear." Helen smiled, then looked over at Jake.

Jake smiled at his wife. Daria could tell he was on his best behavior and she hoped it was a good sign. She left the room and headed up the stairs to her bedroom to read for a while.


Quinn opened the door to her home as her date drove away. He had been like an octopus, testing her anti-groping skills to the fullest. She knew he'd be like that. She had no idea why she had even accepted his invitation in the first place.

As she started to climb the stairs, she realized the house was silent. Every evening had been a cacophony of harsh words for months now the silence was almost unnatural.

She briefly considered finding her parents and quickly discarded the idea. She knew that there was one person who would know why the house was silent, and she could ask without risking starting an argument between her parents.

She bounded up the stairs and headed straight for Daria's room.

"Daria?" Quinn poked her head into her sister's room.

"Come on in, Quinn."

Quinn went in and sat in Daria's desk chair.

"Where's Mom and Dad? And why does the house smell like food?"

"Mom and Dad are in the dining room, Quinn. Trent, Jane and I made them a 'romantic' dinner." Daria said, making 'quote marks' in the air with her fingers.

"Really?" Quinn became excited. "Do you think it'll stop the fighting?"

Quinn hoped desperately that her brainy sister had come up with a solution.

"Well, I rather doubt there is any one thing that would stop the fighting, Quinn. I'm hoping this will remind them of why they married in the first place. If it does, then I hope that will give them more incentive to handle their problems rather than fight about them."

"Yes, yes." Quinn waved an exasperated hand at her sister. "But will it stop the fighting?"

Daria smiled slightly at her sister's blind hope.

"I wish I could say, Quinn. Let's just wait and see."

"Ok." Quinn said nervously.

Daria was surprised when Quinn reached up and plucked a random book from her shelves. She was even more surprised when Quinn began to read it.

Shrugging, Daria returned to her own reading.

Daria and Quinn were shaken from their reading by a loud crash. Soon the sounds of insults and ranting found their way through the padding on Daria's walls.

Quinn began to cry. Why wouldn't this end?

Daria set her book down and went over to her, setting a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry." Daria said, weakly. She hated seeing Quinn's hopes dashed.

Quinn stood and hugged her sister, weeping quietly on her shoulder.

Down stairs, Jake slammed the door behind him as he left.


Magnificent Desolation


"I can't believe you two." Daria growled as she stood in the sliding glass doorway.

Helen and Jake looked at their daughter in surprise. Daria stood before them, wearing her gi and carrying her bokken from practicing in the back yard.

"I can't leave you alone for even a few moments before you start tearing into each other. I could hear you clearly even through the plate glass of the back doors. You two are being incredibly selfish." Daria glared.

"What do you mean, selfish?" Jake asked, still angry.

Daria pointed above her head with her bokken. "Quinn is home."

They both bowed their heads, now feeling guilty.

Daria walked to the kitchen calendar and looked at it. After a moment, she wrote something down on it.

"It's your turn to leave today, Mom. Go."


Trent sauntered to the front door, mildly irritated at the tenacious knocking the visitor was displaying. He had been practicing a few new chords and finally getting started on learning that open-D tuning. He did not need this interruption.

He opened the door and his attitude transformed instantly.

"Hey Daria."

Trent looked at her, trying to hide his admiration. He liked her, this one woman out of hundreds he had met that he could really talk to. This one woman who didn't require him to dumb down his vocabulary and who forced him to revisit the household dictionary on many occasions. Since she had started taking that martial art class she had begun to change physically. Her tee shirt fit her tightly over her shoulders and arms, the muscles being built up significantly there, her waist and stomach had trimmed and her legs became shapelier. Her appearance now showed the same sort of strength, skill and discipline he knew her mind possessed.

He also knew her personal appearance meant very little to her, but he couldn't help but notice.

"Hey Trent. Is Jane in?"

Trent frowned slightly. Daria's voice actually trembled. After years of hearing nothing other than her normal deadpan and once or twice an angry utterance, hearing despair in her voice was a real shock.

"Uh, no, sorry. That Tom guy showed up and took her out for pizza or a movie or something."

"Okay. Thanks Trent."

Daria looked lost and dubious. This was another emotional state Trent had never expected her to display.

"You want to come in and talk for a while?" Trent discovered himself saying. "Uh, in case she comes back soon." He added.

Daria looked at him; the glisten in her eyes suddenly the only sign of emotion.

"I don't want to be a bother." She said.

Trent smiled. "I doubt you could be. Come on in." Trent said, stepping back and out of the way.

Daria entered the house and Trent led her to the kitchen where he began to boil some water.

"Want some coffee?"

"Yes, thanks." Daria said, almost in a whisper.

She sat in one of the kitchen chairs and stared at the table.

"So, your parent's getting on your nerves again, huh?" Trent said, trying to encourage Daria to talk.

"That's understating it." Daria mumbled.

Trent set a cup of hot coffee in front of her and sat down cattycorner to her, surreptitiously moving his chair closer.

Daria idly plopped a few cubes of sugar and a spoonful of non-dairy creamer into her cup. She was obviously lost in thought.

"So they won't divorce because they think it helps Quinn, huh?"

Daria shrugged. "Not that there's any real logic to it, but yeah."

Trent's eyebrows knitted at a thought.

"Do they give the slightest damn about how their bull-crap affects you?" He said with a slight growl.

"No. I'm supposed to be the one they don't need to worry about so says my mother. Supposedly my 'maturity' somehow makes me immune." Daria said, her face expressionless.

Trent clenched his fist, working though his anger. That had to be, of everything he had heard about the Morgendorffers, the most blatantly unfair thing they had ever done to Daria.

"Jane said they were unfair, but damn that takes the cake."

"Jane talks to you about my family?" Daria looked mildly surprised.

"Sure, we talk about most everything." Trent shrugged.

Daria took a sip of her coffee, looking bemused.

"Must be nice to have family you can relate to." Daria said as she set her cup down.

"Just Jane, really. I'm glad she's around I don't think I could talk with Penny about anything." He smirked at Daria.

"I'm glad she's around, too." Daria said, still looking into her coffee. "I'm glad you are, too. I like you a lot." She added, very quietly.

Trent's jaw nearly dropped. Had he heard her right? Tentatively, he reached over and placed his hand on hers.

"Jane and I are glad you're around, too."

Daria looked at his hand, her arm going rigid.

"Th-thanks Trent." She said, then slid her hand from under his.

Trent's heart sank as he returned to his coffee.


"Did you know she's set up a schedule of who has to leave the house after a fight?" Trent said as he lifted another forkful of food to his mouth.

"It's all she can do to keep them from killing each other over there." Jane said, poking at her TV dinner. "I don't know how she can stand it. I'd have left ages ago."

"She has a lot of strength." Trent said, his voice full of veneration.

Jane looked up at her brother and smirked. "Do I sense admiration here?"

Trent looked uncomfortable. "Uh, yeah. I guess so."

Jane continued to eat, watching Trent for any further sign.

Trent sat for a few moments, lost in thought, then frowned as he began to eat at his usual inhuman speed.

Jane looked concerned. "She's an odd one." Jane ate another bite.

Trent stopped and looked at her, confused.

"You know the way she reacts to people. The more she likes someone, the more she pulls away."

Trent cocked an eyebrow at her.

"You hadn't noticed?" Jane said, smiling broadly.

"No, I had always assumed that she just didn't like... uh..." Trent blushed, realizing what he may have almost admitted to.

Jane nearly choked on her last bite of food, then smiled at her brother. So, there was something there.


Reverse Entropy


The warm June breeze came off the ocean and filled Jake's nostrils. The twigs in his blue flower wreath dug uncomfortably into his scalp but for her he'd have worn a crown of thorny roses. Her hands in his, he watched her as she spoke her vows, then he spoke his, and together they promised each other to one another. The words carried meaning from deep within him, even as they sounded god-awfully corny and trite.

They kissed, and his heart leapt with joy. This woman loved him, and he did so love her! Helen Barksdale the very paragon of feminine intelligence and strength was now married to him! Jake Morgendorffer, the weakling, the fool, the jerk...

His hand reached out and pushed on Helen. Horrified, he tried to retract it, but it kept pushing. Slowly Helen was shoved away, further and further over the ocean until she was a small dot on the horizon.

"Helen!" He called, his arm still not obeying his commands.

"Helen!" He screamed, the tears streaming down his face.

"HELEN!" He called out, sitting up in his bed, sweating. His heart pounded in his chest and his head throbbed.

He felt Helen's arms around him, and he turned and looked into her face.

"Jake? What's wrong?" Helen asked, her face a mask of concern.

Jake twisted around to face her. He stroked her hair and looked into her eyes.

"Helen, I'm sorry. I've been such an ass. I love you, Helen."

Not waiting for an answer, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her trying to make the kiss convey all his feelings to her, all his love and his heartache over their failing marriage.

When he looked at her again, her face was wet with tears. He guided her back down to the bed and held her, still stroking her hair, her shoulders...

"Jake, I..." Helen stifled a sob. "I don't want this to come apart. I love you, too." She began to cry, dragging Jake's face to hers and kissing him soundly.


Daria was hauling her Kendô bag down the stairs, ready for that morning's lesson. She rounded the banister on her way to the kitchen for breakfast when Quinn bounded out wearing a huge smile. Daria nearly fell over when Quinn did an actual pirouette in the middle of the living room, then danced up to her.

"It's too wonderful!" Quinn sang. "You have got to go to the kitchen. See ya!"

Daria watched, amazed, as Quinn danced out the front door.

As Daria set her bag down, she heard an honest-to-god giggle from her mother. A sound she hadn't heard in well over a year. She snuck up on the kitchen, and peered around the corner at her parents.

She watched them for a while. They alternated between apologies and jokes, solutions and humor. Drawing back away from the kitchen, Daria found herself sagging with relief. Their healing had begun. Perhaps divorce wasn't inevitable, after all.


Daria jogged along the street, headed for her friend's house. She was getting a few odd looks, having decided against changing out of her gi in favor of speeding to Jane's where she could share her joy at her parent's great morning.

She rapped on the door, almost excitedly. Her stoic façade was under even greater strain now that she was happy than it had been when she was frightened. Just as she reached up to knock again, Jane opened the door and immediately smiled.

"Wow, someone looks awful damn happy for a stoic."

Daria pushed past Jane, tossing her bag by the couch.

"It's relief, Jane. Softening, relaxing, stress-allaying, heart slowing, mind resting relief."

Daria looked straight at Jane. "They were apologizing to each other and they were joking with each other this morning. Quinn was so relived she literally danced."

Daria lifted her hands in the air and stood on the balls of her feet, closed her eyes and tilted her head back. "I could have fainted myself!" She said, as excited and happy as Jane had ever seen her.

Trent walked in and froze, his eyes locked on Daria. He watched her move her arms back to her sides with incredible grace. She was wearing some kind of karate uniform, and she looked so very... Trent startled himself and almost ran back to the basement.

Daria turned and looked toward the noise.

"Mice?" She asked.

"Nearly." Jane smirked.

Daria looked at Jane, who shrugged. The two headed up to Jane's room, Daria grabbed her clothes out of her bag to change.


"I can't believe I'm actually anxious to go home." Daria said, packing her gi.

"I'll admit, it is a little strange. Are you sure you're Daria?" Jane asked with a smirk.

"Don't worry, Jane. All this well-being is temporary."

"Yep, you're Daria."

Daria waved over her shoulder as she headed down the driveway. Behind her, she heard the door close. As she turned onto the sidewalk, the door opened and Trent rushed up beside her. Daria stopped, confused, and looked inquiringly at him.

"Daria?"

"Trent?"

"Uh, could you look at this for me? It's a song for this girl I really like and I need it to be perfect." Trent said, offering a piece of paper.

Daria's heart went cold.

"Sure." She said, taking the paper from his hand.

In her, I see strength.
In her, I see smarts.
In her, I see beauty
Rivaling the stars.

She keeps me on my guard.
She keeps me on my track.
She keeps me thinking of
Reasons not to crack.

I dared not speak
Of the feelings I have
The tension makes
My eyes start to leak.

So before I loose
The one girl for
Whom I feel
I will say
I love you.

Daria swallowed hard and handed the paper back to Trent. "It's lovely Trent. You obviously feel strongly for her. Don't change a thing." Her voice sounded strained.

Trent looked at the paper, befuddled. "But..."

"Sorry, Trent. I have to go." Daria said, and walked quickly away.

"But..." Trent could only watch her retreating form.


Daria opened the door to her home and discarded her bag on the sofa as she went to the kitchen. She hoped that the family could sit down together and have dinner for the first time in ages. The smell of recently heated frozen lasagna gave her further reason for hope.

"God damn it, Jake! You do this all the time!" Helen yelled.

"Christ, Helen, get off my back!"

Daria stood in the entrance to the kitchen, her face completely impassive.

Helen looked up and saw her, and her face fell.

"No." Helen said, quietly.

"What?" Jake barked.

Helen shook her head. "I mean, this is no reason to argue. We're both just being bull-headed."

Jake looked over to see what Helen was looking at.

"Oh. Yeah." Jake said, gesturing that Daria come in.

Daria took what was once her usual seat at the table.

Jake sat down and looked at his daughter. "Sorry, Daria. We're still not... you know..."

"Yes, I know. Things don't work out overnight." Daria sighed. "Unless you're a cartoon, of course."

Helen laughed briefly at her daughter's sarcasm, then looked dead serious. "I think it's important you know that your father and I are going to try and get our problems worked out. I know how you've been trying to help us. And trying to protect Quinn. Daria, I know you don't take praise very well, so brace your self. I'm very proud of you, and thankful for what you've been trying to do for the family."

Daria looked at the table.

"Um... thanks." She mumbled, then smirked at herself she didn't take praise very well. Her mother certainly did know her better than she let on.

Quinn strode in and smiled broadly at the sight of her parents and sister around the dinner table.

"Hello!" Quinn sang her greeting. "What's for dinner?"


Epilogue


Daria stood, her bokken held in front of her in a ready position and mirroring her opponent's stance. Daria waited for any sign of change. She watched for a twitch of her bokken, beads of sweat behind her facemask, or an uncomfortable shift beneath her Bôgu. Daria concentrated on the skills she had taken the class to hone: silence, patience, observation, stillness.

The tip of her opponent's bokken dipped almost imperceptibly and Daria lunged into an energetic attack. For a few moments stretched into an eternity the two bokken clashed until the tip of Daria's rested solidly on the chest armor of her opponent. The instructor called her point and she backed off and knelt, setting her bokken in front of her.

"Yoroshii." The instructor complimented Daria.

Daria nodded her head in recognition, but again did not respond in the traditional manner.

"Yasumu!" The instructor commanded they rest.

Daria removed her facemask and set it by her bokken. Adjusting her glasses, she settled back to think.

She was prevented from thinking when she saw Trent standing beside the doorway to the dojo, his guitar in hand.

"You have a visitor." Her instructor told her, startling her. "Class is over, you may go."

Recovering quickly from her confusion, Daria gathered her facemask and bokken and walked up to Trent.

"Hey Daria. You're pretty good."

Daria blushed.

"Thanks." She muttered.

Trent handed her a familiar piece of paper.

"I took your advice."

Daria looked confused.

"I left the song just as it was, except for one change."

"Uh, Okay. So why..."

Trent picked up his guitar and began to sing her the song, adding one word to the end:

In her, I see strength.
In her, I see smarts.
In her, I see beauty
Rivaling the stars.

She keeps me on my guard.
She keeps me on my track.
She keeps me thinking of
Reasons not to crack.

I dared not speak
Of the feelings I have
The tension makes
My eyes start to leak.

So before I loose
The one girl for
Whom I feel
I will say
I love you, Daria.

Daria looked ready to faint, she could barely hear her classmates around her as they applauded the song.

"I... I..." Daria stuttered, then gathered herself up. "You love me?" Daria asked, bewildered.

Trent smiled and nodded.

Daria smiled slightly, a tear forming in one eye. "I love you too, Trent." She said softly.

Amid more cheers, the two drew close. Looking into one another's eyes, they kissed.


<<Return

DISCLAIMER:
Daria and related characters remain the copyright of their respective owners.

I'd appreciate feedback! (Good, bad, indifferent.)
See? I am a shipper! - I just couldn't think of a *purely* shipper story that hadn't been done (better) before.
Story updated: 02-12-00

Glossary of Kendô Terms:
Kendô: Japanese fencing.
Bokken: Wodden practice sword.
Bôgu: Protective armor.
Gi: Uniform
Yoroshii: ~= Very good!
Yasumu: ~= Rest