This is my first foray into fan fiction


This fan fiction and associated stories were written for entertainment purposes only.

No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.

Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV with all appropriate rights reserved.

Original characters and plot/dialogue are mine :)

Chapter 1 - Esteemed Colleagues

The blue Lexus traveled at a leisurely pace down the quiet suburban street. The car's interior was filled with a strong guitar-heavy rock song that played on the radio.

"Kids," said the middle-aged man sitting behind the wheel of the car, "I just want you to know that your mother and I realize that it's not easy moving to a whole new town."

Its square jawed driver turned his head slightly towards his eldest daughter in the passenger side back seat as the car came to a stop at a red light.

"Especially for you, right Daria," stated the driver.

Jake Morgendorffer watched the light from his peripheral vision as he looked at his 16-year-old daughter sitting stoically in the rear passenger side seat. She wore what he knew to be her standard issue garb. Simple black pleated skirt, with a non-descript green long-sleeved green jacket over a mustard top that was little more than a downward facing triangle in the V created by the half zipped jacked.

'And thus it begins,' Daria thought to herself as she adjusted her plain round framed glasses.

Never one to let the opportunity to make a witty and/or sarcastic remark pass,

"Did we move?" asked Daria, in her typical flat semi-monotone voice, with only a slight eye shift glance at her father.

Seeing the light turn green, Jake returned his primary focus to the road ahead. He gave a short semi-forced chuckle before glancing towards the front passenger seat holding his 15-year old and decidedly perkier daughter Quinn.

"I'm just saying that you don't make friends as easily as, umm, some people," continued Jake.

'Is it too much to ask for a simple quiet ride to school?' Quinn mentally inquired as she gazed out of the car's window.

She reached to the Lexus' center console and turned the volume up on the radio, hoping to get her father and sister to let the last few minutes of the drive to school go without the usual banter-battles that seem to punctuate every family interaction.

"Quinn, for instance?" said Daria shifting her eyes to the redhead occupying the passenger seat of the car.

A small sigh escaped her lips as her auburn hair bounced across the jackets' wide lapel when the Lexus hit a small pothole.

"That's not what I meant..." Jake responded, pausing to turn off the radio, "necessarily."

With a small sigh of his own he continued, "The point is, the first day at a new school is bound to be difficult. "

"I'll just be glad to be at a school where I don't have to salute someone every time I move 10 feet," interjected the 4th occupant of the vehicle.

Quinn turned to face the auburn haired boy sitting behind her father. He wore (what was also well known in their family as his standard manner of dress) a pair of basic black jeans with a black leather belt bearing a silver buckle. Beneath a well-worn green camouflage army jacket, a simple unadorned black t-shirt (which was currently being used to wipe his horn-rimmed glasses clean) covered his torso. Alexander Morgendorffer squinted a bit and looked up at his younger sister. His foot, covered with a pair of black army boots, still tapped idly to the song playing on the radio.

"I still never understood why Mom and Dad possibly thought sending Alex to military school was a good idea," said Quinn.

Jake winced visibly at Quinn's remark and made a nervous adjustment of his red tie.

"Yeah you'd think one raving, shell shocked Morgendorffer male was enough for our happy home," remarked Daria in her usual flat tone as she cut her eyes towards her twin brother and smirked.

Alex slid the glasses back onto his face and ran a hand through his shoulder length hair. His hair was parted in the middle and hung over his face like a pair of auburn drapes, slightly obscuring his features.

'I'm never cutting my hair again,' he confirmed mentally. He was pleased at the impressive recovery of his hair's length over the summer after a 3-year stint of buzz cuts courtesy of Buxton Ridge Military Academy.

"I think the current PC term is 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder'," responded Alex in a smooth baritone. He turned to look towards Daria giving a smirk that mirrored her own and continued, "Although I think it was mostly for Mom and Dad's remaining sanity. Not having to deal with the combined power of their eldest kids' bubbling personalities."

"Oh yeah that's us, just percolating with personality," said Daria. "Bubble ... bubble."

"That explains the tiny glass dome," said Alex as he extended an arm and poked the top of Daria's head with his index finger.

"Ewwwwww!!" exclaimed Quinn as she quickly turned back around in her seat to face the road.

"Although it seriously will be good to not have to salute any more," said Alex with a sigh.

Daria's small smile vanished with the hint of sadness she detected in her brother's comment. A quick glace to her father and sister in the front of the car told her that she'd been the only one to detect it.

"Lousy stinking officers with their prim and proper uniforms going out of their way to make sure they walk past you all the time. Stand at attention! Salute! Stand at attention! Salute, over and over again. And you just have to jump..." exclaimed Jake, beginning one of his legendary rants.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Daria commented as her patented smirk-smile returned. She glanced left to her brother, "Jake has left the building."

"Thankya, thankya verymuch" responded Alex in his best rendition of Elvis as he reciprocated with his own smirk-smile to Daria.

"Daa-aad!" whined Quinn as she looked at her father hunched over the steering wheel of the Lexus. Jake's knuckles had begun to turn white from how hard he was gripping the wheel. "You promised you wouldn't get all freaked out."

Quinn reached over and turned up the volume of the radio, filling the car with a loud rock guitar chorus. Shaking his head slightly, Jake visibly calmed down.

"Oh, where was I," he asked as he reached to turn the radio off radio.

Seeing the turn-in for the front driveway of Lawndale High School, Jake pulled to a stop in front of the main curb and turned so that he could see all three of his children.

"Oh yeah, don't get upset if the other kids take a little while to warm up to you," Jake said with heartfelt concern in his voice and on his face.

Quinn practically jumped out of the car and was immediately noticed by a brunette with immaculately combed hair falling to her shoulders wearing a fashionable supendered shorts ensemble.

'Cute, perky.' Thought the brown-haired girl taking a quick assessment of the redhead stepping out of the unfamiliar Blue Lexus. Sandi Griffin, President of the Lawndale High Fashion club, glanced at the newcomer's clothing. Taking note of the brand label hip hugging jeans with their properly accessorized belt, and baby T showing just enough mid-drift to be appealing without venturing into sluttish.

'She has an obvious sense of fashion and what works for her. We definitely need to recruit this one before someone else does.' thought Lawndale's reigning the fashion aficionado.

Adjusting her normal condescending scowl to an only slightly condescending scowl, Sandi walked over to officially greet the fashionable addition to Lawndale.

Just behind Sandi, the similarly well dressed and groomed Tiffany Blum-Deckler finished applying a quick touching up of blush to her cheeks from a small compact and smoothed down a wrinkle in the well fitted knee length yellow sun dress she wore that seemed to enhance the pale but almost imperceptibly shaded complexion of the Asian girl.

Stacy Rowe practically bounced, with her two small brown ponytails doing just that, as she joined Tiffany and Stacy. A wide smile graced her oval face and as she walked with her hands on the backs of her hips just below a chic designer label backpack.

"Hello," Sandi stated to Quinn in her deliberate, stern manner.

"You look cool, I love that top," piped Stacy regarding the pink baby T emblazoned with a classic yellow smiley face that Quinn wore. Stacy quickly shrank back from a sidelong glare Sandi pointed at her.

Quinn gave Sandi an evaluating look. She quickly noticed the two girls standing subtly behind but near the brown haired girl as well as the way some of the other gathered students responded. Quinn knew how to recognize a player in the school hierarchy when she saw one.

'Hmm must be one of the popular kids, better make a good impression until I can get a better grasp on how things work at this school,' thought Quinn.

"Quinn Morgendorffer," she stated in a simple and perky voice with a slight smile.

"Cool name," said Sandi.

"Will you go out with me?" interjected a mid height red head boy with short cropped hair. He also shrank back into the general crowd around the school entrance when receiving an even colder stare from Sandi.

"Until you have a grasp of how things work at Lawndale," Sandi remarked as she turned her attention fully again on Quinn, "I think you should stick with us."

"I'm Sandi Griffin, President of the Lawndale Fashion Club," continued the girl with a flip of her hair.

"This is Tiffany, our Treasurer," said Sandi indicating the Asian girl.

"I love those flared pants," Tiffany said in an overly slow and subdued voice.

"And this is Stacy, club Record Keeper," Sandi said as she indicated the cheery girl.

"You have to tell me where you get your belts, I love the little shells. They remind me of the beach. Have you ever been to the beach?" rambled Stacy enthusiastically before she again shrank under the stern glare of Sandi.

'I think I'm going to like it here,' Quinn thought with a satisfied smile as she and the other girls began heading towards the entrance of Lawndale High School.

Daria and Alex simply looked at each other and shook their heads from their seats in their father's Lexus, having observed the entire verbal exchange between their sister and the Fashion Club.

"We'll try to help her through this difficult period of adjustment," Daria stated flatly in response to her father's comments.

"That's my girl," exclaimed Jake with a wide smile which almost instantly turned straight faced "Wait a minute..."

Jake was met with a "See ya Dad," from his eldest daughter as she climbed out of the car and closed the door.

Alex picked up right where his sister left off.

"I'm sure Quinn will overcome her bashful nature and find a comfortable place in this daunting new adventure that is Lawndale High," remarked the boy as he likewise exited the Lexus and began to walk with his twin sister towards the building.

"Alex," Jake called.

Alex and Daria both turned back towards their father's car. Alex motioned for Daria to wait up as he walked back to the car. Reaching the vehicle, he leaned down to look at his father through the open passenger side door.

"Be careful son, I know you didn't like military school..." Jake said, looking directly into his son's face. His voice trailed off with honest concern and a touch of regret.

"It's no big deal Dad. I'm gonna be late. Gotta run," responded Alex noncommittally as he shut the car door and turned to join Daria who stood just beyond the dispersing crowd around Quinn and her newfound friends.

Arms crossed with an open scowl on her face, Daria regarded her brother and asked, "What was that all about?"

"Just Dad making some sad effort at male bonding," Alex lied as he adjusted his backpack to a more comfortable position. "You know hunter, gatherer stuff."

Daria's scowl visibly softening into a concerned sad frown and she reached out to touch Alex's shoulder.

"Lex," she said looking him in the eyes. He returned her gaze knowing that, as usual, he could almost never successfully lie to or hide anything from her. Alex smiled at Daria as he put his arm around his sister for a quick side hug.

As they both walked through the front doors of Lawndale High for the first time, he turned to his sister and said "Sorry Dia."

Inside the large school auditorium, students began to fill seats. A tall athletic young woman brushed the cheek length bangs of her black hair out of her eyes, letting them rest behind an ear with three silver rings in it. She briefly surveyed the collected populace of Lawndale High.

'Let's survey the crop this year,' thought Jane Lane to herself as her blue eyes scanned over the students present while making a false show of tying the laces of her black Doc Marten boots.

To the casual observer, the auditorium simply appeared to be randomly filled with students. Jane, like most other returning students understood that the room was subtly segregated into groups representing the social hierarchy of the school.

'Fashion Club, hmmm looks like they've already snagged fresh meat,' Jane thought noticing Quinn talking to Sandi, Tiffany and Stacy.

She stood and adjusted her crimson jacket then proceeded to make her way down the aisles of the auditorium. She walked past several rows of teens in yellow and blue-skirted uniforms and mixed jean/yellow and blue jersey combinations. 'Cheerleaders and the pride of Lawndale,' she added mentally.

Jane moved down beyond other collective groups with only a slight glance.

'There's Andrea, so those must be the new Goths,' she thought giving a small wave to the heavyset Asian girl dressed in a purple shirt and ragged hemmed black dress. Andrea flipped a fishnet gloved hand almost nonchalantly towards Jane without even turning away from what Jane figured was a young freshman girl she didn't recognize who bore dark purple bony tails on either side of her head and too large eyes rimmed thickly with mascara leading into a spiral at the corner of her eyes above the cheeks.

Jane moved quickly past the section containing the Drama Club, the School Band, Flag Squad and the Pep Squad. The punks sat what she felt had always been uncomfortably close to the computer and chess club. The later two groups she knew shared more than a few members.

Never really fitting into any of the Lawndale cliques and being too free-spirited to join any of the various clubs and school organizations, Jane walked casually towards her usual spot in the non-affiliated section at the right front side of the auditorium known to the student body as 'Outcast row'. The section was sprinkled with assortment of students that, for whatever reason, didn't fit in with the other cliques, social groups or school organizations and who weren't popular enough to merit attention of the other cliques.

Jane plopped down in a seat in the center of the sparsely populated Outcast Row that held no other students within four seats in all directions. She put an ankle-booted foot over the back of the chair in front of her. As she reached down to adjust her dark shorts and straighten the black leggings that reached mid-calf, she felt something hit her booted heel.

"Ouch," grumped a masculine voice.

A head draped in long straight auburn hair that obscured its owner's the face shortly followed the voice. The young man sat up rubbing the back of his head with one hand and held a pair of plain round framed glasses with the other.

"Watch it," said the boy as he turned to see what hit him in the head.

Jane noticed him look from the boot that she still hung over the back of the seat he occupied and up her extended leg. Realizing her positioning was even less ladylike than usual given his proximity and particular vantage point, Jane quickly withdrew her foot from the seat back. She got a quick glimpse of his face before his hair cascaded back into an obscuring curtain. She scooted to the edge of her chair to get a better view at the seats in front and slightly below her.

"Watch it yourself," Jane retorted with a smile at the new, although somewhat hidden face before her. "I just got these boots and I hadn't planned on covering them with gray matter just yet."

She noticed a pair of glasses resting over the one eye she could see through the curtain of hair that seemed to have been purposefully combed over the boy's face.

'Two pairs of glasses?' Jane asked herself, raised eyebrow that revealed her minor confusion.

"I'd worry more about getting boot leather all over his abnormally thick skull," intoned a flat but obviously feminine voice from the vicinity of the next seat.

Jane looked to the seat left of the boy to see a green jacketed back straightening as its occupant regained an upright sitting position. Jane looked over the girl as best she could from her perspective.

"Here you go Dia," said the young man said sweetly as he reached over and gently put the now badly squinting girl's hands on the handles of the glasses he held, careful to avoid either of them smudging the lenses.

"Thanks Lex," replied the girl with a similar sweetness, different from the initial semi-monotone voice she heard earlier. Jane noticed the girl give a quick small smile to the boy as she placed the glasses on her face.

'She's pretty,' Jane thought as she watched the two interact in front of her.

"Be careful with those or we'll have to get you a cane and seeing-eye dog," the boy said to his female companion.

"Well that would give you a way to be productive although we'd still need to work on house training you," the girl replied sarcastically with an eye roll.

'Well they sure are friendly. Probably one of those uptight ultra sensitive and ultra jealous chicks and her anarchist/poser punk boyfriend,' Jane observed, not able to see the close resemblance of the pair due to a combination of her vantage point and the boy's face obscuring hair.

'Too bad, he's kinda cute,' she mused as she sat back in her seat.

The sound of a throat clearing over the speakers cut further conversation in the auditorium short. All heads turned towards the stage to view a diminutive Asian woman in a gray power suit that stood at the podium centered on the stage. She adjusted her glasses and began to read enthusiastically, to a near comical degree, from what the returning students knew was a well used script

"Greetings students, and welcome to the beginning of another wonderful year at Laaaaawnnnndale High," intoned the woman putting extended emphasis on the school's name as the tenured students knew was her habit.

"I am Angela Li, principle and leader of the exceptional faculty here at Laaaawnndale High. We would like to welcome all of you, new and returning faces to our gloooooorrrrius halls." she continued as she proceeded to introduce the teaching faculty.

"Are we in the right place?" questioned Alex as he glanced from Ms. Li to the cast of almost unbelievable characters that appeared to be the school's teaching staff.

"I was under the impression that the special kids were separated from the rest of the students," Daria commented, referring to the speaking habits of their new principle and some the clearly visible physical idiosyncrasies of their teachers.

Jane perked up at the unfettered and rather amusing color commentary the pair sitting in front of her was exchanging.

'Hmm, I may have been wrong. I think we may actually have some live ones this year,' Jane thought.

"And definitely not allowed to make public announcements," continued Daria, "much less teach."

"At least not without the proper headgear and adult supervision," finished Alex.

'Oh I definitely need to keep an eye on these two,' Jane thought with a light chuckle. 'Time to test the waters.'

"Actually the headgear is usually reserved for the students," Jane interjected from behind.

After a brief moment of silence, Daria and Alex shared a quick sidelong glance that did not go unnoticed by Jane and smirk-smiled simultaneously.

"That makes sense," stated Daria. Her expression and tone evened out to her normal neutral as she attempted to better gauge the girl sitting behind them. "One can only bang their head against a brick wall of authoritative ineptitude for so long without the proper protection."

"And not to mention the gripes from the janitor about getting bloodstains out of the desktops," stated Alex as he continued his sister's train of thought.

"Actually, I think the janitorial staff is busy enough cleaning up after the bomb sniffing dogs," quipped Jane as she leaned over and extended her hand between the brother and sister.

"Nice one about the bomb sniffing dogs," remarked Alex with a raised eyebrow as the only acknowledgment to the hand extended between himself and Daria.

"Who said I was joking," responded Jane completely straight-faced as she withdrew her arm and leaned back into her seat.

Alex and Daria turned and looked at each other with matching raised eyebrows, their smirks shifting to more concerned expressions - obvious trepidation showing on their faces.

'Welcome to Lawndale High' thought Jane with a wide grin on her face.

A group consisting of Ms. Li and all of the new students stood together in the wide main hall of Lawndale High School. The students glanced around, taking in the rows of lockers and various inspirational posters that adorned the walls.

Daria's eyes fell immediately to a large poster depicting several young people in matching uniforms. The caption "Strength Through Unity. Unity Through Conformity." prompted a sneer from the girl.

'Drones,' mused Daria to herself as she recalled the way Ms. Li had paraded the football team and cheerleaders on the auditorium stage only an hour prior.

Alex examined the large trophy case occupying a significant section of the hallway's wall. He noticed the football, basketball and other sporting awards were prominently displayed at eye level. Awards for academic merit, chess tournaments, and other trophies for the various scholastic organizations and competitions occupied lower shelves or were almost hidden behind the more prominently displayed sports related display pieces. He took especial notice of a particularly large academic team trophy that was practically buried behind a multitude of smaller sporting trophies that appeared to have been arranged purposefully to obscure the larger engraved plaque that listed names of the scholastic achievers.

'Easy to tell where the school's priorities are,' thought the boy with disdain.

"As you can see our Lawndale High students take great pride in our school," spoke the principle, drawing the twins' attention. She tucked the small stack of cards she had been reading from on the tour of the school into her lapel pocket.

"That's why you'll be taking a small psychological exam to spot any little clouds on the horizon as you sail the student seas of Lawndale High," Ms. Li stated passing her gaze over the collected group of new students.

Quinn immediately stood stock still with an almost classic deer in the headlights look on her face.

"SOS. Girl overboard," stated Daria noticing her sister's reaction to this latest bit of news.

"Man the lifeboats, lunatics and divas first," remarked Alex as he too noticed Quinn visibly tense up at the mention of the word 'exam'.

"No one told me about any tests," whined Quinn as she recovered somewhat from the initial shock of her new principals words.

"Don't worry," Daria stated to her sister, "it's a psychological test. You're automatically exempt."

"Oh. All right," said Quinn her mood improving tremendously at that reassurance.

"Yeah, you have to have a functioning brain to be subjected to a psych eval," stated Alex.

Alex, Daria and Quinn stood around a circular white table inside the quiet white walled room that served as the office of the school psychiatrist. The walls were lined with shelves of books and several posters that would have been more appropriate for a pediatrician's waiting room. An above middle-aged woman with gray and dark brown two-toned hair, wearing a white lab coat over her dress sat at the circular table and riffled through a series of large cards.

"Hello children," the woman said as she adjusted the small-framed glasses perched precariously on the bridge of her almost too thin nose. "Have a seat."

Each of the kids took a seat around the table. Alex reached out and palmed the small multi-colored cube resting in the middle of the table as he took the seat next to the older woman. Quinn settled in opposite her brother on the other side of the doctor. Daria sat in the remaining empty chair between her siblings and crossed her arms.

"I am Mrs. Manson, the schools psychiatrist," the woman stated.

"Is this when we get those nifty X tattoos?" asked Daria.

Ignoring Daria's comment, Mrs. Manson continued, "I hope you don't mind but with such a busy and full day ahead I thought it would be ok to perform all of your evaluations together since you are brother and sisters."

"Couldn't cause any more psychological trauma than actually having to live with them," Alex responded as he closely began examining the patterns on each side of the plastic cube.

Narrowing her eyes at the boy who was obviously not paying her much attention, Mrs. Manson turned to the girls and said, "We'll start with a simple exercise."

She turned to the youngest Morgendorffer and held up one of the large picture cards from the pile she had been perusing.

"Now Quinn, what do you see here?" Manson inquired.

The over sized white card displayed two very roughly drawn characters in black. The images clearly showed that one of the characters was a man and the other a woman. The male character leaned towards the female character who is holding a hand up in an almost point towards the male's head.

"It's a picture of two people talking," responded Quinn almost immediately.

"That's right!" exclaimed Mrs. Manson. "Can you make up a little story about what they might be discussing?"

Sighing, Quinn retorted, "I'm not even supposed to be taking this test. I'm exempt."

Daria and Alex both smirked at the gullibility of their sister.

Mrs. Manson furrowed her brow in a mild frustration responded, "You won't be graded."

"Oh," Quinn practically chirped, "Okay then. Let's see... They've been going out for awhile, and he's upset because other people keep asking her out, and she's saying she can't help it if she's attractive and popular, and besides, nobody ever said they were going steady. And if he does want to go steady, he's got to do a lot better than movie, burger, backseat, movie, burger, backseat, because there are plenty of guys with bigger backseats, waiting to take her someplace nice."

"Very good, Quinn." remarked the psychiatrist using a semi-condescending and false overly chipper tone. She turned to Daria and continued, "Now Dara, let's see if you can make up a story as vivid as your sister's."

"It's Daria," both Alex and Daria stated in unison, which drew a semi-confused glance from the doctor.

"I'm sorry," Manson apologized "Daria, what do you see in the picture?"

Daria paused then responded "Um, a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains," as she recalled the last time someone asked her to describe what she saw on an overlarge card.

"Ah, there aren't any ponies. It's two people," retorted Mrs. Manson.

"Last time I took one of these tests they told me they were clouds," insisted Daria in her typical neutral tone. "They said they could be whatever I wanted," the young woman continued eliciting an almost inaudible chuckle from her brother.

"That's a different test dear," remarked Mrs. Manson fighting to keep the frustration she was feeling out of her voice. "In this test, they're people. And you tell me what they're discussing."

"Oh. I see," answered Daria. "All right then. It's a guy and a girl. And they're discussing," she continued with her trademark smile-smirk "a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains."

The psychiatrist turned her gaze to Alex, who at that moment was faced sideways to the table looking down at his hands, and stated, "Something tells me I'll get a similar level of non-cooperation from you young man. What do you have to say for yourself Alexander?"

"Who me?" inquired Alex.

The boy took a deep breath and said, "I'm just a normal rowdy and troubled young man. Coming to an age of rebellious mindset, spending his waking hours tormenting his parents and/or any other authority figure he interacts with while trying to find his place in a strange new environment. Oh, and naturally trying to maintain control of his raging hormones. All in all, a standard issue teenage boy."

With the last statement, Alex made one final turn to the top of the device he held and placed the solved Rubix Cube back in its spot in the center of the round table.

Alex, Daria, Jake and Quinn ate their various sized portions of lasagna while they sat at the dinner table. Daria stared out the large picture window beside the kitchen table, noticing how the branches of the large tree in their backyard swayed in the wind.

" then they asked me to join the pep squad. They said I didn't have to try out or anything. But I said 'Look, I'm new here. Give me a chance to get used to the place first.' So for now I'm the vice-president of the Fashion Club and that's it," droned Quinn finally finishing the retelling of her day's on goings.

"Sounds like a well-thought out decision honey," stated Jake with a proud tone and a wide smile despite having tuned out for most of the conversation.

A tall middle-aged woman in a business tailored dress suit placed a small square of steaming lasagna on her own plate. Her features were similar to her youngest daughter and her shoulder length hair (a slightly darker shade of red than Quinn's) was simply but professionally shaped into a rounded style that framed her face. Helen Morgendorffer turned to address her children.

"As long as you can join pep squad later," stated Helen as she paused to slide comfortably into a chair next to Jake, "...if you want to. It's your choice. You never know how much you can handle until you try though."

"How else are we going to know just what it takes to break you," said Alex as he stuffed another large forkful of lasagna into his mouth.

"What about you Alex?" inquired his mother. "How did you enjoy your first day at school."

Taking time to swallow the food he was chewing, Alex responded "Despite the fact that the general teaching staff seems would be more appropriate as the cast of some bad teen drama show, and the fact that the music teacher is almost tone deaf..."

"Why must you and your sister dwell on the negative so much," asked Helen with a sigh. "Is it too much for you to find just one positive thing about your first day of school?"

"At least it was an improvement from my last school," stated Alex, putting as much venom into the word 'last' as he could.

'Though almost anything is better than military school,' he thought to himself as his brow began to furrow in anger.

Alex felt Daria squeeze his hand under the table reassuringly. His expression softened and he resumed shoving food into his mouth. A long moment of uncomfortable silence followed that statement.

Trying to break the mood Jake turned to his eldest daughter and asked, "What about you Daria, how was your first day?"

"Well, my history teacher hates me because I know all the answers," Daria started

"At least he treats both of us with equal disdain," remarked Alex. "Thanks for softening him up for me."

"I'm just glad you were there to answer his follow-up question," responded Daria.

"I wasn't sure how to take his response to me referring to the Mexican-American War as the 'The American Crusade'," said Alex with a chuckle.

"I have to admit that was an inspired bit of wordplay," Daria responded with a small chuckle of her own.

Helen noticed the soft exchange between her oldest children and a small smile replaced the worried look her son's comments had inspired.

"But to answer your question Mom," Daria smirked at her brother and continued, "there are some interesting idiots in our classes."

"That's great!" exclaimed Jake not really paying attention to the conversation.

"Jake!" Helen chastised, her smile replaced by a more familiar frustrated scowl.

"I mean...uh," stammered Jake in a vain attempt to recover from his latest flub.

Ignoring her husband's verbal stumbling, Helen turned back to Daria and continued, "Daria, your father is trying to tell you not to judge people until you know them."

"Yeah, then you can judge AND blackmail them," remarked Alex between bites.

Helen carried on as if the comment hadn't been made. "You're in a brand new school in a brand new town. You don't want it to be like Highland all over again."

Suppressing a shudder Daria responded, "Not much chance of that happening. Unless there's uranium in the drinking water here too."

"Couldn't have gotten much worse after I left," Alex mentioned offhandedly.

"Trust me," said Daria letting a tiny bit of anger slip through clenched teeth and scowling "It did."

Helen visibly winced at the harshness clearly relayed in those two simple words.

Trying to diffuse the situation she carried on "I'm serious kids. I hope you can all make new friends. Don't be so critical. Give people the benefit of the doubt."

Crossing her arms Daria looked at her mother. "It all boils down to trust."

Helen smiled, hoping Daria understood her. "Exactly, it all boils down to trust."

"Mom, Dad," Daria said with a sigh, "you're right."

That comment drew the gaze of Alex who noticed a quick wink from Daria. He quickly returned it and picked up where his sister left off.

"We have been too critical of people and think that everyone should be willing to trust each other a bit more," said the boy.

"That's all we ask," Helen stated. "Show a little trust."

"Can we borrow either car?" the twins asked in unison.

"No," retorted both parents in similar sync as the kitchen phone rang, forestalling further discussion for the moment.

"God, I hope that's not the booster society again," whined Quinn. Helen put down her fork and walked to the counter to pick up the kitchen phone

"Hello? ...Yes... yes, she's my daughter... yes, he's my son..." came Helen's staggered response to the person on the phone.

Daria and Alex glanced at each other raising eyebrows.

"I see," continued Helen. "Listen, is this going to require any parent/teacher conferences or anything? And if so, is this the sort of thing my assistant can handle? ... Okay great. Bye!"

Helen hung up the phone and returned to her plate at the table and addressed her children. "You kids took a psychological test at school today?"

"They said we wouldn't be graded," replied Quinn offhandedly.

"Daria, Alex," said Helen. "They want you to take a special class for a few weeks. Then they'll test you again."

"You flunked the test?" Quinn asked sounding honestly surprised. She repeatedly alternated her gaze between her older brother and sister. "Both of you?!"

"They didn't fail dear," Helen sighed trying to reassure Quinn. "It seems the school psychiatrist believes your brother and sister have low self-esteem."

"What?!" Jake yelled. "That really stinks kids."

Jake looked over to his son, frowning.

"Easy Jake, focus," said Helen soothingly as she laid a hand gently on her husband's shoulder.

Turning to face her oldest children, she carried on, "We tell you over and over again that you're both wonderful, and you just don't get it."

'Yeah right,' thought Alex, 'wonderful enough to spend three years at Buxton.'

"Are they gonna have like, a breakdown and go postal or something? Because, that could really mess me up with my new friends," Quinn voiced with a flip of her hair.

'Heaven forbid we inconvenience Princess Shallow's social standing with something as trivial as a mental breakdown,' Daria mused.

"Don't worry, we don't have low self-esteem. It's a mistake," stated Daria aloud.

"I'll say!" interjected Jake.

Alex rose from his seat at the table and walked across the kitchen to the dishwasher. He placed his plate and fork into one of the racks within the machine.

"We just have low esteem for everyone else," The boy said as he walked out of the kitchen.

As they stood near their lockers, Alex and Daria saw a familiar smiling face stride up.

"You know the whole stalking thing works better if you don't let us know you're there," said Alex as he opened his locker.

"Hey it's not my fault you two are swimming in the 'dangerous waters' of low self esteem with the rest of us," retorted Jane.

"Jane Lane," she said extending her hand towards Daria and Alex.

"I'm Daria Morgendorffer," said the auburn haired girl, declining the extended hand. "And this is Alex."

Alex waved from behind his open locker door.

"So, how are you two liking life here at Laaaaaaawndale High," Jane asked mimicking Ms. Li and withdrew her ignored hand.

"It's ... interesting," Alex answered noncommittally and he arranged the books inside his locker. "It's hard to believe half of the people that are supposed to be our teachers are real."

"Since you're stuck in O'Neil's self esteem class, I assume it's safe to say the head shrinking with Manson didn't go well," replied Jane.

"It wasn't bad, a few more sessions and Alex may even be able to walk through normal sized doorways," stated Daria.

Rolling his eyes, Alex placed his history book in his locker.

"Something tells me history class is going to be a chore dealing with that DeMartino," stated Alex.

"Just don't stare directly into 'The Eye' and you'll be fine," reassured Jane as she slung her backpack over her shoulder.

"I'll say," agreed Alex as he rummaged through the contents of his locker, "But if he's had to deal with that Kevin and Brittany for this long, I think I can understand why he's a few movement's short of a symphony."

"Crap!" exclaimed Alex. "I left my sheet music in O'Neil's class."

"Cool, we'll wait for you," said Jane.

The comment caused Daria to glance up from her own locker.

"Nah no need to wait I'll catch up," he replied with an eyebrow as he closed his locker.

"Ok, Lex," replied Daria with a smile for her brother. "I guess we'll see you in a bit."

Giving his sister a quick hug, Alex turned away from the girls and headed back towards Mr. O'Neil's classroom.

Jane began walking with Daria towards the front doors of the school and asked, "So how long have you two been together?"

"Practically all of our lives," answered Daria, assuming it was just a joking comment.

"Wow, you two must be pretty serious then. That's pretty cool," said Jane

Daria stopped and looked at Jane quizzically.

"What do you mean?" asked Daria, a trace of confusion evident on her face.

"You and Alex," replied Jane. "You seem to be good together."

Daria's expression regained its neutral aspect and a Mona Lisa smile played across her lips. She continued walking as she realized the assumption the other girl had come to.

"Not as good as you'd imagine," Daria began. "We have so many differences that it's hard to work things out some times."

"You have to focus on the similarities though," Jane fired back enthusiastically.

"Yeah, I guess," responded Daria. "Well we do have similar literary interests, same love of basic clothing selection, compatible tolerance for obscure and non-action based foreign films."

"That's the spirit," cheered Jane.

"Although," continued Daria "the fact that he's my brother makes things a bit more complicated. Especially from a legal stand point. Certain Southern states not withstanding."

Daria's small smile became a full smirk as she continued to walk through the front doors of the school, leaving an open-mouthed Jane standing in the doorway.

'How the hell did I miss that? They are brother and sister?' thought Jane as she started putting the pieces together. Her mind pieced together the glimpses of Alex's face she had managed to get through his curtain of hair and was finally able to discern the resemblances between Alex and Daria.

'Wait,' continued Jane mentally as she thought about their shared age and how in tone the pair was. 'Twins! Duh Lane.'

She quickly recovered from her shock, regained her composure and followed Daria out of the school.

'That's what I get for being late to class the first two days.'

Alex, Daria and Jane walked casually down the empty sidewalk after their first week of Mr. O'Neil's Self Esteem class.

"So then after the role playing, next class, they put the girls and the guys in separate rooms, and a female counselor talks to us about body image." explained Jane, noticing the eye roll from Daria at her last comment.

"What do they talk to the boys about," mused Daria aloud.

Jane chuckled, "A class room full of guys and a male teacher?"

"Probably the same thing they talked to us about in Sex Ed at Buxton," added Alex.

All three paused, looked at each other and said simultaneously, "Nocturnal emissions."

"Does that really happen?" asked Jane looking at Alex as the three resumed their walk down the empty sidewalk.

"Don't look at me," responded Alex with a small smile. "Even if I had any practical experience with the phenomena, you can't honestly think I'd admit to it. Especially to my sister and some random chick that chooses to voluntarily hang out with us."

"Touché," retorted Jane with a smile.

"I don't get it Jane," stated Daria drawing the other girl's attention. "You've got the entire course memorized, how come you can't pass the test to get out?"

"I'm sure you've got to have less torturous things to do with your free time than listen to Mr. O'Neil for an extra hour each day," added Alex, walking with his hands in the pockets of his army jacket.

"Oh, I can pass the test any time I want to," Jane responded, drawing raised eyebrows from the twins.

"But I like having low self-esteem," she joked with a smile and squinting of eyes. "It makes me feel special."

"So does eating paint chips," remarked Alex, "but you don't see me at the arts and crafts store with a plate and fork."

"Only because they don't have a buffet," chided his sister with a smirk.

Seeing that they were standing in front of their house, Daria stopped and said, "Well this is us."

"Cool. Catch you tomorrow," Jane said as she began to walk towards her own house a few streets over. The black haired girl stopped a few paces away, turned back to the twins and said, "You guys should come over to my house and hang out some time."

Daria noticed her mother's red SUV parked in the driveway.

'Hmm Mom doesn't usually get off until later,' she thought.

"We'll keep that in mind," said Alex as he also noticed the vehicle. "Never know when you might need a safe house."

"Catch you later amigos," yelled Jane as she jogged away.

Daria and Alex were greeted by the unexpected sight of their mother sitting on the large blue sofa in the living room as they walked through the front door of their home. Helen heard the children enter and turned off the television, standing to greet them.

"Mom, are you feeling all right?" Daria asked her mother. "It's not even 5 yet."

"I took the rest of the day off to work with you two on your self-esteem," Helen responded.

"Mom. While we appreciate the sentiment," Daria said with her usual flat tone, "any meddling in our treatment by an untrained amateur could be dangerous."

"Yeah Mom," continued Alex. "You could undo all of the hard work the trained amateurs have accomplished."

"I don't pretend I can cure you kids, but if lack of Mother-Daughter bonding is part of your problem Daria, we're going to remedy that right now," said Helen.

"Well I'll leave you ladies to your bonding," joked Alex as started heading towards the stairs and hopefully his room.

"Not so fast young man," stated Helen as Jake's blue Lexus pulled into the driveway.

Alex, Daria and Jake sat on a semi-comfortable padded bench in the women's section of one of the mall's clothing stores. One twin sat on either side of their father.

Alex leaned over towards his father and asked in a whisper, "How is shopping for clothes and guarding purses supposed to help my self esteem again?"

"Just roll with it kiddo," replied Jake in a whisper. "It's best not to rile the women folk when they are in the 'Shopping Zone.'"

"This 'woman folk' would be much less riled if she weren't in the 'Shopping Zone' to begin with," added Daria quietly, not bothering to mask her distain for being dragged out on a shopping spree.

"Wouldn't Quinn have been the better choice to drag on this little clothing extravaganza?" continued Daria in a normal volume.

Helen sighed as she noticed Jake twitch reflexively at the mention of 'Quinn' and 'shopping' in the same sentence.

"Quinn isn't the daughter in self esteem class," stated Helen as she again began to alternate her focus between the two dresses she held in each hand.

"What do you kids think of this one?" she asked as she held up a powder pink dress with a floral pattern and turned to her children and husband.

"It would bring out the highlights in my hair but I'd need to get new shoes," remarked Alex.

Jake gave a small chuckle then the smile faded from his face. "Wait a minute..."

"I was asking about the dress on Daria, Jake," Helen grumped. "Honestly."

"There's about as much chance of Alex wearing that as getting me into it," Daria said, crossing her arms obstinately.

Jake's face was slack with confusion as he turned his head alternately gazing at his daughter, his son and the pink dress his wife held.

Alex stifled a laugh as he leaned over to his father and whispered, "That means she's not wearing it."

Jake visibly relaxed, chuckled and exclaimed, "Good one Kiddo!"

Helen lowered the dresses in her hands and shook her head.

Alex and Daria spotted Jane waiting near their lockers as they walked down the main hall of Lawndale High.

"Howdy kids," Jane cheerily greeted the two. "You two appear to be adapting well to this botched social experiment."

"It's not as intolerable as it first appeared," answered Daria. "Although as bad as the teachers are..."

"Some of the students are even more unbelievable," finished Alex. "How did that Kevin and Brittany chick manage to get out of pre-school?"

"Well they don't quite rate 10's on my weird-o-meter after living in Highland," commented Daria, "but interesting doesn't seem adequate."

"Kevin and Brittany don't merit a 10 on the weirdness scale?" asked Jane honestly surprised. "I'm almost afraid to know what would."

"If I told you, you'd never believe me," responded Daria, her memory briefly hovering on two of the more unusual resident's of Highland before her mind returned to the present.

After putting their books in their lockers Alex and Daria turned and began to walk towards Mr. O'Neil's classroom for their Self Esteem course. Jane kept pace and followed them to their shared destination. The trio spotted Quinn as she leaned against her locker and flirted openly with a boy they recognized as a member of the Pep Squad.

"And another sacrifice on the Altar of Shallow Popularity," said Daria drawing a smirk-smile from her brother and a deep accompanying chuckle from Jane. As they approached the flirting teens, the three could more clearly pick up the conversation being held.

"So, like, what do you like to do after school," the boy asked Quinn.

"Oh, nothing special," replied Quinn before continuing "go to the movies, or like, a theme park, or out for a really fancy meal now and then, and maybe go to a concert if like, I know someone who has good seats and is renting a limo and stuff."

"You hear that," Jane asked with a grin. "He's hasn't got a prayer."

"Tell me about it," said Alex with a bit of a sigh.

"Jealous?" asked Jane jokingly.

"I doubt jealousy is the issue," Daria responded with a similar sigh. "That's our sister."

"Oh, bummer," said Jane.

Just as the trio was walking past Quinn and her latest conquest the boy asked Quinn, "So, you got any brothers and sisters?"

"Nope," responded Quinn instantly. "I'm an only child."

Daria and Alex both paused at that last comment and scowled to each other.

'Now that's just cold,' thought Jane.

Timothy O'Neil brushed a stray strand of his short brown hair back into place as he lounged casually on the front edge of his desk. He looked over the class with his too cheery expression and continued with the scripted discussion.

"So, what are we talking about when we talk about ourselves?" he asked in a too chipper voice. "Anyone?"

Daria doodled a simple stick figure of their teacher with an over-sized ice cream cone for a head. She then passed the drawing to Jane who sat in the seat to her left.

As a boy with coke bottle thick glasses raised his hand Mr. O'Neill smiled broadly.

"Yes?" the teacher prompted, pleased at the boy's willingness to answer the question.

"We're..." the boy said pausing briefly, "talking about us!"

"Excellent!" O'Neil congratulated. "When we're talking about ourselves, we're talking about us!"

Jane finished putting final touches to her addition to the picture Daria had passed her. After adding the last line of a dog's head licking the ice cream cone, she passed the picture to Alex who was seated behind her.

"Now guys," Mr. O'Neil continued, "I've got a little challenge for you. Today we talked about turning your daydreams into reality. Tonight, I want you to go home and do just that. What do you say?"

Alex handed the sheet back to Daria who had smiled at the image of a stick figure cherub raining sprinkles down over the Ice cream headed stick figure.

"Um," said the teacher scanning around the room. His eyes landing on Daria and pointing to her, "you. What's a day dream that you would like to see come true?"

"Well," answered Daria taking a moment to think, "I guess I'd like my whole family to do something together."

"Excellent!" Mr. O'Neil practically chirped.

"Something that'll really make them suffer," finished Daria in her usual unemotional voice.

Alex added, "But nothing messy. Shag carpet is so difficult to clean."

"Um, well, it's healthy to have these feelings," said the overly sensitive teacher with a gulp, "I think. We'll talk more about this tomorrow. Class dismissed!"

As the students filed out of the room, he hastily began rifling through the self-esteem manual with a worried expression on his face.

On their way out Jane hooked her arms with Alex and Daria.

"Nice one," She said.

"Umm, thanks," replied Daria.

She looking curiously down at Jane's arm and extracted her own, letting her hand remain on the strap of her backpack.

Alex looked at Jane and likewise extricated his arm from the girl's adding a genial smile before putting his hand back into his jacket pocket.

"You two are definitely keepers," said Jane with a wide smile as the trio headed towards the school's main exit.

Helen set her plate of lasagna down on the table before her and placed a napkin across her lap.

"How was school today kids?" she inquired.

"It was great Mom," answered Daria setting down her fork and crossing her arms. "Today solidified the reality that our classmates are either cliquey snobs, social rejects, mentally challenged..."

"Or any combination thereof," finished Alex not bothering to look up from his plate.

"Daria and Alexander Morgendorffer!" Helen chastised. "How do you expect to make new friends if you continue to degrade and look down on everyone you meet?"

"Well I think we did make one new friend," interjected Alex, finishing a mouthful of lasagna.

"Despite our best efforts," said Daria, her scowl softening but arms remaining crossed.

"Good for you," Helen said, honestly happy to hear that the introverted twins were able to open up even just this little bit. "Maybe if you try a little harder you can make many more. You both just have to be a little less," Helen paused looking for the right word "... suspicious."

Looking back and forth between his oldest children and his wife, Jake tried to break into the conversation.

"How's the old self-esteem going, kiddos?" he asked cheerily.

"My self-esteem teacher says that being addressed all my life as child epithets like 'kiddo' is probably the source of my problem," retorted Daria picking her fork back up and resuming her meal.

"Really?" asked Jake with a little panic in his voice.

"No Dad," reassured Alex, "Not really."

Realizing the joke, Jake laughed and said, "Aren't they great? They're the greatest!"

"They sure are," said Helen rolling her eyes slightly at her husband's gullibility. "But what does your self-esteem teacher say?"

"He says we should think back to circumstances that brought me happiness as a child, and replicate them," stated Daria

"But unfortunately Quinn's here to stay," added Alex.

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Quinn scowling at her older siblings.

"You should know. You're the only child," responded Daria with a frown.

"It would be bad enough having just a sister who was unpopular, but I got stuck with both of you," Quinn whined. "I have to work extra hard to maintain my popularity," she tried to explain.

Helen scowled at her youngest child but continued addressing Daria. "Come on honey, finish what you were saying."

"Well I thought," continued Daria. "Why don't we go to Pizza Forest for dinner like we did when we were kids."

Quinn looked up with eyes wide in horror and remarked, "The kids place with the singers?!"

"Boy, do I miss those happy fun time songs," said Daria unemotionally.

'Oh this is going to be good,' thought Alex with a grin.

The Morgendorffer clan sat uncomfortably around a mid sized table inside the festively decorated Pizza Forest. Helen and Jake glanced occasionally at various pre-teens running happily from tables to various games and other entertainment apparatus.

Helen glanced up as trio of people dressed in overly cute animal costumes designed to look like a skunk, badger, and squirrel approached their table and began to sing yet another annoying children's rhyme.

Finishing up their 4th chorus of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, the singers began again in sickeningly cheery voices, "Join us! Now you! Your turn! Jump in!"

After an extended silence, the costumed singers appeared to be on the verge of moving to a different table.

"Row, row, row your boat!" said Daria swaying from side to side in her chair not actually singing.

"Gently down the stream," sang Alex who also swayed with the rhythm. "Come on everyone."

With interest renewed, the singers began another round of the song.

Quinn slunk so far down in her seat that little more than her eyes and the top of her red hair could be seen over the table. Jake decided to simply roll with it and began stuffing his face with pizza.

'The things I do for my family,' thought Helen with a loud sigh.

Inside Jane's large but sparsely furnished bedroom, Daria sat in front of a small television with her back to an unmade queen sized bed. She gazed up at the patterns of the paint-splattered ceiling. Jane had just finished setting up a well-used easel, its back facing the sole window occupying half of the room's exterior wall. Alex wandered to various paintings and large sketches that had been hung and/or pinned to the wall opposing the window.

"Your ceiling looks like a Rorschach ate a box of Crayolas and exploded," commented Daria drawing a chuckle from the room's owner.

"This is good," Alex remarked with actual appreciation in his voice as he examined one of the many paintings hanging on the wall.

"Thanks," said Jane as she turned to see which painting the boy was referring to. "But I always felt I could never quite get the right arc on the brush strokes."

"You painted this?" asked Alex, clearly impressed. 'Wow she's got real talent.' he thought.

"Yep, that's a Jane Lane original," said Jane is a casual manner. "Actually, I think that all of the paintings in the house are mine. Though I don't remember painting some of them."

"I've seen you looking at your sketch book after a class," remarked Daria. "You draw without realizing it. Not hard to imagine you not remembering every painting you ever did."

Glancing over at his sister and their new friend, Alex noticed the green and yellow hypnotic swirling pattern on the television that indicated the show they were watching was coming back on.

"Show's back on," Alex said taking up the spot in front of the bed next to his sister.

Jane stretched out across her bed. She flicked the pause button on her tape deck and unmuted the TV.

'And now back to Sick, Sad World!'

"It's almost sad that Arty guy actually goes to Lawndale," said Alex lounging on Jane's disheveled bed as he watched her readjust her easel.

"Yeah," said Jane, "He was always a little weird... even for Lawndale."

"Psychotically delusional is more appropriate," said Daria flipping through the illustrated book on musculature and physical form she found on Jane's bookshelf.

Alex contemplated the UFO convention that had been covered by Sick Sad World where Arty had been interviewed.

"Though apparently it's a mass hallucination judging by the number of people at that UFO convention," he remarked.

"He's mostly harmless though," Jane said as she dipped her paintbrush in the blobs of paint on the palette she held.

"So," said Daria turning to Jane, "You know all of the answers to the questions on the release test, right?"

"I've got them in my notebook," said Jane as she started making long oddly angled strokes with the brush.

"Where are you going with this, Dia?" asked Alex.

"Well," said Daria as she watched Jane begin to paint, "I was thinking. Why don't we just take the test tomorrow and get out of the class once and for all?"

"How would I spend my afternoons?" asked Jane setting the paintbrush across the palette. Her curiosity had been piqued and her artistic muse could wait.

"UFO conventions," said Daria with her Mona Lisa smile gracing her face.

"You're kidding right?" asked Jane with a raised eyebrow.

A smirk mirroring his sister's found its way onto Alex's face.

"You're telling us you would pass up the opportunity to see some of the biggest nut jobs gathered in one easily accessible location for our viewing pleasure," said the boy.

"Hmm I like the way you think," replied Jane wiping a hand across her brow leaving a streak of alizarin crimson in its wake.

After glancing at the schedule printout on his desk, Mr. O'Neil looked up to face the group attending his self Esteem class.

"Now, for tomorrow," the teacher said "I want you to make a list of ten ways the world would be a sadder place if you weren't in it."

"Mr. O'Neill," interjected the boy wearing coke bottle glasses.

"Yes, uh... you," responded O'Neil with his customary bad habit of not remembering names.

"Is that if we've never been born?" the boy asked looking for clarification. "Or do you mean if we died suddenly and unexpectedly?"

Looking clearly nervous and not expecting that negative of a response to his seemingly simple task, the man stumbled with words for a second.

"Never been born. See you all tomorrow!" Mr. O'Neil blurted out hoping to rush the students out so that he could re-read the facilitator's guide. He had just begun to read the section titled Extreme Cases of Low Self Esteem when he noticed that three of the students had remained in the class after it ended.

Alex, Daria and Jane walked up to Mr. O'Neil's desk and gave each other a quick small smile and waited for the overly sensitive teacher to acknowledge them.

"Hi! Did you need any clarification on something we covered today?" asked O'Neil thinking that he had failed to cover something properly during the class. He then began leafing through that day's material looking for the scripted responses to question.

Daria rolled her eyes and stated in her usual monotone, "We feel really good about ourselves."

"We want to take the graduation test," continued Jane.

Mr. O'Neill perked up a bit but looked a bit confused as he glanced at the course schedule.

"Well, I'm glad you self-image meter is on the up-tick! But there's still three more weeks of class left!" He said in his slow too cheery voice.

"This first week has been a real eye opener," said Daria. "It must be the way you teach."

'Please tell me I kept my face straight,' Jane thought to herself on hearing Daria's obviously false compliment.

"We understand how special we are," continued Alex, "and we want to let you focus more of your attention on those who still need your help."

'If this guy buys this line of bull he will officially be the most gullible person on the planet,' the boy thought to himself.

"Oh, well, thank you very much," said Mr. O'Neil almost blushing.

He looked at the three youths standing before him and his gaze stopped at Jane.

"You know, you look familiar somehow..." the teacher said tilting his head slightly.

"So can we take the test?" interjected Daria hoping to distract the befuddled teacher.

"Well, it's not the way we usually do it," said the teacher, drawing scowls from the three young people, "but I guess it's ok," he finished, much to their relief.

O'Neil reached into his desk drawer and, after rifling through several papers, found the test he had not planned to administer for almost a month.

"Question one," the teacher began. "Self-esteem is important because..."

"It's a quality that will stand us in good stead for the rest of our lives," droned Daria almost immediately.

"Very good," congratulated O'Neil. "Now, the next time I feel bad about myself..."

"Stand before the mirror, look myself in the eye, and say, 'You are special. No one else is like you,'" said Jane in a convincingly false upbeat voice.

"We are unique and special people," continued Alex, "And our esteem will show in our confidence with that fact."

"You three really have been paying attention," said Mr. O'Neil practically beaming with happiness.

"Okay," he said taking a breath, "there's no such thing..."

"As the right weight," began Alex

"Or the right height," followed up Daria

"There's only what's right for me," added Jane.

The three youths looked at each other with a conspiratorial smirk and said in unison, "Because me is who I am."

Mr. O'Neill stood and put the test papers down on his desk smiling from ear to ear.

"I don't think we have to go any further. I am really pleased," he said. Alex, Daria and Jane smiled as well to themselves inwardly celebrating.

"I think the whole school needs to hear about this at assembly," stated the cheery man.

The smiles on the faces of the kids vanish almost instantly.

"What do you mean whole school?" asked Daria nervously.

"Your exceptional performance in overcoming your low self esteem is inspirational," said Mr. O'Neil. "I feel it should be shared with your fellow classmates. To serve as a beacon to other with low self esteem. A way to say 'We did it, and so can you'," He finished, pumping his arm in a dramatic fashion.

The teens looked at each other, then looked back at the almost bouncing older man and thought in unison, 'Crap!'

The Morgendorffer clan accompanied by Jane wandered in a loose group within the large concert hall housing the Lawndale UFO Convention. The flash of Jane's camera could be seen as the group meandered from one sci-fi themed booth to another.

"Let's go get our picture taken with the cardboard alien," said Daria pointing to the afore mentioned apparatus.

"Ah, sure honey, whatever you want," said Jake with an uncomfortable smile on his face as he pulled Helen towards the photo op stand and its forest of alien related cardboard cutouts.

"So how'd you manage to convince them to go along with this again," asked Jane as she lowered her camera. She gave a quick glance at the camera's indicator and noted the number of remaining exposures on the current roll of film.

Ensuring her parents were out of earshot, Daria smirked and replied "Just a small application of guilt about not being more involved in their children's self esteem."

"We basically made them feel bad for not attending the award assembly Mr. O'Neil wanted to give for us graduating his class so quickly," explained Alex.

"And the fact that you managed to convince Mr. O'Neil not to have that little award ceremony never came up." said Jane with a noticeable grin on her face. She remembered how Alex and Daria had manipulated the weak willed teacher into thinking that publicly celebrating their quick completion of the course would draw attention to the fact that they had low self-esteem to begin with.

"We may have left a few of the less important details out," said Daria with a small smile.

"They never asked," responded Alex with a matching smile.

"And of course just the mere mention of ostracizing the one friend we've made was enough to ensure your inclusion on this safari into the Land of the Weird," he continued.

"Quinn?" called Helen as she waved towards her youngest daughter from a particularly tacky cutout.

"I'll wait here," called Quinn, "or in the lady's room. Or maybe out in the parking lot."

'No way I'm taking a picture with anyone in this place,' the fashion-minded girl thought.

"Okay, Kiddo," chimed Jake. "We'll be right back!"

"Try not to let any nasty aliens beam you up to their mother ship while we're gone," said Alex with a wink to his youngest sister as he, Daria and Jane walked over towards his parents.

Just then, a gangly teen with curly red hair, freckles and an extremely protruding over-bite walked up to the youths. He wore a suit that appeared to be made of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. The newcomer turned to Quinn and said "Hi! I'm Arty! You're cool..."

"Just remember, when they pull out the probes, try to relax," remarked Daria as she passed Quinn.

Quinn turned, practically ran towards her family and almost screamed, "Mom? Dad?! You guys, wait up!!"

"Oh, you two are a twisted couple of crullers," remarked Jane with a chuckle, as she liked her arms through Daria and Alex's. The trio made their way towards the cardboard cutouts.

Some dialog and general story concept from: Esteemsters by Glenn Eichler

And special thanks to RLobinske whose continuously incredible fiction inspired me to get back into writing.