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 3 – Sleepover Easy

Helen's red SUV rolled casually down the street on a bright Sunday afternoon as the family headed toward the freeway.

"It sure was nice seeing Doug and Susan again," commented Jake as he relaxed somewhat behind the wheel of the SUV.

"I can't believe Ramona is already reading at three," mused Helen aloud from the front passenger seat.

"What's so unbelievable about it Mom?" asked Alex.

"Its just so young," remarked Helen.

"Lex and I were reading books with no pictures at that age," added Daria.

"True," replied Helen. "However, you have to admit that you two are the exception, not the rule."

"Quinn could recite The Giving Tree from memory at Ramona's age," added Alex.

"Some day, she'll actually advance beyond that reading level," quipped Daria, which drew a glare from her younger sister.

"Though, you do need to start seriously considering your options for college. More importantly, getting into a good college," Helen continued.

"One more time," began Daria with a roll of her eyes. "We're not taking a college prep course."

"Yeah," added Alex. "We're already in every advanced placement class Lawndale offers. When we graduate high school, we'll already have credits towards our core classes when we do go to college."

"Kids, the courses cover the application process as much as the testing and curriculum sides of college life. If you don't get into a decent school your life will be ruined. End of discussion," Helen announced.

Both twins crossed their arms in front of them and scowled angrily.

"Way to go, Mom," chimed Quinn with a smug smile. "They can't get their way all the time."

"Actually, Quinn," interjected Helen. "It wouldn't hurt if you took some preparatory courses too."

"Wait a minute!" argued Quinn as the smile faded from her face.

Daria leaned over to Quinn and said, "Maybe we can sit together."

Alex smiled at his youngest sister and said, "I'll even let you borrow my pencil."

Quinn's eyes grew wide and she whined, "Mooooooom!"

"Alexander! Daria! Stop teasing your sister," commanded Helen.

"For the record I've already been researching colleges," remarked Daria. "And quite a few have impressive Literary Arts programs."

"That's great Kiddo!" beamed Jake. "What about you Alex?"

"Actually, he's just going to skip college and stay home," replied Daria flatly with a wink to her brother. "It'll save him the trouble of moving back in later."

"WHAT!" exclaimed Jake as turned to face his children seated behind him, swerving into the next lane suddenly.

"JAKE!" yelled Helen, drawing Jake's focus to the road ahead as he barely avoided hitting another car before straightening the SUV out in his lane. "Watch the road!"

"She's joking Dad. I'm not planning on moving back in with you and Mom," reassured Alex.

"Oh," stated Jake looking a little confused before smiling. "Good one."

"I plan on playing music for tips in the park," Alex joked, returning his sister's wink. "I've already got a nice spot reserved with the rest of the homeless under the bridge in Lawndale Park."

"GAH!!" yelled Jake as he swerved into the next lane a second time.

"JAKE!!" shouted Helen a second time. "Focus on the road. And children stop teasing your father while he's driving."

"Sorry Mom," apologized Alex, forestalling further quips from his twin.

He leaned over to Daria and whispered, "As much fun as ambulance rides are, I'd rather get to the hospital in the car... and in one piece."

"Fair enough," replied Daria.

She made a gesture of locking her lips with and throwing away an imaginary key.

"Everything looks good," commented the doctor as he looked over the documents in the open manila folder.

The balding man, in his white lab coat, turned away from the desk in the small white tiled room and moved to stand beside the examination table where Alex sat with his black short-sleeved t-shirt folded casually across his lap. His camouflage army jacket hung from a hook on the back of the exam room door. The doctor gave Alex a warm smile as gestured for the boy to hold out his right arm.

"You've been doing strength and weight training routines with a physical therapist for about 3 months now?" the white coated man asked as he carefully took Alex's arm at the bicep and began examining the boy's shoulder area.

"Yes sir," replied Alex flatly. "Every day at the beginning, but just once, every two weeks now. I've been on a home exercise regiment for the past month or so."

"And looks like you've been sticking to it," the man continued as he noted the toned definition in the boy's arm and shoulder.

The doctor took an additional moment to examine the flat, 2-inch long scar on the front of the boy's shoulder, where it met his pectoral muscle. He moved around the table a bit behind Alex. As expected he saw a longer 6-inch scar, which meandered almost vertically down from the skin above middle of the joint to the area at the bottom point and just beyond the outside edge of the boy's shoulder blade.

"Yes sir," the boy affirmed again.

"Free weights?" inquired the man.

"No sir. Well a little," the boy responded. "Mom got us a Nautilus as soon as we found out I'd need to continue my rehabilitation from home."

"The physical therapist I had before we moved explained how to balance and adjust my workout until my right arm and shoulder caught back up with my left," the boy responded. "Most of the research I've done also stressed the importance of balanced exercises to maintain muscle proportion."

"Good to hear. Most of my patients are members of the athletic teams from the surrounding colleges," responded the doctor with an honest smile. "They tend to focus only on the regimen that are part of their therapy and stop doing their normal exercise routines entirely."

Alex raised an eyebrow at the comment then nodded in understanding.

"Rehabilitative tunnel vision," mused the boy aloud.

"That is probably the best description I've ever heard for it. I just might have to borrow that one from you," the doctor said with a chuckle at the comment. "I have to say, most of the kids... hell most of the adults I work with usually aren't as well informed or proactive in their recovery as you seem to be."

The doctor finished examining Alex's back and moved back to a position to the front of the boy.

"Have you been experiencing any pain or numbness?" asked the man as he made a notation to Alex's file.

"Some sir," replied the young man. "Mostly first thing in the morning."

"Well, that's not unusual with the type of injury you sustained," the doctor remarked before he paused and looked Alex in the eyes.

"I'm not the kind to walk on eggshells around anyone, and you strike me as the kind who appreciates honesty," stated the doctor.

Alex nodded.

"Why didn't you want your parents in here for your examination?" the doctor asked candidly.

"Sir?" asked Alex, caught off guard by the question.

"Don't call me 'sir' son. I work for a living," remarked the doctor with a smile and a wink to his patient. "You can call me John, or Doctor Madison if you prefer."

Despite his initial trepidation, Alex found the doctor's personable attitude relaxing. The man's bedside manner was a far cry better than many of the other doctors and nurses he had dealt with in the past year. Alex actually appreciated the doctor being straightforward with him. Most of the others in the past had tended to treat him like an ignorant child. And while he may still be a child, ignorant was not a term that had ever applied to him.

"I'm just curious as to why you asked your folks to stay outside while I gave you your checkup," continued Dr. Madison.

Alex took a deep breath and let it out slowly before answering.

"To be perfectly honest, I just figured the exam would go smoother without them in here," the boy answered honestly.

Dr. Madison raised an eyebrow, but only responded by sliding a stool over and sitting down beside the boy.

"They both feel guilty for me getting hurt," the boy began. "They're both extremely busy and can't be as... involved, as they'd like to be. Their hovering over-protectiveness tends to rear its head during my checkups and rehab sessions. They have a habit of turning a simple 30 minute checkup or physical therapy session into a 2 hour production."

'Especially Dad,' Alex mentally added.

He smiled a bit when he recalled the first time his father had accompanied him to physical therapy.

'It's probably a good thing we were in a hospital,' he mused with a smile.

Dr. Madison broke into a series of chuckles and stated, "Oh yeah, I've definitely had my fair share of that type. And you have my thanks for sparing an old man at least one headache for the day."

The older man gave another warm smile, which Alex found himself unable to resist returning.

"Anyway," began the doctor. "Back to the matter at hand. Oh you can put your shirt back on by the way."

Alex lifted his black shirt from his lap and pulled it on over his head.

"As I'm willing to bet you already knew, persistent, recurring pain in your shoulder and occasional numbness in your arm are to be expected at this stage of your recovery," the doctor continued. "Even with rehabilitation, it's possible you'll experience mild pain and soreness for the rest of your life."

Alex merely nodded and replied, "Nothing unexpected there."

'My trainer and all the info I found in those online medical journals said pretty much the same thing,' he thought.

"Nothing aspirin or any other off the shelf ibuprofen knock-off won't take care of," said the doctor. "Aside from that, everything shows you've regained your full range of motion and tactile dexterity with no complications. Your muscle tone and performance is where they should be. Hell son, you're in better shape now than I was in my prime. "

"Almost three years at a military school before the accident and eight months of physical therapy and strength training after will do that si... um Dr. Madison," replied Alex. 'Well 6 months of actual strength training after I healed up enough.'

"Well, I'm going to have you come in for two more monthly checkups. Otherwise, I don't really see a need for you to continue coming back for physical therapy sessions," commented the doctor as he made the appropriate notes in Alex's file. "I'm ready to stamp 'FULL RECOVERY' on you and send you on your merry way."

That did bring a smile to Alex's face. He most definitely had not relished spending over half of the last year dealing with doctors, nurses, physical therapists and a whole host of other medical practitioners on a weekly (and at the beginning daily) basis. Being presented with the prospect of no longer having to see the inside of another hospital or doctor's office (barring the usual illness or emergency) was a welcome revelation indeed.

Dr. Madison saw the poorly masked elation in the his young patient's eyes and chuckled.

"Guess that means you'll need to find some other productive activity on the weekends to take up your valuable lounging time," joked Dr. Madison.

"Guess we better go break the bad news to my parents," Alex replied with a smirk.

He and the doctor exited the examination room and walked casually towards the waiting room, and the other members of the Morgendorffer clan.

The majority of the Morgendorffers sat at the kitchen table that evening. Alex and Daria sat beside each other, reading quietly from the Arts & Entertainment and Current Events sections of the newspaper respectively. Helen gabbed away on her cell phone. Jake stood at the stove slowly stirring a large steaming pot while keeping an eye on a slightly smaller pot.

"Yes Eric... Of course Eric... I've already got the brief... Well of course we should pursue the faulty packaging angle..." rambled Helen as she carried on a conversation with her boss.

"I'll go back over the file tonight and give you a option first thing in the morning... good bye Eric," she finished with a forceful but civil tone.

Helen bushed the end button on her cell phone and slid into her chair at the diner table.

"I swear that man would loose his head if it wasn't attached," she though aloud.

"With duct tape," quipped Daria quietly.

"I thought it was superglue," replied Alex.

"No that's what his toupee is attached with," responded Daria.

"Now where was I before we were interrupted?" inquired Helen.

"Still clinging precariously to a lower-middle rung of your law firm's professional ladder?" deadpanned Daria.

Helen rolled her eyes in response to her oldest daughter's cynical jibe.

"Now kids I expect you to take full advantage of the Preparing for College course your high school is offering," Helen continued.

"I was serious yesterday about being prepared for college," Helen stated as she began retrieving ceramic bowls from the kitchen cupboards. "While we may not have to worry about the financial aspects of your education thanks to the settlement... You still need to put in an effort to be accepted to a good school and this course will help in that regard."

"We know that mom," responded Alex. "Dia was serious when she said that she's been researching colleges since freshman year."

'Well that's reassuring,' though Helen with a smile.

She had assumed Daria was just playing lip service the previous day.

"Well, your sister seems to be on top of her plans for college. What about you young man?" Helen asked.

"Actually I've been checking out schools for the both of us," responded Daria.

"Alex has been a little preoccupied with other concerns, to spend a lot of time looking into colleges for the past year," she continued with a hard glare towards her mother.

Helen's smile fell as she was once again was reminded of the difficulty their family, particularly the twins, had been forced to endure for the past few years.

"Well..." she began again. "Now that Alex doesn't have any further rehabilitation sessions, it should free up some time to start looking into and preparing for college."

"Way ahead of you Mom," replied Alex hoping to diffuse the mounting tension between his sister and mother, at least temporarily. "In fact we were going over some of our top picks before we came down for diner."

"Any good prospects?" asked Jake cheerily as he approached the table.

He set the larger metal pot down on an elevated and insulated stand before he returned to a smaller pot still on the stove.

"A few," Daria answered. "We were a little worried at first about finding a college that had a solid literary and music programs..."

"So I take it then, that you're making plans to attend the same college?" interrupted Helen.

Daria gave her mother an honestly inquisitive look, which indicated she hadn't conceived of any differing scenario, and asked, "Why wouldn't we?"

Just as Helen was about to reply to Daria's question, Jake began to rummage noisily through the cabinets and commented loudly, "Now where'd I put that dammed chili powder? Oh well Chili flakes are just as good."

"Dad," stated Alex, which drew his father's attention. "You already added extra chili powder to the 5-alarm pot."

"Are you sure?" asked Jake scratching his chin.

"Remember, I handed you the bottle when we came downstairs," the boy continued.

"Oh," said Jake with a confused look. "Guess this is done."

With that, Jake brought the small pot to the table and set it beside the larger pot. He then began ladling a liberal amount of steaming chili into his ceramic bowl.

"Daria, it's nice that you are helping your brother look into college prospects," said Helen as she resumed her train of thought. "But I don't want you, either of you, to overlook an opportunity."

Alex took note that his father's full attention seemed to be focused on the task of shoveling chili into his mouth, seemingly oblivious to the last portions of the conversation occurring around him.

"Actually Mom," remarked Daria. "Looking for colleges with literary and musical programs has helped us pinpoint the schools with more robust curriculum."

"That's wonderful, Daria," replied Helen. "But, there's more to college than what can be found in text books and class rooms. A large part of the college experience is learning to be more... independent," continued Helen. "More... self-sufficient. Isn't that right Jake?"

"Huh?" mumbled Jake with a mouth full of chili.

"Do try to pay attention Jake," remarked Helen with a sigh. "I'm trying to explain to the children that they shouldn't overlook some of their college prospects if it means they can't attend the same school."

"The kids are going to the same college?" asked Jake before he broke into a wide smile. "That's great!"

Jake lifted his chili-laden spoon and his smile shifted into a concentrated frown. "I wish I'd had a familiar face or two around when I went off to Middleton. Would have made the transition from home life to college a lot easier to deal with, let me tell you!"

Both twins gave a small smile to their clueless father.

"If you can call it a home life," continued Jake as he launched into one of his legendary rants. "Though it's not like I would have wanted to see any of those jerks from Buxton again! Knowing my luck, Corporal Ellenbogen would have ended up being my RA, and I would have spent my entire college career doing drills and peeling potatoes too!"

"Jake! Focus," chastised Helen.

"Huh," remarked Jake as he came down from his angry rant. "Oh...sorry... Yeah kids... same school. Yeah I'm sure it will be much easier for you two at college together. I'll bet you can help each other study and stuff!"

Helen gave a defeated sigh, shook her head and decided to simply finish her diner.

After spending an extra three hours in the Preparing for College course with many of their classmates, Alex, Daria and Quinn walked into the kitchen to see their parents sitting at the table. Jake read from the newspaper while Helen perused several sheets arranged beside her open briefcase. When the kids entered, Helen set down the brief she had been reading.

"How was the class?" she asked with an expectant expression.

Quinn took the seat to the left of her father as Daria took the chair to his right.

'I should probably break it to her easy,' thought Daria with a small smile as she slid into the chair beside her father.

"Let's see," she began aloud. "The instructor appeared to be a desperate grad student from a local community college, most likely doing this just for the credit hours. He started off by droning on for half an hour on the do's and don'ts of taking a multiple-choice test...

"With extra emphasis on the 'True-False' portion," added Alex as he opened the fridge and began to rummage for a snack.

"After that, came another half hour of 'Knowing when and when not to skip a test question'," the bespectacled girl continued.

"Then we filled out a worksheet about our 'aspirations and goals'..." chimed in Alex, adding a haughty emphasis on the latter portion.

"And that was pretty much it. Money well spent, since it wasn't my money," finished Daria as she reached for the portion of the newspaper her father wasn't reading.

"Daria!" whined Quinn. "You left out the best part."

"Getting a date with the instructor is only the best part to you," replied Daria.

"It's not a date," remarked the redhead. "We're meeting to 'discuss scholarship options'."

"News flash Pip, we don't need scholarships, remember?" commented Alex as he closed the refrigerator door and sat down between Daria and his mother.

"Besides, there's no such thing as a 'making-out scholarship'," stated Daria with a half smirk.

"Uh, excuse me, but I think he would know better than you," retorted Quinn disdainfully. "Anyway, the best part, I meant, was the trip."

"What trip?" asked Jake as he lowered his newspaper.

"We're supposed to arrange a visit to a college of our choice," added Alex.

"That's great kids!" exclaimed Helen. "We'll go to Middleton! I'm sure we can setup a trip next week."

"Actually mom, the course will be over by then. We're supposed to make our visit this weekend," intoned Daria.

"Well, we'll all just have to head up to the old alma mater this weekend!" cheered Jake enthusiastically.

"We can't Jake," interjected Helen. "Remember we have the 'Marital Magic' retreat this weekend."

"Oh yeah," responded Jake as his wide smile shifted into a frown and then back to a smile. "Oh yeah!"

"Well then," stated Daria with a smile. "Guess we can forgo the remaining classes since the rest of the course is supposed to be retelling our visits and what we learned."

"Good," chirped Quinn as she reached for the phone. "Maybe I can still reschedule my dates for the week."

"Now, Quinn... Just because you can't complete the trip portion is no reason to completely give up on the class," rebutted Helen. "They may still be more you can get out of the class."

"We checked with the instructor. We've already done and covered everything in the course except for the parts involving the college visit," responded Alex.

"It would be pretty much a waste of time to keep going since we wouldn't get credit for anything else in the class," added Daria.

Helen frowned a bit at that, but couldn't fault her children's logic.

"Well, as much as I am loathe to see you drop out of the course, I guess you're right," Helen admitted.

All three Morgendorffer children smiled at their victory before their mother continued, "However, we'll have to look into visiting a college or two in the near future, I still want..."

Helen's statement was cut short by the ringing of her cell phone. Daria and Alex smirked to each other as their mother wandered out of the kitchen rambling to her boss Eric about the latest disaster with the case.

"Well looks like we've been granted a temporary stay of execution," remarked Alex as he watched his mother exit the kitchen.

"At least we get this weekend to ourselves," added Daria. "No parental stress for the better part of three days."

Quinn perked up at that thought. She turned to Jake and put on her cutest look.

"Oh Dad..."

Helen Morgendorffer descended the stairs of her home on a quiet Friday morning. She strained a in an effort to keep the large suitcase in her right hand from rubbing against and wrinkling the knee length skirt of her blue business dress suit. She used the medium sized travel bag in her left hand to counter balance the weight of the suitcase. Once at the bottom of the stairs, she set the heavy case down and took note of her three children sitting in various places in the moderately sized living room.

Each appeared to be content spending the reprieve from school, granted by The Teacher Work Day, at home. Alex and Daria each held a thick paperback book as they lounged in the middle of the blue sectional sofa, both still clad in their sleepwear. Daria wore a large baggy short-sleeved shirt that extended down to mid-thigh of the equally baggy gray jogging pants she wore. Alex wore a plain black sleeveless muscle tee, which displayed his arms, and pair of gray cotton shorts, which also displayed his equally well-muscled legs. Quinn sat in the love seat near the living room table in a pair of long pink pajama pants and matching short-sleeved pajama top.

The twins were positioned with their backs to each other and legs slightly bent, but stretched out on the sofa. Each had a subdued smile on their faces as they read their respective novels. The manner in which they leaned against and supported each other was reminiscent of a set of life-sized bookends. Quinn was surrounded by numerous bottles of nail polish, cotton balls/swabs, paper towels and other beauty supplies. The young redhead glanced up at her mother before she carefully readjusted the thick cotton dividers wedged between each toe and resumed the meticulous application of polish to her toenails.

"Now kids, I expect you to behave while your father and I are at the couples' retreat in McHenry," stated Helen as she set both suitcases down.

"Don't worry Mom," replied Daria as she turned to the next page in her novel. "We'll try to survive."

Jake entered the living room from the door that connected it to the house's front facing garage. He brushed his hands against his khaki slacks briefly before retrieving the large suitcase at Helen's feet.

"The number for the resort is on the fridge and your father and I will have our cell phones. There's lasagna in the freezer and I believe there should still be a little roast beef left for sandwiches," continued Helen as Jake toted the laden case back into the garage.

The sounds of Jake struggling to fit the suitcase into the packed back of the SUV could be heard, but were ignored by the rest of the Morgendorffer clan.

"Oh, Good," remarked Alex without looking up from his own book. "We'll just scrap our plan to cook and eat Quinn when we got hungry then."

Helen was prepared to scold her eldest until she noticed the corners of Quinn's mouth moved into a subtle, almost imperceptible smile at her brother's joke. Instead she picked up the travel bag and resumed her parting instructions.

"Remember," began Helen. "We expect the house to be clean when we get back Sunday night. And Absolutely NO parties."

"Darn," remarked Daria flatly. "Guess I'll have to call and cancel the reservations for the circus performers."

"Well between you, Jane, Quinn, and the Fashion Club, I think you'd have enough to start your own circus show," stated Alex as he turned another page in his novel.

"With the volume of make-up I expect Quinn and her friends will have, we'll have the clown portion of the circus taken care of easily," remarked Daria. "I'll be sure to have Jane bring some of her larger paint brushes and trowels for the occasion."

Quinn's subdued smile disappeared. She rolled her eyes at her sister's comments before she resumed grooming her feet.

"It's a good thing Dad let me invite Jane over for the weekend. I don't think I could survive being trapped here with Quinn and the Fashion Police alone all weekend otherwise," added Daria.

"I'd be more worried about their survival if you were left alone with them for the weekend," joked Alex with a small smile.

"Now kids, what have I told you about being more tolerant of your...." began Helen.

She stopped her movement towards the garage door as her brain began processing her children's comments.

'Fashion club? Jane? Staying here? All weekend?' Helen thought.

"Wait. What do you mean 'trapped here' here with them all weekend?" asked the Morgendorffer matriarch.

"The Fashion Club sleepover this weekend," replied Alex matter-of-factly as he finally looked up from his book and turned slightly on the sofa to face his mother.

"And since Quinn is having guests, Jane is going to sleep over as well," continued Daria who also looked up from her novel to face Helen.

"Dad said it was OK, since it was going to be, like totally dead and boring around here otherwise," finished Quinn, who didn't bother to look up from her painted toes.

"Oh, well I don't see any problems with..."Began Helen as her gaze shifted between her daughters and finally her son.

Daria and Alex turned their heads away from their mother and glanced at each other over their shoulders when Helen paused.

"Three... two... one..." the two mouthed silently.

"JAKE!!" yelled Helen as she had a very unsettling realization and began to scowl.

The loud thump of a heavy suitcase being dropped came from the garage followed by an equally loud "DAMMIT!" from Jake.

Alex and Daria both let out sighs and rolled their eyes as their father limped into the living room through the garage door.

"What is it honey," asked Jake as he winced slightly with each step of his right leg. "I've got the car all packed... mostly. Ready to go?"

"Jake Morgendorffer!" chastised Helen. "What were you thinking letting Quinn and Daria invite a house full of girls over for the weekend?!"

"Umm... I... What?" stuttered Jake with obvious confusion written on his face.

"Of all the irresponsible..." fumed Helen before she took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm down.

"I though that the kids were responsible. Isn't was why we were OK with them on their own this weekend?" mused Jake aloud (more to himself than to his wife) as he scratched his head in confusion.

"Honestly Jake, leaving a teen-aged boy alone in a house full of teen-aged girls... unsupervised. I expect you to discuss these kinds of things with me!" Helen continued.

"But Honey I..." Jake attempted to reply.

"No buts Jake," interrupted Helen as her balled fists came to rest on her hips.

"Um... Mom," interjected Alex. "He did talk to you about it."

"You stay out of this young man," retorted Helen. "I've got half a mind to... what?"

"Yeah Mom, Tuesday night at dinner," added Quinn in an off-handed manner.

Helen blinked at her youngest child, clearly not remembering any conversations on the topic at all.

"I asked Dad if it was like, OK if Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany slept over while you two were off at that seminary thing." continued Quinn.

The twins both smirked at their sister's verbal misstep.

"And..." commented Daria, which drew her mother's focus. "I asked if Jane could sleep over, to maintain the balance of power."

"Or at least the intelligence quotient," quipped Alex.

Helen shifted her eyes between her husband and her children's faces. A vague recollection of saying 'yes' to whatever Jake, Daria and Quinn had asked her that night while she was attempting to calm her boss, Eric, down. Considering Eric had been literally crying on the phone over the Sleshinger case, she had not been really listening to what her family had asked of her.

Her scowl shifted to a slightly guilty expression before saying, "Well... I still don't think it's appropriate to leave you kids totally unsupervised."

With the last comment Helen looked directly at her son.

"Putting aside the fact that both Daria and Quinn will be here, and that I have zero romantic interest in any of Quinn's friends..." replied Alex.

"A sentiment, I'm sure they also share," added Daria.

"As if any of them would even think of dating a total dork like you," chided Quinn with a wink to her brother who responded by sticking his tongue out at the girl.

"...I'll be spending the weekend at Charles' house," Alex continued. "Remember, I asked about it two weeks ago when you and Dad originally told us you'd be going to the seminar."

"Oh... Well... umm..." Helen stated with a defeated expression. "I'll be in the car."

With that she walked to the garage leaving the kids and Jake standing in the living room.

"Thanks Kiddos," stated Jake quietly with a wide smile after his wife was out of earshot. "Have a pizza or two on the old man."

He pulled several bills from his wallet and laid them on the table beside the garage door before he followed Helen through the garage door.

After their parents pulled off, Daria returned her attention to finishing the paperback she had been reading. Quinn similarly reoriented her focus to her half finished toenails.

Alex shifted to a more normal position, his feet facing the front of the sofa, before standing and stretching his arms above his head for a moment. He rotated his right arm in slow circular motions to work out an annoying kink that had developed during his reading time.

"And where does my back rest think he's going?" asked Daria, as she laid back fully across the couch, her book resting on her stomach.

"Gonna get my workout and a shower in before Charles picks me up," replied Alex as he rubbed his bare right shoulder.

He then stooped to retrieve his Walkman and a black cloth covered elastic hair band from the living room table.

As he walked around the edge of the sofa, the boy paused beside Quinn and said, "You missed a spot."

"What? Where?" asked the red head as she leaned forward to more closely scrutinize her now salmon toenails.

Quinn looked up to notice the smirk on her brother's face and replied, "Oh, Ha... Ha."

The boy winked at his youngest sister and made his way into the garage through the door his parents had departed through a few minutes prior.

Alex made his way across the room to a carpeted corner containing a small rack of barbell weights and a Nautilus machine. He set his Walkman down on the bench of the machine and pulled his long auburn hair back behind his head into a ponytail, which he then secured with the hair-band. He then checked the plates that served as the machine's weights after spending several minutes thoroughly stretching his arms, back and legs.

'Dad's going to hurt himself one of these days,' he mused as he noted that the machine was set to 250 lbs, twice his typical workout weight and at or above his father's max weight as far as he knew.

Alex knew he could complete at least one to one and a half sets at that weight. However, he wouldn't be able to do much more after that. He much preferred the "Less Weight-More Reps" routine.

'I'll have a talk with him about it when he gets back,' he noted mentally as he shifted the long steel rod that secured the weights, from beneath the thick metal plate marked 250 up several slots beneath one marked 125.

After he ensured the butterfly press attachment was engaged, Alex then sat on the bench facing away from the machine. He stuck the plug style earphones of his Walkman into his ears and pressed the play button on the musical device. He closed his eyes and listened to short the rhythmic cadence of the drums at the song's opening. As the lilting voice of the flutes began Ravel's Bolero, Alex opened his eyes and started on a stringent upper body workout.

Daria was stretched out on the couch with her head resting comfortably on a frilled throw pillow. She turned the last page in the chapter she had been reading and carefully closed the novel. After reading for another half an hour after Alex had gone to start his morning workout, she felt it was time for a break. Quinn had finished her grooming shortly after her brother's departure and had retired to her room to get dressed.

'The Fashion Gestapo should be here soon,' she though as she noted 11:40 on the wall mounted clock in the living room. 'Might as well enjoy these last moments of sanity.'

The auburn haired girl set her book on the living room table and rose from the couch. After stretching with a yawn, she walked casually to the kitchen and began rummaging through the fridge. Her search was unfortunately interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.

"Daria! Can you get the door?!" yelled Quinn from upstairs.

"So much for one last moment of sanity," mused Daria aloud.

With a resigned sigh, she closed the refrigerator door and padded slowly back through the living room. She opened the front door and was greeted by the smiling face of Jane standing on the front stoop; a large mug of still steaming coffee in one hand and an overstuffed backpack in the other.

"Stop the presses," commented Daria with a smirk. "Jane Lane, awake and mobile before noon."

"Its still Friday," responded Jane. " Not my fault I'm used to being semi-conscious and partially functional this time of day."

"Damn circadian rhythms," joked Daria as she stepped aside to let Jane into the house.

Jane walked into the living room, carefully settled into the love seat previously occupied by Quinn and resumed sipping her coffee. She took note of the collection of nail polish related items still arranged on the living room table and raised an eyebrow before she picked up the only bottle of polish with a broken seal and examined the label.

"You don't strike me as a 'Sunbathed Salmon' kind of girl," teased the artist.

"I'm more a 'Desert Sunset'," replied Daria with a small smile.

"But seriously," she continued noticing Jane's raised eyebrow and curious expression. "That's Quinn's."

"Ahh good," remarked Jane as she set the bottle of polish down and took another sip of coffee. "Because the only other person that would have left was Alex."

"Naa," said Daria as she flopped back onto the couch and watched Jane take a long pull from her mug. "He prefers 'Cotton Candy Blue'."

Coffee sprayed over the living room table as Jane did an impressive spit take and coughed as she almost choked on the remaining half-inhaled coffee she had attempted to drink.

After regaining her breath, she managed to wipe up the spilled coffee from the table and its contents with a few of the unused paper towels beside the nail polish collection.

The doorbell chose that moment to chime.

"Daria! Can you get that?" yelled Quinn for the second time from upstairs.

Daria turned and stared at the door. She let out a small sigh and opened the front door and was greeted by the site of immaculately dressed and accessorized Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany standing on the front stoop of the Morgendorffer home.

Sandi took a moment to look over the eldest Morgendorffer sister. She took note of the faded and obviously too long t-shirt and the semi-frayed knees and hems of equally worn cotton pants extending below the bottom edge of the shirt. The appearance-focused girl wrinkled her nose in further disdain when she noticed Daria's long auburn hair was uncombed and obviously still sleep tossed despite the fact that it was approaching noon.

"Well, if it isn't the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse," commented Daria.

"You have horses?" asked Tiffany slowly with a confused expression.

"Hello Quinn's sister," greeted Sandi haughtily. "Can we like come in or what?"

"No one is stopping you," responded Daria as she turned away from the open door and promptly stretched back out on the couch.

Sandi took note of Jane sipping coffee from her mug and frowned deeper.

'What's that artsy girl doing here,' she thought.

"Gee, it seems both of you are lacking in fashion sense even outside of school hours," commented Sandi snidely.

"And it looks like school hours aren't the only time you're a stuck up bitch," commented Jane under her breadth.

'Oh boy...' thought Daria with an eye roll.

"Nice stain," retorted Sandi, having heard Jane's comment clearly. "Perhaps we can like, find you a bib or a sippy-cup."

"What the hell are you..." began Jane, not understanding Sandi's retort.

"Ah crap!" Jane swore as she followed Sandi's gaze and looked down at the wet brown coffee stain on the front of her own gray t-shirt.

"Head on up to my room and change," stated Daria as she headed yet again to the front door.

Jane snagged her backpack and climbed the stairs grumbling as she went.

"Uppity little..." began Sandi.

Her comment ended with the sound of Daria clearing her throat and staring Daggers at her. Quinn chose that moment to come down the stairs.

"Sandi, so glad you guys could make it. I..." began Quinn.

The red head's comment also trailed off as she noticed the looks Daria and Sandi were giving each other.

'Oh boy,' she thought, mirroring her sister's earlier thought.

Quinn noticed Tiffany and Stacy standing near the door. Tiffany was staring obliviously into the mirror mounted above a small table, not giving any attention to the obvious tension between Daria and Sandi. Stacy on the other hand was very nervously shifting her gaze between the Fashion club president and elder Morgendorffer sister.

"Stacy, could you help Daria get the air mattresses for us to sleep on tonight," stated Quinn with false cheer.

"Um... sure," responded Stacy as she tenuously stepped between Daria and Sandi.

With a final glare at Sandi, Daria turned and headed to the garage door with Stacy in tow.

Quinn couldn't help but notice the icy visage Sandi focused on the retreating back of the auburn haired girl.

'This is going to be a very long weekend,' thought Quinn with a sigh.

Alex sat for a moment as he let his legs slowly allow the weights of the Nautilus machine lower to their normal resting position. He shifted to an upright sitting position with his legs straddling the bench seat and removed the earpieces of his Walkman.

Alex heard the muffled sounds of female voices when he turned off his music player.

"Quinn's friends or Jane must be here," he mused aloud.

Just then, the door leading into the house proper opened and Daria stormed in, followed closely by Stacy.

'Looks like it's the Fashionistas,' thought Alex.

Alex watched, as Daria began shifting through various storage containers none too gently.

'And it looks like the fireworks have already begun,' he added mentally.

"Hey Dia. Looking for something?" he asked.

"Where did Dad put the air mattresses?" asked Daria.

"Somewhere in here," the boy responded. "I'll help you look. Oh hey Stacy."

Alex stood from the Nautilus machine's bench and wiped the sweat from his brow and neck. He raised his arms over his head; hands clasped, and leaned back into a long satisfying stretch.

Stacy opened her mouth to give a greeting but the words stopped in her throat when Alex stood up and stretched.

The girl shared Mr. Johansen's music class with the boy. And while she didn't completely dismiss/ignore him (or the other "unpopular" kids) the way the rest of the Fashion Club normally did, she never really paid him much attention outside of that class.

The girl blinked in surprise as she watched Alex stretch. Her eyes lingered over his chest and bared arms. She paid close attention to each line and curve of his physique as he slowly stretched out his arms and legs.

'Wow,' Stacy thought as her gaze followed Alex move across the garage and begin reaching for plastic containers from the top of a set of shelves against the garage wall beside his sister.

'Oh, wow!' came her mental admiration again.

Stacy definitely felt that the view from the back was just as nice as the front. She looked the boy up and down and took pleasure in noting the shorts he wore revealed that his legs were just as well defined as his upper body. Stacy quickly came to a realization that the baggy jeans and perpetually present green army jacket had hidden quite well.

Also accustomed to viewing him through the curtain of hair, she noted his solid jaw line and high cheekbones all added up to a very handsome face.

She was only vaguely aware of the conversation Daria and Alex were having. Something about Sandi and Jane, sniping. Alex let out a smile at some comment Daria made and at that moment a single thought coalesced in Stacy's mind.

'Holy crap! Quinn's brother is a total dish!'

The girl's eyes widened as the realization hit her.

"Found them!" exclaimed Alex as he pulled a wide plastic cube container from the middle shelf down and handed it to Daria, who in turn pushed the container towards Stacy.

"Um... Stacy... you all right?" asked Daria as she noticed the wide-eyed expression on Stacy's face.

"Oh... I thought I saw..." started Stacy.

She began almost hyperventilating at the idea she had been caught fawning over Alex.

"I thought I saw a spider, but it was just a shadow, or some lint, or dust. Not that you have a dust or lint problem or anything. I mean it wouldn't be a garage if it wasn't a bit dirty... not that your garage is dirty or anything..."

Daria closed her eyes tightly and began rubbing her temples as Stacy began her overly apologetic rambling.

"Stacy," said Alex in a calm but firm voice.

Stacy stopped her rambling and looked sheepishly at Alex and Daria.

"Why don't you take these to Quinn," Alex asked as he took the container from Daria and deposited it in Stacy's hands.

"Um... sure," responded Stacy before she turned and quickly retreated back into the living room area.

Jane exited Daria's room in a fresh t-shirt and trod down the stairs. She brushed past Sandi, who began glaring daggers as soon as the dark haired artist came into her view, without a word and headed towards the Morgendorffers' kitchen.

At that moment, a slightly blushing Stacy, followed shortly by Alex and Daria, entered carrying the plastic containers containing the air mattresses. With Jane out of sight Sandi turned her condemning gaze back to Daria.

Alex and Stacy, whose presences were being completely ignored by Daria and Sandi, alternated their gazes between the two warring young women.

Alex leaned over towards Quinn and whispered, "Think I'll just help Stacy take the mattresses and their luggage upstairs... out of the line of fire."

"Good idea," responded the red head as she took the container of mattresses from Stacy.

Alex scooted carefully past his sisters and Sandi and stooped to grasp several of the girls' articles of luggage. He couldn't help but notice that both Sandi and Tiffany had each brought two large suitcases. He managed to carry three of them, one tucked under his left arm and one in each hand, while Stacy retrieved her own small duffel, backpack and the remaining suitcase.

"Come on Tiffany," prompted Stacy. "Let's go stash our stuff."

"Ok," replied Tiffany as she fell into place behind Alex, Quinn and Stacy.

"Welcome to Casa de Morgendorffer. Please check your overhead baggage and remember to keep your arms and legs inside the house until the weekend has come to a complete stop," intoned Alex as he began to climb the stairs.

Stacy giggled at Alex's comment and Quinn gave a small smile at her brother's silliness.

'He's...really...strong,' thought Tiffany absently as she noticed the ease with which Alex carried the three suitcases up the stairs. She didn't give it another thought, as they reached the top of the steps and entered cornucopia of cuteness that was Quinn's.

"I love... your... bed," droned Tiffany as she examined the pink and white-laced canopy bed that sat in the center of Quinn's room.

"Oh my god! This is the cutest room in the entire universe!" squealed Stacy happily as she set her bags and the suit case down and scooped a stuffed unicorn from Quinn's bed and hugged it.

"Well you girls have fun," said Alex, as he turned to Quinn. "I'm gonna hit the shower. If Charles shows up before I get out... try not to bruise him too much."

"Sorry Alex," replied Quinn. "But no deals where Upchuck is concerned."

"Upchuck?" remarked Tiffany questioningly.

"Ewwwwww!!!" exclaimed the three girls simultaneously.

He paused at the doorway and turned again to look Quinn in the eyes. "Hey, try to keep Dia and Sandi from killing each other this weekend... please."

"Again, no promises," said Quinn with a sigh. "But I'll try."

Alex gave a half smile to his youngest sister and remarked, "Fair enough. If they do try to kill each other, remember to get it on tape."

Quinn simply shook her head as Alex walked further down the upstairs hall towards his own room.

"Come on girls," stated Quinn with a glance back to Stacy and Tiffany. "Let's go rescue Sandi from my sister."

After the others had departed, Daria finally broke the tense silence between herself and Sandi.

"Look," she began. "I don't like you and you obviously don't approve of Jane and I..."

"No argument there," snarked Sandi as she crossed her arms and noticed Jane returning from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee.

"But, for the sake of our mutual sanity I propose a truce," Daria continued, her scowl matching the one that seemed to be a permanent resident of Sandi's face.

"What kind of truce?" asked Sandi warily.

Jane quirked an eyebrow at her diminutive friend but said nothing.

"Like it or not, we're stuck with each other for the next two and a half days," the bespectacled girl continued. "And if we want to avoid killing each other, I suggest a cessation of hostilities."

A puzzled expression shifted over Sandi's face, which made it rather obvious she did not fully understand Daria's last statement. Daria noticed her sister and the other two members of the Fashion Club descend the stairs.

"Here's the deal," resumed the elder Morgendorffer sister. "You and your Fashion Drones stay out of our way as much as possible, and Jane and I will do the same. You stop with the snippy remarks about our wardrobe choices and we won't voice our usual disdain for your superficial and shallow attitudes. On Monday, you and yours return to snubbing us, and we continue not giving a damn about your opinions of us."

'Superficial? Shallow?!' though Sandi. 'Who does this self-righteous loser think she is?!'

Sandi took a deep breath before she answered, "For the sake of an enjoyable weekend, I think we can agree to your terms."

"Good," commented Daria as her scowl shifted into a half smile. "And since everyone is here, we can cover the house rules for the weekend."

"Rules?" asked Sandi, Jane and Quinn simultaneously.

"Yes children. Rules," replied Daria. "Mom left me in charge. Which also means, I take the blame if anything goes wrong."

"Alex is the oldest," added Quinn. "Why didn't Mom leave him in charge?"

"He may be technically the oldest, but he's also leaving in a little while for the weekend himself, remember," replied Daria. "Either way, I'm in charge so we're going to set a few ground rules."

"Rule number one..." began Daria flatly, holding up her index finger. "Normal weekend curfew hours of 11PM will be observed."

Quinn's eyes widened noticeably at that statement.

"And before you begin the complaints," commented Daria. "Mom and Dad left us on our own because, for some unknown reason, they think they can trust us. I would like them to maintain that gullible perspective and this will go a long way towards that end."

Quinn tabled her complaint as she could see the benefits Daria was referring to.

'Not like it's a major issue with the Fashion Club already here,' thought Quinn with a conspiratorial smirk.

"Rule number two..." Daria continued, holding up two fingers. "If you guys decide to go somewhere, you need to let me know where you're going and when you'll be back."

Quinn's smirk faded and Sandi's scowl deepened.

"Before you start," remarked Daria. "I really don't care where you go or who you go with. But if something happens I'd rather know where to start looking if I need to reach you. The same applies to Jane and I. We'll let you know where we're going ahead of time and when we'll be back... approximately. Something as simple as a note will do."

"I guess that makes sense," said Quinn with an exasperated sigh.

"Rule number three..." Daria went on, holding up the requisite number of fingers. "Absolutely NO parties. Even if Mom hadn't already told us that, it should go without saying. Especially since she'd kill both of us when, not if but when, she found out about the party."

Quinn crossed her arms and gave an angry "Hmph."

'Damn. Why does she always have to ruin my fun.'

"Besides, the only person I'm interested in seeing in a social setting is already here," she went on, with a tilt of her head in Jane's direction. "I've really got little to no interest in hanging out with anyone else from Lawndale inside of the school environment. I definitely don't enjoy the idea of spending my out of school time with them either."

'Present company included,' thought Daria as her eyes scanned over the other members of the Fashion Club.

"But Daria," Quinn whined.

"That's non-negotiable. I also have no desire to clean up after the entire student body of Lawndale High or explain to Mom why the house burnt to the ground."

Quinn remembered the aftermath of several parties at their classmates' homes. She clearly remembered the final result of Brittany's party a month ago and paled at the thought of how her mother would react if things got as out of hand at her own home as they had at Brittany's.

Daria smiled at the pained expression on her sister's face and turned towards Jane. She took a single step before Quinn's voice stopped her.

"Rule number four..." stated Quinn, who smiled wickedly as her sister turned again to face her. "Just because you're 'in charge' doesn't mean you get to lord over us like some high and mighty... lord type person. We'll follow the rules, but we're not gonna jump through hoops just to amuse you."

"That's fair," conceded Daria flatly. "Come on Jane, let's leave the Fashion Patrol to their devices."
Daria, followed closely by Jane, then proceeded up the stairs and entered her padded room.

"God Kuh-whin," drawled Sandi. "Your sister is like, a total buzz kill."

"Don't I know it," replied Quinn with a sigh. "Unfortunately she's right this time. If we have a party here, Mom would find out. She'd just, like know. And I'd end up grounded for the rest of the school year."

Quinn could tell Sandi had some backhanded comment to make about the situation and decided to cut it off.

"Actually I think it would be a good idea to either suspend or at least restrict any parties at homes of the Fashion Club... especially after what happened at Brittney's party," stated Quinn.

"Quinn's shoes... were soooooo cute too," droned Tiffany.

"Oh my god. I heard Brittany's dad went ballistic when he got home. She has to pay for the dining room table AND the laundry door out of her allowance. She's not going to get any money for the rest of the school year," rambled Stacy excitedly.

"Gee Kuh-whin, if you're too worried about a little cleaning perhaps we need to rethink whether you can handle the responsibility of the Vice Presidency," stated Sandi. "I mean like, that one incident isn't reason to suspend all social functions at our homes..."

"But what about what happened at Skylar's back to school party?" asked Stacy.

Sandi silenced Stacy with her trademarked glare. Stacy responded in her usual manner by shrinking back and bowing her head with a small "Eep!"

"What happened at Skylar's party?" asked Quinn.

"The football team snuck beer in and got totally wasted. Kevin puked all over the couch..." added Stacy quickly before she shrank back under Sandi's icy gaze.

"Stacy... gross," responded Tiffany.

"Yuck!" exclaimed Quinn, her face scrunched in disgust. "Mom would absolutely kill me if that happened. Or worse... she'd make me clean it up."

"Ewwwwwwwww!" exclaimed all four girls simultaneously.

"See," Quinn whined. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. Party's look like a lot of fun at first, but then some idiot does something dumb and ruins it for everyone. And then whoever is throwing the party ends up in trouble and has to clean up the mess."

"God, I had to help clean up after my little cousin's birthday party last year. Picking up cups and plates and party favors is a total pain," chimed Stacy.

"We'd have to pick up trash?" droned Tiffany questioningly. "But I just had my nails done."

"And that's if the party goes smoothly. Imagine having to clean up after a drunk football team."

A collective shiver went through each of the girls.

"Well," responded Sandi. "In light of that, I believe we should consider postponing any Fashion Club hosted parties until we can properly examine the issue. Stacy, make a note for our next official meeting."

Stacy began silently repeating "Discuss party rules" to herself as Sandi turned back to face Quinn.

Sandi turned back to Quinn with a hand on her hip and said, "It seems that I did make the correct decision in choosing you as our VICE president."

"Oh Sandi," cooed Quinn. "You always make the best decisions."

"So... we're not ... having the party?" asked a still confused Tiffany.

"No Tiffany," replied Sandi with a roll of her eyes. "We're not having the party."

"Bummer. So... what are... we going... to do?" the Asian girl inquired.

"We could always do the regular sleep over stuff," chimed Stacy.

The three girls looked at Stacy with confused expressions.

"You know," the perky girl continued with a large smile. "Give each other makeovers, stay up late watching movies, and try on clothes... sleepover stuff."

"And I can get Jeffie, Joey and Jamal to drive us around shopping tomorrow," chirped Quinn.

The girls continued to hammer out the details of their weekend as they climbed the steps and headed to Quinn's room. Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany entered the room with Stacy trailing at the top of the steps. As she was entering Quinn's room she noticed Alex exit his own.

His head was down and he still wore only his black sleeveless muscle T and gray shorts. His hands each rested on the ends of a long white towel draped behind his neck and across his shoulders. Stacy paused in the doorway and watched the boy stroll casually out of his room. Alex stopped just before the bathroom door and gave a long yawn and wide stretch of his arms. Stacy's lips turned up in an appreciative smile as she watched him stretch out for the second time that day.

"Would you like, care to join us Stacy?" came Sandi's disapproving voice from within Quinn's room.

Stacy let out a frightened "Eep!" and rushed into Quinn's room.

Alex was startled by the sound and turned around to the now empty hallway. His eyes shifted from left to right with a curious expression. He shrugged, strolled into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

"Have I mentioned lately that you have the coolest room?" asked Jane as she lay across Daria's bed, on her stomach, and poked absently at the padded wall.

"Only four times in the last 10 minutes," remarked Daria as she clicked her mouse and ended the pixilated life of the zombie on her computer's monitor.

A knock followed by Alex's muffled baritone "Is everyone decent in there?" came from the closed door.

Daria stood and began heading towards her door.

"No," yelled a fully clothed Jane as Daria stood. "I'm completely naked and helpless in here."

Daria turned her curious gaze towards her friend and rolled her eyes at Jane's chuckling face.

"OK, I'll come back later," came Alex's muffled reply.

Having believed Jane's reply, a surprised Alex, dressed in his usual baggy black jeans and boots, stood halfway past Daria's doorway when she unlocked and opened the door. He raised an eyebrow at his twin before realizing Jane had only been joking. Jane's laughter at his gullibility confirmed. He shook his head and entered the room. Daria promptly closed and locked the door again. The boy set his packed large black duffel near the door and plopped down beside Daria's bed. He then resumed rubbing his still damp hair with the towel draped over his shoulders.

"So what are you two going to be up to this weekend?" he asked.

"Why would we be up to anything?" asked Daria.

"No reason really," he responded. "Just figured you would want to spend as little time under the same roof as the Fashion Club as possible."

"We've come to an agreement," responded Daria as she returned to the chair in front of her computer.

"Yeah," added Jane. "We're going to ignore each other as much as possible for the weekend and then return to ignoring each other at school."

"Still," responded Alex, as he finished drying his hair and set the towel aside. "Would probably be a good idea to get out of the house every once in a while."

"I figure we'll probably wander around town aimlessly after sleeping in late. Maybe hit the Zon for one of my brother's shows," Jane remarked.

Daria's eyes widened for a split second at the mention of Trent, but she quickly put her impassive mask back on before either Jane or her brother noticed.

"You know you're welcome to come with," offered Jane. "The band can use all the moral support they can get."

"So where do we fit in that statement?" Alex asked sarcastically with a smirk. "I wouldn't mind checking out your brother's band. I doubt Charles and I would have been able to come up with anything more entertaining."

"Ugh," stated Jane distastefully. "I forgot about Upchuck. God, why do you hang out with that loser?"

"Probably for the same reasons you hang out with Dia and I?" replied Alex. "Probably for the same reasons Quinn prefers the company of the Fashion Club. He may be a bit deluded regarding his... desirability where you girls are concerned..."

Daria raised an eyebrow and stared at Alex with an incredulous look. Jane let out a small snort.

"Ok... a LOT deluded," continued Alex with a chuckle. "But he's intelligent, confident, a laugh riot at times and most importantly honest."

The doorbell chime rang through the house, followed shortly by the sound of several feet moving down the steps.

"Upchuck... Ewwwww!" resounded from below.

"Speak of the devil," remarked Jane.

Alex stood and retrieved his duffel. Daria and Jane also stood and followed him down the stairs.

"Not in your wildest dreams Upchuck," came Quinn's voice as Alex, Daria and Jane entered the living room.

The trio saw Upchuck standing in the living room near the open front door. All four members of the Fashion Club stood before him with their arms crossed and very unhappy expressions on their faces.

'I don't even want to know,' thought Alex.

"Ah, Charles. Just in time to prevent me from drowning in the ocean of estrogen that is taking over the house," chimed Alex.

"My friend, if this is drowning..." began Charles as he paused and slowly took in the sight of all six girls standing before him. "Then man overboard... Rawr!"

All six young women scowled at the freckled redhead with icy death in their eyes. Alex grabbed his friend by the shoulders and turned him back towards the door.

"I'll be right out," the bespectacled boy stated as he pushed his friend back outside.

Alex shook his head at his friend's antics and shifted his duffel's strap over his shoulder so that the bag sat upright along his back.

"See you kids Sunday night," he stated with a quick one-armed hug for Daria.

"Be good Brat," Alex chided with a finger wave and a wink to Quinn.

Quinn stuck her tongue out at Alex but gave him a wink back, which prompted Stacy to giggle and Sandi to snort with disdain. And with that Alex closed the front door behind him and headed to Charles' Yellow Volvo parked at the front of the house.

Most of the girls turned from the door and began milling about the living room. Daria stood and stared at the door for a minute longer and let out a small sigh. She turned towards the other girls in the living room and noticed that Jane and Sandi were both bent down reaching for the remote to the 20" television set. The two were again exchanging slit eyed glares at each other.

Quinn returned from the kitchen holding a plate of carrots, celery and other veggies. She also noticed Sandi and Jane and rolled her eyes.

'This is going to be a very long weekend,' the sisters thought in unison.

Jane stretched out in beside Daria's bed and stared up at TV mesmerized. Only the smell emanating from the oversized bowl full of hot, buttered popcorn alerted her to the fact that Daria had returned from her trip to the kitchen.

"It's like a train wreck," commented Jane in an awed hushed voice. "This is... without a doubt... the absolute WORST movie I have ever seen... And I can't look away."

Daria smiled at her friend's fascination with the movie she had chosen. Jane watched the scene before her with the wide-eyed glee of a toddler with a new toy.

"Oh My God, I can see the boom mic's shadow. Wait... is the pilot actually holding up and reading from his script?!" Jane exclaimed before breaking into a fit of laughter.

Loud, high-pitched giggles emanated from the hallway through Daria's open door and caused both girls to roll their eyes. Daria stood up, crossed her room nudged her door closed. The yammering sound of Quinn and the other Fashion Club members dropped to silence leaving only the sounds of the movie playing on the television.

"Ahh, the marvel that is of 3 inches of cloth covered foam padding," the girl said with a satisfied sigh.

'Must remember to thank Lex for finding a guy who'd sell us enough padding to cover my door,' Daria thought as she returned to Jane's side beside her bed.

"Once again, you have the coolest room," commented Jane. "I wonder how much it would cost to get a room in my house setup like this."

"You'd be surprised at how cheap it is. Although, I don't think the padding would survive one week of your artistic expression," teased Daria.

"Oh, it wouldn't be for my room," responded Jane as she withdrew a large handful of popcorn from the bowl. "I was thinking of the garage since that's where Mystic Spiral usually practices."

"You know Lex had a point," commented Daria. "Even if the High Mucky Mucks of Fashion weren't here, we'd still probably want to get out of the house."

"Of course having them here just gives us more incentive to get out and about," agreed Jane.

Jane's eyes sparkled with a thought.

"We could always head over to my place for a bit. I know you'd love to watch Trent and the guys practice," the raven-haired girl said as she took great pleasure in the bright blush that began to spread across her friend's face.

"Shut up and watch the movie," stated Daria with an embarrassed scowl as she snatched the popcorn bowl away from her friend.

"I can't tell whether Plan 9 gets better or worse every time I watch it," commented Alex thoughtfully.

"I can't believe I actually sat here and watched it," responded Charles.

"Oh come on," stated Alex. "At least Ed Wood's movies don't surprise you with horrible puns and over the top clichés like the Bond series. When you watch an Ed Wood movie, you know up front you're getting bad."

"Now, now. We'll have none of that blasphemy in this house young man," chastised Charles jokingly.

"Oh come on," retorted Alex. "You know what the problem is with the five billion dollar death trap the big bad guys use for Bond?"

"Do enlighten me, oh wise one," said Charles chuckling.

"I've got your 'Wise One' right here pal," said Alex with an eye roll. "But seriously, the plots are so convoluted, the devices themselves so ridiculous in their design and function that you can't really take their threat seriously."

Alex took a drink from his Ultra Cola before continuing.

"Don't get me wrong," the boy continued. "They make for great visual cinema. But they are so far removed from how a serious 'Bad Guy' would handle things that there's no believable danger in the situations."

"What do you mean?" asked Charles with honest curiosity.

"Like I said," Alex responded. "You get a vague sense of peril, but we're not sitting on the edge of our collective seats worried about whether our intrepid hero is going to that baccarat table in the sky. Instead, we sit around and laugh as the laser or diamond saw or platinum pendulum axe moves at glacier speed towards a tied up or strapped down bond."

Alex took a bite of his sandwich and Charles sipped slowly from a soda of his own.

"All I'm saying," he continued between bites of turkey on rye. "Is why doesn't anyone just simply shoot him. You've caught your great nemesis; you have him completely helpless or unconscious; and for some reason instead of just unloading a clip into Bond's face, we get a 10 minute triumphant egotistical 12-point explanation of the evil plan and a slide show of the death ray's schematics while Bond is half-assedly secured to whatever death machine happens to be employed this time. Instead of a sense of drama, we get a clichéd, almost comical, exercise in the ridiculous that leaves us wondering what cheesy gadget or silly contrived method Bond is going to use to escape from the torturously slow and ineffective death trap before he scampers off to defeat the Big Bad and their super robo-shark mounted atomic death laser moon base."

Charles raised an eyebrow at Alex's colorful description. Alex took another drink from his can of cola and held up a hand to forestall his friend's complaint.

"Don't get me wrong," the auburn haired boy resumed. "I love super robo-shark mounted atomic death laser moon bases as much as the next guy. But having the super genius display something akin to basic common sense once in a while would be a welcome surprise."

"But that's part of the whole Bond experience. The extreme lengths the villains go to. That's the draw," replied Charles as he took a bite of his own sandwich.

"I can see that," conceded Alex. "But there are so many ways they could get the same concept with a touch more believable execution. Let the big bad shot Bond and have it be a hologram projected from his watch. Shoot him with laser rifles and have Bond Deflect it with a compact purloined from one of the bond girls earlier. Shoot at him with a bazooka and have him dodge at the last minute and get buried under rubble so that the bad guy can't immediately tell he's still alive."

The freckled red head thought about his friend's words for a moment before answering, "Well I can see your point. The scenarios do get a bit... predictable after all this time."

He was quiet for another few minutes as he watched Alex finish off his sandwich.

"So... no objections to the security girls in mini-skirts," asked Charles.

"Actually I prefer the form fitting leather uniform with top unbuttoned and/or zipped down look," replied Alex with a grin.

"I swear, Plan 9 gets better every time you watch it," commented Daria.

"And by better you mean worse right?" asked Jane.

"With Ed Wood movies there really isn't much of a difference," joked Daria.

"You got me there," replied Jane as she pulled a thin, threadbare and very tattered sleeping bag out of her pack.

"So where should I park this?" she asked with a glance around the semi-clutter that littered the floor of her friend's room.

Daria eyed the worn sleeping bag and raised an eyebrow.

"You know, there's a perfectly good bed you can sleep in this weekend," remarked Daria.

"Why Daria, I didn't think you felt that way about me," Jane stated as she glanced at her friend's small bed.

"I'm touched," she continued, casting an extremely faux doe-eyed look to Daria and placed her hands over her heart.

"Oh you're touched alright," quipped the auburn haired girl. "You can sleep in Lex's room. No point sleeping on the floor when there's a bed that will go otherwise unused."

"What about the Fashion Club?" asked Jane. "Won't Quinn have already claimed that land in the name of the Inane?"

"Even if she had, do you honestly expect any member of the Fashion Club to willingly sleep in the bed of Quinn's unpopular and geeky big brother?" Daria inquired.

"And what makes you think I want to sleep in the bed of Quinn's unpopular and geeky big brother?" asked Jane with a grin.

"Because you're a shameless creature of comfort," retorted Daria with a smirk.

"Can't argue with the facts" conceded Jane as she stood up. "Well then Jeeves, show me to my room."

Daria smirked at her friend and walked back out of her room. She and Jane walked to the opposite end of the hallway and entered the room on the right side across from her parents' quarters.

Jane followed her friend through the door and took a moment to look around Alex's room. The first thing she noticed was that the room was clean. No clothes or any other general clutter that would normally be expected could be seen.

"So the Lexmeister decided to tidy up before he left eh?" mused Jane with a smile. "Didn't want us girls seeing his heart boxers laying out eh?"

"What do you mean? This is how his room always looks," responded Daria without a second thought.

Jane walked past her friend across the thick dark blue carpeting and set her backpack down beside the queen-sized bed, which rested just off center, beside the north-facing window. She looked out of the window and saw the dimly lit back yard of the Morgendorffers' house. She glanced down at the plain navy blue comforter, covering the plain white sheets and pillows encased in matching navy arranged neatly on the bed.

She turned slowly, and took in the rest of the room.

The small night stand beside the bed held clock radio/CD player combination and a small lamp. Two large bay windows faced the neighboring house, their plain heavy white curtains drawn closed. A simple, darkly stained wooden chest of drawers occupied the southwestern corner of the room between what appeared to be a closet door and the wall. A large and solid wooden bookshelf, filled with rows of hard and paper backed books, took up a majority of the remaining south wall between the closet door and the room's main doorway in the southeastern corner of the room.

The east wall between the desk and main door was occupied by a large entertainment center, which held a good-sized TV and multiple neat rows of videocassettes, CDs and what appeared to be a handful of vinyl records.

The northeastern corner of the room held a simple L-shaped wooden desk, of similar design to the bookshelf. A fairly wide but unadorned monitor sat off center on the smaller arm of the desk, connected to the simple gray tower in an open cabinet below the desktop. The remaining desktop itself held a stainless steel cup, filled with pens of various colors. A stapler, hole punch and other school/office supplies lay neatly arranged and organized on the open desktop. And a plain desk lamp rested above the writing space on a long extended neck. A comfortable looking upholstered gray office chair sat on wheels before the desk.

Jane's sharp eyes completed their circuit of the room and rested on the violin case resting on a plain footlocker at the front of the bed. She noticed the immediate lack of posters or any other decorative items in the room save the furniture.

Jane's brow furrowed. Daria noticed her friend's intense look and asked, "You ok?"

After a moment, Jane snapped her fingers and exclaimed, "Spartan!"

"What?" asked Daria, confusion on her face.

"Oh sorry," apologized Jane. "I was looking for the word to describe his room. Spartan."

"Ahh," replied Daria.

She gave a quick glance around the room herself. Although she'd been in her brother's room regularly since they had moved to Lawndale, she never really though much about the unadorned overly ordered nature of it.

"Never really thought about it," she continued with a shrug. "I guess between the hospital and all those years at military school he hasn't really had much need or opportunity to worry about decorating."

"Hospital?" said Jane inquisitively as she looked at Daria.

"Umm..." stumbled Daria. "Well, sleep tight Jane."

Before Jane could say another word Daria backed quickly out and closed the door behind her, leaving a very curious Jane standing in the middle of Alex's room.

Alex stared at the ceiling of the Ruttheimer's guest bedroom with his hands behind his head. A half read paperback lay on his chest as he counted the non-existent cracks in the ceiling.

'I hope Dia is OK,' thought Alex. 'I hated to leave her alone with Quinn's friends, but there was no way I would have been able to handle that much mindless girl talk for three days.'

He removed his glasses from their perch above his forehead as a long, slow yawn escaped his lips.

'Ah well, she has Jane with her,' he thought as he rolled on his left side and closed his eyes.

'They'll be fine,' came his last thoughts before drifting off to sleep. 'Or the Fashion Club will be murdered horribly and creatively. Either way, it will all work out for the best.'

Jane lay in Alex's bed and stared at the ceiling. She wore only a pair of worn black running shorts and faded navy women's sleeveless performance T.

Her curiosity was, as the artist had expected, punishing her fiercely after Daria left her alone in Alex's room. However, Daria's offhand comment about Alex being in the hospital and the hasty retreat served only to intensify Jane's natural curiosity. She had hoped to find some sort of incriminating item to distract her. Something to tease Alex, and perhaps even Daria, with the next time she saw the boy.

She had looked under the bed and mattress for magazines, tapes or anything else one would expect a teen aged boy to hide. She had initially fought the urge to riffle through the drawers on general principle, but after an hour had given in to the power of her restless inquisitiveness. Of course her search only revealed an extremely neat and organized sock drawer, a similarly tidy drawer full of T-shirts and boxers (which made her blush unconsciously) and a drawer full of random innocuous items. Jane had decided not to attempt to circumvent the lock on Alex's footlocker.

In the end, her efforts had been fruitless, which only made it worse for the girl. Her curiosity had been satisfied to a degree as she had gone over the other contents of the room and learned quite a bit about the boy than she had known before. The rows of VHS taps revealed a taste in eclectic films that was apparently shared with his twin. After seeing the spread before her (and still chuckling at some of the more horrendous scenes from Plan 9), Jane had decided then and there that Bad Movie Night would become a regular occurrence for the three of them.

She had spent a good half an hour simply browsing the vast and varied collection of music CD's and cassettes on the shelves of his entertainment center. She was surprised by not only how many discs and cassettes there were, but the wide variety of styles represented. She had expected the Bach, Beethoven, and other classical artists. She was also unsurprised when she saw Metalica, NIN, Nirvana and a horde of other rock and alternative bands (although she recognized only about a third of the bands). She laughed at the presence of the ABBA and Weird Al Yankovic albums, and was thoughtful for a moment about Tori Amos, Ani DeFranco and other pop artists. While she was surprised at the amount of Dance, Trance and Techno initially, but remembered Alex mentioned one day he preferred the non-vocal styles of music. The large section of Hip Hop and Rap artists, however, caught her completely off guard. She recognized a few of the more popular names (Run-D.M.C., and 2-Pac were immediately recognized) but simply drew a blank on most of the others. She had to admit the boy knew and apparently loved his music.

Perusing Alex's musical and cinematic selections had only been a momentary distraction at best. Her imagination kept coming up with all variety of horrible and hilarious medical conditions that might have befallen the male half of her dynamic duo of friends before the girl finally drifted off into sleep.

Quinn put the empty glass into the sink and made her way back up to her room. She had woken in the middle of the night and was incredibly thirsty for some reason. Sandi had initially tried to claim the bed in the name of Fashion Club president, but Quinn had quickly headed that idea off by simply suggesting that out of fairness, everyone should sleep on air mattresses.

Quinn stepped past the sleeping form of Tiffany, who was sleeping on her back with her hair spread out over the pillow. Quinn smiled at that, as it was the method she herself used to reduce the effects of 'bed head'. The younger Morgendorffer almost laughed aloud when she saw that Sandi was simply sleeping normally and her hair was already well on its way to being sleep tousled. Quinn shook her head at the fact that Sandi still managed to scowl in her sleep. Stacy's hair remained in the medium length braid she had asked Quinn to do for her earlier in the evening. Quinn smiled at the girl who still held onto one of her stuffed unicorns as she slept.

"Oh of course I'd love to dance Alex," mumbled Stacy with a serene smile, before she turned over on her other side in her sleep.

Quinn stopped and stared at her friend for a moment and realized Stacy had simply been talking in her sleep.

'Alex?' the red head asked internally. 'What in the... Oh yeah that was the prince in that movie we watched tonight. It was soooo romantic. And the princess' ball gown was gorgeous... although her shoes should have had the same lace pattern as the dress... and her earrings should have been those long teardrop pearl kinds.'

Quinn sighed at the thought of being in a dress that pretty some day.

'Too bad the prince's name was Alexander. I could never marry a guy named Alexander. That would just be too weird,' she rambled mentally before letting out a quiet and demure yawn.

Quinn gave Stacy's comment no further thought as she lay down on her air mattress and fanned her long red hair out on her large pillow, then drifted off to sleep.

Daria woke slowly. She sat up in her bed and stretched her arms before retrieving her glasses from the nightstand beside her. She glanced at her clock radio and noticed it was just approaching noon.

She slid out of bed and walked slowly across her room and opened the padded door. Daria noted that the members of the Fashion Club were not in her sister's room and the house in general was quite silent. The auburn haired girl simply rolled her eyes and continued walking pas her sister's open room towards the other end of the hallway.

'No snoring? I guess Jane's already up,' thought Daria as she opened the door to her brother's room.

'Or not,' mused the girl with a raised an eyebrow as she entered the room and saw her still sleeping friend.

Daria had been required to wake Jane multiple times over the past few months, on the school days when the Lane Sleep Gene had overpowered the insistent chime of the alarm clock. On those occasions she had been greeted by the sight of Jane sprawled across her bed, each limb usually pointing in the direction of a different corner of her bed. And typically, the thin sheets were wrapped and tangled haphazardly around the girl.

It was a vastly different image from the one before Daria. Jane was sleeping peacefully on her side. The blanket and sheets still arranged relatively neatly over her. Only a soft barely audible rasping sound came from Jane's open mouth, as opposed to the window rattling snores, which could usually be heard when one approached the artist's room in the early mornings.

Daria padded over to the bed, lightly shook Jane's shoulder and called her name. Jane's only response was to murmur something incoherent and roll over onto her other side under the blanket and continue sleeping.

Daria smiled a bit and walked back out of the room. She returned a few minutes later with a large steaming cup of coffee, which she held near Jane's face, and waited.

After a few moments, Jane began to stir and slowly sat up and stretched her arms out with a great yawn.

"And good morning to you too," said Daria as she handed the cup to Jane.

Jane took a small sip and smiled lazily.

"GOD! I had forgotten what it was like to sleep on a mattress that wasn't worn down from two generations of hippies," commented Jane happily with closed eyes.

"Remind me never to sit on your bed again," deadpanned Daria.

"Hey! I'll have you know that bed has been disinfected and the sheets are laundered... semi-regularly," huffed Jane teasingly.

"Considering you guys have surgical scrub gel as hand soap in your bathroom, I actually believe that," remarked Daria.

"Mom saw a sale and figured it was a good deal. It just so happened to be a clinic going closing down in... Barbados, I think. Don't ask me how she got a palette of the stuff through customs," replied Jane as she took another sip of coffee. "Most of my early smocks were surgical scrubs."

"Speaking of which..." the dark-haired girl continued tentatively. "What did you mean last night about Alex being in the hospital?"

Daria sighed and her expression shifted from her usual subdued half smile to a sad frown.

"Hey, I can tell it's a sensitive subject. Forget I asked," Jane offered.

"No, it's OK," Daria responded after a moment. "Guess you'll get the story some time. Better to get it from a source than let the gossip mongers ruin a perfectly good story."

Daria walked over to her brother's desk and wheeled the chair over beside the bed. She sat down, took a deep breath and let it out slowly before beginning.

"It all started back in grade school. Lex and I were the 'smart kids' even back then," she stated.

'No surprise there,' Jane thought as she sipped her coffee and nodded.

"Well, the other kids treated us not much differently than they do at Lawndale High," the auburn haired girl continued. "But there was one kid. Jimmy Denton. He was the superintendent's son. His father was a corrupt and unscrupulous a man as ever there has been. He could have given Li lessons."

Jane let out a whistle.

"Exactly," continued Daria. "So naturally Jimmy was the biggest, baddest bully in the county. He used to pick on most of the kids, nothing special there. But as we got older he locked onto me. I think that it was partly because I was the smallest kid in school. Mostly though, I think it was because he knew it was the easiest way that he could get a rise out of Lex."

Daria let out another sad sigh before she continued with her tale.

"So, our daily schedule was pretty much go to school, I get picked on, Lex gets into an argument with the Jimmy, we get in trouble and Jimmy gets off because of Daddy. During this time most of the other kids stopped even wanting to be around us any more for fear of Jimmy dragging them into it."

"So, at the beginning of our 6th grade year, Jimmy finally decided to see how far he could push things. We were on the playground and I was sitting in a swing reading. Jimmy waited until Lex wasn't around; I think he had gone to the bathroom... Anyway, Jimmy comes over with his little entourage and starts in on me as usual. I was fed up with being pestered for the bulk of my waking moments for the past few years and having the one or two friends we had managed to make pushed away from me. I decided to start fight back."

"Oh boy," said Jane visibly wincing at the thought of being on the receiving end of Daria's teasing. "I'll bet that didn't go over too well."

"You got it," responded Daria. "I let him have it with both verbal barrels. Some of the other kids started laughing at him. Needless to say, Jimmy was livid. He kept telling me to shut up. And when I didn't, he punched me in the stomach and stepped on my glasses... just as Lex was coming back outside."

Jane's eyes grew wide and she asked, "What did Alex do?"

"What do you think he did?" asked Daria incredulously. "He jumped across the playground table and proceeded to beat the ever loving crap out of Jimmy."

'Go Alex!' cheered Jane internally

"It took two teachers to pull him off Jimmy," Daria explained. "But by the time they got there, Lex had broken one of Jimmy's arms in two places, broken three of his ribs, given the kid a concussion and turned his face into something resembling a few pounds of raw hamburger."

"Jeez!" whispered a shocked Jane.

"Needless to say 'Daddy' was not happy about it," continued Daria. "Long story short, Mr. Denton raises holy hell, despite the fact that everyone else attested to the fact that Jimmy punched me first and Lex was just reacting to the fact that I was being attacked. So he threatens to use his connections to mess with us unless Alex is 'punished adequately for his unacceptable behavior'. Basically, he could have worked it so that Dad got fired and blackballed. Of course he did it indirectly and in ways that couldn't really be used against him if we tried to lodge a complaint of our own. We were already just getting by on Dad's salary, we would have been ruined, financially speaking."

"Wow!" commented Jane. "Wasn't there anything your Mom could have done?"

"Mom was still in law school at that point," replied Daria. "She would have gotten eaten alive by whatever counsel Denton tossed at us, and she knew it. Anyway, they talk to Grandma Ruth, my Dad's mom, and after some discussion with her and plea bargaining with Denton's people, my folks had to pay a small fine and Lex got shipped off to Grandpa and Dad's old Alma Mater, Buxton Ridge Military Academy."

"So, Lex gets locked away at Boot Camp for the next three years. Then, middle of our 9th grade year there's an... accident... at Buxton," said Daria hesitantly. "Lex spends the next 6 months in and out of the hospital and clinics. Of course by then Mom had her Law Degree and had passed the Texas Bar, so we got a big settlement out of Buxton on top of them paying for all of Lex's medical expenses. That sent Mom on a legal warpath. She eventually got the goods on Denton and his cronies. She got him fired and arrested, for racketeering I think, and sued the county and State for damages."

'Yikes!' thought Jane. 'Mrs. M is probably one of the last people I'd want after me.'

"We moved to Lawndale around the end of the summer.... And you know everything after that," finished Daria.

"Wow," commented Jane, still stunned by the tale Daria had just spun for her.

The raven-haired girl sat silently and stared at her friend for another minute. She could tell Daria had left out some pretty big details behind the vague references to Alex's "accident", but she chose not to press the matter.

"Well... this is awkward," stated Jane after collecting her thoughts. "Guess all those medical experiments gone horribly wrong jokes I came up with last night would be tacky right now."

"I don't know," responded Daria with a smirk. "You'd have to ask Frankenstein when he gets back."

"I knew it!" exclaimed Jane. "You built him in your basement out of the bodies of hitch hikers and pizza delivery guys didn't you."

"Hmm, I guess that would make Quinn my Igor," mused Daria aloud. "Though she is a bit too perky for the job."

"Yeah, I don't really see Igor asking if his smock makes his hump look fat," said Jane with a chuckle. "And you know she'd try to color coordinate the brain jars."

"Guess I'll have to settle for you then," said Daria with her Mona Lisa smile. "Come on let's get out of here before they get back."

Jane squinted an eye and hunched her left shoulder down and lisped "Yeth Mathster."

Just after 7 PM, the front Door to the Morgendorffer House opened and in strode Quinn with the remaining Fashion Club members close behind her.

"I can't believe we missed the sale by an hour," Quinn said with an annoyed tone as she dropped her keys on the living room table.

Joey, Jeffie and Jamie each filed slowly through the front door a minute later. Each was encumbered with numerous bags, bundles and parcels of various sizes and visibly struggled to hold onto their immense burdens.

"Umm... Quinn," breathed Joey laboriously. "Where do you want this stuff?"

"Oh, just set it down on the table," the red head responded off-handedly.

Each boy began depositing their load of clothing and accessories onto the long living room table. Each shook out their sore arms and headed back out the door to retrieve the remaining bags they hadn't been able to carry on the first trip.

As they ascended the stairs, Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany continued to chatter about the discounts they had missed and the ones they had managed to make despite not making it to the store during sale hours.

Each boy carried in a large bag of low fat snack foods and vegetables into the kitchen. Just as Quinn closed the door after the last of the boys disappeared into the kitchen, the doorbell rang.

Quinn turned back to the door with a quizzical expression.

'I wonder who that could be,' she thought.

Quinn opened the door to see Skylar Feldman standing on her front porch.

"Hey Quinn," said Skylar in his best smooth voice.

"Umm, hi Skylar," greeted Quinn. "What brings you here?"

Skylar gave Quinn a quizzical look.

"Oh but where are my manners? Won't you come in?" invited Quinn, which cut Skylar's reply short.

Quinn stepped aside to let the boy enter the house before she closed the door behind him. Just as she was about to begin conversing further, the doorbell rang again.

"Hi Quinn!" came Brittany's bubbly greeting as the younger girl opened her front door again.

Brittany held a large bowl covered in plastic wrap and stood beside Kevin. The quarterback, dressed as usual in his full uniform and pads, held two very large brown grocery bags.

"Um... Hi Brittany. What are..." began Quinn.

She stopped in mid sentence as she noticed other classmates and students of Lawndale High walking up her front walk and parking cars along the street.

'Oh crap!' thought Quinn as she pulled the perky blonde and her boyfriend into the house.

"Brittany. Could you watch the door for a minute?" asked Quinn. "I need to get the others from upstairs."

"Umm, Sure," responded the busty cheerleader happily. "Here Kevie. Take this into the kitchen."

Brittany directed Kevin to the open kitchen she could see from the door. Quinn bolted upstairs, trusting Brittany could keep things relatively calm for a few minutes.

"Ladies," commented Quinn as she entered her room and regarded Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany perusing various magazines. "We have a problem."

Daria stood in the back portion of the open dance area inside the Zon. She held a can of Ultra Cola in each hand and watched the stage with a subdued smile on her face. Her foot tapped idly in time with the music as she watched Mystik Spiral, or more pointedly Trent Lane, perform on stage.

Jane exited hurriedly from the Zon's women's' restroom and began to make her way through the crowd to her waiting friend. Jane noticed Daria's smile and followed her line of vision. The artist couldn't help but chuckle to herself when she figured out the focus of her friend's gaze.

"See something you like?" came Jane's voice from behind Daria.

"Eep!" exclaimed Daria, so startled by her friend's unannounced return and being caught mid-drool that she almost jumped out of her boots.

"I hate you," commented Daria as she struggled to get the blush spreading violently across her face under control.

Jane retrieved her can of cola from her embarrassed friend and laughed aloud.

"So what do you think? Of the Spiral I mean," asked Jane. "I already know what you think of their lead singer."

Daria gave Jane a look that could kill. Unfortunately for Daria, Jane responded to it by laughing again.

"You're lucky I have an undying respect for caffeinated beverages, or you'd be wearing this soda," deadpanned Daria with her neutral expression firmly back in place. "But to answer your question, they're definitely something."

"I'm in limbo... How low can I go?!" came Trent's raspy singing voice as the song ended with a discordant guitar flourish.

"I'm not sure exactly what they are," continued Daria, "But whatever it is they are, at least enthusiastic about it."

"Thanks," came Trent's voice over the speakers. "We're Mystik spiral, and we'll be back for the second set."

Trent set his guitar down in a rack on the stage and casually made his way over to Daria and his sister.

"Hey Janey," greeted Trent.

"Yo bro," returned Jane.

"Hey Daria," said Trent as he noticed his sister's friend.

"Um... hey," greeted Daria in almost a whisper as she fought and barely won out against the blush that threatened to explode across her face.

"You guys sounded a little different tonight," commented Jane as she took a sip from her can of cola.

'Absolutely Terrible as opposed to Terrible,' joked Daria mentally.

"Yeah, we decided to try the songs with a different key. You know add a little variety to the music," responded Trent. "Didn't quite come out the way we intended."

"You guys did seem a bit off from your usual," remarked Jane between sips of cola.

'Yeah you would have made dogs and cats run this time,' thought Daria.

"What did you think of the show Daria," Trent asked smoothly.

'Do you want to know now, or after my ears stop trying to escape from my head?' thought Daria.

"Um... s'ok," she whispered as she looked intently at the tops of her boots.

Jane chuckled, which drew a glare from Daria. Again, Jane simply smirked silently at her friend's embarrassment before she turned back to her brother.

"Well, as much as Daria would love to keep chattering away with you Trent," teased Jane. "It's getting late and we should probably be heading back to the Morgendorffer homestead."

"Hmm, kind of early for you to be cutting out Janey? Or is it late? I can never tell," mused Trent as he scratched his beard.

"My folks kind of have a curfew," Daria managed to say in a voice approaching normal volume.

"Yeah so we should probably get going if we don't want to be out past 11," continued Jane.

"Quinn would never let me hear the end of it if I broke my own rule," commented Daria.

"Hey you know we could be certain to get back on time if Trent gave us a ride," commented Jane with a sidelong glance towards her friend.

Daria stopped mid stride with a wide-eyed expression that, fortunately, was not visible with her back to the musician.

"Yeah, I've got about an hour before the second set. I can give you guys a ride," offered Trent.

He checked his pockets for his keys and casually made his way ahead of the girls towards the parking lot.

Daria gave Jane her best glare.

As usual Jane merely laughed the look off and replied, "Come along milady. Your chariot awaits."

"I really hate you," repeated Daria before moving towards the retreating Trent with Jane.

"What were you thinking?!" Quinn asked angrily of the three boys standing before her in the kitchen.

"We're sorry Quinn," came their pitiful reply as the three looked down at the floor.

"I specifically told you three there was NOT going to be a party here this weekend," she continued as she paced angrily back and forth in front of them.

Stacy stood with her arms crossed, and nervously watched Quinn pace angrily back and forth before the boys. She chewed idly on her bottom lip and fidgeted nervously.

"But we didn't say anything to anyone about a party," said Jamie defensively.

"Yeah," added Joey as Jeffie nodded in agreement.

"Well then, why does everyone here think Quinn was having a party then?" Stacy asked.

"Umm..." began Jamie. "Kevin called and asked what we were doing this weekend. I told him we were driving you guys to the mall since you folks were out of town and..."

"And Kevin, who probably told Brittany, assumed that there was a party because the Morgendorffers were out of town," Stacy stated.

"Arggg!" exclaimed the petite red head, which caused Stacy and the three boys to all jump back a step.

Quinn turned around and looked out past the doorway at the horde of people packed into the house's cozy living room; drinking, eating and loudly talking. She then turned and looked at the handful of students tossing one of Kevin's footballs back and forth in the back yard.

"And Kevin and Brittany probably told the rest of the team and cheerleaders. And they told everyone else," the youngest Morgendorffer concluded.

As she turned back to give the boys further tongue lashing but was interrupted as a tall brown haired boy wearing a Lawndale Lion's Jersey walked into the kitchen with an open can of beer in his hand.

"Hey Jamie, Joey, Jeffie," the boy greeted.

The trio gave non-verbal nods to their teammate.

"Hey Stacy," he said in salutation, and received a smile and a quick wave from the pig tailed brunette.

"Hey Quinn. Great party," he continued he brought his beer to his mouth and took a long pull from the can.

"Where did you get that beer?!" Quinn asked as her angry look shifted to confusion.

"Huh? Oh, this? Kevin brought a few cases for the party," he answered as he tossed his now empty can into the trashcan.

With that statement, he used his foot to flip open the large blue cooler next to the kitchen door that Quinn had, until now, not noticed. He reached down, retrieved another can, popped the top and walked out to the backyard to toss the ball around.

"That idiot!" Quinn exclaimed angrily, which caused the three J's to jump back from the girl slightly again.

She rubbed her temples and took a deep breath.

"You three!" the girl stated as she turned her attention to her three would be suitors. "Get what's left of the beer Kevin brought out of here. I don't care what you do with it, just get it out of the house!"

With that Quinn stalked out of the kitchen and into the living room. She put her best face on and resumed playing hostess to her gathered classmates. After a few minutes, she gave a small relieved sigh as she noticed Joey and Jeffie making their way to the door leading to the garage with the two large brown paper grocery bags Kevin had brought the beer in initially. Right behind them, Jamie followed with another brown grocery bag.

'At least that's taken care of,' thought Quinn. 'Last thing I need is a bunch of drunk idiots wrecking the place.'

"God Quinn," stated Stacy from beside the red head. "Good thing we found out about the beer Kevin brought before someone got too drunk or got sick."

"No kidding," replied Quinn. "Hey, speaking of which. Where are Kevin and Brittany?"

"So Trent, what's with the change in style again," asked Jane as she, Daria and her brother rode down the quiet street in Trent's blue Satellite.

"Well," began the gangly musician. "We're trying to broaden our audience. Max heard word that there have been some talent scouts checking out the local scenes. We even did a demo tape... just in case."

"Cool," commented Jane. "Did Nick and Max manage to behave themselves at the studio or did they spend the whole time fighting as usual?"

"Studio?" Trent replied with a confused look on his face.

"Yeah, you said you guys made a demo tape... wait a minute, there aren't any music studios in Lawndale." Remarked Jane as realization set in. "You guys didn't go to a studio to make your tape did you?"

"Uh..." began Trent. "Well like you said, there aren't any studios in Lawndale. And even if there were, studio time is kinda pricey."

"How bad could it be?" asked Daria aloud.

"I'm almost afraid to find out," replied Jane to her friend before she turned back to her brother. "You got the tape on you bro?"

In response, Trent reached across his sister and opened the clutter glove box, and swerved a bit with the action.

"Eyes on the road buddy," said Jane as she smacked her brother's hand and began rummaging through the crumpled napkins and more than a few parking tickets within the compartment. Shortly, she pulled out a plain black audiocassette with "Mystik Spiral" written sloppily on the white label.

"This it?" she asked which prompted a nod from the musician.

Jane slid the tape into the stereo and hit the worn play button. The three passengers then heard the crackly sounds of what could only be Trent and his band mates moving around. The voice Jane recognized as Nick Campbell (the band's bassist) repeatedly asking if 'it was recording' and Max's frustrated confirmations made her roll her eyes. After a few more moments of static-filled arguing the voices settled down and the band began playing.

Daria winced at the sounds coming from the car's speakers. She'd heard the band practicing a few times after school on days when she and Alex decided to hang out at the Lane's before heading home. And seeing them live had done little to improve her opinion of their musical talents. However, the combination of the poor tape (and likely recording device's) quality, the horrendous acoustics of wherever the recording was taken and the general disharmony that was Mystik Spiral's 'sound' created an auditory experience that the auburn haired girl felt should be outlawed under multiple international treaties regarding torture and other human civil liberties policies.

Jane hastily stopped the tape after letting it play through one (thankfully) short song.
"We tried to capture the emotion of the song. It's about the pain of being crushed by the corporate mentality of fast food chains...," explained Trent. "Or was it about getting a flat and having no spare?"

Jane and Daria both blinked at the young man with amused expressions.

"So... what do you think Daria?" he asked.

'Do you want to know before or after my brain stops trying to escape through my ears and jump out of the window?' thought Daria.

Her witty comment couldn't make it anywhere approaching her mouth as the laid back musician's gaze seemed to turn off her ability to make an intelligible remark.

"Umm... it was... umm" stumbled Daria under the droopy-eyed gaze of her friend's brother.

"That was pretty bad Trent," interjected Jane. "Even for Spiral. How about we let someone with a more discerning musical ear listen to it and get back to you?"

'Though I almost feel bad at the thought of what Alex is going to say,' she thought as she shoved the cassette into her jacket pocket.

"What in the hell?!" exclaimed Daria as the blue car pulled within sight of her house.

Jane looked up at her friends comment and noticed the large number of cars, SUV's and other vehicles parked in the Morgendorffer driveway, in front of the house and along the street. As Trent's car came to a squeaky halt before the Morgendorffers' home. All three occupants of the car looked towards the house and noted the multitude of shapes that could be seen through the front windows and the sounds of muffled music that could be heard even outside.

Daria scowled deeply as Jane opened the car door and hopped out. She brushed quickly past Jane and made a beeline to her house.

Jane leaned her head back into the car and said, "Hang tight for a minute Trent. Something tells me we might need a get-away car."

After she received a nod from her brother, Jane followed her very angry friend into the house.

Jane entered the house and came to a quick halt to prevent from running into Daria. The bespectacled girl was standing just inside the front doorway frowning deeply and surveying the large gathering of teens milling about the living room. A flash of red hair near the kitchen doorway caught Daria's attention and she began weaving her way through the gathered crowd.

Quinn excused herself from the small group of boys that had been attempting flirt with her. Any other time in any other place, she would likely have let them shower her with compliments until they were blue in the face. Tonight, however, she had no interest in small talk, much less flirting.

Quinn weaved through the throng of her classmates and entered the kitchen. Thankfully the gathered partiers seemed to have decided the living room or back yard were the best places to enjoy themselves. As result, the kitchen remained empty, with the exception of Fashion Club members and the occasional visit from Joey, Jeffie or Jaime.

Quinn entered the kitchen and pulled the sliding wooden door, recessed in doorway closed, visibly separating the kitchen room from the living room.

"Ugh," muttered Quinn aloud as she sank into one of the chairs at the kitchen table.

"Everything OK?" asked Stacy from the bar counter.

"As well as can be expected," replied the Quinn. "The boys got rid of the beer Kevin brought and are keeping the team entertained in the back yard. We still have a house full of people but at least nothing is broken... yet."

She let out a sigh, folded her arms on the table and laid her head across them.

"So far we've got things under control," she said tiredly.

"While it's all well and good that you've got things 'under control'..."

Quinn's eyes went wide at the sound of her sister's angry voice. She turned slowly to find Daria standing behind her with arms crossed and an expression that matched older girl's tone.

"The better question would be, why is there a party going on here in the first place?" finished Daria.

Jane slid the door closed behind her as Quinn began a hasty explanation of the events leading up to the impromptu party going on around them. She rolled her eyes at Quinn's rushed, and rather whiney, recounting of events.

"So if I'm hearing this right," Daria stated flatly. "Jamie told Kevin about our parents being out of town. Kevin assumed that meant we were having a party and told everyone else."

Quinn merely nodded in response.

"That is the most idiotic thing I've heard all day," remarked Daria. "But sadly it makes perfect sense if you use 'Kevin Logic'."

"'Kevin Logic', talk about an oxymoron," added Jane.

"Ox moron? Is that like, being dumb as an ox?" asked Quinn.

"No, it's when you put two ideas with opposite meanings together," answered Jane.

"Although in this case she's still right," quipped Daria. "Either way, we need to get these people out of here... now."

"But Daaaa-riaaaa," whined Quinn. "I can't just throw them out."

"Why not?" asked Daria with a raised eyebrow. "They weren't invited. There isn't even supposed to be a party. We tell them to leave. Simple solution to a simple problem."

"Ugh, you just don't get it Daria," responded Quinn indignantly.

"Yeah, Quinn can't just throw them out," added Stacy. "It would make her look like a bad hostess, and potentially ruin any chances for having another successful party later."

"And frankly," added Sandi as she and Tiffany entered the kitchen from the dining room door. "Quinn is like, still establishing herself at Lawndale. Her fledgling popularity couldn't take a hit like that."

"And we can't have that now can we?" asked Daria with her usual sarcasm. "Well if Quinn can't throw them out, then I guess it's a good thing I'm here."

And with that statement, the girl slid open the kitchen door and walked into the living room.

Jane and the fashion club members looked at each other for a moment before they also moved quickly out of the kitchen.

Daria forced her way through the press of people in the moderately sized living room.

"Excuse me," she said, in a loud monotone.

Unfortunately, her voice wasn't loud enough to carry over the din of mingling teens.

Quinn watched as her sister tried several more times to get the attention of the partiers to no avail. She beckoned to Jane standing with the Fashion Club near the kitchen door. When the taller girl finally made her way to Daria's side, Quinn saw Daria say something into Jane's ear as the artist leaned close enough to hear. Jane reached into her pocket and handed something to Daria with a disconcerting grin on her face.

'This ought to get their attention,' thought Daria with a smirk to herself.

The cacophony of discordant noise, static and barely discernable singing assaulted the ears of the gathered and immediately derailed all conversations. All eyes turned towards the stereo, and as result Daria. Jane tapped her friend's shoulder and brought her attention to the fact that the football players in the backyard had apparently come in to investigate the strange noises as well. Once satisfied that all eyes were on her, Daria pressed the stop button on the stereo system and ejected Mystik Spiral's "demo tape".

"Now that I have your attention," Daria began as she handed the tape back to Jane. "I'm sure that my sister would like to thank you for coming out. She would probably also have some sweet and genial way of letting you know that the festivities are winding down."

Daria paused for a moment to push her glasses up to a more comfortable position on her nose before continuing.

"I, however, am not my sister," continued the girl in her typical monotone as she made her way around the gathered people and opened the front door. "So I will simply say this. You weren't invited... The party is over... Get out."

Quinn smiled and waved goodbye to what appeared to be the last of her fellow students, then closed the front door and joined the other resident and invited house guests in the kitchen.

"That's everyone," announced the red head. "God, I thought they'd never leave."

"Here Quinn, have a seat," offered Joey as he pulled out one of the chairs from the kitchen table.

"Here, have a soda Quinn," offered Jeffie as he popped open a diet soda and poured it into an ice filled glass.

"How about a... ummm..." began Jamie as he frowned in the realization that the other two had again beaten him to the punch.

"They never should have been here in the first place," reminded Daria as she shook her head at the sycophantic behavior of the three boys.

"I'm just glad it didn't get rowdy. It was awesome the way you got rid of the beer Kevin brought. And how you had everything organized. And I loved the way you had the boys take care of the football team..." rambled Stacy.

"Yes Quinn," added Sandi with a silencing glare to Stacy.

"You handled the situation... adequately," the scowling brunette begrudgingly agreed.

"Break your arms patting yourselves on the back after we get this place cleaned up," stated Daria flatly as she turned back towards the open doorway to survey the cluttered living room.

The other girls followed Daria's gaze before they looked around the kitchen. Without a word they each began moving to various portions of the ground floor. Quinn walked through the kitchen and peeked into the dining room. Sandi and Tiffany continued to survey the living room (although Tiffany spent more time surveying the mirror near the front door).

The girls quickly came to the conclusion that, despite keeping the party from getting out of hand, the entire ground floor of the house was covered in empty cups, plates and other random trash.

Daria frowned at the mess the house had become.

"Man, this place is trashed," commented Jeffie idly, which drew a glare from Quinn. "Uhh, sorry Quinn."

"I've seen worse. But this is going to take a while to clean," agreed Jane.

"You guys get started down here. I'm going to check out the damage upstairs," commented Daria as she headed to and ascended the stairs.

"Hey Janey," came Trent's voice from the open front door. "You guys cool? I really need to get back in time for the second set."

"Go on and head back Trent," answered Jane. "We should be good now."

"GAHHH! What are you... GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOM!!!" came Daria's angry yell from upstairs.

"Or maybe not," Jane corrected herself.

The other girls looked up in confusion at the exclamation. For all but Quinn it was the first time they had heard Daria speak in anything other than her typical detached monotone. Their confusion was short lived as less than a minute later, a rumpled Brittany, with her shirt on backwards, and shirtless Kevin made all due haste down the stairs and out the door, nearly knocking an equally startled Trent over. Each of the girls and especially Trent couldn't help but notice the unmistakable flash of bare tanned backside as Brittany's skirt was caught for a moment by the wind as she ran to Kevin's Jeep.

"Whoa," commented Trent with a long glance back as the still shirtless Kevin gunned his Jeep's engine and quickly peeled away from the house.

"What in the..." said Jane before it clicked.

'Oh boy,' thought the raven-haired girl. 'Been nice knowing you Quinn.'

A similar thought went through the minds of the other girls as Daria literally stomped down the steps, with icy murder in her eyes.

"Daria?" Quinn hesitantly asked only to be silenced by her sister raising her hand.

"Jane..." began Daria tightly after she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Can I stay at your place tonight?"

"Uh... OK... I guess," responded Jane warily.

Without saying anything else, Daria walked out the door, down the walkway and slid back into Trent's Satellite.

Quinn looked around the house again and ran out to the battered Plymouth. She saw her sister sitting in the car with her arms crossed. The younger Morgendorffer moved to the passenger side.

"Daria, you can't stay at Jane's tonight. We have to clean up the house," Quinn insisted through the rolled down window.

"Good luck with that," replied Daria coldly staring straight ahead through the front windshield.

"But Daaaa-riaaaah," whined Quinn.

"You can whine, cry, scream and bitch all you want," remarked Daria as Jane and Trent came into her peripheral vision.

Trent opened the driver's side door and waited for his sister to slide in next to Daria before getting behind the wheel himself.

"I had every intention of helping you clean up the house. I wasn't even going to rail you too hard about it since it honestly wasn't your fault people thought there was a party here this weekend," she continued as she turned to finally face her little sister.

"But that all went out the window the moment I found the 'Walking Lobotomy' trying to oil his squeaky windup toy in my bed," the irate girl explained.

"Oh my god Daria! I am so sorry! I told everyone upstairs was off limits and just figured no one would actually try anything if they did go into your room with it being the way it is," came Quinn's hasty rambling apology.

"Never underestimate the ability of Kevin and Brittany to not care where they make out," reminded Jane.

"My only consolation is that Kevin at, least, still had his underwear on," added Daria. "Ratboy boxers in case you were curious."

"Daria! Ewwww!" complained Quinn as she scowled in disgust.

"That's a mental image that isn't going away any time soon," remarked Jane with a grimace.

"You get the mental image. I got the wide screen, high definition version," said Daria flatly.

"Needless to say, that pretty much killed any and all fleeting desire I had to help clean up your mess," she continued with a finger point to Quinn at the last statement. "So on that note, I wish you and the Fashion Club all the best luck getting the house clean enough to keep Mom from realizing there was a party here, despite her express orders to the contrary."

"But Daria, you've seen the house," whined Quinn again. "It's going to like take all of us to clean up that mess before Mom and Dad get back tomorrow."

"And this is me not giving a damn any more," replied Daria without a pause. "No punishment Mom could come up with can compare to what I just had to see. Now if you'll excuse us, Trent has another set to perform tonight, my brain has an appointment with the nearest bottle of bleach and you have a lot of cleaning to do."

Taking Daria's comment as a cue, Trent started the car's engine, shifted into gear and slowly pulled into now relatively empty street.

The yellow Volvo meandered casually down the relatively empty street on a bright Sunday morning.

"Sorry about that," stated Charles. "I forgot to restock the breakfast fare before you came over Friday."

He brought the car to a stop as the light before them turned red and turned to his friend.

"Don't worry about it, " replied Alex. "We ate takeout and delivery for two days. Why break that trend now?"

"True," agreed the freckled boy. "Besides, nothing we cooked would compare to the spread at All Things Breakfast."

"Let me borrow your phone," requested Alex.

"Sure," replied Charles as he withdrew his cell from shirt pocket and handed it over without taking his eyes off the road. "Everything cool?"

"Yeah, I planned on heading back early. Might as well see if the girls want breakfast too," Responded Alex as he dialed his house.

"Hello?" came the weary voice of Quinn after the sixth ring.

"Hey Pip," Alex replied with a smile. "I'm on the way home. Charles and I are going to stop and grab some breakfast first. Just wanted to know whether you and Dia wanted me to pick something up. "

"I want pancakes," stated Quinn sleepily.

'Quinn only eats pancakes when she's feeling down or is stressed out,' Alex thought.

"Everything OK?" Alex asked, concern clearly present in his voice.

"I'm just tired," responded Quinn. "We were up all night cleaning."

"Guess Dia and Jane are still asleep then if you guys were up all night," mused Alex aloud.

"I don't know," said Quinn with a yawn. "They ditched us last night after the party."

"Ditched you? Why would they... Wait... what party?" asked Alex as all of his sister's statement sank in.

"Umm... well... uhhh," stumbled Quinn verbally, all drowsiness gone from her voice.

"Quinn," Alex said in a chastising voice. "What party?"

He jerked the phone away from his ear as a rapid stream of unintelligible apologetic nonsense came out of the device.

"Whoa! Whoa! Quinn... breathe," the boy asserted, which ended the non-stop whiny sounds coming from the phone.

"Where are Jane and Dia now?" he asked in as calm a voice as he could muster.

"Daria left to stay at Jane's last night, so I guess they're still there," answered Quinn.

"OK, we're going to stop and pick them up, then head home," the boy said. "Someone is going to tell me what in the world is going on."

"OK," answered Quinn with a sigh. "Umm... you're still bringing pancakes right?

"I'll bring you the biggest stack of pancakes I can find OK," offer the boy in a reassuring tone.

"And strawberry syrup?" asked Quinn hesitantly.

"And strawberry syrup," affirmed Alex with a chuckle.

The bespectacled boy closed the cell and passed it back to his freckled friend.

"And what, pray tell, was that about?" asked Upchuck as he slid the phone into his shirt pocket. "I thought I heard 'party'."

"Oh you did," confirmed Alex as he rubbed the bridge of his nose under his glasses.

"Didn't your mom..." began Charles

"Yep," said Alex.

"Didn't they..." spoke the red haired boy again.

"Yep," came Alex's quick reply.

"And they had one anyway?" Upchuck asked.

"Yep," answered the auburn haired boy. "You know who to get to Howard Drive?"

"111 right?" asked Charles rhetorically.

"Well you are definitely keeping your Stalker-fu skills finely honed," commented Alex after a pause, with a raised an eyebrow at his friend.

"While the ravishing Ms. Lane would definitely be a quarry worth hunting... my knowledge of her residence is solely due to my impeccable, or rather my photographic memory," Charles responded at length. "I had to help troubleshoot the online school directory. I know everyone's address. Even the teachers."

"Ah, OK. That's only slightly less creepy," remarked Alex.

As Charles turned his Volvo to head towards the crossroad that would take them to Howard Drive a thought occurred to Alex.

"Wait a minute. The school directory includes telephone number," he commented. "Why did you ask Angie for hers Thursday?"

"My friend you have much to learn," replied the red haired teen with his customary toothy grin. "It's not about knowing a girl's number. It's about obtaining that information from directly from her. It's a matter of her demonstrating her own interest in you romantically."

"And how has that worked out for you?" asked Alex teasingly.

Charles only coughed in response, which prompted Alex to laugh aloud.

"Yeah, yeah. And how many of the lovely ladies of Lawndale have given you their numbers?" Charles fired back with a smirk.

"Not counting Jane? None," Alex admitted in defeat as they pulled up to the Lane home.

Charles glanced at his friend with a raised eyebrow.

"Be back in a few," stated Alex as he hopped out of the car and headed down the walk way towards the house, forestalling any further comment from his friend.

'Why wouldn't he count Jane?' mused Charles to himself.

"So let me get this straight," said Alex as he turned in the seat to look at Daria and Jane in the back seat of the Volvo. "Quinn 'accidentally' had a party because one of 'the Trio' told Kevin our folks were out of town, and Kevin assumed that meant party and invited everyone else in school?"

"In a nutshell? Yes," answered Daria, dressed in an over large Mystik Spiral t-shirt and a borrowed pair of Jane's sweats.

"That is the most asinine and idiotic thing I've heard all week," Alex remarked.

"We are talking about Kevin here," commented Jane, dressed similarly as to Daria, as she reached into and began rummaging around one of the bags of breakfast food.

"Makes perfect sense to me," commented Charles.

"Excuse me?" asked Alex clearly not having understood his friend's comment.

"My friend you fail to grasp the social dynamic of Lawndale High," the freckled boy stated. "Quinn is part of the popular crowd. The rules of engagement are completely different for them than it is for we mere plebes. In that stratified circle, when one's parents go out of town for 24 hours or more, there is almost a legal requirement to throw a party."

"That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard," stated Alex with a shake of his head.

"It may be dumb... but that's how it works," responded Jane between bites of French toast sticks.

"OK, I'll accept that," conceded Alex. "But that still doesn't explain why you and Dia cut out on Quinn last night. Mom is going to bury all three of us if she finds out there was a party... And I wasn't even there."

"Trust me, you don't want to know," responded Daria flatly. "Let's just say I'll never be able to look at a Ratboy comic the same again."

Alex quirked an eyebrow at his sister, then looked to Jane, who merely chuckled and silently mouthed 'I'll tell you later'.

The remainder of the short trip between the Lane and Morgendorffer residences was quiet, save for the sounds of Jane enthusiastically enjoying her 2nd helping of French toast.

"Lucy I'm home!" called Alex as he entered his house for the first time in two days. He unslung his duffel bag from his shoulder and set his set it down on the couch.

The sound of running could be heard from upstairs, and was quickly followed by the sight of a pink pajama clad Quinn rushing down the stairs.

"Pancakes!" exclaimed Quinn as she snatched the large plastic bags from her brother's hand and immediately dashed towards the kitchen.

"Good to see you too," commented Alex with a smile. "Hey Stacy. You guys have a rough night or something."

Daria, Jane and Upchuck stepped fully into the living room and noticed the brown haired girl descending the last step. She too was still clad in her pajamas and her hair, again, was in a single thick braid.

"You could say that," came Stacy's reply after a yawn, as she made her own way to the kitchen.

Alex glanced to the steps and raised an eyebrow as he wondered when the other half of the Fashion Club was going to join them. After a minute with no further signs or sounds from upstairs Alex turned to Jane and Daria.

"Someone want to tell me what in the world happened last night?" Alex asked.

"I'd love to," began Daria. "But I'm starving."

And with that, the elder Morgendorffer sister moved past her brother to join Quinn and Stacy in the kitchen.

The girls had plates of pancakes with bottles of maple and strawberry syrup before them. While Jane simply cut her pancakes into quarters to be stuffed into her mouth, Quinn carefully cut her pancake into neat bite sized pieces. Daria didn't bother pre-sectioning her pancakes, and simply used her fork to make triangular pieces that she immediately ate as soon as they were cut.

Alex merely sat in his place at the table with an untouched plate of scrambled eggs and bacon before him. His only action was to blink in disbelief as Jane and Stacy finished their alternating retelling the events that lead to the party and the events that followed its end.

Upchuck was recovering from nearly choking on his orange juice. He had been drinking when Stacy got to the point of explaining Brittany's special exit performance. Several comments came to mind, but instead of voicing them he chose to resume sipping his juice, albeit more slowly this time.

With a slow blink and quick shake of his head, Alex picked up his dropped fork and speared a fluffy chunk of scrambled egg.

"Well that definitely explains Dia and Jane. But where are Sandi and Tiffany?" began Alex as he resumed eating his own breakfast.

"Well as soon as Daria and Jane left, Sandi left too," responded Stacy. "She made some lame excuse about needing to be back home early for church in the morning. Which I didn't buy for a minute because her family always attends afternoon services on Sundays. And since she was our ride, Tiffany left too."

Stacy then stopped eating and simply glanced around nervously before she added, "Not that her excuse was lame or anything, just unusual... Please don't tell her I called her lame! Oh god you're going to tell her aren't you?!"

'For the love of...' thought Jane, disgusted at Stacy's unwarranted blubbering.

"Calm down Stacy," soothed Alex as he noticed the girl appeared to be on the verge of hyperventilating, sobbing or both.

"Staaaaaaa-cy, relax," drawled Quinn as she finished chewing and swallowing a mouthful of pancake. "No one's going to tell Sandi anything. Besides, I wouldn't have been able to get the house clean without you," the red head added with a reassuring pat to Stacy's shoulder.

"I just couldn't leave you to clean it all up by yourself Quinn," stated Stacy once she had calmed sufficiently down.

"That was nice of you Stacy," added Alex casually as he rummaged in the food bags for more butter.

Stacy blushed at the thanks but quickly covered it up by digging into her stack of pancakes.

"And on that note I have something to take care of," commented Daria cryptically as she stood up and exited the kitchen.

Everyone watched Daria leave the kitchen before they resumed conversing.

"At least Joey, Jeffie and Jorel stuck around," remarked Quinn as she began finished the last bite of her pancake.

"Oh please," interjected Jane around her current mouthful of food. "As if your puppy pack would abandon you in your time of need. I bet they were practically fighting each other to see who could pick up the most trash."

"It was their fault people thought we were having a party in the first place. It was only fair that they help clean up the mess," responded Quinn with a smile as she slid another pancake onto her plate and covered it with thick red tinted strawberry syrup.

"Slow down there princess," commented Jane as she watched Quinn dig into her second pancake. "Isn't it against like twenty or so Fashion Club bylaws or whatever to have a second helping of food?"

"For your information, these are whole grain pancakes and low fat syrup... Besides pancake calories don't count," replied Quinn with a smile.

"Aren't you afraid tarnishing your image when the school finds out that the magic Quinn is an uncontrollable pancake junkie?" asked Jane teasingly.

"Oh puh-lease," stated Quinn with a dismissive wave of her hand. "How many pancakes is that for you?"

"How many miles do you run in the average week again?" retorted Jane as she speared another quarter of a pancake and swirled it in the syrup on her plate. "And I'll have you know I like the tarnish on my image. It adds a touch of color."

"Besides, its not like there's anyone here that would say anything," stated Quinn.

Everyone paused at Quinn's last comment and turned to look towards Stacy. To their surprise the brown haired girl looked up from her plate, which held stack of four syrup-drenched pancakes. She then looked at the others staring at her, and issued a food muffled "What?"

Alex and Jane laughed aloud, Upchuck chuckled quietly and even Quinn giggled at Stacy. Stacy smiled as well as she could with her mouth stuffed with pancake.

The laughter was cut short as Daria entered the kitchen, dressed in her usual skirt and jacket ensemble. She walked casually through the room, dragging her bed sheets behind her. Without a word, the bespectacled girl continued to walk past the gathered group and out the back door. Everyone looked at each other in confusion for a moment before she returned and began rummaging through the cabinets and drawers before exiting the back door again with a large box of stick matches and bottle of lighter fluid in her hands. The gathered group turned and through the window, watched as Daria set the matches and bottle down then dragged her bedding over to the concrete slab that held her father's large outdoor grill. She struggled for a moment to remove the cooking grate and set it down on the slab before she stuffed her sheets into the grill itself.

"She's not going to," began Alex as he and the others watched his sister retrieve the lighter fluid and use it to spray the bedding inside the grill thoroughly.

As if in response, Daria took a few steps back, picked up the matches from the ground, struck three of them and tossed the burning wooden sticks into the grill. An audible 'Whoosh' could be heard even inside as the flammable liquid soaked cotton sheets burst into flames.

After watching the flames for a few seconds to ensure, the grill kept them contained, Daria returned to the house. Alex was about to say something to his twin, but the girl continued to walk through the kitchen. Her footsteps could be heard again climbing the stairs, and a few minutes later she returned to the kitchen.

Again Alex was about to speak but the sight of Daria holding a ruler with a pair of pink panties with bunnies on the end of it forestalled his question. As before, Daria made no comment and simply walked back out of the back door towards the flaming grill. She flipped the brightly colored undergarment into the flame and crossed her arms as she watched the fire.

Alex, Daria, Jane and Upchuck stood in the bedding section of Lawndale's Mega-Lo-Mart. Daria and Jane stood beside a shopping cart holding a different color of plastic packaged sheet set in each of their hands.

"Next time we do this at your house," Daria said to Jane as she tossed the vacuum-sealed bundle of lavender bed linen into the shopping cart. After a moment's pause, she tossed the beige set that matched her original top sheet into the cart and had Jane add the black and blue set to the cart as well.

"Cool," said Jane around a mouthful of cocktail weenies and processed cheese swiped from the tray of free samples. "And since you were kind enough to offer me your brother's oh so comfy bed, I guess that means I have to return the favor. So you get to sleep in my brother's bed."

Daria began to blush almost neon red at the comment and scowled at her friend before she said, "I hate you."

"Your brother?" asked Upchuck. "The one in the rock band?"

"The one and same," replied Jane.

'Well, well, well. Looks like the lovely Ms. Morgendorffer has a weakness for would be rock stars,' mused Upchuck as he noticed the deep blush on Daria's embarrassed face.

"What is it with girls and musicians?" asked Upchuck aloud as he turned to Alex.

"No clue," responded Alex after swallowing. "Probably the leather pants."

"I'll be sure to tell Trent to wear his leathers next time we go see Spiral play," teased Jane, which drew an even icier glare from Daria.

Alex chuckled lightly as he popped another cheese covered mini hotdog of his own into his mouth.

"Of course, since I got to sleep in Alex's bed, he'll naturally have to sleep in mine next time," continued the raven-haired girl.

Alex merely chuckled at the statement and his sister's embarrassment.

"But don't worry, there's enough room for us both," continued Jane with a grin and a wink at the boy.

Alex's eyes went wide and he began coughing profusely trying to dislodge the bite-sized hotdog he had just inhaled at hearing the artist's comment.

'No clue my ass,' thought Upchuck with a smirk.

"Man you two are just too easy," said Jane as she laughed freely at Alex and Daria's reactions and continued to walk down the aisle of the store, with two very embarrassed, blushing (and in one case, choking) twins looking after her.

"Feisty!" said Upchuck with a grin towards the retreating Jane before he moved to check on his choking friend.


I never intended to put out an installment with this much purely original content this soon in the series. However, I've never been a big fan of episode 3 of the series, outside of the daydream sequences (which I felt weren't really necessary here). It didn't really do anything for the character development or come across as anything more than moderately humorous filler. That always struck me as unusual for such an early episode of a series. It probably wouldn't have been quite so misplaced had it been placed in a later season, but as the 3rd episode of the series it stands out to me. And not in a good way.

Some dialog from: College Bored by Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil

For those interested I'm using Steven Galloway's layout of the Morgendorffers' house found

The only difference from that layout, being the additional door from the living room to the garage (next to the living room closet below the stairs).