This story is dedicated to the memory of that most seminal of American sitcoms - the 1950s series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". Compared to the pablum that was its contemporary competition, Dobie, at its best, was a breath of fresh air. Quirky, irreverent and forward-looking where the others were nostalgic and dated, even for their time, Dobie was a true precursor of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle, and the other more intelligent comedies that were to follow it half a century later - including, of course, the greatest of them all, Daria. And so, gentle reader, we present our tribute, entitled:

The Many Loves of Thalia Gillis

By Milderbeast and Deref

Maybe, baby, I'll have you
Maybe, baby, you'll be true
Maybe, baby, I'll have you for me
It's funny, honey, you don't care
You never listen to my prayer
Maybe, baby, you will love me someday

"Maybe Baby" by Buddy Holly

Travel with us now to the far-off community of Lawndale, where the pure suburban air is untainted by the foul smell of reason. Green trees, green lawns, and green envy exist here in the perfect bliss of the American dream come true. But all is not well here in the land of barbecue grills....follow us down the eternally calm sidewalks (careful-don't step in that!) to the Village Green, where a beautiful young woman can be seen sitting beneath a statue of Rodin's "The Thinker", striking a pose not unlike the statue itself. Let her be your guide as she speaks to you, and beckons you to enter into this, the strangest of strange tales.....

"You know, it's not that I mind being gorgeous, but I really just don't get it. I mean, sure, I expect to get unwanted attention from dorks like Kevin Thompson, but I just can't seem to attract the one person I want. Alright. I admit it. It probably would be easier if I weren't attracted to girls. That still doesn't make it fair."

"But I digress. You must know, therefore, that my name is Thalia Gillis. I am seventeen years old, and the most recent arrival to this, the greenest of green hells. Mom decided to re-locate here, and I accept no responsibility for that decision. She was kind enough to ask my opinion on the matter, but not quite kind enough to listen to it."

"On the other hand, to a narcissist like me, one hellhole is the same as the next. I was a pretty, smart, sarcastic outcast before, and plan on continuing that fine tradition here in Yuppieville. Few people seem to be able to accept fellow humans of different sexual orientations, regardless of location. I have often heard that I am making a dreadfully wrong choice in this matter; if I would just give men a chance, I could then become another cheerful, mouth-breathing breeder for the state. But I've always known exactly who and what I am, and no one can convince me that I have consciously chosen to be an aberration to followers of the great cosmic punishment dispenser."

"And yet, I still manage to trip over my own tongue on a regular basis, experience humiliation repeatedly, and allow my fellow humans to steer me in obtuse directions."

"I am, in short, a typical teenager."

Anthony DeMartino was stalking his prey. Today, there was a new student in his class. He smirked, marshalling his forces for his standard attack, hoping to catch the young woman off guard.

"Ahem. Students, TODAY, we have a new STUDENT in our class. Miss Thalia Gillis, please stand up."

The young woman in question looked askance at the teacher. Who in their right mind would try to consciously embarrass a newcomer like this? She rose warily from her desk, and faced the strange man who seemed to be anticipating some sort of reaction from her. She allowed no trace of fear to reveal itself on her face, choosing instead to look him right in the eyes, one of which seemed to bulge periodically.

"Miss Gillis, perhaps you would think it UNFAIR of me to single you out on your first DAY at our illustrious SCHOOL? But surely there's nothing WRONG with a simple HISTORY question, seeing as how this is History CLASS?"

Thalia's eyes narrowed. Whatever he was up to, she wasn't going to be intimidated. To her left, she heard a small sigh, followed by a slight chuckle. She glanced briefly to her left at the two girls from whom the sounds emanated, and saw that they weren't being snotty; indeed, they looked at her with something approaching sympathy. The one with the earrings was really cute, too. She made a mental note to speak to them later, and shifted her gaze back to DeMartino, who was still looking at her with mad glee in his eye(s).

"Fire away, Popeye," she said. The whole class gasped collectively, with the exception of two barely stifled laughs from the same two girls. DeMartino's cruel smile turned into a slightly stunned look, and he seemed to be caught momentarily speechless.

"What did you say?" he said quietly upon recovering.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm still new here. What was your name again?" Thalia asked, sweetly smiling.

DeMartino's expression changed to an angry one, his eyes gleaming with a ravenous light. He slowly inched toward her, his face twitching.

"It's MISTER DeMartino, young lady, and don't you FORGET it. The question IS: what were the two primary reasons for the PERSIAN GULF conflict known as Desert Storm?"

Thalia thought for a moment, and said, "Oil and money," and sat back down.

"Would you care to EXPAND upon your answer, Miss Gillis?" DeMartino said, not satisfied.

"Sure," said Thalia. "The United States, having loaned Iraq billions of dollars through the Kuwaiti banks, called all the notes due in one day, in hopes of de-stabilizing the government of Saddam Hussein and removing him from power. In addition, the U.S. oil companies were ready to begin a series of experiments in diagonal drilling from Kuwait, literally sucking the oil out from under him. Hussein decided to use his military war machine, supplied by the U.S. during the war with Iran, to invade Kuwait and control their banks himself, and put a stop to the experiments."

DeMartino looked dumbstruck. Thalia turned to the two girls, and smirked. They smirked back, and Thalia was fairly certain she had made at least two friends almost immediately. The one with the dark hair and the earrings certainly had her attention.

After class, Thalia went to her locker and placed her books inside of it. She removed several art pads and assorted pens, pencils, and markers, and placed them in her black backpack. Slamming the door, she saw the same two girls a few lockers away. They appeared to be sizing her up, spoke to one another briefly, and walked towards her. The raven-haired beauty spoke first.

"Helluva first impression you made on ol' Mr. D. He'll either ask you twenty more questions every day, or split his questions between you and Daria." She indicated the short, auburn-haired girl next to her. Thalia thought she was attractive too, in a get-the-hell-away-from-me kind of way. "Either way, I won't have to do any homework for the rest of the school year now. Thanks!" The girl grinned at Thalia, and Thalia felt her heart skip a few beats.

"That'll be a real big change for you, Jane," the smaller girl said. "Of course, now I'll have to find an alternate source of income to make up for the loss of your business. Perhaps the new girl here would be interested in an arrangement?"

"I could do yours for a small fee, I suppose. But I get a percentage of any franchising agreements to let football players copy it after that," Thalia said.

A tiny smile appeared on the diminutive girl's visage. She turned to the taller one.

"She's good. Smart and good-looking. She'll be the most popular outcast in the history of Lawndale High. Especially if she gives DeMartino another heart attack."

"I wanna see what she does to Mr. O'Neill. Twenty says he's hiding under the desk before the period's halfway over," said Jane.

"Double or nothing it doesn't take that long," said Daria.

Thalia grinned. These two had a mean streak. She liked that.

"Tell you what. For thirty, I'll break him during the introduction to the class, if that's the standard procedure for humiliating new students around here. We can have a free period, and you two can fill me in on who's who," she offered.

"Sounds great!" said Jane. "I'm Jane Lane, and the mercenary mistress here is Daria Morgendorffer."

"I'm Thalia Gillis, internationally known thrill-seeker and teacher tormentor." She offered her hand to Jane, who shook it.

A jolt of pure electrical lust coursed through Thalia's body upon contact with Jane's hand. She had the prettiest blue eyes Thalia thought she'd ever seen, sparkling and alive with mirth.

"Charmed, I'm sure," Thalia said, with a bit more sincerity than she'd intended.

Daria, observant and collected as usual, thought to herself: A girl with a "difference". Have to point that out to Jane, if she doesn't figure it out for herself. This could get messy, if I don't act fast.

Daria did just that, grabbing Thalia's hand away from Jane's with a jerk.

Uh-oh. Jealous type. I wonder if these two... thought Thalia.

"We'd better be getting to art class before the bell rings," said Daria."If Ms. Li catches us in the halls without permission, it'll be the stocks for us again." Daria disengaged herself from Thalia, and pulled Jane's arm in the direction of the art room.

"Hey! Take it easy, Daria, she doesn't use the whips unless you're caught skipping off-campus!" Jane laughed.

"I've got art next, too. I'll come with you," said Thalia.

Fabulous, thought Daria, sarcastically.

The three stood at easels in the art room, with Daria deliberately between the two other girls. Thalia was painting a large clown with one hideously bulging eye. Daria was painting a human liver. Jane was painting a picture of Mr. O'Neill cowering before a whip-wielding Ms. Barch, with Angela Li shouting instructions through a bullhorn. They were all wearing bondage gear, with a large red ball-gag in O'Neill's mouth.

"She's good," Thalia said, peering around Daria to see Jane's painting. "They won't let her display it here, will they?"

"No, Miss DeFoe will give her an "A", as long as she covers it and takes it home with her," Daria said, with a barely perceptible twinge in her voice.

"Daria," Thalia said sharply, but quietly. "I'm not trying to steal her away from you. If the two of you have an arrangement..."

Daria abruptly placed her brush down. "Come with me," she said to Thalia, and then turned to Jane. "We're going out for a bit. Be right back," she said.

"Mmm-hmm," said Jane, "black no sugar for me." Daria rolled her eyes, Jane was in the throes of the muse, and as oblivious as her brother. She strode to Miss DeFoe's desk.

Thalia followed her, and the two stopped in front of Miss DeFoe. She looked up from the catalog she was ordering supplies from, and smiled at the girls.

"Hello, Daria, Thalia. What is it?" she said pleasantly.

"Um, I need more paint from the supply room. For my liver. My picture. I ran out. Can we have a hall pass to go get some?" Daria asked.

Amateur, thought Thalia.

"Of course, but I don't think it'll take both of you, do you?" DeFoe said.

"Umm..." said Daria.

"Daria's too short to reach the high shelves, Miss DeFoe. I might need to give her a boost, if it's up way high," offered Thalia.

Amateur, thought Daria, but she's quick, I'll admit that. Better than 'Umm" by a long shot.

DeFoe scribbled her signature and the girls' names on a pass. "Whatever it is, I don't want to know. No fire alarms, no smoking, and no bloody crime scene. Fair enough?" She offered the pass and a key to Daria.

"Um, thanks, Miss DeFoe. It won't take long," Daria said, taking the pass and key. She and Thalia exited the class, and Thalia started to talk as soon as the door was shut.

"Daria, you don't have to...." Daria cut her off with a quick stopping motion of her hand. She pointed to a security camera on the wall. Thalia got the hint, they were being watched and listened to. She fell silent.

Daria opened the storeroom door with the key, and the two slipped inside. She said, "It should be okay to talk in here. Jane and I come in here regularly to try and start rumors about the faculty's secret lives, and not one of them has got back to Miss Li yet."

"I could tell by the smooth way you handled the getaway," smirked Thalia.

"I usually don't have to. Jane's got her own key, we duck in here sometimes to escape the madness of school life. One of the perks of being Miss DeFoe's favorite student."

"I can see why. She's very talented."

"She's more than that, to me," said Daria. Thalia started to speak, and Daria held up her hand. "No, it's not like that. She is the best friend I've ever had., I'm closer to her than my own family, but we're just friends, in spite of the rumors you will undoubtedly hear about us. You', that way...right?"

"The word is gay, or to be gender specific, lesbian. Yes, I am, as a matter of fact." Thalia studied Daria's face for signs of repulsion, but saw only a slight discomfort. "If you have some sort of problem with that, we can part ways amicably right now. Wouldn't want you to get caught in the supply room with me and start some new rumors."

"No, that's not the issue," said Daria. ", preferences, that area, are strictly your own business. In fact, I'm impressed that you can be so open and honest with someone you just met. That takes more than a little courage and self-confidence." Daria blushed slightly. "Qualities that I...admire."

"Thank you, Daria. It's refreshing to meet someone so open-minded"

"I'm sure Jane will feel the same way, but she may have some other issues about it. You see...." Daria told Thalia what Jane had shared with her about the incident with Allison at the art colony.

"That sucks," Thalia commented when Daria was through. "Predatory behavior like that is just plain wrong, whatever sex you are. People either have an interest in someone, or they don't. No one should be subjected to that kind of harassment."

"I'm glad you feel that way. As far as I know, Jane is straight. So am I. You shouldn't hide who you are, but you may want to keep your attraction to her private until she knows you better."

Thalia considered this, and realized Daria was right. If something was meant to happen, it would happen naturally. Until then, it would have to be her secret, an unrequited love/lust that might offend and repel its object. She didn't want that; if there was going to be a chance for them, she'd have to keep her feelings to herself.

"If she asks me if I'm gay, I'll tell her. If she asks me if I find her attractive, I'll tell her," Thalia said .

Daria nodded. "That's fair. And if it doesn't come up?"

Thalia sighed. "I wouldn't want to frighten her away. I promise not to bring it up. Okay?"

"Good decision. I won't bring it up, either."

Thalia smiled slightly. "Jane's lucky to have a friend like you. Now that you know the depths of my torment, we'll have to be friends, too. Otherwise, I'd have to kill you."

Daria smirked back. "I'm a writer, with a lawyer for a mother. As soon as I get home, I'll write down everything and have her mail it to Jane upon my untimely demise."

"Guess it's pistols at three o'clock in the playground, then."

"Lawndale High doesn't have a playground. The teeter-totters would distract the football team from practicing."

"Damn. Guess we'll have to trust each other, then."

"Damn. That sucks as bad as unrequited love," Daria's smirk broadened.

"Very funny," said Thalia. An evil grin played on her face. "We'd better get going. Come out of the closet with me, Daria."

"Oh, shut up."

The scene is the art class. Thalia is standing facing us. We can see Jane painting in the background. Daria approaches her and speaks, but Jane seems not to hear. Daria looks at her, puzzled. Thalia addresses us.

"Just look at her. The most beautiful creature for yards around, and I can't even ask her out. Except as a friend. Life can be so cruel."

We can see Daria waving a hand in front of Jane's face. She does not respond.

"But I know, Daria's absolutely right, Jane's got to know me as a person, then she's got to be comfortable enough with me to know the truth, and then maybe, just maybe..."

Daria walks up to Thalia. "Who are you talking to?"

"Daria! It's an interlude, like in a Eugene O'Neill play."

"Oh. I thought we were invisible or something. Can I go hit Kevin?"

"No! We can't interact with the players! Only the audience can hear us."

Daria shields her eyes with her hand. "Um, is there a doctor in the house? How do you like the show so far, doc?"

"You know what, Daria? You can go hit Kevin if you want to."

Daria grins wickedly and goes off in search of a heavy object.

"It's great to have made such good friends right away. Living here might be tolerable after all, in spite of the object of my affections being unavailable.".

Daria can be seen in the background, walking across the classroom and carrying a two-by-four.

"It's amazing that Daria's so accepting of the situation," says Thalia. "I can see that she's a good person to have on my side, because I'd hate to have her as an enemy."

A loud "CRACK" echoes through the room.

"And I suppose I can keep my feelings to myself. It's the right thing to do, out of simple consideration for Jane's feelings."

Daria can be seen walking back the other direction, with the wood in two pieces.

"It's just so damned frustrating, though. She's right there, close enough to touch, everything I've ever wanted in a woman. Smart, talented, witty, and oh so beautiful. A goddess in human form, walking the earth like a fairy from a bygone era..."

Daria walks back the other way, carrying a fire extinguisher.


The bell rang, and the students slowly began filing into the hallway. Jane, however, remained at her easel, applying paints to her canvas in a deliberate manner. Daria and Thalia gathered their backpacks and stood nearby.

"Um, Jane? We've gotta go now. It's time for study hall," said Daria.

"Mm-kay, I'll have a number four, with a vanilla shake," mumbled Jane. Thalia put her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.

Daria rolled her eyes. "Miss DeFoe? Jane's been hijacked again. Could you give me an excused absence to get her out of study hall today?"

Miss DeFoe smirked and reached into her desk, her hand returning with a pre-written note for Jane. She signed it and handed it to Daria, who pocketed it and headed for the door. "Come on, Thalia," Daria said, "she'll be back to us sooner or later."

Thalia risked a small, longing last look at Jane, and they exited. They walked down the hall towards their respective lockers, where two figures were standing near Thalia's. One was a cheerleader, judging by her outfit, and the other must have been a football player, because he was wearing his entire uniform, complete with pads. He was holding his head in his hands, and wincing.

"Who are they?" Thalia asked.

"Just some of the local wildlife," Daria replied. "Be glad it's not mating season. The vacant-looking one is Brittany, and the vacuous-looking one is Kevin."

"Well," Thalia said dryly, "thanks for clearing that up for me." Daria smirked and walked to her locker. Thalia stopped within a few steps of Kevin and Brittany.

"Oh Kevvey!" squeaked Brittany. "What's the matter with your head?"

From her locker on the other side Daria said, "That one's just too easy, even for me."

"I dunno, babe," said Kevin, "it hurts really bad. Could you, like, go to that nurse lady and get me a Tidy-bowl or something?"

"Strangely appropriate," Thalia said.

Brittany stroked Kevin's chest with a fingertip. "Is there anything nurse Brittany can do for you?"

"Put him to sleep," suggested Daria.

"Ow, the pain!" cried Kevin. "I think it might be a tuber! You'd better go get me something quick, babe!"

Brittany squealed and scampered down the hall to the nurses' office. Kevin tilted his head to watch her go, and as soon as she was out of sight, he turned and smiled at Thalia.

"Hey, new babe! I'm the QB! Did you see the way I sent Britt off on some wild snipe chase? Now you can talk to me!" Kevin grinned.

"That's the most nauseating proposition I've had all week," mumbled Thalia.

"Cool!" said Kevin. "You're pretty hot, too. We'll look good together!"

Thalia's eyes narrowed. "Listen, you sub-moronic Neanderthal, did it ever occur to you that I might not be interested?"

Daria allowed herself a small smirk of admiration. Her own approach tended to be more subtle, but she had to admit that Thalia had style. And, she thought, while technically Thalia had been about as subtle as a hit on the head with a two-by-four, Kevin remained similarly insensate and, while he was confused by the first part of her question, he picked up on the second.

"But all the hot chicks wanna be with football players," he said, "especially me! I'm the QB! And you're a hot chick! It's, like, density or something!"

Daria closed her locker, and turned to see if she could rescue Thalia from Kevin's onslaught. She saw Upchuck wander up from the other side, leering at Thalia.

"And what have we here?" said Upchuck. "A lovely maiden from the far-off lands beyond our humble Lawndale? Surely, we are blessed to have such pulchritude in our midst!"

"Back off, Chuckup," warned Kevin, "I saw her first."

"Ah, but what would the fair Brittany have to say about such a violation of her trust?" Upchuck inquired.

"Can I just get to my locker, please?" asked Thalia.

Daria felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see that Sandi Griffin had come up behind her.

"Like, Quinn's maid or whatever? Could you, like, tell the new girl that although her appearance and clothes are quite fashionable, it is unacceptable for her to, like, hit on football players her first day?" Sandi said, condescendingly.

"She hasn't hit him....yet," said Daria.

"Hey, the new babe gets to be my babe whenever Britt's not here being my babe!" declared Kevin.

"Surely such a comely young lady can make her own choice about which suitor to ensnare in her web of ecstasy?" asked Upchuck.

Thalia balled her hands into fists.

"It is also, like, very bad for one's popularity to be seen talking to Upchuck," said Sandi.

"Not to mention one's digestion," said Daria. She noticed that Quinn had crept up to within listening distance of the entire scene, most likely to insure that Daria didn't say anything embarrassing to Sandi.

"Hey," said Kevin, "I don't have to wear a suit or use any of those Grape Ape drugs to get a babe. I'm the QB!"

"Listen not to the inane ramblings of our illustrious quarterback, my dear," said Upchuck, "and allow me to show you to new heights of sheer pleasure!"

"Will you two please just SHUT UP!" Thalia exploded. "I'm not interested in either of you idiots! I'm GAY! I like to go out with GIRLS! Got that?"

The entire group uttered a collective "Eep!", except for Daria, who squeezed her eyes shut and put a hand on her forehead in exasperation. Thalia shoved Kevin aside roughly and opened her locker, angrily shuffling books into and out of her backpack.

"Um, I'd better go find Britt," said Kevin, and bolted down the hall. Upchuck raised an eyebrow, and walked the other direction in silence. Quinn appeared wide-eyed, and ambled nervously away. Only Sandi remained, her composure quickly regained. She stepped forward to speak to Thalia.

"Is that, like, an attempt to be fashionable, or something? It is very in, since that "Gay Eye For The Not-Gay Guy" show started up," Sandi said.

Thalia slammed her locker door, and whirled around to Sandi. "No, it is not," Thalia snarled, her voice suddenly mocking Sandi's, "an attempt to be fashionable. Unlike you, I'm not a mindless slave to trends and styles. I use my head for more than a make-up display dummy. Excuse me." She brushed roughly past Sandi, and stomped away. Daria smirked at Sandi, and hurried to catch up to Thalia.

Sandi's eyes narrowed, and her features tightened. How dare geek talk to ME like that! she thought. She will pay for that. Oh yes.

"Um, Thalia?" Daria asked. "You do realize you just outed yourself to the biggest gossip in the school, don't you?"

"So what?" Thalia grumbled. "I'm not going to hide who I am, Daria." She suddenly halted in mid-stride. "Oh crap. Jane." Her head slumped slightly.

Daria stopped also, and thought for a moment. "Well," she finally said, "don't worry too much about that. Jane doesn't exactly move in those circles anyway."

"I'm getting a headache," said Thalia.

"Want me to get you a Tidy-bowl?" smirked Daria.

"Oh, shut up."

"...And so, like, I told that girl we wouldn't even consider such a crass and rude person for membership. And, like, she got all huffy and ran off with Quinn's au pair girl to, like, make out or something," Sandi said, haughtily.

The Fashion Club, sitting at their usual table in the lunchroom, nibbled at their salads. Quinn's plate was hardly disturbed.

Quinn frowned. "Daria's not gay, Sandi," she intoned, seriously, "she's dating that Tom guy."

"Hmph," Sandi snorted, "Oh, Quinn, you're so naive. That could be, like, her cover, so she doesn't get deported back to, like, the Geek Islands, or wherever."

Quinn looked daggers at Sandi.

"Buuut," Tiffany drawled, "sheee dooeesn't neeed too coveeeerr it uuup, Saaandii. Beeeing gaaay iis reeeaally faaasshoooinaaable riiiight noowww."

"But Tiffany," Stacy interjected, "that President Tree guy says that it should be unconstipational."

"Sta-ceee," said Sandi, "that is so, like, retro-thinking, or whatever."

"Sorry!" cried Stacy. Quinn's eyes narrowed.

"Sandi, Stacy has a perfect right to her own opinion," Quinn stated.

"Gee, Quinn, since you're like, so up on politics, or whatever, maybe you should be the President of the Fashion Club," Sandi said.

"I'm just saying..." Quinn started to say, when Tiffany interrupted her.

"Gaaay peeeople piiick theee beeest cloooothes.....aaand theeey neeeveeer looook faaaat," Tiffany declared.

"That's a really good point, Tiffany dear," said Sandi. Quinn's gaze went back to her plate.

"It's releveeent," Tiffany said.

"Exactly," said Sandi. She could see that Quinn was upset by the conversation. Like, wait until she hears this, Sandi thought. "Perhaps we of the Fashion Club should, like, take the lead, or whatever, in the alternative lifestyles department."

Quinn's head snapped up. "What?" she asked.

Sandi grinned an evil grin. "As President of the Fashion Club, I hereby declare that I will start dating women." How's that grab you, you red-headed little ape girl?

"Maaaybee I shoouuld beee a leesbiaaan, tooo," Tiffany said.

"Oh my gosh, I think I'm gay!" cried Stacy, her eyes wide.

Quinn looked as if she might throw up. Sandi smirked, and continued.

"And, like, think of the benefits. No more crappy "guy" gifts. Women will, like, give us the tasteful gifts we deserve," she said.

"Yeeaaah...." Tiffany said, "buuuut whoooo shoouuuld weee daaaate?" She glanced around the room, searching for someone suitable. Her eyes met Stacy's, and paused.

"We shall discuss appropriate dating partners at our next meeting," Sandi said. Abruptly, she frowned and clutched at her stomach. "Ungh, I, like, shouldn't have had two whole prunes for breakfast. Excuse me, please." Sandi rose, and headed for the bathroom. Quinn watched her leave, a worried look on her face.

At another table, Daria sat beside Jane with Thalia opposite them. Jane held a burrito in her hands.

"Ah, is there anything quite so lovely as Mexi-Monday in the cafeteria?" she asked.

"Tuesday toilet time," muttered Daria, warily eying her own plate.

"A small price to pay for the joys of fine international cuisine," said Jane. She stuffed her burrito in her mouth, took a huge bite, and chewed.

"You know," said Thalia, "most of what we Americans think of as Mexican food was developed by immigrant restauranteurs, specifically to appeal to our palates."

"Blasphemer!" cried Jane, in mock irritation. She covered her plate with her free hand. "Don't listen to her, my little nachoritos, we all know you're really Mexican!"

"Did I ever tell you about Jane's, um..."special relationship" with her food?" Daria said to Thalia. Jane leaned forward and tilted an ear at her plate, as if listening intently. She nodded and looked back at Thalia.

"The nachos forgive you, but the refried beans are quite insulted," Jane said. "And as for Mister Burrito here..." Jane stuffed the remains of her burrito into her mouth.

Thalia grinned, entranced by Jane's notion of a sentient lunch. Her art might be her life, Thalia thought, but her life is also her art.

Daria rolled her eyes, and said, "I'm more concerned with what Mr. Burrito will say later on. I've gotta sit next to her in O'Neill's class."

Jane grinned wickedly and stuffed a spoonful of refried beans in her mouth. Daria glared at her.

And Daria just sits there and takes it all in, like the hero in some neverending Jacques Tati film, thought Thalia. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the red-haired boy who had accosted her earlier approaching their table, a lecherous grin on his face. And now, a guest appearance by Jerry Lewis, she thought.

"Ah, three of Lawndale's loveliest ladies," Upchuck said upon arrival, "enjoying a delightful repast together. Truly, this is a feast for mine eyes." He fixed his gaze upon Thalia. "And you, Miss Gillis! Your admission earlier today was quite the spectacle, indeed. Fear not, my darling damsel, for but one night of bliss with the Chuckmeister will cure you of this unhappy and unnatural state!" Thalia felt like she might faint.

"Upchuck, get out of here," Daria grumbled, "or I will take this.." She held up her butter knife. "...and put an end to your nights of bliss permanently." Upchuck's eyes grew wide, and he slunk away with a small "Feisty!" escaping his lips.

Jane watched him leave with a grin on her face. "What sort of twisted tale," she said, indicating Thalia, "did you fill his pathetic little head with?"

Thalia was caught unawares, horrified to have Jane asking about the incident in the hall. Daria came to her rescue for the second time in as many minutes.

"She told him she was frigid, Jane, but it still didn't stop hormone boy. I think he'd hit on a department store dummy if he thought it wouldn't slap him, too," Daria said. Thalia shot her a grateful look, which Daria acknowledged with a barely perceptible nod.

"Heh," chuckled Jane, "I heard they won't let him into the mall anymore 'cause he was checking out the lingerie shop dummies; most of those don't even have arms or heads, for cryin' out loud. But they couldn't slap him, so..."

"His ideal woman, no doubt," Daria said. Thalia remained silent; the stresses and strains of the day were beginning to catch up with her. She let out a sigh, and arose from her chair.

"I need to use the facilities," Thalia announced. She looked around, confused. "Uh...where are they?"

"I'll show you," Daria offered, and got up as well. "We'll be right back, Jane. Don't let your lunch talk you into anything while we're gone."

"The nachos wanna know if I can have your burrito, Daria," Jane said.

"I'm asking O'Neill for a library pass today, Lane. Seriously." Daria and Thalia walked to the exit, while Jane helped herself to Daria's burrito.

"Aw, don't cry Mrs. Burrito. Let's go visit your husband, shall we?"

Daria and Thalia entered the girl's bathroom, and Thalia headed to the sink. Daria had suspected she didn't need to use the facilities, but rather to vent and release tension. Thalia turned on the faucet and splashed cold water onto her face, letting her hands rest over her eyes when she'd finished.

"I can't keep this up, Daria. I just can't. I can deceive the deserving easily enough, but lying to someone like just feels so wrong, you know?"

"Believe me, I know," said Daria. "But it's for the best. If you told her how you feel right now, she might pull away from both of us. I don't want that to happen, and I'm sure you don't either."

Thalia uncovered her face and sighed, her head slumping downward as she stared at the sink. "I can't keep this up much longer. Even if she rejects me completely, I need to be honest with her. I can't help it, it's my nature, I guess," Thalia said, dejectedly.

Daria sighed as well. It had certainly been an eventful day, and the damned thing was only half over. She liked Thalia, but she felt that her first loyalty was to protect Jane's feelings, even if she had no clue what they might be. Jane liked guys; she knew that, and wanted to tell Thalia to give it up and move on. But she also knew Thalia had a right to feel and express what she felt. And who knew for certain what might happen? Jane was certainly an adventurous person, and Daria wanted her to be happy more than anything else. And ever since "the Tom thing", as they had come to refer to the incidents this past summer, Daria was still feeling some residual guilt over the pain she had unintentionally caused her best friend. Maybe Thalia had the answer, maybe things could work out, maybe....maybe, maybe maybe. Daria hated maybes; she liked sure things. And the only path to sure things was the truth. That was her nature, so she understood what Thalia meant. She sighed again, and spoke.

"Sooner or later, it's going to get back to her, you know. The 'frigid' diversion will only last so long. You've made your bed, and now you'll have to lie in it," Daria said, as they stood at the wash basin together.

Thalia sighed. "As long as she's there when I do it."

"I was being serious."

"So was I."


Thalia sighed again. "I'm sorry. You're right. What should I do?"

Daria thought for a moment, and said, "Well, I could have a chat with her on the way home, if you like."

Thalia looked at Daria. Beneath that gruff exterior, she thought, Daria's one of the nicest people I think I ever met. Shame she's got a boyfriend....all right, Gillis, control yourself. One pointless and futile crush at a time, please.

"That'd be great, Daria. Thank you." She spread her arms and moved forward to give Daria a hug. Daria started, and stepped back.

"Umm.." Daria said. Thalia stopped in mid-stride and dropped her arms.

"Sorry," she said quietly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." Good job, alienate her, why don't you? She's gonna think you're some kind of hormonal nutcase...which wouldn't be far from the truth, would it?

"Uh, it's okay, it's just that I'm not what you'd call a "touchy-feely" person. No slight on your, um, orientation intended."

"Ah," said Thalia. "That's cool."

Daria recovered quickly. "Thalia, if you can hold out for the rest of the day, Jane and I are going to a club in town called the Zon tonight to see her brother's band play. Why don't Tom and I pick you up on the way, and we can all talk this out tonight? Get it over with, and damn the consequences."

"That sounds like fun. Thanks. Uh, should we go and see if there's any of our lunch left?"

"Knowing Jane, I'd be amazed if there were tables and chairs left. C'mon." Daria walked to the door, and Thalia followed. Nice legs, too. God, I'm freakin' hopeless. They exited, the door slowly creaking shut behind them.

From the farthest stall in the back of the restroom, there came a "Hmph" sound. Sandi Griffin allowed herself this outburst once the two girls had left.

So, like, the new geek has the hots for that art chick, Joan, or whatever. And they're all going to that unfashionable geek club tonight. It's, like, time to put her in her proper place; no one talks to Sandi Griffin like that. That art chick will not be interested in Thyroid, or whoever, once she sees what a REAL woman looks like, one with class and style and an unerring sense of fashion.

Sandi's face took on an evil cast as she left the stall. She paused to check herself in the mirror. As usual, she was quite satisfied with what she saw.

Time to, like, go slumming, or whatever.

The school day finally over, Thalia waited for her bus by the semi-circular driveway in front of the school. Daria and Jane walked over to talk to her before they started their trek home.

"Hey, Thalia!" Jane said. "Daria told me she invited you to the Zon with us tonight. Don't say you weren't warned. I take no responsibility for any hearing losses or headaches you might receive."

"Huh?" asked Thalia, slightly confused.

"Actually," said Daria, "she hasn't been warned, I just invited her along. Mystik Spiral has approach to music, Thalia."

"That's like saying my gym shorts by any other name would still smell as.....well, never mind," Jane remarked.

Thalia laughed, not entirely confident that she'd covered up the blush that she'd felt as a powerful sensation of heat rising from her chest to her face.

"Cotton wadding helps," offered Daria. "Tom and I will pick you up at seven. Oh yeah, I guess I'd better tell him about it."

"Yeah," agreed Jane, "let him know his next girlfriend has arrived in town."

"Hey!" exclaimed Daria. Jane gave her an evil grin.

Thalia bit her lower lip in an effort to keep silent. She wasn't sure of the significance of that remark, but it clearly meant something to them. Daria was looking daggers at Jane, who was obviously enjoying it.

"Gotcha again, Morgendorffer!" Jane cried, relishing Daria's discomfort.

"Come, little Jane," fumed Daria. "We're going to have one of those extreme discussions about etiquette again. My boots will do most of the talking."

Jane leaned towards Thalia and said in a loud, but conspiratorial fashion, "Tom has this thing he likes for you to do, Thalia. When he's about to..."

Jane was rudely interrupted by Daria's boot on her rump. It wasn't a hard kick, but she knew it was there. "Ouch!"

"First lesson: beware the Doc Martins of an angry cynic," Daria stated.

Jane rubbed her sore tush. Thalia watched intently.

Daria and Jane were almost halfway home when Daria decided to broach the subject she'd been steadfastly avoiding since they'd left the school. Okay, Morgendorffer, get on with it. You need to get this situation under control before it blows up. Go on, talk to her. It's Jane, for god's sake.

"So, um...what do you think of Thalia, Jane?" Daria asked.

Jane shrugged. "Seems to be an okay gal. She's mouthy, intelligent, and knows how to treat the teachers with the proper amount of disrespect," Jane said. Daria started to say something, but Jane unwittingly cut her off. "Of course, it was only her first day. Who knows what'll happen tomorrow? She might start talking to Jodie, join a thousand activities, and never speak to us again."

"I don't think that'll happen," said Daria. Boy, how I don't think that'll happen. "She doesn't seem like that type of person to me."

"You never know. Sometimes a first impression isn't what it seems; people can change on you. Remember Ted?" Jane said.

"Yes, I do, and thanks for bringing it up," Daria replied, slightly miffed. Ted had been kind and sweet until she had corrupted him with gum, the White Album, and video games. He had stepped on the rung of Daria and flown up the social ladder with scarcely a glance backward. It wasn't a major transgression, but a residual disappointment had remained deeply buried somewhere inside her.

Jane stopped and faced Daria, who stopped as well. "I'm sorry, amiga. I didn't say that to hurt you. But you see what I mean, don't you? You can't ever be certain of exactly what people are gonna do. I sure learned about that this summer," Jane said with a slight frown. Daria looked down, shamefully. "I didn't mean it that way, Daria," Jane said. "You and I are okay. I know...the whole art colony thing. I'm still a little skittish about making a new friend, nothing against Thalia."

Great. Just what I was hoping wouldn't come up, Daria thought. What do I say to that? Daria remembered all too well the events of the past summer and how she had almost lost Jane forever. But she also remembered her experience with Link, and Quinn's troubles with David as well. Sometimes you just have to give people a chance, she had told her sister.

"Um, sometimes you just have to give people a chance, Jane," she said.

Jane went silent and looked thoughtful. "I know, Daria. It's just....a little...difficult to trust people, you know?"

"I know, Jane," Daria said softly, "but you can't let bad experiences from the past prevent you from relating to people now." Did I really just say that? I did spend the summer with Mr. O'Neill, didn't I?

Jane nodded slightly but remained silent; after a moment or two, she and Daria began to walk again. There's really nothing else I can say, is there? thought Daria. Jane's clearly nowhere near ready to think about.....experimenting. She probably never will be. Thalia, I think you'll just have to forget about it, at least for now. Maybe forever. Daria felt as if she'd failed, somehow. Damn it, why do things have to get so complicated as you get older?

Presently, Jane spoke again. "Well, we can all talk some tonight when the band finishes playing. I'm sure you're right; we both probably made a new friend today."

Daria nodded. "It would seem so. What do you suppose the odds of that are?"

Jane chuckled. "As long as she doesn't turn out to be some sex-starved lesbian who's hot for our bods, right?"

Daria stumbled and fell into the grass beside the sidewalk

The scene is the Village Green beneath "The Thinker" where Thalia sits in imitation of the statue. She addresses us once again.

"It occurs to me that you might want to know a bit more about me. Nosy bunch, aren't you? Well, I was conceived as a result of some "experimentation" between my parents and a third party. My father, Dobie Gillis, and his first wife Thalia Menninger, were seeking a little diversion one evening in a San Francisco bar when they met my birth mother. After several beverages and some trendy chemical amusement aids, they retired to their hotel room where a good time was had by all."

"Six months later, Dad's wife died in a car wreck; my birth mother contacted him about the same time to tell him about my imminent arrival on planet Earth. She wasn't too happy about the situation, feeling that she wasn't ready to be a mother yet. Dad, though still grieving for his lost wife, volunteered to raise me. He began attending therapy classes to help him cope with his difficulties, where he met an old friend from high school, Zelda Gilroy. The two of them fell in love, married each other, and I joined them shortly after my birth. Dad insisted that I be named after his departed first wife, and Zelda somewhat reluctantly agreed."

"Fifteen years later, they told my the story behind my conception. It was something of a bombshell, but I had one of my own to drop the next year: I told them I was gay. Zelda-mom, as I came to think of her, was supportive and understanding, but Dad's a bit "old school" about such things. He seemed to regard it as a some sort of tragedy, and reacted very negatively. I told him if that was how he felt, I'd go live with my birth mother, whom I had contacted the year before. He got very defensive and angry, words were exchanged, and two weeks later I was living with her."

"Dad and I started to reconcile our differences, with Zelda's help, and things settled into a more or less normal routine, when Mom's employer sent her here to be their regional representative. I got the impression she didn't really want the job, but the money was substantially better and she's home a lot more, too. Anyway, here we are, and here I sit, dreaming of a certain artist...."

Daria appears from behind a bush, and says: "You have no chance, you know."

"Hmph. So you say, Daria."

"Didn't you read the last part?"

"Daria! We're not supposed to know what goes on when we're not there!"

"Hmm." Daria walks forward, shielding her eyes with her hand. "You still here, Doc? You might want to take this opportunity to go out to the lobby and get yourself a refreshing beverage. They have a great new drink at the bar. It's shaved ice, a splash of tequila, and a big hickory nut in the bottom. It's a Hickory Daiquiri, Doc."

"Daria! Knock it off, willya? It's almost time for the next installment."

Daria lays down in the grass with her arms folded behind her head. "Call me when the installation's finished."

"Daria! You can't just take a nap. You're in the next scene!"

"I'm on strike. I want my own dressing room, a cell phone, and some hunky interns to cater to my every whim."

"You had that stuff at MTV. They're still talking about the famous wrap party...."

Daria jumps up and heads offstage. "Oops, time for the next scene..."

Daria relaxed at her computer with a few games of Graphic Bloody Headshot IV when she got home, losing her worries and cares in a bit of the old ultra-violence. She called Tom and arranged for the evening's transportation, telling him only cursory details about Thalia. I'll fill him in on the way to her house, she thought, so as to prevent any embarrassing moments. Satisfied, she returned to her computer and exploded the crania of a few more innocent victims until her mother called her downstairs for dinner.

She took her usual seat in the kitchen, across from a somewhat dour-looking Quinn. Do I want to know? Someone mix pastels and stripes incorrectly today? Daria decided she didn't want to know. She glanced at her plate, saw that Jake had apparently broken out the old wok again, and wondered if the concoction on her plate was going to be edible tonight, or if Helen would be microwaving more lasagna momentarily. She noticed that no one had yet sampled the fare.

"Daria," said Helen, cautiously eying her own plate, "how did your day go today?"

Daria glanced at Jake to see if he had started to eat yet, but saw him grinning at her with his best I'm-a-concerned-parent look. "Fine," was all she was inclined to say, knowing that until someone ate something, she would be the topic of conversation. Let 'em do their worst, she thought, I'm not eating until I know it's safe.

"You give 'em hell today, kiddo?" asked Jake with a little too much enthusiasm.

"Jake!" yelled Helen.

"Er-I mean, did you get some good grades and stuff today?" Jake asked, nervously.

"Nice recovery, Dad," Daria said. Jake beamed at her, and took a bite of his supper. He chewed and swallowed, only marginally aware that everyone was watching him carefully.

"M-m-m, this ginger peanut chicken is delicious! You guys dig in!" he cried. Daria and Helen breathed a collective sigh of relief and commenced eating. It actually was pretty good, as Jake's meals went. Quinn merely pushed her food around on her plate, taking an occasional nibble.

Not to be denied her "parental involvement" moment, Helen continued to press Daria for details about her day. "Daria, did anything interesting happen to you today?"

"Well, let's see. Jane ate too much mexican food at lunch, with predictably noxious results, most of the students proved once again that they ought to be institutionalized, and, oh yeah, there's a new lesbian in my class," Daria said flatly. She shoveled a forkfull of food into her mouth and waited for the fireworks.

"GAH!!" choked Jake, "Daria! She's not pressuring you to..."experiment", is she? You're too young! Just say no!"

"Jake!" yelled Helen, "Calm down! Daria, is this true?" Daria nodded. "Well, I hope you're not treating her any differently than you would anybody else, sweetie."

"As a matter of fact, I am. She's going to the Zon tonight with me and Tom." Out of the corner of her eye, Daria saw Quinn wince.

"May I be excused, please?" Quinn asked softly. "I don't feel so good tonight. I think I just wanna go to bed."

Is that what her deal is? thought Daria. I'd have thought someone so fashion-conscious wouldn't have a problem with it, what with all the gay designers and such. Hmm.

"Oh, Quinn!" said Helen, "Do you have a fever, sweetie?"

Quinn shook her head. "No, Mom, I'm just really tired tonight." She headed upstairs to he room. Helen watched her leave, a concerned look on her face.

"Daria, do you know what's wrong with your sister?" she asked.

"Hmm, no appetite, extremely sleepy....could be Ubangi fever," Daria offered.

"Ubangi fever!" cried Jake, jumping out of his chair. "Oh my god! Helen, where do we keep the quinine?"

"Jake, sit down!" barked Helen. "Daria was just joking....weren't you?" Helen fixed an angry look at her eldest daughter.

"Yes, Dad. It's not Ubangi fever. She's probably just having 'woman troubles'."

"E-e-e-e-w-w-w! Not at the table, Daria," said Jake, squirming and grimacing. Daria smirked.

"Stop it right now, both of you!" yelled Helen. Jake winced and resumed eating, and Helen again turned her attention to her obstinate offspring.

"Daria, you know your father and I don't like to make judgments about people's alternative lifestyle choices...." she began.

"Oh, good," said Daria, "Can Trent move in with us?"

"Daria! I'm trying to say that we're proud that you can accept someone whose ideas about sexuality are different from your own. Unless there's something you're not telling us...."

"Oops, I outed myself at dinner," Daria said. Just then, the doorbell rang. "Oh good, my beard is here. Well, I'm off for a night of debauchery at the swinger's club. Can I have twenty dollars for some penicillin?"

Jake leapt out of his seat. "Oh no you don't! No daughter of mine is going to parade herself in some meat market and get passed around like a bucket of chicken!"

Helen sighed. "Jake, she's joking again."

"But Helen, you remember what happened when we went to that Socrates' Retreat place with Willow and Coyote?"

"I told you never to mention that in front of the girls!" screamed Helen.

"'Walking away now with way too much information," said Daria. The sound of her parents' argument followed her out the door..

Thalia sat on the comfortable couch in the living room, finishing up her homework. It had certainly been an eventful first day at school, but at least she'd made the acquaintance of a couple of decent people. One of them, in particular, had stirred her feelings like a chef making a risotto. She was, if she looked at it objectively, in the throes of a severe crush; part of her feared that it was a foolish case of puppy love, the other part was just dying to...well, best not to think about it too much.

She could hear her mother in the other room, speaking forcefully into the telephone.

"Look, the damned modem is only three years old, and it won't work! I'm 39, and I still work! I want a replacement yesterday, understand? Or I will personally come down there and delete your hard drive, know what I mean pal? No, that's not a threat, it's a promise! Get me a replacement! NOW!" Thalia heard the phone slam down, and her mother walked into the living room cursing under her breath. Thalia managed a small grin as she completed the last of her assignments, while her mother continued walking and muttering to herself until she reached the kitchen. She returned to the living room with a plate containing some muskmelon, cheese, and crackers. "Join me?" she asked Thalia.

"Yeah, I could use a bite to eat. I'm going out tonight, but I don't know if there'll be any food involved," Thalia said casually. Her mother looked at her closely.

"Out? You got a date?" her mother asked.

"No, nothing like that. Just going to check out a band with some friends."

"Friends? On your first day? Jeez, you do work fast, don't you?" her mother teased.

"Yeah, well, you are what you eat. That makes me fast, easy, and cheap. Or in the case of tonight's meal, fruity, cheesy, and crackers," replied Thalia. "One of them is picking me up tonight. You going to be around?"

"Nope, have to go to find an internet connection somewhere. I might be forced to get a hotel room so I can get some work done."

"Hmm. I'll send Ralph Fiennes over if he comes by," said Thalia.

"And I'll send Melissa Etheridge over here," replied her mother.

Thalia chuckled at her mother's suggestion. She knew how lucky she was to have such an understanding parent; many people certainly did not enjoy such an open and honest relationship with those who gave them life, and even fewer gay people could joke, or even talk, with their mothers like she could. Her father, of course, was a different story, but she believed he'd come around. He'd better, she thought, or between Zelda, Mom, and me, we'll pick him apart 'till there's nothing left.

And yet, somehow, she couldn't quite bring herself to talk with her mother about her most intimate desires. She supposed that was more or less normal; what teenager wanted to talk to their parents about how hot and bothered they became when that certain special someone entered a room? She supposed some people actually might, but she couldn't imagine being quite that open with her mother. With Daria, strangely enough, it was easier; Thalia was surprised by the compulsion to be totally honest with someone who was, for all practical purposes, a complete stranger. But that was more like conspiring with an equal, and she'd somehow felt a vibe of trustworthiness coming off of Daria that couldn't be explained.

"You okay?" her mother asked, jolting Thalia out of her train of thought. "You seem a little out of sorts."

"It's nothing," Thalia replied.

Her mother looked closely at Thalia. After living together for nearly a year, she had come to know her daughter as a very independent, contemplative sort of person who wanted to handle things on her own terms, one who required a lot of thinking space. Her mother gave it to her willingly, but found herself surprised at the strength of the instinctive mother-daughter bond that developed of its own accord. Amazing, the things that you learned about yourself as you grew older.

"Well, you know I'm here for you if you need to talk. Or at least, I will be after I get some internet access." Her mother got up and took the now empty plate into the kitchen. Thalia followed a moment later, leaning on one side of the kitchen doorway with her arms crossed while her mother washed the plate.

"Do you think," Thalia asked after a moment, "that there really is such a thing at first sight?"

Her mother fought back the urge to run to her daughter and do a gush-and-hug. Thalia would not appreciate that, she knew. Okay, how to handle this? she thought. Probably best to start by answering the question.

"I don't think so, truthfully. Lust at first sight, definitely," she said. "Of course, if I was any good at telling them apart we'd have a hot young stud around here to take out the garbage for us." She dried the single plate they'd shared and turned to face her daughter. "Somebody caught your eye today, did they?"

Quietly, Thalia said, "Yeah."

"Let me guess: you're not really sure how to approach the situation, right?"

"I have absolutely no idea."

"Hmm. I guess candy and flowers is out. I suppose the only thing to do is be yourself, try to make friends, and see what happens from there. You can't force these things, Thalia, and I imagine it's even harder for you to meet a girl who's got the same ideas, sexually speaking. Give it some time."

Thalia smirked at her mother. "That the best you can do?"

"I guess it is. Unless you want fifty bucks for a hooker..."

"Not really, but I'll take the fifty."

"Take the trash out and I'll spot you a twenty."

"Fair enough." Thalia did as her mother asked, and when she was out by the curbside, she stopped and looked up at the moon. If she screwed up her eyes in just the right way, the face in the moon looked a little like Jane's.

Daria sat in the passenger seat of Tom's car, summing up the situation for him as they drove to Thalia's house. Tom was largely silent, nodding at the appropriate times, absorbing the tale. He knew that Daria was assessing and evaluating the situation even as she explained it to him, using him as a sounding board. He didn't mind.

"...and so, ultimately, Thalia's just got to deal with her own emotions herself. I don't want Jane to feel threatened by her."

"That's understandable." Tom said.

"But I feel like I've failed somehow. I mean, I don't want to try to talk Jane 'alternate lifestyle'. I just want her to be happy and...have someone. Like you and know...each," Daria's voice trailed off.

"Talk to?" Tom said, teasing her a little.

"Oh, bite me, Sloane," Daria said, a smirk working on her face.

"Now that's more like it. Where would you like me to bite you first?" Tom said with a grin. Daria punched his shoulder.

"Okay, seriously then," Tom said, "Jane will find her own way. She has you to lean on, and you have me. If you want to let this Thalia person lean on you a little, I think that's okay. And it's not a betrayal of Jane in any way for you to be so sympathetic to the other girl. She's in a tough spot as well. Don't beat yourself up over it."

"Thanks," said Daria. "There's something about her...I" Tom looked at her quizzically. "Like we already knew each other or something. Like we were...familiar."

They traveled without speaking for a few moments, turning onto the street where Thalia lived. Tom broke the silence.

"'Okay, so what's your plan?" he said.

Daria sighed. "I guess I'll just have to tell her to forget it, for now. Jane's not over the whole 'Allison' thing yet. It really shook her up. I really shouldn't have told you about that, either. If this whole thing blows up, Jane will kill me."

"Hey, I know enough not to mention it to her. You had to tell me so I could understand your problem. Don't sweat it." Tom pulled up to the house number Daria had given him, and parked.

Daria turned to Tom and kissed him lightly. "Thanks for, um...being there for me," she said.

Tom kissed her back, a little more firmly. She blushed ever so slightly, and got out to go get Thalia.

Mystik Spiral was winding down their second set, working hard and sweating, really pushing themselves on the last song. Trent Lane grabbed the microphone and sang/screamed the final verse and chorus:

I walked on broken glass, 'till it cut up my feet
The rain of your love has all turned into sleet
Now I'm just a cold slab of hard frozen meat
Come on now baby, won't you turn up the heat

Turn up the heat, turn up the heat
I'm frozen in place, can't get out of my seat
Turn up the heat, turn up the heat
I'm starving now baby, give me something to eat
Turn up the heat, turn up the heat
Be a lot warmer just to sleep on the street

The band held the final chord until it began to feed back through their amplifiers, then they abruptly cut it off and left a small space of silence. The crowd reacted appreciatively an instant later, applauding enthusiastically and whooping. Trent spoke into the microphone.

"Thanks, we're Mystik Spiral, come back and see us on Thursday."

"That's three days from now," Jesse said into his microphone.

Trent sighed slightly and unplugged his guitar, setting it in a stand behind him. Jesse and Nick did the same, Max came out from behind his drums, and the band collectively left the stage. Two young girls rushed up to Jesse and started simpering over him. Trent fielded some compliments from aspiring musicians, and Max and Nick started their usual argument.

"You were playing behind the beat!" Max yelled at Nick.

"Was not!" Nick yelled back, "You were playing ahead of the beat!"

"You don't even know what the time signature was!" Max yelled back.

"Who can tell, the way you play? It was 4/4 for a minute, then it was 6/8, then it was..."

"C'mon guys, knock it off," said Trent. He saw the band's reserved table in the corner, with Daria, Jane, Tom, and the girl Jane had told him about sitting around it drinking sodas. What was her name?, it was...Thalia. Cool name. Different.

Trent steered the band through the crowd toward the table, catching the bartender's eye and holding up two fingers for two pitchers of beer. He didn't often drink in front of Jane, but on this occasion the band had earned it. Tonight had been one of those nights where everything seemed to click, in spite of Nick and Max's differences of opinion, and the crowd had responded to it. Trent lived for moments like that. They fueled him like no other experience possibly could.

The band arrived at the table, and sat down. "You must be Thalia," said Trent. Thalia nodded. "I'm Trent, Janey's brother. This is Jesse, Nick, and Max."

"We're the Spiral!" said Max, enthusiastically, "We're crimin-"

"Oh, shut up!" said Nick.

"Hey," said Jesse.

"Pleased to meet you," said Thalia, "You guys put on a good show."

"You caught us on a good night," said Trent.

"Except for Nick," said Max. "He was way off the beat."'

"Was not!" cried Nick.

"Guys," said Trent, "Why don't you go get the beer?"

"I'll get it," said Max, "Nick'll just spill it."

"You're the one who'll spill it," said Nick. "You can't even carry the beat...." The two of them got up and walked to the bar, arguing the whole way.

"Very intense rhythm section you got there," Thalia said dryly.

"Yeah," said Jesse.

"They play together real good, if they'd only shut up and realize it," said Trent. "It's like my Uncle Maynard told me a long time ago: You got the right beat, the rest is just heat."

"Trent, what exactly does that mean?" asked Daria.

"Uncle Maynard played the bongos. He showed me what natural rhythm is all about," said Trent, as if that settled the matter.

"I always wondered who was to blame," said Jane. "All I remember about him is how he slept on the couch for three months and never once got a job. I don't even think he was really our uncle."

"Hmm," said Trent, "Maybe he wasn't. But man, he taught me all about life and how to live it."

"Cool," said Jesse.

Jane laughed. "Those lessons you learned, all right. Especially the sleeping all day part."

Thalia suppressed a laugh, looking at Jane with a slight longing. Off limits, she's off limits, Thalia thought. Daria had explained Jane's continuing problem with trust, and Thalia had to accept the situation. It sucks sewage, but I want her to trust me. Maybe someday...

The group was interrupted by a lithe figure standing beside them. Sandi Griffin had quietly approached from a dark corner and was now beside Jane, who turned to look at her. Jane was somewhat taken aback by Sandi's non-traditional appearance; instead of her usually fashionable but boring attire, Sandi was decked out to the nines in a sleek, revealing black outfit and stiletto heels. She smiled at Jane.

"'Like, hi Jean," Sandy breathed huskily in an unmistakably seductive tone, "can I, like, get you a drink or something?"

Jane stared wide-eyed at Sandi, her shocked expression matched only by Daria's. The members of Mystik Spiral looked at her appreciatively. Thalia glared.

"Uh...actually it's Jane, Sandi, and I have a soda already," Jane finally managed to spit out.

"Mmm, I see. Well, then may I, like, have this dance, or whatever?" Sandi purred.

"Griffin, have you lost your freaking mind?" Jane asked, still slightly shocked.

"Only for you, my little lotus blossom, or something," Sandi said, in her best Upchuck imitation. "Let's, like, go somewhere and talk, or whatever," Sandi gave Jane an exaggerated wink.

Good god, this can't be happening, thought Daria. She looked at Thalia, who was grinding her jaw angrily.

"What the hell are you babbling about?" Jane exploded. "Look, I don't know if you're having some sort of psychotic episode or what, maybe it's just all that hairspray finally penetrating your scalp, but I definitely don't swing that way."

Sandi's body language and expression changed to their usual haughty demeanor. "''Hmph," she snorted, "that's not what I've heard."

Jane's expression now matched Thalia's, both young women wearing masks of fury. Trent and Jesse tensed; having seen their share of bar brawls, they exchanged sideways glances and wordlessly prepared for trouble. Daria traded worried looks with Tom, neither of them quite sure of what to do.

"Just what have you heard?" Jane asked in a menacingly low tone.

"Ask Quinn's cousin, or whatever. She was there," Sandi said, indicating Daria. "Or maybe you could ask Tonya here. She's the one who wants to, like, be your girlfriend."

Jane looked at Thalia, who now appeared to be embarrassed as well as angry, and realization set in. Jane turned to Daria, and asked her, "Is this true, Daria?"

"'s not quite like that, Jane..." Daria stammered. "I is sort of like that...but..."

"And you knew?" Jane asked quietly. Daria looked down. "Give people a chance, huh?" Jane asked, sarcastically.

"Jane, I..." Daria started, but was interrupted by Jane abruptly bolting from the table, headed for the exit. Daria got up to try to catch her, but was held back by Tom.

"Let me go after her, Daria. You'll never catch her on foot," Tom said, reaching for his car keys.

"I'm coming too, Tom," Daria said.

Tom shook his head. "She'll see you with me and just run faster. Let me handle it, I'll get her to come back here and talk to the two of you. You keep Thalia here," he said, and before Daria could object, he trotted quickly to the door Jane had left from. Daria frowned at the sight of him leaving, and turned her attention to the smirking Sandi.

That damned bitch, Daria thought angrily.

"You damned bitch!" yelled Thalia, jumping from her chair and lunging at Sandi. As she did, Jesse quickly and gracefully moved behind her and held her arms. Trent moved equally quickly to intercept Sandi, who seemed to be ready to fight as well. They stood there for a moment, the two girls looking daggers at each other.

"Awright!" cried a drunken voice, "Catfight!"

"Woo-hoo!" cried another, "''Let 'em go at it!"

"I think you'd better be moving on, ma'am," Trent said sharply to Sandi, who seemed to flinch at the sound of his voice.

Recovering her sense of self, she flipped her hair and said, "Hmph. That's what happens when someone fashionable mixes with, like, a bunch of geek losers." She turned quickly to leave, and collided with Nick and Max, who were each carrying a pitcher of beer back to the table. Sandi was instantly covered and soaked with the brew.

A silver Mercedes convertible pulled into a spot on the local lover's lane, a small stretch of highway in the hills which overlooked the town of Lawndale. Tiffany switched off the engine and turned to face Stacy, who sat in the passenger seat beside her.

"Whaaat dooo wee doooo nooow?" Tiffany asked.

Stacy thought for a moment. "Well, we went out to a movie and had a nice dinner. I think you're supposed to try to make out with me now," she said, somewhat timidly.

"Hmm," said Tiffany, "Sooo a leeesbiiiaan daate is juuust liiike a regulaaar daaate?"

"I think so," replied Stacy, "and since this is our first date, I'm supposed to tell you not to get too fresh."

"Cooome ooon, Staaacyyy, dooon't beee liiike thaaat. I paaaaid foooor theee diiinner, I'm allooowed aaat leeast one kiiisss," said Tiffany.

"I'm not that kind of girl!" cried Stacy.

Tiffany slid her hand onto Stacy's shoulder. "Buuut wee're gaaay nooow. Wee caaan beee a looot freeeeeer wiiith oour bodieees."

Stacy sighed. "Okay....I guess...." Stacy grasped Tiffany's hand with her own, and slid her other hand up Tiffany's arm until it was beside her neck. The two girls inched their faces forward, moist mouths slightly parted in anticipation, until they met one another in a kiss. Their lips slid erotically together, their heads moving back and forth in sensuous gyrations, and their mouths opened, allowing their tongues to emerge and intertwine.

They parted suddenly and looked into each other's eyes.

"Bleaugh!" cried Tiffany.

"Yeaugh!" cried Stacy.

Tiffany quickly grabbed several tissues from the built-in holder in the car and wiped at her tongue furiously. Stacy began to wipe at her own tongue with her hands, spitting and gagging as she swatted at her mouth. After a few seconds of this, the two girls faced one another again.

"I don't know," said Stacy forlornly, "maybe we're not gay, after all."

"Yeeeah," agreed Tiffany. "Saaandii's goinngg too beee sooo maaad."

Stacy looked at Tiffany. "You know, Sandi can just be gay if she wants to. It doesn't mean that we have to."

"Hmmm. Weee caaan dooo whaaat weee waaant tooo?" Tiffany asked. Stacy nodded. "Theeen leeet's gooo tooo yooour hooouse aaand loook aaat maaagaaaziines."

Stacy agreed, and a moment later, she and Tiffany drove off to do just that.

After a few minutes of driving, Tom finally saw Jane, with her head hanging down, leaning on a street lamp. He pulled up nearby, turned off the car, and got out. Jane kept her back to him.

"Jane?" said Tom, walking over to her.

"Go 'way," said Jane, sniffling slightly, "You are the very last person on earth I want to talk to right now, Sloane."

Tom stood still, putting his hands in his pockets. Softly, he said, "Sometimes that's the best person for you to talk to."

"Just leave me alone," Jane said.

"You know," said Tom gently, "I think that is something you will never, ever be."

Jane turned around, wiping at her eyes. "Dammit, Tom, you know I'm not gay. Why would Daria try to set me up like that?"

"Daria wasn't trying to set you up, Jane. Just the opposite, in fact. She was helping Thalia deal with her crush while trying to keep you from feeling uncomfortable," Tom said. "It hasn't been easy for her to do both at once, but she was trying. She cares about you a lot, you know."

Jane was silent for a bit, then sighed. "I know. I care a lot about her, too. I just hate it when someone's not honest with me."

"She was afraid you'd react the way you just did. She thought she could just keep a lid on the whole thing," said Tom.

Jane was silent for a while longer, then said quietly, "What's wrong with me, Tom? How come ever since we broke up, the only people who find me interesting are gay women? Do I really give off that much of a gay vibe?"

Tom reached out and took Jane's hand. "You remember that last day on the swings at my house?" Jane nodded. "I meant what I said about how you're from a cooler world. You have a confidence about you, the way you hold yourself and the way you act and talk to people. That's a very attractive quality, and it's natural that people would find you so interesting. I sure did. It just so happens that you've run into some people who also found you attractive, and by sheer coincidence, they were gay women. It's not some flaw in your character, or 'gay vibe', it's just....bad luck."

Jane looked at the ground. "I sure could use some good luck. It'd help build up some of that confidence you claim I have."

"You'll meet the right person eventually, Jane. Count on it."

Jane looked up into Tom's eyes. "What if I already did, and I wasn't smart enough to hold onto him?"

Tom was surprised by her question, and at a loss for words for once. " and me...we weren't... really...uh..." he stammered.

Jane smirked and said, "Gotcha, Sloane."

They disengaged hands and Jane took a deep breath, letting the air in slowly and exhaling deliberately.

"I guess I deserved that. But no more-my debt to society's paid. Feeling better now?" asked Tom.

Jane moved forward quickly and kissed Tom on the cheek. "Thank you," she whispered to him, and stepped back.

"'re welcome," said Tom, slightly embarrassed. "What do you say we go back so you can talk to Daria?"

Jane smiled wickedly. "Yeah, let's do that. I gotta tell her about how I kissed her boyfriend!"

Monday nights being all ages, with earlier musical entertainment times, the crowd in the Zon had mostly left, with only a few of the regular closers staying behind to drink until last call. Trent and Jesse shot a game of pool, while Daria and Thalia sat at the band's table; neither girl was feeling terribly good about the unpleasant events of the evening.

"I'm sorry, Daria, I really should just go home," said Thalia morosely.

"I'm the one who screwed this up," said Daria, "and besides, you can't leave. We don't have a ride."

"You think they'll both come back?" Thalia asked.

"Tom will. I don't know about Jane. She looked really upset," said Daria.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Daria. I should have just told her how I felt from the start, and none of this would have happened," said Thalia.

"Maybe, but I don't know how that would have worked out, either. Sometimes you have to be selective about what you tell people, you know," said Daria.

"I guess. I'm just sorry I've had a negative effect on your friendship with Jane. I won't bother either of you again," said Thalia.

Out of the corner of her eye, Daria saw Tom entering the Zon, followed by Jane. Daria studied Jane's face for a clue as to her disposition but couldn't penetrate the stoic mask that she was wearing. That in itself is a clue, thought Daria, but at least she came back.

"Somehow, I don't think that'll be necessary," Daria said. Tom and Jane arrived at the table, and Tom sat down next to Daria. Jane simply stood there with her arms crossed, looking at all of them. After a few seconds, she spoke.

"You first," Jane said to Thalia, indicating a table on the other side of the bar with a jerk of her head. Thalia rose from her seat somewhat sullenly, and followed Jane over to the table where the two sat down opposite one another. Daria watched with a worried look on her face, and turned questioningly to Tom, who simply smiled and held her hand. Daria did not find this particularly reassuring.

Thalia clasped her hands beneath her chin, and said, "Jane, I just want to say I'm sorry for making you uncomfortable. I'll keep my distance from you, if that's what you want."

Jane drew in a breath, and said, "Thalia, I want to apologize to you. It was rude of me to run out of here like that."

A confused look crossed Thalia's face. "Huh?" was all she could manage.

"I'm sorry I freaked out like that. It really has nothing to do with you personally, I've just had some...confidence problems lately," Jane said, "but I have to be honest with you: I like guys."

"I know," Thalia said, "Daria told me, but I guess I just hoped...please don't be upset with her."

"I'm not, I guess. Tom told me how she's been trying to help us both, caught in the middle so to speak. That's actually very sweet of her. But don't tell her I said so." Jane managed a small grin, which Thalia returned.

The two looked at each other for a moment, and Thalia broke the silence: "Jane, I am what I am, and I'm not the kind of person to pretend that I'm something I'm not. But I'm not some sex-crazed wild animal either; I do think you're quite attractive, but I wouldn't invade your space or your privacy with some unwanted attention."

Jane nodded. "I can accept that. In some weird way, it's sort of a compliment that you'd be interested. But nothing will ever come of it," Jane said.

Thalia nodded as well. "I can accept that." I still think it sucks, but such is life, she thought.

"Alright then. What do you say we just start over? Hi, I'm Jane, and I like men," Jane said with a grin.

"Hi Jane, I'm Thalia, let's get one thing straight: I'm not!" Thalia said, grinning back. She stuck out her right hand, and Jane shook it enthusiastically.

"Pervert," said Jane with a smile.

"Homophobe," Thalia shot back, also smiling. The two of them laughed at each other.

Daria observed the actions, if not the words, and a feeling of hope swept over her. Are things going to be all right? Of course not, Jane hasn't talked to me yet, she thought. As if her thoughts had been transmitted to them, Thalia and Jane abruptly left their table and walked back over to Daria and Tom. Guess it's time to discover the exact length and depth of the shaft, Daria thought, rising from her chair. Jane motioned for Daria to sit back down; Daria raised her eyebrows in mild surprise, and returned to her seat.

"Okay, Morgendorffer," said Jane, "you win. Thalia and I are gonna run off to Aruba together and open a museum of human oddities. We're gonna take Trent and Tom with us to be our first exhibits. You can come along and we'll be the first Mormon lesbian family in the tropics. Whattaya say?" Jane smirked at her, and a feeling of genuine relief swept over Daria.

"Is that your oh-so-subtle way of telling me that you're not mad at me anymore?" Daria asked, already understanding that, indeed, it was.

"Yeah. Sorry I bit your head off," said Jane."You were just trying to look out for me."

"Yeah, I did such a good job of it that the Fashion Nazi decided to hit on you," said Daria.

"Meh. No big deal," said Jane. "Oh, and Daria?" Daria looked questioningly at Jane, who grinned slyly and said, "I kissed your boyfriend."

Daria nodded slightly, turned, and pretended to slap Tom, who reacted dramatically as if hit by a haymaker. Daria turned back to Jane and said, "See, Lane, that's how you keep your man in line."

"Huh. It's the simple solutions you never think of," said Jane. Tom slumped down in his chair, acting unconscious with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. "Damn!" said Jane, "It shuts him up, too. I gotta get me some of them brass knuckles."

Thalia chuckled. "Someday, you'll have to tell me the whole story about you three. It must be interesting."

"Interesting, stomach turning, whatever," said Daria, "but now's not a good time, I think. It's getting kind of late."

"Yeah," Jane agreed, looking for Trent and spotting him playing pool with Jesse. "Where's the rest of the band?"

At the Scrubba Dubba car wash, Nick held one of the spray washers in his hand. He was spraying Sandi with a mist of soapy water, covering her with suds; Sandi shivered.

"A-a-a-ugh!" Sandi cried, "I-i-it's f-f-freezing!"

"Sorry, ma'am," said Nick, "but you said you couldn't go home smelling like beer, and this is the only way to get you cleaned up." Nick finished applying a thorough coating of soap to Sandi, and turned his head to Max, who was standing near the control panel. "Okay, that's enough soap. Put it on regular water now," Nick said.

Max nodded, and gazed at the panel in slight confusion. The word "soap" was easily visible, but the remaining words had long ago worn away. At the far end of the dial's face, Max could make out two letters which appeared to be "wa". He shrugged, and turned the dial to the end.

In Nick's hand, the sprayer bucked and sputtered momentarily before continuing with a clear jet of liquid. Nick began to wash the suds off of the top of Sandi's head, the soap running in rivulets down her dress, which now clung to her form. Nick grinned a little; this task was not entirely unpleasant.

His thoughts were interrupted by a howl from Sandi. "AAAH! Now it's too hot! Stop!" she shrieked. Nick released the trigger and looked questioningly at Max.

"It's not supposed to be hot. What setting did you put it on?" Nick asked Max.

"The one for water! At least, I think it is..." Max trailed off. Nick walked over to Max and inspected the panel, noting the position of the dial's pointer.

"You idiot!" cried Nick, "That's wax, not water!"

Sandi shrieked.

"It's not my fault!" said Max, "You can't even read the label on this thing!"

"Haven't you ever washed the Tank?" asked Nick.

"Are you kidding?" replied Max.

"Like, shut up you two geeks, and get this stuff off of me!" screamed Sandi.

Nick turned the dial on the control panel to where "rinse" ought to be, and pulled the trigger on the sprayer. It bucked and sputtered again as if clearing its throat, and a spray of liquid shortly resumed flowing smoothly. Nick tested it by holding his free hand up next to the spray and detected no waxy substance in the now chilly mist. Satisfied, he shook has head at Max's apparent inability to run something so complex as a car wash, and stepped toward Sandi again. Just as he did so, a clicking sound emanated from somewhere within the walls of the car wash. The spray of water turned to a mere trickle as the humming sound of the pump wound down.

Nick fished in his pockets for more quarters, but came up empty. "Hey, Max!" he said, "You got any change?"

Max shook his head without even checking. "Nope," was all he said.

"Uh-oh," said Nick.

Later that night, after the two bandmates had shoved a still-fuming fashion club president out of the Tank and she had crept quietly to her room, Sandi Griffin eventually removed the ruined clothing from her body. As she stifled the howls of pain, and tears welled up in her eyes, she reflected that at least she wouldn't need a bikini wax next summer.

Daria turned and waved a final goodnight to Tom as she reached the front door to her home. Tom reciprocated and drove away, leaving Daria to try her best to sneak in unobserved. It was well past midnight, and though her parents had more or less given up on enforcing a strict curfew (probably to avoid her mangled Junior Wells, she mused), it was more or less given that such a late outing on a school night would be frowned upon. She slowly and deliberately placed her key in the door lock, turning it carefully so as to minimize the sound, and opened the door with as little noise as possible.

Daria saw the bluish glow of the television set illuminating the living room, and instantly knew that she was busted. Damn, she thought, I didn't notice that through the window. Might as well face the music and get it over with. She walked with trepidation to the couch, expecting to see one, if not both, of her parents sitting there angrily.

To her astonishment, Quinn was the sole occupent of the couch, staring at the screen blankly. Daria's eyes widened in surprise to find her sister still awake and not on the phone.

"Um, hey," Daria said.

"Hey," was Quinn's reply.

Daria eyed her sister somewhat cautiously. "Mom and Dad asleep?" she asked.

"Mm-hmm," Quinn replied. She continued to stare at the television with a blank face.

"Show any good?" asked Daria, indicating the television.

"Not really," Quinn said.

"Oh. Well, goodnight, I guess," Daria said, turning towards the stairs.

"Daria, wait," Quinn said, muting the volume with the remote control. Daria turned back to look at her sister.

"What is it?" Daria asked.

"You really went out somewhere with that girl?" Quinn asked.

"You mean Jane?" Daria asked, folding her arms together.

"No, the other one. The..." Quinn stopped short.

"Sloane girl? I told you before, she's a he," Daria said, needling her sister a little. Quinn's brow furrowed in exhasperation, and Daria smirked slightly.

"Come on, Daria, you know who I mean," Quinn said.

"'Are you by any chance referring to Thalia?" Daria asked. Quinn nodded, and looked at the floor. Daria opened her mouth to say something glib, and thought better of it. "What is it about her that bothers you so much, Quinn?" she finally asked, knowing the answer already.

Quinn looked back up at her sister, her eyes clearly revealing her confusion. She struggled with the question, and stammered, "She's...she likes to....she..."

"Say it," Daria said bluntly.

"She's a thespian!" Quinn stage-whispered, causing Daria's eyes to squeeze shut whilst she smacked her own forehead in frustration.

"Quinn, you should at least get your terminologies straight," Daria said. "The word is lesbian. And yes, Thalia is one. What does that have to do with you?"

Quinn rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm attractive and popular, duh! The thought of a girl staring at me and wanting to...yeaugh!"

"Don't you think the guys stare at you all day and want" said Daria.

"Well sure, but that's different. That's how I can get them to do what I want," Quinn said.

We'll discuss the implications of taking advantage of your looks another time, Daria thought, sitting down next to her sister on the couch. "Look," she said, "it's simply a fact of life that you will be looked upon by some poeple as an object attraction. All those things you do like carefully putting on makeup and wearing clothing that shows off your figure are designed to get that kind of attention from people. You'll notice that I don't prefer that kind of attention, so I don't do those kind of things." Well, most of the time, she thought.

"That's you, Daria, not me," Quinn replied, "I like that kind of attention, but I only want it from boys."

"You don't get to decide who'll look at you that way, Quinn. You choose how to present yourself to the world, and take the consequences of that choice as they come," Daria said.

"But what about when I'm in the gym shower? I don't want other girls checking me out while I'm naked!" Quinn cried.

Ah, the age-old standby argument for sexual segregation, Daria thought, which calls for the age-old rebuttal: "Statistically speaking, it's quite possible, even likely, that someone already has checked you out in the shower. You just didn't know about it." Daria watched in bemusement as Quinn's eyes grew wide with that particular thought. "Quinn, the real question is the one I asked you before: Why does this bother you so much?"

Quinn was silent for a moment as she looked at the floor again. "I don't know," she said softly. "It just does."

"Well," Daria said, "many of the Native American tribes used to think that the dislike of another's characteristics was in fact a reflection of the dislike of that same characteristic within yourself."

"Huh? Speak English, Daria," Quinn said.

Daria sighed. "You're uncomfortable with Thalia's sexuality because you're uncomfortable with your own sexuality."

"Are you trying to tell me I'm gay?!" Quinn exclaimed.

"Not necessarily," said Daria. "What I'm saying is, you're not comfortable with the idea'going all the way'."

"Gahd, Daria, what kind of a girl do you think I am?" asked Quinn.

Boy, thought Daria, any other time and I could have a field day with that line. Instead, she said: "It's none of my business what you do with all those boys you date, Quinn. All I'm saying is...

"Daria!" said Quinn, "I don't even slow dance before the fifth date!"

Daria sighed. "I wasn't implying that you'easy' or anything. I just meant have a certain comfort level with what goes on between you and guys, right?" Quinn nodded. "And the thought of going beyond that is...unsettling to you, right?" Daria asked.

Quinn thought for a moment, and said, "Yeah."

"So you see a gay woman and automatically think that her only interest in you is in wanting to go beyond your comfort level," Daria said, "but that's not seeing the whole person, Quinn. That is, in essence, turning them into a sex object. Sexuality is definitely a part of what we are, but not all of it. Basically, you have to look at a gay person and see the person first and foremost. What happens in their bedroom is, frankly, none of your business, unless you find yourself there and don't want to be." Daria watched as her sister tried to absorb these concepts, struggling internally with the idea of seeing beyond her previous mindset. "You don't really want the boys to treat you that way, do you?" Daria asked.

"I guess not," Quinn admitted.

Daria nodded. "Then kindly do Thalia the courtesy of not treating her that way. It's only polite."

Good manners was something Quinn could get behind. "That doesn't sound so hard," she said.

"It usually isn't. You don't have to treat her like she's a Fabergé egg, but don't go out of your way to act like she's some sort of sex maniac who'll rip your clothes off at the first opportunity. She's a person, no more, no less; just treat her like one," Daria said.

Quinn was silent for a bit, then smiled and said, "Thanks Daria. I feel better."

Daria allowed herself a small smile, and stood up. "You're welcome. Um, I'd better try to get some sleep. See you in the morning." Daria left her sister sitting on the couch contemplating her own attitudes, and slowly crept up the stairs. When she arrived at the top, she saw Jake standing there in his bathrobe. She stopped and faced him with a small sigh, expecting him to ask where she had been and what the hell she was doing coming home so late, screaming until he woke Helen, who would have much harsher things to say to her daughter.

To her surprise, Jake simply embraced her in a hug. He whispered, "I'm so very proud of you, Daria."

Not "kiddo", thought Daria. She returned her father's all too rare gesture of affection, grateful for the darkness which hid the blush she knew was creeping up her face. "Um, thanks, Dad," she said. He must have heard the whole thing, she thought.

Jake released her with a smile. "Better be getting back to bed. Goodnight, kiddo," he said, and returned to the master bedroom, softly closing the door behind him. Daria heard her mother's muffled voice, sleepily asking "What's wrong?", and heard her father say "Nothing, Helen. Go back to sleep."

Helen's red SUV pulled into Thalia's driveway, with Jane riding shotgun, Thalia in the back seat, and Daria at the wheel. The three of them had walked to Daria's house after another exciting day at Lawndale High and, after a protracted dose of "Sick, Sad, World" and microwave lasagna (naturally), Thalia had suggested that they could re-locate to her house after Jake and Helen came home from work. Daria naturally agreed.

The vehicle rolled to a stop, and Daria shut off the engine. Doors on all sides opened, and the conversation which had been going on inside became audible.

"...and, according to Nick, they just dumped her out in front of her house 'cause they were so tired of listening to her," Jane said as she exited.

"Hot-waxed her from head to foot, eh?" said Thalia. "That would explain why her hair looked that way."

"Might account for the way she was walking, too," added Daria. The other two chuckled at this thought. The three girls closed their respective doors and walked to the front porch.

"Hey," said Thalia, "My mom might be home, so be prepared."

"Sorry I couldn't prepare you better for my family," said Daria. Jake and Helen had practically fawned over Thalia, but at least her father hadn't done anything terribly embarrassing. Quinn had even been on her best behavior. It was three against three, now I've finally evened the odds, and they go and be all polite and charming. Tomorrow, we go to Jane's; maybe Wind will show up, thought Daria.

"And now I can return the favor," said Thalia.

"She's not gonna get all excited 'cause you made some hetero friends, is she?" asked Jane.

"Excited is not a word I'd use to describe my mom," said Thalia, unlocking and opening the door. "Unless you mention Ralph Fiennes." Something about that statement rang a bell in Daria's head, but she couldn't quite recall what it was.

Thalia led the other two girls into the living room and called out in the general direction of a side door, "Mom! I'm home, and we've got guests. Put some pants on and come on out."

The door opened, and Thalia's mother entered the room, a polite smile on her face.

"Hi, I'm...." was all she could say, the rest of her words stopping dead in her throat. Her jaw dropped open and her eyes went wide as she stared at Daria.

But that was nothing compared to the look on Daria's face. Her mouth opened and her lips worked themselves in a quivering manner, but no words came out. After a few seconds of this, she finally managed to croak out two words:

"Aunt Amy?"

Thalia sits in her usual pose under the statue of "The Thinker", and looks up at us. She speaks.

"It's not easy, is it?" She sighs. "Of course if it was, the poets and songwriters would all be out of jobs, and we wouldn't want that, would we? And hey - I'm 17. Mom's probably right - there's plenty of time."

Her face takes on a concerned expression. "Of course she's 39 and she still hasn't found her soulmate."

"The family thing was hard for me. But you know what? Getting together with my birth mother almost makes it worthwhile. She's so cool, isn't she? And how about that - she was Daria's aunt all along! Wow!"

Daria walks into shot. "Oh yeah," she deadpans. "They didn't see *that* coming."

Thalia looks up at her, annoyed.

"Well," Daria says, "I bet they did!" She faces us. "Come on. Put your hand up if you saw it coming. Be honest."

She waits.


Thalia looks down, drags her toe in the dirt, and says "It's a good thing I went for Jane instead of you, huh Daria? Especially since we're cousins and all..."

"Well, technically I think we're only half-cousins, so that rule might not apply..." Daria wiggles her nose suggestively at Thalia.


The End


Dwayne Hickman, who played Dobie Gillis, after some minor acting roles is now an artist selling his work on his own web site. We hope he's doing well.

Tuesday Weld, the beautiful, eternally desired and eternally (to Dobie) unattainable Thalia Menninger, went on to have a successful acting career, though it faded with her (exceptional) youthful beauty.

Bob Denver played The Fool - Dobie's buddy, the bongo-playing, work-averse beatnik, Maynard G Krebbs. Maynard was almost certainly an inspiration for Trent. They're practically identical. He went on, of course, to play Gilligan in the trite and formulaic, though amazingly successful, Gilligan's Island. He and Hickman are still friends.

But it was Sheila James who was the main inspiration for this story. She played played Zelda Gilroy, the foil to Weld's Thalia - an eternal loser, a geeky outcast (remind you of anyone?) who was convinced that she and her fellow outcast, Dobie, were fated for each other. Whenever she reminded Dobie of the fact, she wiggled her nose at him (like Samantha did in Bewitched), which always prompted an annoyed "ZELDA!" from Dobie.

Sheila James (now known as Sheila James Kuehl) was a lesbian. When she was asked by the studio heirarchy whether the rumours about her were true, she was honest enough to say that they were, and that was the end of a potentially promising acting career. She went on to graduate first in her class at Harvard Law School in 1978, and is currently a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers. During her time as a student there, she became the second female ever to win the university's intense "Moot Court" competition. She was a law professor at Loyola, UCLA and USC Law Schools and co-founded and served as managing attorney of the California Women's Law Center.

In 1994, she ran for, and won, election to the California State Assembly, where during the 1997-98 session she became the first woman in California history to be named Speaker pro Tempore of the Assembly. In 2000 (and again in 2004), she became the first openly gay or lesbian person to be elected to the California State Senate, where she would soon be named the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, and chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Energy, & Water (two highly important positions in water-poor California). She is also chair of the Select Committee on School Safety and Chair of the Select Committee on the Health Insurance Crisis in California, and sits on the Budget and Fiscal Review, Environmental Quality, Health, Judiciary, Labor, and Governmental Modernization, Efficiency & Accountability Committees (!). In her ten years in the State Legislature, she has authored 134 bills that have been signed into law. In 1998, and again in 2000, the California Journal chose her as the Assembly member with the greatest intelligence and the most integrity.

We hope that Daria would be pleased.

It's highly unlikely that any of these people will ever read our little story. Nevertheless, we dedicate it to them, and to the other actors and writers who did so much to lift the sitcom out of its 50s straightjacket.

Milderbeast and Deref.