(Opening montage. Music: "You're Standing On My Neck" Splendora.

LHS corridor. Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP by the lockers. As one body, they facefault and turn their heads to look at something out of shot. Lynn flicks her wrist, producing a knife, and dashes out of shot.

Football field, near the bleachers. Kevin and Brittany arguing. AP, sitting in the bleachers wearing a LHS marching band uniform and a completely disgusted statement, picks up a large pair of cymbals and smashes them together right near Kevin and Brittany's ears.

Pizza King. Quinn sitting at a table, sobbing with rage. Lynn looks at her, eyebrow raised in what is, for her, sympathy, and hands over a book. Quinn looks at the cover and stops crying as her face slowly brightens to an evil smirk.

AP's room. AP completely engrossed in a video game. Daria watches him play for a moment, disgust in her face, then starts digging through his cabinets.

LHS corridor. Mrs Bennett opens a door to reveal a broom closet in which Lynn and AP are making out; Lynn and AP break off a kiss as the door opens. They look at Bennett for a moment, then Lynn gives a wide grin and shuts the door in her face.

Morgendorffer front hallway. Jake going completely ballistic at Jerome, who is standing on the front step and looking at Jake in a mannerthat suggests that he's two seconds from calling the men in white coats. Then Jake takes a swing at Jerome.

The Zen. Daria, Jane, AP, Andrea, Guy, Casey and Mara at a table. Upchuck is leering at Mara, who regards him for a moment and then pulls him forward by the collar and kisses him hard, mouth open. When she lets go, Upchuck falls over in a dead faint. Jane looks extremely impressed.

Lane front door. Jane [in artist's smock and beret] and Jodie [ratty jeans, baggy T-shirt, clipboard, pencil behind her ear] open the door to find Quinn standing there wearing a seirafuku and a hopeful expression.

Biers. Someone has set it on fire; Lynn and Daria are wielding fire extinguishers that were probably new in 1931 [they contain water and you have to hand-pump them], trying to control the worst of the flames.

Daria and Lynn side-by-side again, smirking slightly. As the original montage sequence, the camera pulls in and then out again to reveal two interlocking circles; one contains the Daria logo and the other contains a corresponding 'Lynn' version. Writing underneath in the Daria font reads, "Daria in...")

FIFTH WHEEL

A Daria Fan Fiction [TLAS 4:02]

(Scene: Tom's room. Music: "Wake Up" - Boo Radleys. Tom is sitting on his bed, dressed in normal clothes, head in hands. Someone knocks on his door.)

Elsie: (OS) TOM! Dad says to say that you're going to be late if you don't move! (beat) Oh, and he says to make sure you're dressed appropriately for this!1

(Tom doesn't answer - just sighs and flops backwards onto the bed in despair.)

(Scene: Lane house, exterior. Music plays on. Daria approaches the front walk - AP staggers down the sidewalk towards her, hair askew.)

Daria: Good morning, and welcome to the first day of the rest of your high school career.

AP: Meef.

Daria: (looking closely at him) Early mornings are anathema to you, aren't they?

AP: (blink) Hmmrwrf?

Daria: (shaking her head; sigh) Never miiind...

(Lane front door opens, Jane steps out, fully dressed but without having brushed her hair.)

Jane: (groggy) Meef.

AP: Meef. (beat) Hmmmky?

Jane: Yrrrthn. (beat) Yrrrmky?

AP: (shrug) Dnnsk.

(Daria stares, then turns to Lynn, who is hanging back in the Lane front doorway, looking a little pale and tentative.)

Daria: Uh...

Lynn: (unusually subdued) They exchanged 'hey's. AP asked if Jane was okay, to which Jane replied that she was basically fine but that mornings blow dead rats before reciprocating the question. AP's response was "Don't ask".2

(Silence as Daria stares at Lynn.)

Daria: And you didn't supply them with your own personal brand of jet-fuel WHY?

Lynn: (sigh) They won't let me near the kitchen. They've embarked on a campaign to keep me away from sharp objects, prescription medication and some of the more lethal brands of cleaning products. (beat) Completely futile, but I guess it's nice to know they care.

(Daria looks askance at Lynn for a moment.)

Jane: (waking up a bit) Hey, we gettin' to school or WHAT?

AP: (not) Awwwwwwwdwhfta?

Lynn: Yes, we have to. Unfortunately.

Daria: It's only one more year. Considering what we've been through, I think we can survive one more year.3

(They turn to Lynn for confirmation or denial, but she just shrugs.)

Lynn: Are you at LEAST going to let me have my car keys back? Even if I DID want out, you KNOW I wouldn't take you with me.

(Jane gives a sheepish smirk and hands over the "51% Angel, 49% Bitch" keyring. Lynn very nearly smiles and Jane's smirk widens into a proper smile that's only a bit bigger than Daria's own. AP, still nearly asleep, just slumps where he stands, eyes mostly closed.)


(Scene: LHS corridor. Music: "Leash" - Pearl Jam. Tori and Brooke chatting to Sandi and Tiffany at lockers.)

Sandi: A new school year DEMANDS a new Fashion Club, Brooke. I mean, now that those plastic surgeon people have FINALLY ... 'dealt with' that ... unsightly PROBLEM with your nose...4

Tori: I don't know, Sandi... I mean, what do we GET out of joining the Fashion Club? I mean, like, as far as *I* can tell you just spend a lot of time walking around shopping malls in shoes that make your feet hurt.

Brooke: And the BLISTERS... I mean, think of the BLISTERS...

Tiffany: Ooooooooh yeeeeeaaaaah... good point.5

Sandi: Tori dear, you seem to be missing the POINT. As a card-carrying member of the Fashion Club, you get popularity privileges beyond your WILDEST dreams. (beat) AND the chance to rate and SLATE all those less popular people.

Tori: You mean ... *I* decide who's cool and who's not?6

Sandi: As PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER, you would. And BROOKE, as Co-ordinating Officer, it would be YOUR job to find comfortable footwear that would not COMPROMISE our charter.

Tori: (looking over Sandi's shoulder) Ooooooh. The new kid's FINE. He hooks up with the right person and his popularity is going through the ROOF.

(The rest of the group turns around but whoever Tori's talking about isn't there.)

Sandi: I'm TELLING you, Tori, if you WANT guys to come AFTER you, there's NO better way than the Fashion Club. We give EXTENSIVE training on date behaviour and flirting.

Brooke: Well... maybe we can, like, think about this and get back to you?

Sandi: (taken aback) What's to THINK about? (beat) Okay, fine, but this IS a limited-time offer.

Tori: (blink) Uhhhh...

Brooke: (slightly fearful) Maybe we could get back to you, like, this afternoon or something?

(The two walk away, heads together, whispering furiously.)

Tiffany: Uuuuhhh... that went okay.

Sandi: Tiffany dear...

Tiffany: Yeeeeaaaaah...?

Sandi: Wake UP. That went BADLY.

Tiffany: I think they call that sarcasm, Sandi. (beat) You KNOW what that MEANS, riiiiiight?7

(Sandi looks at Tiffany with utmost scorn. Tiffany turns her "lights are on but no one's home" stare on Sandi, who sighs and walks off with Tiffany at her heels. Pan down the corridor a small way to Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP, all of whom are looking with some confusion at where Sandi and Tiffany were standing.)

Daria: You may have been right, Lynn. This place MAY be free of poseurs by the end of our senior year.8

Jane: Brooke blew Sandi off. BROOKE. The one who probably spent Peru's GNP on plastic surgery to IMPRESS Sandi.

AP: Igor. (beat) Sarcasm. (beat) Insulting ... Janus. (beat) Did we crossover into Bizarro World or WHAT?9

Lynn: (slightly distant) They're about sixteen, right? A lot of people start growing up around then.

AP: (concerned) Y'okay, Purple Peril?

Lynn: (a little more with-it) I WILL be if people stop ASKING me that. (to the looks) Look, stop WORRYING about me.

Daria: Lynn...

Lynn: I just want to forget this summer. ALL of this summer. (to AP's look) Okay, maybe not ALL of this summer, but you know what I mean.10 Drop it? Please?

(There is silence.)

Male Voice: That's not such a good idea, Peril.

(As one body, the gang facefaults. They turn their heads to look at something out of shot ... then Lynn flicks her wrist, producing a knife, and dashes out of shot. There is the slam of someone hitting a locker. Daria, Jane and AP's eyes go wider.)

Daria: Lynn, STOP!

(Pan to the lockers further on, and the mystery voice is identified as Tom, who is white as a sheet and trying not to shiver in fear as Lynn presses her knife to his throat. Her face is hard and very angry.)

Lynn: Give me one good reason why I shouldn't slit you a new grin.

Tom: (choked) Look, Peril, I'm just following orders...

Daria: Lynn, let him go.

Lynn: I don't think so. (to Tom) What orders?

Tom: I ... don't think I should tell...

(She presses on the knife a little harder. A very thin line of blood starts to flow.)

Lynn: Oh, SHOULDN'T you.

Daria: Lynn...

Lynn: (ignoring Daria completely) Well?

Tom: (panicked choking noises)

Jane: Lynn, CHILL and put the knife away! You WANT to be carted off in a straitjacket?

(Lynn stiffens at that, then starts to tremble. She takes a step back and drops the knife, her eyes indicating that her mind is not where her body is but a few weeks in the past.)

Lynn: (trembling whisper) Sorry...

(At this point, she turns and runs.11 AP breaks after her. Daria and Jane look at each other and then advance on Tom, who is wiping the blood off his neck. He looks up at them.)

Tom: Thanks, Scarlet; she... (noticing the hate-filled looks on their faces) Uh.

Daria: Why. Are you. Here?

Tom: (sigh) Like I said, I have orders. (hands some papers to Daria) I don't want to be here any more than you want me here, believe me.

(Daria looks at the front sheet of the stack of papers as Jane picks up Lynn's knife and, out of habit, stuffs it down the side of her boot.)

Daria: (looking at the top sheet) "Subject: The fit has hit the shan"?

Tom: (shrug) It's a Warlock thing.12

Daria: (reading aloud for Jane's benefit) "Trouble. Merritts have regrouped and are sniffing around Lawndale again. Since you're the best we have in that area - gods help us all - Falcon says transfer to Lawndale High and keep an eye - preferably both - on Peril and Emerald. He says consider this a second - and last - chance." (beat; wry half-smirk) "PS - next time you're in The City, don't drop by."13

Jane: (disbelief) You're going to SCHOOL here? But you're about nineteen!

Tom: Nineteen in two months, actually. That's what the rest of the papers are for. (as Daria sifts through them) Mainly forged doctor's reports stating that I had some debilitating illness at a young age that held me back a year or two.

Daria: Let me guess. My dear newfound cousin's work.14

Tom: (shrug) Her medico status and Pagebert's scanner and printer? GREAT combination.

Jane: You're. Going to SCHOOL here. (beat) YOU. (beat) I don't BELIEVE this crap.

Daria: (more to the point) You're carrying this e-mail around. Is that WISE?

Tom: (blink) Aw hell.

Jane: (snatching it) I have art first and we have a shredder. I'll deal with it.

Daria: And there was no thought of warning us about this?

Tom: I was playing hands-off with Peril. (beat) I guess you see why.

Daria: Well, assuming AP can calm her down by then, we're talking about this after school.

Tom: Why not lunchtime?

Jane: (pointed) Was it YOU who told Lynn to never discuss something that you wouldn't want anyone else to hear in public?

Daria: (more blunt) Do you want to have THAT conversation in the middle of a cafeteria full of gossips who have nothing better to occupy what passes for their minds than eavesdropping on the weirdos at the corner table?

(Sheepish silence from Tom as Daria and Jane just look at him.)

Tom: How come you're so much better at this than I am?

Daria: (with a sad look in the direction Lynn ran off in) You pick stuff up. After awhile.

END ACT 1 - ADVERTS [Lead-in: S4 moving bumpers - Jane handing over Lynn's keys, Lynn running out of shot with knife at the ready, Daria reading the e-mail with a wry half-smirk.]

Retribution: Maybe this is just wrong, but I couldn't resist plugging dear Diane Long, one of my favourite ficters. Her new fic, "Retribution" is out here. In case you get bored, have a read of this instead of my tripe. 8o)

A Lane in Black: And some insider knowledge informs me that "A Lane in Black", the continuation of Jon Kilner's cliffhanger "A Lane in Red", is ready for posting and may - if I'm a lucky Brit indeed, be premiering on "I Am (NOT) Daria!" So watch this space.

ACT 2
(Scene: History class. Daria enters to see AP sitting at the front of the room, looking at the door intently. His shoulders slump a little when he sees Daria, and she walks up to him.)

Daria: You didn't catch up to her.

AP: She outran Art-Smart Scarlet once - you guys TOLD me she used to run track. What the hell chance did *I* have?15

Daria: (nodding to concede the point) Well, maybe we shouldn't worry until she doesn't show for class.

AP: Don't SAY that!16

(The bell rings and Daria and AP both turn towards the door. As the bell stops, Lynn steps into the doorway, looking hesitantly in for a moment. She is very pale.)

DeMartino: Please JOIN us, Ms Cullen!

(Lynn steps miserably into the room, bypassing the empty seat between Daria and AP and sitting in a seat at the rear of the room, by the windows. AP deserts his seat at the front and moves to the back of the room. The desk next to Lynn's is occupied by the guy with the eyebrow ring [Austin Loomis calls him 'Bill' so let's keep that17], so AP stands in front of it until Bill looks up.)

Bill: What?

AP: Move?

Bill: Why should I?

AP: Wanna find OUT? (beat) MOVE.

(Bill, surprised at the fact that he's a little intimidated, moves. AP gets into the seat next to Lynn's and leans towards her. She's looking out the window and doesn't seem to notice that AP's just bullied someone out of a seat.)

AP: Hey ho, Purple Peril. (beat; no response) Lynn? (beat; getting slightly panicked at continued lack of reply) Hel-loooooooo...

DeMartino: (OS) MR MCINTYRE!

AP: (jumping) Eee!

DeMartino: (raising an eyebrow at him) FASCINATING as your business with Ms Cullen might BE, I'd suggest it can WAIT until AFTER my class! Am I CORRECT?

AP: (shrinking into his seat) Yessir...

DeMartino: NOW that I have your ATTENTION...

(As DeMartino's voice fades into background noise, AP shifts his eyes to Lynn, who is staring out the window, oblivious. AP obviously doesn't like this.)


(Scene: LHS cafeteria. Lynn sitting alone at a table, randomly poking at her food [perhaps making sure it's actually dead and not, contrary to its appearance, about to slither off the plate]. Daria approaches, carrying a tray.)

Daria: (carefully) Anyone sitting here?

Lynn: (not looking up) You have to ask?

(Daria sits across from Lynn. Silence for a moment.)

Daria: Asking if you're okay would be...

Lynn: (still not looking up) ...A bad idea, yes.

Daria: Oh. (beat) That kind of derails me, you realise.

Lynn: I know. (beat; finally looking at her) Sorry. I just...

(Enter AP with tray, which he drops carelessly on the table as he plunks down next to Lynn and starts speed-ranting at her.)

AP: THREE different classes we have together and I got DETENTION in one of them and you STILL act like you're on some really nasty little planet of your own and it's WAY too much like how you looked after you came to in Frisco and I'm FREAKED out of my mind so if you don't say something soon I'm gonna...

Lynn: (wide-eyed and pale) Excuse me.

(With that, she gets up and leaves. AP looks after her, eyes wide. Daria gets his attention by smacking him in the back of the head with a notebook. He turns the incredulous, worried stare on her.)

AP: What'd I SAY?

(Daria just glares at him.)


(Scene: LHS corridor. Music: "Master of Puppets" - Metallica. Daria, Jane and AP approach a locker. They find a note stuffed into one of the vents. Daria plucks it out, reads it, shows it to Jane. Jane reads it, sighs and hands it to AP. AP reads it, scowls at it and crumples it into a little ball, throwing it at a nearby garbage can. It misses by a good six feet. The trio walk away, leaving the crumpled paper where it lies.)


(Scene: LHS parking lot. Music plays on. Tom approaches the Rustbucket only to find Daria, Jane and AP leaning against it, arms folded, waiting. Their looks could freeze helium.)

Tom: Peril?

Daria: (accusatory) MIA. (beat) Again.

Tom: (sigh; running a frustrated hand through his hair) Wish she'd stop DOING that... Where do we start looking?

Daria: (command tone) Nowhere yet. She's been through hell and needs some time - and she probably wouldn't be able to take what you're going to be telling us anyway.

Tom: (defensive) 'Going to'? What makes you think...?

Jane: (producing Lynn's knife from her boot; casual) THIS makes us think, crim-boy.

Tom: (nervous swallow) Okay, okay; no need for threats.

Jane: But they're SO much fun.

Daria: (rolling her eyes) Can we find somewhere more PRIVATE for this?

(Tom gestures to the Rustbucket. Daria and Jane go around to the passenger side. AP stands blocking the driver's side front door, glaring at Tom.)

Tom: (nervous despite himself) What?

(A second's tense silence)

AP: Not even Purple Peril has the right words for how much I hate you. AND your whole damn 'Family'.

(Without another word, he turns, opens the rear door and gets in next to Jane, slamming the door behind him. Tom stands there for a moment, then sighs and gets behind the wheel.)


(Scene: Sloane living room. Music plays on. Daria, Jane and AP are staring at Tom.)

Daria: A RECRUITMENT drive? (beat) That whole tour was a RECRUITMENT drive? For US.

Tom: (helpless shrug) Remember, he knows Maverick from way back. (to AP) Even then, he saw potential.18 (flinches at AP's 'You're NOT impressing me' glare, back to Daria) And you ... well, you're a SMYTHE. You're ALSO the yin to Peril's yang. You two balance each other out. If he could get you two together on the Family business... (trails off weakly)

(Deadly, nasty silence.)

Daria: (no inflection) I should have let Lynn slit your throat.

Tom: (seeing that she probably MEANS it) Eep.

Jane: (producing Lynn's knife again; same lack of inflection) It can still happen.

Tom: (now officially freaked) EEP.

AP: Guys ... that's going easy on him. Let him try to hack out a year at Lawn-hell on his own. Now THAT'S what Purple Peril calls 'purgatory on a stick'.

Tom: (sick grin) You're a cruel man, Maverick.

AP: (dead serious) I learned from the best. Remember that.

Tom: Look, you think I WANT to do this?

Daria: I don't see you fighting very hard NOT to...

Tom: It's a little something called parental expectation. Ever heard of it? (Daria and AP look at each other a little sheepishly. Only Jane looks predominantly unmoved.) Dad isn't content with his involvement with the Family business. Never has been.

Daria: What *does* your father do, anyway? I mean, in that context?

Tom: He's a front. A decoy. What Peril calls a 'legit'. There are three branches to the Family. Some of them get their hands dirty.

Daria: Like 'Leopard' and 'Warlock'.

Tom: Well, both of them are in the money-handling business as well. Places like "Come Again" and the Motorcycle are great ways to ... well, legitimise the Smythe finances. But yeah.

Daria: And ... 'legits'?

Tom: Well, there has to be SOMETHING the Falcon can show when people wonder why he's doing so well. Some of the Smythe money actually comes from legitimate sources. Hence 'legit'.

Jane: Does this MATTER?

Daria: Curiosity. (beat) So okay. Your father isn't happy with his role in this whole deal. And he's shoving you into it head first.

Tom: Basically.

AP: I *still* don't see what we need you for. This is OVER.

Tom: (to Daria and Jane; raised eyebrow) No one told him.

AP: Told me WHAT?

Daria: He wasn't there when we read that e-mail out, Tom.

AP: WHAT e-mail? What the HELL...?

Jane: (as gently as she can) AP ... it isn't over. It's FAR from over.

Tom: Last intelligence I had was that the Merritt 'Family' ... well, you know what I mean ... had found Lawndale. Warlock never said as much but...

AP: (slightly bitter) He wouldn't. (beat) They're after her again?

Daria: They're probably after ALL of us. 'The Falcon' is just more interested in keeping Lynn and I alive than worrying about 'civilians'.

AP: And we're not worried about where Purple Peril took off to?

(Utter silence)

Tom: (sigh) WHY did they recruit me for this?

Jane: (snide) Because you're the best they have in Lawndale. (beat) God help us ALL.

Tom: Jane...

AP: She's right - fat lot of good you've done SO far!

Tom: Maverick...

AP: YOU don't call me that.

Tom: (getting a bit frantic) LOOK...

Daria: (looking at her friends) I think I speak for all of us when I say this. We don't want your protection. We don't NEED your protection. We can do a better job than you can of taking care of our own.

(Daria gets up. Jane and AP quickly follow suit. Tom stands up with them but can only watch, unable to think of anything helpful to say, as the threesome stalk out the door. We hear it slam shut and a moment later, Angier Sloane steps into the room.)

Angier: I take it your little after-school job's not going well.

(Tom just shrugs miserably at him and walks off, hands stuffed in his pockets.)

END ACT 2 - ADVERTS [Lead-in: S4 moving bumpers - AP menacing Bill, Jane retrieving the knife from her boot, Lynn throwing DeMartino]

Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies: I'm instituting the Bootlace Threat to one Jill "LeopardLady" Friedman. Finish this fic or else. YOU know what the Bootlace Threat is...

Next in The Look-Alike Series: The confrontation you've all been waiting for - Jake Morgendorffer meets Jerome Smythe! That's all I think I need to say to get the reader interested in "Parental Discretion".

ACT 3
(Scene: Biers. Music: "Stories I Tell" - Toad The Wet Sprocket. Lynn is staring at a half-empty glass. It's obviously not her first. She looks awful. A hand falls on her shoulder and, with a look of animal panic, Lynn grabs the arm it's attached to and throws the assailant over her shoulder and into the table, which breaks. She plants a boot firmly ... then facefaults.)

Lynn: (unsteady) Mr ... Mr DEMARTINO?

(Pan down to DeMartino's face, which is turning purple as Lynn's boot on his windpipe cuts his air supply.)

DeMartino: (choked) Would you mind ... removing ... your boot?19

(Lynn nearly staggers backwards. Pan to the barman, who is half-standing, one hand under the bar, looking tense.)

Barman: Y'okay there, Peril?

Lynn: (still a bit shaky) Yeah, fine. Stand down.

(DeMartino's on his feet again by this point, brushing himself off with one hand and rubbing his neck with the other.)

DeMartino: While I didn't expect the WARMEST of welcomes, Ms Cullen...

Lynn: Sorry, sir. Just a little ... tense.

DeMartino: That would be like saying KEVIN is a little DIM, Ms Cullen. (beat) You ARE aware of AGE restrictions as per ALCOHOL consumption?

Lynn: (raised eyebrow) Gonna rat on me to the bartender? (beat; pointed) Or at least TRY to?

DeMartino: (looking at the barman, who's still watching them warily) I somehow DOUBT that would have ANY effect rather than getting me BEATEN to a bloody PULP. While my face MAY not be much to LOOK AT, I'm rather USED to it. (beat) Take a SEAT, Ms Cullen. (They move to a non-destroyed table and sit.) Now, care to explain WHY one of my BEST - if somewhat overly HEADSTRONG - students is doing DROWNING her greatest ASSET in ETHANOL?

Lynn: (looking miserably at the table) None of your business. (beat) Sir.

DeMartino: All RIGHT. (beat) Then PERHAPS you could explain your PERFORMANCE in my class today. (beat) The PEANUT GALLERY doesn't SUIT you, Ms Cullen.

Lynn: With all due respect, sir, I'd much prefer if you buggered off and left me alone.

DeMartino: PRECISELY why I'm not GOING to. (beat) MS Cullen. I've seen THAT look before. On the FACES of prisoners of WAR.20 (Lynn looks up at him, raising an eyebrow) Now, you WILL be aware of how much I DETEST that touchy-feely GARBAGE as spewed by my colleague Timothy O'NEILL. However, even *I* am aware that, after undergoing SOME ordeals, refusing to UNBURDEN yourself about them is a MISTAKE.

Lynn: A complete impossibility, sir.

(Dead silence.)

DeMartino: (soft) Do you actually REMEMBER...?

Lynn: (snap) No, and I want to KEEP it that way.

DeMartino: It may haunt you at ODD moments if you DON'T, Ms Cullen. (Remembering the scene in the hallway, Lynn sighs.) I can ACCEPT that your COHORTS may not be appropriate CONFIDANTES in THIS case. (beat) I have TWO EARS, Ms Cullen. And am HARDENED to VIOLENCE.

(For a long moment, Lynn just looks at him.)

Lynn: Can ... I ask you a question, sir? (to Mr DeMartino's nod, after a beat) You saved my life once. And now you're offering... (vague hand gesture) Even after the incident with Brittany and my long history of mouthing off in class. (beat) Why?21

DeMartino: (shrug) People like you and your half-SISTER are a RARE species, Ms Cullen. Allowing you to DIE - or BREAK - would be like putting a BULLET through a BALD EAGLE.

(Lynn shudders a little ... then looks at him again. He gives her a nod and she closes her eyes, takes a deep, shuddering breath and...)

Lynn: I can't tell you who did it or why... (beat) But here goes.

(Fadeout)


(Scene: Pizza King. Music: "Rotten Apple" - Alice in Chains. Daria, Jane and AP are picking at a pizza forlornly.)

Jane: So what ARE we going to do about this? I mean, someone being after us is, correct me if I'm wrong, a BadThing.

Daria: You're not wrong. But I don't trust him. Not because I think he'd deliberately DO anything but just because...

AP: Because EVERYONE thinks he's incompetent. (to their looks) Yes, I know the word - Warlock said his only crime was utter incompetence.22

Daria: Right. You have a memory. Moving on. (beat) I made a big show back there about being able to protect our own - but that's not strictly true, is it? I mean, apart from a few knives and whatever Lynn's got, we're unarmed and ultimately defenceless. (sigh) I shouldn't try to talk big without being able to back it up.

AP: I don't GIVE a crap. If we have to, we make a call to that dirty bookshop with the stupid name... (blink) Oh jeez.

Daria: (getting it as well) Don't you usually SAY that when confused?23

AP: (head buried in hands) Oh JEEZ... (over the tension-breaking laughter from Daria and Jane) I'm never gonna be able to say that again...

(A bit more laughter, dying quickly.)

Daria: Can we justify blocking him out? (before AP can speak) Anything that doesn't involve blaming him for things that were ALL of our faults? Remember, if you hadn't been out in the A-Tank on your own, you probably wouldn't have been captured in the first place and Lynn wouldn't have gone after you.

AP: (sullen) I paid my dues for that.

Daria: Okay. But NONE of us casts blame. Not now.

(A pause)

Jane: He'd be a fifth wheel. He's a liability. We don't need him.

Daria: THAT I can accept. Okay. (beat; sad) Now who tells Lynn this isn't over?

(Daria and Jane both look at AP, who gives a long-suffering sigh.)

AP: You know you're giving this job to ... uh...

Jane: The Incredible Inarticulate Boy?

AP: Well ... yeah!

Daria: I think we've already seen how much blood ties actually mean. Who's KNOWN her longest? (beat) Who does she love?

(It seems to give AP confidence, hearing that.)


(Scene: Cullen house, ext. Music: "Thomas" - A Perfect Circle. AP is pacing the front doorstep in an agitated manner. He pauses for a moment and we hear slow, slightly draggy footsteps OS. He turns in time to see Lynn turn into the walk and make her way halfway up it before she catches sight of AP and stops. She looks very tired but more relaxed than earlier in the day.)

AP: (stepping up to her, fury and relief) Where the HELL have you BEEN? I've been worried SICK! I mean... (gets a good look at her; immediate change of tack as worry takes over) Oh GOD, what happened? Are you okay? I mean, no one tried to...

Lynn: (infinitely weary) AP?

AP: (derailed) Yeah?

Lynn: Just shut up a minute, okay?

(with that, she steps forward and hugs him tight, burying her face in the hollow between his neck and shoulder. AP, stunned, holds her close, running one hand over her hair.)

AP: (fond bemusement) One of these days, Purple Peril, you're gonna make me NUTS.

Lynn: (muffled but still with audible smirk) What do you mean, 'make'?

AP: (sputtering laugh; pulling away a little to look into her face) Why you little...

(Now it's Lynn's turn to shut HIM up with a kiss. It lasts awhile. When she pulls back, she notes that AP's eyes are sad and not a little worried.)

Lynn: What is it?

AP: Do I have to tell you NOW? It's ... kinda...

Lynn: (squaring her shoulders; mask down) I guess better now than later. Come on inside. This sounds like something that requires a place to sit down to get through.

(Lynn turns towards the door and gropes in her pocket for her keys, leaving AP to look after her with a sigh of regret.)


(Scene: Daria's room. Music: "If He Tries Anything" - Ani DiFranco ["We both carry a smile/To show when we're pleased/We both carry a switchblade/In our sleeves"...] Daria is sprawled out on the bed, doing homework, her mind obviously not entirely on her task. The phone rings, and Daria absently gropes for it.)

Daria: Hello?

Lynn: (OS from phone) Heard you came down on Rust like a ton of bricks.

Daria: (a bit stunned) LYNN?

(Split screen between Daria in her room and Lynn in hers.)

Lynn: You were expecting maybe Mia Wallace?24

Daria: NOT funny.

Lynn: Well, we can but try. Seriously, blew him out hard, huh?

Daria: We didn't see why we needed him.

Lynn: For the record, I agree with you. But this is going to cause problems. Like it or not, Dad saddled us with a fifth wheel for a reason. If we can't come up with a REALLY good reason why Rust shouldn't be around to cover our backs, as it were, he's gonna want to know why.

Daria: We don't like him, we don't trust him to do the right thing and we have better connections... (hint-hint tone) DON'T we.

Lynn: (one-shoulder shrug) I guess. Well, I'll talk to him and see how much ice that cuts. (beat) Unless YOU want to do it; you seem to be dealing with negotiations and crap pretty well.

Daria: (suppressed shudder) I don't think so. That's YOUR department. I'm just...

Lynn: (slight bitterness) Just the quintessential Consigliora.25

(Brief silence while this gets digested)

Daria: We're playing into his hands, aren't we.

Lynn: (sigh) We're involved now. We fight it, we're dead. (beat; lighter tone) Speaking of dead, I'LL be a stiff if I don't get that assignment we're supposed to do for DeMartino. I kind of missed out on copying it off the board. Got it handy?

Daria: (smiling slightly at the normaling-out) Yeah, I was just working on it - hang on.


(Scene: LHS corridor. Music plays on ["I'll be watching you/From the wings/I will come to your rescue/If he tries anything"...] Daria, Jane, Lynn and AP standing in a little knot by the lockers, chatting in an amiable way. Tom approaches.)

Tom: Er, about yesterday...

(They look up in unison and stare at him. He shrinks back and walks away, with a look back over his shoulder at them. Then he turns a corner and takes out a cellphone, hitting a speed-dial number and waiting.)

Tom: Yeah, Rust. (beat) No, RUST. (beat) Yes, I know what time it is there - I knew SOMEONE'D be up. (beat) Yes. I can't follow the orders you forwarded me. They're shutting me out. (beat) YES, I tried! (beat) Yeah, you do that.

(He hits the cutoff button with a vicious stab of a finger and stuffs the phone into a pocket. Then he slumps back against the wall.)

A NOTE OF THANKS

Here's looking at Ben Yee [yes, again] for the dialogue commentary, Jill "Leopard" Friedman for the notes of encouragement and Wind "Jensen" Lane for asking the hard questions.

ENDNOTES

1] Watchers of the show met Elsie in "Is It Fall Yet?". I borrowed the family even though I deviated from canon at the end of S3 because, well, what choice did I have? [Back]

2] The reason she knows this is because, after enough time trying to decipher AP's early morning groggy-speech, Lynn created the "Grog-English Dictionary" as her project of the year in 1994 ["How The Other Half Lives"] [Back]

3] She'd be referring to the events of "Tour of Duty". Seriously, I think after THAT fiasco, high school would be a dawdle. And yes, I suffered four years of American HS so I know whereof I speak. [Back]

4] Reffing the ep "Too Cute", where Brooke's attempts to get herself into the Fashion Club by plastic surgery fail in a big way when her nose "just ... caved ... in". [Back]

5] If you've seen "Speedtrapped", you know what tone that's said in. [Back]

6] Tori Jericho is the name given to that walking popularity guide from "The Invitation" by various ficters. [Back]

7] I gave Tiffany a bit of a rebellious streak in "Misshapen Identity". [Back]

8] Direct quote - "Love Him or Leave Him"; Lynn Cullen. "Success! We are the Flack-Jacket Mafia and this school WILL be free of poseurs by the end of our senior year." [Back]

9] The codename Janus for Sandi is my invention from "Kiss and Tell". The codename Igor is courtesy Austin Loomis - I'm not a hundred percent sure which of his adapts he used it in first and am far too lazy to check. And "Bizarro World" - Marvel Comics ref - a world where everything's backwards. [Back]

10] Well, she and AP seem to have got together this summer [see ToD for the alternashippery details]. THAT she wouldn't want to forget... [Back]

11] For anyone who's confused by this reaction, take another look at ToD. A straitjacket was used on AP after he demonstrated the ability to get out of handcuffs. I think it's safe to say that, since Lynn taught him everything he knows about lockbreaking and she's already shown she can get out of handcuffs ["Job Lots"], they'd have had to do the same to her. [Back]

12] 'Warlock' was first seen in "Love's Labour", collecting Lynn at the airport with 'Scar'. He just doesn't get a name for awhile. [Back]

13] The very few of you [all cameos] who saw any draft prior to 13 or so of ToD will recognise this 'mail'. Ben and I eventually decided to cut it because it would spoil the suspense or something. [Then again, if CN's reaction was any indication, none of you are in the LEAST bit surprised to see Tom turn up at LHS... thanks for keeping it to yourselves, for the most part.] [Back]

14] He'd be talking about Jan or lately 'Kestrel', Lynn's Canadibrit cousin and my walk-on. [Back]

15] Reference to the opening of "Gym Dandy" and, of course, Jane's ill-fated track career from "See Jane Run". [Back]

16] Given that Lynn's so far pulled two fairly major disappearing acts ["Love's Labour", "Lost and Found"], AP's bound to be a little paranoid. [Back]

17] In the prose adapt to "Love's Labour, if you must know. [Back]

18] I'll be showing in "Growing Cynical" how AP gets involved in the few father/daughter outings Lynn and Jerome have before Kate cracks down and Jerome 'disappears'. Austin's suggested that I wait until after I've finished TLAS before finishing "Growing Cynical" but I've also been thinking about releasing it chapter by chapter again. Suggestions? You know where I am... [Back]

19] If Lynn was in a better mental state, she wouldn't be quite so surprised. It's established in "None of Your Affair" that DeMartino goes into Biers, the drinking establishment first seen in "An Irony of Errors" that's obviously a Smythe-place, from time to time. [Back]

20] Jill "Leopard" Friedman deserves a special shoutout here - though I was aware of the military school refs made concerning DeMartino in "The Daria Hunter", I had forgotten about them. No, he never mentions having fought in 'Nam, Leopard, but anyone who reacts like that is *definitely* suffering delayed shell-shock or SOMETHING. [Back]

21] References in order - "Liaisons" [DeMartino shoots Li dead before she can do greater harm to Lynn], "Swear to be Different" [Lynn calls DeMartino an abusive f*** after he verbally abuses Brittany to the point where she leaves the room in tears], and nowhere exactly but we can just GUESS, knowing Lynn. [Back]

22] One of Warlock's more noble moves from ToD - trying to protect Tom in the only way he could - but even then, Warlock will have his digs. And AP does have a memory for quotes. He just couldn't manipulate the language himself if his life depended on it. [Back]

23] It's true, he does. And I don't BELIEVE neither Jill, Ben nor I NOTICED that before we named the damn thing... [Back]

24] Gangster-wife to Marcellus Wallace of "Pulp Fiction" fame. The best parallel I could think of on short notice. [Back]

25] Big assumption here - I don't do Italian. But I figured that if it was "Consigliori" for a man, then "Consigliora" for a woman was a safe bet. [Back]

LEGAL BLATHER

Daria Morgendorffer et al are the creations of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn but are owned by MTV, a Viacom company, copyright 1997, 2000. [Apparently, this is possible by 'work for hire', a concept that eludes me.] Lynn Cullen and AP McIntyre, on the other hand, were created and are owned by me, one Janet 'Canadibrit' Neilson, copyright 1999, 2000. Touch my characters without consulting me and it will go hard with you. This is a "substantially transformative" derivative work, apparently [what a highfalutin way to say fanfic], and is protected by the Supreme Court's decision in re Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, so keep the copyright notice where it is and don't post it for money. If you do so without my permission and that of MTV Networks, I WILL pull a Lynn Cullen on you. And then I'll call lawyers.

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