(Montage teaser sequence. Music: Splendora -- "You're Standing On My Neck".

Daria, Jane and Lynn stand wearing ugly peach tulle bridesmaid dresses and disgusted expressions as Barch and DeMartino yell at each other and O'Neill watches and wrings his hands in despair.

AP standing on the platform of a Dance Dance Revolution game. Mack and Quinn stand behind him, looking nervous.

LHS ext. Daria, Jane and Lynn watch as Lorna Smythe and Amy Barskdale look at each other assessingly.

LHS corridor. Ted and Quinn facing Daria. Ted hands Daria a yearbook, open to a spot somewhere near the middle. Quinn, beaming, hugs Daria, who looks nearly horrified.

LHS gym. A tall, burly man hands Lynn a blue and yellow garment. She shakes it out and then studies it -- the expression on her face is halfway between admiration and horror.

Lane kitchen. Jane, Trent and Penny yelling at each other.

Daria's room. Lynn making to climb out Daria's bedroom window when Helen puts a hand on her arm.

Lane front hall. Jane opens the door to a very angry Jodie, who carries a suitcase.

Daria and Lynn, side-by-side, looking at each other and giving the traditional Mona Lisa smile. Pan in and out to change to the TLAS logo. Writing in Daria font underneath reads...)


(Scene: Helen's office. Helen is sitting at her desk, looking over papers with no small amount of concern. Marianne enters, clutching a small stack of paper of her own. Marianne looks a bit jittery - more so than usual, which is saying something.)

Helen: Did the report come through, Marianne?

Marianne: (nervous little grin) Yes, Mrs Morgendorffer.

Helen: Any trouble getting it?

Marianne: Not really, once I explained who I was getting it for. District Attorneys get all the breaks.

Helen: I know. I should try actually being one sometime. (small smirk) Thank you, Marianne.

Marianne: Um ... Mrs Morgendorffer? Just ... some of this stuff is ... kind of scary.

(The folders on the desk are many and none of them look like legal briefs exactly. One bears the simple label "Incident Reports". Torn-open envelopes are strewn across the desk as well - the Disney logo is prominent on one, and several others look like they've come from state law enforcement - Pennsylvania, Florida and California might be recognisable.)

Helen: (OS) Yes. It is, isn't it?

(Scene: LHS cafeteria. Music: "Friends of Mine" - Duran Duran. It's the usual scene - bad food, dumb students, people eating. Daria and Jane are at their normal table in the corner, on their own.)

Jane: Did you happen to notice that we're two cynics short the bevy?

Daria: I make it one. I don't think AP was ever all that cynical except by default.

Jane: How can you be cynical by default?

Daria: Have a brain. Use it on occasion. That'll effectively stick the Bluebird of Optimism down the coal mine.

Jane: If you could drop the Morgendorffer pedantry for maybe two seconds, mind telling me where the Couple Most Likely to Incite a Riot went?

Daria: I think Lynn's doing her homework in the library and AP's working the pool.

Jane: Sudden image of AP in a Speedo. Curse my visual mind...

Daria: The betting pool, ning-nong.

Jane: We're doing that again? I figured all the teachers who were going to break would have done it by now.

Daria: It's county-wide, for the roller hockey league. He's set up this whole online betting system - most of it happens via PayPal. I think there's also a fantasy league.

Jane: Oh yeah, that. According to Goat-Boy, half of Oakwood is falling all over themselves to trade for our esteemed captain in the fantasy league, while the other half verbally ream them for lack of school loyalty. It's sad how high school students don't have anything better to do than this. (beat) Speaking of things people waste their spare time on, why does AP do this stuff again? I mean, it's not like he even needs the money.

Daria: Fun. Practice. Giving Lynn space.

Jane: Oh yeah, the cohabiting thing. Doesn't seem to be going too badly.

Daria: No, but that doesn't mean they need to be around each other twenty-four-seven, either.

Jane: I guess you'd know. How much time do you not spend with my brother lately?

Daria: (*sigh*) Damn my eternal quest for GPA maintenance. Is he mad?

Jane: He wouldn't know mad at you if you ran his guitar over with the Bondmobile, Daria. He keeps busy. He's got chores.

Daria: Did your mother happen to discover a patch of berries in the woods about fifty miles south of-

Jane: A long, long time ago, probably, but I wouldn't know because she's doing something esoterically artsy in Belize. I'm talking self-assigned chores here.

Daria: Remind me after school to go over to your place and start hunting under his bed for the pod or other persona-altering 'amusing surprises'.

Jane: Seriously, he wants to get this album out, so he's actually working. Getting up in the actual morning. Okay, so training him to do that involved Lynn coming by on the way to school every morning for a week and filling his bed with frozen peas, but it worked.

Daria: Certainly more inventive than a rolled-up newspaper. So ... it's just the two of us.

Jane: Yep.

(Short pause during which Daria and Jane take a bite of their respective lunches and chew thoughtfully.)

Daria: Pizza?

Jane: Chocolate chip cookie dough.

Daria: Sick Sad World marathon.

Jane: Animal Maulings on Home Video!

Daria: Hunting for the pod.

Jane: Helping me with my math homework?

Daria: (Mona Lisa smirk) Things just never change.

(Scene: Morgendorffer kitchen. Music: "Born Too Soon" - Therapy? Helen is seated at the table, wearing the same worried, fraught expression she wore at her office. Daria wanders through the kitchen and Helen stands, gathering the files she'd been staring at up in her hands.)

Helen: Daria, we need to talk.

Daria: (not liking the tone at all) ...Jane's. Homework. Lots and lots of homework.

Helen: Daria, we need to talk right now.

Daria: Mom, I know I'm going overseas to college and everything, but we do still have many months in which to do the mother-daughter bonding- (Helen throws down her files so Daria can read the titles.) -Crap.

Helen: Jerome. Peregrine. Smythe. What is he, Daria?

Daria: ...Worm food?

Helen: Daria, this is serious and important and you just don't get it! What's wrong with you?

Daria: You've been spying on me. Prying into things I told you not to-

Helen: And I could have handled it any other way, Daria? The way you've been acting - the secretiveness - and it all traced back to Jerome and it was either this or suggesting therapy ... again. If I remember right, we had that conversation back in Highland.

Daria: (trying to keep it together) You had to admire the fortitude with which I made my stand on that front.

Helen: Spending the next week speaking exclusively in unrhymed iambic pentameter to show how much more crazy you could possibly act was not 'making a stand'. You-

(Hesitation for a moment as she realises that something in there did not come out anywhere near as well as it should have. Daria just gives her mother a long, flat stare.)

Helen: (lawyer mode) Daria, your US tour last summer. Highland - just around the time you passed through, that Todd boy who used to give you problems went missing. Biloxi - your visit coincided with a car bomb outside a local restaurant. A psychotic mime in Florida, which I won't even begin to contemplate. Washington, DC - minor riot in a strip club of all places. Pittsburgh - what seemed like a combination car chase and drive-by shooting. Vandalism of a New Jersey high school. Armed assault of two casino bouncers in Las Vegas. I won't even go into what happened around the time you were in San Francisco. And all those cities contain at least one of Jerome Smythe's business ventures. Contrary to what you'd like to believe, I am not stupid.

(Helen stops, having put her foot in it again. Continued long, flat stare from Daria.)

Helen: Look, some of these ... these issues ... were locked down like you wouldn't believe. Unreleased. There are some things about the Smythe records that the FBI won't acknowledge exists! The rest of it ... I need to know what happened if I'm going to stand any chance of defending you if it comes to a trial. (That 'oops' look crosses her face again; madly backpedalling) Not that I think you're directly responsible for any of this, you understand, but ... I need to know these things. For so, so many reasons.

(Continued long, flat stare from Daria. It's getting unnerving.)

Helen: Daria, I want to understand this. I want ... you're my daughter. I need to know what's going on with you.

(Still the long, flat stare from Daria. Just when it's getting nearly impossible to take...)

Daria: Tough.

Helen: What did you just say to me?

Daria: I. Said. Tough. (Advances. Menacingly) Eight. Teen. Years. I have put up with this crap.

Helen: ('Oh shit' look) Daria...?

Daria: That's how long you've had to figure me out. That's how long you spent throwing every last fucking chance you had to get to know me out the fucking window in favour of throwing money at Quinn. Except for the times when you decide to snoop around in what I have insisted time and time again does not concern you. And I'm supposed to trust you enough to come to you with my problems? Seriously?

Helen: (Fear warring with parental sternness; fear winning) Daria, you're out of line. I...

Daria: Yes, you've had your moments. But you know what I'm finally starting to understand? Those few bright moments when you were actually even approaching decent parenthood? (Low, venomous hiss) You got lucky.

Helen: Y-you ... don't you take that tone of voice with me, young lady! You're not too young to-

Daria: Ground? Oh, yes I am. I'm hell and gone past the days when you could nag at me and belittle me and half-assed parent me to death and I was stuck in passive-aggressive mode. How much more crazy I can act? You really want to see? You really want to know? Well, be careful what you ask for.

(Snatching up the files, Daria heads towards the door.)

Helen: Daria Morgendor-

Daria: That's. Not. My. Name.

Jake: (entering from living room) Hey there, kiddo!

Daria: Ditch the witch, Jake. She's got you pretty well castrated. (She walks out and a door slams.)

Jake: (not quite catching up to events straight away) Sure thing, kid-Huh? Helen? What ...?

Helen: (near tears and panicky) Nothing! Just ... just, we had an argument. I ... nothing. I ... have to go to work.

Jake: But it's five o'clock in the- (SLAM) Okaaaaaaay.

(The Quarry. Music plays on. Cars on the Embankment, where kids are apparently ... *ahem* 'testing the parking brake'. Pan down to find Daria, who has started an oil drum fire at the bottom of the quarry, near the burned-out remains of a car that might at one time have been a Mercedes. She is throwing pieces of documentation from the files she's taken from the kitchen table into the fire, a piece at a time. She stops at the Mystik Spiral promo shot that has found its way into the tour itinerary file and looks at it for a long moment. Then she dumps it in, watching it curl and blacken. Then she throws the rest in, all in one lump, and watches the whole mess burn for a moment. Then she pulls the zipper on her green field jacket, shrugging out of it. Without a second's hesitation, she balls the jacket up and tosses it on the small contained blaze. Then she sits down in front of her impromptu oil drum fire and leans back on her elbows, watching the smoke rise.)

(Scene: LHS corridor. Music: "Shakespeare's Got a Gun" - Dan Bern. General 'kids getting ready for class' bustle. Jane, vibrating with anxiety, is standing next to Lynn's locker. Lynn, concerned but calmer, is unpacking her book bag for class.)

Jane: I'm just worried. It's not like Daria to ditch something like this.

Lynn: If something's bothering her, it's exactly like Daria to ditch something like this. You know, feeling safe and understood might get her to do that pesky venting thing that she so likes to avoid.

Jane: But what's bothering her? She was fine yesterday. Everything was coming up roses.

Lynn: Maybe the roses got a good dose of fertiliser, then.

Jane: Okay, everything was coming up chocolate chip cookie dough and animal maulings; better?

Lynn: Somewhat, yes.

Jane: So it's Smythe pedantry. Okay. Noted.

Lynn: Excuse me?

Jane: Never mind.

(Daria walks past, not acknowledging Jane or Lynn. She's wearing her ToD trenchcoat and jeans; her hair is in a ponytail and she has left her glasses off. Lynn and Jane watch her go past, too busy staring to try to call out to Daria, and then there is a moment of silence as they stare at the space Daria has vacated.)

Jane: Where the hell is her skirt?

Lynn: (moving right past details to implications) ...Oh crap.

Jane: (still stuck on details) Where the hell is her jacket?

(Lynn pulls her cellular phone out of her jacket pocket at this point, as if reminded by Jane's query.)

Lynn: (button-pressing frenzy indicating text messaging) Warning. Warning. Danger, Will Robinson...

Jane: (another detail hits) WHERE THE HELL ARE HER GLASSES?!?

Lynn: (eyes still on her phone, apparently waiting for reply) Jane, could we have a little focus here?


(There is a *beep-beep, beep-beep* of incoming text message; Lynn presses buttons and reads.)

Lynn: (apparently to phone) Great. Now I'm going to have to pry AP off the roof before we can do anything constructive.


Lynn: (pocketing the phone) Jane. Focus.

Jane: (Finally moving on from physical detail) No, okay, this is insane. She backs out on bonding night and turns up at school the next day looking like ... like ... like a...

Lynn: ('it took you this long to get here?') Like a stereotypical 'Columbine kid', Jane.

(In the horrified silence that follows that, the bell rings.)

Jane: Class with her?

Lynn: English. Yes.

Jane: Fine. I'll pry the Techno-Chicken off the roof.


AD BREAK 1: Commercial TV is still something I strenuously avoid, but has anyone seen that new Coke advert that's been doing the rounds on YouTube? I like Coca-Cola - it's my favoured brand of caffeinated sugar water - but I think they've made drinking the stuff look more geeky than they meant to.

(Scene: English class. Music: "Violence Fetish" - Disturbed. Daria, in her seat near the front, has propped her feet up on her desk and has folded her arms behind her head, staring at the classroom ceiling. Everyone is shooting her some very odd looks - Jodie, looking more worried than perplexed, takes a moment to try to catch Lynn's eye, but Lynn isn't paying attention, too busy watching Daria like a hawk. O'Neill enters, in usual fluffy mode, but stops dead when he sees Daria. When he starts to speak, it is with an air of uncertainty.)

O'Neill: Okay, class, you can put your books away. I thought we should take a bit of a break from the gloom and doom of Hamlet. After all, such a ... dark piece can be a ... bit of a ... strain on young, impressionable minds and ... Daria, we don't put our feet on the desks.

Daria: Maybe you don't.

O'Neill: I don't, no ... and you generally don't either. Now, it's healthy to explore your boundaries within the student-teacher relationship, but...

Daria: Cut the crap and get to the point.

O'Neill: Um ... please take your feet off the desk.

Daria: No.

O'Neill: Daria ... you're disrupting the class.

(Daria kicks her desk over. It hits Jodie in the small of the back; Jodie stifles a yelp of pain. Lynn blinks. The rest of the class just stares, dumbfounded.)

O'Neill: (shocked and horrified) Daria! While venting one's feelings is healthy, it's counterproductive to- (Daria gets up) Eep!

Daria: If you're going to spend the entire period blithering about inane crap - more so than usual, anyway - then I don't need to be here.

O'Neill: (sheer terror, but moves to block her anyway) D-daria ... now wait; I...

Daria: Wait? For what, exactly? Would you care to subject me to more of your mealy-mouthed platitudes in your never-ending quest to force me to view the world in a positive light? Are you so desperate for validation of your worldview that you would deny me my right to be an angry, cynical misanthrope and force me to sign up to your way of thinking? Do you hate me so much, Mr O'Neill, that you would have me deny myself so completely?

O'Neill: (shame and unhappiness joins the fear) N-n-no ... Daria, I...

Daria: Then get the hell out of my way.

(He does. To his credit, he waits until she's out the door before bursting into tears. Lynn shoots an 'are you okay?' look at Jodie, who just tilts her head towards the door. Lynn makes her exit.)

Burnout Kid in Head T-Shirt: Are we gonna get tested on this?

(Scene: Deserted hallway. Music plays on. Daria ambling along it. Lynn walking up behind her. Eventually, Lynn gets fed up with the chase and stops.)

Lynn: Klebold or Harris?

(Daria stops and does a slow 180 to face Lynn.)

Daria: Excuse me?

Lynn: (slowly approaching) Morbid curiosity - just how close are you to bringing a firearm to school?

Daria: Couldn't I just get the one in your locker?

Lynn: (stops about five feet from Daria) If you think I'd hide it in my locker, you're dumber than you're acting. What happened?

Daria: Nothing.

Lynn: Oh, spare me the faeces tauri. I figure we're past that. One minute, you're acting pretty normal. Next minute, you're dressed like an incipient revenge fantasy and hurting your friends, literally as well as figuratively.

Daria: And you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?

Lynn: (blink) Excuse me?

Daria: You want to know what my problem is? You want to know what happened? You. You happened. You turned up in my school and in my life. Sure, before you came along things were pretty damn boring. I had exactly one official friend and the rest of my world was stupid. But it was normal stupid. Non-lethal stupid. I knew who my family was. I knew who my friends were. More to the point, I knew that my friends weren't likely to take a bullet to the head. And neither was I.

Lynn: (deep, calming breath; then...) I tried every way I knew how to keep you the hell out of that and you know it. If you're going to bitch at me, at least let it be about the shit I've actually done wrong instead of the shit you dropped yourself in the middle of willingly.

Daria: Willingly? Whose stupid idea was that evil fucking tour?

Lynn: (slightly chilly tone) Shall we speak ill of the dead?

Daria: Why the hell not? Your father was an asshole!

Lynn: Our father was an asshole! And apparently it runs in the family!

Daria: So it would seem. Lying, dirty dealing ... sleeping around...

Lynn: (completely thrown) Excuse me?

Daria: Trent. New Year.

Lynn: You're throwing that at me? Now?

Daria: (musing tone) Random drunken sex with my former crush when you were apparently so in love with my at-the-time boyfriend kind of makes you a slut, you know.

Lynn: (stunned and a lot more hurt than she's letting on) You bitch.

Daria: (advancing until she's nearly nose to nose with Lynn) You come here, you run rampant over and through my life, you nearly get me killed a half-dozen times or more, and yet you call me bitch. You screw up my life, and yet you call me bitch. You arrogant, self-absorbed, petty little drama whore.

Lynn: (just can't help herself) Look who's talking.

(Daria swings a punch. Lynn, not expecting it, doesn't have time to dodge and gets floored. Silence for a long moment as Lynn avoids looking at Daria, hands moving to her face.)

Daria: And the horse you rode in on, you lunatic. Come near me again and I will make you wish you hadn't.

(Leaving Lynn on the floor, Daria walks away.)

(Scene: Chez Cullen, ext. Jane and AP getting out of AP's blue Beetle. Both look worried.)

AP: Um ... can I just ask? Since when the holy blue hell does Erudite Emerald want to use her science class time making LSD?

Jane: Damn right. Considering how she's been acting, it should be crack.

AP: Not funny.

Jane: If I don't joke, my head's going to go like the Hindenburg. I don't know what's going on - she won't get within twenty feet of me. Did Lynn say anything to you about her chat with Daria during English?

AP: Um ... I haven't seen Purple Peril since just before school.

Jane: Oh, crap. Last thing we need is both of them acting like - ah. (They have reached the Cullen front door. Jane proceeds to hammer on it with both fists.) OPEN UP IN THERE! COME OUT OR WE'RE COMIN' IN SHOOTIN'!

AP: (pulling keys out of pocket and jingling them by Jane's ear) Um ... keys?

Jane: I know. This is venting. OPEN UP!

(Door opens, revealing Lynn, who is sporting a fairly impressive black eye.)

Lynn: Keys. (beat) Doorbell, too. (beat) Hell, the ivy trellis.

Jane: (horrified) Don't even tell me...

Lynn: (total deadpan) Had no plans that way. Not really interested in talking about it.

Jane: The word 'Tough' comes to mind. She did that to you?

Lynn: Immediately after pointing out that I am a lying, thieving, no-account life-wrecking slut and immediately before stating her intense lack of desire to see me ever again, yes. Can we drop the subject now?

(Jane and AP just stare at her for a moment, during which time she looks at them impassively and then turns, going back into the house but leaving the door open for them. Jane and AP look at each other for another moment.)

Jane: I told you. Crack. Lots and lots of crack.

AP: ...It's getting harder to argue that one...

(Scene: LHS corridor. Music: "Somewhat Damaged" - Nine Inch Nails. Daria is at her locker, contemplating the books within. Eventually, she just shuts the locker without collecting anything, homework materials be damned, and stomps off down the hallway.)

Quinn: (OS) God, Daria, what is your malfunction today?

(Daria turns to face Quinn, standing near to Daria's recently closed locker, still in her cheerleading uniform, hands on hips, looking worried under her mask of indignance.)

Daria: You really don't want to get into that with me, Quinn.

Quinn: Well, I was going to look for you at lunch because Mom and Dad are freaking out about where you were all last night but then Stacy said that Nikki said that Angie said that Beth said that you, like, completely trashed Mr O'Neill's classroom and, like, broke Jodie's back or something and were getting arrested and stuff, so then I went and talked to Beth and she said that all you really did was trash Mr O'Neill's self-esteem and kick over a desk and probably hit Jodie by accident and that Angie was just being melodramatic or whatever, so then I figured out that you were just going to be in detention until you, like, graduate or whatever so I figured I could wait until after cheerleading practice to ask you where you've been and stuff and when you're coming home.

Daria: (blank stare) Well, at least we've traced your malfunction to oxygen deprivation-related brain damage. Did you ever learn to shut up?

Quinn: You don't have to be so nasty about it, you know; I was just asking. Seriously, it's not just that this whole thing really freaks me out, even though it does, you know, because you're supposed to act like you and not like Lynn does when something makes her all mad and stuff. 'Cos, like, the rumours are everywhere - you're, like, the most talked-about person in school now, except not in that good way and more in that 'when's she going to do that whole school shooting thing?' way. So come on, Daria - can you please just get over whatever it is that's bugging you enough to tell somebody?

(Daria just keeps fixing that blank, stone-faced glare on Quinn for a second, then advances on her little sister in a way that suggests quiet, subtle menace.)

Daria: Quinn. You vapid, opportunistic, shallow little 'Kung-Fu Barbie'. I am only going to say this once. I don't like you. You've given me no reason to do so. Your stabs at sisterly affection reek of opportunism and self-preservation on a number of levels. Your solitary substantial romantic interlude is built on a rather extensive web of lies, and your friendships are support structures to support your fragile, demanding ego. You have to have the lion's share of the attention, the affection and the general acclaim and approval - and you manage to get it, somehow, despite your utter lack of achievement.

Quinn: (unconscious step backwards) Daria, what--?!?

Daria: (stopping nose to nose with Quinn) I don't like you. I don't want you near me. And while I'm fully aware that you are eminently capable of kicking my ass from here to Mexico, please keep in mind that I'm smarter than you and I know where you sleep. Now shut up and leave me alone.

Quinn: God, Daria, why are you being such a bitch to me today? What did I do to you?

Daria: Leaving aside the years of casual petty insults in front of our peers, hogging every shred of parental affection since your ill-starred birth and generally being a pain in the ass, let's start with 'you're still here and talking to me'. Did you not hear me say 'shut up'?

Quinn: (confused, horrified blinking) You ... I ... You're just asking me to beat on you, aren't you? (Daria's flat stare continues. Quinn throws up her hands) Well, I'm not going to because you're obviously unstable and I really wish I could just ... like ... tell on you or something but I can't because I don't wanna go to jail and so I can't tell Mom or Dad or anything! And I guess your friends and stuff already know about this so running to them isn't going to do any good so I guess it's just me. And just because you're being a bitch doesn't mean I don't care. So I'm staying. So there.

(Quinn stands there, nose to nose with Daria, arms folded. Daria raises an eyebrow.)

Daria: So you went the Magdalene route. That's unexpected.

Quinn: The what?

Daria: Whore turned saint.

(From the shocked, raging look on Quinn's face, cut to Andrea at her locker. The sound of bashing lockers and the thump of fist meeting face comes from somewhere out of shot and she looks around, puzzled. The noise stops. Quinn runs around a corner and past Andrea, crying, knuckles bloody.)

Daria: (OS) Tell the jailers I'm not coming home for dinner.

(Quinn runs on without acknowledging the call. Andrea just looks very, very bemused.)

(Scene: Lynn's room. Music: "Burning Down the House" - Tears for Fears. AP's at Lynn's desk chair and Jane is sitting on the edge of the bed looking like someone slapped her repeatedly and unexpectedly with a haddock as Lynn investigates her black eye in the mirror.)

Jane: Daria hit you.

Lynn: I'm going to have to pass this off as a hockey injury. Man, am I glad I don't give a damn about my looks.

Jane: Daria hit you.

AP: I'm having a harder time with the 'slut' thing.

Jane: Daria hit you.

AP: (to Jane; pitying) That isn't gonna make any more sense the more you say it, y'know.

Jane: But she hit you! She ... that's ... that's just not Daria!

Lynn: I am her sister. And we know she's smacked Quinn a time or two. Maybe she's just trying to even out the sibling abuse.

Jane: Oh, don't be stupid, and ... why are you being so calm about this, anyway? You're the one who pointed out the problem here. You're the one with a shiner the size of Cleveland. You're the one she threw a metric buttload of insults at. You didn't even hit back, for crying out loud! Look, I have got enough problems with one psychotic brunette without adding another one to the list, okay?

(Dead silence as Jane realises how badly wrong that could sound. AP looks at Lynn, getting up out of the desk chair and going to sit near Jane, to act as a buffer if necessary. Jane looks at Lynn, flinching a little in anticipation. Both of them wait.)

Lynn: (apparently real calm) Fair enough.

Jane, AP: (unison) WHAT?

Lynn: (equanimity incarnate) Go. Worry about Daria. Both of you. Call me when the first meeting of Pampers gets going. (Very short silence as Jane and AP blink in bemusement at that last.) People Afraid of Misanthropic Psychopaths Emoting Really Sadistically. (beat) Yeah, it sucks, but it was short notice - cut me some slack.

(Lynn settles to her homework. Jane and AP stare at her for a minute. Then Jane shakes her head and wanders out. She wanders back in and grabs the still-staring AP by the arm.)

Jane: C'mon.

AP: But ... wha...?

Jane: It'll hurt too much to think about it. Come on.

(Jane drags him out of the room, knocking him against furniture as he keeps staring at his girlfriend.)

AP: (OS) But I live here...

(Scene: Lawndale street. Music plays on. The duo have apparently forsaken the Blue Beetle and are now walking fairly randomly, possibly in the direction of Pizza King.)

AP: Um ... did you mean that?

Jane: Mean what?

AP: What you said ... well, more how you said the thing about not wanting to have to worry about Purple Peril too. I mean the stuff that sounded like you were pretty well fed up.

Jane: Eh, could you blame me if I was?

AP: I think I'd kinda have to. Principle.

Jane: Hey, look, I like Lynn and everything. She's my friend, mi amiga, my comrade in arms, so to speak. Well, pretty much literally. Whatever. Never mind. The point is that yeah, I like her and all, but. There's always that 'but' in there.

AP: And Erudite Emerald's the but?

Jane: (musing) So glad she's not here to hear this one. But taken the way it's actually meant, yes. Daria comes first with me. Period. No contest. So yeah, I guess I did mean to sound like Lynn being hurt and upset wouldn't matter. Because, y'know what? It's Daria's turn.

AP: Come again?

Jane: We've all been there for Lynn for awhile now when she has had her - I'll admit perfectly justifiable - breakdowns and moments of total violent stupidity. Which, you know, not a problem - what are friends for? Daria's sure as hell been there for all of us. Now it's our turn to be there for her.

AP: Even if it costs us a punch in the nose?

Jane: Or worse. I'm more worried about the less physical things she could do at this point.

(AP looks confused. Jane looks set to launch into an explanation, but before she can, they run into Quinn, still in tears, still in uniform, face and makeup a mess, knuckles still grimed with blood. Jane and AP look at her, then each other, back to her, then back to each other.)

AP: P.A.M.P.E.R.S?

Jane: OH yeah.

Quinn: (teary indignance) If you're gonna call me a crybaby, at least do it to my face!

(Jane and AP just sort of sigh, take up spots on either side of Quinn and, each linking an arm in hers, start dragging her off. Quinn eventually catches on, shakes them off, turns around and walks with them properly.)


AD BREAK 2: Not even going to bother with a 'next episode'. I think I know what it'll be, but I refuse to commit to anything in case it takes me another few years to write it. Suffice it to say, Daria has some things to think about.

(Scene: Pizza King. Music: "Everyone is Totally Insane" - the Dandy Warhols. Jane and AP are sitting across from Quinn, who's grabbed an entire stack of napkins and cleaned up her face and hands. Without the blood on them, it's clear that her knuckles are very bruised.)

Jane: I do not believe this.

Quinn: It's not like I hit her really hard or anything - I really wanted to but then I could see her seeing me want to and also see her wanting me to and so I hit the lockers a lot and do you think my hand is broken because it'd be really hard to hold a pompom if it is and it's not like I care all that much or anything but if I get kicked off the team there's no way I could get back into the Fashion Club because I've been seen in daylight hours with bad makeup and primary colours - and in public! Ugh! I must have looked like such a nightmare! Well, it's obvious that I care about Daria a whole lot more than she thinks I do if I'd risk all the humiliation of being seen in dirt and sweat and primary colours and ruined makeup to come to you people for help. Right?

AP: I'd vote for maybe breaking your hand and a bunch of lockers instead of her face as proof of that, but whatever. Sure you don't want to go see the doctor? They're good people at the 'mergency room. And they don't ask many questions.

Quinn: (eyeroll) Thanks, really, but if I'm going to go to a hospital, I'm taking the Purple Psycho, okay? If only 'cos she can pretend to be Daria for the forms and stuff and I'm not paying a buttload of money just for some semi-cute doctor to put on a stupid cast while pretending not to stare at my boobs.

Jane: Quinn, your brain defies metaphor. So what'd Daria say to put you in butt-kicking mode, anyway?

Quinn: Oh, stuff she probably could have said another way forever ago if she'd wanted to, stuff about how I get all the attention and my friends are airheads and my relationship with Ted is a joke and I get all the good stuff without working for it - like she even understands that being this attractive and popular isn't easy or anything - it's that so ... so-see ... see-so ... people-science stuff! Politics and how people's heads work and how trends work and stuff and it's work too and maybe it's not deep but it's not airhead stuff either!

(Jane and AP stare at her for a moment, then exchange a look.)

Jane: Does Quinn the Sociologist scare you?

AP: No. Quinn the Shrink scares me.

(As the two of them half-suppress a shudder...)

Quinn: Oh, yeah, and she called me a whore.

(Jane and AP exchange looks)

Jane: If the solution to this whole mess is talking to my brother and getting Daria laid...

Quinn: Oh, stop it! You're horrible! Seriously, what're we gonna do? She's acting really weird and I'm worried she's gonna do something stupid when we're not around to make her stop! I mean, she's making us all go away from her and there's gotta be a reason because when Daria does this, it's usually quiet kind of pushing away so that it's not too hard to ignore so that you'll really spend time with her if you want to and she wants that but doesn't want to want that so she fights herself and at least kinda tries to lose.

AP: ...Did that make sense?

Jane: Sure sign of the Apocalypse, but yes.

Quinn: (continuing, oblivious) But now she's pushing people away all loud like she really wants them to go away from her and that's why she's not being all her usual looking-down-her-nose-at-people, bitchy-like-Sandi-only-with-bigger-words self. Instead she's being more like Lynn and it's creeping me out!

AP: Should I talk to her? I mean, there's not all that much she can say that's gonna be all feelings-whippy, right?

Jane: You dated her. For six months. While you still had feelings for Lynn. And she knew that. And you're telling me there's nothing she can throw at you that would make you back away very, very quickly?

AP: ('eep' expression) Oh yeah.

Jane: Looks like I'm the universe's last hope, then.

Quinn: Last? What about Lynn?

AP: Don't go there, Narcissa.

Quinn: Oh. Well. Um. Home's gonna be weird, and...

Jane: (fearing the worst) My place isn't going to be any better, believe me! Penny's packing for Honduras. You don't want to know what's living in her room.

Quinn: (infinite scorn) Oh, god, I don't want to stay with you! I did that, remember? No, I'm going to stay at Stacy's but I wanted you to know where I was so that you will call me if anything happens, okay? Just because she's meaner than normal and stuff doesn't mean I don't still care. But if you tell anyone I said that, I'll call you a liar and say it's probably the drugs talking and everyone will believe me and not you.

(Quinn exits. Jane and AP watch her go, then exchange looks again.)

Jane: Don't they already think we're on drugs?

AP: Guess not.

Jane: ...I think I'm insulted.

(Scene: Jane's room. Music: "Cold and Mean" - Ani DiFranco. It's Jane's turn to take the 'something eating at my soul' pose while AP studies a 6' by 6' photo montage piece on the wall, which explores the theme of "Backstage with Drunk Townie Bands and a Pissed-Off Diminutive Brunette with a Bullhorn". Said diminutive brunette is currently relacing her big white Docs.)

Jane: So yeah. You talking to Daria is an exercise in futility. And you... (turns to Lynn) ...well, we tried you. That didn't work so well.

Lynn: I dunno. Maybe she could give me a matched set. I'm a sucker for symmetry.

Jane: Anyway, it looks like it's up to me to pull Daria's head out of whatever orifice she's got it stuck in this time.

AP: I gotta know, Art-Smart Scarlet. What're you gonna say to her? I mean, it'd help buttloads if we knew what the problem was to start with.

(The two girls just blink at him, stunned that he'd even ask that question. Jane sits up to face him and address the comment.)

Jane: (sarcasm incarnate) Sheesh, AP, what could be wrong with Daria? Oh, this whole acting-out thing or whatever the hell she thinks she's doing couldn't have anything to do with the last year, could it? I mean, multiple near-death experiences, massive amounts of strain as she bullshits her family about the rest of her family and coming damn close to losing all the stuff she's only just been able to admit she cares about couldn't put her in an antagonistic frame of mind, right?

(Short pause as AP looks from Jane, fuming, to Lynn, who is suddenly paying a lot more attention to her Docs.)

AP: I meant a catalyst, y'know. Like, why all of a sudden, snappage happened. And that was kinda mean. Even for us.

Jane: Well, frankly I don't give a damn. No, I don't blame anybody and no, I don't like you any less and damnit, I do not want to have to wind up running between siblings with the metaphorical glue-gun to do damage control just because neither of you can take a little negative personal commentary, especially when it's true. Fact is, this has been a strain. We're teenagers. This shit is not normal. And we've all had our breakdown moments. I've had the Penny blow-up. (turns to AP) You had Zelda. And you... (looks at Lynn for a beat) ...let's not even get started with you. Only person who hasn't is Daria so I'm not surprised or anything and if there was a catalyst, I don't have a damn clue what it is and don't much care either. I'm just worried about how to handle this whole mess without making it worse. And if you can't think of anything useful to do about this, then go the hell away.

(Another short pause as AP kind of sputters in an attempt to find a retort. Then Lynn discards the half-laced boot and stands.)

Lynn: I may have something. We can negotiate over email. This will cost you. (beat) Later.

(Exit Lynn. AP scowls, exits behind her. Jane frowns, then shrugs and dismisses the whole thing, dropping back into the 'something eating at my soul' pose as she focuses on the task at hand.)

(Scene: same, some time later. Music plays on. Jane is currently sitting at her computer, watching her email. Enter Trent, who hovers in the doorway, watching for a moment before calling attention to himself.)

Trent: Hey, Janey. What's going on?

Jane: Oh, nothing much. Cynics on the edge of a nervous breakdown stuff.

Trent: Oh. That's why Daria hasn't been around, huh? (Jane gives a small nod) I should ... do something, right?

Jane: (turning to look at him) Hell no. I'd steer well clear of that action for awhile, Romeo.

Trent: But ... girlfriend. There's stuff a guy's gotta do when his girlfriend's hurting.

Jane: When did you get so full of macho crap?

Trent: When I had a girlfriend who was worth it, I guess.

Jane: Well, I won't argue with you there. But you still don't want to get near her.

Trent: She's not gonna hurt me.

Jane: You wanna bet? (to the puzzled look on Trent's face) Trent, for all the tattoos and the 'can't go into a bookstore' and 'criminale' bull...

Trent: (reproachful) Hey. That's Max's deal. Not mine.

Jane: Whatever; the point is that you're a big softie at heart. And you know what Daria's like.

Trent: What; she'll freeze me?

Jane: Like liquid nitrogen. (to the blank look) She'll say things that will hurt you, and not only will this relationship of yours go entirely to hell in one fell 'not in her right mind' swoop, but I'll have to put up with your bad Smiths covers until graduation, so in no way do I want you and her mixing it up.

Trent: Right. (beat) I guess you've all tried, if you know all that.

Jane: Well, her siblings have. Let's just say it didn't go over all that well.

Trent: Oh. But you haven't tried yet?

Jane: Workin' on it, Trent. Patience is a virtue.

Trent: How do you know? You never had any.

Jane: Well, maybe I'm maturing. (Email arrival noise; Jane turns to her computer and checks) Eureka! Gotta go! Got a date with a set of monkeybars! Don't break anything!

(Jane makes a speedy exit. Trent watches as she goes, slightly bemused.)

Trent: Monkeybars. (beat) Maturing. (beat) Riiiiiight.

(Scene: High Hills Park playground. Lynn perched on top of the monkeybars. Jane leaning on them, looking up at Lynn with an expression of utter disbelief on her face.)

Jane: You are twisted.

Lynn: Know your enemy as your friend.

Jane: She's not the...

Lynn: Easy, tiger. Figure of speech. You wanted to know how not to make things worse? I have the means. The questions are, do you want these means, and do you have the means to get them?

Jane: I don't believe I'm invading her privacy like this. (beat) Okay, what I really don't believe is that you're charging me.

Lynn: What, friends don't do business with friends now?

Jane: Well ... more like, why would you want my money when you have a metric buttload of your own?

Lynn: Call it a way of keeping score. But anyway, who said anything about money?

Jane: Oh, this is gonna be painful, isn't it.

Lynn: Only if you don't warm up first.

(Off Jane's "Oh, I really don't want to know but oh crap I'm gonna find out" look, cut to...)

(Scene: Daria's room. Music: "Start Something" - Lostprophets. Daria lying on her bed and staring at the ceiling, apparently content to do absolutely nothing.)

Jane: (OS) You're going to have to put up or shut up sooner or later, Daria.

(Daria sits up and looks at Jane, who stops leaning on the door frame and walks into Daria's room, kicking the door shut behind her. She carries a book bag and wears an expression that blends sick amusement with worry and distaste.)

Daria: Excuse me? And what the hell are you doing in my house?

Jane: (sitting on Daria's desk chair) You can blame Quinn for my intrusion on your personal bitch-fit. And I'm talking about this whole aggressive avoidance thing. It's gone to a point where you either have to knock it off or step it up. Honestly, I expect you to cave like a wet cardboard box in a few days and just freeze up out of sheer remorse. You aren't built for antagonism amped quite this high.

Daria: Don't even pretend you know what's going on in my head, Lane. I could outsmart you in my sleep.

Jane: Yep. One of the reasons I like you. Doesn't mean I can't cheat. (she pulls some papers out of her book bag and waves them in the air) Psychiatric evaluation reports. Morgendorffer, Daria E.

Daria: (horror and rage) What the fuck are you doing with those?

Jane: (nonchalant) Well, a standard nondisclosure clause was part of the deal, but I think I can take a risk or two for my all-time best amiga. You missed a really good bargaining session yesterday, I gotta say, Daria. Care to guess what I had to promise Lynn so she'd bust into Manson's office, hand over the files and take the entire blame if you decided you wanted someone to beat on?

Daria: The question stands. Quit being deliberately obtuse.

Jane: I told you. Cheat sheets. I always knew you were a twisted little cruller, and I'm not much interested in wading through the minefield of your psyche without a map. I'm kind of more interested in helping you than I am in poking the restless corpses of your issues and letting them turn your brain into an all-you-can-eat psychosis buffet. Well, this week anyway.

Daria: You're not winning any points here.

Jane: Wouldn't say that. You're still listening, and have yet to cause me bodily harm. I'd say I'm ahead on points, on that basis.

Daria: (scorn incarnate) Like I'd waste the energy. I don't care enough about a so-called 'friend' whose attention span shames a goldfish with ADD and ditches her friends at the wink of a young boy's eye to bother to take so much as a swing.

Jane: And welcome to Mystery Bullshit Theatre 3000! (to the glare) If you didn't care, you'd be avoiding us rather than getting violent. You care at least enough to provide hand-tooled insulting rants of such high quality. So come on. Get the rest of it over with. Give me all the twisted insults and whole-cloth justifications and outright lies you can manage and then we'll get to some truth and maybe you'll stop looking like you're about to do something huge and self-destructive.

Daria: Your mother complex is showing. Are you so starved for a familial bond and some experience of nurturing in your empty, shiftless family life that you're bound and determined to throw unasked for and frankly undesired semi-familial bonding crap at everyone around you? News flash, Jane: you're no one's mother ... at least, not as far as I know. You're not Trent's mother, no matter how much you have to act like it, and you're sure as hell not mine. So stop pretending that you're some kind of heroic homemaker and caregiver, all right? It's getting old.

Jane: (almost laughing, though a bit stung) Okay, ow, fifteen-all, my serve. I-

Daria: You're not even all that consistent with it. You're great at solving problems when it suits you to do so. I'll give you that. But when you've got something better to do, your friends aren't worth your time. Everything else in your life but Project-Of-The-Week gets stuck on the sidelines and roundly ignored, and you assume you can go back to it when you're ready, no harm done and preferably with the things about it that make it difficult suddenly evaporating. The only reason I'm getting this massive amount of attention is because suddenly, I'm acting out of character and thus inherently interesting. As soon as you've shoved me back into my nice, quiet, non-threatening Daria pigeonhole, I'll be sat on the sidelines again, waving the 'Go-Jane-Go' pennant.

Jane: Pot. Kettle. Black. Daria, seriously, listen to yourself. How many times have you made us prove we care about you by making us drag you kicking and screaming out of your shell? You expect us to be unconditionally supportive of whatever you do, and make you do things that you can't even let yourself admit you want to do anyway, and then act out to make us prove that we're not going to reject you just for having a bad mood. How much more do you need us to do to prove we care? Because we do care, just like you do - and you can't say you don't, the lengths you've gone to keep your friends and family alive and together. As an aside, do you have any idea how much the phrase 'fear of rejection' comes up in your psych profiles? No wonder they said you had low self-esteem.

Daria: Shut up.

Jane: Seriously, we've both got issues. You've got rejection issues - like you honestly believe that everyone who ever gets to know you is going to find you too hard to live with and reject and ignore you, so you make yourself as hard to live with as possible and push people away so as to make the whole thing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Me, I've got abandonment issues. Everyone I've ever loved has gone away and left me, or treated me like I didn't exist, or at least that I didn't matter. Difference is, I don't perpetuate it. I don't get involved with people who are only going to leave me ... well, not if I can help it, anyway. I stick with people who I know won't leave me. People who'll stay with me whatever. (beat) Or at least I thought I did.

(dead silence)

Jane: If you want to talk, let me know. If you want me to go to hell - if you really mean that - do the same. I told the others it's your turn to vent, Daria, but it's also your turn to reach out to someone. Time to decide if you want this- (throws down papers) -to be the real you.

(Jane leaves. Daria maintains her cold antagonism for a moment longer, and then she looks at the papers Jane left behind. Then she sits on her bed and puts her head in her hands for a moment. Then she picks up the papers Jane left behind and starts reading.)


Notes: The new title was picked up from a couple of cross-references. Breaking strain in engineering etc is the force needed to break a rope or a line. Googling the phrase netted me a Rudyard Kipling poem, which I found particularly apt. It can be found here:


According to Outpost Daria's "What's New" page, it's been just a month short of three years since the last one of these. Technically, I bashed this out in two weeks, and hope it doesn't show. I won't 100% commit to finishing the series, but it's looking more likely now, I guess. If you're glad to be reading this, thank The Angst Guy - reading his stuff while bored at work is probably what got me back into the Daria headspace, as it were. If not ... back button's up and to your left.


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, AP McIntyre and their respective families, on the other hand, were created and are owned by me, one Janet 'Canadibrit' Neilson, copyright 1999, 2000, 2003. 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, MTV legal hunt-beasts will probably hurt you better than I ever could.