A 'Daria' fan fiction by Brother Grimace ( /6-4-2000


Thanks (and 'Created By' credits, so tether your legal hunt-beasts!) go out to the folks at MTV who were (a.) intelligent enough to create a show based around Our Heroine, (b.) brave enough to actually fight to put it on the air, and (c.) stout enough of heart and soul to keep it there. Also, credit goes to the following inspirations in the fanfic world whose works brought me to the gate: C.E. Forman (why aren't you writing -?), Kara Wild, Martin J. Pollard, Invisigoth Gypsy (whose works were my introduction to Daria fan fiction - and I thought everyone was a 'shipper!), and Canadibrit, whose incredible 'Look-Alike Series' has been a huge influence.


Also, a moment of silent thanks: to the memory of Professor Richard Blumenburg -my screenwriting instructor at SIU-Carbondale, and one of the best instructors I ever had. He once said that he didn't want me writing for television; in the case of 'Daria' - I think he'd understand.


(Continuity note: This story takes place IMMEDIATELY following the events of 'Liaisons'.)



Even before the door to her room closed and locked on its own and the shades drew shut against the cinnamon and burnt-orange of the early evening sky as if by remote control, Daria Morgendorffer looked up from the pillow her head had touched moments before and knew that she was about to have one of those experiences. One of the weird ones. The ones you couldn't pass off as being caused by stress, or eating weird food, or watching UPN. The really over-the-top experiences that made you wonder if you shouldn't just wake yourself up - but then you realize that you already ARE awake, but you still think that if you could just open your eyes, it would be all over -


"Miss Daria.  I trust that your day went as usual. Boring, unfulfilling classes that don't challenge you or engage your full potential, an environment that provides little in the way of motivation, and persons of all ages who shun you for a myriad of reasons. Parents, sister, schoolmates, teachers, people in general... "


Daria turned to the nondescript, yet well-dressed man who sat idly in a corner, the few wisps of light able to enter the room avoiding him at all costs as he ate a bowl of cereal. "No, your day had a few extra helpings of spice in the usually bland fruit punch of suburban life. Insanity, revelations, death and pain, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, too. Ah, yes: Lawndale, at 5:45 in the afternoon. Hit me, baby, one more time."


"A 'Men In Black' wannabe who eats Rice Chex and quotes Britney Spears lyrics," yawned the petite, bespectacled brunette. "I'm going to play a hunch - you're either the most normal escapee from the 'house o' jackets that make you hug yourself', or you're yet another angelic type come to deliver some 'tough love' on how I need to change my ways and be a better person."


"Not into tough love - restraints chafe after a while." "Don't you otherworldly types ever just consider soothing yourselves in a dark room rather than bothering a sleeping me?"


"Personally, I think you're perfect just the way you are," the man said, not even bothering to glance in her direction as he spoke. "I revel in the fact that you comport yourself in the manner of Seven of Nine's little sister - but we have to play this one by the numbers. By the way: one - great legs, and two - excellent Heinlein reference."


Daria reached over to pick up a pen and a small notebook. "Today's the worst day that I could have for this dream to happen.  Give me a moment - I'll dust off my boots, and then you can show me how I've still got a chance - if I've got the courage to take it. Oh, and don't mind the pen & paper - I've started to document these weird dreams."


"Remarkably intelligent, with an astounding sense of clarity regarding the world about her, and possessed of a cynical outlook, with sarcastic displays that register on the Fujita scale," the man responded between bites of cereal.  "I'm glad that you're so calm about this - it makes dénouement all the more...uncertain. After I'm finished, we'll be on our way."


"Where would that be?"  "Downstairs, to the kitchen," was the reply. "I need to rinse this bowl out - just leaving it up here would attract bugs."





Daria watched, disbelief on her face, as the man washed out the bowl and dried it with a dishtowel.


"So, when are we going to get started with this whole 'Christmas Carol' routine?" "Daria, you misunderstand," the man told her. "You're past that stage - and besides, that's not my department. "


"I thought you were supposed to be some kind of angel."


"I never said that, " the man countered. "That was your misguided belief, fostered by misconceptions that have absolutely nothing to do with reality. The average person would have stepped into her room, seen a well-dressed man lounging in the corner with a bowl of breakfast cereal and - at the very least - picked something up to either defend herself or attack... this is America 2000, you know."


The man placed the bowl on the rack and wiped the spoon clean. "And please stop moving away from me like that.  From you, it's an insulting gesture - and one steeped in absolute futility, were I so inclined towards that position."


Daria stopped her movement towards the door and plopped herself down on a chair. "So, you're not an angel."


"I never said that, either," the man said, and flashed her a smile. "I said that I'm not here as a guardian angel. I'm in personal development and fulfillment.  I'm here to keep you right on the track you're on, and to show you how others are going to try to stop you from achieving your full potential."


"What do you care?" "Why should you care that I care?" the man retorted. "I can walk away right now - just say, 'Go away. Don't ever come back.' And I won't."


The man sat down across from Daria. "But before you do - consider this. I know what my potential is. I know what I'm capable of. I know just what it is that I want, what I have to do to get it, and how far I have to go to better myself before I get there. I know who I am, Daria Morgendorffer. I know what I want."


He leaned in closer. "But what about you, Daria? Who are you? What do you want?"


"I see you watched the 'Shadow War' episodes of B5, " Daria said.


"Pop culture reference that a broad demographic will relate to," he shot back. "Don't get off the subject. If you ask, I can leave. If you ask, I can stay, and help you discover your answer. That's all I offer, Daria. Either way, I get nothing from you in the way of payment, and I don't have to run a Clarence on you in order to get a lousy set of wings."


"You act like wings don't mean anything to you." "The only set of wings that matter are aviator's wings - do you know the class of women you can score on with those?"


The man's face suddenly fell. "That was incredibly crass of me," he said. "I apologize for that comment." "I've heard worse," Daria told him. "I go to school with a guy named Upchuck, and he's nothing but a walking hormone!"


"Upchuck... oh, yes, the Ruttheimer boy," the man said. "I know about him. I've got an appointment to visit him six years from now, just before he graduates from the Air Force Academy.  You know, he's going to grow seven inches in the next year... but enough about him. Would you like a little help?"


Daria thought a moment, then shrugged. "Oh, hell - this is just another one of those stupid dreams. I can probably use this in a story for Mr. O'Neill's class. Whatever."


"And we have a deal," the man spoke. "Now, you have to understand something - what I'm going to do is let you- oh, hell, too late!"


As he spoke, Jake and Helen Morgendorffer entered the kitchen, each with several plastic grocery bags in hand. "The girls will LOVE what I'm cooking tonight, Helen!" Jake announced, dropping the bags in the middle of the table without seeming to notice Daria or the man. "Grilled skinless chicken breasts with a light honey glaze, baked potatoes with whipped sour cream and a steamed cauliflower/broccoli/carrot medley! "


Helen actually seemed surprised at her husband's announcement. "Jake, you're not going to try any gourmet recipes?" "You see, Helen," Jake began, "I was thinking that, 'Iron Chef' experimentation aside, I want my girls to have some great memories of home-cooked dinners after they go off to school. You know what kids are like at college - if it doesn't go in a microwave or didn't come out a drive-through window, they won't eat it!"


Jake took the bags from his wife and placed them on the table, not noticing the softening expression on Helen's face. "Quinn's going to be going to parties and sorority functions all the time, and Daria'll be too far into her books to cook actual dinners. I decided that I want them to have something nice - something simple, a meal that doesn't call attention to itself. That's the kind of meals I never had when I was young, Helen, and I want that for my girls.


He lifted a bundle of cauliflower up, looked it over, and looked over at Helen. "Every now and then, I want to have a meal that says, 'family."


A tear ran down Helen's face as she rushed over and gave her husband a tight, consuming embrace that caught Jake totally by surprise. "If they're going to use that cauliflower for anything other than steaming or boiling, I'll never eat in this room again," Daria droned. "If this is the make me feel sad and homesick part - you should have left out the tongue."


"I'm sorry - you weren't supposed to see that," the man said, capturing Daria's attention as he stood up.


"We've got digital cable - I'm past the shock."


"I was going to tell you that your father was planning a special dinner tonight and give you the choice of staying or going to the library to study for your history test," the man said, rolling his eyes, "and you stayed away after you finished your work. I screwed up, so we went with the choice you would have made if I hadn't come - which was to go to the library."


"And I wasn't supposed to see this -" "Because it would prejudice your decision, seeing how much it means to your parents," the man finished. "Besides, with the events of today, this isn't supposed to happen, anyway... Well, I screwed that one up royally, so let's move on to the next POD..."


The man retrieved a device from his coat pocket that looked like the most souped-up PalmPilot Daria had ever seen, and began to tap away. "Hey, that looks like one of those computer links that they used on 'Quantum Leap!"


"We had the technology first," the man said, a touch of defensiveness in his voice as a pool of multicolored lights shimmered into reality like ripples in a pond. "Let's go."




The color pool rippled into existence, and Daria found herself in a hallway at Lawndale High, with Jane Lane, AP McIntyre and Lynn Cullen standing close by as they all looked at the bulletin board.  "What's going on?" she asked, noticing that her three friends - that everything she could see, in fact - was frozen in motion... frozen in time.


"That's actually a very good analogy of what's been done here," the man said, making Daria jump as his voice came from behind. "In fact, the layman's term for what's happening is 'temporal editing.' Right now, you're in an actual portion of your past, at what many in the know refer to as a 'point of divergence' - we just call them PODs. You and your friends are about to embark on a course of action - and once I release the preroll, you'll actually be back in that point in time. The only difference is, however... you'll have the choice of making your choice over again. "


"What decision?" "Can't tell you that before preroll - it'd prejudice your decision. Preroll in five, four, three, two, one -"


"I...want...revenge," Lynn hissed. "You remember the information I was saving back for an emergency?"


Jane raised an eyebrow, Vulcan-style. "The deadly ace? The death card?"


Lynn's eyes narrowed.  "Well, it's time to use it."


"You're not going to...kill her, are you?"


Daria heard the words come out of her mouth, words that were hers and yet not, and the feeling was strange yet comfortable, like putting on clothes that you hadn't worn in years and didn't because you didn't wear those styles anymore. She turned to see Lynn, who looked so much like her that it was eerie, and felt her stomach seem to turn inward on itself twice as Lynn gave her one of her trademark thread-thin smiles that heralded Normandy-class havoc on the horizon...


"Nope. I have better ways to spend my life than behind bars. Discredit her, embarrass her, strip her of all her power and probably get her arrested... but not kill her."


Lynn extended her hand, palm down. "Who's with me?" "All the way, Purple Peril!" AP said, grinning maniacally as his hand clapped down on Lynn's.


Daria watched Jane's face take on that upturned, slightly evil expression she had when considering the benefits of meddling with someone's head, then reach out and put her hand on AP's. "Why not? I had nothing else planned."


The three teenagers looked at Daria expectantly; a stoic look crossed her face as she paused for a moment. "Oh... what the hell."


Her hand touched Jane's - and a multicolored ripple exploded out from the ladder of hands.


"Edit complete," the man said. "You didn't change a thing. Your little coven's plan for reciprocity will go forth as planned - and Angela Li will fall."


"Ms. Li got what she had coming," Daria countered. "She was a tyrant, an embezzler, a crazy woman who -"


"-Deserved more than to die alone and out of her mind, without loved ones around her, and disgraced in the eyes of the community she tried to serve," the man said.  "You never tried to fit into the milieu that she created or change it through legitimate means if you believed and could prove that Li was in the wrong. You were judge, and jury, and cunning old fury. You tried the whole cause, and sentenced her to death."


"THAT wasn't our fault," Daria snapped back, heat in her answer that she knew came from a touch of guilt. "She broke out of jail, shot AP, and could have killed God knows how many other people! " She paused for a long moment. "She still might have killed Lynn...she might never come back to us."


"Regardless, it is specifically because of your choice to go along with Lynn's scorched-earth option that this has come about," the man spoke. "Your 'Operation Ace of Spades' may never have occurred if you had thought ahead about the consequences of your actions. You are the conscience of your group, Daria. You have the power of moral boundaries over the others, and they know that. You could have convinced the others that..."


A slow grin covered the man's face as he turned to Daria. "...That some things should only be taken so far."


"You can't blame this on us," Daria demanded. "There was no way that we could have known that Ms. Li would go completely crazy!" "No - I am simply stating that you would have done it anyway," the man said. "We really don't need to go any further, do we? I believe that you've shown me what you want."


"I haven't shown you anything!"


The man took a drink of water from a fountain, then tapped away at his device.  ""More's the pity for you, then.  Allow me to show you what you are... or more to the point, what you project to others..."




"This is the day we went to the Horn Dog with Trent and the others," Daria said, looking at the way everything was frozen in time. "The day that Lynn got jumped by that dog."


Daria and the man stood outside what was affectionately known as 'Casa Lane', examining the view of Daria's friends and associates preparing to travel to a show. "Do you remember anything else about that day, Daria? Anything that, on reflection, should have set off alarms?"


"Well, Trent and I rode in the back of the Mercedes and I think he wanted to talk to me about something -"


"Book sense, but no street sense," the man sighed. "That day was so important for you in so many ways. That was the day Trent wanted to first confess his feelings for you, Daria. Well, he wanted to tell you he loved you months ago, but actually said it first to - but that would be telling. Also, that's not where we're going, Daria - at least not yet.  Do you happen to remember anything else?"


"The dogs, Lynn fixing the Tank, that 'subversive teenage roadies' song they made up on the fly..." "For a writer, you're really not that observant," the man said, shaking his head. "Let's just let things run for a minute - and pay attention to Lynn..."


The man tapped in a series of commands, and the world seemed to go into fast forward until Lynn and Trent went to the trunk. "And here we go -"


"Let me put it in terms you can understand," Lynn said, her tone no-nonsense and businesslike. "You. Daria. Backseat of the Mercedes. Time to talk. I'll drive and pay NO attention at all. The others can ride in your car or the Tank. As close to privacy as you're going to get without being obvious."


Trent gave her a sheepish grin. "Oh, yeah. Cool."


Daria watched as Trent wandered away with Lynn's gaze upon him, a fond, exasperated expression that - "She's falling for him," she said, her eyes going wide. "Lynn is falling for Trent."


"Falling? She's tripped over her boots, gone right through the grass covering and impaled herself on the excrement-smeared punji stakes in the tiger pit of love for Trent," the man told her, "but she stayed away in order to let you have the first shot. Then, when you decided that you wanted AP instead of Trent, she stayed away because of her pride. Lynn Cullen is NOBODY'S consolation prize - no matter how much she wants to be in his arms. Why do you think you found out about her little slip-up with Trent in London the way you did? Why do you think Lynn's never come to you with her feelings in the matter?"


"Sounds like she could use a guardian angel more than me." "One - not a guardian. Two - you need me more than she does for what's to come," the man said. "Three - Wouldn't want her involved in the business if I can help it. Someday she would try for a takeover."


He hit a button on the device, and everything started to move backwards in time. "Back to why we're here, though. Remember anything of worth that Jane said that day?"


"No, not really."


"Then prepare for a solid hit," he interjected. "Here we go -"


"...And I don't like the look of Trent's car," Lynn grinned, leaning against her silver Mercedes.


"I've seen worse."


"Oh, yeah," Daria heard herself say. "Whatever happened to Tom, anyway?"


Even though she had lived it before, Daria was still taken aback by the sheer, yet calm, lethality in Jane's response: "I don't want that name mentioned ever again."




The freeze-effect took hold again, and the man walked over to an open-mouthed Daria. "Got any witty color commentary to gloss over what you just did?"


"I didn't find out what happened to her and Tom," she said, looking at the multitude of emotions that turned her best friend's face into an unreadable mask. "Something happened with the first guy that she really had something going for -"


"-And you never bothered to press her on it," the man finished for her.  "You just tossed aside what had to be - judging by her reaction - a horrible experience as though it was a news story about someone a world away, and kept going on with your life. You never bothered to find out what happened to Jane, Daria. You were too wrapped up in yourself to care."


"What happened to Jane? What happened between her and Tom?"


"There are some areas that even I am not allowed to touch for my purposes. This is one of them," the man said. "If it is meant for you to know that, then you will find out in due course."


"Did he hurt her? Did he force himself on her? What did Tom do to Jane?" Daria demanded, her eyes flaring as her voice rose. "Tell me what happened to Jane, you bastard! WHAT DID HE DO TO HER?"


"It is irrelevant for our purposes. It is history now," he spoke, his tone concluding the conversation. "As I told you earlier, others will come forward to try to deny you the right of becoming all that you may be. It is now time for them to speak."


"I don't understand." "For this, understanding in unnecessary - only adherence," the man told Daria, as the color pool appeared before them. "Where we go now, I cannot help you," he said. "Follow your instincts. Believe in who you are."


They went through the shimmering rainbow of light. "And now begins... the Intervention."




"Hello, Daria," Jodie Landon said, leading Daria through a darkened hallway towards the gymnasium. "You don't have to be afraid. We want to help you - all of us do."


"I'm not afraid." "Yes, you are - and really, isn't that the problem?"


Jodie held the door of the auditorium, and Daria walked in to see a number of people she knew sitting in chairs arranged in a three-quarters circle, with a single chair in the middle.


As Jodie led her to the chair, Daria saw her sister and parents, "Mack' Mackenzie, Kevin Thomphson and Brittany Taylor, along with three of her teachers from Lawndale High -Anthony O'Neill, Janet Barch, and Anthony DeMartino. Jane, Trent and their mother, Amanda Lane, were also seated, as were Charles 'Upchuck' Ruttheimer, the three other members of Mystic Spiral (Jesse, Nick and the infamous Max), and Tad and Tricia Gupty,


AP, Lynn, and Amy Barksdale came through the door as Daria sat down, and Jodie put her hand on Daria's shoulder. "Daria, we're all here today because we care about you, and we're worried about you," she said, looking into her eyes. "We want to tell you what you mean to us."


"Daria, I want to begin by telling you something that's obvious to each and every person that's here - that you are a very special girl," Mr. O'Neill said, coming up and kneeling beside her. "You have a gift - a gift for creating beauty with your words. You're one of the most talented and gifted students that I've ever known."


"All right, skinny, enough with the bending the knee - I want to say something!" Ms. Barch barked, pushing Mr. O'Neill off to one side. ""Look, Daria - you don't need this touchy-feely crap! You're a smart girl - you're going to make it on your own without the need to get hitched up to some lousy, sneaky, lazy MAN who expects you to provide all the things necessary to run a house while he just lies around, drinks beer, watches TV - and who'll you'll catch with some slinky, painted-up, bleach-blonde heifer who barely weighs a hundred pounds and most of that's in her bra with your brand new television set and the money in your 'I'm going to Aruba!' vacation jar -"


"Hey, I think she's gonna blow," Jesse remarked calmly - and Ms. Barth spun around, unholy anger in her eyes as she picked up Jesse and started beating Max and Nick with him!


"HELP-!" "Die, you unwashed, unworthy MEN -"


"CONTROL yourself, Janet!" Mr. DeMartino bellowed, and Daria looked up to see the man standing on the other side of the gym, a pistol in his outstretched hand.


"Want a little help, Mr. D?"


"This is going well," Daria yawned, as Tad and Tricia both pulled out stun guns and darted Ms. Barch, dropping her to the floor like a hot pan.


"Daria - we like you because you taught us to think for ourselves," Tricia said, smiling up at her. "You taught us that people will lie to us for many reasons - if for no other reason than that they can - so we shouldn't take anything for granted. " "Yeah!" Tad echoed. "Don't just listen to people talk - listen to what they say and what they don't say!"


The Gupty kids skittered back to their chairs as Mack leaned forward. "Being around you, Daria - it's like knowing you've got a secret weapon against whatever crap someone's got planned for all of us. You're special. Having you around - it's like having someone who challenges you, who makes you want to work harder because you know that you're going against the best and you're not going to go out with anything less than all you've got.


"Daria, you're a cool chick," Jesse said. "You listen to our music, you helped us with stuff, and you bailed us out of jail." "Yeah, right, man," Nick and Max echoed. "Excellent chick."


"Daria, although you really don't try to talk to me or Kevin or a lot of the kids at school, I can see that you're still a nice girl," Brittany said. "You're really smart, and if you wanted to, you could be SO pretty -" "Yeah - you could be HOT!" Kevin snorted out. "Man, when you didn't wear your glasses that one time, I was like, "Dude! Look at Daria! She's got that real cute face, and those legs, man, and if she had a little more up front and took off that jacket, she could be like, on FIRE, man!"


"A ringing endorsement from a noted professional." "He's just an amateur at the eternal game of love, my sweet," Upchuck rumbled, "the professional's over here."


"Oh, God."


"From a woman of your caliber, those words are not just music to my ears, but a divine symphony," Upchuck growled. "You're easily one of the most desirable women in Lawndale, Daria. But don't think it is simply because of your exquisite exterior - with you, it is the inside as well. Any man who has the panache to win your hand is truly a great man indeed - and to that gentleman, whoever he shall be, I must tip my hat."


Making a motion like tipping a hat, Upchuck took his seat as Amanda Lane stood. "The young gentleman is right, Daria. There are powerful, wondrous forces at work around you, forces that I feel will guide and shape you into a great person."


Amanda walked over to Daria, and looked deep into her eyes. "You came here to Lawndale for a reason. I would like to think that part of this reason was to become a part of the lives of my children, because I believe that their lives are brighter with you there. Remember that, Daria, and this: unlike any other person I have met before, I can say this - you are here, among us, for a purpose. Daria... you have a destiny that awaits you."


"Arriving back here on PLANET EARTH, I'd like to put my TWO CENTS in now!" Mr. DeMartino barked. "Miss Morgendorffer, you are one of the BRIGHTEST and most GROUNDED students I've had the unexpected pleasure of actually IMPARTING KNOWLEDGE TO, since I began my TOUR OF DUTY in this forsaken BASTION of developmental INEPITUDE! You have displayed a CONSISTENT and GENUINE capacity for leaving this intellectual MOSH-PIT with not only an actual EDUCATION, but the ability of advancing through this WORLD and a life of ACTUAL WORTH without the FORSEEABLE need to have your head removed from your NETHER REGIONS!"


"Your father and I agree with what Mr. DeMartino says, dear," Helen said, watching as Jake went up to Daria. "You're just fine the way you are." "That's right, Kiddo!" Jake said, hugging Daria tightly. "No matter what happens - you're my little girl!"


"Air - breathing not optional," Daria gasped, and Jake let her go. "I'm sorry, honey - it's just that, you're growing up so fast, and I know that you'll be able to deal with anything that comes your way, but I'm going to miss watching over you. I love you, Kiddo."


Jake kissed Daria on her rapidly-reddening forehead, and Quinn came up. 'Well, GOD, Daria, you know I think you're smart, and you're sneaky, and I KNOW that I owe you for all the times you've helped me with Mom and Dad and that sneaky Sandi and all the other stuff, too. I mean, c'mon - do you think I'D go to get help from someone who WASN'T smart? And I know you know this already, but-"


Quinn leaned in and whispered in her ear.  "-I'm glad you're my sister and I love you."


She pulled back. "And you could do so much if you just used the moisturizers and the exfoliliant that I got you for Christmas - Well, gotta run!"


Daria looked up as Lynn, AP and Jane stood directly in front of her. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you that you'd need this?" Lynn snapped. "The day we're not here for you is the day they 'tag and bag' the lot of us!" 


"You know it, Erudite Emerald!" AP grinned at her. "Besides, you know we like you - where else could we find someone as wonderfully twisted as you?" "Put 'em together, people," Jane smirked, putting her hand out, palm down. "We're 'the Flack-Jacket Mafia', and we take care of our own!"


Four pairs of hands came down, and Daria looked up to see Amy step up. "There's not much I can say that they haven't," she said. "The only thing that I can say is that I can't see people putting this effort into telling you how they feel if they didn't care. Speaking of people who care - looks like there's one other person who'd like to say something..."


"Actually, that's not true," the man interrupted, looking down from the bleachers, "but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it."


Daria stood up and walked over to where Trent stood. "Daria. You were the first person outside of my family who believed in me. You made me realize that the Prize I need to keep my eyes on isn't the winning, but the journey towards the goal. Having you around keeps my head on straight. Having you around makes me want to keep making music. You're more than just my inspiration, Daria. You're my Linda McCarthy."


"Daria, I guess there's one more person here who wants to talk to you, " Jodie said, turning her to the door. "I wasn't sure, but-"


"Hello, Daria."


Daria's breath caught in her throat for a blink of a second, and her eyes grew large and angry.




"They asked me to come, " the dark-haired boy said, rolling an egg over and over in his hands as he walked up to her. "I would have come even if they hadn't asked."


"What did you do to Jane?" "What makes you think I did anything to her?" he asked. "Perhaps we just decided it wouldn't work. Perhaps she and I said things or touched on parts of our life that were better left alone."


Daria found herself looking much too closely into a pair of jade-green eyes that seemed to disperse her anger in their gaze. "Perhaps Jane thought that her friend the Lady Daria protested too much about the new young man in the picture, and perhaps she also thought that her new paramour was a touch too curious about her bespectacled friend with the rapier wit. Perhaps they decided that, for friendship's sake, that they part friends and the young man not find his way into the byways and locales frequented by the Lady Daria."


Tom and Daria were a hair's breath away from one another. "Because perhaps the young man was afraid that the Lady Jane's words rang true, and there was a connection there to be discovered.  A connection to be nurtured, true, but one seemingly created by destiny."


Daria realized that her heart was racing as though she was in an all-out sprint, and her breathing had slowed as Tom took his hand in hers. The sensation was as if her hand were in the burning flow of a smelting fire, molding with the warmth of his hand, merging with a sensation of the rightness of it all, like prophecy fulfilled...


"A connection between souls that was meant to be."


"Daria, do you understand now?" Jodie asked, interrupting as Daria's lips moved towards Tom's as if through their own will. "There are so many people who believe in you; who accept you for what you are."


"Accept me...?"


The seeming spell was broken, and Daria turned to Jodie. "You accept me."


"Of course."


"Despite the flaws and the little things that all of you wish that I would change about myself."


"Look, " the man said to the Vorlon beside him, who wore a press ID, "the boots and skirt juxtaposition is not a sexual statement. It's comfortable, & she can hurt someone."


"Daria," a puzzled Jodie asked, "I don't see where this is coming from -"


"It's coming from me, Jodie! Daria!" Daria snapped, her voice rising in intensity and volume. "Daria, the Brain!' Daria, the girl who could be pretty if she just lost those military- surplus glasses and wore contacts! Daria - the girl who could be SO popular if she just stopped acting like high school was a prison sentence and got involved in sports, or the clubs, or anything that says 'Lawndale, Lawndale - rah, Rah, RAH!  Daria - the girl who's so SICK AND TIRED of all of you telling me that I need to change things about myself in order to just be there as a simple face in the crowd! DARIA - the girl who wants to tell all of you to hop right on Satan's Concorde and GO STRAIGHT TO HELL!"


"Daria, please-"


With a soul-stripping scream of anger, Daria snatched the egg out of Tom's hand and flung it across the length of the gym to explode against the 'Lion Pride!' painting on the far wall.




The gym was suddenly quiet; Daria opened her eyes to see that the gymnasium was now empty, save for herself, and the man, and -




Daria suddenly found herself looking upward at the gym ceiling and the light fixtures; her nose began to sting as Lynn's smoldering profile moved into her view like an enraged lioness.

"Get up," she said, her voice taking on the quiet, serious, deadly monotone, devoid of emotion, that she had heard only once before and instinctively knew to fear. "I said - get up."


Lynn jerked Daria to her feet, her face a warped mirror of cold anger that Daria tried to pull away from. "You do stupid things across the board, and we're all there for you. You ruin my Mercedes and Jane's there for you - but I should have kicked your ass.  You play Trent and AP off one another like your little yo-yos of love; they're still there for you and I really wanted to kick your ass. Now you actually have the gall to stand up and say that we don't care about you unless you change?"


The anger Lynn felt contorted her face even more. "Let me tell you something: the ONLY reason I don't slap fire from your ass and let my boot set up a base camp in your lower intestine is because I love you like the sister I never had - but that doesn't mean I need to stay here and watch you treat good people like nothing! Hell, not even Upchuck deserved that - and he really had something nice to say!"


Daria squeaked out a cry of pain as she dropped back to the floor. "You know the worst part of caring about someone?" Lynn snapped, heading for the doors. "Even though you love them - sometimes, you can't stand the sight of them. Get bent."


"Well, that was fun," the man said, dusting off his pants as he made his way down to the floor. Anyway, the halftime show's over - and away from here we go. There's something else I would like you to see."


"And what's that?"


"A world that embodies your worst fears, Daria. The dark side. The final, total damnation of your immortal soul, " the man told her, the color pool opening before her like a black hole. "Everyone has his or her own personal hell. It's time to examine yours."


The man stepped up to the event horizon of the rippling lines of space and force, a smile on his face as he turned back to Daria and extended his hand.


"Welcome... to the Apocalypse."




"This is getting annoying," Daria said, stepping through the color pool behind the man. "Lawndale High. Does all of my life have to revolve around this snakepit?" You're a seventeen year-old Caucasian female with an IQ over 150, no drug habit, a measure of common sense and your virginity intact," the man replied. "Cynic or sell-out, high school is your mother world."


He looked at his link. "Ready for a party?" "What are you going to do now?"


"Incorrect on both counts. It's what you did, and two years ago is when you did it."


Time became normal, and Daria found herself in the middle of a massive crowd that seemed to migrate towards the football field? "What's going on?" she shouted, barely able to hear over the crowd. "Do they have public lynchings here? Is THAT what's going to happen to me?"


"Even worse, " the man yelled back. "They're going to give you an award for everything you've done to put Lawndale High on the map!"


"WHAT?" "Come on - you're going to love what's happening here!"




"Ladies and gentlemen, students of Lawndale High and everyone else here tonight, welcome to this free concert!" Jodie called out over her microphone as she stood on the stage built on the sideline of the Lawndale High football field. "Before we get everything started tonight, let's have a round of applause for Angela Li, Principal of Lawndale High!"


Cheers erupted from the standing-room only crowd on the field as Ms. Li stepped out onto the stage sans glasses, wearing a very fashionable dress and her now-long hair down over her left breast as she walked over to the mike. "Good evening, and thank you all for coming out to support your fellow students of Lawndale High!" she said, stunning Daria - who had never heard her fail to put emphasis on the name of the school. "I won't say much, except to bring out the young woman whose efforts brought us all here tonight and who brought the light of stardom upon our city! I present to you - Daria Morgendorffer!"


"WHAT?" "Don't injure yourself just yet - it gets much better."


Daria watched as the Daria of this reality - a Daria with flowing, bouncy hair with shimmering auburn highlights in her hair, an assured stride and no glasses to hide her perfectly shaped eyelashes and large eyes - walked on stage and over to Ms. Li. This Daria was dressed in a wine-colored spaghetti-string top and matching long skirt that went perfectly with the ivory-hued sandals that laced almost all the way up her shapely calves, and gave Ms. Li a hug that made Daria almost gag.


"I'm going to follow Ms. Li's example," the other Daria called out, "and just say that I'm glad that I had a chance to do something that'll show people all across the country what Lawndale High means to all of us!"


The stampede-like roaring of the crowd barely registered on a shell-shocked Daria.


"Daria, I'd like to take this opportunity to present to you a token of regard," Ms. Li said, motioning for Brittany, who held a covered object in her arms, to come forward. "On behalf of the Mayor and the Lawndale City Council, the people of our fair community, and the students and faculty - we present Daria Louise Morgendorffer with the Key to the City!"


Brittany unveiled a impressive crystalline key mounted on a plaque of oak and bronze, and hugged the other Daria, who actually had tears of joy in her eyes as she returned Brittany's hug and hugged Ms. Li.


"Thank you, Angela," the other Daria whispered into Ms. Li's ear. "You're like a mother to me in all the ways that count." "You don't know how much it means to me to hear you say that, " Ms. Li replied, her own eyes wet with tears. "Thank you, Daria."


The man turned to Daria, who was white as a sheet. "Are you all right, Daria? Would you like a bromide, or a spoonful of Robitussin?"


"All right, everybody - let's get on with the show!" the other Daria yowled through her mike. "Eight months ago, their CD 'Pride In Ourselves' became the first CD in history to go double platinum in less than a day, and their singles 'Tears For Lawndale High' and 'Nibblett' tied at Number #1 for seven straight weeks! They've done shows in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, and even a Command Performance for the Crown Prince of England!"


"I feel like I just fell into my own personalized copy of 'X-Men' #142," Daria cringed, her face lined with disgust as she watched the bubbly, perky delivery of her alternate self. "This can't get any worse - "


"And now - welcome back Michael Jordan Mackenzie, Charles Ruttheimer the Third, Ted Dewitt-Clinton, AP McIntyre and Kevin 'QB' Thomphson!" the other Daria belted out over the Richter-scale rumbling from the crowd. "Let's give up some love for - LAWNDALE PRIDE!"


"Please... if you must be sick, turn away from me," the man said, glancing down with distaste at the mess Daria had made, "and take one of these mints. They'll help."  "Oh, man," Daria groaned, picking herself up from her knees as she accepted a handkerchief from the man. "How did this happen...?"


"Long or short version?" "Short."


"All right - you sold out, and enjoyed it."




"Sold out - as in 'Like Courtney Love, your local Congressman, and every star from the WB Network who's tried to spin off into movies," the man quipped. "Daria, don't you at least want to hear them sing? They're the Big Thing right now in pop music, and you wrote their songs for them..."


"What did I do?"


"It goes all the way back to your first day at Lawndale High," the man said, stopping time as he walked across the stage to gaze at the alternate Daria. "You saw the way Quinn was treated, and the only person who would talk to you was an arty, alternative type. To this Daria, it was the same old song as back in Highland - and being a cynical, intelligent loner on the outside wasn't something she wanted to be anymore."


"This Daria and Jane passed the Self-Esteem exam and went before the school assembly, just as you both did in your reality, but then, a single bead of sweat changed this Daria's history," the man continued. "A bead of sweat from your - her - brow fell on her lens just before she began to speak. She took off her glasses, wiped them clean, and then brushed her hair back - and a couple of football players in the front row whistled at the pretty girl behind the glasses. "


"I'm not so shallow that a couple of meatheads whistling at me would -"


"Daria. Look me directly in the eyes and tell me that you have never - NEVER - wanted guys to follow you with their gaze as you walked by," the man said. "It's part of who you are, part of what makes you a human, and a woman. You want to be noticed. We all do."


The man took a slow orbit around the divergent-reality Daria, then looked up. "Like I said before - great legs. Anyway, it wasn't just the football players who noticed. When she took off those glasses and tossed her hair - it was like a bomb went off in that auditorium. From that moment on, she was 'Daria - that hot little brunette with brains'. People noticed her for her looks AND her abilities. You have to understand that for this Daria, a door had opened - and it was like being admitted into the Emerald City. She knew that it was based on looks first, brains second - but universal acceptance is a sweet nectar, and a drug more addictive than anything you can imagine. For this Daria, there was a choice: walk through the door, knowing that you've compromised your principles but salving your morality with popularity, acceptance and opportunity - or turning away, rejecting the brass ring to head back into the sad, lonely abyss of social oblivion with her character intact."


He gazed into the perfect face of the other Daria. "She couldn't say no. This Daria took a step over a line she created in her mind when she was just a toddler, and as the saying goes - once you lose your virginity, you can't ever get it back. Once that line was crossed, it was easier to lose herself and her inner shame in the delusion rather than try to go back, and it got easier with each passing day."


"Wait a minute - what about Quinn? She would see that as a threat -"


"Are you kidding? She was the happiest person on Earth!" the man laughed, pointing to a spot just off-stage where the alternate Quinn was frozen in time, tears of happiness also on her cheeks as she sightlessly watched her sister. "After years of 'my weird cousin,' it was like she had found a long-lost sister! They bonded immediately! Daria and Quinn became spotlights of what it was to be a high-school student, and Ms. Li took Daria to her bosom like a mother cat and her kit!"


"About that..."


"In this reality, with a student like Daria to showcase to the world, Angela Li didn't feel the overwhelming compulsion to prove her excellence at administrating a school like Lawndale which, in your reality, became a psychotic obsession. She loosened up, both professionally and personally, and Lawndale High became less of a pressure cooker. Test scores are up 46% from the same time last year, and the average Lawndale High SAT score for this year was 1050. Ms. Li will be honored as 'Administrator of the Year', this coming September in Washington, D.C. "


Daria walked across the stage and stopped at Kevin, dressed in gray cords and a Lawndale Phys-Ed t-shirt. "What's with him - who peeled him out of the football uniform?"


"To save time, Daria - let's just go down the line with the guys," the man said, reading from his device. " Michael. Still captain of the football team, good friends and study partners with Jodie, going steady with Stacy Rowe for the past eight months. He and Jodie sat down and talked after talking to your divergent self, and they realized that being together simply because they're both black and popular was going to eventually embitter them towards one another. Jodie's seeing a sophomore at Texas A & M now, an agricultural student named - are you ready for this? Jean-Luc. As for Mike and Stacy, they came together when you had her talk him into joining the group, and the song 'Nibblett' is a reasonably non-syrupy ballad you and Michael wrote together for her after they became a couple - it's his nickname for her. You turned out to be quite the yenta yourself - I mean, your alter is. They get offered fashion contracts three years from now, but turn them down to go together to NYU - she in meteorology, and he in digital graphics & animation. They're going to be together for a long time."


He continued on. "Charles. Is elected salutatorian of his graduating class two years from now - maintains a 3.98 GPA even while touring with the group. " The man looked up to see the shocked look on Daria's face. "Just because he currently has no social skills in your reality doesn't mean he's unintelligent as well, Daria. After all - what better definition of 'nerd' is there?"


The man leaned forward and put his hand next to his face, as if sharing a secret, and whispered, "And just between you and me... if a guy spends that amount of time thinking about sex, it stands to reason that someday - he might be very good at it. Helpful hints for the future."


"Ted. Goes on to a solo career four years from now. Four Grammys, an Oscar for Best Song, and a People's Choice Award. Gets seriously into environmental issues and helps get some very important legislation passed that saves a lot of lives. He and Quinn stay together, have four beautiful children, and marry nine years from now."


"Kevin. He becomes a male supermodel, kids' safety activist, actor and co-owner of an international fast-food corporation. Ten years from now, he'll be worth 300 million dollars." The man looked up and sighed. "It would be scary, if he wasn't putting so much money into child-care and child-safety programs. By the way, he's out of the uniform because of you: 'Daria doesn't need her glasses to let people know she's smart, so I don't need my uniform to let people know I'm the QB!' - end quote."


"What about AP?" "Are you sure you want to go there?" the man asked. "It's not pretty..."


"Do it." Well, he comes to Lawndale in almost the same way he does in your reality, and he, Jane and Lynn form a clique - a triad to stand against the 'heinous sell-out Morgendorffer wenches!' AP, however, meets you - and tosses over Lynn & Jane two weeks later. You, or rather, your alternate, has a gift for turning a head. You're the one who suggests the idea for the pop group, and with your father's help - which puts Morgendorffer Consulting firmly on the map with the entertainment community, as it turns out - you put 'Lawndale Pride' together with AP as your first recruit."


"Oh, come on!" Daria said.  "AP would NEVER join a little-boy band and do corporate-bland dance steps on stage for screaming thirteen-year-olds!"


"He would if a very attractive, very school-oriented and very sexually aware seventeen-year-old did a full-court press on him, with a very liberal dose of grand-slams in the back of limos," the man retorted. "Being female, you have absolutely no comprehension of the raw power a sexually-willing young woman has upon a young man - none whatsoever. Lynn's his friend and partner-in-grime, but factor in a girl who looks just like his best bud and does everything in bed but sleep? Daria, he's SIXTEEN - the boy didn't stand a chance!"


"I don't want to hear any more."


" No, you don't - do the words 'Method 26' ring a bell?"


"No - AP's book lists 25 -"


"The day after her best friend since they had pacifiers went over to the Dark Side because of you, Lynn came up with a new one," the man said, shuddering as he slipped a small book from an inner pocket and handed it to Daria. "You see, THIS is what happens when a girl like Lynn Cullen gets very angry and has time to think about you... a lot of time. It took her a year and a half alone to save up enough of her own urine in two-liter bottles...  The things she did - setting up the simulcast cameras for a worldwide Internet broadcast, especially the four liquid-proof, underwater-capable minicams in your VW Beetle... gassing your entire neighborhood with the sleep-aerosols AP designed but, in this reality, never used just to get you out of your house unnoticed, and coating your entire body in Nair -"


The man shook his head sadly as Daria looked up, a look of shock on her face.  "As bare as the day you were born. That web site she likes - "


"Subversion_Is_We -"


"-Were so impressed by the lengths she went to, they presented her with the 'Bobo the Pack Mule' award for carrying a grudge. The video of what she did to Daria's their #4 best seller of all time in their e-catalog."


A queasy Daria handed the book back. "She did THAT to me...?"


"No, she WILL do that to you, tomorrow morning," the man shrugged. "Right now, she's getting the bottles out of self-storage," the man quipped. "It's like a little wine cellar of hate. "


"Oh, THERE'S a pretty visual -"


"You should look on the bright side - the advances made in your case bring almost immediate relief to mental patients all over the world," the man assured her. "The Daria Foundation' raises a LOT of money for the cause. Lynn does get fifteen years, but the U.N. Security Council springs her, gives her a new identity - 'Melody Powers'... now, where have I heard that name before? - and puts her to work. Did you know there's actually an organization very much like the Impossible Missions Force?"


"As for Jane - she started hanging out with the band more, and they've finally changed their name. They are 'Criminales' - and they try to earn the name every time they go out in public. They're actually successful - but it's more for their attitude and floorshow than the music. They're banned in twelve states, MTV only shows their stuff after midnight - and they can't EVER go back to Mexico, ever again. Long story that involves a Chihuahua and novelty condoms. Max has something like 70 children now across the USA, they call Nick '8-Tracks' - we don't need to go into reasons - and its not a Criminales gig if Jesse doesn't urinate off the stage. I'm not even going to go into the 'Angelina Jolie & her brother' spiel that Jane and Trent pull on stage - they don't get fleshy & it's not for real, but it'll make you wince..."


Daria looked around, then turned to the man. "Take me away from here - right now."

"But you didn't even ask about your parents."


"As long as they're alive and okay, I don't need to see them!"


The man looked down at his feet.


"What happened to my parents?" "Your father's fine. Your mother, well..."


"Talk." "Do you remember that school trip you took - the one where your parents surprised you by showing up as chaperones?"


"Yes..." "In this reality, the pressure to do things with you and Quinn wasn't as strong, so they didn't volunteer. They stayed home, your mom worked late, and the Lexus was strung out like Detroit pasta by a 18-wheeler that lost pressure on its brake line and rolled over on its side with a full load of I-beams on back."


The man tapped at his link. "To be fair, Daria - this, for you, is not real. It will never be real. It can't ever happen, because the trigger event happened two years ago. This is an example of your worst-case scenario - not because of death, or bad feelings, but because of this."


He walked over to the alternate Daria, and gestured for Daria to come close. "Look at her, Daria. There are joys that she's experienced that you may never know in your life. She's popular, and well liked, and beautiful, and she has opportunities I can well assure you that you will never be offered. Look at her, Daria. Why shouldn't this be you?"


When she remained silent, the man moved aside slightly so that Daria could look into the eyes of her doppelganger. "Look into her eyes, Daria. Look deep within."


He turned to face her. "Because I can assure you of this: if she were given the same opportunity - she wouldn't be able to. Not with what she's done."


"What has she done?" "Spiritually, she allowed herself to become nothing but a whore - and she enjoyed every minute of it," the man said, a tough of regret in his voice. "The sad part, really, is that almost everyone else but her will profit - and she's going to lose it all."


A color pool flowed into existence, and the man turned away. "Let's go," he said to Daria. "There is one more place that we have to go - and nothing more to see here."


Daria looked one last time at her alternate self. "I'm sorry for your loss," she whispered, and turned to walk off into infinity.


In the last three shakes before that reality disappeared into its own whisper of the multiverse, another tear appeared on the cheek of the alternate Daria... a tear of infinite regret, of loss, and shame, for innocence lost and now forever denied.




Daria stood out on the open road in front of the manor that was Brittany Taylor's home.


"I remember this..."


"You should - this is the night of the only party that you were ever invited to," the man said. "Tell me, Daria - why didn't you try to socialize with any of the other kids there?"


"Because they're stupid."


"As in what they do, or what they are?"


Daria remained silent. "I'll tell you why you didn't try to socialize; because you feel superior to them. You feel that the things they're interested in and the way they act is beneath you. You're right, of course, but you've forgotten something... they're not supposed to know that they're beneath you!"


"I don't act like that."


"Oh, yes, you do."

"No, I don't!"


 "Really? Name three persons that you've helped - outside of your friends - for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do! Name the last person outside of your little coven that you've provided guidance or comforting words to rather than mockery or scorn!"


There was silence.


"I know what you're thinking," the man said, after the silence had grown painfully long. "Who am I to say any of this about you? After all, I don't know you, and I'm an angel - why am I dragging up and showing me things that would hurt? Didn't I say that I was here to help with your personal development and fulfillment? What kind of angel are you?"


He leaned against a tree. "I have done what I promised, Daria. Who are you?"


The young woman looked at him with a cool stare, but no response. "You're an elitist, Daria. You are a snob. You have a certain level that you expect others to reach, and if they don't - you banish them from your conscience and your consciousness. You are a young woman with all of the warmth, the sensitivity and the emotional range of a character played by Christine Lathi. In other words, Daria - you're a bitch. That's who you are."


"You don't know me."


 "No, I don't. I only know what you allow me to see - and what you've allowed me to see is that you're an egotist with little concern for those below you... even if they're family. You want to remove yourself from the so-called 'unwashed masses', but not completely; after all, we will always need workers in this world!"


The man walked in a slow, airy circle about Daria. "You are idealistic, but cynical. You are intelligent, but unwilling to step outside the traditional avenues of the intellegencia to seek other areas of expressing that intellect. You are sensitive, but your reaction towards others is to cause them pain. You are beautiful, but reactionary towards the concept of beauty - and I'm not referring to the girls in that insipid Fashion Club.  You have the capacity to lead through example - but the example you forward is that nothing being done is of any worthwhile doing. "


The man stopped, and looked Daria directly in the eye. "You are seen by some as a role model, Daria," he said, his voice soft like a kitten's paw against her cheek, "as an inspiration for others to follow. I can tell you this, though: You are no role model, and the only things that those like you inspire are intolerance, hypocrisy and anarchy."


Daria looked at the man, and he looked at her with a mixture of sadness and shame. "Others are going to follow your example, and will waste their lives in petulant displays of disdain at the people around them instead of going out and living! Look at you, Daria - how many chances have you let go through your fingers because you refuse to lower yourself to be a HUMAN BEING and instead provide smarmy, sarcastic remarks at the expense of other person's feelings? Look at what you've done to the noblest, most wonderful state that a human can exist in, Daria! You bring pain and suffering to all those people you say you care about! You, Daria, do nothing but hurt the persons you claim that you love!"


"That is not true."


"Really?" Jane Lane is your so-called best friend - and how many times have you forced her to choose between your friendship and those persons and experiences she would, could and SHOULD savor and grow from? Who made you judge and gave you Midas' scales? Who said your opinion was so valid and inviolate that YOU should be located on Mount Sinai? How DARE you say that these people mean something to you?


"I care about all of these people."


"Really? The man you supposedly have feelings for has NEVER heard anything remotely resembling 'Trent, I care for you' escape your lips! The boy you're seeing is only at your side because you resemble the woman of his dreams - and allow me to tell you now that you will NEVER possess any of the fire, or the wonder, or the passion that flows through a single strand of Lynn Cullen's hair even now!  AP could never want you the way he wants Lynn, Daria. He wants and deserves a woman with a soul, a person whose every single movement and very appearance signifies life  - not a caustic-mouthed human shell with the singular ability to create chaos with tongue and pen."


Daria's lip started to tremble. "Let's talk about your mother, Daria, who you care for so much. You can't even tell her that you love her - oh, I misspoke myself. You COULD say it in SIGN LANGUAGE!"


The man came back around, and Daria heard his voice, a bare whisper in her ear. "Kate Cullen was right all along, Daria. We both know that, don't we?"


Daria looked into the dark, formless chasm that lay behind the man's dark-upon-dark eyes as he stopped and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.


"You should have been aborted."


The man lifted Daria's head by her chin, and shook his head sadly as he saw tears trail slowly down the girl's cheeks. "Daria, I told you when I first came that I would help you reach your full potential. I can still do that, if you'll let me."


Daria didn't trust herself to speak; she tried to turn her head from the man, but he held her fast.  "If you want, I can show you how you can make up for all that you've done. I can show you what you can do to now help all those you failed before. I can still help you do that."


"What..." Daria's voice broke, and the flood of emotions from events recent and past flowed through to reduce her to tears. Her legs could no longer support her, and the man caught her & lowered her to the ground before she could fall.


"What can I do...?" "Only one thing," the man said, and she lifted her head to see a shining silver object in his hand... a silver dagger, with the hilt and handle in the shape of an angel with outstretched wings.


It's very simple, Daria. You can serve as an example."


Daria suddenly felt a wetness encircle her, and she blinked; her vision cleared to reveal a pristine lake surrounding her, warm and inviting, immersed up to her waist. "You can let go, Daria. Let them find their own way. Let Jane find the love, and the experiences, and the freedom that she deserves and needs in order to discover the great works of art within her soul. Let AP and Trent be there for Lynn; let them all discover what it is to be young and in love for themselves, without any distractions or condemnations. Let your family go, Daria.  You are now only going to serve as a reminder to your parents of betrayal, and illicit passion, and of pain beyond imagining. Your mother was in pain, Daria. She needed to be comforted; she needed to be held. Is it right that she be punished for a moment of weakness? Should she suffer for the rest of her life?"


The man turned, the water splashing slightly as he walked across the lake's surface towards Daria. "Can you let your father look in your eyes again, knowing that what he will see there now is not the gaze of a proud, intelligent daughter, but the image of the love of his life - in the arms of another man? You will forever be the living embodiment of his failure as a husband, as a father, as a man. Can you do that to him?"


"He doesn't know," Daria echoed tonelessly. "He doesn't have to know -"


"The keeping of a secret? Hiding the truth? This from Daria 'My Principles Stand Above Everything Else' Morgendorffer?"  the man scoffed. "Oh, I misspoke myself again - shouldn't that be Daria SMYTHE? From what I gather, that's the correct surname... intelligent, cool, unconnected or seemingly unconcerned with family, especially the ones who really care - but, like father, like daughter."


The man knelt down to face her. "And do you really believe Kate Cullen will allow your father the peace of mind that comes with ignorance? To a woman like her, what your birth parents did is described in three words - ACT OF WAR. She's got a new avenue to unleash her own pain and rage upon, now that she's rediscovered your mother and learned of YOUR existence. Oh, yes, Jake Morgendorffer will find out soon enough - and then, you'll see what devastation a TRULY unstable emotional landscape can produce. Count on it."


She felt the cool hardness of the blade in her hands, and the gossamer softness of the man's voice in her ears. "But you can stave off the pain for them all. If you're not there, Daria - there'll be no need for revelation, or accusations, or just pure, uncut pain, fresh as harvest day. If you're gone - no others will have to know. Just a touch... and then another... and then, you can let go, Daria.  You can let go of the pain, because no one deserves to live in the hurt alone. I know how hard it's been for you. It doesn't have to be that way anymore. You can rest now."


Daria felt about the contours of the blade, feeling the ridges, the rounding curves, the perfect edge of the blade. It was sharp beyond belief; just one touch, with hardly any pressure, and then she could just lie back... No more 'cousin', no more aches from the petty comments of casual strangers who only saw 'the glasses', no more reflexive lashing out, knowing that hurting others was only slightly worse then letting them get close enough to cause pain -


And then there was Trent.


It hurt to hear his voice but it hurt even more when she didn't, and then, there was Lynn - would she be better for him? She had already done more and helped him in ways Daria knew she never could. Lynn didn't care about his future as a musical star, just his future as a musician and as a person; she had provided him inspiration and demanded the perspiration that comes from plain, simple, honest work. Lynn fought for Trent; she had battled against the other members of Mystic Spiral, against the feelings of depression and worthlessness that Trent had felt on occasion, against the bad impressions others had of him and his band, and even against her own affections for him. The reason was a simple one - Trent and his music were a worthwhile cause, and she'd make something worth being out of him... even if she had to kill one of them (Max, probably) to make a point to the others. Plain and simply put, Trent was a better musician because of Lynn; she was his Linda McCarthy, while Daria could only be his Yoko Ono. Lynn was someone Trent could turn to; he could expose his soul and have his emotions returned without reservation; Daria knew that, regardless of her feelings, she would always hold back from giving herself fully to anyone.


Could she say those words? Lynn was a primordial force in human form; no person who held a place in her heart would ever need to hear a declaration of love from her. She would stand before the eyes of all that lived, however, and say the words - partly because she would want to say them, and partly to let EVERYONE know a simple truth: 'This person is a part of me. I love this person. If you value life, turn and walk away - now.'


She honestly could not say that she could do the same.


Lynn would make a fine addition to the traveling road show known as the Lane family, fitting right in and making sure that, first and foremost, the Lanes would always HAVE a home - seeing how they nearly lost it once before. She'd make an incredible aunt, a wife and mother that others would both dream of and dread having, and a daughter-in-law that parents would joyfully welcome into the family - after they ran her through the weapons-scanner, metal detector, and X-ray machine...


How then, Daria asked herself, could she make a claim to him - to anyone? How could she be there for them, when the compulsion within her to draw away from even their good impressions of her was as natural to her as drawing breath? How could she know what Lynn already knew of Trent? How could she ever experience being in his arms, with the feel of his skin and his warmth and his breath and just give herself over to sensation, to emotion, to just something as simple as pleasure - when she knew that the walls within her would never fall, fortified by the mortar of her own resentment and fear?


It would be the easiest thing to do - for everyone involved. Just a single touch there, like a kiss, really, or how other women spritzed a touch of perfume... One single movement... it could all be gone, just like that -


The blade dropped into the water.


"Why?" the man asked, without anger, or defeat, just a polite curiosity, as if he were asking if that sandwich was served with mayo or Dijon. "Why?"


"You wanted me to let go of the pain," Daria said, "but sometimes, when there's nothing else, the pain is there. It's my pain. It belongs to me. It doesn't matter where it comes from or why; just the fact that it's there lets me know that I'm still here - and that I feel something. No one has the right to take it away - or ask me to - until I'm ready to let go.  After all, it's the one thing that makes me feel..."


Daria lifted her head, and gave the man one of her trademark, 'Mona Lisa' smirks of victory.


"It's what makes me a member of the human race, after all."


"You understand what you are saying."


"I'm a cynic," she replied. "I believe that the sun will come out tomorrow. I don't believe that any one person needs to be here to see it."


"Well spoken. Granted."


Daria suddenly found herself in the tub in her bathroom! Sputtering, coughing and soaking wet, she hauled herself fully dressed from the tub and began to pull off her clothes! 


Moments later, Daria was dressed in a bathrobe as she wiped her glasses clean. She yawned as she put them back on, stretched herself fully - and froze at the sight of the dagger, lying peacefully at the bottom of the water.


The sound of Daria's vomiting echoed through her room.




"Jeez, Daria - you sound like hell. Did you have another one of those whacked-out dreams?"


"I don't know how you manage not to."


"Well, sometimes I'm lucky enough to sleep the dreamless sleep of the immorally sated -"


"And sometimes you raid your dad's personal stash of Captain Morgan," Daria deadpanned.  "I don't know how you do it."


"Is it MY fault the current light of your life wants to play with computer buttons instead of yours? Now, if you had chosen Trent..."


"Ha, ha, Lane. One day, you, too, shall be on the Chihuahua list."


"Look, if you're dreams are THAT bad, we'll see about talking to Dr. Phillips later today and getting some tranquilizers.


"Yeah, well, see you later."




"Yes, Jane?"


"One - I'm glad you're not up in the hospital, too. Two - get some sleep."


A small smile went across Daria's face. "Thanks, Jane."


Daria hung up the phone, and picked up the dagger. It was surprisingly light for something of its size, and the craftsmanship, now that she had a chance to look at it, was spectacular.  Maybe tomorrow, she'd invite Jane over to look at it.


She tossed the dagger over onto the table - and whirled around when she realized that she didn't hear it hit! "Just stopping by to pick up things," the man said, replacing the dagger in a sheath. "I won't see you for a long while. "


"Is that all you have to say?" Daria snarled.


"What else is there? I showed you the way to your true potential. You are worth more to those around you than they, and sometimes you yourself, give you credit for," the man said. "All you have to do to obtain that potential - is live. Not just exist, but live. You have won the right to know that - and to have another new day to explore."


"You make this sound like 'A Christmas Carol'. "I told you before: I'm not a guardian angel," the man said, straightening his coat as he went over to the window and looked at the blister of light just at the edge of the horizon. "and my aims are slightly different."


"Who are you?"


"That's the question asked by the other side, Daria. I told you before; my purview is personal development and fulfillment. I asked you what you wanted. "


He turned back towards the window, and a glorious smile crossed his face as the first rays of sunlight exploded over the horizon to signal the new day's arrival. "I have never failed to be moved by something so simple as the rising of the sun," the man said. "I can think of no other symbol that better represents the creature which is Man. "


The man turned back to face Daria. "Enjoy this moment, Daria. As you said before, it is one that you are fortunate to enjoy once more - and there are those out there who may never know this moment again."


The man started towards the door, and Daria took a step towards him. "You're just another figment of my imagination, aren't you? After you leave, I'm supposed to wake up and say, 'Oh, it's all just a dream - I'm so lucky that that's all it was, and I do have a wonderful life, after all? Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one?"


Daria adjusted her glasses on her nose. "You're a dream. Go away now, dream-angel."


The man stopped, and a nimbus of pure white light began to flow from him - a flow that seemed to build and grow into a presence of its own. "I allow you this: I am an angel, but not a Guardian... I am of the Light - and I am the one who casts the greatest of Shadows."


The Light grew even more intense, and Daria could barely make out a form within - a perfectly-defined human form, with a pair of wings that seemed to cast even more light of their own.  "Be true to who you are, and to what you believe," the voice brushed against her, as if it were a form of its own. "Do not let anyone change who you are or allow you to forget, no matter how hard they - and you yourself, may someday try. You are who you are, Daria Morgendorffer. In that way, you serve My purpose... and you serve My purpose well. Farewell."


And the Light began yet another day.



-           END -







Well, there you have it - my first foray into the waters of Daria fan fiction. Actually, this is my first COMPLETED fanfic - I've two stand-alone pieces that may see the light of day some day. I've been reading Daria materials for about a year and a half now, and I've seen some incredible stuff that made me say, "Hey! I'd like to get in on this!" I've had a few misfires, and then, there's the screenplays and TV episodes I'm also working on - One has to eat, even if it's from the local bag o' grease... The big 'click' that really got me going was the introduction of Lynn Cullen to the Daria multiverse. Finally - someone to play off Daria, someone with her equivalent skills and wit, someone who's going to give her pause every now and then.  (Personally, I'd love to see someone come up with an adversary for Daria - a REAL adversary and not someone like Sandi, who really couldn't handle Daria if Daria ever got fed up and said, "All right - gloves off!")


You see, one of the things that I really like about Daria (and I have Lynn state somewhat the same) is that, like Ally McBeal - sometimes, I really can't stand her. On occasion, Daria makes it entirely too hard on herself and the people around her - even when her principles wouldn't be compromised. I wanted to keep that flavor of Daria, though - especially after reading the rant 'Partner's Complaint' and agreeing that yes, a Daria that wasn't cynical and sarcastic wasn't really Daria after all - but how to make a scenario that allowed me to 'keep her real', face up to both the good and bad portions of her personality, and yet make her wonder if she does need to make some changes?


Hence, 'the man'. Throughout the piece, he never lies to Daria in illuminating the facets of who she is. He says he's there to help her find out who she is and what she wants. And as the saying goes - be careful of what you ask for...


Next on the list: several things that may be of contention. Here goes:


-           Daria Doesn't Seem To Be Herself Today: Going through, I noticed several points - particularly near the end - where Our Heroine doesn't have the world-beating sarcasm machine out and running. I think that, with everything that's happened to and around her (look at the last six episodes of TLAS - the soap-opera gods have it in for her!), Daria would eventually lose that protection of sarcasm and rely on her core essence - which is, of course, what saves her.


-           Who's The Man? : The identity of 'the man', who acts as Daria's guide, should be evident by the last scene, where I have him give his real identity (and not the one most persons know him by). I give several clues throughout the piece; a No-Prize to the person who can list and identify all the clues - AND their origin.


-           The Intervention: I felt it was important for a number of persons, who see Daria from very different points of view, to tell Daria that they feel the same way about her. I mean, when you have Upchuck, the Gupty brats, Amanda Lane and Mr. DeMartino saying the same basic things about Daria - that she's an incredible person - it should mean something to her. It doesn't - she rejects their praise because of her own self-view, which leads to -


-           Should We Wash Out Lynn's Mouth With Soap, Or Just Use Valium? : Canadibrit (who kindly gave this piece a once-over) brought up some good points on the matter of how the others in TFJM would react to Daria's outburst. AP would be deeply hurt, and Jane would also hurt but expect that reaction (it's happened before -check out 'Relation-Slips' if you don't believe me). Lynn, however, would have the human equivalent of a warp-core breach - and take Daria with her. Lynn is justified in her anger, because she accepts Daria as family like Quinn never has - and for Daria to doubt her for a second is absolute betrayal. She'd also use foul language, because as angry and vicious Daria can get - she's barely a candle flame compared to the nova that's Lynn. We KNOW Lynn has no problem with bad words (Season I, Episode 6).


-           On The Dark Side: One thing that some may wonder; why was the man trying to push Daria into committing suicide? The answer is simple-he wasn't! To paraphrase the Emperor in the novel 'Shadows Of The Empire', Daria has the potential to be of great service, but there are obstacles to be overcome. She should be able to overcome them on her own - and if she can't, then she is of no use anyway. To use another 'Star Wars' analogy, Daria is very strong in the Force - but there is much fear to be sensed within her. Fear leads to anger... you get the idea. Simply put, this was all a test - one to get her to confront her darkest emotions, and then, harness them. I've always felt that a Daria who isn't cynical or sarcastic isn't Daria, as others have also said - but a Daria who embraces those concepts is skirting the Dark Side...


-           MTV-Savvy Daria: This alternate reality, for Our Heroine, is Hell. I couldn't think of anything worse for Daria than selling out, taking down hundreds of thousands of people with her, and willingly making successes, heroes and icons out of people that she has no respect for. Embracing Ms. Li as a mother figure, becoming more Quinn than her sister ever was, using her skills to create mind-numbing garbage AND aware of what she's doing - oh, yeah, she's in Hell. If nothing else - having 'Let's give up some love for - LAWNDALE PRIDE!' come out of the other-Daria's mouth should show that she's in hell. And when I say 'Hell', I don't mean 'hell' - I mean, 'HELL!' One thing, though - I stand by the argument 'the man' makes. Daria does want to be liked and admired - and in the right circumstances, we would all sell our souls.


-           The 'Chihuahua List': More on this later. You'll like it.


-           'Method 26': I wanted to show just how far Lynn would take it if she were pushed, but this isn't the fanfic for that. However, in the alternate reality, she had motive, opportunity, and a lot of time. Lots of it. Let's hope the REAL Lynn never gets pushed that far...





There are a couple of writers whose works I've touched upon in this fanfic, and thanks are in order. Thanks go out to Kara Wild, whose 'That Thing You Say' provided dialogue which gave an added chill to the 'lake scene', to C.E. Forman, who had the Lanes nearly lose Casa Lane to the IRS cockatrices, and to that wonderful writer (whose name escapes me) who came up with the name/term 'nibblett'. May your fingers fly quickly and true across your keyboards, and may you not hear others screech your name until your next paragraph is done.


I would also be without honor if I failed to mention the Glenn and the Susie, who created the world of Our Heroine, and of course, the astonishingly and annoyingly over-talented Canadibrit, who created the alternate reality we know as 'The Look-Alike Series.' To the three of you; thank you very much for giving me a fun place to play, and people like Daria & Lynn to play with. I'll try not to embarrass any of you.


If anyone wants to send their opinions, tips, hints, words of encouragement, or reasons why my laptop should take a meteor strike, you can e-mail me at Just remember: Kindness works, and be gentle. Someday, you, too, shall be sending your first child out into the world - hopefully not to be met by someone wearing logging boots.



June 4, 2000