Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
This is the thirty-seventh John Lane story
John cuddled against Daria and kissed the back of her bare shoulder. "I love you," he gently whispered.
Relaxing in his arms, she whispered back, "I love you."
A loud, irritating buzz came from John's alarm clock. "Dammit," he grumbled, waking up alone in his bed.
After he slapped the alarm clock to shut off the buzzer, the radio kicked on, blaring music into the room. "Ngh." He rolled over and said, "A few more minutes."
Violent shaking, followed by, "Wake up," brought John back to consciousness. He was very pleased to open his eyes and find Daria leaning over him.
"Hey," he said.
Daria said, "If you don't bust your ass getting ready, we'll be late for school."
John flopped onto his back. "Wanted to finish a dream."
"That must've been some dream," Daria said with a smirk. "I'll be downstairs."
"Yeah, okay," he said.
After Daria left, he forced his eyes all the way open. Looking down, he realized what precipitated Daria's comment about his dream. "Oh, boy."
As he and Daria prepared to leave for school, John said, "Bye. See you tonight."
"Have a good day," Helen said, waving at them.
Hiding behind the newspaper, Jake only grunted and slurped some coffee.
John closed the front door of the house and said, "Your dad is still unhappy about us."
Daria sighed as she walked alongside John. "One of the prices of honesty. I'm still one of his little girls."
"And I'm back to being an intruder."
"We did the right thing. We couldn't have kept up a lie about what happened on our trip to the Smithsonian and things would've been worse then."
"You're right, it's just that I'd gotten used to, well, having a father around."
"Give Dad some time to accept that I'm not a little girl any more. It can't be easy for him," Daria said as she walked around the car to the passenger side.
John opened the driver's door and said, "I suppose it could be worse. He could have a shotgun."
"From what I heard, that's how Grandpa handled things."
Jodie caught up with them at Lawndale High as they walked down a corridor to their first class. "Hey guys, how did your trip go?"
"We had a great time," John said.
Daria stopped and said, "Hold on, I have something for you." She took her backpack off and took a folder from within, giving it to Jodie.
"What you asked for. Me doing something silly."
Inside the folder was a printed image of Daria on the steps of the U.S. Capital, holding a handmade sign that said, "Landon for President."
Jodie laughed and said, "I better not let my parents see this or they'll start putting money into a campaign fund."
"Good one," Daria said with a light laugh.
"I can see them doing that," John said.
"That's why they'll never see this. If they think I can convince Daria to work for a campaign, they'll never let up."
Mack joined them. "Morning, everyone. Hey, how was your trip?"
"We had a great time," John said. "The Smithsonian was awesome."
"Did you have to drive back in that bad storm?"
Daria and John looked at each other for a moment. When the length of the silence became uncomfortable, Daria said, "We had to stop at a hotel."
Jodie caught the vibe and said, "We'd better get to class. Maybe we can talk about it later." She tugged on Mack's arm and led him away.
John let out his breath. "One way or another, this is going to get out. You remember what Quinn told us about Sandi finding out we didn't get home Saturday night?"
"I know. That doesn't mean I'm looking forward to it."
During lunch, Jodie and Daria sat on the lawn away from other students. Jodie graciously let them finish their meal before saying, "So you stayed in a hotel. That long gaze into each other's eyes tells me that there's more to the story."
"A lot more. I'm sure you've heard the rumors, too."
"The rumor mill does work fast around here. Look, you and John are a good couple. It's not unreasonable to think you'd, um, be intimate. It's the nineties."
"Just for the record, the hotel didn't rent rooms by the hour, the police didn't raid the building, and I don't own a pair of thigh high boots."
Jodie laughed. "You realize that guys are mentally picturing you wearing them, right?"
Daria dropped her head to the ground. "Dammit."
"Things will die down soon enough; you just have to weather a short storm."
Daria lifted her head and asked, "What about you and Mack?"
Jodie nervously looked around to see if anyone was eavesdropping. "Um..."
Daria and John were waiting in the small side room of the library when Kevin and Brittany came in for their daily tutoring session. Kevin slapped John on the back and said, "Dude, didn't I tell you prom night was the best night to score?"
Brittany sat down next to Daria and squealed, "Now we have so much more to talk about!"
Uncomfortable, Daria said, "Um, yeah. But not today."
John motioned for Kevin to sit down. "Ms. Li isn't letting us out of class to talk about...other stuff."
"Oh, yeah," Kevin said, sitting down. "We're doing biology today, right?"
Daria glumly opened the textbook. "Much to my deep regret, yes."
"Great!" Brittany said. "Then we have plenty to talk about."
"We're not covering the reproductive system," John said.
Kevin said, "Aw man, that's my favorite part."
"I never would've guessed," Daria said. "Today, we're covering animal mimicry."
"What's that?" Brittany asked.
"Species that have evolved to look a lot like another."
"Then how can you tell them apart?" Kevin then had, for him, a brilliant idea. "I know; they're a trick question!"
"Close," Daria said. "The example in the book is the Viceroy Butterfly and how it looks like the Monarch."
Butterflies. Why did it have to be butterflies? That thought made John remember that his mother had wanted him to stay at the Ashfield Art Colony again this summer. Damn, I really don't want to spend the entire summer away from Daria.
Seeing her father's car in the driveway caused Daria to groan as she pulled in behind it. "Three guesses about why he's home early."
"And the first two don't count, right?" John said, slumping back in the seat.
"You know, we better not run late any this week."
"You're right. Look, do you mind if I go for a run? It's a good bet that keeping a little distance between us would be a good idea."
"Hopefully I can talk him down a little before you get back."
"But you owe me."
"Big time, I know."
Jake was waiting inside on the sofa. He managed to force a smile and say, "Hey kids, how was your day?"
"A typical Monday at Sunny Lawndale High," Daria said.
"That's great. You kids want to watch some TV?"
John said, "I was going to go for a run. Raincheck?"
"Um, okay," Jake said, not expecting that answer.
"I have some homework," Daria said, "But I can put that off for a while."
"Sure thing, Kiddo."
"Give us a minute," Daria said.
After they reached the top of the stairs, John said, "Yep, we're going to have to start all over at getting his trust back."
"You have to admit that we did what they were worried about us doing. We broke their trust."
"Do you regret...?"
"No," Daria emphatically said. "But they're having an honest reaction and we have to...have to take responsibility for our actions."
"Um, I can skip that run," John said, "If you think it will help."
"Go on. I'll probably make more progress with Dad by myself."
"I'll need it."
After John left, Daria went to the sofa, where Jake had just sat back down with a bowl. He said, "Popcorn?"
Daria joined him and said, "Sure. So, what's on?"
"What do you usually watch?"
"Sick, Sad World."
"Um, okay, Kiddo."
"It's not that bad," Daria said, picking up the remote and changing channels.
The TV flickered and then showed a grizzled man wearing overalls and holding a shotgun. "Lemme tell ya, soon as I catch that gray skinned freak, we's gonna have us a weddin' quick like and he's gonna do right by my lil' Myra Jean."
Daria covered her face. "Sometimes, it is that bad."
John trotted around the corner from Axl's to the alley leading to Trent's apartment. "What the...?" he said upon seeing a black sports car parked there. "I thought they were through for good."
John stopped at the door and listened carefully. "Good, no sounds of anything going on." He knocked and waited. Please be dressed. Please be dressed.
Inside, a puppy barked. After a few moments, Trent opened the door and stuck one foot to the side to keep Axl's future "guard" dog Damien from getting out. "Hey Johnny, what's up?"
"Out for a run."
Monique came up and said, "Hey there, is Daria with you?"
Thank God they're both dressed.
"Hey. Nah, she's at home defusing her dad."
"Defusing? What happened?"
John felt a blush and he stammered, "Well, on our way back last weekend, we had to stop at a hotel because the rain was so bad and, um..."
"I think we got it," Monique said. She elbowed Trent and said, "You didn't fall asleep on her, did you?"
"No, no," John said.
Trent turned to Monique and said, "You were comfortable."
"Which reminds me," John said. "Are you two?"
Trent laughed and coughed. "Nah."
"I've had it with the Harpies. I stopped by to see if I could sing with Spiral for a few gigs." When Monique saw John's concerned look at Trent, she added, "And he promised not to play that song."
"Ooh, he can learn."
"Hey," Trent said.
Monique stepped past the brothers and said, "I think I'll let you two talk."
"Um, thanks," John said.
"See you later, Monique," Trent said.
"Later," she said, going to her car.
Trent let John into the small apartment and closed the door. Damien bounced around John's running shoes and tugged at the laces when he had the chance.
Trent said, "So..."
"I think we screwed up," John said. "Jake and Helen are back to watching us like hawks. Jake was even waiting for us when we got home today."
Trent effortlessly dropped onto a beanbag chair and said, "If you were really in trouble, Helen would've been waiting for you."
Daria tried to explain, "We've tried to be honest with you and Mom."
Jake weakly smiled. "You have, Daria. But..."
When the doorbell rang, Jake took the opportunity to distract himself from the uncomfortable conversation. Just as he opened the door, he automatically yelled up the stairs, "Quinn, your date is..." He stopped when he saw who was there and said in a normal voice, "Oh, hi Monique."
Monique snickered at Jake's mistake. "Hey, is Daria here?" she asked.
"Yeah." Jake then half-turned and called, "Sorry Quinn, false alarm!"
"What are you doing here?" Daria said as she came over.
"Johnny stopped by to see Trent."
"You were at Trent's?"
"Not like that."
Jake said, "Huh?"
"Never mind, Dad," Daria said.
Monique said, "I was heading out for some triple chocolate cherry fudge ice cream. Want to come along?"
"Why not? Dad, think we can pick up where we left off later?"
"Oh, uh, sure," he said.
"I shouldn't be too long."
"I'll be here."
Daria followed Monique to her car and when they got in, asked, "Did John, uh, say anything?"
"You mean about you two spending the night in a hotel on the way back Saturday? I left him and Trent to talk it over among themselves and figured you might want a friendly ear yourself."
"John and Trent talking it over?"
"Well, John talking and Trent snoozing. But Damien makes a good listener."
Sitting on the old couch in Trent's apartment, John scratched behind Damien's ears and said, "I'm sure you didn't understand a word that I said, but thanks for listening."
The dog barked and licked John's face.
The sound caused Trent to wake up and say, "Not the whipped cream."
"Brother of mine," John said, cringing, "That was way too much information, whatever it was."
"Oh, hey. Um, what are you doing here?"
"I had a nice long conversation with the dog."
"He's good at that."
"Yeah," John said. "So, do you have any more nuggets of wisdom for me?"
"Don't use me as an example?"
Monique twirled her spoon in the half-finished dish of ice cream. "I could learn from you about stable relationships. Trent and I were the most stable gig I've ever had and you know how messed up that was."
Daria rested her spoon on the edge of the dish. "I keep feeling that things have changed."
"They have. But, damn I'm sorry, I don't have much more that I can say beyond what you've figured out."
"Dammit. Is everybody this clueless?"
"Just about. Either you two will grow with new closeness, or things will go downhill until it's all about the sex. If I could figure out how to predict which way things go, I'd write a book and make a fortune on the talk show circuit."
"We should probably head back. I don't think it's safe yet for John to be home alone with my folks."
"Yeah, it sounds like you still want to keep him around."
"And with all parts still attached."
Monique laughed at the blush that grew on Daria's cheeks as she realized how her comment could be taken.
Several days later over dinner, Helen said, "Daria, John, I would prefer if you stayed home this evening. I wasn't comfortable coming home to find both of you gone."
"Mom, that was Monday," Daria said. "We've been home every day since. Dad can vouch for that, though I think the strain of watching us without going over the top is getting to him."
"Besides, we weren't even at the same place. I think Mystik Spiral's still traumatized by your questioning."
"What makes you say that?" Helen asked.
"Max said he was giving up on his criminale lifestyle."
"You're still staying home."
Quinn said, "Mom, I really think you should let them go out. The Fashion Club's Blush-A-Thon is tonight."
Jake loudly said, "Blush-A-Thon? No daughter of mine is going to embarrass herself for her friends!"
"Da-ad! Blush as in makeup. We're evaluating the summer line of colors."
"Makeup? You girls got in a fight?"
Helen patted Jake's hand. "No, dear. Quinn's talking about cosmetics."
"Oh. Um, okay. I'll go back to my paper," Jake said and quickly ducked behind the front page.
Daria sank down in her chair. "Blush-A-Thon? John, is it too late for mutual suicide?"
"Well, I was hoping to make it past graduation before that," John said.
Helen rolled her eyes at John and Daria's remarks and said, "Quinn, why don't you invite Daria to join you and your friends?"
Quinn and Daria said in unison, "You've got to be kidding."
Seated with the other Fashion Club members on the living room sofas, Sandi said, "Quinn, why is your sister with us?"
"Mom thought it was a good idea," Quinn said. "And if she didn't get to join us, Mom wouldn't let us meet here tonight."
Sandi said. "My mother's hosting the Tri-County Broadcast Women's Round Table tonight, so we can't go to my place. Stacy?"
"Um, Mom and Dad said something about 'date night.'"
"Dad's fantasy baseball."
Sandi sighed. "Okay, it looks like we have no viable alternative. Daria can stay."
Bored, Daria said, "Thank you so very much."
In contrast, Stacy became excited and said, "You know, guys, with Daria here, we have a whole other complexion to include and we can make even better decisions!"
"We can even ask that John guy about how things look," Tiffany said. "We are trying to look good for guys."
Daria looked up the stairs, smirked for the first time since joining the other girls and said, "That can be arranged."
John said, "You've got to be kidding."
Snippy, Daria said, "Why should you get an easy out?"
"You're inviting me to step into a minefield of saying whether other girls look good or not."
"We'll tiptoe through the minefield together."
"I can't see you ever tiptoeing in those boots."
Firm, Daria said, "John, I'm not staying down there alone, outnumbered four to one."
"So you want me to be outnumbered five to one?"
"They haven't asked about the two of us...yet."
"I can see that the alternative is worse. I'll help."
Seated on the floor with the girls of the Fashion Club, Daria halted Sandi's hand, took the makeup brush and said, "I can do that myself."
With the others watching, Daria hesitantly applied the blush to her cheeks. Though her technique was slow and rusty, it was immediately clear that Daria knew what she was doing.
Tiffany said, "We thought you didn't know how to apply makeup."
"Just because I don't do something doesn't mean that I'm not aware of how to do it," Daria said.
Stacy glanced at John and said, "I get it."
"Don't blame me," he said.
Hearing the conversation, Helen came over and said, "Daria helped with makeup at a little theater when we lived in Highland. I was told that she was very good."
"Oh yeah, I remember that now," Quinn said. "You did makeup?"
"Yes, I did makeup," Daria admitted.
"You participated in another extracurricular activity?" John said, remembering that she had mentioned working with the school paper there and then trying to figure out the story behind this new information.
"I was young and foolish," Daria said.
Sandi said, "It doesn't matter, though I don't understand why you don't wear makeup."
"I don't feel the need."
"If you say so."
One at a time, the other girls tried the same blush. While the Fashion Club members discussed the color, John moved close to Daria and said, "Okay, there's a story behind there somewhere."
"Later," Daria said.
"John," Stacy said. "What do you think?"
"How this blush looks on us?"
"Oh, um...it looks like you're blushing?"
Stacy wrote on her notepad while saying, "Seaside Sunset: too intense."
"Very well," Sandi said. "Our next shade is Bordeaux Blossom."
An hour later, Helen answered the telephone, carried it over to the living room and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt. John, it's Amanda."
"I better get it," he said, rising and taking the phone from Helen. "Hi, Mom."
Sandi watched and then said, "So his mother really does exist."
"Mothers are usually necessary for that whole birth thing everyone goes through," Daria said.
John stepped away and said, "What's up?"
Amanda said, "Good news. You and Daria have been approved for the summer program up here at Ashfield."
"That's great!" John said, excited. Immediately after, he thought of the obvious complication. "Oh crap."
"Things have gotten a little complicated, Mom."
"You didn't break up, did you?"
"No, far from it."
"Then what's wrong?"
"Didn't you already say that?"
John desperately looked around for a place to talk privately and found that he was blocked in by the Fashion Club in the living room and by Daria's parents in the kitchen. He gave up and whispered, "Can I just say that we've gotten closer?"
"That's good. What's the problem?"
"Um...I'll explain when I get there...I hope."
"Okay. I look forward to seeing both of you."
"Okay Mom, good bye."
John held the phone and looked back and forth between Daria and Helen. Deciding, he went to Daria and said, "We need to talk to your parents about something."
Glad for a reason to escape, Daria stood up and said, "Excuse me."
She whispered to John, "What's going on?"
"Mom said we've both been accepted to Ashfield."
"Oh," Daria said, her voice faintly showing her concern with her parents.
John ushered Daria into the kitchen and said, "Do you remember both of us registering for the regular two month session at Ashfield this summer?"
"Oh dear," Helen said.
Daria said, "Mom, you said that if we were accepted, we could both go."
"I did," she admitted.
"We're still the same people," John said.
Jake didn't look too happy. "You said Ashfield was like a commune."
"Yes," John said, "But the dorms are not coed. Besides, I'll probably stay in my parent's cabin again. There's not room for both of us there."
Helen moved over next to Jake. "John, you know things have changed since we agreed."
John instinctively moved next to Daria. "I know."
"They'll freaking think about it," Daria angrily said as she and John walked down the corridor of school the next day.
"Dammit," John said. "I thought when they made sure we were prepared that they would react better."
"Never expect logic out of parents."
Ignoring Daria, one of the old track team members came up to John and slapped him on the back. "Way to go, dude! If you can get into the pants of an icebox like Daria, you rock."
John brushed the guy's arm away and said, "If you ever learn to treat a girl like a person instead of a piece of ass, you might actually get to talk to one sometime."
"That ain't cool."
Kicking her boot against the floor tile, Daria said, "Next time, try to be aware of when the 'icebox' is present."
"Eep! Gotta go, gonna be late," the guy said as he made a very rapid exit.
"I'm so glad school is almost over for the year and everyone will have the summer rumors to think about when we return," Daria said.
John stopped. "Back to our summer plans. We can't just let this go. We have to fight for it."
"Do you have anything in mind?"
"Give me until after school."
Daria stopped the car in front of the office of Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter. She said, "Are you sure you want to go in?"
John said, "I feel safer talking to your mother than to Jake."
"You have a point there. I'll have a better chance of peeling Dad off the ceiling than you will."
John leaned over and softly kissed Daria. "Good luck."
John climbed out of the car and allowed Daria to drive away before she'd backed up traffic. He watched the front door for a minute or so before finally risking going inside. Trying to be as polite as possible, he went up to Helen's assistant. "Hi Marianne, I need to talk to Mrs. Morgendorffer."
The nervous blonde said, "I'm afraid she's really busy today, John."
From within the office, they could hear Helen yell, "Where in the hell is that P.I.'s report!"
"I'm willing to risk it," John said.
Marianne stood up and said, "This must be important," before leading John to her boss's office. "Helen?"
She spun and said, "I said no interruptions!"
Marianne moved aside to let Helen see John. "He said he's willing to take a chance."
"Excuse us, Marianne," Helen said.
Marianne let John into the office, closed the door and went straight to her desk, glad to get away from whatever was brewing.
"I suppose it's no guess what I want to talk about," John said.
Helen sat down behind her desk and motioned for John to sit. "Your plans for this summer."
"Okay, your and Daria's plans."
"You were excited about us going. There's a lot for us to learn and it's going to look good on our college admissions."
"That's very true, but you're evading the subject that changed things."
"Because it shouldn't change things."
Helen got up, walked around her desk and sat against the edge. "John, it does. Not just between the two of you and us, but between you and Daria. You and she are now at a stage where many relationships fall apart. I love both of you as my children and I don't want that to happen while you're away."
"Um, we really don't..."
"I know you don't intend for anything to go wrong, but things like that you can't plan. I'd feel better if you were at home if something happened. Then, maybe, we could help you through it."
John was shaken by Helen's plainly stated concern. "I..."
"Jake and I don't want either of you to be hurt. You're so young to be in such an intimate relationship, and I don't just mean sex. Except for the fact you stay in separate rooms, you two are as close to being married as you can get without a ring. You may not believe me, but we want you to make it."
John sat back, trying to find something to say against such logic. After a long pause, he could think of only one thing. I don't believe I'm going to say this. "My mother used to say something that fits here, 'If you hold a butterfly in your hand, it will die. You have to let it go.' No matter how much you want to protect us, sometime, you will have to let us go and see if we can make it or not. Daria and I want more than anything to make things work, but if not, isn't it better to know sooner than later?"
Helen slowly closed her eyes and lowered her head. "John, have you and Daria ever really discussed if you would like to have children some day?"
"Not really. We've been more concerned about avoiding that in the foreseeable future."
"If you do, you'll want them to stay your little darlings for as long as possible."
"I won't be taking her completely away from you. I could never do that."
Helen fought back tears. "No, but she's no longer my little darling."
John then understood. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. It's something every parent has to go through." Helen grabbed a tissue and wiped her eyes. "I'll talk to Jake. Both of you can go."
Seated in her father's office, Daria said, "We didn't want to lie to you."
Slumped in his chair, Jake said, "I would've been scared to death to tell my father."
"You're much better than that, Dad. That's why we felt we could tell you the truth."
Jake nodded, but still seemed to be mentally far away.
"Huh?" he said, coming out of his momentary trance.
"I want to tell you the truth about something else."
"What's that!" he said, alarmed.
"I'm still your little girl."
"I love John. Though I never expected to find someone, I did. But that doesn't change the fact that you're my father and I'm your little girl. Nothing can change that."
Jake broke into a great smile and dove across the desk to hug Daria. "Kiddo."
Daria accepted the gesture and returned it. "And you can always call me that."
Jake let go and clumsily crawled back to his chair, pushing papers off of his desk in the process. "Let me talk to your mother."
"Thanks, Dad. Oh, and you might want to pick up those papers from the floor."
He looked down at the mess and said, "Dammit!"
Daria smiled at her father and shook her head.
John gratefully flopped back against the rack of empty lockers and said, "We're free, last day of school is over."
"One more year shot to hell," Daria said with a tiny bit of cheer.
"And this weekend, off to Ashfield."
Daria joined him in leaning against the lockers. "Two months of writing and working with other writers."
"This is going to be great."
Standing in front of them, Mack said, "I am so jealous of you."
"You're jealous?" Jodie said. "I'll trade you working in Congressman Sack's office for driving the ice cream truck."
"I think I'll stay with the more mature audience."
Quinn ran up to them, quickly looked around to see if anyone was looking and then hugged Daria. "Thank you!"
Shocked, Daria said, "Um...you're welcome?"
"I got a 1090 on my PSTAT!" Quinn said.
Pleased, Daria said, "Congratulations, I knew you could do it."
"Yeah, congrats, Quinn," John said.
When Jodie and Mack joined in, Quinn said, "But you need to keep it quiet, okay guys?"
"Quiet?" Jodie asked.
Daria said, "Quinn has a reputation to uphold. Your secret's safe."
"Thanks; see you later," Quinn said as she rushed away.
"Very strange," Jodie said.
John chuckled and said, "That's Quinn."
"Dang it," Jodie said. "I just realized you're going to miss our Fourth of July party."
"My party allotment is still full, but thanks," Daria said.
"Anyway, take care of yourselves and I guess we'll see you in the fall."
"You, too," Daria said. "Um, just to let you know, you're not so bad to work for."
"Thanks. Oh, that reminds me of something."
John said, "I don't like the sound of that."
"Daria, I recommended that you be the editor of the Lawndale Lowdown next year."
Mack couldn't hold back and burst out laughing. Daria looked at him, realized what was going on and said to Jodie, "Okay, you got me."
"Finally," she said, joining in the laughter.
Daria smirked and said, "You need to let that out more, Jodie. Trust me, you'll feel better."
"I think I'll work on that."
"You're not coming with us," Daria said, scooting Zachary out of her suitcase before she put the last couple of items in and closed it. Looking up at her sister standing by the closet, she said, "You better start thinking fast, Quinn, or Mom's going to find some 'useful' activity for you again."
Quinn replied, "Working with her public relations lady last year wasn't so bad."
"But she's gone, remember?"
"And do you really want to work for Eric's cousin?"
"Then you better find something."
Quinn squeezed between Taylor and Daria's suitcase to sit on the bed. "It's going to be weird being alone around here."
"I wasn't aware Mom and Dad were going anywhere."
"You know what I mean. I'm going to be alone here with them."
"Think of it this way," Daria said. "You'll have practice for when John and I go away for college."
"Thanks, like I really needed to start worrying about that."
"And then a year later, you'll be going off to college."
Quinn stared at her sister. "When did we start growing up?"
In an honest tone, Daria said, "I don't know."
John came into the room, set his suitcase on the floor and took some money from his pocket. "Quinn, thanks for watching over my owners while Daria and I are gone."
Quinn scratched Taylor's head before taking the money. Counting it, she said, "Oh, it's no trouble at all."
John bent over to look his cats in the face. "We'll be back in two months; don't worry."
Taylor purred and leaned against Quinn while Zachary half-rolled and closed his eyes to take a nap.
Looking past John, Daria said, "I think they'll survive just fine."
"Are you ready?" he asked Daria.
"Raring," she said, grabbing her suitcase.
"Your parents are hovering around downstairs. You'd think we were going away for good or something."
"A little separation anxiety, I'd guess."
Getting into their old blue car, John said, "Don't worry, Daria insisted on doing the navigating. We're not going to get lost."
Standing next to the car with Jake, Helen said, "Make sure you call us as soon as you get there."
"We promise, Mom," Daria said as she settled into the passenger seat with a map book.
"Be careful, there's lots of crazy drivers on the road!" Jake said.
"We'll be careful," John said while managing to avoid making any comments about Jake's driving.
John started the car and said through the open window. "We'll never make it if we don't leave. Take care, everyone."
Daria waved and said, "Good bye."
Jake put his arm around Helen and said, "Bye, kids."
"Good bye," Helen said.
Standing to the side, Quinn waved and said, "Have fun you two!"
Quinn watched her parents after Daria and John drove away. "Mom, Dad, they're going to be fine."
Helen pulled Quinn over to her and Jake and into a hug. "We know. We know."
Driving through rolling hills in southern Pennsylvania, Daria said, "If this summer turns into a disaster, I'm blaming you."
"I see; it's all my fault."
"That's right. If it wasn't for meeting you, I wouldn't be on this trip."
"Hey, don't blame me for that. I'm not the one that moved to Lawndale, remember? You dropped into my life and turned it upside down."
"Then I've served my purpose."
"Seriously though," John said. "It's been almost two years since I've lived with my parents. I hope this doesn't turn into a disaster. Please try to be patient with them. They were never mean, just...careless."
Daria reached over with her right hand and held John's. "You're a survivor; you'll make it."
"With you, maybe I will."
John pointed at the wooden sign over a side road. "That's it."
"I see," Daria said, turning off the road and into the driveway for the Ashfield Art's Colony. "We made it."
"Mom and Dad's place is to the right and the fourth cabin down."
Daria followed the directions and parked. Stiff, she got out and stretched. "I don't want to sit down again for at least another hour."
Amanda came out of the cabin and rushed to John. "John! Welcome back!"
John hugged her and said, "Hi, Mom."
Amanda immediately released John and hugged Daria. "I'm so glad to see you!"
"Um, same here," Daria managed to say.
"Where's Dad?" John asked.
Amanda said, "He'll be back in a couple days."
"Are you sure?" John asked, disappointed.
"Pretty sure," Amanda said. She looked her son over and said, "My, how you're growing. You've changed so much since last year. My little butterfly is all grown up."
John put his arm around Daria and said, "Yeah Mom, I think we have."
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.