"An Angel Named Mary Sue"

 

By Angelinhel kckli@yahoo.com

Special guest appearance by Greystar.

 

Legal blah-de-blah: Daria and all whatever is owned by Mtv/Viacom and is being butchered by Noggin. I think I have three of those new gold dollar-coins in my car ashtray, which is all youíll get should you be inclined to sue. If you think Iím making money off this, then up the dose. Moving on.

Author Notes: This was inspired by "Groped by an Angel" and is a combination and re-working of my entries in PPMB "Mary Sue" and "Paying For It" challenges. I placed Lawndale in Connecticut, for various reasons. This is set after IICY, itís summer, Daria and Jane have graduated, and the FC is gone but they are still friends.

Extensive Thank-Yous: Everyone on PPMB for being so supportive especially in regards to my original "Mary Sue": Roger E. Moore, Brother Grimace, Nemo Blank, TerraEsperZ, ranchoth, Decelaraptor and 9style. To Greystar and Mistress Thea for encouraging the combination and expansion of the two. Everyone who cast a vote: Martin Pollard, Steven Galloway, Greystar, Roger E. Moore, and RngrThorne. To Lawndale Stalker (Galen Hardesty) for letting me use his "Tales of Young Daria" stories* (Go read! They are excellent!!) RuthlessBunny for letting me quote part of her ch. 23 "Bed and Breakfast Man" series** (Read this too, very good!!). And Greystar for his contribution/guest appearance. And of course, especially to my beta readers, Greystar, Robert Nowall, Roger E. Moore, Ben Breeck, Mistress Thea, THM, and 9style.

Thanks for the feathers, guys.

 

 

Daria and Quinn sat in the living room, already bored though summer had just started. Daria was watching TV, Quinn was, surprisingly, reading.

Daria looked away from the TV and noticed the book title, "Youíre not back on that guardian angel kick again are you?"

"They just came out with a new Angels Among Us book, itís very interesting, you should read it." Quinn said, not looking up.

"Right after I have my frontal lobes removed." Daria deadpanned, turning back to the TV.

"Ha ha, Daria."

 

Daria, really. I thought you two were getting closer. You donít have much time left. After you leave, this will be far more difficult. I swore I was never going to do thisÖdammit.

 

Later that night, Daria was asleep in her bed when a voice called out.

"DaaaaahhhrrriiiaaaaaahhhÖDaaahhriaaaahÖ" it was low and eerie.

Daria mumbled and rolled over, but did not wake up.

The voice became more insistent. "DaaahhriaaaahÖ"it increased in volume and irritation. "Daria. Daria! Wake up, dammit!"

Daria sat up startled. "Wha?" She put on her glasses and looked around for the source of whatever it was that had woken her up.

"Finally. Jeeze, I thought I was going to have to douse you with cold water or something." A disembodied voice said from somewhere near the end of the bed.

" Am I still dreaming? Who said that?" Daria was quickly weighing her options of escape and attack.

" Huh? Oh, crap. Stupid, freakiníÖhang on."

Daria looked around confused. Suddenly a diffuse light appeared near her bed. It coalesced until it formed a human shape. The image gradually cleared to reveal a young woman in her mid-twenties. She had shoulder length gold-red hair, yellow-green eyes and was about Dariaís height. She was dressed somewhat like Quinn, flare jeans, and grey t-shirt, no shoes, but nicely pedicured toes.

" Who the hell are you?" Daria asked trying to determine how much of a threat this unknown person was.

" Iím your guaaaardian aaaangelÖ" the girl said in a spooky voice.

"My guardian angel?" She didnít seem to want to hurt her, but why was there some strange girl in her bedroom in the middle of the night?

The stranger cleared her throat. "Um, no, not really. Iím Angelinhel. You can just call me Angel for short."

"Angel in hell?" Daria asked, thinking she was in the middle of some bizarre nightmare.

"Long story. Anywhoo, I overheard your conversation with Quinn and I decided to have a chat with you. You shouldnít pick on her for her belief in guardian angels. Thereís more out there than you know about." She said.

"So youíre an angel, here to convince me about your existence and God? So far all Iím convinced of is not to eat Dadís cooking before bed. Or ever." Daria replied, firmly convinced it was a dream, yet feeling a strange sense of deja vu.

"Probably a good idea. Iím not here to convince you of anything. I just wanted to help you understand some things. Iím not really an angel, itís just a metaphorical-name thing." Angel sat on the end of the bed by Dariaís feet.

"Am I dead?í Daria asked suddenly.

"What?!? No!" Angel looked surprised.

"Are you?" Daria peered at her.

"Not the last time I checked."

"So itís just the chili then." Daria stated.

Angel smirked "Iíd better start from the beginning. Letís start off with the idea that most organized religions fell pretty wide of the mark when they decided on deities and the afterlife, and pretty much how the universe works in general. Follow so far?"

"So, thereís no God or afterlife or what have you. Thatís what I told Quinn." Daria was trying to figure out what her subconscious was trying to tell her with this dream.

"Not quite. People tend to put things into terms they can understand. God is a Ďpersoní with human attributes, we retain our personalities when we die, that sort of thing. It doesnít mean itís true. Humans are funny that way, in order for things to make sense they have be Ďhumanizedí. The truth is harder to explain, because instinctively, you will want to anthropomorphize this, and I sort of have to, to explain it. And, as I am still only human, parts of it even I donít get. But just try to go with it, ok?"

"Uh, sure." This is the wierdest dream Iíve ever had.

"Think of the universe as an Ocean. Itís one thing, one entity. It has a sort of Ďconsciousnessí and is, in a way, a Ďliving beingí but not in human terms. Now, you can think of a single person or animal as a Wave in that Ocean, separate yet still a part of it." Angel paused. "Still with me?"

Daria yawned "I guess so."

"As these Waves we have experiences, life. We change and then return to the whole and bring what weíve learned and experienced with us. Every Wave adds more to the completeness of the Ocean. Itís constantly changing. Thatís the purpose of life, Daria. To help complete the whole, to help it change."

"The meaning of life is just to change? Simply to have experiences?" Daria asked in disbelief, she smirked. "Or to make waves?"

"Cute pun. Meaning and purpose are two different things, but in a nutshell, yes."

"Why? Whatís the point of constant change?" Daria asked.

Angel shrugged "I never said I had all the answers. My guess is that at some point, the Ocean will become perfect and perhaps thatís when it will stop changing and simply exist or end. I donít know. Does it matter?"

"Sounds like nothing matters." Daria said raising an eyebrow.

Angel did the same. "Or everything does."

"So you came from the great beyond to bestow this knowledge upon me. How is this supposed to help me? And why are you here again?" Daria was still somewhat asleep and getting confused.

"Iíll try to explain. Letís suppose that as Waves with Ďpersonalitiesí some can be put into certain groups. These groups motivate change in different ways. For example, your mother and Quinn are the same group, as are Stacy and Trent. Some belong to more than one group, but those are more rare, and are generally the troublemakers of the ocean. Lawndale has a number of Grouped people, which is why thereís so much going on here." Angel said.

"What groups are there?" Daria asked while thinking: I am never eating Dadís chili again.

Angel looked mildly surprised "Youíre taking this awfully well."

"Iím assuming this is all a hot-sauce induced hallucination, so I may as well go with it."

"Okay, then. Whatever floats your boat."

"Right now, about two gallons of Tabasco.í

Angel continued, an amused expression on her face. "So there are Groups, more than I know about, but for example, Helen and Quinn are Solvers. They find solutions to problems and do something to implement those solutions, which in turn, motivate change or cause it directly. Trent and Stacy are Empathetics. Thatís one of the toughest and most frustrating to be. They feel the pain of the whole world, but they also feel the joy of the whole world. Theyíre usually sensitive and creative, a way to use what they feel to motivate change."

"So thatís why Mom and Quinn get along better."

"Well kinda, Solvers understand the way each other think. Thatís why they usually get along. Solvers are also very..." she paused searching for the right word.

"Obsessive?" Daria volunteered.

"Single-minded. No." Angel paused. "Focused, thatís what I wanted. Focused. Theyíre usually very good at one or a few things and concentrate on that. Your mom chose law."

"And Quinn chose popularity."

"Well, for now. I think she has a lot of potential. "

"For a career as a mannequin. Sheís got all the qualifications, looks and an empty head. What about Jane?" Daria asked.

Angel frowned at Dariaís dig at her sister. "Jane might be a Creative. Lots of those, well, easier to spot at least." At Dariaís curious look she elaborated. "True Creatives are quite brilliant at whatever their talent is. Michaelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare, Jack Nicholson, theyíre usually famous. Iím not perfect at recognizing Groups. Some people arenít Grouped. They are simply individual Waves. Like Tom or Jake, Sandi. And, of course, everyone has their own personality and quirks. Groups just mean that those people tend to act in a certain way, itís no guarantee of behavior. Sometimes your natural personality will cause you to act against what your Group would normally cause you to do. Humans are notoriously unpredictable."

"So where do I fit in your Groups?"

"Like I said, Iím not perfect at recognizing Groups, I just go with what I see. Besides, some are that way right from the start, theyíre called Natural whatevers and some have experiences that push them into a Group, theyíre Created whatevers. There can be vast differences between Created and Naturals in a Group. I think youíre a Natural Observer, a Detailer. They have a huge impact on the Ocean. They add the tiny details others miss, the ones that bring everything into sharp focus. Very important, but also a frustrating Group."

"Why?" Daria was curious, she had to admit, she did feel frustrated a good deal of the time.

"Because you can see what other people donít, you get frustrated because they donít react like you would, or you think they should, or just canít see the world the way you do. A Solver and a Detailer, no wonder you and Quinn donít get along. Iím surprised you havenít killed each other yet." Angel said with a small laugh.

"I just need to work out my alibi. What do our Ďgroupsí have to do with it?" Daria asked.

"Think about it, your opposite personalities notwithstanding, someone who sees solutions clearly and someone who sees details the other missed? Youíre bound to conflict on the right thing to do." Angel replied.

"Iíll keep all this in mind during the trial. If they donít accept it as reasonable cause, itíll definitely support the insanity plea. So why are you here? Wait, what are you?"

Angel smirked. "The worst kind, an Empathetic Solver, the ĎGuardian Angelsí of the Ocean. Also known as the ĎMeddlersí of the Ocean. "

"What does that mean? And how is this supposed to help me?" Daria was tired and getting cranky.

Angel sensed her mood and continued. "Not only do I feel everyoneís pain; I have an incessant need to fix it. Actually, Iím a Natural Solver, but a Created Empathetic. I can see where things are going wrong, and Iím compelled by compassion to resolve it. Though personally, Iím really not that fond of people in general and my empathy usually runs to animals, but human suffering still gets to me in some cases. Thatís why Iím here to help. I want you to understand that in the grand scheme of things, we are both very important and very insignificant. There are a lot of Waves out there, all doing their part. One of many is insignificant, but every one is important, too. Small changes add up and cause bigger changes."

"Chaos theory."

"Something like that. You need to know that no matter what happens in life, you matter. And the Ocean Ďcaresí in itís own way. It allowed me an opportunity to come here and help you. I donít expect you to burst forth with optimism, but regardless of how you interpret this and react to it, youíve already changed, and so have I."

"Hmmm. Well itís interesting, at least. Donít you think a philosophical discussion would go over better when the other person is fully awake?" Daria rubbed her eyes behind her glasses.

"Everyone loves a cliché. And I thought the revelation of the "Meaning of Life" would make you more receptive to the real reason Iím here."

"Which is?" Daria prompted.

Angel shrugged. "To help."

Daria opened her mouth to say something, but Angel waved her off.

"You know, we have a lot in common, Daria. I can see myself in you, weíve had a number of similar experiencesÖ" She started to say something else but stopped. "Actually, I can see a bit of myself in a lot of people in Lawndale. But then again, thatís what Empathetics do."

Daria considered for a moment, she had a feeling Angel was being purposefully evasive about why she was there. "So, am I sworn to secrecy about the meaning of life? Will I even remember this later on? Can I tell Quinn Guardian Angels are actually Waves without wings?"

"Youíll remember and can tell whomever you like. Talk to Trent about it. I think heíll be interested in the theory. Though Iím not really an angel, I do have wings."

"Really?"

"Theyíre not very pretty. Thatís why I donít usually show them." Angel looked unsure about where the conversation was headed.

"Can I see them anyway?" Daria asked.

Angel sighed, she had debated showing them from the start because it would help Daria understand. Was she being too subtle? She hadnít intended to reveal so much about herself. Ah, what the hell. The same diffuse light appeared behind her and slowly a pair of white feather wings came into focus. Daria gasped. The wings were ragged, chunks of feathers were missing, violently torn out, neighboring feathers stained with old blood. One wing looked as if it had broken and healed crookedly. Various scars crisscrossed both. There were some recent wounds that had started to heal, and here and there, a clean, new feather.

"What happened?" Daria was shocked.

Angel looked sad. "Life, Daria. Life and change.í

"Do they stillÖ" Daria trailed off.

"Work?" Angel finished her question. "Of course. Yours still do, donít they? Of course they donít look quite like mine."

"I have wings?" Daria asked in surprise.

"Sure. Everyone does, itís a metaphorical thing. Here, take a look."

A mirror appeared in front of Daria and she hesitantly peered into it. She saw her own white wings behind her. They were far from perfect, but not nearly the disaster Angelís were. Several sections of feathers were missing, but they seemed to be carefully plucked rather than torn out. A scar ran along the top of one wing, others were visible. She noticed a similar, but much longer scar on the top of Angelís wing.

Angel noted her comparison and answered her unvoiced question. "I had a Trent, too. Only, I was probably about 6 when we met. Brotherís best friend. Havenít really seen him since he left for college about, oh, 8 years ago. Broke my heart. Some people try to stop using their wings when they hurt, others keep trying no matter how much theyíve been hurt, and occasionally, people cut their wings off completely. I just couldnít cut mine off, not while they still worked. But I am hesitant to use them. So are you."

The mirror disappeared. Angel stood up. "Well I hope that this has helped at least a little bit. While there is no real force that controls our lives, per se, someone will always care, Daria. There is hope. Donít give up on the world just yet, itís always changing."

"So the whole point of this was to get me to accept and understand the inevitability of change."

"Yeah, pretty much. Oh, and to get you to take it easier on yourself and everyone else."

"What?" Daria wasnít expecting that last bit.

Angel looked her in the eye. "Other people donít pull out feathers, Daria, they only make scars. Iíll leave you with one thing, but donít worry, it only lasts a day. Weíll see each other again."

Angel disappeared, leaving a bewildered Daria.

 

 

The next day Helen and Quinn sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. Quinn was reading her "Angels" book. Daria walked in and headed to the cupboard for a Sugar-Tart.

"Is that a new book, Quinn?" Helen asked in the few seconds she had between phone calls.

Daria turned around. "I hate to spoil it, but in the end, he eats the green eggs and the ham."

Daria stopped and stared. She could see Quinnís wings. Most of the feathers were missing, splatters of blood stained the naked wings. A long, thick scar ran almost the entire length of one, and other scars trailed all over. She watched in horror as Quinn reached towards the few remaining feathers and yanked one out, blood trickled down. The scar lengthened by an inch and bled. Daria looked down at her Sugar-Tart. It was a bloody knife in her hand.

"Ha ha, Daria." Quinn said not looking up.

Daria dropped the Sugar-Tart. "Oh my God."

Quinn, hearing her tone, looked up and saw her sisterís expression. "Daria are you ok?" she asked with concern.

Daria ran out of the room and out the front door.

Helen looked from Quinn to the front door. "What was that all about?"

Daria came to a halt at the Laneís front door and leaned on it, breathing hard. She had run the whole way, trying to escape the image of her sisterís wings. I was hallucinating. Carry-over from the dream. That wasnít real. THAT WASNíT REAL! Quinnís wings would be perfect. Everyone loves her, she gets everything she wants, she has everything. And thereís no way itís my fault. She hurts ME. She called me her cousin for years! She doesnít care what I think, sheís made that very plain. Thereís no way I could hurt her, she doesnít care about me. Itís not my fault! It WASNíT REAL!

Much to her surprise Daria was fighting back tears. She tried to pull herself together before ringing the doorbell. Oh God, what if I can see Janeís wings? No. It was just a dream. She rang it and the door opened almost instantly.

"Hey Daria." Trent stood in the doorway.

"Howíd you get here so fast?í Daria asked, shocked.

Trent looked confused. "I live here."

Daria shook her head. "No, I meantÖnever mind. Is Jane here? I really need to talk to her."

"Yeah, sheís in her room. Are you ok?" Trent asked, concerned.

"I just need to talk to Jane." Daria brushed past him and hurried up the stairs.

Trent watched her go, slightly worried. He wandered into the kitchen, his original destination.

Halfway up the stairs Daria realized she didnít see wings on Trent. She tried to remember if sheíd seen any on her mom, but couldnít. Sheíd seen Quinn first then high-tailed it out of there. She took a deep breath and knocked on Janeís door.

"Yo." Came Janeís voice from the other side.

Daria walked in, afraid of what she might see. She glanced over at Jane.

No wings.

Thank God.

She let out the breath sheíd been holding.

"Hey amigÖWhoa, are you ok? You look like youíve seen a ghost." Janeís eyes widened.

"No, just an angel with torn up wings who gave me the power to see my sisterís wings as she plucked them clean because I made some sarcastic remark and apparently Iíve been slowly killing her soul for years." Daria said in a rush.

Jane stared.

"I just said that out loud, didnít I?"

Jane put down her paintbrush "Oh yeah. Now, what was that again?"

"Remember I told you I had a dream you could get a painting out of?" Daria recounted her "dream" to Jane ending with her "hallucination" in the Morgendorffer kitchen.

"Wow. So thatís the meaning of life, huh? And you canít see any wings on me? Too bad, I wonder what they look like. Hey! Maybe that Angel chick is Quinn from the future, come back to warn you or save herself or something." Jane exclaimed.

"You believe me?"

Jane shrugged. "Believe, humor, distract till I can call the nice men with the white coats, itís all good."

Daria threw her a dirty look. "Thanks. No, she wasnít Quinn. She kinda dressed like her, but if I had to choose, Iíd have to say she looked more like me, or even Brittany. And Quinn would never leave the house without the right shoes."

"Shoes?"

"I donít know why I remember that. She wasnít wearing shoes." Daria flopped back on the bed.

"Maybe she was the future you, come back to change the past. No, youíd never give up the boots." Jane mused.

"I think she was who she said she was. She said weíd probably meet again. Am I crazy, Jane?" Daria stared at a paint spot on the ceiling.

"Yes." Jane answered without a thought. "But that was long before this happened. Actually, I think maybe it was just a realistic dream or a subconscious manifestation of feelings of guilt. Or maybe, just maybe, it was real and you should just go with it."

"A subconscious manifestation of feelings of guilt?" she repeated incredulously.

Jane looked embarrassed. "Okay, so I watched a few of those holistic marriage shows Wind was always watching. Donít worry, Iím not going to let anyone ship you off to the funny farm. And you were right. I am inspired to paint." She glanced at Daria. "Maybe you should write this out."

"Right now I think I just want to watch you paint."

Jane raised an eyebrow but begins a new canvas as Daria watched. After several hours, Jane had most of the painting done. They both stood back and looked at it. Daria was sitting up in bed, sheets covering her to her waist, wearing a t-shirt. Angel was sitting on the edge of the bed in jeans and grey t-shirt, ruined wings and all, a faint glow surrounding her. Dariaís expression was one of guarded fascination; Angelís was a benign smile.

"Well?" Jane gestured to the canvas.

Daria sat up and considered it "Itís almost perfect."

"Almost?" Jane said, faux insulted.

Daria frowned "Somethingís wrong, I just donít know what. Everything looks like it did, but thereís something..."

"Like what?"

Daria flopped back. "I donít know. Forget it."

Jane cleaned off her brush and set it down, then turned and looked at Daria. "Are you all right? Really? Youíve been quiet this whole time."

"And how is that different?"

"This isnít normal-Daria-quiet, itís more eating-at-your-soul quiet."

Daria sat up again. "Do you think Quinnís personality flaws are my fault?"

"DariaÖ"

"Do you?" Daria insisted.

Jane sighed. "I donít think thatís necessarily what you saw, or what she said, means. Considering I donít know what it was like for you two growing up, aside from what youíve told me, I couldnít say. But if I had to be honestÖ"

Daria stood up and glared at Jane. "You do, donít you? You think that my horrible personality has turned my sister in to a brainless fashion twit. I never loved her and so sheís turned into Miss Popularity to find the love she doesnít get at home. Just like everyone always says, Quinn is perfect and all her problems and mine are my fault and I have to be the one to change and fix them! Thanks a lot, Jane."

Daria stormed out. Jane called after her as she stomped down the stairs. Trent stood by the front door.

Jane ran down the stairs. "Daria! Wait! I didnít finish, thatís not what I meant!"

"Daria areÖ" he didnít finish as Daria pushed him out of the way.

"Shut up, Trent!"

She stormed out the door. Jane stared from the bottom step.

"What the hell was that?" Trent had never seen Daria that angry.

Daria angrily stalked back home, muttering to herself. She made it inside and to her room without seeing her sister or mother. Throwing herself on her bed she ranted to the ceiling, grateful for the padded walls that absorbed sound so well. "HELP ME? HELP? You did this to HELP me? Just like everyone else, why canít you be nicer, Daria? Why canít you play with the other kids Daria? Quinn has friends, Daria. Why wonít you read to Quinn? Why wonít you spend time with Quinn? Why wonít you fucking BE Quinn? Because Iím NOT Quinn! Iím me! Why canít I just be me? Why is everything my fault? Why canít I just act like myself and not have every problem in the world be my fault because of it? WHY? WHY ME? Why does it have to be so fucking hard to be me?"

Then Daria did something she swore she would never do, she broke down and cried.

 

Aw, hell. That didnít go like I expected. I canít believe I made Daria cry.

 

Quinn stood just outside the door. She was just about to ask Daria to go back to Janeís, or anywhere else, because the Fashion Club, no, that was gone, her friends were coming over. She only caught the end, "Why me? Why does it have to be so fucking hard to be me?" Quinn was surprised, she asked herself that same question every day. Maybe not quite in that kind of language, which surprised her coming from DariaÖ

Daria thought it was hard to be her? She was so smart. And everyone left her alone, she could do whatever she wanted. She didnít have to live up to anyoneís expectations, well, except her own. Quinn didnít understand why she was so unhappy. She wasnít popular popular, but Quinn would trade a thousand Fashion Clubs for a friend like Jane. And as much as she hated to admit it, and despite what Sandi said, Daria was popular. Everyone knew who she was, and despite her prickly attitude, most everyone liked her. Quinn suddenly felt guilty for calling her her Ďcousiní for so long and for treating her so badly in front of her friends. But she was trying to be a better sister. She had finally admitted that they were sisters, right? And she had made some attempts at sisterly bonding. Sort of. And it was working better than when they were little, right?

But thatís why itís so hard to be me. I canít even be myself. Hell, I donít even know who I am. All my friends would desert me if I gave up fashion and boys and all that crap we do. Daria never seemed to want to be her friend, so she had done what she had to, to find them elsewhere. Acceptance had come at a price, and Quinn paid it gladly. Quinn needed other people. People who listened to her, people just to be with. Quinn hated being alone. Daria just didnít understand that. Quinn listened. Daria had stopped yelling. She probably wonít come out anyway. Quinn went downstairs to wait for her friends, she didnít hear Dariaís muffled sobs.

The Former Fashion Club arrived and they sat waiting for the no-salt, no-fat, air-popped popcorn to pop while they watched Fashion Vision.

"So now that we have all this, like, free time, what should we do?" Sandi said in her valley-girl drawl.

Stacy perked up. "We could get summer jobs."

"Staaa-cy, jobs?" Sandi said disapprovingly.

Stacy cringed slightly. "Quinn had a job."

Sandi waved her off "She was forced into that. Itís not like she wanted to work."

Quinn started to reply but stopped herself. She had decided that Stacy needed to learn to defend herself. She did ok at the graduation barbecue. Very well, actually. Sheíd dismantled the Fashion Club.

Stacy tried again. "Maybe we could volunteer somewhere fun? Help animals or kids or something?"

Quinn was surprised and pleased. "Stacy thatís such a good idea. And it would look good on our college applications."

"Yeah, volunteeeeeer. Like the friendship workshop." Tiffany added.

Sandi looked at them all with distain. "You really want to waste your summer with bratty kids and smelly animals? And when would you find the time to keep up with current fashion trends?"

Stacy looked disappointed. Quinn sighed. Doesnít she ever let up? She turned to Sandi.

"I thought it was a good idea. We need to start thinking about how weíre going to get into a good college anyway." She turned back to Stacy. "What were you thinking of doing?"

Sandi stared openmouthed. Now that there was no Fashion Club, she had no leverage against Quinn. Her control was gone. She grasped at it.

Sandi cut Stacy off in the middle of a sentence. "Perhaps then we should vote on what kind of volunteer work to do so we can do it together."

Quinn looked over to Stacy who had an annoyed expression on her face. "Uh, Sandi, thereís no Fashion Club anymore, we donít have to vote. But we can discuss our options and decide on something we all like. Youíre right, we should do it together."

Quinn smiled at her, she tried to let Sandi keep her pride, to soften the blow. Sandiís mom had really screwed her up with all her "Friends are enemies who just arenít trying to screw you at the moment" crap. Quinn thought the disbanding of the FC was the best thing that would ever happen to her. She was certainly sick of the power struggles and the barely veiled threats and insults. Sandi, thereís no more power struggle. We can just be friends. Let. It. Go.

Sandi tried to glare, angry her leadership had been taken away, angry she had no control over the others anymore. Then she realized Quinn was trying to be nice. Why am I such a bitch all the time? Sandi suddenly understood. Though her worst nightmare had come true, there was no more Fashion Club, and therefore nothing to make Stacy Tiffany and Quinn hang out with her, what had made the thought a nightmare had not. They all, even Quinn, were still there. Not as subordinates in her club, terrified of being unpopular should they displease Sandi and get kicked out, but as friends. I have friends. You were wrong, Mom.

"All right, then." Quinn saw Sandiís first real smile.

They fell to discussing their options, and fashion. After all, old habits die hard.

Meanwhile, upstairs Daria lay on her bed, feeling sick and exhausted. She had cried herself out and felt empty and completely alone. Thereís no one to help me. Everything Iíve ever done Iíve had to do alone. I canít stand it anymore. Quinnís so lucky, everyone leaps up to help her. She even has a fucking guardian angel. Thereís no one to help me.

"Thatís not true." Angel said.

Daria sat up, surprised. "You! Get out of my room!"

"DariaÖ"

"Why donít you go downstairs and sit with the Fashion Nazis and help them? You could do each otherís nails!" she said angrily.

"Daria, stop it." Angel warned.

"I thought you said you were going to help me." Daria spat at her.

Angel raised her eyebrows. "I said I was here to help, I didnít specify only you."

"Of course not!" Dariaís voice was rising. "I donít need help. Iíve never had help before. Iím a brain, I can do everything myself. But poor little Quinn needs attention. Poor little Quinn needs help. Letís all forget Daria and help poor little Quinn."

Angel was becoming increasingly angry as Daria yelled at her. "Daria, would you stop being a self-centered little bitch for ten seconds and listen to someone besides yourself!"

Daria stared at her. Angelís eyes were blazing, for a second Daria was afraid, Angel looked really pissed off.

"Now you just listen to me. You have the most selfish family Iíve ever seen. Your mom is obsessed with work, your dad uses his lousy childhood for every excuse, and yes, your sister can be mean and egocentric and your parents have given her more attention, but you-you expect everyone to just bow down to you because everything has just been so hard for you. Poor Daria, always left behind, always ignored, no one loves me wah wah wah. Everyone feels like that Daria. Everyone. You want people to see how hurt and lost and sad you are but you refuse to put yourself in their shoes. When you can understand other peopleís pain, they will be sympathetic to you. Even when people try to reach out to you, you shut them down, because their efforts just arenít good enough for you. You expect everyone to be perfect and fit your expectations, but you refuse to fit theirs."

"You have no idea what itís like! To be left out, to have no one to turn to. To be expected to be able to deal with everything." Daria was aware she sounded like a petulant child, but didnít care.

"Try me. I know exactly what thatís like. I bet for every argument, I have a counter. But I will concede Quinn, I didnít have a sister, I had a brother who was more anti-social than you, if you can believe it. And to be fair to you, I will only use experiences up until high school. Youíre not the only one in the world who dealt with growing up alone. So go for it."

"What?"

"You were so keen to have a pity party, so go on, make your case." Angel sat down and leaned back in Dariaís desk chair, crossing her feet on the desk.

Daria sat on the bed. "Fine. My dad is obsessed with his crappy childhood and rants about it with no provocation whatsoever. Heís never been there for me."

"Died in a car accident two weeks before my sixth birthday. I suppose that means he was never there for me, either." She said in an offhand manner.

"My momís so work obsessed, sheís hardly ever home. Sheís too busy at the office to be any kind of help." Daria said.

"Well, mine wasnít work obsessed, she was too busy drinking for that." Angel looked at her fingernails.

"My grandparents tried to bribe me to change my hair and dress like Quinn."

"Well, three of mine died when I was between the ages of 7 and 12, but the one remaining grandmother picked on my weight from as far back as I can remember. Such choice phrases as, ĎShould you be eating that?í or ĎSheís got thighs like her dad.í Bear in mind my dad weighed almost 300 pounds when he died. I think I was a size 12 at the time." She noted Dariaís probing look. "Iím a 6 now."

Daria looked surprised. "That mustíve been some diet. You should let the Fashion Fiends in on it."

Angel gave her a dark look. "I have a feeling they already know."

"WhatÖ"

Angel cut her off. "Happened in college. Inadmissible."

Daria paused, she did not seem to be winning, at the least, they were evenly matched. She threw out everything she could think of. "Kids made fun of my name. First and last."

"Me, too." At Dariaís quizzical look she continued. "Letís just say that youíre not the only one with an easily made fun of German last name. Especially at the height of Star Trek: The Next Generation popularity. Angelís not my real name, my initials are KK. And no my middle name does not start with a K."

"They made fun of my glasses. I have horrible vision, Iím almost blind without them."

"Me, too. Two feet away, you would be blurry. But I got contacts in eighth grade because I hated the teasing. Not that that worked."

"Why not?" Daria was interested in any argument against contacts she could use against her mom.

"What I didnít realize was the when I had glasses no one really noticed what color my eyes were. With contacts everyone noticed."

Daria couldnít see from the bed and tried to remember what color they were from the previous night. "So? Theyíre what, green? Hazel?"

Angel had a wry smile. "For whatever reason, theyíre much greener now. No, in high school and junior high they were yellow. Not light brown, not hazel, yellow. Tiger eyes, my mom called them. They matched my hair. I had to get colored contacts. I went back to regular after a year or so."

Daria looked at her yellow-gold hair.

"I bet your high school wasnít as bad as Lawndale."

"Youíre right." Angel admitted.

Before Daria can score the point, Angel continued.

"It was worse."

"Nothing could be worse than Lawndale." Daria stated.

"You had crappy teachers and stupid students, so does every other public high school."

"I was shunned for being a brain. I was an outcast." Daria said.

"You chose not to be mainstream. Every last popular person in my high school was smart, and most were in the National Honor Society. You couldíve been smart and popular, look at Jodie. Even if she wasnít forced to do all that community crap, she would still be smart and popular. I got beat up for no good reason. Have you ever been stuffed in a locker, Daria? Sexually harassed every day for two years? Had your complaints ignored by the same teacher who taught the health class that covered "harassment and what to do about it"? I may have chosen not to be outgoing, but I had a far better reason than you."

"There was Upchuck."

"Heís harmless and you know it. And he genuinely liked you, he wasnít really crass or rude, just overenthusiastic and a bit clueless. Admit it, you liked sparring with him. He was the only person, except maybe Jane, who could keep up with you. If it was harassment, youíd go home close to tears, hating yourself, and feeling dirty." Angel said.

"Your principal wasnít Ms. Li."

Angel nodded. "Ah, very true. I may have to give you that one. We couldíve used a Li."

Dariaís snorted in disbelief.

"In my high school a student stabbed a teacher with a pair of scissors. And posters were banned from the hallways because people kept setting them on fire."

"Sounds like Highland." Daria said.

"Hmm. That might be a wash. However, you only spent one year there and I spent all four. Is this pity party over yet?"

Daria laid down her trump card. "The Tom Thing."

Angel mused for a moment. "I had a Tom."

Daria looked at her in shock. "Really?"

"Oh, not like your Tom Thing. No betrayal or rift with a best friend. You win that point, definitely. But it wasÖ" She trailed off.

"What happened?"

"Why did you break up with Tom?" she asked Daria.

Daria was confused at the sudden question. "Huh?"

"Why did you break up with Tom?" Angel repeated.

Daria paused, thinking. "BecauseÖbecause, well, itís just weÖhe and I werenítÖI didnítÖ"

"Love him?" Angel finished for her. "It was everything you wanted but it still wasnít enough. He was almost perfect, but you knew it wasnít going to work and it was all your fault. I can only imagine how much worse it was for you, to go through almost losing Jane to find out it wasnít going to work with Tom."

"Yeah." Daria said sadly.

"Yeah."

"Did you stay friends?" Daria wondered if she and Tom would. Even though he said he wanted to, she had her doubts.

"Oh no, we never saw each other again." She said.

Daria sat on the bed, feeling defeated. Angel walked over and sat next to her. "Daria, I didnít mean to hurt you. You needed to see how what you say and do affects other people, and how youíve contributed to how everyone, including your parents and Quinn, see you and therefore act towards you. I thought it would help you understand people better and why they hurt you, whether they meant to or not. Iím not laying blame at your feet, I was just trying to show you the whole picture, a different perspective. I honestly did not expect you to react like that."

Daria smirked. "Humans are notoriously unpredictable."

"Yeah."

"Why didnít you just tell me all this?" Daria asked suddenly.

A wooden chair appeared in front of Daria. It was painted blue.

"Whatís that?"

"A chair, but be careful, the paintís wet." Angel replied.

Daria reached out to touch the chair.

"Exactly."

Daria pulled her hand back. "Nice metaphor."

"I thought so." Angel smiled.

"So what now?"

"Plan B."

"Plan B?"

"Well, plan A didnít go so well. So, letís try plan B. But first go downstairs and get a drink." Angel suggested.

"Why?"

"Arenít you thirsty? Iím always thirsty after I cry. Be prepared though, you can still see wings." She warned.

Daria headed downstairs realizing that, yes, she was pretty thirsty. She paused at the bottom of the stairs, she could hear Quinn and her fashion friends in the living room. Steeling herself for seeing Quinn again, she walked into the room. Quinn was facing away from her, Stacy next to her. Sandi and Tiffany we facing her, sitting on the floor. She saw Quinnís plucked wings again and winced. Then she saw Sandi and Stacy also had wings. Stacy had handfuls of feathers torn out and numerous scars. I bet itís all that getting picked on by Sandi. Sandiís wings were a mess, almost as bad as Angelís. Sandi was apparently pretty unhappy. From what she had gathered about her mother and the way Sandi tried to control everyone she met, Daria didnít wonder why. Tiffany had no wings. How come I can only see some peopleís wings? She hadnít seen Janeís or Trentís either. She made a mental note to ask Angel when she got back upstairs.

Quinn looked up as Daria entered the living room. "Daria! We were talking about what kind of volunteer work to do. You worked at that old folkís home, how was that?"

"Uh, maybe you should ask Jodie about volunteering. Thatís really her area of expertise." Daria was taken aback. The Former Fashion Club volunteering? Quinn addressing her in front of her friends? Acting civil? Had Angel talked to her too? Then again, if she thought about it, Quinn had been nicer since the teacherís strike, and that fiasco with Erinís divorce/the Aunt convention. Come to think of it, Quinn had been trying to be more sisterly for some time and Daria just kept brushing her off.

"Thatís a good idea, do you have her number?" Quinn asked.

"I can go look it up."

"Whenever." Quinn responded airily.

Daria moved towards the kitchen.

"Anyone else want another soda?" Tiffany asked in a slow drawl.

Daria looked back at her and almost passed out. Tiffanyís wings werenít invisible. They were hacked off. Daria could see bloody, healed-over stumps and bits of feather. She swayed.

"Quinn, whatís wrong with your cous- I mean sister? She doesnít look so good, even for her." Sandi wrinkled her nose.

Quinn got up quickly after seeing Dariaís even paler than usual face. "Daria! Are you all right? She looked like this this morning, too."

Daria regained some composure and waved her off. ĎIím fine, uh, just low blood sugar.í

ĎAre you sure?í Quinn looked concerned.

"Yeah, donít mind me. Iím on my way to get some sugar-flavored caffeine." Daria tried to sound convincing.

Quinn sat down still looking worried. "Okay, if youíre sure."

Daria went into the kitchen, got a soda and gulped it down. She grabbed another and heard Tiffany enter. "Do you have any more diet?"

Daria didnít look at her "Yeah, in the fridge."

Daria made her escape back up the stairs, avoiding the curious glances from the living room. She rushed back into her room, still clutching the second can. She dropped it on the desk and stood there with a horrified look on her face. Angel was still sitting on the bed.

"Daria, what happened? They werenít that bad were they? Well, I knew Sandiís would be pretty bad, but Stacyís werenít too awful, considering." Angel looked concerned.

"Tiffany. Tiffany hacked off her wings. They were justÖI mean hacked, not just cutÖstumps. They were stumps." Daria gasped out.

"Oh, Daria, that must have beenÖshocking would be putting it mildly. It does explain a lot, though. Iím sorry. I thought they would be bare or just really scarred, I didnít think she had cut them off."

"What happened?" Daria sat next to Angel on the bed.

"Youíd really have to ask Tiffany, or one of her friends, but you know sheís adopted, right?"

Daria calmed down a bit. "I figured, Blum-Deckler isnít very Asian."

"Thereís probably more to it, but her adoptive mother died of cancer, I think. She didnít take it very well. People who cut them off decide they donít want to feel anymore. Thatís why Tiffany seems soÖvacant. She doesnít want to let anything touch her emotionally, so she doesnít really respond or pay attention to anything that might hurt her that way again. Including her friends." Angel explained. "It can be hard to tell between people who refuse to respond emotionally but can, and those who really canít anymore."

"How come you didnít know? Canít you see?"

Angel shrugged. "If I wanted to, but itís kind of private, like a diary of your emotions. As an Empathetic, I had an idea from what I knew about them and their personalities, but I had no reason to look, I knew enough."

"Will they grow back?" Daria asked.

"Most likely, no." Angel said sadly. "Iím sure in rare cases it happens, but once theyíre goneÖGrowing back feathers is hard enough."

Daria eyed the handful of newer white feathers on Angelís wings. "You seem to be doing ok."

"Years, Daria. Those few feathers took me years to get back." She mused for a moment. "If I had to count I would say about five. When you start to understand yourself, you can stop yourself from pulling them out. When you start to accept yourself, then you can start growing them back."

Daria had a sudden thought. "Why didnít I see any on Jane or Trent? They didnítÖ"

"No!" Angel said quickly. "You didnít see theirs because you didnít need to. Well, maybe you shouldíve seen TrentísÖno, you didnít really need to. Seeing everyone you know would have been too much, you saw what you needed to see."

"Why the Fashion Club?"

"Because to you, they were only mindless popularity robots. Now youíve seen a bit of their human side. Do you think you understand them better? Or why they behave the way they do? Itís important for people to learn to understand each other. You donít have to like everyone, but at least try to understand why they are the way they are and try to accept them that way."

"I suppose. You know, Quinn was actually nice to me. In front of her friends." Angel could hear the surprise in her voice.

"Quinn wants to be your friend Daria, she always has." Angel said gently.

Daria had an expression of complete disbelief. "Weíre talking about the same Quinn, right? My sister? The one who called me her "cousin" for years? Who ignored or ridiculed me in public?"

"You did that to her, too. Siblings do that, it doesnít mean they canít be friends. Well, youíll see. On to plan B." They stood up.

Daria looked at her with an expression of noticing something for the first time. "Huh."

"What?"

"I thought you were taller."

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

"Where are we going?" Daria wondered if Quinn would ask her who Angel was when they walked by the living room.

"On a little trip."

"Should I lock my tray table in the full upright position?" Daria deadpanned.

Angel smiled. "I think the Ďcousin thingí first."

"What?"

Dariaís room faded and was replaced by the parking lot of Camp Grizzly. The Morgendorffer family had just arrived. Helen, Jake and Young Daria have gotten out of the car.

"Daria, youíll never make any friends if you donít get your nose out of that book." Helen chided her.

"Letís hope. Hey!" Young Daria exclaimed as her mother grabbed the book.

Helen turned to the car. "Come on Quinn, weíre here."

Young Quinn peeked out the window. "I donít wanna go to camp, I donít wanna go to camp!" She spotted a group of girls her age. "That girl has my backpack!"

Young Quinn ran to the group of girls. "I have the same backpack." She said excitedly.

"I could see how the untrained eye could make that mistake." The girl with the backpack replied.

"Ummm, I like your hair." Young Quinn tried again.

"Whoís that weird girl standing by your parents?" The girl asked.

"Yeah, sheís sooooo pale." Her friend chimed in.

Sensing their disapproval Young Quinn answered. "Uh, thatís myÖcousin, yeah, my distant cousin."

Daria and Angel have been watching the scene.

"Can they see us?" Daria asked in a low voice.

Angel spoke normally. "No. This has already happened, itís like watching a memory, you canít change or influence it."

"So what was the point of this? To see the beginning of our close, sisterly bond?" Daria asked in a normal voice.

"Well, that was a pretty mean thing she just did. But do you remember what happened in the car just before that?"

"Yeah, she was being a brat the whole way here. Whining about how she didnít want to go to a loser camp and waste two weeks of summer away from her real friends." Daria replied.

"Well, letís take a look, this time with the commentary."

Daria looked puzzled at this. The scene shifted to the car ride. Jake was driving, Helen in the passenger seat, Young Quinn was behind her, Young Daria behind Jake.

"I donít wanna go to camp! Why do I have to go with Daria? I donít need help making new friends, I have lots of friends at home!" Young Quinn whined. Donít leave me Mom! I wanna go home! Iím scared!

Angel leaned towards Daria. "Youíre hearing her thoughts."

"Now, Quinn, this will be fun! You like making new friends." Helen said.

But what if something bad happens while youíre gone? Whoíll take care of me? Young Quinn chewed her lip in worry then looked over at Young Daria, who was scowling at her book, trying to ignore Young Quinnís complaining. Young Quinn brightened. Daria could help me. Sheís smart, if something happens Daria will be there.

Helen continued. "And Daria will be there. Sheíll watch out for you. Right, Daria?"

Young Daria scowled harder. "Not likely." I waste enough time avoiding the other kids, I donít need to waste more watching over Princess Brat.

Young Quinnís face fell. Stupid, mean Daria. Fine. I donít need you. Iíll make lots of friends and theyíll help me if I need it. I wonít even tell them youíre my sister. Maybe thatíll make you happy.

Daria turned to Angel. "How was I supposed to know what she was thinking? Itís not like Iím telepathic."

Angel sighed. "Not her exact thoughts, no, but you shouldíve known sheíd be scared to be away from home for the first time. She wasnít like you, that you knew. You were fine being away from home, by that alone you shouldíve known she wouldnít be. Like most people, you chose not to consider it, thought about things only in terms of how they affected you."

"And I suppose her continuing to call me her cousin was to make me happy?" Daria grumbled.

"At the time, on some level, I think she did think thatís what you wanted, to be separated from your family. You never really tried to fit in. Later on she did it just to get back at you. You hurt her, she hurts you." Angel reasoned.

"Why should I have to fit their expectations?" Daria demanded.

"Why did you expect them to fit yours?" Angel countered.

Daria started to answer but couldnít. "Thatís not fair."

"It never is. Moving on."

"Canít wait." Daria deadpanned.

The scene changed to the house in Highland, where Daria and Quinn had separate rooms. It was raining pretty hard. Daria and Angel were in the living room watching Young Daria and Young Quinn.

Daria smirked. "I remember this. I told Quinnís fortune using the Old Maid cards."*

"The first time you got her to pay you to help her. Well, letís watch for a bit. This is just after you made up that Ďpennies from heavení game."

Young Daria picked up two pennies off the coffee table, held them out to her sister and managed to taunt her sister before she burst out laughing again. "Here you go Quinn, you won fair and square!"

Young Quinn snatched the pennies and hurled them against the wall, but that only seemed to make Young Daria laugh harder. Snarling, she sat down before the TV and turned it on. A blast of white noise and a screen full of snow greeted her. "Damn cable! Every time it sprinkles in this stupid town, the cable goes out! Aarrgghhh!"

She began beating on the TV.

Young Daria giggled. "Quinn, Quinn! Look on the bright side! Youíll never fall for that one again, and now you can pull it on your little friends!"

Daria pointed to the scene. "See? I was nice there."

Angel nodded in agreement. "Yup."

"Theyíve probably already heard of it." Young Quinn pouted.

Young Daria smiled "I guarantee you they havenít. I just made it up, just for you."

Young Quinn stared at her. "You made all that up, just now?" Young Daria nodded. Why me? She can make up stuff like that on the fly, sheís a total geekburger, sheís bigger than me, and she has to be my sister! "I still donít have anything to do now!"

"This is a perfect day to read. Iíll even help you pick out a book." Young Daria suggested. Maybe now sheíll read something instead of the useless crap she usually does. And maybe weíd finally have something in commonÖ

Young Quinn looked appalled. "Iím not a bookworm geek!" I wish I hadnít said that. Dariaís trying to be nice... sort of. Well, Iím not going to take it back now, that trick was still mean.

"You were so close!" Angel said in an exasperated voice. "Well, you know how this ended up, fortune telling and all, but letís take a quick peek."

The scene skipped ahead.

Young Daria looked at the Old Maid cards in front of her. "Two weeks. Two weeks from today I can give you another reading. In the meantime, follow the advice you have and try to make your future better. Work on your creativity and look for ways to make other people happier." Young Quinn stomped her feet. "Uuuhh! How can I do that when I canít even get to any other people? The world hates me!"

Young Daria suppressed three killer sarcastic retorts that sprang immediately to her mind.

Angel pointed. "Right there. You couldíve said something nasty but you didnít. Why?"

"I wanted her to be quiet and leave me alone." Daria answered.

"Really?"

Daria scowled. "I felt bad, okay? I decided to help her."

"Thatís how the whole fortune telling game turned out, isnít it? You were going to make her all worried about her future and instead ended up wanting to help her? Nice predictions, by the way."

"Yeah." Young Daria rolled her eyes at Quinnís overreacting. "You can do both those things right here, Quinn. You can design some dresses for your paper dolls or paint a picture. And all you have to do to make me happier is be quiet enough so I can sit here and read my book. I assure you I really do qualify as Ďother peopleí. No extra charge for the interpretation."

Young Quinn considered. Is she doing that Iím insulting-you-but-you-canít-tell-thing? Hmmm, I donít think so. Maybe I will then.

Young Daria watched Young Quinn flounce into her room. Wow. I can get Quinn to pay for my help. Is that too mean? Iíd better make sure that Quinn knows that fortune telling is a scam. But not today. Young Daria curled up in the smaller of their two armchairs and adjusted the reading lamp. Opening ĎThe Song of Hiawathaí to the bookmark, she found her place and began to read. As the soft sound of rain on the roof became audible once more in the returning silence, a small smile crept onto her face.

"See, I wasnít horrible in that one."

Angel suppressed a groan. "I told you Iím not trying to blame you for Quinnís personality or for how your family relationships developed. Iím just showing you how it all looks from the outside. Canít you see that you could get along if you both tried? Why are you smiling in that chair?"

"Because I just scammed Quinn out of two bucks." She said simply.

Angel shook her head. "Nope."

"Because it wasÖfun." Daria mumbled.

Angel cupped her hand to her ear. "What was that? Didnít hear you."

Daria glowered. "Fun, okay? It was fun to play with Quinn."

Angel smiled. "Next stop."

"Whoopee."

They were still in the old house in Highland, this time watching Young Quinn playing with paper dolls in her room. She was cutting out a party dress sheíd just finished coloring, being very careful not to cut off the tabs. * Daria is so much better with the scissors. I wish sheíd play paper dress- up with me. I wish sheíd play real dress up with me. She turned at a soft knock at her door.

Young Daria stood in the doorway and held out a small box. "Hey, Quinn, I got you a pre-Christmas present."

Young Quinnís eyes lit up and she reached to take the box, but then pulled her hand back. Wait, whyís she being nice? "You open it."

Young Daria looked hurt, but lifted the holly-printed lid off the likewise-decorated box. A large brownish-green pellet was inside, nestled in cotton batting.

Young Quinn wrinkled her nose. "What is that?"

"Itís a reindeer bait pellet. Smell that? The fragrance of the meadows of northern Lapland, where the reindeer roam free till Santaís elves round them up for the Christmas run. Itís compressed moss and wildflowers. The reindeer love it." Young Daria explained.

Young Quinn took the bait. "What do you do with it?"

"Set it out where the reindeer land. The idea is to make them stay in one spot longer so that Santa can unload more presents off the sleigh."

Young Quinnís eyes lit up. "Oh, cool! You mean like in the yard?" Out in the street? Daria wants me to get more presents? Thatís sooo nice! Iíll even share with her!

Young Daria suppressed a laugh. "If you put it in the yard, something else might get it. Iíd put it on the roof. Thatís where they landed last year. Just throw it up there so it lands on the flat bottom side and itíll stay." God, Quinn when are you going to stop being so gullible?

Young Daria went back to her room and Young Quinn charged out right behind her. Y Daria heard the front door open and slam. Smirking, she shook her head. Not so much as a "thanks" had she gotten.

Angel turned to Daria who was smiling her Mona Lisa smile. "Now that was unkind."

"It was just a joke." She shrugged.

"Look at the paper dolls, Daria." She gestured towards the floor.

Daria did. Her eyes widened as she saw the one Young Quinn had just cut out. It looked like her, or rather what a nine-year-old Quinn thought a ten-year-old Daria looked like. Sheíd never paid attention to what Quinn was playing with, it never seemed interesting.

"She was already trying to give me makeovers." Daria quipped.

"She just wanted to play with you. She saw the other kids play with their brothers and sisters."

Daria shrugged. "I thought that stuff was boring and pointless! Why wouldnít she read with me? Or hike around outside? Sometimes Iíd go look for the stuff I saw in my nature books."

Angel glanced at her. "Same reason. You two never learned to compromise. I blame your parents, and your natural Groups for that. You know, if youíd insisted Quinn go out to look at plants and stuff with you, she would have gone. You gave up too easy."

Daria frowned at her. "Quinn didnít try either."

Angel looked sad. "No, she didnít. Onward."

"Will the thrills ever cease."

The next scene was outside, near a river. Young Daria stood by a riverís edge practicing casting and reeling in. She had a somewhat intense look on her face. Angel and Daria stood a bit up the hill watching.*

"Why did you bring me here? There is no way what happened here was my fault!" Daria was almost yelling.

Angel put a hand out in a calm-down gesture. "Daria, calm down. How many times do I have to say Iím not trying to pick on you? Thereís one thing about this day you didnít know, and I think you should. What your parents did is almost unforgivable."

"Almost?"

"You did forgive them eventually, didnít you?"

Daria didnít answer.

"In your heart you did. But I know this is one of your worst memories. But just watch okay?" They turned back to the scene.

Young Daria cast again. But why does the vile creature hate me so? I didnít do anything to Quinn that could trigger this all-out, undying hostility. Itís like she had been programmed from birth to do and think and be the exact opposite of everything I do and think and am. And why did Mom and Dad love her more? Is being cute and bouncy that great a thing? Are brains and ability worth so little? Asking them is worse than useless. They deny any favoritism and get mad at me for suggesting it.

Angel turned to Daria. "I know you still donít believe this, but they donít love Quinn more than you. Itís justÖyou were their first baby and they read everything about parenting and children and what to do and expect before you were born, and you certainly did not follow the textbook." She raised a hand to stop Daria from talking. "Itís not a bad thing, but it left them completely at a loss. They had no idea what to do with you. Quinn on the other hand, was absolute, by the textbook, easy to figure out, baby-toddler-child. They still didnít know what to do with you, but Quinn was a breeze. Every time they couldnít figure you out, they rushed to Quinn for the feeling of Ďat least we can do this oneí. Itís their failing, not yours or Quinnís. You were who you were. Your parents just took the easy route and focused on what they knew how to deal with instead of figuring out how to raise you. The fact that you did okay on your own and even seemed happy that way, only reinforced their behavior. It doesnít make it right, or fair, itís just how it happened."

"So why are we here?" Daria still looked angry.

Angel didnít answer but moved up the hill towards the parking lot. Helen and Jake were starting to unload the car, Young Quinn is wandering at the edge of the asphalt looking at shiny pebbles on the ground and into bushes. I wonder if animals live in there? Oh! Whatís that moving? Ewww. A spider. Daria said they eat like their whole weight in bugs or something. It looks fuzzy. I wonder if itís soft. Itís probably not poisonous. Daria said that the poisonous one was black with red on itís back and this one is brown and fuzzy. Was there another poisonous one? Yeah, one other. Maybe I can catch this one and show it to Daria and sheíll tell me what it is. The other one was a something rec-something.

Young Quinn reached out to pick up the spider, she got it into one hand and looked at it. A brown recluse! That was the other one! Daria will be so proud I remembered. An expression of sudden fear appeared on her face. Oh no, this one is brown and it was hiding in the bush! Thatís what recluses do! Oh no, itís poisonous! "GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF ME!"

In Young Quinnís panic she tried to fling off the spider. It, sensing danger, bit her. "IT BIT ME! IT BIT ME! IíM GOING TO DIE! DARIA! THE SPIDER BIT ME! DARIA! DARIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

She continued yelling, Helen and Jake rushed over as her last call for Daria turned into a shrill scream of terror. They saw sheíd been bitten by something and panic, they grabbed Young Quinn, jumped in the car, and sped away. Angel and Daria watched the car take off down the road.

Daria turned to Angel, bewildered. "She called for me. Why didnít she call Mom or Dad?"

"She knew you would know what to do. And you were who she was thinking about anyway. Your parents shouldnít have left you, but I think until you have a child of your own, you wonít know how terrified they were that Quinn might die from that bite. They didnít know what it was from and Quinn was too hysterical to say, not that she wouldíve known it wasnít the poisonous one." Angel paused. "You were amazing that day, Daria. Your parents were proud of you. One more stop."

"Will this mad, fun-filled, merry-go-round of excitement ever end."

Angel smiled. "Probably. Here we are, last stop."

They were a field in back of the house in Highland, looking into a small clearing.

"Weíre in the milo patch in back of the old house. WhatÖoh, I remember!" She gave a tiny laugh. "The brainworms from outer space.* Yeah, it was a nasty trick."

Angel laughed too. "Very creative, I must say, convincing her that alien brainworms had taken over you and everyone else. Just watch."

Young Daria, still a few feet inside the stand of milo, peered out between the rows. Around the trunk of a tree she could make out Young Quinnís hair and one shoulder. Cautiously backing farther into the milo, she returned to a place where she could, with difficulty, move two rows to the left. Approaching the clearing again, she could now see Young Quinn more fully, enough to see that she was freaked. Her head was constantly turning, as if she expected to see brainworms or some other horror emerge from the milo or the weeds at any point, and come charging across the muddy verge of the clearing at her. Young Quinn was standing in the middle of the biggest available open space, rubbing her arms, and Young Daria could tell she thought it was much too small.

Young Daria crouch-walked out past the end of the row and slowly straightened up. Young Quinn saw her almost immediately and screamed. She looked around frantically for somewhere to run, but was obviously reluctant to reenter the cruel-leafed milo. Her shorts and short-sleeved shirt had not protected her arms and legs. After darting back and forth a couple of times, she settled on a position directly across the clearing from Young Daria.

"Quinn, there arenít any brainworms. I was just kidding." Young Daria slowly removed her backpack and dropped it on the ground.

Just kidding?!" Young Quinn said in a terrified shriek. "What kind of... oh. Ha, ha, mister brainworm. Very funny!"

Young Daria moved closer. "Those wieners were made from chicken. Chicken wieners just do that."

"You think Iím stupid, donít you? Even with a worm in your brain, you think Iím stupid! Well, Iím smart enough to know they donít make weenies out of chicken! Youíre not gonna get me that easy!" Young Quinn said in a panicky voice.

"They do now. Itís a new product. Mom bought them on an introductory special. Theyíre very low fat." Young Daria tried to reason with her.

Young Quinn looked interested in the fact they were low fat, then shook it off. "Well, if you were kidding, why did you chase me all over to tell me? Why not just leave me out here? That would be twice as funny!"

"No, it wouldnít. Youíd be insane by morning from the mosquitoes alone, not to mention the night noises and your imagination. Youíre hard enough to live with as it is."

This seemed to catch Young Quinn off guard. She stood there for a few seconds with her mouth open, looking half convinced. Then her expression hardened. "Good one, worm. That sounded like something Daria would say." Poor, poor, Daria, you were so smart. You loved your brain more than anything else, and now thereís a horrible worm in it. I wish I knew how to save you.

Her lip began to quiver and her expression turned very sad. She made a high pitched little sound that might have been "Ohh, Daria..."

It was Young Dariaís turn to be caught off guard. An expression of anything resembling affection from Young Quinn was the last thing she was expecting. Then she realized that Young Quinn was probably thinking of Young Daria warning her to save herself, even as the worm bored into her skull. Remorseful, Young Daria knew she had to straighten Young Quinn out, convince her somehow. "Letís go home, Quinn. I brought your windbreaker and your cap to protect you from the milo. And some Lanacaine for the itch."

"Ha! You messed up now, wormy! Daria would never be that nice!" Young Quinn said triumphantly. Not usually, anyway, I wish the non-worm Daria were here. Sheíd know what to do.

"Come on, Quinn. Iím your sister. Even when I hate you, I still love you. And you know itís true, because you feel the same, even though you donít act like it."

"That might have been true about Daria, but I sure as hell donít love you, worm!" Young Quinn said.

"There are no brainworms, Quinn. It was a joke. A poorly thought out joke. I didnít realize how bad it would freak you out. Iím sorry." Young Daria apologized.

Young Quinn narrowed her eyes. "You messed up again, wormy! Daria doesnít apologize for her nasty jokes unless Mom grabs her by the ear and makes her!"

"Not true."

"Oh, yeah? You never apologized for the reindeer bait, to name just one!" Young Quinn said.

"That was funny, and nobody got hurt. You just had to wash your hands. You even looked cute, out there in the front yard, trying to get the reindeer bait to stay up on the roof. Youíll laugh at it yourself in ten years or so." Young Daria said.

ĎNo I wonít! And I always look cute." Young Quinn pouted.

"Quinn, you donít really believe brain worms from outer space are trying to enslave humanity, do you? I got the idea from an old Star Trek rerun."

"Then why did everyone I told about it rub the back of their head?" Young Quinn asked, half convinced.

"Puzzlement at a strange statement. Itís a common gesture." Young Daria replied.

"But why did you do such a mean thing in the first place? You scared me half to death!"

"I was hurt. You told your friends at school I had brain damage from Dad slamming my head in the car door. In a day or two that will be all over the school. Why did you do such a mean thing? Isnít my life miserable enough already?"

Young Quinn looked ashamed. "I didnít mean to hurt you. I just... didnít think it out before I said it. They asked me why you were so strange. Why do you always have to act so geeky?"

Young Daria frowned. "If by Ďacting geekyí you mean reading, thinking, actually learning stuff in school, and behaving rationally, thatís how people with brains usually act."

Young Quinn put her hands on her hips. "Jeez, Daria, how do you expect to convince me there arenít any space aliens when youíre obviously a Vulcan?"

The scene faded, Angel and Daria were back in Dariaís present-day room.

Daria looked at Angel. "What the hell was the point of that?"

"Remember how well you got along after that? And you told Quinn you loved her. When was the last time you did that?" Daria looked chastened. It had been a very long time.

"Okay, fine." She sighed. "I get how everything built up to now, and that had I not been soÖ"

"Stubborn?" Angel supplied.

Daria glared. "Öhard on Quinn, it may have been different, not much different, but different. And we could be friends now if we try. She has been trying to be nicer."

"Good to know. Okay, so, that was about it."

"No plan C?"

"I was pretty much out of ideas after B. Any questions?"

"Is your real name Clarence?" Daria quipped.

"I hated that movie." Angel replied. "Clarence with a K?"

Daria remembered Angel had said her real name started with a K. A question struck her. "Why me and Quinn?"

"Huh?"

Daria elaborated. "I get that youíre all "save the world" but why Quinn and me? Are you from the future? Is something bad going to happen?"

"My relationship to this place is not important. Remember how I said weíve had similar experiences? Well, youíre about where I was just before I left for college."

"And?" Daria prompted.

Angel chose her words carefully. "My freshman year was difficult, to say the least. For someone who was so used to doing everything alone, it was much harder than I expected it would be. And though I really wanted to get the hell out of my town, much like your burning desire to flee Lawndale, the change was a bit of a shock."

"I can handle it fine." Daria stated confidently.

"I thought that too. You think I woke up one day as a freshman and said to myself, ĎhmmÖI think Iíll have a mental breakdown, starting today?í I wish I had known people were behind me. It wouldíve made things a lot easier."

"What about Quinn?" Daria inquired.

"You two could have a good relationship if you try. Quinnís been trying for a while, I was just hoping youíd give it more of a chance. Know that sheíll be there for you if you need her. Daria, you have so many people who will stand behind you, who will help you if you need it. You just donít want to reach out and try. I didnít realize it until after I took a side trip through hell by myself that I couldíve asked for, and gotten, help for anything that came up, and probably avoided the whole thing altogether."

"No oneís helped me before." Daria said bitterly.

"You never really asked. There are at least five people who will come running without question if you call. And a bunch more who would not be hesitant to step in if you asked. I think youíd be surprised at how many people care about you. Remember how many people visited you in the hospital? Youíre not alone Daria, people love you very much. Iím trying to help you learn to let yourself be happy. I had to have someone shove it in my face before I realized it, too. You may feel alone, but youíre really not."

Daria processed for a minute. "Jane thought you were Quinn from the future."

"I donít look anything like Quinn." Angel said surprised.

"I know, and Quinn would never go anywhere without the right shoes. You do dress like her."

"I donít dress like Quinn. Quinn uses her appearance to please other people. I please no one but myself. I gave up caring what other people think. Iíve done enough of that." She pointed to her torn up wings then shrugged. "I never wear shoes if I donít have to."

"I donít care what other people think." Daria said.

Angel laughed. "Of course you do. Thatís exactly why you dress and act the way you do. You want people to judge you on your intelligence so you minimize anything that would distract from that. Let me tell you something, and this is an absolute truth, people will always judge you first by the way you look. Thereís no getting out of it." She paused. "Unless theyíre blind. They will change their opinions after they get to know you. What you need to do is decide how you see yourself, not how you want others to see you. In the end, the only opinion that really matters is your own."

Daria looked at her critically. "And this is why you dress like an Abercrombie ad?"

"I wear things that I like and feel comfortable in. If it happens to be the current style, then so be it. You think Iím not judged because Iím blonde and have big boobs? I know some people donít take me seriously because of it, but thatís their problem. I know Iím smart and I can hold my own. Iím not going change my appearance to avoid being stereotyped. Iím not ashamed of the way I look. Besides, itís fun to watch people when they think theyíre dealing with a ditz and they find out I have a degree in neuroscience. You can be smart and beautiful. And let me tell you, when you realize that, youíll have the world in your hand. You might want to pass that on to Quinn."

Daria considered. "Will you be back?"

"I honestly donít know. Here." She handed Daria a thick paperback book.

"Consolation prize?"

"Have you read it?"

Daria read the title. "The Clan of the Cave Bear. No."

"I think youíll like it. Itís pretty historically accurate, too. My favorite book is the next one in the series, thereís five out so far. Give it a try."

"Thanks."

"Good luck, Daria."

Once again Angel disappeared leaving a bewildered Daria.

"I guess Iíd better go apologize to Jane."

She picked up the phone, had a brief conversation, and then headed out the door. She took a deep breath and rang the Laneís doorbell. Jane answered.

"Iím sorry. I was a jerk." Daria said before Jane could say anything.

Jane raised eyebrow and leaned against the frame. "Well, you should be sorry. What made you realize this incredibly obvious fact?"

"A short trip through hell."

Jane smirked. "Fashion Fiends at your house again?"

"Yeah, but that was only part of it."

"Do tell." They walked inside and headed to Janeís room as Daria recounted her latest adventure. The doorbell rang as she got to the reindeer bait story.

"Who could that be?" Jane asked. Daria got up first. They went to the front door.

"Pizza!" A high-pitched male voice said.

"Ahhgh!" Jane yelled in surprise as she recognized Artie, the alien-obsessed pizza guy. Sheíd stopped getting deliveries because every time he brought pizza to their house, heíd start ranting about Alien Love Goddesses. Why was he here? She hadnít ordered pizzaÖ

"Ahhgh!" He yelled back, surprised by the first yell.

Daria rolled her eyes and paid Artie, taking the pizza and closing door in his face. "I ordered pizza before I came over."

Jane was practically drooling at the boxes in Dariaís hands. "Two pies? You must be really sorry."

"Oneís for-"

Trent wandered in from the basement. "I smell pizza."

Daria handed one to Trent. "Iím sorry I yelled at you."

Trentís eyes lit up at the thought of a whole pizza. "Itís okay, tough day?"

"You donít know the half of it."

"I only know half of it. So you were saying, reindeer baitÖ" Jane and Daria went into the kitchen while Trent headed back to the basement.

"Wow, so all this time, you two couldíve been close. I wonder how different things would be if we always knew what other people were thinking. Maybe weíd all fight less."

"Or more." Daria deadpanned.

Jane smirked. "Optimism was definitely not a side effect of this little adventure. Well now you can have that close sisterly relationship youíve always wanted. And just two months shy of you high-tailing it out of here for Boston."

"Yeah, Boston." Jane saw the barest flicker of a frown.

"Donít tell me youíve changed your mind about getting out of here. You were psyched to go." She said.

"Itís not Lawndale Iíll missÖ" Daria stopped, embarrassed.

Jane looked at her with mock flattery. "Donít tell me youíll miss lilí Ďol me? Donít worry Bostonís only two hours away. You may just be getting weekend company for a while. And before you know it, Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Iíll be at BFAC and weíll take over the town!"

"Our plot for world domination is at hand." She paused. "Iíll probably have to get a part-time job to keep us in pizza."

Jane took another slice from the almost finished pie. "Iíll have to get a full-time job to keep me in school."

Daria frowned. "You didnít get any financial aid? Scholarships? Trust fund? Little bag of plutonium?"

"Nope, looks like the starving artist is joining the workforce. I hope Iíll still have time to paint between classes and working. They said maybe next year I can submit a portfolio and apply for a grant or scholarship." Jane shrugged.

During the last part of the conversation, Trent had been standing in the doorway listening, his anger growing every second. His parents had done it again. They were so intent on finding their inner child and following their muse, they never even considered that their kids might want to go to college. They never considered their kids at all. Trent took care of the bills, he knew his parents had enough to keep the house going, but theyíd left Jane high and dry. Again. Jane would get a job, but sheíd still have a mountain of loans when she was through. She should have the time to enjoy college life, to hang out with her friends and paint, not just go to class and work. It wasnít fair. There had to be another way.

"You guys coming to the Zen tonight?" he asked in a normal tone that belied his mood.

Jane smiled. "Wouldnít miss it. The time is nigh when viewing Mystik Spiral on a regular basis will be a thing of the past."

Trent looked sad at this. "Iíll see you there, then."

"Looks like someone else will be missing you when youíre gone. Tell me, how does it feel to be popular?" Daria inquired.

"Once he realizes he has the house to himself, heíll be thrilled. The Spiral will be able to terrorize neighborhood cats at all times of night and day." They both smirked.

 

Trent thought about how to help Jane as he drove to the Zen to set up. He racked his brain to find a way to get her money to pay for college. A thought struck him. When he turned 18 heíd done something just in caseÖa plan formed. Janey would probably be angry with him, but he thought sheíd understand. If he did it soon, sheíd have the money in time for this semester, and more than enough for all four years and some left over for after graduation. He had to look something up but it could work.

Jane and Daria were surprised at how good the Spiral sounded. Trent seemed to have extra energy and it was contagious. Perhaps it was the pizza.

Daria went back home after the first set, Jane stayed to enjoy the bandís almost as good second set. When Daria walked into her bedroom, she saw a large wrapped box on her bed. She looked at the card attached to the bow first.

 

Daria,

Congrats on graduation. Hope you have a great time in college. I thought this would make you slightly less unfashionable.

Love,

Quinn

Daria raised an eyebrow. Quinn was trying to make her over till the last possible second. Her parents, and supposedly Quinn as well, had given her a new laptop as a graduation gift. Daria had assumed Quinn had just signed the card and not bothered to get her anything on her own, figuring the computer was enough from all of them. She opened the box.

Quinn had gotten her a new backpack, one that had a special compartment for a laptop. It looked expensive. And it was hunter green, Dariaís favorite non-black color. Daria was stunned at the thought Quinn had put into the gift. She had expected an outfit of some sort, but Quinn had given her something functional, but that still looked good. She unzipped the different compartments and looked at the amount of space she had to carry books and necessities. There was another wrapped gift inside.

Daria pulled it out and her first thought was that it was a book. It was about the right size, but wasnít the right feel. She unwrapped it carefully. Her breath caught as she looked at the photo in the frame. She and Quinn must have been around six and seven, in the backyard of the house in Highland. They were hugging. And smiling. Daria stared at it in wonder. She didnít even know such a picture existed, much less what had caused them to hug and look so happy. Maybe Angel had been right. She did know it would be the first thing she unpacked when she got to her new room.

 

The aroma of very strong coffee woke Jane up the following morning. She glanced at the clock, 11 am. What was Trent doing up before two the day after a gig? She plodded to the shower.

Marginally more awake and significantly cleaner, Jane poured herself a cup of Trentís killer coffee and wandered into the living room. "Whatcha doiní?"

Trent was digging through a box of papers on the floor. "Oh hey Janey, just looking up some stuff. "

"Iím going out to get a newspaper, I thought I may as well start looking for a job now, save up something before spring. Donít get lost in there."

Jane left and Trent continued to dig. "I know itís in here somewhereÖthere it is!"

He pulled out a manila folder, sat on the couch and began to read through the contents. He finished, then sat and stared into space for a while. He seemed to come to some sort of decision and picked up the phone.

"Hey Jay? Yeah, this is Trent. I know man, been a long time. Can we meet? Tonight? Okay, sounds good."

 

Later that evening at the Pizza King, Jane and Daria sat in their usual booth, splitting a pie.

"So how goes the job hunt?" Daria took another slice.

Jane did the same. "Well, of all the jobs out there I couldnít find one that fit my criteria."

Daria raised an eyebrow. "Which was?"

"One where I didnít actually have to show up."

"The American dream." Daria deadpanned.

Jane sighed. "I guess Iíll just have to do it the old fashioned way."

"Sleep your way to the top?"

"Bug people I know until someone gets me a job." Jane looked at her meaningfully.

Daria sat back. "Donít look at me."

"Come on, your mom must need some help." Jane wheedled.

"I wouldnít send my worst enemy into that snake pit." She thought for a moment. "Well, maybe Kevin."

"Iíd pay to watch that train wreck. Jake?" Jane suggested.

Daria shook her head. "He doesnít even need to show up. Wait, that could be an idea, itís the closest youíll get to not working. I donít know if he can afford to hire someone, though."

Jane smiled. "But youíll ask anyway."

"Itís your funeral."

"Now thereís a fun job. That reminds me, Trent was acting weird today." Jane said.

"Weird how?" Daria thought their definition of Ďweirdí was probably skewed from too much Sick, Sad World.

"He was awake. All day."

Daria was surprised. "Perhaps the head zombie has been killed and your brother restored to the land of the living."

Jane mused. "I thought that was vampires."

"Whichever."

 

Trent walked into the alley behind the Zen. He saw a tall, skinny, brown haired man not much older than himself.

"Hey Jay." He greeted him.

"ĎSup Trent. I thought you said you were done with this. Jane wonít be happy." Jay pulled something out of his pocket.

Trent shrugged. "Janeyís going to college. She wonít be around."

Jay seemed to understand. "I guess, man."

An exchange was made.

"Thanks, man." Trent put something in his pocket.

"No problem. This going to be a regular thing?" Jay asked.

"Iíll let you know."

Jay nodded. "Sure, take it easy."

"You too."

Trent walked out of the alley, got in his car and drove off. When he got home the house was dark and empty. He sighed, thinking that he didnít want to come home to a house like this after Jane was gone. He went up the stairs not bothering to turn on lights. He paused in Janeís doorway. He flicked on her light and looked slowly around the room. Paint splatters everywhere, finished canvases stacked against one wall, a new panting on her easel and the distinct aroma of paint thinner and acrylics. Every inch of the room was Jane. He wondered how empty it would feel after she was gone. He turned and headed to his own room.

Trent sat on his bed, reading over something in his lyric notebook. He added a few words, then ripped out the page and folded it. He scribbled something on the outside and placed the note on top of the manila folder he had found earlier that day. He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit a candle on his bedside table. Taking a plastic baggie out of his other pocket, he examined the contents. He set it down next to the candle and rummaged under his bed, finally emerging with a beat-up shoebox. Taking off the top he removed a soot-stained spoon and a clean syringe. He sat on the bed and stared at the syringe.

"Trent, you swear to me right now this will never happen again!" a fourteen-year-old Jane sat crying on a hospital bed.

"I swear Janey. I promise. Iím so sorry." Trent lay on the hospital bed, IV in his arm.

"Who would take care of me if you were gone?" Jane sobbed. Trent hugged her.

"I promise, Jane. No more. Iíll make sure thereís always someone to look out for you."

The next day, Trent had gone to the free clinic to kick his heroin addiction, he had also bought a life insurance policy with the money he had saved up for his next score. He figured if he couldnít kick the habit, or something happened to him, Jane would at least be financially secure. Heíd chosen a policy that ruled drug overdoes as accidental death and didnít void the insurance, at the time it had seemed important. The bill for the premium came once a year and it was paid along with the other bills that month. Trent never really looked at what they were for anymore.

He picked up one of his shoes and unlaced it. Tying the shoelace around his left arm, he poured a white powder into the spoon and held it over the candle flame. He loaded the syringe, carefully knocking out any air bubbles. Looking down at the vein, which had enlarged, he paused for a moment. A single tear landed on his arm.

"Iím sorry Jane. I love you."

He injected the whole syringe, probably three times the dose he should have used, though close to what he had been using when he had ODíd the first time. It felt just like falling asleep.

 

Daria and Jane walked in the front door and headed up the steps.

"Looks like the zombie is out or asleep." Jane quipped as they moved through the mostly dark house.

"I thought he was a vampire."

"Whichever. I didnít leave the light in my room on. Maybe Trent was looking for something." She mused aloud.

"A victim? A brain?"

Jane turned and smirked at her. "You could be a victim, and youíre a brain. You could rule the undead armies of the night together."

"And you think I have strange sex dreams."

Jane walked to Trentís room and knocked on the door. "Trent! Hey, Trent!"

She opened the door and saw Trent sprawled out on his bed. "Awww, isnít that cute! He looks likeÖ"

She saw the candle and spoon on the nightstand, then the syringe still in his right hand.

"Looks like what? Zombie or vampire?"

Jane ran to the bed. "Oh God, no."

"Whatís wrong? Jane?" Daria asked, concerned.

Jane was shaking Trent. "NO! TRENT! TRENT! Wake up! Wake up damn you!"

Daria saw the paraphernalia on the nightstand. She stared in horror for a moment then lunged for Trentís duck phone and dialed 911. Jane was screaming Trentís name and begging him to wake up.

Daria tried to stay calm. "Oh, God. Hello? My friend, heís had a drug overdose. I think itís heroin. I donít know when, we just got here. I think heís still breathing. I donít know how much! Injection. His sister. How? Send someone and then maybe sheíll calm down! Her brother is dying!"

"TRENT! You swore this would never happen again! Donít leave me! DONíT LEAVE ME! Please wake up." Jane sobbed.

After giving the operator the address and hanging up, Daria stood there, uncertain what to do. She saw the note on top of the folder, addressed to her. She grabbed it and ran down stairs to wait for the ambulance. She sat on the steps straining to hear the sirens. She opened the note.

Daria,

Iím sorry I had to leave the note for you, but I donít think Jane will understand, at least not right away. The manila folder has a life insurance policy in it that I took out when I was 18. Itís worth $100,000 and will go to Jane. She can use it for college and to start out with after graduation. The policy rules OD as accidental death, but if there is a legal problem Iím begging you to ask your mom to fight for Jane if need be.

Please donít be angry, I had to do it for Jane. Donít think I sacrificed my future for hers, I had no future and couldnít face it alone even if I did. Tell the band they were the best Iíd ever played with. Theyíll know what to do with my stuff, if Jane doesnít want to take care of it. You were a great friend Daria, I know I can count on you to keep an eye on Janey for me. Make sure no one sees this note.

Tell Jane I love her.

Trent

Daria sobbed as she read the note. She stood up as she heard the sirens getting close, tears silently streaming down her face. The paramedics ran up to the house and she led them to Trentís room.

 

Trent, you didnít! How could you be so stupid?

"Hi, Trent."

"Whoa, who are you?" Trent turned around, shock on his face.

Angel smiled. "Just call me Angel."

After he had passed out, Trent woke up in what felt like a vast expanse of black. A sort of window appeared and through it he could watch what was going on. He didnít know what he was supposed to do, so he just stood and watched. His sister was sobbing and begging him to wake up, Daria was crying silently as the paramedics rushed in behind her. Trentís heart was breaking, but it was for the best. He looked at he woman standing next to him. She could have been an angel, there was a soft light coming from her and she did have wings. They looked like hell, though.

"What happened to your wings?" he asked.

Angel waved the question off. "Thatís a story for another time. Whyíd you do it, Trent?"

Trent sighed. "I had to. There was no other way, she needed money to go to school and have a real life."

Angel looked at him incredulously. "You honestly think if she had to choose between having her brother and going to college, sheíd choose school?"

"I know she wouldnít. I couldnít let her throw it all away."

"Trent, thereís no way you could know what her life will bring. She wouldíve found a way to go to school. Lots of people graduate with monumental loans and still make it just fine." She pointed out.

"She deserves better." Trent replied bitterly.

I was wrong! Heís not an Empathetic, heís a Protective. Dammit I shouldíve known. Angel rubbed her eyes and sighed. Doesnít matter, I wouldnít have seen it coming. "Everyone deserves better. Thatís not the only reason, is it?"

Trent looked infinitely sad. "I didnít want to live alone. After she leaves, thereíll be no one left."

"You could visit her you know, Bostonís not that far. What about the band?"

"Theyíll be fine without me." Trent turned back to the window. A paramedic had to drag Jane away from his earthly body. She collapsed in Dariaís arms.

"Are you sure?"

Trent ignored the question. "Are you here to take me toÖuh, heaven? Hell?"

"Iím not supposed to be here at all. Trust me, Iím going to catch hell for it, too. No pun intended."

"So why are you here?"

Angel sighed. "I would hate a world with a Daria and a Jane but no Trent. Call me selfish. I donít think Jane will make it without you, either. Itís my nature, Trent. I want you all to be happy. There are other ways."

They watch as Trent is placed on a gurney, IV in his arm. The paramedics took him down the stairs, Daria leading Jane behind them. Trent watched his sister, he was beginning to question the wisdom of what he had done.

"Can I go back?"

"Unfortunately, thatís not my decision." Trent took a step towards his body, but felt Angelís hand restrain him gently. "Itís not your decision anymore, either."

"Then whose is it?"

Angel didnít answer. She sat on the ground and tipped her head to the side for a moment. The scene in front of them changed. They watched Daria and Jane in the hospital waiting room. Jane was lying in a fetal position, still sobbing uncontrollably, though no longer screaming. Trent sat next to Angel.

"I did what I could. Theyíre deciding whether or not you can go back." She said.

"Who is?"

"You donít need to know." She turned to Trent. "If they say yes, what will you do?"

Trent thought for a moment. "I donít know. Thereís the band, but Janey will be in Boston. Maybe I can move up there and find a new band. Or maybe Spiral will think Boston will be where we get our big break."

"Trent, be honest. You donít want the band to make it, do you?"

Trent looked at her in disbelief.

"It was always just an excuse wasnít it? It brought in a little money and it was an excuse to stay in your parentís house so you could watch over Jane. You know if the band takes off, you wonít be able to spend time with her. Youíll be busy recording, touringÖYouíd hate it. Making records is work. You wouldnít be able to sleep 16 hours a day, youíd have to give up your life. Youíd have to give up Jane."

"But if we made it, then I could take better care of her. Iíd have the money to get her whatever she wants." Trent insisted.

"If nothing else, then watch this."

The hospital waiting room scene faded. In its place was a standard hotel room. Trent could see a slightly older version of himself and Jesse getting hastily dressed. By the light it looked to be early morning.**

"If this is success, why donít I feel successful?" Trent grumbled. "Dude, weíre not playing any more. This is work. I think we need to bail out of this."

Jesse noted Trentís meaningful look. "Look, it sucks right now, maybe itíll get better. Weíve got money coming in and theyíre playing our record on the radio. So for just a little bit, we sacrifice."

"What if we end up like one of those bands, you know, we owe the promoter money at the end of it all?  What if weíre doing this all for nothing?"

Jesse frowned. "I thought you had a good lawyer look over the contract." He opened the door to the room. Max and Nick were in the hall, about to walk down the flight of stairs.

"Yeah, I guess weíre covered. It still sucks." Trent shook his head as they followed the rest of the band.

The scene changed back to the hospital waiting room.

Trent looked to Angel in surprise. "Was that the future?"

"Yes and no. Itís a possible future. The band was moderately successful, but you werenít very happy."

Trent considered. "I guess not."

Angel gave him a meaningful look. "It was nine amÖand you were awake."

That seemed to clinch it for Trent. "I guess I have some decisions to make."

"If you can go back."

"How long will it take for them to decide?" He asked.

Angel looked away. "I donít know."

Trent watched Daria and Jane. "So what do we do now?"

"We wait."

"I want to go back."

"I know."

For several minutes they watched Daria and Jane in the waiting room. Jane never moved from the couch but Daria got up and made a phone call on the pay phone down the hallway. Trent switched between watching the girls and glancing over at Angel, who was watching the scene impassively. She tipped her head to the side then stood up. Trent followed suit.

"Well?" Trent asked apprehensively.

Angel continued to watch the scene. Daria stood up as she heard a doctor approach, Jane remained on the couch.

"Ms. Lane?" The doctor looked from Daria to Jane questioningly.

Daria shook Janeís shoulder. "Jane. Jane! The doctor wants to talk to you."

She pulled Jane upright. They stood, leaning on each other for support, fear and hope evident on their faces.

"Heís a lucky young man. If you hadnít gotten there when you did, heíd be dead."

"So heíll be ok?" Daria asked.

"Weíll have to keep him for observation but he should come out of it just fine." The doctor smiled at them.

Jane burst into tears again, this time from relief.

"Can we see him?" Daria asked since Jane was not capable of coherent speech.

"Just for a few minutes, heís still pretty weak." The doctor cautioned. "Are you both family?"

Daria looked to Jane.

"Yes." Jane stated.

They followed the doctor down the hall.

Trent looked to Angel, grinning. "They said yes!"

Angel gave him a stern look. "It would seem so, but know this Trent, they didnít do it for you. They all agreed that if you were to kill yourself, you would have taken Jane with you, and possibly Daria, too."

Trentís face paled. "Janey wouldíveÖ"

Angelís expression was harsh. "Most likely. Give me your hand, Trent." Trent did and suddenly burst into tears.

"Thatís how Daria felt when they found you." She held on to his hand as he wiped some of the tears away. "This is how Jane felt."

She let go of his hand as he collapsed on the ground. He laid there for a minute.

"I didnít know. It felt likeÖ" He gasped.

"Half your soulís been ripped away? Swear you wonít ever do something so incredibly stupid again."

Trent got up and collected himself. "I wonít."

"And make sure Jane never sees that note." Angel warned. "You might want to examine that sculpture on your front lawn when you get back. Oh, and tell Daria I was wrong, youíre not a Empathetic, youíre a Protective."

Trent looked at her quizzically.

"Sheíll explain. Now go." She gave him a tiny push.

Trent walked towards his body, then suddenly turned around and hugged Angel. "Thanks."

Angel smiled. "Sure. Go. Theyíre waiting for you."

Trent opened one eye cautiously. The wind was knocked out of him as Jane launched herself at him. "You son of a bitch! Don't you EVER do something like that again. You told me you stopped, you promised!"

"I'm so sorry Janey." He looked to the other side of the bed. "Hey, Daria. I have a message for you."

"Oh?" Daria said surprised.

"Later." He saw the note sticking out of her pocket, then reached into his jeans with his free hand. His other arm was hugging Jane, who was looking the other way. He pulled out a lighter and handed it to Daria. She took it and put in the pocket with the note, nodding. Daria left the room, thinking that Jane and Trent needed time alone. She was surprised to see Quinn pacing the waiting room.

Quinnís voice was higher pitched than usual as she cornered a passing nurse. "Whereís my sister? Daria. Daria Morgendorffer. No one downstairs would tell me anything."

"Miss, youíll have to check with the front desk." The nurse said, annoyed.

"Quinn? What are you doing here?"

Quinn turned and her expression turned to relief. "Daria! I overheard Mom on the phone, something about you and the hospital, and you were looking so sick yesterday so I took the keys and ran over here because I thoughtÖ"

Daria walked over and hugged Quinn. Between her adventure with Angel, Quinnís gift, Trentís near-suicide and Janeís reaction, she was feeling very sorry she had never made much of an effort with Quinn. It looked like Quinn was worried sheíd never get a chance either.

"Oh, no!" Quinn wailed as Daria hugged her.

"What?" Daria asked, concerned and a bit hurt at her reaction.

"You do have a brain tumor! Why else would you hug me?"

Daria smirked. They sat down on the waiting room couch. "Sarcasm. Youíll learn yet. Thank you."

Quinn sniffled. "For what?"

"The graduation gift."

"The backpack? I was just so sick of that hideous grey thing you haul around. Plus it wouldnít fit your new laptop and I figured a brain would want to have it wherever she goes."

Daria shook her head. "I wasnít talking about the backpack."

Quinn looked down. "Oh. That. You werenít supposed to find that till you got to school."

"Whereíd you get that picture? I would have bet my life something like that didnít even exist."

Quinn shrugged. "Iíve had it for ages. Sometimes, after big fights, Iíd look at it and wonder why we werenít closer. I went to the photo place and had it copied. I just thought if you had one too, when you went off to school, maybe youíd remember one time when we were nice and you wouldnítÖ"

"Wouldnít what?" Daria prompted.

"Think how great it was without me and never come home."

Daria felt her heart tug. "QuinnÖyou really think I think that? Of course Iíll come home. How else am I going to get my laundry done?"

Quinn smiled a tiny bit. "Iím sorry for all the times I was mean."

"Me, too." She paused. "This is turning into an after-school special."

Quinn looked horrified. "No way, have you seen the way they dress in those things? Ewwww. So why are you here?"

Daria thought about how to explain. "Trent, Janeís brother, had anÖaccident. We found him and came with the ambulance."

"Is he going to be okay?"

"Yeah, heíll probably go home tomorrow. Speaking of home, we should get there before Mom and Dad find out you stole the car. Let me just tell Jane." She peeked in the door and told Jane she was going home with Quinn.

"Quinnís here?" Jane asked in surprise.

"She thought I was the one in the hospital and ran over to re-enact a soap opera hospital deathbed reconciliation scene."

"Howíd it go?"

"Cheesy dialogue and bad lighting."

Jane smirked. "So just the one take, then."

Trent chuckled and coughed.

"Mind if I catch a ride with you? Trent should get some sleep. Weíll come pick you up tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay. I love you, Jane." Trent hugged her.

She hugged him back. "I love you too, Trent. But as soon as youíre better, Iím going to kick your ass."

"Can I jump in or do I have to take a number?" Daria looked at Trent.

"Better get in line, the bandís gonna be after him when they find out." Jane said, frowning.

"Janey donít tell them. They donít need to know." Trent pleaded.

Jane frowned but reluctantly agreed. They said their last good byes and left.

Angel watched through the window in the blackness as Trent settled back in the hospital bed and dozed off. She shook her head at the fact that, even after everything that had happened, Trent could fall asleep like he was flipping a switch.

"These guys are enough to drive you to drink," she heard a voice from behind her say. She turned around and saw a man in an open red jacket, black pants, and a white shirt walking out of the darkness behind her. A pair of black sunglasses hung off of the collar of his shirt, a stark contrast to its white cloth. "Or give you one hell of a headache."

"Tell me about it. TheyĎd have been dead long ago if it wasnĎt for us," Angel said, looking back at Trent as the man walked up beside her and looked through the window. She watched for a moment before turning back to the man beside her. "I thought you were supposed to catch these guys before they made stupid decisions like this and talk them out of it."

"Believe me, I wanted to," he said, reaching back and scratching the back of his head from where a pony tail hung almost a foot down his back. "I wish I could have done something to help."

"Why didnít you? Couldíve saved me the trouble of dealing with Trent, at least."

"I couldnít. Iím still on probation from interfering with that stunt Daria tried to pull six or seven months ago." The man in the red jacket looked through the window as the image changed to one of Quinn, Daria, and Jane in the Lexus on the drive home.

"I didnít envy you that one. I wonder what theyíll do to me." She rubbed her eyes. "He lived. I got out of that at least."

The man in the red jacked smirked. "Iím glad to see that Quinn and Daria are finally on the right track. Those two are going to do all right for themselves, I think. Jane, too."

"Yeah, they had me worried for a minute or two," Angel replied. "For a while, I wasnít sure if they were going to turn that corner or not. Took some creative tweaking."

"Well, it could have been worse." The man nodded in Quinnís direction. "The Princess of Pleather, there, could have been quintuplets."

Angel blinked at the thought. "Thereís a job that would drive someone to drink."

"Oh, yeah," the man in red said as he put his sunglasses on. "Feel like some cheddar fries?"

"If youíre buying."

"Deal."

 

Daria and Quinn dropped Jane off first, and then headed back home. Luckily, Helen was called back to the office and was in such a rush she didnít notice Jake's Lexus was gone. Jake was busy yelling at a baseball game and probably didnít even notice when Helen left. Daria and Quinn snuck inside and went to their respective rooms.

Quinn reached behind her headboard and pulled out the framed picture she had hidden there from the first day they had moved to Lawndale. She dusted off the glass and set it on her nightstand, then laid on her bed and leafed through the newest issue of Waif.

Daria laid down on her bed with a sigh. It wasnít that late but it had been a long day and she was emotionally wrung out. She took off her glasses and placed them on her nightstand in front of a framed picture. She fell asleep with her clothes on.

 

The next morning Daria woke up fairly early, not surprising since she fell asleep at nine oíclock. Both parents were gone and Quinn was still asleep so she went into the living room with the note and the lighter. She placed the paper in the fireplace and lit it, watching the edges curl and blacken.

"Daria! What are you doing?" Quinn exclaimed as she walked down the stairs.

"Burning evidence."

Quinn rolled her eyes and headed to the kitchen. "Ooh-kay."

The phone rang.

"Dar-ia itís for you." Quinn called in a singsong voice.

Daria picked up the phone. "Discharge is at ten, can you drive over?" Jane said without preamble.

Daria looked out the window into the driveway, both cars were gone. "Negative on transportation. Looks like youíll be taking Trentís car. Iíll warn the pedestrians."

"Iíll pick you up at nine thirty, at least weíll be headed to the hospital anyway." Jane replied.

"Iíll wear my crash vest." Daria hung up and went into the kitchen for breakfast. Quinn was eating a bowl of "Model Krunch" cereal. Daria grabbed a Sugar-Tart.

"Are you going out? Can you give me a ride to Stacyís? Weíre narrowing down our volunteer list today." Quinn was examining the model tips on the back of the cereal box.

"Youíre really serious about this volunteer thing?" Daria asked.

"The Fashion Club is gone, we have to do something. Besides it was getting old, all the power struggles, the fighting. I think we need to do something more useful for a change." Quinn answered.

Daria stared at her in shock. Quinn had really matured.

"Plus Mom was so happy I was doing something to improve my college applications she gave me fifty bucks."

Daria smirked. She went upstairs and put on a pair of black shorts and a white t-shirt. It was only nine in the morning and it was already 85 degrees and humid. It was way too hot for her usual outfit. She even chose sneakers over her usual knee high Docs. She looked in her closet and thought about what Angel had said. What you need to do is decide how you see yourself, not how you want others to see you. How did she see herself? Maybe it was time to get rid of her old outfit. She didnít need to hide behind it anymore. College was a perfect time to make a change. Plus she could set Helen back a few hundred bucks. She picked up the phone and dialed Helen's office.

"This is the law offices of SchrecterÖ" Maryanne, Helenís secretary answered the phone.

Daria cut her off. "Itís Daria. Can I talk to my mom?" She heard muffled sounds as the phone changed hands.

"Daria, is everything all right? Is Trent ok?" Helen asked in full concerned parent mode.

"Everythingís fine, weíre going to pick him up at ten. Can I borrow your gold card and the car?"

"What for?"

Daria steeled herself. "I want to get some new clothes."

Helen stared at the phone in shock.

"Mom?"

"Take the platinum. Iíll have Jake give me a ride home." Helen spoke in a bewildered voice.

Ten minutes later a car horn beeped outside. Daria and Quinn walked outside to Trentís beat-up car.

Quinn looked Daria over. "You look almost normal."

"Itís too hot to argue."

They got in the car. Daria rode shotgun, Quinn sat in the back.

Daria looked over at Jane. "After we take Trent home, can you swing by my momís office?"

"Sure, what for? Gonna get me a job?" Jane asked.

"You donít want to work there. Iím picking up the car and the platinum." She paused. "Weíre going clothes shopping."

Jane and Quinn stared at her. Jane almost swerved off the road.

"Youíre going to get me at Stacyís right? Thereís no way you can do this without me." Quinn asked breathlessly.

Jane looked over at Daria. "Weíll still be two to one."

"All right, but no enlisting your friends to help, and if thereís any sign of pleather miniskirts, youíre gone."

"I knew this day would come. Oh this will be great! Weíll give you a whole new sophisticated look for college. Have you thought about a new haircut? We could go toÖ" She chattered excitedly.

Daria and Jane exchanged glances as Quinn prattled on.

"What have I gotten myself into?"

They dropped Quinn off, still lost in her euphoric fantasy. Soon enough they were at the hospital and they checked in at the front desk. As Jane signed some papers, a nurse wheeled Trent into the foyer. He looked a bit pale, but otherwise healthy. After all Janeís worries about paying for college, Daria wondered how badly the hospital visit would set them back.

"I donít mean to be nosy, but do you have health insurance?"

Jane looked up from the forms. "We have something, I have a card here. Ask Trent, he pays the bills."

"Yeah, some kind of COBRA or something from a job Mom had a while back." He got out of the wheelchair.

Daria seemed satisfied at this and they left the hospital. As they got into the car, Jane driving, Daria in back, Daria handed Trent his lighter. He nodded and put it in his pocket.

"New look Daria? I like it."

Daria blushed slightly. "Itís too hot for jackets and boots."

Jane had an evil grin. "Dariaís decided to join the rest of teen society at long last. Weíre going clothes shopping."

Trent didnít look too surprised.

"You never did say what brought this on." Jane commented.

"Someone told me I need to decide how I want to see myself, not how I want others to see me. Seemed like this was a good place to start. Plus I can set my parents back a few hundred."

They pulled into the driveway of Casa Lane. They all got out and headed inside. Trent wandered into the kitchen, Jane headed for the stairs.

"I need to use the bathroom before we go."

Daria followed Trent and watched as he made coffee. "Should you be ingesting that much caffeine right away?"

"They said to drink fluids. Coffee is a fluid. Angel had a message for you."

Daria was surprised. "You talked to her? When?"

"Last night. We talked while they were deciding whether or not I could come back."

"Who decided what?"

"While the paramedics were trying to save me, she showed up and told me that I might have a chance to come back, if they decided I could. We talked about what I would do if I survived. Sheís pretty insightful." Trent explained.

"I guess they decided yes. Whoís Ďtheyí?"

"She wouldnít say. She said to tell you Iím a protective, not an empathetic. Does that mean anything to you?" Trent sat at the table across from her.

"Sort of. Why did she change her mind?" She asked herself. "Sheís right, an empathetic would never try toÖ" Daria trailed off as Jane walked in.

"Ready to go? Were you talking about me?" Jane wagged a finger at the two of them.

"Actually, Trent got a visit from Angel, too."

Jane grinned. "I always knew you were both insane."

Daria scowled, Trent smiled.

"Actually, Iím just jealous. Iím the only one who hasnít gotten pearls of wisdom handed to me."

"Maybe she didnít think you needed help." Trent suggested.

"I am practically perfect. You ready?"

Daria stood up. "Letís go pick up Princess Grace. What was I thinking?"

"Youíll be okay?" Jane asked Trent.

"Donít worry about me."

Jane and Daria left in Helenís SUV. Trent walked outside and blinked in the sunlight, clearly not used to being out when the sun was strong. He spotted the sculpture in the front yard and ambled over. He never really thought about it before, he always assumed it was his motherís or Pennyís. He looked at it closely, wondering what it was he was supposed to find. He saw a name scratched into the base. Calder. That sounded familiar. Heíd have to ask Janey when she got home. She would know if someone had had a friend named Calder. He went inside to take a nap.

The red SUV pulled into the Cranberry Commons parking lot as Quinn chattered about the volunteer work they had decided on. "Öso we found this no-kill animal shelter to volunteer at. Sandi and Tiffany are going to socialize cats and kittens and Stacy and I are going to help with the dogs and puppies."

Daria parked the car but before anyone could get out, she turned around in her seat and gave Quinn a stern look. "Before this fiasco starts letís lay down some rules. One, I get final say on everything, no arguing. Two, I donít have to prance all over modeling outfits for your perusal, no arguing. Three, there will be frequent cheese fries breaks, no arguing. Any questions."

"Can we get you new glasses?" Quinn looked ready to burst with excitement. Finally, she could give Daria a makeover. It was a dream come true.

Daria rolled her eyes and stepped out of the car.

"At least she didnít say contacts." Jane said, amused.

Quinn lead the way into her temple. Jane and Daria were somewhat surprised as she passed Cashmanís and headed down the promenade.

"I guess you donít want to taint sacred ground." Daria said as the continued on.

"What? Oh, itís not that, I just thought that Cashmanís wasnít really your style. I thought weíd start here." They stopped in front of the Gap.

"The Gap?" Daria exclaimed.

"Well, I know you donít like the whole idea of a popular store, but I thought itíd be a good place to start. Itís modern yet classic. It sends the same kind of message as your old outfit."

"Get the hell away from me?" Jane wisecracked.

Daria smirked but was secretly surprised at Quinnís insight.

Quinn rolled her eyes. "That you donít worry about your looks, you have more important things to do. Only this looks a whole lot better."

Jane nodded. "Sheís right, I could see you in something like this. Not as boring as LL Bean, not as pretentious as Abercrombie. Ads full of pouting college-age types. Perfect."

Quinn beamed. "Exactly."

"At least itís not Junior 5." Daria resigned herself as they entered the store.

Quinn immediately started putting outfits together. Jane and Daria watched in amazement. Quinn cornered an employee. "I need a dressing room."

He went over and unlocked one.

"Well, come on Daria. These clothes arenít going to try themselves on!"

Jane watched, amused. "She knows your size?"

"Sheís been planning this since our first shopping trip together. I think she was four months old."

Quinn led Daria to the dressing room and pushed her inside. "Iíve put together some outfits. These shirts go with these pants and skirts, these go with these. Donít mix on your own."

She hung up the clothes on opposite sides of the dressing room. Daria sighed and closed the door. She looked over the selection of jeans, khakis, skirts and shirts. Nothing was overly garish or revealing. Maybe this wonít be so bad.

She tried on several outfits before she heard a knock on the door.

"Letís see how it looks."

"Rule Two, Quinn." Daria said to the door.

"You donít have to prance. I just want to see how it looks, and you should really see in the three-way mirror before you decide anything. Jane can give you an artistís opinion, right Jane?"

Jane was enjoying herself immensely. "Sure. Come on out Daria, wave to the people."

Daria exited the dressing room. "Yeah, that made me want to come out here."

She stood in front of them. There were no dropped jaws, no openly wondering stares. Quinn squinted and looked her over with a critical eye, Jane looked more interested in the cashier behind the counter.

"Try the pants with the flat fronts. You have nice hips but the pleats donít sit right. I like that shirt, leave that on and try the other khakis and the boot cut jeans. Iím going to look at the sale rack for some summer stuff so you wonít bake in this heat."

Daria turned to Jane. "What do you think Jane?"

Jane continued to stare at the cashier. "I think I need to ask about employment here."

Daria smirked. "Will I get to use your discount?"

Jane turned back to her. "Sure. Hey! Looks good. See itís not so bad. Itís still you, just not soÖhidden. What do you think?"

"Well I sure donít want to slog around a Boston winter in a skirt. Some pants may be in order. Quinn didnít seem to like these though."

"But do you like them?" Asked a voice behind Jane. "Hi, Daria, Jane."

"Angel! What are you doing here?"

"Cheese fries." She turned towards the front of the store and waved at a guy with a dark ponytail. He gave her a mock salute. Daria felt as though she knew him from somewhere, but couldnít remember where. "I wouldnít miss this, anyway. Besides, I want to make sure you donít forget what I said."

Jane put her hands on her hips. "So I finally get to meet the infamous Angel. No wings?"

"Infamous?" Angel said, mock insulted. "Again with the wings. I shouldíve picked a different name. How are you, Jane? Enjoying the view?"

Jane was curious about the name comment but decided to let it slide. She could always ask Daria later. She looked back at the cashier. "Yep. So I wasnít on your list of people to save?"

"Nope. Youíve got yourself pretty well set, Jane. You donít need my help. Daria, remember: wear what you like and feel good in. It doesnít matter what other people think. Although, if you find things you like with your sisterís help, I think youíll look great no matter what you choose. Here she comes now."

Quinn walked over carrying shorts and t-shirts. She looked questioningly at the blonde girl talking to Daria and Jane. A quick glance told her she wasnít a fashion maven like herself, the button-down shirt over a tank top was so five years ago, but somehow, she looked good anyway. She did have bouncy hair.

"Quinn, this is Angel." Daria introduced them.

"Hi Quinn. Nice of you to help your sister."

"Hi. Yeah, itís taken a while, but sheís finally come to her senses fashion-wise."

"As long as youíre happy with who you are, youíll always look good."

Quinn considered. An article she read in one of her momís magazines said self-confidence was more important than appearance in the long run. "You know, that makes sense."

"I would suggest Victoriaís Secret next. You could set your mom back big time in there." Angel flashed a wicked grin.

Quinnís eyes lit up. "Good idea." She turned to Daria. "Youíll need some things that wonít show under these shirts." She went back to the dressing room and hung the new selections up.

"Some college clothing advice, stock up on pajama pants. And put your name on everything. Iím headed to Abercrombie, even though theyíre overpriced, theyíre the only store that makes pants that fit me. Donít worry about what people associate with the brand Daria, wear what you like. Nice to meet you Jane, Quinn. Have fun girls." She waved and left.

Jane looked at Daria. "Angels wear Abercrombie?"

Daria shrugged. Sheíd given up on trying to determine the exact nature of who or what Angel was.

Daria returned to the dressing room. She tried on everything again, immediately discarding things that were uncomfortable, she didnít feel right in, or just plain didnít like. The rest she considered carefully in the mirror before deciding.

She walked to the register with one skirt, two pairs of jeans, a pair of khakis, two button-down shirts, one white, one blue, three t-shirts, white, grey and black, a pair of khaki shorts, and a sweater. Quinn whined a bit at some of the clothes she refused, but in the end, Rule One prevailed.

"I donít know about this wearing a different outfit every day. Sounds like work." Daria said as they left the store.

"At least everything you picked goes together." Quinn said supportively.

"I think itís time for cheese fries." Jane said.

"I think youíre right. Did you apply for a job here?" Daria asked as Quinn made a face.

"I start Monday."

"Well, that was easy."

"Yeah. Thing is, I actually have to show up."

Daria smirked. "Thereís always a catch. I guess it doesnít matter I never asked my dad, then."

"Saved by the hunk."

After fortifying themselves with cheese fries and soda (salad and diet for Quinn), they took Angelís advice and headed to VS.

Quinn was still bursting with excitement. "Youíll finally graduate from those awful sports bras you always wear."

Daria gaped at the prices. "Have you seen how much these cost?"

"Good thing you have the platinum." Jane said as she looked longingly at a pair of pajamas.

Daria steered Quinn away from the add-a-cup and push up sections and chose some simple underwear in cotton. Quinn managed to convince her to get some coordinated pajama pants/shorts and tops, stating that in college, more people were likely to see her in her sleepwear at some point. Daria only agreed because the outfits looked comfy and two of the pairs of pajama pants she thought she could probably get away with in class.

Daria plopped down at a conveniently placed bench. "I think Iím done." Jane sat next to her.

Quinn stood in front of them. "Are you kidding? We havenít even done shoes and accessories yet!"

Daria and Jane exchanged glances.

"At least shoes." Quinn pleaded.

"Iím not giving up my boots." Daria stated flatly.

"You donít have to. But you could sure use a new pair of sneakers. Look at those, theyíre falling apart. How long ago did you buy them?" Quinn led them into a sporting goods store.

Daria picked out a pair of grey and blue running shoes with Janeís help. She also picked out two pairs of sweat-shorts in navy blue and dark grey, and a pair of black and white flip-flops, much to Quinnís dismay.

"Daria! Those are not fashionable."

"Maybe not, but they look comfortable. And the thongs I can wear in the shower, too." She paid and they left the store.

Jane turned to Daria as Quinn strolled ahead of them. "She never tried to get you to buy her something."

"I think sheís just so thrilled at the idea of making me over she forgot."

"Iím still surprised at how well this is going."

"Me too. But I think Iím really done. How are we going to get out of here?"

Jane cupped her hands around her mouth. "Hey Quinn, donít you have a date?"

Quinn whipped around. "Ohmygod! What time is it? We have to go home so I can get ready!"

Daria looked to Jane. "Your genius astounds me."

"If only I were to use it for the forces of good."

They left the mall, Daria weighted down with bags. They dropped Jane off then headed home. Jane walked in the front door and called to Trent, as his car was parked in the drive. "Trent, Iím home! Trent?"

When he didnít answer, she hurried up the stairs trying not to panic. Heís probably asleep. But he wasnít in his room. She looked in the other bedrooms and in the bathroom. No Trent. Had he gone somewhere with the band? It was possible. She saw the stairs to the attic were pulled down and went to investigate.

"Trent?"

"Up here, Janey." A disembodied voice answered.

Jane climbed the stairs. "What are you doing up here?"

Trent sat in the middle of the attic, surrounded by piles of papers, boxes and miscellaneous items. "Just looking around. Do you know a Calder?"

Jane wrinkled her brow. "Calder? Like the mobile artist?"

"I was hoping you would know. That metal sculpture in the front has the name Calder on it and thereís a bunch of paintings and stuff up here signed Calder, too." Trent showed her two paintings with bold geometric designs and colors.

"Let me see. " Jane took one and examined it. She spoke with an awed voice. "Trent, these are paintings by Alexander Calder. Do you have any idea what theyíre worth?"

"No, do you?"

"Just one of these paintings is worth about three thousand dollars. The mobile is probably only worth five hundred or so, maybe less because itís been outside for so long. Did Mom ever say she knew Alexander Calder? I knew he lived in Connecticut. This is amazing. These should be appraised. Who can I call? Maybe Gary would know someone." Her mind was racing.

"Gary?"

"Gary, from Garyís Gallery, I did some painting for him a while back, remember? To re-build the gazebo." She put the painting down gently.

Trent seemed stunned. "These are worth money?"

Jane nodded. "A lot of money. "

Trent smiled at her. "Letís get them appraised and sold. You can use the money to pay for school."

Jane smiled back. "Selling art to learn to make art. Thereís a song in there somewhere. I wonder what else is up here."

"Thereís about thirty years worth of phone books."

 

The Morgendorffers sat around the table eating frozen lasagna.

"How was shopping girls?" Helen asked, setting down her cell phone.

"Fine." Daria replied.

"It was great! Daria finally got some fashionable outfits!" Quinn said excitedly, then mumbled, "and some not so fashionable ones."

"Iíd love to see your new clothes, Daria." Her cell phone rang. "Helloo? Eric! Yes, I did see that fileÖ"

Jake put down his paper. "You got some new clothes Quinn? Didnít you just buy some? Maybe you should cut back your spending a bit."

"No Daddy, Daria got new clothes. I helped her pick them out."

Jake looked confused for a moment. "Daria? Oh, thatís a good one Quinn! Trying to put one over on your old man! You helping Daria buy new clothes, thatís funny!"

Helen hung up her phone. "Jake, Quinn did help Daria pick out new clothes. For college."

"Oh. Right. I knew that." He hid behind his paper.

Daria and Quinn rolled their eyes at each other.

Helen saw their looks. "I must say itís nice to see you girls getting along."

The doorbell rang, followed by Helenís cell phone, which startled Jake into dropping his fork full of lasagna in his lap.

"Date!"

"Eric!"

"Dammit!"

Daria smiled her Mona Lisa smile. "Iím going to miss thisÖfor about two seconds. Iím going to Janeís."

Before she left she put a small bag on Quinnís bed. She grabbed another shopping bag and headed to Janeís.

 

Jane opened the door. "Guess what?" She asked excitedly.

"Trent found oil in the backyard and youíre moving to Beverly Hills."

"Almost. Apparently someone in our family knew Alexander Calder. That mobile sculpture in front is one of his, and Trent found two of his paintings in the attic."

Dariaís eyes widened. "That must be worth a fortune!"

"A small fortune, Iím guessing about seven thousand dollars all together. I made an appointment to have it all appraised."

"Isnít that expensive?" She asked as they headed up the stairs.

"A bit, but the appraiser that Gary told me to call knew my mom so sheís giving me a deal." Jane said.

"Small world."

"Local art world." They went into Janeís room.

Daria sat on the bed. "Are you keeping the Gap job?"

"Of course. This is a lucky break but Iím still saving up while I can. Plus Iíll have extra cash to go see you."

"We did put a lot of effort into that world domination plan." She handed Jane the shopping bag. "Here."

Jane took it. "Whatís this?"

"Recommended uniform for college bound students."

Jane pulled out a bundle of cloth, shook it out, and fake sniffed. "Pajama pants. Thatís so sweet!"

"Donít get all mushy, after all, I didnít pay for it."

They heard Trent start twanging on his acoustic guitar down the hall. Daria looked at the painting Jane had done of her first meeting with Angel. "I know whatís wrong."

Jane followed her gaze. "What?"

"You painted her as an angel, but sheís not."

Jane examined the painting critically. "I see what you mean, in her expression. I can fix it. That gives me another idea hmmmÖ" she started to sketch something.

Daria reached for the remote.

"Thereís a B movie marathon on right after Sick, Sad World. I think Night of the Lepus is first." Jane said as she sketched.

"Iíll call for pizza."

Jane looked up with an evil grin. "You could use the phone in Trentís room. After you ask what toppings he wants."

"As long as itís not brains." Daria replied.

"Can you earn a doctorate in toppings? Pizza PhDs next, on Sick, Sad World!"

Daria changed the channel.

Quinn arrived home from her date only half an hour late. She managed to sneak in without anyone noticing. She looked surprised to see a small shopping bag sitting on her bed, in all the excitement of Dariaís makeover, she hadnít thought to buy anything for herself. She pulled out a matching short-and-t-shirt pair of pajamas. It had a feather design on the hem of the shorts and in the center of the shirt. It was the pink version of the one Daria had bought for herself. Quinn smiled.

 

 

 

Authorís Notes: I hope I didnít get too sappy or cliché with this but I thought if Daria got a bit of a shock and saw things from a different perspective, she may be more willing to give a little. Quinn really seemed to be making an effort in season 5 and I tried to expand on that. I thought if the FC could channel their energy into something besides power plays and fashion, theyíd be better friends and maybe make a difference. A no-kill shelter seemed to be the most likely thing theyíd agree on, Sandi likes cats at least and Stacy wouldnít go to pieces if they didnít euthanize. Mike Yamiolkioski wrote an excellent fic, "Community Disservice" where Quinn volunteers at an animal shelter.

The painted chair metaphor: 9 out of 10 people will reach out and touch something if you tell them the paint on it is wet. People just need to see for themselves.

The man in the red jacket: Read "Something Happened" by Wraith and "Something Didnít Happen" by Greystar. Then youíll get it.

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel is an excellent book. The heroine of the story is a truly amazing woman who has been a role model for me. The story of her life is quite remarkable and I think Daria would relate to her. The second book is titled The Valley of Horses and is my favorite book.

Victoriaís Secret has an "Angels" line of lingerie and sleepwear that has a feather theme on it. I thought it appropriate. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars in there. I could see Daria in Gap-style clothing, itís preppy but itís not "hey look at me" type stuff.

Alexander Calder is a fairly famous artist most commonly known for his mobiles, though when researching him, I found out his paintings are worth far more than his mobiles. He does have a house in Connecticut, Iíve driven by it. The front lawn is full of mobiles. I emailed an art appraiser about the current market value of his work and Janeís estimate is pretty close.

In college I lived in pajama pants. I wore them to class fairly often. In fact, I still live in pajama pants. Right when I get home from work I change into flannel pajama pants. Go buy some. You wonít be sorry. And if you are college bound, put your name on everything. And never leave your stuff in the laundry room unattended. Youíll never see it again.

Night of the Lepus is an actual movie. Best cute-fluffy-bunnies-attack-model-railroad-set movie ever. Itís awful. Watch it.

I never did drugs and I donít recommend it to anyone. Nor do I condone suicide. Itís a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If it seemed I knew a lot about needles, I do work in biotech and have a lot of experience with syringes and injections. I also have a degree in Neuroscience. Drugs are bad for your brain. ĎNuff said.

This is a Mary Sue in a very literal way. I tried not to exaggerate any part of myself or my history. If Daria's comment about thinking I was taller seemed pointless, I only put that in there because almost every person Iíve met in my adult life has said something like that to me. Must be the good posture. And yes, I really did have yellow eyes in high school. Theyíve since gone green. Go figure.

The similarities between Daria and myself are quite surprising. I was just as sarcastic and annoyed with everyone in my high school. I hated my town. I even had a dark-haired friend who was good in art whose name started with J. I could see how a closed-off sarcastic teen could find herself with the help of friends, new and old, and the experiences of college life. Daria doesnít have to be remote and disillusioned with the world. I have a feeling sheíll change a lot in college.

Roger and Kara, that thong was for you ;)

So, thanks for reading. Be sure to collect all your belongings before exiting. Management is not responsible for lost or stolen items. Nutrition Information available upon request.