"Visitation--A 'Daria' Fanfic"

The second fic of the 'DF Continuum'

By Steven Galloway
SGall23241@aol.com
'Daria' is the superb creation of Glen Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn for MTV, which is a division of Viacom International Inc., and is written solely for the purpose of entertainment and/or enjoyment of the readers of 'Daria' fanfics, and not for profit, so please don't sue me, I'm not rich. This particular 'Daria' fanfic is copyright 2000-2002 by Steven Galloway, and may be used only with my permission, which basically means that you can freely distribute it as long as you use my name, and not change its contents. My thanks to such books as "The Daria Database" by Peggy Nicoll and the "Daria Diaries" by Anne D. Bernstein for providing valuable information on 'Daria'.
(First note to the reader: This story's timeline happens before the real-life tragic events concerning September 11, 2001, so if you see any references to the World Trade Center, since some of this happens in and around New York City, you'll know why. They'll be two very brief acknowledgements of the WTC far into the fic. I thought about removing it, but it just simply didn't seem right. It's my sincerest hope that no one is offended by this.)
(Second note to the reader: This story takes place after "Revelations", and I consider it to be a follow-up, not a sequel, since it comes nowhere near the staggering length of "Revelations", though "Visitation" is quite a good-sized fic in itself. This is also my second fanfic. If you haven't read "Revelations" as of yet, I suggest that you do so to understand what's going on in this story. Also, I ask you the reader to remember the events from the episodes "Fire!", and "Dye! Dye! My Darling", which vary slightly from the events in "my" 'Daria' universe, and will be addressed in this fic. Most of what happened in those episodes did happen in "my" universe, [save for "Is It Fall Yet?", which did not, though I will use "bits and pieces" of some things seen in the movie] but as noted, if you the reader read "Revelations", you do know about my interpretation of the "circumstances" concerning Daria, Jane, and Tom, which happened before "Fire!" and "Dye! Dye! My Darling" aired. Just a reminder so you will not be confused. In fact, I will use some of what happened in those episodes to "fuse" with my fic as well. Thanks, and now on with the story.)

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Chapter 1-Preparations

(Scene is in Daria's room, late at night. Daria is wearing her blue tee shirt and yellow shorts, propped up on her bed writing in her diary[?], which are also thought v.o.'s and scene-recounting incidences from Daria's mind as she writes. In the far corner of her padded room are two duffel bags that are open and partially full of her "array" of clothing and of some books.)

From the "so-called" diary of one Daria Morgendorffer:

It's now been about three-and-a-half weeks since my brother has left us to go back to his home, or rather I should say, his mansion. My mom and dad, and to a certain extent, Quinn and I, have had our lives quite frankly turned upside down, as well as others that our humble little family knows. Over the same period of time, we've had reporters from all over the world requesting all sorts of interviews from us about Darren. After some rather annoying phone calls and door-knocking requests from the inquiring reporters, and my wonderful sarcastic putdowns when they did both, mom and dad finally capitulated to an interview after a "family consultation", if nothing else, just to get the reporters off our backs, which all but lasted for about not quite one day. We chose Meg Rosata, who also was the one who had interviewed Darren first after it was discovered he was Arthur Appleton Jr. Since then, her stock has risen with offers from several cable networks. Aren't we generous saps, us Morgendorffers. When the interview started in front of those hot-ass lights and damn piercing cameras in our living room, the basic B.S.-ing commenced, with my parents and me and Quinn saying that having a son/brother wouldn't change our lives one bit. Yeah, right--and I'll be having that lobotomy right about now, thank you. No wait, that's already happened to Quinn, scratch that. I wanted to give my one-of-a-kind flippant remarks to this second-rate Connie Chung, but mom "persuaded" me to be on my best behavior--by warning me she'd redecorate my room and would force me to enter several clubs at school if I said one inconsiderate remark during the interview. Dang it--all of that sarcastic material I wrote down on my notepad and memorized the night before gone to waste. Until sometime in the future, that is. You can't keep a cynical gal down but for so long.

Dad's consulting business has gone off the scale during this time with business offers coming in from all over the country and in some cases, from overseas. After a quick little "talk" with my dad, Jodie's dad Andrew Landon is now dad's "semi-official representative" in some consulting/business ventures, though dad has told Mr. Landon that he'll only get a "small" percentage of the consulting fees. Jodie called me before she went to Washington state for that college expo and said that her dad's driving her and her whole family crazy over raving about having the "advantages" of being near Jake Morgendorffer. What a hell of a twist all of this is. Even that Calvin Hopkins guy that dad had a business feud going with has jumped on the bandwagon, suddenly kissing dad's feet (and ass) by offering to go 50-50 with dad concerning some condominiums and a land development halfway across the country. Dad said that he'll "consider" it only after Hopkins makes it 70-30 in dad's favor, and after dad "weighs" some other offers. It's clear dad's paying back Hopkins for all of those "I'm-richer-and-more-sucessful-than-you-are" taunts by hanging Hopkin's ass out to dry. Good ol' dad--keep them all waiting, why don't you. From the proverbial doormat to the proverbial foot-wiper--dad may be at the highest point in his business life right about now, which, while it makes me personally glad that he's doing so well, it also means that dad hasn't spent too much time missing my brother as much as I thought because of being so busy, though I can tell that he's ever-so-slightly depressed over not having Darren around like mom, Quinn, and Jane are--and myself. Damn melancholy feelings. I'm looking forward like everyone else to seeing Darren again--especially that huge book-filled study at his mansion that he's told me about.

As for mom, she's been on "Cloud Googleplex" since Eric told her she's going to be an equal partner in the firm. Hell, he's even told her to take it easy for a little while, cutting back on some of her workload. As a result, mom's been home earlier more than often, and thus has been spending what she calls "quality" time with me and Quinn--well, only once with Quinn, and that lasted just an hour because my dear sister gave an excuse saying she needed to go to several "vitally important fashion meetings", and shot outta here before mom could say anything more. Now why didn't I think of using an excuse like that? Hmm--something like, "Mom, I'd like to stay with you, but I have to go to a high number of book-reading meetings today." Nah, she'd see right through me in a second. Too bad mom couldn't see right through Quinn--the hole in Quinn's head, that is. To make me feel even more guilty, mom's bonding with me in a shrewd way, like intermittently using Darren's name, saying he would want us to be "closer together". Any closer, and I'll find myself wondering if I might suffocate. We've gone to the movies, played some of those dumb board games together that were used when mom and dad had Quinn and me incarcerated that time for supposedly breaking a curfew Quinn and I didn't know about, and going to eat out, during which we've had several "woman-to-woman" talks that eventually evolved into mom talking about her plans once she "establishes" herself as a full partner in the firm. Yippee-kiyay. Fortunately, or so I thought, Jane was at her place, and I figured I could slip over to the Lane's to escape mom's vice-like grip and to see Jane. Wrong. Jane's been quite busy herself, and I've found myself going elsewhere to hide from mom. I tried to go to the library, but now they're closed for the summer--budget cuts. Damn corrupt Carter County politicians. More also on what Jane's doing, and where else I had to go to later, since they both tie into each other. Note to self: Plot with Jane to assassinate Eric and the rest of mom's partners in the near future, or at least secretly cause mom's firm to chase as many ambulances as possible so they can wear themselves out and die from exhaustion. This, of course, will occur after I hurt those damn pesky reporters, seeing as they'll have to be taken to the hospitals in the aforementioned vehicles.

Now for Quinn. Incredible as it seems, which in itself really isn't incredible now that I think about it, Quinn is even on a higher cloud than mom over all this publicity. Let's see, what shall I call it? Got it: How about "Cloud Infinity"? Yeah, that about sums it up, stupid as it sounds. Every time she's gone out from our home in the daytime hours (Quinn's still on an extended curfew of being in the house by 8:00 p.m. because of the "Haven" fiasco, by which I got off untouched, I might add with glee, thanks to mom and dad being so angry with Quinn's little slumber party lie, they focused on nothing else), she's had dozens of her "followers" (including the three J's), boys which she supposedly can't go out with (as well) until after the curfew's over, follow her around town, and do her bidding. This in essence means that Quinn's getting her dates in the daytime as opposed to at night, and even more guys to fawn over her to boot. Maybe I should let mom know this so she could stop Quinn, who then could really suffocate with me when mom does her bonding thing. However, the only problem would be that Quinn would be stuck with me at home, and that just won't do. In the meantime, several reporters have swarmed over Quinn when she does go out, and Quinn of course has eaten the attention up, every crumb of it. In fact, it's turned into some sort of sick repetitive game: The reporters ask about Big Bro, and his likes and dislikes of idiotic and irrelevant stuff, such as Darren's favorite food and drink, and if he wears shorts or briefs, as if she's spied on him actually wearing them or something while he stayed with us--"insects" be damned? To her credit, Quinn's actually been pretty coy about Darren, saying he's "like any other guy", which really isn't true if Darren's compared to the guys that Quinn knows (Big Bro's superior), and then she launches into self-gratifying boasting about her likes and dislikes about fashion, boys, and popularity, with her followers, the boys, not the reporters, feverishly taking down notes. The reporters then roll their eyes, stop the interview when she talks about herself, then walk away disgusted, leaving my little sister (and her drooling horde) utterly baffled. This has happened more times than I can count. Maybe those reporters aren't so stupid after all, even after it at least took them several times to learn their lesson.

In my case, the reporters have basically ignored me while I've gone out, save for a relative few, and I've told those relative few to go to hell when they do approach me to ask questions about Darren, or anything else. I guess I don't register on most reporter's radar screens, a fact that I don't have a problem with at all, especially since my family's stealing the spotlight like a hog gobbles up slop in a trough. That also goes for my grandmothers and aunts, who'll be visiting Darren a week after we do (thank goodness), save for Amy, who's telling the reporters to go to hell as well. Aunt Rita, cousin Erin, and Brian are giving interviews and telling about how much Big Bro "means to them"--ten billion ways of doing so, mind you. Darren told me over the phone a few days ago that Brian asked him for some money, unknown to Erin, and Darren offered to get him a job working for Appleton instead. Brian gave that stupid lie about being in the government working in a top-secret security agency, and Darren gave Brian a job that would fit the mold--a security guard. My brother's getting wiser.

Stacy and Tiffany, who will be coming with us to visit Darren for a week along with Sandi, much to my chagrin, have practically followed Quinn around with the boys almost the whole time since Darren's left, kissing her ass like dad and mom's are having their's kissed, and saying Quinn's "so wonderful and stuff"--something that wouldn't have been tolerated by Sandi Griffin. However, Sandi's been oddly quiet (according to Quinn), and has been keeping to herself at her home since Darren's left, only pausing long enough to summon the Fashion Club to her house for an occasional meeting. I saw it at the warehouse that night, and I still couldn't believe what Sandi did, with that incredibly unselfish act of calling Jane down beside Darren and of putting her and Darren's hands together. The fact that Linda Griffin can't shut her mouth up over saying that Darren is Sandi's boyfriend, and telling anyone within listening distance isn't making Sandi feel any better about herself, still another surprise about her from my point of view. Did (does) she really like Darren? I wonder if Big Bro's near-death and niceness to her on that "date" really must've affected Sandi deeply to make her behave like this? When I think about it, why wouldn't it? It did to me and Jane when we saw Darren lying there on the floor almost bleeding to death. Hell, he saved our lives, and nearly died in the process. Quinn told me that when reporters tried to ask Sandi about whether or not Linda's "boyfriend" claim was true, Sandi screamed at them to leave her the hell alone--say, she actually might have some potential there. In a way, I now feel really sorry for Sandi: She finds a guy who's made her feel different to the point of actually being a decent person for a change, and he likes someone else. That someone being Jane Lane, my "Partner In Crime", and best friend.

Speaking of Jane, I know she obviously wants to see Darren pretty badly like everyone else in my family, having to have talked to him everyday over the phone since he's left, and letting me know in no uncertain terms when I'm able to see her in the rare times that I have in these recent days, that she misses him like hell. Fortunately, she's had her artwork to work on to keep her occupied from thinking about him too much, and it has become quite an occupation for her. Just knowing my brother has done nothing but brought attention to her artwork. At first, she also went to the "Go to Hell" route like Sandi, me, and Amy when the reporters asked about if Darren were her boyfriend, but after Darren himself suggested to Jane to take full advantage of the situation by showing off her paintings and sculptures, it's been almost a non-stop bevy of activity for Jane. She's even had a few mini-gallery exhibits in the local art shops that already have some of her works, attending them as well--I was able to go to just one of them because of mom's bonding attempts. Jane's been awfully damn busy actually painting and selling a whole slew of her works after shrewdly offering to reporters the "lowdown" about her relationship with Big Bro, getting his okay (giving only mundane, boring stuff to those hungry pack of wolves, mind you), but only after they agreed to listen to what she said about her works, and getting that all-important TV exposure. Even Jane's mom has gotten into the act by jumping on Jane's bandwagon by selling her own pottery pieces at an extraordinary rate (and price) via her daughter knowing my brother. Oh, wow--perhaps now Mrs. Lane can see the advantages of having a daughter that she can acknowledge and actually pay attention to--that it can bring in more damn money for her pocketbook. It pays to know someone who knows someone, I suppose. Of course, all of this attention in turn has kept Jane from being with me as often when mom's shanghied me. Another note to self: Kill Big Bro as soon as no one's around when we visit him at his estate day after tomorrow.

Even Trent and Mystik Spiral have been affected by what I call the "Darren Effect". A few minor-label record agents have been inquiring about the group, and the guys are on a real tour right now in several small cities in the Midwest via a larger van, rental, I add, than the Tank--boy, they're really moving up in the world, now--having taken off two days ago when a promoter of shall I say, "questionable" character offered them a "can't miss" deal. Getting smart, Trent and the guys went to mom to get her legal advice (the fee waived away by Eric, with Eric saying he was doing it as a "favor" to mom for her joining the firm as a full-fledged partner--gee, what a softie), and after she examined the contract, told Trent to accept. As a result, Trent won't be coming with Jane and us. If I had any lingering doubts as to what I felt about Trent, they're basically gone now--I find myself feeling not badly that he isn't coming with us at all. I'm happy for him and the guys, and that's it. Now, is someone else starting to come into focus here, someone like--Tom? What in the hell is going on with that? I still occasionally think about what happened in the hospital that night while I worried about Darren's condition in the waiting room. It sort of reminded me of what almost happened that night when I came home from Jane's following the disasterous hair-dyeing incident, after she had suspected me of having some feelings about Tom--God, she didn't know to how close she was to being actually right on that subject then. Enough about that, at least for now. I've seen Tom a few times since around town, though it's been in polite conversation, such as how Darren's doing, and how our lives have changed since all of this has been happening to my family, by which we both had a good, pathetic laugh and joke at the situation. Jane, who took a break from her painting, came across us at the Pizza King where Tom and I happened to meet by chance(?), but she didn't say anything about seeing us together, while Tom seemed to get something of a guilty look on his face, the same for me. Jane didn't seem to notice, though, jumping right into our talk, and eagerly discussing Darren. I wonder if Tom still feels something for Jane, and if her doing that affected him a little. It had to in some little way, I'm sure of it. Tom had visited Darren in the hospital while I was in there once with Darren, and the meeting between the two seemed cordial, though I could sense a little tension underneath the surface, this possibly being over Jane, who wasn't there at the time. This makes me wonder if Jane didn't miscalculate a bit when she told me that Darren and Tom had gotten past seeing each other the day after with her there in our home after the kissing incident in the Zen. I wonder what could have been if Darren didn't exist, or if our family hadn't met him yet until much later in our lives, and if Jane knew about what, if any, feelings I'm starting to develop about Tom, and if he...oooooboy--I do not need to think about this right now, at least not yet.

Moving right along, why has all of this happened? All of the ass-kissing, job promotions, and sudden new opportunities for the people I know in my life? Why, it's because of my bro's billions, of course, pure and simple. Money. The love of it is the root of all evil. Beautiful damn moolah to the greedy morons of this pathetic planet. I glance over at the brand-spanking new top-of-the-line Sharpshooter PC and its accessories on my desk, a gift from my brother, which replaced my old, slow-ass Mac. I wonder--has my brother's incredible wealth affected me as well? Has it affected Jane, even though she had some "experience" in once having a rich boyfriend already in Tom? Well, of course it has--to an certain extent, but how big is that extent? I don't really ever have to worry about needing money again for something, not that I actively pursued it outside of my allowance, save for those guilt-trip parental neglection schemes I did to my over-achieving, ambitious parents, and the blackmailing of Quinn at times to get some books, CD's, pizzas, and savings for my "Montana Cabin Fund". I know I can just call up Darren and get some money if I really need some, and I know he'll give it to me. But I--don't want that. I don't want to look at my brother as the "Gravy Train", unlike, I suspect, Quinn, who's been suspiciously vague concerning Darren's wealth these past few weeks, saying she doesn't care if Darren's worth ten billion smackeroonies. I'll believe that when Ms. Li develops a conscience, and admits before the world to Mike Wallace her school security fetish, and secret obsession about controlling her students through mind-control--what little of the minds most of my fellow classmates have, that is. Sure, Quinn was genuinely as scared as the rest of us when she thought we were going to lose Darren that night, but this is Quinn, by golly. Though she isn't as quiiiite as shallow and self-centered, and I reluctantly add, dumber academically anymore before Darren came into our lives, it's still Quinn, doggone it, and it's really damn hard for her to change her spots, though with Quinn, she can still change her hair color. I wonder if or when she'll try to possibly charm Big Bro into giving her some of his bountiful treasury? Brian couldn't pull it off, but Quinn isn't Brian. Has she really learned anything from what happened when I gave her the third degree that time about taking advantage of Darren? Only time will tell, and it may be time for Quinn to tell herself "Ka-ching!" right about now when she goes with us to visit Darren. Hmmm--maybe I'll see what she's up to before we meet Big Bro when the "opportunity" presents itself.

What do I want from Darren? Well, to have a brother who I can hang out with and talk to, while I'm assuming Jane can have a boyfriend she can, er, just be with. Of course, when that brother and boyfriend can buy anything he wants for you, it's kind of hard to not want anything, oh, such as dynamite to blow up Lawndale.

Before he left, Darren told me that he privately invited Jane to stay with him and me at his estate while we go to college (she's accepted by the way), he and I at Eastward, and Jane at the New York City Art School. He hasn't broken the news to mom and dad about Jane yet, not wanting to do so until we come up there, having the "Homefield Advantage", I suspect, and it should be very interesting to see how they'll react to Jane living under the same roof with Darren, although that "roof" covers more than 20,000 square feet, with another 8,000 square feet in additional space to the 12,000 square feet, a point that Darren didn't tell to us until a few days ago because he was only taking into account the mansion's living space at that time in the hospital. Oh, and all of that is along with a mansion-full of servants, and some security on the estate's grounds. Darren's told me that he'll help both me and Jane each get into our prospective educational facilities, like Quinn. I'm wondering if that's part of me selling out as well? Do I want my brother's help in getting in, even though it's my dream to go to Eastward, and having Darren there as an additional "bonus"? I remember when Jane asked me about taking things from Darren while we were in that damn warehouse if he offered them. Crap, why do I feel like a first-class heel? I am Daria Morgendorffer, and I am my own person, and I don't need a--hand out? I'm really starting to hate that damn conscience--maybe I can get some money from Darren so I can surgically remove it from my brain. Oh well, now I sign off to another hell-filled day until we leave the day after tomorrow, my so-called diary.

Daria put her diary(?) in her strongbox, locked it, and put the strongbox in her closet. She took off her glasses and was about to crawl into bed, when there was a knock on the door.

DARIA: (Sighs, exasperated, puts back on her glasses:) Yes?

VOICE: Daria, it's your mother! I saw the light was still on in your room, and I wanted to talk to you since you were still up! May I come in?

DARIA: (Mutters, gets up:) I knew I should have taped the damn corners of my door to keep that light in here with me. (Raises her voice:) I guess I can't stop you now, Mom. You may enter.

HELEN: (Comes in, dressed in her housecoat, looks at the duffel bags in the corner:) I just wanted to see how you were doing, sweetie. How's your packing going?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) It's going, Mom. I basically have just about everything packed from my incredibly humongous wardrobe, like the relatively few items I call clothes, and a few books, though it's gonna be hell to try and put my little ol' helpless toothbrush in my bag.

HELEN: (Rolls her eyes, sighs:) Daria, why don't you try and get a few more clothes than you have right now? I mean, I can buy you some more clothes for our visit to Darren, like I'm going to do for Quinn. Eric says that I can get off early tomorrow, and--

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Oh, hell, more well-meaning, but slightly misguided motherly attempts at "bonding" ahead.) (Cuts her off, in sarcastic mode:) --Mom, we've gone over this what now, a bazillion times? I'm quite satisfied with what I have, thank you. Your concern is rather touching, but quite unnecessary, I can assure you. (Pauses:) What's the big deal? We're just going to visit Darren, that's all. You make it sound like we're going to the White House or something.

Helen went over to Daria's bed and sat down on it, sighing, something that made Daria cock her eyebrow, inquisitive.

HELEN: Daria, I want to give Darren and his family a good impression of us.

DARIA: Mom, Darren's "family" consists of his aunt Millie, and a few very distant relatives, save for his uncle Jim, and those "relatives" will visit him once every other decade, at least that's something akin to what Big Bro told us over the phone the other day. I seriously doubt if they'll be "impressed" by the way we look if they actually even to bother to come by while we're visiting. Darren already knows us, and I'm sure his relatives have seen us all over the tubes along with everyone else in the known universe, so it really doesn't matter.

HELEN: (Looks at Daria disappointedly:) Very well, Daria, I won't try and make you get anything to wear, but eventually you're going to have to update your wardrobe for college while you're staying with your brother, dear.

DARIA: Don't worry, Mom. I've gotten my eye on a cute little orange miniskirt and super-tiny blue halter-top that'll make Quinn go beyond envious, (Helen rolls her eyes while Daria smirks) and if you believe that, you'll also believe that I'm gonna decide to be a damn lawyer come sun-up tomorrow.

HELEN: (Frowns briefly:) Very funny, Daria. (Gets up:) Anyway, since I have a short day to work tomorrow, I'd better get to bed--(starts to leave)

DARIA: --That reminds me, Mom--Eric's sure been awfully generous to you since he found out Darren's "Mr. Moneybags", with all of the lighter caseloads, more off-time--

HELEN: (Cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) Just what exactly are you getting at, Daria?

DARIA: (Sighs:) Mom, hasn't it occurred to you that Eric's never treated you like this before? Usually, you've busted your ass to get any attention from him on your work. (Helen starts to say something, and Daria holds up her hand) Wait, let me finish, okay? (Pauses:) Look, Mom--you know how I feel about giving out compliments to anyone or anything, so I'll say my usual "once-a-year" one to you: You're a damn good lawyer, (Helen looks stunned) and I think it's a load of crap for Eric to promote you just because you're Darren's birth mom. (Narrows her eyes:) Don't you see, Mom? He's only doing this to siphon off Darren's fame for his firm, and not because of your work.

HELEN: (Gasps:) T-That's not true, Daria! I've worked damned hard to get where I am now, by my own merits, and not because of your brother! (Pauses while Daria crosses her arms and looks at her skeptically, then Helen sighs deeply, acknowledging Daria's point:) All right, so I'll admit that Darren may have had a little bit to do with my getting that promotion, but so what? I know I can do the job, and it means more money for us--

DARIA: --And that's just my point, Mom--what does it matter how much extra dough you and dad make for the family? Darren's got money, obviously plenty of it. If we needed anything, he'd give it to us in an instant. (Thought v.o.: Let's see how you react to that, Mom.)

HELEN: (Smirks:) Now you're making my point, Daria. I don't want us to ask Darren for his money. I want your father and I to make our own money and way, like we've always done. If that means (hesitates:) taking "advantage" of Darren's fame a bit because people connect us to him, then what's the harm in doing that? Your father has never had this much business before, and he's enjoying it! Besides, we're still doing what we like to do, sweetie, and there's nothing wrong in that, is there?

Daria paused for a moment to take in Helen's words, then spoke.

DARIA: Well, I'll admit that I'm kind of surprised you and dad wouldn't want to take any of Darren's money, Mom--I know I wouldn't (thought v.o.: Though Quinn is a different story.), and I'll also say how relieved I am to hear that. Still, it just seems a little--unethical to me to use Darren's face to make money like that, even if it's to help you guys in your careers.

HELEN: Well, Daria, you told me that Jane's been up to her "hips" in money since Darren suggested to her to sell her paintings and sculptures by using her "connection" to him. (Coy look:) Do you think there's something "unethical" in that, hmmm?

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Damn, she's got me there.) Umm, I guess not, Mom, though I do wish people would see Jane's work for what it is, and not just as a possible tax-deductable in the making at the end of the year because of her knowing Big Bro.

HELEN: (Sighs:) Daria, you're the only person I know who can see something bad in everything.

DARIA: (Smirks:) Mom, it's the job of a cynic to do that. Why, I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't live up to my "potential". (Helen shakes her head slowly, chuckles quietly, then leaves)

Daria took off her glasses and was about to get into bed when she heard a familiar whine down the hall. She dropped her head in abject defeat and sighed to herself, putting her glasses back on again.

VOICE: MUH--OOM! Where's my lime-colored scrunchie? We cannot leave to see Darren until I find it!

DARIA: (Deadpan, to herself:) It's a conspiracy. My family's out to get me by not allowing me to sleep. What a fiendishly diabolical plan on their part. (Pauses:) I see now that more assassinations are going to be necessary. (Goes out of her room to the source of the whine)

**********

Quinn, dressed in her yellow nightshirt with the pink bunny, was going through her closet, searching frantically. She had thrown most of her clothes on her bed, save for the huge mountain of mostly-packed suitcases she had stacked beside the bed. Helen walked into her room, frowning, with her hands on her hips. Daria walked in behind Helen a moment later.

HELEN: (In a hushed voice:) Quinn, will you please lower your voice? Your father is trying to sleep! He has to meet several important clients tomorrow, and he needs to be alert!

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Yeah, he's gotta be alert for more ass-kissing from his newly-found clientele.)

QUINN: (Her voice a little lower:) Sorry, Mom, but I just gotta find my lime scrunchie! I can't be fashionable at Darren's without it!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) This is indeed a national crisis, Mom. In order to calm Quinn's beastial fashion-inspired bellowing, I suggest that we help her find the scrunchie, (pauses for a moment, Quinn's eyes light up, surprised by Daria's offer) and then we hang her with it. (Quinn then glares at Daria)

QUINN: (Frowns:) Look, Daria--

HELEN: Now, Quinn, I'm sure your sister was only kidding. (Cocks a warning eyebrow at Daria:) Weren't you, sweetie?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Eh, more or less. (Sighs:) Quinn, I don't think it'll be a big deal if you can't find that vitally important scrunchie. (Suddenly smirks while she eyes the desk beside Quinn's door, thought v.o.: Hello, "opportunity".:) After all, I'm sure you can get Darren to buy you a whole lot more of those while we're staying up there with him--and then some.

QUINN: (Narrows her eyes:) What's that supposed to mean, Daria?

HELEN: (Curious look:) Yes, Daria, what do you mean by that remark?

DARIA: (Still smirks:) Well, why don't we ask Quinn, Mom? I'm sure she can fill in the "blanks". (Helen now gives Daria a confused look while Quinn rolls her eyes)

QUINN: Are you suggesting that I'd want Darren to give me some of his money and stuff? (Hesitates:) Um, I told you I couldn't care less about how much money he's got, Daria!

DARIA: That's like a hungry cheetah ignoring a sick and weak antelope that's wondered away from the rest of the herd, sis. You've been really quiet and evasive about Darren's money since he's left. Are you gonna stand there and tell us that when we go up to Darren's place, you won't ask him for any money or other expensive things at all?

QUINN: (Angry:) That's exactly what I'm saying, Daria! How dare you--

DARIA: (Cuts her off, smirks:) --You heard Quinn with your own ears, Mom. She won't be bugging Darren for any of his riches while we're there. My brother and your son's fortune is safe. (Begins to turn around while Quinn is glowing with anger, and Helen looks at Daria, exasperated:) Oh, and I found your scrunchie, sis--it's on your desk in front of you. (Quinn gasps when she sees the scrunchie) I guess the old saying is true: "The best place to hide something is right out in the open". Goodnight, and pleasant dreams. (Leaves, thought v.o.: Now you can't try and slick-talk some money out of Darren without mom knowing it, sis.)

Frowning, Quinn walked over to her desk and snatched her scrunchie off of it. She turned to her mother furiously while taking her clothes off the bed, and putting them back in her closet. She was holding the gold "Circa Original" dress Darren had purchased for her when both went on their "date" together at Chez Pierre.

QUINN: Gaaaawd, Mom! Why didn't you say something to Daria about my wanting money and stuff from Darren? How could you let her do that to me?

HELEN: Now, Quinn, when I think about it, Daria has made a good point. (Quinn looks stunned) I wouldn't want you to slip around and try to get something from Darren while we're staying at his place. Your father and I know how you like to spend money, young lady, and it wouldn't be fair to Darren if he simply put money or any expensive gifts in your hands! (Pauses, realizes, motions her head, cocks eyebrow:) I seem to recall that your brother spent $800 on that dress for you!

QUINN: (Glares at her dress for an instant, then smirks back at her mother:) Yeah, but the computer that Darren got Daria cost almost $1,500 and stuff! The way I figure it, I'm kinda owed at least something to equal that!

HELEN: (Narrows her eyes:) Quinn, Darren got that computer for Daria because he thought that she needed it, which she did, though your father and I would've gotten her one for college! Now, I want you to promise that you won't badger Darren for any money or anything else!

QUINN: But Muh--oom--

HELEN: (Frowns:) No buts, Quinn! You are not to get any money or anything else from Darren while we're there, and your father and I will inform your brother not to let you have anything, either! Is that clear?

QUINN: (Looks down, becomes sheepish, sighs:) Y-Yeah, okay, Mom, I promise. (Thought v.o.: I'm getting Daria back for keeping me from asking Darren about getting something, not that it will stop me from trying anyway, but how?) (Gets an idea and a wide smirk on her face just as Helen's leaving:) Hey, Mom, can ya wait for a second?

HELEN: (Turns around:) Yes, Quinn?

QUINN: (Smug look while she hangs the dress back in her closet:) It seems to me to be fair, that since I can't ask Darren for anything, that Daria shouldn't just stay up in that big book study she's been going on about all the time while we're visiting Darren's just reading and stuff, and staying to herself. She should get out and about like the rest of us. I mean, she'll have plenty of time to be in there when she's living with Darren while she goes to that Eastward College place, right?

Helen pondered what Quinn said for a moment, then spoke.

HELEN: (Mild frown:) You're obviously wanting to get back at Daria, Quinn, but I do admit that you have a good point. Daria should find other venues of enjoyment while she's visiting Darren's with us. She should experience the outside world, and not simply stay in one room all the time while we're there--(mutters to herself:) God knows she does it while we're here at home. (Quinn smirks triumphantly) I'll speak to her about it right now. (Leaves)

Quinn got into her canopy bed, now grinning wickedly.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: Right back at 'cha, sis!)

**********

(Scene changes to the Appleton estate, the same time)

Dressed in his robe and pajamas, Darren Appleton was sitting behind a large cedar desk located in the front of a huge arch-shaped paned-window that overlooked the now-dark estate grounds. In front of the desk was a large tan leather chair. The room, actually an at-home office about ten by twenty feet, had cedar-covered walls with black marble bookcases along the walls. The ceiling, high with exposed wood beams, had a fan protruding from it that was spinning at the lowest speed. Darren had just gotten off the phone, and had a big grin on his face. He then started to look at some papers that were stacked on the desk. His aunt Millie, holding a glass of warm milk and dressed in her nightgown, came into the office, sat down in the chair, smiled quietly, and privately became intrigued by her nephew's upbeat demeanor. Darren looked at his aunt, gave a quick, friendly smirk, then looked back down at the papers. After a moment, Millie spoke.

MILLIE: (Smirks:) Well, now, someone seems happy about something.

DARREN: (Grins, excited:) And why shouldn't that "someone" not be happy, Aunt Millie? Just one more day until my birth family and Jane come up here. I just got off the phone with Curtis, and he's almost as eager to meet my birth family and Jane as I am!

MILLIE: Yes, I'm sure he is, Darren. After all, he didn't meet them while you were in the hospital in Lawndale because he couldn't come. (Pauses, realizes:) When I think about it, why didn't he come?

DARREN: (Cocked eyebrow:) With all of the media attention in and around where I was at the time? Tell me you're kidding. I mean, Curtis had taken more than enough of that garbage while he was in Florida with Lena. Besides, I talked to him every other day while I was in the hospital in Lawndale, and told him not to worry about me because I was okay, and he could see me when I got back.

MILLIE: (Sighs:) I suppose you have a point there, Darren. Now, enough about that. What's on those papers you're looking at?

DARREN: Several things, Auntie. A schedule of activities and places to see and do while Jane and my birth family and Quinn's friends are here, and a receipt from the carpenters and interior decorators I hired to work on those rooms here.

MILLIE: (Rolls her eyes, shakes her head slowly:) I still can't believe you actually did that to those two rooms in the west wing, Darren! (Darren smirks) What possessed you to do such a thing? Those workers and even Elenor and Claude thought you were a little crazy! (Playfully mutters just before she sips the milk:) Maybe you were actually "preparing" those rooms for yourself rather than for Daria and Jane?

DARREN: (Laughs:) Call it a sense of mischievousness, Aunt Millie. I wanted for Daria to feel right at "home", and for Jane to, how shall I put it? Ah, to "appreciate" my wicked sense of humor. Why, when Jane sees her room, she'll be amused like Daria will! (Millie chuckles)

MILLIE: You don't think that your other sister Quinn will be envious when she sees what you've "done" for Daria and Jane, do you?

DARREN: (Snickers:) Please, Auntie. Once Quinn looks at those rooms herself, she'll beat a hasty retreat from them, more than likely wanting to stay in the east wing, that and the fact that she'll be too busy with her Fashion Club friends.

MILLIE: Oh yes, Quinn's friends. Speaking of which, how is that Sandi person doing? You told me that Quinn and the other members of the Fashion Club were somewhat worried about her.

DARREN: (After a moment:) Well, when I talked to Quinn over the phone, she said that Sandi's been really reserved since what had happened at that warehouse. (Frowns, perplexed:) You know, now when I think about it, Sandi was the only member of the Fashion Club not to have visited me at the hospital, with her parents saying that she was sick at the time when they visited. I hope "sick" here means that nothing's wrong with her emotionally, though I can understand how she, Jane, or my birth family would've been after what happened there. (Darren grows quiet for a moment, gets a quick, grimaced look on his face)

Millie quietly nodded and reached across the desk and put her hand on Darren's in a reassuring manner, privately remembering what her nephew himself went through that night--especially how Darren had been after he came back to the mansion from Lawndale, keeping to himself at times, and what he did and was doing to deal with his newfound "problem", something his birth family and Jane did not know about, at least not yet. Millie had forgiven Darren for what he had done to protect his sister and girlfriend when he had killed her brother William. Could Darren now forgive himself eventually for what he had done? She snapped out her thoughts as Darren then continued to speak.

DARREN: (Sighs, exasperated:) I know Sandi's mother Linda Griffin has been telling everyone in the media that I'm her daughter's boyfriend because of that so-called "date" with Sandi, can you believe that? I tried to call Mrs. Griffin at her house the other day to ask her to stop doing that, but Mrs. Griffin didn't listen--or really didn't want to. That woman's convinced that her daughter and I are a couple, like Jane doesn't even exist! I've tried to be nice, but this is starting to get ridiculous. I don't want to hurt Mrs. Griffin's feelings, but this has got to stop. (Adds after a moment, snorts:) Of course, I guess having some of uncle Will's "lackeys" thinking that Sandi, and not Jane, was my girlfriend, information picked up by the press during the arraignment hearing, kind of "contributed" to it, too.

MILLIE: At least you and your birth family, Jane, and Sandi Griffin didn't have to worry about testifying after Benny Lodell and Sam Norwood practically confessed everything that they, those other men, and William had done in--(hesitates:) killing your parents and this "Sanchez" fellow. I suppose without William, who apparently had so much control over them, Lodell and Norwood became listless without their "leader", and decided to just confess to everything. (Darren nods) As for that "Linda Griffin" woman, you won't get any argument from me there, Darren. I met her for an instant in the hospital while she talked once to your birth mother Helen over your condition, and I can tell you, that woman's a bona-fide arrogant witch. You do realize that this woman wants her daughter for you so Mrs. Griffin can have an (pauses, smirks:) "inside track" to your wealth?

DARREN: (Shrugs, snorts, disgusted:) So what else is new? Lots of people want to have an "inside track" to my money. It's a good thing I'm letting Leonard handle all of the legal dealings with the money and everything else that's come my way. The attention I've--we've gotten from the public here since I've come back from Lawndale has just about worn me out. When Mrs. Griffin came to see how I was doing at the hospital with Mr. Griffin, and those (shudders:) "terrors" called Sam and Chris, I didn't know at the time that she was so set on having Sandi and me together until Quinn told me afterwards. (Smiles:) I know Mr. Griffin is on my side, at least. (Adds:) Now, if only the man can stand up to his wife and get her to stop harping on the "boyfriend" thing, I can finally relax on this. (Pauses:) You know, in an ironic sort of way, this is exactly what uncle Will was talking about that night in the study when I allowed--

Millie suddenly put her hand up, and cut off Darren, to which he cocked an eyebrow, curious.

MILLIE: --We allowed, Darren. I know what you're going to say about William. You're going to try and blame yourself for William putting those thoughts about the Morgendorffers going after your money in your head. Don't forget that I was in the study that night, too. I could've discouraged William from doing that incredibly sinister and stupid thing, but I guess I was still too upset about your parent's deaths to really stop him. (Pauses:) Darren, both of us allowed ourselves to be tricked by William. Please don't take all of that burden on your shoulders, okay? You've got enough things on your mind right now. Let me have some of that, at least. (Weak smile)

Darren reached over the desk and patted his aunt's hand, chuckled a little, then spoke in a soft tone.

DARREN: Okay, Auntie, I'll let you have a tiny bit of blame for the "study" incident, but that's all I'm going to allow you to have, got that?

MILLIE: Fair enough, nephew. (Gets up:) Now, I'm going to bed after I finish my milk in my room. Don't stay up too late again, okay? You've been doing all of these "preparations" for the last several nights. I don't want you to wear yourself out.

DARREN: Don't worry, Auntie, I'll just be here a few more minutes, and then I'll turn in for the night, I promise. I just want everything to be as close to perfect as possible for my birth family's, Jane's, and Quinn's friends visit for Saturday, and the rest of the week they're here. (Snaps his fingers:) Oh, and I have to be sure everything's okay for when my grandmothers, aunts, and cousin visit the following week, too, don't forget that. (Pauses:) Hmm--I'm going to get Elenor and Claude to have the staff do a final check around the mansion for tomorrow, and to make absolutely sure the entire estate is in tip-top shape. (Gets an intense look, begins to shuffle some papers while Millie shakes her head slowly, sighs quietly, and leaves the office)

**********

(Scene changes to the Griffin home, the same time)

Sandi Griffin, in her nightclothes, was lying stomach-first crossways on her bed, flipping listlessly through the latest issue of Waif magazine, not being able to sleep. Fluffy, her pet cat, lay curled up at the foot of her bed, and unlike her master, was sound asleep. After another minute, Sandi smacked her mouth, disgusted, slapped the magazine closed, startling Fluffy, and tossed the magazine on the floor. Sandi then rolled on her back, propped up on her pillow, and sighed, rubbing a purring Fluffy, who had snuggled herself against Sandi's chest.

Sandi got up off the bed, which caused Fluffy to jump on the floor, and to curl up at the foot of the bed. She was about to turn off the light and go to sleep, when there was a knock on her door. She rolled her eyes, and answered.

SANDI: Like, who is it? (Thought v.o.: As if I didn't know already.)

VOICE: Sandiii, it's your mother. I wish to come in, if you don't mind.

SANDI: (Thought v.o.: I mind, but I know that won't stop you.) Come in, Motherrr.

Linda Griffin came into Sandi's room, dressed in her nightgown. She was about to say something, when she immediately looked around with a frown on her face, perplexed.

LINDA: Sandi, where are your suitcases? Surely you know you leave for Darren's place the day after tomorrow with the Morgendorffers and your Fashion Club friends, don't you? I was planning to leave work early tomorrow so we could shop at Cashman's for some new clothes. (Cocks an eyebrow:) Why haven't you started to pack yet?

SANDI: (Hesitant, feigns a pained look on her face:) Er, Mother, I don't feel so good. I think I like, may be coming down with a cold or something, or another. (Adds after a moment:) I don't know if I'll be able to go with the Fashion Club to see Darren.

Linda went over to her daughter, sat down beside Sandi on the edge of the bed, reached down, and felt Sandi's forehead and face. After a moment, Linda gave a glare at Sandi, who returned a small, defiant glare of her own.

LINDA: Sandi, you're not really sick this time, are you? (Narrows her eyes:) I believed you before when you suddenly claimed you were sick and not being able to go to the hospital to see Darren with us, but I think you're faking it now, young lady! (Adds, realizes:) And now when I consider that some more, I'm thinking you were faking being sick then!

SANDI: (Uncomfortable, now subtly looks everywhere but at her mother:) Um, like, I actually do have a bad headache, Mother, and--

LINDA: (Cuts her off, frowns deeply, shakes her head slowly:) --Enough, Sandi! These past few weeks, I have seen you behave in such a bizzare manner, completely unlike your usual, confident self! You've practically allowed Quinn Morgendorffer to seize the spotlight, take over your Fashion Club, and have permitted her to pull the strings of Tiffany and Stacy, whom, as I recall, have known you far longer than Quinn! You should be doing the pulling! Why, when I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if they all even suspected that you're not yourself, probably that you're weak, and in this world, you can never be perceived as being that, something which I know I have taught you not to ever be in a position of being! You should be in control right now, not curled up in your room like a coward, only occasionally calling a fashion meeting! (Sandi scowls at Linda, who continues) If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you didn't want to see your boyfriend! (Sandi rolls her eyes) What in the hell is the matter with you?

Sandi paused for a moment, then looked pointedly at her mother, her tone growing soft, in a rare, deep reflection, something her mother did not notice.

SANDI: (Gathers the courage, narrows her eyes:) Do you really want to know, Mother? (Pauses:) I mean, like, really want to know?

LINDA: (Crosses her arms, arches an eyebrow:) That's what I asked, didn't I?

SANDI: (Now in a very low tone, looks down:) All right, then, I'll tell you why. It's like, Darren almost died that night at the warehouse, Mother. I was there, and you weren't, remember? (Linda looks at Sandi disdainfully for an instant) I, like, couldn't get over the sight of all that blood that was coming out of him out of my head. (Looks up sadly at Linda, who now appears to be nonplused, and Sandi's voice rises:) Like, don't you get it? It was too real to me! I couldn't hack it! I still have nightmares about what happened! (Adds:) I like, just couldn't deal with seeing him yet, because I like him sooo much, and I could've--(shudders:) lost him. That reality, like, just hit me and stuff, and--and-- (appears as if she wants to say something else, but looks away instead)

After a long moment, Linda then rolled her eyes, and sighed.

LINDA: You've just proven my point, Sandi--you need Darren, and he needs you, he just doesn't know it yet. (Sandi sighs, frustrated, for her mother still doesn't get it) You obviously must go to him.

Sandi glared at her mother out of disbelief, then suddenly leapt out of bed and snatched back her bedsheet, angered. She looked down at a mildly-surprised Linda.

SANDI: Motherrr! I, like, told you that Darren already has a girlfriend! You've seen her on TV talking about her art stuff! Her name's like, Jeananne, or something, no wait, it's Jane--Jane Lane! Why don't you want to accept that?

LINDA: (Gets up:) Sandiii--you just admitted yourself that you still like Darren Appleton, and that your almost losing him has made you hesitant about wanting to see him again, that, and because of that "Jane" girl. (Narrows eyes:) Are you going to allow that plain-looking bum artist girl Jane "Doe" take what should be rightfully yours? (Pauses:) Let's face it, Sandi--Darren has everything you want in a man: he's handsome, smart, knows how to defend himself, is cultured and refined, connected to important and powerful people, and is the de-facto head of a large conglomerate, and most importantly, is rich beyond your wildest dreams! (Adds:) Our wildest dreams! Any girl would kill to be where you are now! (Wickedly smirks slowly:) Besides, your--"future" will be secured with Darren! (Gets in a dark tone:) You certainly have very "few" opportunities after high school as we both know, Sandi. (Sandi clenches her teeth at her mother's implied meaning, looks down) I'll be damned if I let you squander this opportunity away! I'd come with you myself to make sure that you'd get "closer" to Darren if I didn't have to go to that marketing convention in Baltimore, which means that you're going to have to do the work of making him see the "error" of his ways! (Points at her:) You're going if I have to tie you down to the private plane Darren's sending to pick up his birth family and you the day after tomorrow, do you understand that?!

Sandi glared at her mother sullenly for a moment, then uttered meekly.

SANDI: Very well, Motherrr. I'll start packing tomorrow morning.

LINDA: (Smugly:) Good. I'll leave early from work tomorrow about 2:00. We'll go to Cashman's, and purchase some clothing for you. (Walks up to Sandi, puts her hands on Sandi's shoulders:) Cheer up, Sandi. Once Darren sees you in the clothes that I'll pick out for you, he'll fall for you in an instant. Now, get some sleep, it's very late. (Leaves, closes the door)

Sandi bit her lower lip, and was about to get into bed, when there was another knock on the door, this one a little more softer. Sandi walked up to the door, and opened it, frowning.

SANDI: Now what, Mo--(sees Tom Griffin, dressed in his housecoat and pajamas, cocks an eyebrow:) what do you want, Fatherrr?

TOM: (Clears his throat:) Just to talk, Sandi, that's all. I--couldn't help but to overhear you and your mother's "discussion", which almost woke up Sam and Chris. Your mother went back downstairs to finish some work, and I, ah, "seized" the moment to speak to you. Uh, may I come in?

SANDI: (After a moment:) Like, um, I guess. (Lets him in, shuts door, crosses her arms:) Now, what do you want? I'm like, really tired and stuff.

TOM: I promise that this won't take too long, Sandi. (Pauses:) Did I hear you right, that you didn't want to go and see Darren Appleton because of, well--?

SANDI: (Narrows her eyes:) Like, yeah, that's what I told motherrr. Why? What business is it of yours?

TOM: (Sighs:) Look, Sandi, it's clear to me that you've been behaving--differently since what happened at that warehouse, staying in the house mostly, and--

SANDI: (Cuts him off, impatient:) --Get to the point, will you?

TOM: Oh, yes--the point. Well, I wanted to know if you just want to talk about what you feel to me? (Sandi looks surprised) I know we're not that close, but I'm more than willing to listen to what you're thinking, unlike your mother, who's simply uh, too excited about your pending visit to Darren Appleton.

SANDI: (Unsure look, then:) Errr--no, like, that's okay, Father. I'm like, fine. (Adds reluctantly, looks off to the side:) I uh, like appreciate you asking and stuff. (Tom smiles weakly) Look, uh, I'm really tired and everything--

TOM: (Opens the door:) --Well, all right, Sandi, but if you change your mind before you leave for there, let me know, okay? Goodnight. (Leaves)

SANDI: Like, goodnight. (Shuts the door behind him)

After clicking off the light, Sandi got into bed and rolled on her right side, staring at a wall in her room sadly, sighing. A single tear proceeded out of the corner of her eye as she did.

**********

(Scene changes to the Morgendorffer's the following morning)

Helen and Jake were getting ready for work upstairs, while Daria was sitting at the kitchen table scribbling on a tablet and now finishing eating her cereal. Quinn had gotten up, and had come into the kitchen, stretching, and yawning, smiling. Both were still in their nightclothes. Daria took a quick glance at Quinn, then continued to scribble. Quinn looked over at Daria while getting some fruit out of the refrigerator, and spoke.

QUINN: (In her singy-songy voice:) Gooood morning, Daria! What cha' writin'?

DARIA: (While still scribbling, monotonic voice:) Good morning, sis, and you'll find out soon enough--there. (Finishes while Quinn cocks an inquisitive eyebrow)

The very next instant, Jake came into the kitchen in a rush. He went over to the coffee maker, which had been brewing thanks to Daria's preparation. He grabbed a doughnut from the box of a dozen on the kitchen counter.

JAKE: 'MorningKiddoQuinncan'ttalkgottabusylastdaybeforeweseeDarren!Bigbigclients! (Wolfs down the doughnut)

Daria folded the paper up, put it in a small envelope that was on the table as well, and licked it closed, then scribbled something on the envelope. She rose out from her chair, and went over to Jake, slipping the envelope into Jake's coat lapel pocket.

JAKE: Huh? Hey, Kiddo, what'd you just put in my pocket?

QUINN: (Frowns:) That's what I'd like to know, Daddy!

DARIA: (After a quick smirk at Quinn:) Just call it a little "encouragement", Dad. Read it when you have the chance sometime later on your job today between consulting with your clients. (Gets up, takes bowl, and puts it into the dishwasher:) Well, time to start another glorious day. Gotta make a call to Jane's, possibly to go over there as well, then return here to finish my laborious packing. Have a good day, Dad. (Leaves)

JAKE: (Touched, smiles:) Aww, gee, I sure will, Daria! Thanks! (Finishes gobbling down the doughnut, grabs another one:) Well, I'll see you too, Quinn! (Starts to leave)

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: I wonder...?) (Suddenly gets up:) Daddy, wait! I wanted to find out what's on that paper that Dar--

JAKE: (Rushes out, with doughnut in his mouth:) Torry, tweetie, totta toe! Tee ou this tevening! (Leaves)

Before Quinn could say something else, Helen entered the kitchen, in a bit of a rush herself. Quinn watched her as Helen grabbed a doughnut. Quinn heard her father leave the driveway via the spinning wheels from the blue Lexus.

HELEN: I'll see you later, Quinn! Make sure you finish your packing today! Remember, I'll be getting off a little early this afternoon so we can go to Cashman's to pick up some clothes for you! (Puts doughnut in her mouth as she leaves) Tee ood, tweetie!

Quinn watched her mother leave, then heard a second set of spinning wheels via the red SUV. She walked up to the counter, paused for a moment, quickly looked around, then grabbed a doughnut from the dwindling pack, and began to nibble on it.

QUINN: (Smirks, thought v.o.: Nothing wrong with getting a tiiiny snack 'way between diets. It won't make me balloon up too much. Sometimes eating just fruit can be sooo dull and stuff, not to mention making me still feel hungry at times. I can lose it all off pretty quick.) (Leaves to go in the living room to watch TV while watching carefully for Daria, thought v.o.: What the heck was on that paper that Daria gave to daddy?)

**********

Quinn needn't had been worrying about Daria finding out about Quinn's little "splurge", for Daria was in her room on the cell phone, holding the phone with her head and left shoulder while sitting on the side of her bed, having changed into her regular clothing, and now was putting on her boots.

JANE: (Enthusiastic sound:) Yo!

DARIA: Hey, Jane. (Smirks:) Well, now--you're sounding mighty perky this time of morning. I thought for sure you'd be sounding sort of drowsy and all, just getting up from your comfy bed.

JANE: (Snickering sound:) Sorry to disappoint you, amiga. Besides, I've been getting up earlier since Darren's left us, you know that. I haven't really felt as tired in the mornings, especially after all of that artwork I've been doing for my newfound "fans". I've been able to get up and get in my summer morning jogs, then come back and do some stuff, so much so, that it's kept me busy most of the day. In fact, I'm working on a painting even as we're conversing. I can get what I want done up to bedtime, and then feel really tired enough to have a good night's sleep.

DARIA: (Rolls her eyes:) Tell me about it. I can certainly attest to your being so "busy" these days. I'm starting to run out of hiding places from my mom's attempts at bonding. Just the other day, she almost caught me at the Pizza King of all places. My guess here is that Quinn may have leaked to her on the side where I sometimes go during the afternoon hours since the library is shut down for the summer. If I hadn't been using the restroom and not having just seen her looking for me out of sheer luck when I came out from them, I would've been captured.

There was a brief pause for a moment on the other end, which made Daria frown slightly, perplexed. What Daria didn't know was that Jane had heard the slightly irritated tone in Daria's voice, and had decided to carefully craft her words in an attempt to apologize.

JANE: (Lower tone of voice, sounding guilty:) Um--I'm sorry for spending so much time painting and doing scultures, Daria, as well as going to some of those exhibitions. It's just uh, well--

DARIA: (Sighs:) --Relax, Jane. It's okay. I guess I'm being a little "possessive" again, (pauses:) sort of like when you first met Tom. At least you're getting your artwork noticed, and even making some money on the side.

JANE: Well, I don't have to worry about any art exhibits today, or for the next week, Daria, so you can come on over, and we can talk about going up to see Darren. I've gotten everything almost packed, and my portfolio's just about full of my stuff. (Excited voice:) Oh yeah, I also got a call from Tess Donovan, you know, the chancellor of the New York City Art School I told you about! She called last night! She's really eager to meet me, having seen some of my work on TV a few nights ago!

DARIA: (Impressed:) Whoa, congrats. You're hitting the big time now, huh? (Smirks:) Perhaps some of your artwork will finally be stolen?

JANE: (Sounding "hopeful":) I'm crossin' my fingers, baby. C'mon "Headline-Grabbing Art-Heist"! My fame will be etched in stone, and not just as "Arthur Appleton Junior's Girlfriend", but also as "Jane Lane, Artist Who Grieves Over Her Stolen Works"! I'll have my own real identity! I'll be on Leno, Letterman--

DARIA: (Rolls her eyes:) --Oooooh yeah. You can tell about your "inner torment" over "missing a part of yourself", and just think, you can point out that Van Gogh wouldn't have had to have gone through all that damn trouble of literally removing a part of himself during his "inner torment"--somebody could've simply taken his paintings while he was alive, and he could've complained about it in that way. Okay, then--let me finish dressing, and I'll be over there in a few. I can also inform you about an act of revenge I've just planned against Quinn.

JANE: Uh-oh. What'd she do now, girl? I kind of thought you two would be getting along a little better these days, what, with your brother around now, and such.

DARIA: "Little" is the operative keyword here, since Quinn and I have put some of our animosity towards each other aside, thanks to Darren. Let's just say that in this particular context, I was keeping a close eye over my sister's drooling concerning Darren's staggering wealth, with her deliberate evasiveness on saying anything about it these past few weeks. I had a hunch that she wanted to go after some of his "stash" when we got up there, and my suspicions turned out to be correct, based on Quinn's reluctant response to my inquiry in front of my mom about wanting something from Darren. I was able to trick my dear sister into promising my mom to not get anything from Darren in the form of money, or any such preposterously expensive "gift" of any sort. My parents will also get Big Bro to go along and make sure that Quinn won't get anything from him.

JANE: Yee-ouch. Alllrighty--what does all this have to do with your getting "revenge" on our dear, dear Quinny? (Snickers:) Don't tell me that she spilled some skin moisturizer on your books, or something?

DARIA: Actually, you're not that far off, for it does concern the art of reading, a specialty of mine, as you full well know. Quinn filled mom's head last night with the ludicrous notion that "I should get out and see the sights and sounds of the world", a response to my blocking her from not being able to get anything from Darren. As a result, I'll be spending little to no time in that book study at Darren's that I've been raving to you about--(adds:) until I can find a way to get around mom's little "edict", that is. When mom came to my room and told me to spend more time with everyone else, like I'd want to with them other than you and Darren anymore than I have to, I immediately thought about Quinn being behind this rather nefarious deed. (Pause:) Quinn has now crossed the line, compadre, and must be dealt with accordingly. I thought about cash blackmail, but this really has me PO'd, and requires a really nasty response on my part. Getting mere financial satisfaction will have to take a backseat here, yes indeedy. My plan has started to be put into effect this morning, as a matter of fact, involving the male patriarch of my family.

JANE: Oho--and why, oh, fellow schemer, did you not include the matriarch of your "brood" in this payback, if not outright tell her first like you almost usually do when Quinn screws up royally?

DARIA: Ah, I figured it was my dad's turn to get the first crack this go-around at Quinn, since mom's had all of the fun recently. I think it'll do dad a world of good to discover Quinn's newest rulebreaking, and heck, he's been wanting to do more as a parent anyway, so he can break the news to Helen first, (adds:) unless he has her along with him there, in which case he'll immediately become a background character when of if mom throws her weight at Quinn. I guess at least either way, I have Quinn's ass right where I want her. (Finishes lacing up her boots:) I'm on my way over, see you.

JANE: Later. (Hangs up)

Daria clicked off the cell phone, and walked downstairs. She came into the living room, where Quinn was watching TV. On the screen was a swimsuit model walking on the runway, and the words "Fashion In The Morning" superimposed over the scene. Daria walked to the coffee table, and placed the phone on it. Quinn noticed her.

DARIA: There ya go. The phone is your's free and clear, sis. Now, you can talk about the really irrelevant things, such as the latest, greatest trends in fashions and make-up, to your little core of die-hard groupies. I'm going over to Jane's. (Starts to leave)

QUINN: (Uses the remote to turn down the TV:) Wait a minute, Daria! (Narrows her eyes:) I gotta know: What was in that letter that you wrote and gave to dad this morning? Was it something bad about me?

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: It would take decades to list your "bad" qualities, sis.) (Smirks:) Like I told you, Quinn, you'll find out soon enough. Let's just say you'll be surprised by what's in it when you're told by dad, or perhaps by both he and mom, though I really would rather dad tell you first. (Pauses, sly look:) Of course, if you really wanna find out, you can call dad yourself, and ask him to satisfy your curiousity. (Quinn gives her a suspicious look) Either way, it's no skin off of my back. See you later. (Leaves out the front door, looks around for any stray reporters for a moment, walks out, thought v.o.: That'll drive her crazy for awhile trying to figure out what's in the letter.)

Quinn glared at the front door for a moment, then began to pace back and forth in the living room, thinking furiously.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: I just know whatever's on that letter Daria gave to daddy has to be about me, but what? Should I call daddy to find out what it is?) (Smirks, thought v.o.: Naaah, that's just what Daria would expect for me to do, and I'm not gonna give her the satisfaction of knowing that I asked dad, no freakin' way!)

The cell phone on the coffee table suddenly rang, interrupting Quinn's train of thought. She picked it up and clicked it on.

QUINN: Hello?

VOICE: (Squeals:) Quinn?! It's Stacy! I'm calling to remind you about our Fashion Club meeting to go over what we'll wear and do when we go to see your brother, and he introduces us to the head of Circa Fashions in New York City! Remember, it's at Tiffany's in an hour-and-a-half, okay?! Sandi just called me to remind you! Oh, I can't wait, I'm so excited!

QUINN: (Chuckles:) Don't worry, Stacy, I'll be there. (Pauses:) Stacy, um, how did Sandi sound to you when she called? Did she still seem kind of, well--down?

STACY: (After a long pause:) Well, Quinn, she sounded a little better, but yeah, when I think about it some more, she still wasn't quite herself, you know--?

QUINN: (Sighs:) Yeah, I know, Stacy. (Hesitates:) Uh, Stacy, can you keep a secret between just you and me?

STACY: (In a quiet tone:) Sure, Quinn, I won't tell Sandi or Tiffany. What do you want to tell me?

QUINN: This is gonna sound stupid, but I kind of miss the old Sandi, when she and I always comp--er, um, "worked" to push each other for the "good" of the club. The way she is now, you know, quiet and reserved, not quite herself and stuff, is sort of--scary.

STACY: Yeah, I know what you mean, Quinn. I sorta miss the "old" Sandi, too, (adds quickly:) though things have been a little quieter since you two don't, uh, "push" each other for the "good of the club". (Pauses:) Quinn, do you know what's wrong with Sandi? She hasn't been herself since you guys came back from those warehouses where you, her, (voices fades off:) and your family were almost, uh--um--

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) --It's okay, Stacy, you can say "killed". (Frowns, deep in thought:) Me and my family and Jane went through all of that, but in Sandi's case, it was a little more personal, I think.

STACY: W-What do you mean, Quinn?

QUINN: Stacy, you've been seeing the news and stuff, right? You know Mrs. Griffin's been telling everybody that Sandi's Darren's boyfriend, which my brother's denied repeatedly. Mrs. Griffin's said that Sandi likes Darren--

STACY: (Gasps:) --Huh? Sandi really likes your brother? I thought it was some sort of media rumor or something! (Dreamy voice:) I can understand her liking your hunky brother like me and Tiffany, but she didn't tell us that she actually did!

QUINN: (Sighs:) Promise me that you won't say nothing to Sandi, but she did, and still does. (Smacks her mouth, annoyed by Stacy's slow uptake:) Haven't you noticed how when we mentioned Darren's name in the meetings, she's grown even more quiet than she's been, getting a far away look? Darren likes only Jane, and vice--vice, um, the other way around. I think Sandi's trying to accept that, but it's hard 'cause of her mom's claims, which are embarassing Sandi. I think it gonna be hard for Sandi to be going with us, and seeing Darren with Jane at his place.

STACY: (Awed voice:) Wooow. Okay, Quinn, I won't say anything.

QUINN: Good. I'll see you over at Tiffany's. (Hangs up) (Thought v.o.: Guess I'll haveta wait 'till later to find out what's in that letter.) (Goes upstairs)

**********

(Scene changes to the Appleton estate, the same time)

Darren was on a narrow asphalt trail of the estate grounds in the dense woods that surrounded the mansion, jogging. He was dressed in a gray cotton tee-shirt and black cotton jogging shorts. His eyes were narrowed and fixed squarely ahead, the sweat pouring down profusely on his face, his breathing slightly ragged. Fortunately, a cool morning breeze had provided some comfort to him from the slowly-heating day. This was only the fourth day since Darren had started back to jog because of his bullet-inflicted shoulder injury, having only being given clearance by his doctor just a day before he began again. Darren's left shoulder still hurt ever-so-slightly and was deemed about 95% fit, but still it was more than enough to resume his jogging regimen. Darren chuckled playfully to himself--he wanted to get in as much shape as possible so he could "keep up" with Jane. There was no way he was going to allow her to tease him for being too slow. Jane had kidded him on the phone that she was going to "test" him when she came up with the others, so Darren decided that he was going to be "ready" for any challenges from her.

Darren's mind then started to go into overdrive concerning Jane and his birth family, and Quinn's friends. There was still plenty to do in the week they all would be here. Constance Waters had called him before he had started his jog and wanted to remind him about wanting to meet his sister Daria. Constance was eager to personally thank Daria for giving Darren the "idea" of choosing Constance as Chairwoman (and soon-to-be CEO) of Appleton Industries, and Darren's choice had already paid off immediately, for the world markets, which had taken a dive in response to his uncle's death, had almost leaped back to the "pre-William" levels. Darren frowned deeply when he thought of his late uncle. The bastard. William had ordered the murder of Darren's parents, his own brother and sister-in-law, and had lied and tricked everyone, including Darren and Millie. Darren, in turn, found himself doing the same thing, trusting William, lying to his birth family and Jane, and to everyone else. Darren wanted to feel genuine remorse for what he had done in protecting his sister and Jane that night, but he still didn't feel anything. That more than anything bothered him. He wasn't William--that is, by lying like him and killing--was he? Maybe in a way, getting shot was some sort of poetic justice, a way of balancing the scales, of making Darren pay for doing such a thing in the first place. He wondered if the help he was getting in dealing with what happened actually was doing any good, and--he suddenly shifted his thoughts from that for the moment, and kept jogging.

As Darren came out of the woods unto a large, open area, he waved at a groundskeeper who was on a large riding lawnmower with a grass bag attached to it about a hundred yards from him on the side. The freshly-cut grass that had been cut was its typical deep, lush green, and had been perfectly trimmed. Excellent. Elenor and Claude had told him that the estate was in tip-top shape, inside the mansion, and outside as well. He smiled in a quick, confident way for a moment, and saw the mansion in the distance, his point of designation. As he fixated on it, he caught a glimpse of someone coming up on his right side. Curtis Watley, wearing a now-sweaty dark green tee-shirt and blue sweat pants, was jogging towards him at a much slower pace than Darren was going. Darren slowed down and let Curtis come up beside him, then smirked and spoke between grunts, the same for Curtis' response.

DARREN: Well, now. You finally decided to join me, eh? (Motions in the direction of the mansion:) Pretty late in the ballgame to enter now. I'm just finishing.

CURTIS: (Chuckles:) Hey, I was delayed at home talking to Lena. Got some good news from her that I'll tell you about later. Besides, I jogged the four miles to get here to your place from mine, so I've paid my dues, and I'm pretty winded right now.

DARREN: Perhaps, perhaps. Let's find out how "winded" you are, Curtis. (Suddenly takes off in a full sprint to the mansion)

Curtis was surprised for a moment, then immediately followed Darren's lead, catching up with him, going stride-for-stride. The two ran straight up the steps to the mansion, stopping just before they came up to the front door. Both bent over forward, gasping, holding their knees. Between breaths, Darren spoke first, ditto for Curtis.

DARREN: Looks-like-it-was-a-tie, bud.

CURTIS: L-Looks.

DARREN: You've-eaten-yet? (Rings doorbell)

CURTIS: N-Nope. I'm famished.

DARREN: G-Good. T-Then-there's-plenty-to-eat.

Elenor opened the door, handing out two towels. Both began to regain their breaths, and wiped their faces.

DARREN: Thank you, Elenor.

ELENOR: (Smiles:) You're welcome, Master Darren. Good morning, Master Curtis! How are you doing?

CURTIS: (Grins:) Thanks, Elenor, and I'm fine. That was a pretty good jog. (Begins to walk with Darren and behind Elenor to the dining room)

DARREN: Maybe for you, but I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I'm still out of shape. (Throws his towel around his neck)

CURTIS: (Smirks, does the same thing with his towel:) You say that all the time even when you're healthy. (Coy look:) I guess having your girlfriend Jane up here jogging with you will help "speed up" your rehabilitation.

DARREN: (Rolls his eyes:) Funny. Get your mind out of the gutter, you pervert. (Curtis chuckles)

After going into a half-bath near the bottom of the staircase and washing their hands, Darren and Curtis walked into the dining room and sat down at the table. Elenor had gone off into the laundry room while Claude was waiting for them by the table, and he promptly lifted off the lids of several covered dishes. Beneath them were eggs, bacon, waffles covered with whipped cream and strawberries, syrup, coffee, orange juice, and toast.

DARREN: (Looks at the food:) Ahh, Henri's outdone himself today, Claude.

CLAUDE: (Pleasant smile:) Indeed he has, Master Darren. Good morning, Master Curtis.

CURTIS: 'Morning, Claude. Man, that smells good. (Begins eating with Darren while Claude leaves after uncovering the dishes)

DARREN: Okay, you said you had some good news concerning Lena. What's up?

CURTIS: (With food in his mouth:) Mmph. Lena's going to be transferring up here from East Florida University in the spring. (Darren's eyebrows rise, surprised) She'll be able to continue her studies here, and stay on campus.

DARREN: (Grins:) That's great, Curtis! You can have Lena here, like I'll have Jane and my sister Daria here as well! Maybe we can all double, or even triple-date, eh? (Bites into a piece of toast)

CURTIS: Yeah. (Smirks, gets a dreamy look on his face for a moment, then resumes a normal tone:) Oh, speaking of which, is everything set for Jane, your birth family, and this "Fashion Club" for when they come up here as well tomorrow?

DARREN: (Drinking coffee:) Yes. The private plane that I'll send will pick them up around 8:00 a.m., and they'll all slip out of their local airport, in secret. (Smirks, pauses:) Now, remember, I warned you about my birth family. (Curtis laughs) They're good and decent people, but with the exception of Jane and my sister Daria, they're--well, kind of, you know--

CURTIS: --Eccentric, yeah, yeah, I know, which is a nice way of saying that they're a little weird and crazy, right? (Darren chuckles, nods) And Daria is just funny with her sarcastic take on things, and a sharp dry wit, with Jane having a similar, but slightly more open viewpoint than Daria, and a nasty sense of humor, gotcha. I can't wait to meet these people.

DARREN: (Grins:) Careful--you may regret saying that. (Keeps eating while Curtis chuckles and bites into some waffles) I think your sisters Juanita and Laflita will enjoy being around Quinn and her friends.

CURTIS: (Rolls his eyes:) "Think"? I know they will! That's all they've been talking about the last few weeks! They're fashion nuts like your sister Quinn and her friends are!

DARREN: (Picks up a newspaper that was also lying on the table:) That's what I'm counting on for them to do with Quinn and her friends, meaning I won't have to worry about trying to keep them busy. Hmm--Roeberson's up 7/8ths of a point. I'm glad I followed my stockbroker's recommendation to buy into that stock.

Curtis stared at Darren for a moment, hesitated, then proceed to speak.

CURTIS: Uh, Darren--?

DARREN: (While reading the paper intensely:) Hmmm, what is it, Curtis?

CURTIS: How has your aunt Millie reacted to your birth family coming up here? (Darren looks slightly over the paper, eyebrow cocked) You told me that when you came back here, you informed her that the Morgendorffers were coming, and you said she seemed kind of moody for a time over that. (Adds:) I know on top with what's happened in the past couple of months, well--(trails off)

DARREN: (Puts down his paper, sighs:) I know, Curtis, I know. Last night, she seemed comfortable with the idea of them coming up here, and I've tried to watch her as best as I could along with Elenor, Claude, and the rest of the staff, but I still can't be too sure until my birth family is actually here to find out once and for all.

CURTIS: (Incredulous look, tone:) It boggles my mind that she really believed that the Morgendorffers would take you away from her.

DARREN: Remember, Curtis, you said it yourself. She's lost people that meant everything to her over these past few months--just like I have. It's only natural that she thinks I'm next. I'm sure when she meets my birth family, and really gets to know them while they're here, she'll understand that that's not going to happen. (Goes back to reading the paper)

CURTIS: (Thought v.o.: You hope.) Sure. Soooo, ah, how are the sessions going, you know--

Darren cocked his eyebrow, gave Curtis a bit of a cool look over the edge of his paper, and was about to answer, when Millie, stretching, came into the dining room in her housecoat, followed by Elenor. Darren gave a quick look to Curtis, who caught Darren's signal, and said nothing. Millie sat down at the table, while Elenor gave her a plate and utensils.

MILLIE: Good morning, you two. (Gets some waffles and bacon) What's going on in the world today?

CURTIS: Good morning, Millie--uh, just the same-old same-old, you know. (Starts eating again, in a quick motion)

DARREN: (Looking back in the paper:) Ditto, Aunt Millie.

Millie looked between the two inquisitively for an instant. She shrugged, then started to eat.

**********

(Scene changes to the Lane's, Jane's room, about 45 minutes later)

Daria sat propped up on Jane's bed reading a book Jane had about Jackson Pollack, while Jane was painting at her easel. Daria had just explained her "revenge" on Quinn.

JANE: (Smirks, pauses from her painting:) Ooooh, that's wicked, you. I wish we could be at Milligan's to see the end results. (Adds:) Didn't you kinda take a risk in daring Quinn to call your dad? What if she did, and found out about the trap you're laying out for her?

DARIA: (While still reading, smirks:) Reverse psychology, Jane. I know Quinn. If I didn't say anything, she'd likely would've called my dad to find out, and that would've tipped her off, the same for my not just saying anything to my dad directly. (Pauses:) Quinn and I are trusting each other a little better these days, true, but not that much better. It's still an occasional sibling scrape or two we go through, and having Darren in our lives now won't make Quinn and mine's relationship be suddenly "right" overnight--(adds:) thank goodness. (Jane snickers) Besides, who says you and I can't be there when what goes down goes down? (Looks at her watch:) We've got about an hour or so until Milligan's opens. (Goes back to reading)

JANE: Then we're on. (Starts back painting:) So, how do you know if Quinn will be there for sure when your "vengeance" takes place? For all that you know, she might not show up with her "admirers" in tow on time. After all, it's not Chez Pierre, her usual "hang-out" joint, why rush herself?

DARIA: Oh, she'll be there. I overheard her telling her fashion-obsessed "Charlie's Angels" wannabes, minus Sandi, two days ago in our living room that she'll be in attendance, wanting to try "something different", and that her "admirers" will pay for everything for her and the Fashion Club. They'll be arriving there at high noon today because of a daily lunch special of light salmon salads. (Pauses:) Well, when dad, and possibly mom, catches her in the act, it'll be "different" for Quinn, all right.

JANE: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) You're sure Jake won't forget to look at your little letter to him? For what you've told me, he's been mighty busy rakin' in the moolah on his job--(pauses, realizes:) sorta like I have recently. Maybe you should call him to confirm that he'll read the letter? After all, he may have other plans that could crop up at the last second, or something.

DARIA: (Looks up from book, stares at Jane for an instant:) Hm, good point. Let me finish this section, and I'll do just that. (Looks back down at the book)

JANE: (Paints again:) That reminds me--speaking of Sandi Griffin, did you hear anything on whether or not the head "Angel" said anything to her friends about Darren? (Adds:) Not that I'm worried, of course.

DARIA: (Cuts her eyes over at Jane, slight sarcastic tone and smirk:) Of course not. (Sighs:) No, Jane. Quinn suspects that Sandi's still carrying a tiny torch for Darren, but that Sandi really hasn't said anything about my brother at all to the Fashion Club at their regular little get togethers, only talking about the "glorious" time that they'll have while being at "Fashion Ground Zero" in New York City, and what they'll all be wearing.

JANE: (Sounding relieved:) That's good, amiga. Maybe Sandi's actually sincere about not making any "moves" on him at his place--or anywhere else there, for that matter. (Frowns:) Though I wish Mrs. Griffin would stop with the damn "Darren and Sandi" proclamations to everybody. Darren told me over the phone that he's asked her to stop, but it hasn't worked. (Sighs:) I guess I'm willing to give Sandi the benefit of the doubt about not wanting to pursue Darren anymore, with what she did, after what happened that night at the warehouse when Darren got--(voice fades off)

DARIA: (Grows solemn a bit, quietly turns the book over onto Jane's bed:) --Yeah, I know. (Pauses:) Um, have you given any thought about that since--?

JANE: --A little, Daria, and even then I try not to think about what happened any more than I have to. Darren's alive, that's all I know, and care to know. (Hesitates:) You--?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) The same. I'm just glad he's okay, and I'll leave it at that. My family's been too damn busy to talk about that night at those warehouses with all of the media attention they've been getting, with the crappy stuff that's been happening, and all.

JANE: (Snickers:) At least you didn't run into any reporters while coming over here, even if you are the "Invisible One" on their radar screens. (Daria rolls her eyes) Maybe the attention's finally died down.

DARIA: Perhaps--maybe they finally wised up after all those "Go to Hells". It won't be too soon for me, Jane, though I know Quinn'll miss it like an addict misses a fix. (Jane smirks) I'd better make that phone call to dad. (Gets Jane's cell phone that was laying on the bed beside her)

**********

(Scene changes to Jake Morgendorffer's consulting firm, a few minutes earlier)

Jake Morgendorffer sat at his desk listening intently to the newest offer from a client about a picture-hanging device that could place a picture perfectly on a wall. Andrew Landon sat beside him on the side, listening with the same look on his face. The client, a short, balding, gray-haired man wearing very thick glasses sitting across from Jake in a blue business suit, was waving his arms around, sounding very excited.

CLIENT: I'm telling you, Jake, Andrew, this will revolutionize the picture-hanging industry! Imagine being able to hang the perfectly balanced picture, level and height-wise! We could make a fortune!

JAKE: (Looking uneasy:) Well, gee, Loomis, I'm not so sure--

ANDREW: (Jumps in, gives a shocked look at Jake:) Eh? What do you mean, Jake? This sounds like a gold mine! We could get in on the ground level, here! (Loomis nods in agreement eagerly) Why, the entire picture-hanging industry could be ours, and ours alone!

JAKE: (Shrugs:) It just seems to me that people can hang their own pictures, Andrew. They don't need a machine to do it for them--

ANDREW: (Before Loomis can say anything:) --But the picture-hanging machine produces the perfectly hung picture, Jake, my man! Trust me on this! We can't go wrong!

Jake fell silent for a moment, sitting back in his newly-bought office chair, deep in thought, rocking it while looking in space and resting his head in his hand. Andrew and Loomis watched him, eyes narrowed, and hearts beating. He then leaned forward, and looked at Loomis squarely in the eyes.

JAKE: Look, I'll think about it, and give you an answer after I get back from vacation next week, okay, Loomis? I think you should have had some background research done before you came in here with this offer. Maybe you can do that while I'm out? I think another week or two won't hurt, you know.

ANDREW: (Nodding quickly in agreement as well, which surprises Jake a little:) Now that I think some more about it, Jake's right--get the research done, and we'll talk then.

After a moment, Loomis sighed, smiled, nodded his head quickly, and rose out of his seat, the same for Jake and Andrew. He shook both men's hands.

LOOMIS: Very well, Jake, Andrew. You're both probably right--I should've done the research beforehand. I'll look into it while you're gone, Jake, and I'll get back to you both. (Smiles:) Where are you going on your vacation, if I may ask, Jake?

JAKE: (Smiles back, look of pride:) I'm gonna see my son! Me and my family are gonna visit him at his place for a week, starting tomorrow morning!

LOOMIS: (Casts a sly eye at Andrew:) Oh yeah, your son is that super-wealthy Arthur Appleton Jr., huh? (Adds, smirks with Andrew, who's nodding, then suddenly playfully punches Jake's shoulder lightly:) I guess you've got it made, eh? No money woes, and such.

JAKE: (Looks uncomfortable slightly, rubs where Loomis hit it:) Well, uh, I guess, but to be honest with you, I just wanna see my son, you know--?

ANDREW: (Gets up:) --Of course you do, Jake! Now, Loomis, we'll see you week after next, and have that research done, okay? (Gently nudges a grinning Loomis out, shuts the door:) Whew! Well, that was something, eh, Jake? Who're we supposed to see next?

JAKE: (Looks down on a list on the desk:) Well, the next client is--(the phone rings on the desk, and Jake answers it:) Jake Morgendorffer Consulting.

VOICE: Dad? It's me, Daria.

JAKE: (Grins, sits on the edge of the desk:) Daria? Hiya, Kiddo! What's up? (Narrows his eyes:) Are you okay? You usually never call me here during work hours, sweetie. (Becomes agitated, which slightly alarms Andrew:) OH NO, YOU'RE NOT SICK OR SOMETHING, ARE YOU, 'CAUSE--

DARIA: --Relax, Dad. I'm okay. (Jake calms down immediately) I just wanted to remind you of that letter I wrote to you this morning. Have you read it yet?

JAKE: (Reaches into his coat lapel, pulls out letter:) Huh? Oh, I forgot, Kiddo. I haven't yet.

DARIA: Just read it as soon as you can, Dad. 'Bye--bust a gut.

JAKE: See ya, Daria. (Hangs up, reads the outside of the letter:) Hm--"For Your Eyes Only, Dad". (Smiles:) Aww, that's sweet. My daughter Daria gave me a personal letter this morning before I came to work. She just called to ask if I opened it yet, Andrew.

ANDREW: Ah, sounds important, Jake--and private. (Looks at watch:) It's time for a break, anyway. I'm going to get some coffee down the hall from the vending machine. Want some?

JAKE: (While opening the letter:) Hey, yeah, Andrew! Get me one with creme and sugar!

ANDREW: (Gives a pointed index finger at Jake with both hands, winks:) Anything for you, Jake, my man! See you in a few! (Leaves)

Jake pulled out the note from his eldest daughter and read it:

Dear Dad:

I remember you saying you wanted to try out that new restaurant Milligan's the other day at dinner. Well, now's a good as time as any to go there today. I heard they had a special on their club sandwiches, with two of them for $10.00, and a free martini as well, but the offer is only good from noon to 1:00 p.m. When mom went with Darren last month for the first time, she told me Milligan's had a nice, pleasant dining atmosphere. Perhaps you can get mom to go with you there? I just want you to have a nice time, Dad. Take care.

-Daria

Jake wiped a stray tear from his eye as Andrew came back into the office with a cup of coffee in each hand. Andrew noticed Jake's demeanor, and inquired, slightly concerned.

ANDREW: Hey, Jake, you okay? That wasn't any bad news from Daria in that letter, was it?

JAKE: (Waves Andrew off:) Nahh--just the opposite. Daria wants me to try out that Milligan's place at lunchtime. (Smiles, gets a "puppy-dog" look:) That was such a thoughtful thing for her to do.

ANDREW: (Grins:) Milligan's? Hey, I took Michelle with Evan and Rachel there last week while Jodie's up in Seattle! Great restaurant! Fantastic club sandwiches and beef entree!

JAKE: (Gets excited:) Yeah, Daria let me know in her letter they got a special on those sandwiches, and a free martini! (Resolute look on his face:) Ya know, I'm gonna go there! How about it, Andrew? You wanna come? No need to waste that extra sandwich!

ANDREW: Wish I could, Jake, but I've got to meet my accountant in his office around noon. (Smirks:) He's gonna be "imaginative" with some business expenses I have to pay up on, (winks:) if you know what I mean. How about asking your wife? Maybe she can go. (Looks down on the list:) In the meantime, I'll call in our next client. He's waiting out in the hall. It's that idea about the automatic private car wash at home. I'll go get him. (Leaves)

JAKE: (Brightens up:) That's a great idea, Andrew! Daria did suggest that I ask if Helen could go along, anyhow! I'll call my wife right now! (Picks up phone, starts to dial)

**********

(Scene changes to Helen's office)

Marianne was typing at her desk while Helen sat at her desk, going over some depositions with Eric, who was looking at them over her shoulder. Marianne's phone rang, and she answered it while still typing.

MARIANNE: Hello?

VOICE: Yes, is Helen Morgendorffer there? This is her husband, Jake Morgendorffer.

MARIANNE: Yes, Mr. Morgendorffer, she's here. One moment, please. (Pushes hold button, turns around:) Helen? (Helen and Eric stop and look) It's your husband on the line. (Keeps typing)

HELEN: Thank you, Marianne. Excuse me, Eric. (Pushes the button on her phone on, while Eric continues to look at the depositions:) Jake? Is there something wrong? (Concerned look, narrows eyes:) Something didn't happen to Daria, Quinn, or Darren, did it?

JAKE: (Sounding surprised:) H-Huh? No, honey, everything's a-okay! I just wanted to know if you can go out to lunch today! I just read the cutest little letter this morning before I left for work from Daria telling me about that Milligan's place that you and Darren went to last month! I wanted to know if you can go with me for lunch, and--

HELEN: (Cocked eyebrow:) --Daria gave you a letter? Why didn't she just tell you?

JAKE: (Starts getting into a defensive tone:) I guess she wanted to let me know about Milligan's in a different way, sweetheart, and I think it was a darned cute way of her doin' so, if I say so myself! So what's the big deal? (Gets louder:) Can't my daughter be a little creative now and then?! I don't see what your--

HELEN: (Rolls her eyes, sighs loudly:) --Calm down, Jakey. It just seemed a little--strange to me that Daria would inform you in that way, that's all. (Looks down at the stack of depositions on her desk:) I don't know if I'll be able to go with you, honey. I have so much work, I'll probably have to stay he--

ERIC: --Helen, I couldn't help but to catch that last bit of conversation. If you want to go with Jake to Milligan's for lunch, go ahead! The firm can handle these depositions--in fact, go on and take the rest of the day off! Besides, remember that I told you that you could get off early today? Don't worry at all about coming back the rest of the day! Enjoy your vacation, you've earned it! (Marianne overhears, breathes a quiet sigh of relief, keeps typing)

HELEN: (Stunned, gasps:) Y-You really mean it, Eric? (Adds:) I mean, you usually want us all to finish our deposition work before we go home, and--

ERIC: (Grins:) --Helen, you're going to be a full-fledged partner, now, remember? We in the upper echelon don't have to worry about such crappy work anymore! Nothing's too good for you now! You should know that! (Helen looks a little uncomfortable at this remark) When are you and your family leaving on vacation, again?

HELEN: We'll be going tomorrow morning, Eric. Darren's sending a private jet to pick us up at the local airport. We're trying to keep it low key--no need to turn it into some sort of event, you understand. (Talks back into the phone:) Jake, I'll be able to go with you to Milligan's after all, and I'll also be able to start our vacation as well. I'll drive my car, and meet you over there.

JAKE: (Excited:) YA-HOO! Okey-dokey, Helen! I'll meet you at Milligan's around noon! See ya then!

HELEN: (Chuckles quietly:) Okay, Jakey. (Clicks off phone, hesitates, then goes on:) Um, Eric?

ERIC: (While still looking at the depositions:) Hm, yes, Helen?

HELEN: I'm just a little, uh, a little curious--did you--did you let me be a full partner because of my work, or because my son is, well, very wealthy and well-known, and the firm could possibly think they could get any extra legal work by representing him in any of his company's legal dealings? (Adds quickly when Eric looks at her with a cocked eyebrow:) I wouldn't want to have this partnership under, uh, "questionable" circumstances. I'd like to think that I earned this, you know, ah--(voice fades off, uneasy chuckle)

Eric rolled his eyes, and chuckled himself, gently patting Helen on her shoulder.

ERIC: Oh, Helen--of course you've earned this partnership! I mean, just because your son is worth (pauses:) what, ten billion dollars, and is well-known, doesn't take away from the fact that you've done your job! Remember, we were leaning in the direction of doing so when you and your family went to that retreat and talked to those psychologists. I told you then you were on the "fast-track" to the partnership when you came back, and here you are! (Adds hastily, shrugs, uneasy chuckle:) Although, I will admit that if your son "happens" to want some sort of legal representation on any local matters that may crop up whenever he comes around to visit you and your family again, that, uh, well, it certainly wouldn't hurt that we'd be here to assist him--(adds:) through you, of course. (Gets into a coy tone of voice:) Perhaps you can kind of mention that to him on the side while you're with him up there?

(Note to reader: The retreat and the psychologists "thing" happened in the episode "Psycho Therapy")

Helen narrowed her eyes slightly at Eric's last remark, then sighed with a small smile on her face, relieved.

HELEN: Oh, well, that's a relief, Eric. I suppose I can understand that Darren would come to us if he needed some legal work done for him while he visited. I certainly would help him, if he ever needed it, though I heard that this "Leonard Potter" fellow is an excellent corporate attorney. I guess it wouldn't hurt to mention our firm to him on the, er, "side". (Looks back down at the depositions:) Well, let's get back to work. (Eric breathes a small sigh of relief, uncrossing his fingers that were out of sight of Helen, then continues to work with her.)

**********

(Scene changes to Tiffany's home, about an hour later)

The Fashion Club were sitting on the floor around the coffee table in the living room, a typical way of gathering at all of the member's homes. There were several fashion magazines and photos on the table, as well as Stacy's notepad, and a pen. Sandi was speaking. To Quinn and Stacy, she seemed at least a little more like the "old" Sandi, though still slightly subdued. Tiffany was, well, just being Tiffany, having not noticed.

SANDI: --And, like, we'll all wear those high-powered fashion business suits when we meet Ms. Gunwald at Circa. The Fashion Club must project an air of confidence and seriousness about fashion, so they'll see that we know our fashions.

QUINN: What colors do you think we should wear, Sandi? I'm thinking of power red like my mom wears to work. It'll bring out my skin tone really well, and it's slenderizing, sorta like black, but obviously more optimistic, and bolder.

STACY: (Excited:) Oh, I like royal blue, Quinn! It'll set off my eyes perfectly! Tiffany?

TIFFANY: I like off-white...my red lips...stand out better...and I don't look...so fat. (Pauses:) You, Sandi...?

Sandi stared down for a moment, her eyes narrowed, saying nothing. For a moment, the others thought she didn't hear them, glancing at each other uneasily, with even Tiffany now having a worried look. After another instant, in which Quinn was about to say something, Sandi spoke.

SANDI: I'll, like, leave it for all of you to decide on your own what business suits to wear. (The rest of the Fashion Club look at each other, surprised, then Sandi adds hastily:) this will, like, be a good opportunity for each of you to project what I call "test" images to the Circa management.

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows:) We get to make our own individual fashion statements, Sandi? That's never happened before. Usually, we all agree to the same trends, and stuff.

SANDI: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Are you questioning my decision, Quh--inn? (Smirks:) Afraid that you won't be able to find a suitable red power suit?

Quinn slightly smirked back. Perhaps the "old" Sandi was returning?

QUINN: Ooooh, noooo, Sandi! If you say I can do it, then I can do it! (Smug:) Don't worry--I'll have something to wear. (Sandi gives a curt nod)

STACY: (Starts to hyperventilate:) D-Deciding?! M-Me?! I-I don't know if -I-can-do-it, Sandi! I-It's too hard! (Sandi and Quinn roll their eyes, and Tiffany holds Stacy)

SANDI: (Exasperated:) Calm down, Stacy! You can do it! After all, high school won't last forever, and that we have to think about the future--presumably something in the fashion field. (Stacy and Tiffany look at Sandi, stunned, while Quinn stares at her strangely)

QUINN: You're thinking about your future, Sandi? Um--

SANDI: (Jumps in, frowns:) What, like, you don't think I have a future after high school, Quinn, is that what you're saying? Just because you don't have to worry about needing anything for the rest of your life, having a rich brother, an' all, doesn't mean anyone else here can't think about about their future careers! Darren himself told me that there are several options that I can pursue after high school!

QUINN: (Falls all over herself:) N-No, Sandi, of course not! I mean, since I'm planning to go to the Fashion Institute, there's no reason that anyone else here can't go either, or to something like it! (Adds, uneasy chuckle:) Right?

TIFFANY: But wouldn't that...require knowing stuff...?

STACY: (Alarmed:) --Similar to being a-a--brain? I-I mean, that's for people like Quinn's unpopular sister Daria to be! I-Isn't that why they're the brains, and we're not?

SANDI: (Exasperated:) Staaaacy! We're supposed to be "brains" when it comes to fashion, remember? We know more than anyone at Lawndale High about how fashion is! However, I have recently discovered that we need other skills that go along with fashion, (counts on her fingers:) such as math, drafting--(Stacy starts to hyperventilate again)

QUINN: (Gingerly:) --Um, Sandi's right, guys. (Sandi cocks a surprised eyebrow) We have to start thinking about the future. Darren's told me the same thing. We gotta have those skills. All of that's gonna go into designing dresses and stuff.

TIFFANY: But what about...modeling, Quinn? (Stacy nods in agreement)

QUINN: (Sighs:) Guys, Darren's told me that modeling's really tough to break into, and he oughta know, having a--mom who'd been in the fashion designing business. It's real rare for them to succeed, and it's a--what did my bro call it--? (Looks up)

SANDI: He, like, called it a "Cutthroat" career, Quinn. He also said that we could make a bigger statement to the fashion world by designing our own fashions, and not just by modeling someone else's work on a runway. He added that we can dictate fashion to others. (Wicked smirk:) That like, kinda appeals to me. (Quinn smirks in agreement)

STACY: (Calming down slightly:) S-So t-this means that we're going to have to--(struggles for the words:) study more, and take (gasp) BRAINY classes? (Tiffany turns pale)

There was an uncomfortably long silence, then Quinn spoke up in a quiet tone.

QUINN: I know I have to if I wanta go to the Fashion Institute, and become a designer. I can get in on the ground floor experience-wise when Darren hooks me up working at Circa as an intern next summer. (Becomes excited:) It's gonna be great! (The rest of the club looks down quietly) Huh? What'd I say?

SANDI: At least you'll have someplace to get experience, Quinn, we, like, can't.

STACY & TIFFANY: Yeah! Yeah...

QUINN: (After a moment:) Hey, I got it! How about if we all become interns and everything? Sandi, remember that you wanted to ask my brother that night about being an intern when you guys came over? (Sandi frowns, tries to remember) This'll be great! We can, like, still be together and stuff! I'm sure Darren will go along with it if I ask him!

STACY: (Estatic:) EEEEE!! Quinn, that's brilliant! (Hugs her, which startles Quinn)

TIFFANY: (Excited as well, use your imagination, reader:) Yeah...

SANDI: (After a moment, stunned:) You'd do that for us, Quinn?

QUINN: (Giggles:) Why not, Sandi? You guys are my friends! (Smug look:) My brother does have the influence to do so, you know.

SANDI: (Looking contrite:) Well, uh, like, thanks, Quinn. (The others look at Sandi, shocked again for a second at her polite thanking of Quinn, then Sandi quickly resumes her regular "Valley-girl" voice:) Very well. If there's no new business, then I move that this meeting be adjourned. We'll next meet tomorrow morning at the local airport around 7:30 a.m. That is all. (Gets up while the others look up at her:) If you all agree, then say "Aye".

THE REST OF THE FASHION CLUB: Aye.

SANDI: (Curtly nods:) Then this meeting is adjourned. See you all then. (Adds:) I won't be able to go to Milligan's with the rest of you for lunch because I have to go back to my house to finish packing, then my mother is getting off work to take me to Cashman's for some more clothes for me before I go up to--(hesitates:) Darren's. Goodbye. (Quickly leaves out of the front door, thought v.o.: I'll show you, Mother. I can make something out of my future, just you watch.)

The others watched Sandi leave through the front door, then Tiffany spoke.

TIFFANY: Like, what's wrong...with Sandi, guys?

QUINN: (After a quick glance at Stacy and vice-versa:) Um, she's just kinda tense about tomorrow, Tiffany, you know. I think she once told me that she was, uh, afraid of flying, or something, or another.

STACY: (Raised eyebrows:) Really, Quinn? I never heard Sandi tell me about that at all! (Quinn gives her a quick glare) Eep! Oh, that talk! Er, yeah, Tiffany, I think it's just nerves and stuff!

TIFFANY: Oooh...nerves...

QUINN: (Gets up with the others:) Yeah, nerves. (Looks at her watch:) OHMYGOSH! We'd better get to Milligan's for that lunch salmon salad special! You guys ready?

TIFFANY: I'm ready...

STACY: Me, too, Quinn! Um, do you think the guys are out there waiting for us, or are we gonna have to wait for them? (Tiffany nods in agreement)

Quinn gave Stacy and Tiffany a quick, smug glance, and without saying a word, went over to the front door. She looked down at her watch, then spoke in a monotonic voice.

QUINN: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1...(at this instant, the girls hear several cars stop in front of Tiffany's, screeching their tires, and blowing their horns at each other, followed by shouting) just like clockwork, or in this case, watchwork.

STACY: (Awed:) Wow, Quinn! You do know your guys!

TIFFANY: (Ditto:) Yeah...

QUINN: (While opening the door, smirks:) Duh. Let's go. (Leaves with the others)

The moment all three girls left Tiffany's front door, about four boys, led by the three J's, began to jostle over who would take Quinn.

JOEY: Quinn, take me! I was here first!

JEFFREY: The hell you were! I was!

JAMIE: You're both wrong! I waited at the edge of the block, then stopped in front of the house before either one of you clowns did! (The other J's glare at him, then all three start arguing)

QUINN: (Giggles:) Guys, sto--op it! (The three J's continue to shout at each other, so much so, they don't hear Quinn, who's now frowning at them, slightly annoyed)

The other boy stepped up, or rather sneaked up. It was Corey.

(Note to reader: Corey was seen first in the episode "Quinn the Brain")

COREY: (In a low voice:) Quinn, while those losers are fighting over who gets to take you to Milligan's, I offer my arm to you and your friends, and I'll drive you all over there. (Puts out his arm to her:) May I?

QUINN: (Shrugs:) Why not? Usually, I'd wait until Joey, Jeffrey, and Jereem would finish their duel, but we then wouldn't be on time for Milligan's salmon salad special if I do. Let's go. (Takes Corey's arm, and both are followed by Tiffany and Stacy)

The three J's continued their shouting until they saw a smirking Corey begin to drive off with Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy. They looked at each other, alarmed, then took off in a full sprint to their cars to follow, all the while shouting at each other even more:

JOEY: You dork! Your shouting distracted me from taking Quinn!

JEFFREY: Who're you callin' a dork, lamebrain? Quinn would've gone with me if it hadn't been for you!

JAMIE: You're both dorks and lamebrains! Quinn's mine, period! (The two give Jamie a quick glare) Now let's get in our cars, and follow them! (All get in their cars, and speed off)

**********

(Scene changes to Milligan's, about 10 minutes later)

Daria and Jane had already found a seat in the restaurant, over to the rear, and Daria had ordered a cheeseburger, shake, and fries, the same for Jane.

DARIA: (While chewing:) This is a decent cheeseburger. Better than that "Pastroni's" crap we ate while watching Darren with Sandi that time. (Sips shake)

JANE: (Ditto:) Um-hmm, though it still lacks that certain "something" when compared to Cluster Burger. (Pauses, looks at her burger, narrows eyes:) Something liiiiiike--

DARIA: --Grease, perhaps? (Eats some fries)

JANE: (Smirks:) Yeah! That's it, grease! Every great burger needs the lucious, lip-smacking, cholesterol-filled, artery-clogging ingredient grease! (Adds:) Just like our beloved pizza!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Agreed. (Grabs shake:) A toast to grease--may it never be replaced by that fatty-wanna-be substitute olestra crap.

JANE: (Grabs her shake:) Ditto, amiga. (Touches her cup with Daria, then drinks:) Now, who's gonna come in first, I wonder?

At that moment, as if in answer to Jane's question, Jake and Helen walked in at the front. Jake looked around and whistled.

JAKE: Wha-ho! Look at all of the junk they have on the walls, honey! (Narrows eyes:) Is that--is that a lion head over there?

HELEN: (Smirks:) It's a phony lion head, Jakey. The waiter told me during my conversation with Darren, Linda, and Sandi over what Quinn had done to Daria concerning the "cousin" thing last month.

JAKE: Oh, okay. (Looks around:) Uh, do we wait for a waiter to seat us, or something? It's kinda full, here.

HELEN: (Starts walking with Jake:) Not during the lunch hour, honey. We can sit anyplace we wish. Let's go to the middle of the restaurant. I see a clean, open table over there. (Both do, and sit down)

Daria and Jane had spotted Daria's parents, and smirked.

DARIA: Now, all we need are the rest of the actors, and the stage for Quinn's embarassment will be complete.

JANE: What do you think Helen and Jake will do to Quinn? I mean, they've practically done everything to her, with all of the punishments, and such.

DARIA: I could suggest a few more things if they ask me, like total isolation in a room with unpopular people for the rest of her life, for starters. (Jane chuckles, bites some more into her burger)

**********

Corey's car pulled into the parking lot of Milligan's. He got out and held the door open for Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy, then Corey hooked his left arm with Quinn's right one. The three other cars that had each of the three J's pulled up, parked, and all three immediately jumped out of their cars, running up to the others, glaring angrily at Corey, who returned their look smugly while Quinn wasn't looking. The three J's looked as if they wanted to obliterate Corey, but a quick warning glance from Quinn immediately stopped them in their tracks, and they sullenly walked behind the others into the restaurant. Joey got a sinister smirk on his face, and quickly moved to get on Quinn's left side, hooking his right arm with hers. Corey and the other J's glared at him while he smirked at them. Tiffany and Stacy simply looked at each other and sighed at Quinn's boy-drawing ability, looking a little downcast.

QUINN: (Slightly depressed look:) I wonder where all the reporters are? I can't believe they forgot about me! (Looks at Tiffany and Stacy:) Do you guys think that I'm losing my touch and stuff?

JOEY: (Before both girls can say anything:) No way, Quinn! If you want, I'll cause some trouble and make 'em come here, and draw some attention to you!

JEFFREY: (Sneers:) By what, falling onto the floor, and acting like a nut by rolling around on it and screaming? Everyone here would just point and laugh at you, and the only "news" you'd be "making" is on the "humor segment" of the local "Bebo The Clown Children's Show"! (Joey glares while the other guys chuckle) Now as for me, I'd call the tv station and demand that they come down here and see your beauty, Quinn! (Quinn blushes)

JAMIE: (Sneers:) Huh--I'd rob the bank across the street and get the police and the reporters, Quinn, all for you--and demand that they'd see your beauty before the police would arrest me! (Quinn smirks, while the other two J's roll their eyes)

COREY: (Snorts:) Give me a break, guys! Quinn, you're so beautiful, that that it's only a matter of time before those idiot reporters recognize that they've made a terrible mistake, and that they'll tear their way in here to interview you, apologizing for their stupidity! You just wait! I wouldn't be shocked if they're waiting outside when we finish eating, or they might even pull off a surprise raid, and demand to interview you while we're eating! (The three J's give huge eye-rolls)

QUINN: (Now smirks with a smug look on her face, singy-songy voice:) Oh, Corey, sto--op that! (Adds, shrugs:) Gee, I guess anything's possible! (Turns to Tiffany and Stacy:) Where's the ladies restroom? We should be ready for our close-up when they find us, you know! (Corey grins, while the three J's clench their teeth at him)

STACY: (Looks off to the side, points:) Quinn, isn't that your mom and dad near the middle of the restaurant over there? (Quinn looks where Stacy's pointing, wide-eyed, gasps:) Oh, they see us! (Smiles, waves, shouts:) Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer! (Quinn turns pale, while the rest of the patrons look in Stacy's direction)

Helen and Jake saw Quinn and her "entourage". Helen clenched her teeth, and gave a piercing glare at Quinn, the same for Jake.

HELEN: QUINN! Young lady, what is the meaning of this?! You know you can't see any boys while on your curfew!

JAKE: (Starts to get up, red-eyed:) Yeah! Why-in-the-hell do you have all those guys hanging all over you?!

The three J's and Corey backed away from Quinn, terrified, then started to run, with a furious Jake going after them, and a scowling Helen walked towards a trembling Quinn, who seemed torn to either stay or run away for a moment, then knowing that neither would do her any good, anyway, decided to simply stay where she was, slumping her shoulders, sighing. Tiffany and Stacy looked at each other, afraid, and ran out behind Jake before Helen could come near them. Helen grabbed her daughter's arm, and pulled her out of the restaurant, all the while shouting about more punishments "awaiting" her at home. Everyone else in the restaurant gawked for a moment, muttering about what happened, then went back to eating.

Daria and Jane simply watched the sight, and smirked contentedly.

JANE: This was better than what happened at that "Haven" place with Quinn and Sandi, amiga. (Bites into her last french fry)

DARIA: (Finishes her food like Jane:) The parental units were here front and center to witness my dear sister's transgression Jane--what could be more satisfying than that? (Mona Lisa smile:) My day is made. Time to get home and find out what they're gonna do to her. (Really evil smirk:) "Vengeance is mine, saith Daria Morgendorffer!" (Adds while Jane chuckles:) You ready to go?

JANE: (Gets up with Daria:) Ooooh yeah. You wanna get the tip?

DARIA: Um--I'm kinda short, Jane. I was wondering if you could get the tip--(adds:) and the bill.

JANE: (Looking surprised:) Ah, actually, I was gonna ask you, partner. I'm the one who's running "short", here.

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Waaait a minute--aren't you supposed to be rolling in the dough, Jane, with your selling your art?

JANE: (Slightly defensive:) Hey, getting art supplies cost money, you know--(adds:) plus, I wired some money to Wind, Summer, and Penny yesterday, and not to Trent for a change. I don't have any money with me at the moment.

At this point, a scowling woman came over, along with two waiters. They were also frowning.

WOMAN: (With an uncomfortable-looking cold smile:) Hello, ladies, I'm the owner of this establishment. I'm sorry, did I hear you two right? You can't pay your tab?

JANE: (Fumbles around in her pockets, laughs uneasily:) O-Oh, no, ma'am! We have the money, right, Daria?

DARIA: (Doing the same:) Uh, yeah, right, Jane--we, uh, have to uh, call someone to er, get it. Boy, I think I'll have to go out in my car, and--

WOMAN: (Looks at the two dubiously with the waiters, narrows her eyes:) Oh yeah, who?

JANE: (Looks at Daria uneasily and vice versa:) Yes, who--er, um, ah, (Brightens up:) Arthur Appleton Jr., my boyfriend? (Daria rolls her eyes) Don't you guys recognize us? I'm Jane Lane, artist extraordinaire, and this is Daria Morgendorffer, his sister. Surely you've seen us on tv, and stuff. (Laughs uneasily)

The woman again narrowed her eyes at the two, this time out of trying to recognize them. Daria sighed to herself, thinking for a moment that she and Jane would have to wash dishes for some reason, and of the incredible irony of the situation, when one of the waiters behind the woman spoke in an excited tone.

WAITER #1: Hey, yeah! Now I recognize you! You're the Jane Lane, that rich guy's girlfriend, and the artist-chick! You see that, "J"?

WAITER #2: (Realizes slowly, mouth agape:) You're right, Nemo! That's her, all right, though I heard that guy had another girlfriend, too! (Jane frowns slightly, annoyed)

WOMAN: (Her face turns softer:) Gosh, you fellows are right! (Smiles:) The Jane Lane is eating in my restaurant! Hell, I'm a fan of your artwork--(smirks:) and I think your boyfriend is hot! (Jane smirks wickedly) Tell you what--you sign an autograph for me, and the meal's on the house! (Pulls out her pen and pad)

JANE: (Stunned and delighted while taking the pad:) Really? You mean it?

WOMAN: Yep! Sign it to "To my biggest artfan, Beatrice"!

NEMO & "J": (Taking out their pads:) Hey, me too! Me next!

Several of the customers, drawn to the scene after overhearing the conversation, got up as well, coming over, grinning, wanting autographs as well. Soon, an overwhelmed, yet excited Jane was surrounded by people, signing them. Ignored, Daria went over to the side, and watched, seemingly impassively.

DARIA: (Sighs to herself, deadpan:) Well, damn. I'd think that "chopped liver" is too mild of a term to describe myself right now at this very moment in time. (Pauses, considers:) Let's see--how about "doo-doo"? Yeah, that's what I feel I am right now--"Daria, the Doo-doo Woman".

**********

(Scene changes to the Appleton estate, several hours later, at night)

Darren was swimming in the mansion's indoor pool, located in the lower level of the estate. He recently had been taking late night dips to strengthen back his shoulder muscle, helping himself to get back into shape, and he felt it working. Darren also was trying to calm himself down, anticipating the visit of his birth family and Jane, along with Quinn's friends tomorrow. According to the schedule, the private plane would quietly land at the local airport near Lawndale around 7:45 a.m., then would leave about 8 to 8:15 a.m. The trip would take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to the local airport here near Maness, the tiny village near the mansion. Darren also arranged for a limo to take them to the mansion, the trip lasting about 15 to 25 minutes. Estimated time of arrival: 10 to 10:30 a.m. He hoped everything would go well during the visit--it would be a very busy week coming up.

He smirked as he thought about his daily phone call he received from Jane, hearing about her and Daria's "little adventure" at Milligan's, and winced when she told him about Quinn. When, or if, would his younger sister ever learn? He then thought about Helen's phone call about not allowing to give Quinn any money (especially after what happened today) or gifts, for that matter. Reluctantly, he understood why she and Jake would do that, because there was some suspicion in his mind as to thinking that Quinn would indeed "slip" around and ask him for some cash or gifts. He had a soft spot for his youngest sister, and he knew it. In a way, he felt relieved, primarily because he wasn't so sure he could resist Quinn's charms, at least for the moment. Maybe she'd feel better after seeing all of the comforts of the mansion, as well as when she and her Fashion Club friends would visit Circa's headquarters.

He then wondered about Helen's telling him that Daria would have very little access to the mansion's study while his birth family was visiting, insisting that Daria be out as much as possible, "experiencing life like everyone else". Darren could see that not being able to read would be killing Daria about as much as his not being able to give Quinn any money or gifts, for he knew Daria loved to read, almost as much as breathing. Things were not starting off smoothly as he would like--and all this was happening before the visit. Perhaps Daria too, could be "distracted" by the mansion's other comforts, and of a visit to meet the dean of Eastward's journalistic department, Harold Pierpoint, who, like Constance, was eager to meet Daria, having seen Darren's copies of her work, wanting to meet the "Young lady who could write in such a frightenly chilling way." Darren chuckled to himself over Pierpoint's reaction when he first laid eyes on Daria's writing--it was one of pure horror.

Darren also had plans for Helen and Jake, with a trip to the nearby Maness Golf links for Jake (several times for Jake, Darren suspected), as well as a trip to Yankee Stadium--box seats, of course. Darren reminisced about his dad taking him there as recently as last year, and of enjoying the games, with meeting the players afterwards, and getting autographed balls. Darren suddenly shook his head of that thought--those times were gone, never to return. He suddenly stopped swimming in the water, treading, deep in thought. Was he doing the same thing with Jake, possibly trying to relive those moments through his birth father? Darren narrowed his eyes, then suddenly splashed the water, angrily. No. He and Jake were just going to a game, nothing more. The man wanted to spend some time with his once-thought-of-dead son. As for Helen, she wanted to tour New York City for a day with him, experiencing "the sights and sounds of the Big Apple". This would be just a "mother and son" tour, not to be confused with the Fashion Club's visit and small "mini" tour of Circa, and of visiting Cashman's world headquarters Park Avenue store.

Jane would be going to the New York City Art School as well, meeting Chancellor Donovan. This would be occurring near the end of the visit, which left some time for both of them to "catch-up" on lost time together. Darren found himself thinking delightfully sensual thoughts about his sister's best friend, and how'd they "catch-up". The intercom on the wall suddenly buzzed, which snapped Darren out of his thoughts, and he got out of the pool to answer it. He rubbed his wet hair back over his face, grabbed a towel nearby, began to wipe himself down, and pushed the receiver button to the intercom while doing so.

DARREN: Yes?

VOICE: Master Darren, it's Elenor. Mistress Millie wanted you to know that the British gentleman, Edward White, just came in. (Darren looks surprised) She's putting him up in one of the guest rooms.

DARREN: Uh, thanks for informing me, Elenor.

ELENOR: Will there be anything else for tonight, Master Darren?

DARREN: No, that'll be all, Elenor, good night.

ELENOR: Good night, Master Darren. (Intercom goes off)

DARREN: (Thought v.o.: What's he coming back so soon, for, I wonder, and of all times, during my birth family's and Jane's visit? Oh well, I guess I'll have to find out tomorrow morning.) (Clicks off light to the pool, leaves)

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