1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Chapter 2- Departure

(Scene is at the Morgendorffer's, the following morning)

Daria, dressed in her regular attire, sat in the living room on the middle couch while reading Thomas Berger's Little Big Man, waiting for the other members of her family, who were upstairs. She had her two duffel bags sitting beside the couch, along with several suitcases and carry-ons, presumably her family's, fewer than before because Helen made Quinn get rid of some clothes last night. Jake, dressed in his casual clothing (see "Gifted" for an example, what he wore on the way back home from Grove Hills), came down the stairs into the living room, looking around.

JAKE: (In an excited voice:) Are ya ready to go, Kiddo?

DARIA: (While still reading the book, deadpan:) Well, Dad, I'd certainly like to think that I am. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here, sitting on this couch, casually reading this book, waiting, while the rest of you all scramble around this house at this very last second, afraid you'd all forget something that could destroy the mood of this pending visit to Darren's place.

JAKE: (After a pause, uneasy chuckle:) Uh, yeah, sweetie, I guess you're right there--it was kinda a silly question, huh? (Goes over to the large picture window, looks out:) Have the taxicabs come yet? The driver's supposed to take our bags.

DARIA: (Sighs, puts down the book:) Relax, Dad. I don't think the drivers would get us and forget the bags. They'd want a big-ass tip. (Sees Jake still staring through the window, not responding:) Um, are you okay, Dad? You look kind of on edge. (Thought v.o.: Did I really just ask him that? That's like asking an obese person, not Tiffany in this case, if they really think they're too fat, or asking Quinn why would she worry about appearing too pretty, smart, or shallow in front of a boy.)

Jake glanced at his daughter for a moment, then sighed deeply. He went over to the couch, and sat down beside Daria.

JAKE: I'm sorry, Kiddo, am I that obvious? (Daria smirks slightly at the irony of her father's words, says nothing) I'm just so happy that we're gonna see your brother, that's all. I guess I'm being an overeager, overexcited father.

DARIA: (In a reassuring tone:) It's okay to feel a little like that, Dad--Darren's probably feeling the same way you are right now. We're invading his turf, or should I say, his fortress. From what I heard on tv and saw in the magazines, and what he told us, the Appleton mansion and estate is one hell of a large place. (Jake nods and grins while Daria looks up, narrows her eyes:) Hmm--maybe it's large enough for me and Jane to lose Quinn and her friends while we're there, not seeing them at all until we leave.

JAKE: Hey, speakin' of Jane, do you think she'll be ready when we come by and pick her up at her place, Daria?

DARIA: I'm sure she'll she be there on the front steps or lawn, Dad. I called her early last night and told her when we'll be coming by.

JAKE: (Gives a thumbs-up:) A-okay, Kiddo! (Becomes alarmed:) OHMYGOSH! I'd better make sure I got my lucky golf hat! Excuse me, sweetie! (Gets up, rushes upstairs while Daria goes back to reading her book)

Jake brushed gently past Quinn, who was coming down the stairs dressed in her summer regalia (the same as in the episode "Mart of Darkness"), almost hitting the pink duffel bag she had on her shoulder, over.

QUINN: (Annoyed:) DA--AAD!

JAKE: Ooops! Sorry, sweetie! (Goes out of sight upstairs)

Quinn came down into the living room, and put her duffel bag on top of the other bags. She gave Daria, who had gone back to reading her book, a very hard glare.

QUINN: (Crosses her arms:) I'm not speaking to you, Daria!

DARIA: (Face hidden by the book:) My ears and sanity thank you.

QUINN: I just know you're enjoying yourself, aren't cha?

DARIA: (Still in the book:) I just know General Custer isn't going to, judging from where this story's going. (Adds after a moment:) Oh, and you're speaking to me, sis--you're breaking your own rule--subtract one point from your current 10-point I.Q. for this infraction.

QUINN: (Becomes angry:) Oh, you are so funny, Daria! (Pauses, notices Daria's indifference:) Damn it, would you at least look at me? (Daria sighs, puts her book down on her lap, looks at Quinn with her "expressionless expression") Thanks to you, I'm not gonna be able to go out with any guy for the rest of the summer, and into the beginning of the fall, and I couldn't go ta Cashman's yesterday! I'm gonna be behind in the current fashion trends compared to the other members of the Fashion Club! How could you do that to me? Why'd you let mom and dad know where'd I be with those guys?

DARIA: (Frowns:) Why'd you "persuade" mom to not allow me to be in that book study at Darren's while we're up there? I was more than willing, able, and happy not to be in you and your fellow "fashion-czar's" way.

QUINN: Only because you didn't let me--

DARIA: (Smirks:) --Let you get your grubby little hands on some of our brother's loot perhaps? (Frowns slightly:) You're damn right I won't, sis--(pauses:) unless that's all you think he is.

QUINN: (Narrows her eyes:) All Darren is--what?

DARIA: An endless, bottomless bank you can go to and withdraw cash from when you can't get anything from mom and dad to finance your endless spending sprees. Damned if I'm gonna let you use our brother as something to undercut our parent's authority to support your buying habits. A dress, even an $800 one, is one thing, but this--

QUINN: (Now furious, gasps in indignation, cuts Daria off:) --Underc--now just wait a freakin' minute, Daria! Who are you ta talk?! You and Jane go on about undercuttin' authority all the time!

DARIA: (Genuinely impressed tone:) Whoa. So you are beginning to understand where Jane and I are coming from when we go against "authority" figures like Ms. Li, and me against our parents when they do something I know is wrong? (Smirks:) Don't tell me you've had both Jane's and mine's lockers bugged at school, and my room at home? (Quinn rolls her eyes, snorts)

QUINN: Why would I wanta listen to anything you haveta say in either place (pauses:)--or anywhere else on this planet, for that matter? As for Jane, she's not the one I have a problem with here for a change--you are! (Points at her:) Whatever you might think of me, Daria, I do--(pauses:) I do--lo--love our brother, (Daria cocks a slight eyebrow) and not because I think of him as a "bank", you got that?

DARIA: (Deadpan tone, stands up:) I think a lot of things about you, Quinn, almost none of them good, so I try and not to whenever I can. (Quinn gives a disdainful look at Daria) I'll "get it" when I see how you treat Darren for myself--(points back at Quinn, narrows eyes:) you got that? (Pauses:) Whatever you might think of me, I still just can't shake the fact that you're gonna try and get something from Darren why we're visiting--

QUINN: (Smirks:) --Just as I still can't shake the fact that you're gonna try and get into that study of his, too!

DARIA: (Sneers:) Hey, since you won't be able to go out with any boys for the rest of the summer, including up at Darren's I might add, maybe you can take my place in that study, reading. You can pass the time away with a brainy book. I can recommend several titilating titles--(Quinn glares at Daria)

QUINN: Huh! I'll be too busy with the Fashion Club seeing Circa and bein' out and stuff--(sneers right back:) just like you're gonna be, since you can't be in your precious study! (Smirks:) Maybe you'd wanta join us and see what real winners do with their time?

Daria was about to say something else to Quinn when Jake, now wearing his "lucky" golf hat, and Helen, also dressed in her casual clothing (see the episode "That Was Then, This Is Dumb" for one example) came rushing downstairs. About the same time, there were the sound of two vehicles arriving in front of the Morgendorffer's, honking their horns. Daria put her book in one of her two duffel bags while Quinn hoisted her duffel bag on her shoulder. Daria did the same with both of her own bags, putting one on each shoulder.

HELEN: (Excited tone of voice:) That's the cabs! Let the drivers in to get our things, Jake!

Jake opened the front door, allowing two scruffy-looking men smoking cigars to come in and get the heavier suitcase bags. Daria and Quinn glared at each other while going outside to the cabs. Helen and Jake were too engrossed in preparing to leave to notice them doing so. After a quick, final look around in the living room to make absolutely sure nothing was left behind, Jake shut and locked the front door, following Helen.

HELEN: (While walking out to the cabs with her bag, to Jake:) Now, I've already contacted the Guptys, and they'll watch our house while we're gone, even though the neighborhood security patrol will occasionally check our locks. I don't want to take any chances that someone could break into our home--

JAKE: (Ditto with his bag, to Helen:) --And I've contacted the post office, and they'll keep our mail 'till we get back, honey, (frowns to himself:) though I can't shake this feeling that I'm still forgetting something--

Daria had stopped at the edge of the driveway, put her duffel bags to each side of her, bent down, and picked up the rolled-up and bagged morning newspaper. Quinn also had stopped beside Daria, doing one final check in her bag, making sure her make-up case was safe and secure within the bag.

DARIA: Um, Dad, could it be that you forgot to stop our subscription while we're gone? (Resumes walking to the cabs with the paper in her hand after getting her bags)

HELEN: (Glares:) Jake! Can't you do one damn thing right?

JAKE: (Sheepish tone, uneasy chuckle:) Ooops, ah, yeah, that's what I forgot. Well, might as well keep that paper, Daria--you and I can read it on the plane. (Daria puts it under her arm as she places her bags in the trunk of the rear or second cab, and Jake does the same)

HELEN: (Rolls her eyes, sighs:) I suppose I can call the Lawndale Sun-Herald and get them to stop delivering our paper on my cell phone while we're going to the airport. (Jake looks as if he wants to say something, frowns, then dismisses the thought, while Helen puts her bag with Quinn's in the trunk of the front or first cab)

Quinn put her hands on her hips, and took a quick look around the neighborhood. She had a perplexed frown on her face.

QUINN: Gee, it's sure quiet out here in the morning--(pauses:) almost too quiet. (Narrows her eyes:) Now when I think about it, I don't see too many cars in the driveways around the neighborhood. Do you, Daria?

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) You talkin' to me, "stranger"? (Quinn snorts at her, while Daria looks around:) More than likely, it's a combination of most of our neighbors still on vacations, and of being at work. (Adds:) Either that, or they're all out this time of the morning for a special party to celebrate your temporary absence from our little 'burb, sis. (Smirks)

HELEN: (Warning look:) Daria--

QUINN: (Glares at Daria, to Helen:) --I'll ride with you in the front cab, Mom--and Dad can ride with (in a venomous tone of voice:) Daria in the rear cab with Jane, okay? (Quickly gets into the front taxi's back seat while gently pulling in a surprised Helen)

DARIA: Okely-dokely. Ready to go, Dad?

JAKE: Huh? Oh, sure, Kiddo! (Gets into the rear cab with Daria, but sits in the front passenger seat with the driver:) We'll swing by Jane-o's, pick her up, and then it's on to the airport! (Estatic tone:) This is gonna be great!

DARIA: (Deadpan, monotonic voice:) My heart can't stand the excitement, Dad. (Waves her hand in a nonchalant way to the driver:) Onward, I say, onward. (The cab driver gives Daria a strange look for a moment in his rearview mirror, then his cab pulls off behind the first one)

**********

A few minutes later, both cabs pulled up in front of the Lane household, where, true to Daria's prediction, Jane had been waiting on the front lawn for them with her black duffel bag with the white skull painted on it, folded-up easel, and (mostly prepared) portfolio. She waved at the first cab, then went to the second cab, greeted Jake and Daria, and put her bags into the now-full trunk with the help of the cab driver. Her easel, however, was too long to fit. Jane gingerly slipped into the rear on the left side, holding the folded-up easel between her legs, and carefully leaned it on her left shoulder, letting it just hang out of the door with the window down, slowly shutting the door. Daria, sitting on the right rear, smirked at her friend's minor predicament as the second cab began to go forward behind the first cab.

DARIA: Are we comfy?

JANE: (Gives a mock-glare:) Why, yes, I am, as a matter of fact, though I'd much rather prefer you experience this wonderful position I'm in right now. (Smirks:) Wanna change?

DARIA: Oh, no, I'd much rather prefer it on this side, thank you very much. I wouldn't want to deprive you of your daily yoga exercise.

JANE: (Snickers:) You're too kind, amiga.

DARIA: What can I say, Jane--I have plenty of kindness to go around in my generous heart. (Pauses:) So, your mom didn't see you off?

JANE: (Snorts, rolls her eyes:) Surpriiiise! She suddenly got up and left last night to join my dad in Argentina for a South American photographer's convention, or something. Vincent told her about some great pottery shops down there.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) And here, after all of that "bonding" you two had in Arizona earlier this summer, it's good to know that your mom still has her priorities in order, since we can't keep that precious pottery waiting now, can we? (Jane shrugs nonchalantly)

JAKE: (Looks over his left shoulder:) So, Jane-o, I guess you're eager to see Darren again like we are, huh? (The cab driver cocks an eyebrow at this)

JANE: (Quiet tone and smile:) Yeah, Mr. Morgendorffer, I am--I'm very eager to see Darren again. (Daria gives a slight Mona Lisa smile)

DRIVER: (In a gruff voice that matches his appearance, glances in his rearview mirror at Jane:) Hey, I thought you looked familiar. You're that "Jane Lane" artist gal, huh? (Daria glances at Jane, remembers yesterday at Milligan's, shakes her head slowly)

JANE: (Surprised somewhat:) Um, yeah, I am.

DRIVER: (Begins to smile, glances over at Jake:) Hey, now I remember you guys! You're that real rich Arthur Appleton Jr.'s birth dad, ain't ya?

JAKE: (Proud look on his face while waving away the smoke from the man's cigar, coughs slightly:) Yep! We're gonna see him this morning!

DRIVER: Yeah, I heard about that this morning on th' radio, I think it just got out. (Daria, Jane, and Jake look at each other, startled) I'm surprised nobody from th' media called you people.

JANE: (Frowns slightly, perplexed:) Hey, I thought we were slipping out from Lawndale without all of the fanfare, and the like. (Looks over at Daria:) As you know, amiga, we've recently got a private phone number because of all of those calls for my artwork were kind of getting on my nerves, (adds quickly:) though I'm not complaining too much, mind you--so I know I didn't get any calls, or anything. You guys?

DARIA: Nope. Well, I know we were too busy at home getting ready to go, so we didn't have time to watch the morning news on tv, and we don't have a private line. (Cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) Since that's the case, I wonder why didn't some damn reporter or news service call us to ask about our trip?

JANE: (Smirks:) Perhaps they remembered your brilliant "phone etiquette" from all those times before? (Daria rolls her eyes playfully at Jane)

JAKE: (Snaps his fingers, turns around:) Oh yeah, that's what I meant to tell Helen about! Ya know, Kiddo, I thought that when your mom took the batteries out of the phones in the house the night your brother was in the hospital was so effective, I decided to do it again late last night just before I went to bed after everyone else, even unplugging the answering machine! (The driver looks at Jake strangely for a second, cocks his eyebrow, while Daria sighs, and Jane smirks) I didn't want us to be disturbed, or anything, especially by your mom's boss! (Narrows eyes:) I was kinda afraid that bastard Eric would come up with something at the last second to keep your mom from coming with us! I put the batteries under my pillowcase in our room, (adds:) that and the fact I was getting tired of all of those calls to me about more business offers! I mean, it's sorta like what you went through with all those demands for your artwork, Jane--a man's gotta have some rest now and then, right? (Grins:) I guess you can say Ol' Jake did something right for a change, huh?

DARIA: (Smirks:) I guess we'll see what "Ol' Helen" will have to say about that, Dad. She might not quite agree with you. (Jake now looks unsure, and Daria gives him a brief look of pity:) Don't worry, I'll speak up for you, if worse comes to worse. It's better than all of those times when people were constantly calling us for interviews about Darren, some in the middle of the night from around the world, and we couldn't get back to sleep, so much so, that mom threatened to sue anyone else who did when we were interviewed by Meg Rosata. (Small smirk:) Last night, I think I had my best sleep in weeks, so I suppose I should be a little grateful to you.

JANE: (Smirks wickedly, teasing tone:) And I guess that you got such a good sleep because you were secure in the fact that you'd finally be seeing your brother, the brother you've missed being with soooo much these past few weeks, amiga? (Daria gives a seriously disdainful eyeroll to Jane)

DARIA: You're one to talk, Jane. How would you like for me to tell Darren that his girlfriend suddenly fell out of the plane for some inexplicable reason at 40,000 feet? Accidents do happen, you know, so make sure you don't sit too close to the plane's door. (Begins to open up the newspaper she's kept on her lap while Jane snickers)

JAKE: Well, Daria, Jane, I think we're all gonna be relieved to see Darren. Once we get into the wild blue yonder, we'll leave all of Lawndale behind for a week! Man, it'll be fun, fun, fun! (Leans back on the seat, puts his arms behind his back) Ahhh!

DARIA: (While reading the paper:) Provided we can get by the expected throng to get there, Dad. Take a look. (Shows the front page to Jake, who looks over his shoulder, and Jane looks as well. Even the cab driver steals quick glances in his interior rearview mirror to see what Daria's showing) No wonder we didn't anyone in the neighborhood this morning.

The newspaper headline read:

THE LAWNDALE SUN-HERALD

***************************************

Since 1952


Morgendorffers Leave For Reunion With Arthur (Darren) Appleton, Jr.

By Danielle

It appears that the Morgendorffers, now Lawndale's most well-known family, are going to the Appleton mansion this morning to meet Arthur Appleton Jr., the multibillionaire heir to the Appleton fortune, and the birth son to Jake and Helen Morgendorffer. Arthur, or Darren, as he perfers to be called, is the brother of his two birth sisters, Quinn and DeAnne Morgendorffer. Also going along are the artist and Darren Appleton's alleged girlfriend Jane Lane (according to Linda Griffin), and several friends of Quinn Morgendorffer, including one Sandi Griffin, who apparently, according to her mother Linda Griffin, is the "real" girlfriend of Darren Appleton. Sources have confirmed that the party will be leaving Lawndale at around 8:00 a.m., and are expected to arrive in the airport of the tiny town of Maness in lower New York state about 10:00 a.m. A very large crowd and the news media is expected to see the party off at the local airport. The mayor and a band from Lawndale High School will be there to blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah


JAKE: (Wide-eyed:) GAH! DAMMIT! Can't we get the hell out of Lawndale without those damn reporters and people hounding us for once? (Pauses, realizes:) Say, I didn't know Darren had Sandi Griffin as his girlfriend, too! Did you, Kiddo, Jane? (Looks forward)

JANE: (Glares for a moment at Jake, grows angry, through clenched teeth, lowers voice:) "Alleged"? I'm still the ALLEGED girlfriend of Darren, according to Linda Griffin? Okay, that's it. Next time I see Linda Griffin, the gloves are off! No more "Ms. Nice Gal"! What say you, Daria? Should I give her a severe tounge-lashing? Stripes? A duel with pistols? Suggestions?

DARIA: (Deadpan voice, lower as well:) Don't you mean "DeAnne"? (Sighs:) Jane, I think you're getting all too worked-up over this. If Linda Griffin wants to make an idiot out of herself by continually harping over her stupid claim that Darren is Sandi's boyfriend to the media and every damn one else, then I'd let her. Responding to her at the airport, especially in front of the media, could make you look kind of paranoid. Remember, Darren likes you, and only you. We went through that already before and after "Pastroni's" and that "Haven" place.

Jane gave a wary look at Daria, then rolled her eyes and sighed.

JANE: Yeah, yeah, okay--you're right, amiga. I gotta remember that Darren's wild about your's truly, not Sandi. (Voice fades off, looks out through the window:) It's just that after what happened with what I thought about you and Tom 'way back that time when, you know--(Daria now looks uncomfortable)

DARIA: (Talks quickly, slightly alarmed:) Uh, Jane, that was a while back, as you said, not all that long before Darren came into all our lives. You and Tom went through a difficult time with me kind of caught up in the middle, but we all got through that, okay? This is, uh, different. (Glances quickly back down to the paper, thought v.o.: Damn it, I'll have to say something to her about that soon, but when's good time to do it? Lousy "complications"...)

JANE: (Looks as if she wants to say something in response, pauses for a moment in thought, then:) Uh, sorry, Daria--I didn't mean to open up that old wound. (Rapidly changes tone, brightens up:) So, whattaya think your sister's talking about with Helen up ahead, (smirks:) or has that question already been answered?

DARIA: The answer to what's happening in the cab up front has been answered way before the question. I can see Quinn right now, pretending to be Alex Trebek, and asking something like--

**********

(Scene changes to the front cab. The driver of this cab is rolling his eyes at what's going on, annoyed)

QUINN: (Whines:) --Muh--oom! Can't you kinda slack up on me just a little bit while we're up at Darren's,(pauses:) pleeease? I haveta get a new and fashionable business suit while I'm at Circa, and stuff! I called everybody else in the Fashion Club before I went to bed, and they have new "power suits", even Sandi! It's not fair! Don't you want me to look my best in my future profession? (Pouts, sits back in the seat, crosses arms)

HELEN: (Long sigh:) Quinn, you have to learn a lesson from all of this. When your father and I tell you not to do something, we meant it. You have no one to blame for what happened yesterday but yourself, young lady.

QUINN: (Still pouts:) No, I have Daria to blame for all of this! She's the one who finked on me just because I told you about not letting her read in Darren's study!

HELEN: (In a firmer tone:) Now, Quinn, that's enough. You won't get anything, and that's final! (Helen reaches into her handbag, and pulls out her cell phone, while Quinn continues her pouting:) Hmm--that's strange. I'm getting no dial tone from my phone. There must be something wrong with the reception from the cell phone service, or perhaps the battery's run down. I wanted to check to see if Eric needed me before I left town. He told me he wouldn't be able to see us off because of a legal meeting he had out of town early this morning. (Shrugs, sighs, puts phone back into her bag:) Oh well--

QUINN: (Smacks her mouth, disgusted:) Geez, Mom--can't you just leave town without worrying about work for one day? (Gets a tiny scheming look on her face, smirks:) I thought that, weeell, since you got that equal-partnership stuff, or whatever, you'd have less to do! I mean, can't your job get other people to do your work? You're on vacation, remember? (Faux concerned voice:) I'm really worried about you pushing yourself, ya know--?

HELEN: (After a moment, touched:) Oh, that's so sweet of you to worry about me like that, sweetie. I guess you have a point. I did reach for my phone out of force of habit. (Looks determined, narrows her eyes:) You're right. This is a vacation, damn it, and I should enjoy myself for a change. We're going to see your brother and my son, and have a good time in the process. (Adds after a moment, reconsiders:) You know, perhaps I was a tad too hard on you, Quinn. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to get you a new "power suit" while we're at Darren's.

QUINN: (Estatic, hugs her mom lightly:) EEEE! Thanks, Mom! Can I go to the Cashman's on Park Avenue and get one from there? I heard their power suits are really rad!

HELEN: (Smiles:) We'll see, sweetie, we'll see.

The driver looked at the two through his rearview mirror, and suddenly snapped his fingers as if he just realized something, startling both ladies.

DRIVER: Hey, you're those Morgendorffers that're gonna see that rich Appleton fellow, aren't ya? I should've known when Matt and I came to pick you folks up! The whole town knows about it!

HELEN: (After glancing at Quinn, stunned, and vice-versa:) Er, yes we are going to see my son Darren, uh--

DRIVER: --I go by my nickname "KnightHawke", ma'am.

HELEN: (Looks at the driver like he's crazy for a moment:) Uh, yes, ah, Mr. "KnightHawke". I'm sorry, but did I hear you say the whole town knows we're going to see my son? I mean, how can that be? We were supposed to slip out of here in secret. (Frowns to herself, deep in thought:) I only told Eric, and I'm sure Jake told maybe a client or two, but surely--

QUINN: --Yeah! I mean, other than me and the rest of the Fashion Club, I couldn't imagine anybody else knowing, save for those guys I was with before you and dad caught me with them, Mom, and I know they wouldn't tell anyone else, at least I don't think so, though one guy I know has the cutest little dimples on his face, talks a lot, and--(Helen looks at Quinn, and glares) what?

KNIGHTHAWKE: (Cocked eyebrow, glances through the rearview interior mirror:) Lady, didn't you or your daughter read th' paper or look at the tv this mornin'? (Looks over beside him in the passenger seat before Helen says anything, picks up today's folded up, previously read morning paper, and hands it back over the back seat to Helen while keeping his eyes on the front) Here ya go, ma'am, check th' front page.

Helen took the paper and unfurled it, with Quinn looking as well. Her eyes became as wide as they ever had been, her mouth agape. Quinn was the same, save for a delighted half-smile on her mouth.

From the outside, the leading cab suddenly emitted what seemed to be a muffled scream from within, and promptly swerved slightly, quickly straightening itself out on the road. In the second cab, the driver Matt frowned for a moment after seeing the scene (Daria, Jane, and Jake had not noticed), wondering if something had happened in the first cab, but put the thought out of his mind just as fast as the leading cab corrected itself. Matt shrugged, and kept driving.

**********

(Scene changes to the Griffin's minivan)

Sandi Griffin, dressed in a very tight black short-sleeve midriff shirt that, er, "accentuated" her bustline, along with an even tighter pair of white shorts and boots and a matching purse-bag combination, sat in the middle seat of the minivan beside her suitcases. She had a deep frown on her face with her arms crossed, looking down. A smug-looking Linda Griffin sat in the passenger seat, while a nervous-looking and one could even say, annoyed Tom Griffin drove, occasionally stealing angry glances at his wife, but saying nothing. Sam and Chris were verbally teasing and lightly hitting each other in the back seats, as well as their sister every once in awhile. (Fluffy had been left at home, for there was no room in the minvan.) Sandi rolled her eyes at her brothers, and then turned her attention to her mother.

SANDI: Motherrr! Look at me! I feel like I'm one of those slutty-looking loser girls, and stuff! Why do I have to dress like this? When Quinn and the others see me, I'll like, lose face in the Fashion Club! I'm the president! What will they think of me? Plus, this outfit is killing me from being so tight, and stuff! It's uncomfortable!

LINDA: (Turns around, frowns:) Saaaandi--we've gone over this already, several times this morning, as I recall! This will draw Darren's "attention" to you! You didn't have a problem with the way you were dressed when Darren took you out on that date!

SANDI: But that was then, Mother! Now, well--(voices gets lower, looks away)

LINDA: Damn it, Sandi, you're definitely getting weak! I won't tolerate that, young lady! You'd better find some sort of strength to latch on to within yourself before we get to the airport! I won't have you looking unsure about yourself in front of those reporters, and--

TOM: (Jumps in, fed up:) --Linda, for God's sake! Can't you see how upset and embarassed Sandi is over all this!?

Linda cocked a suprised eyebrow for the briefest moment, then gave her husband a laser-beam type of scowl. Tom promptly cowered after seeing his wife's glare, and went silent, while Sam and Chris stopped their fighting and stared at their father, wide-eyed, the same for Sandi. Apparently, this had never happened before. Linda then spoke through clenched teeth, in a chillingly cold tone.

LINDA: We'll talk about what just happened later, Tom-- you can count on that, I can assure you. (Turns back to Sandi, narrows her eyes:) Get your act together, Sandi, do you understand?

SANDI: (After a moment looks down, sulks, in a low voice:) Yes, Motherrr.

LINDA: (Curt nod, turns back to the front:) Good. Now smile for the media. We'll be at the airport soon.

Sandi slumped in her seat, sighed deeply, and looked out the window, while Sam and Chris simply looked at each other, shrugged, then went right back at one another.

**********

(Scene changes to the local airport, several minutes later)

The two cabs that contained the Morgendorffers and Jane pulled in front of the airport terminal, and all got out. The two drivers, suddenly joined along with the eager airport baggage handlers, started to get the suitcases and duffel bags. An immediate struggle took place between the handlers and the drivers over the bags. Also at that moment, a huge crowd of people, consisting of a mixture of Lawndale's citizens, the well-known and not-so-well known, as well as the media, began to converge on the Morgendorffers and Jane. The local Lawndale High School Lion band, consisting of less than half of the usual number of students (most were still on summer vacation or had heard Li was looking for them, and had hidden out in their homes from her when she called them), undoubtedly "volunteered" by Ms. Li, began to play a "welcoming" song. It was a scene that was one basically of pandemonium. Helen rolled her eyes, exasperated, while Jake simply looked resigned, sighing. Quinn, ready for her "public", grinned from ear-to-ear, delighted, stretched out her arms, and strolled to the shouting crowd. Jane shrugged and waved, giving a tired, but slight smirk, and Daria simply looked at the crowd with her "expressionless expression". She leaned over to Jane and spoke just loud enough over the crowd, smirking.

DARIA: I'm going to check in, and get as "far from the madding crowd" as I possibly can, Jane. I wouldn't want to deprive you from your "adoring" fans. See you inside--enjoy. (Turns away)

JANE: (In a mocking tone, shakes her fist at Daria's back:) Curse you, woman! May the ghost of Thomas Hardy haunt you forever! (Sighs, turns to several people who are waving pads and pencils, and surround her)

**********

Helen and Jake found themselves surrounded by the large crowd, stunned by the sheer number of people. From their point of view, they couldn't see Daria, Quinn, or even Jane. Before either could say anything, the questions began, with several microphones and cameras being stuck in their faces.

REPORTER: Robert Nowall, East Coast Action News Network. How do you feel about seeing your birth son, Darren, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer?

HELEN: Well, I--

ANOTHER REPORTER: Jossie, West Coast Action News Network. What do you all expect when you see the Appleton estate? It's quite large.

JAKE: Yes, we--

YET ANOTHER REPORTER: Shawa, Canadian News Network. Is it true that Sandi Griffin is pregnant with Darren Appleton's baby?

HELEN: (Stunned along with Jake:) WHAT!? That's crazy! Our son hasn't been back here since he left a few weeks ago, and--

Before Helen could say anything else, the Griffins pulled up to the terminal behind the cabs, and got out. About half the reporters broke off from the Morgendorffers and went to meet them. Linda got out of the minivan, and greeted them with a calculating smirk, while Tom Griffin got out, and retrieved Sandi's bags from the seat. Sam and Chris got out, and began to make faces at the cameras, while Sandi slowly got out of the minivan. The moment she did, cameras began to click and whirr at her. Sandi glared at the reporters, and was about to say something nasty to them, when she caught her mother's sharp glare, then quickly forced a pleasant smile on her face.

**********

Helen saw the Griffins out of the corner of her eye, gasped at Sandi's attire, then frowned at Linda, outraged. How dare she allow her daughter to dress like that?! Helen had meant to speak to Linda about Linda's "claims" that Sandi was Darren's girlfriend, but the new position at the firm and wanting to spend more time with Daria and Quinn (well, with Daria mostly), had taken up her time, and Helen had kept putting it off. She now decided that this was the perfect time to confront Linda in front of the media, and tell her once and for all to stop with the "boyfriend" claims about her son--and to possibly get a few other "things" off of her chest as well to Linda. Yes, this is the perfect time, Helen. Put that bitch in her place right here and now. She started to make her way towards the Griffins through the pressing crowd, pointedly ignoring the reporter's questions.

Helen approached Linda from the rear, drawing ever-so-slowly closer. Linda was fielding several questions from the media, and Helen, smirking wickedly, had just about reached her, and was about to put her hand on Linda's shoulder, when a smiling man dressed in a blue business suit, and who bore a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders, came to the side out of the crowd, and put his arm around Helen's shoulder, and squeezed her. The cameras turned from Linda unto Helen and the man, which made Linda frown slightly, but she then saw another reporter off to the side, and went to him to continue her talking. Sandi looked at the scene, disgusted at her mother's behavior, took advantage of the situation, and slipped into the terminal unnoticed, save for her dad, who had stayed beside Linda, but sneeked a peek at his daughter leaving with something of a tiny smile on his face, almost as if he looked proud of her. In the meantime, a startled Helen looked over from where the arm came, and instantly recognized the man: it was Lawndale's mayor Milton K. McChester, whom Helen had run against for the mayor's office last year, but had lost to him in a close race.

(Note to reader: Mayor McChester is from Mike Quinn's very funny 'Helen-Centric' fic "Race To The Finish". Oh, and 'Helen-Centric' is the copyrighted term of one Kara Wild.)

HELEN: Mayor McChester? What are you doing here?

McCHESTER: (In a Southern-drawl voice, chuckles, looks around at the cameras smiling:) Now, Helen, remember, it's just "Milty". Ah came here on this fine mornin' on behalf of th' city of Lawndale to see you and your wonderful family off to visit your ric--uh, famou--er, your son. (Reaches into his coat lapel:) On behalf of th' city of Lawndale, I want to present to ya'll th' key to the city. (Pulls out the key and gives it to Helen while the cameras whirr)

HELEN: (Surprised:) Oh, er, thank you, um, "Milty". I--don't know what to say, I'm so honored--

McCHESTER: (Beams, showing off for the cameras:) --There, there, it's quite alright, m'dear, you don't have to say anything. Consider this to be th' whole sum of Lawndale's appreciation for th' fame you and your family have brought unto our humble little town. Local businesses have reported a huge upsurge in their profits, thanks to you! Th' restaurants, hotels an' motels are bustin' at th' seams in cash because of the reporters and th' tourists who're stayin' here in those hotels an' motels, an' are eatin' in the restaurants, and more cash means more taxes to fill th' town's coffers! (Thought v.o.: And mine!)

HELEN: (Smiles weakly:) Well--that's--wonderful, um, "Milty". I'm--glad our family could help the community and such.

McCHESTER: An' believe you me, ah'm glad as well, yes I am! (Leans over to Helen, whispers in her ear:) Uh, you're not thinkin' about havin' your son uh, "finance" your campaign if you decide to run against me again, are you? Maybe we can work out some sort of "deal" that could keep you from doin' that altogether--?

HELEN: (Surprised look for a moment, then gets a slow smirk on her face, whispers back:) Hmm--now that you've mentioned it, "Milty", I might not consider running against you again in the future, provided that my husband has some, shall we say, speeding tickets that could "vanish" from existence--(pauses, slight sly look:) if you catch my drift. (McChester smirks back knowingly, gives a quick wink) Oh, and there's the matter of our trash collection. I think we should move up to the front of the line on Wednesdays--? And there's also the matter of preferential parking spaces downtown, and also--(McChester groans to himself, turns pale)

**********

In the meantime, surrounded by microphones and cameras, Jake, his eyes turning red, and doing a slow burn, had had just about enough with all of the questions, and was about to explode, when a man roughly brushed aside the crowd, and pulled Jake away from the throng of now-scowling reporters, gently taking Jake aside.

MAN: (Grins:) Whoa, what a bunch of leeches, eh? You okay, Jake?

JAKE: Whew, thanks! For a minute there, I felt like I was gonna go crazy with those damn reporters around me! (Narrows eyes:) Say, you look familiar. Do I know you? How'd you know my name?

MAN: (Smirks, holds his hand out, which Jake takes:) I'm Steve Taylor, ad executive! My daughter Brittany knows your daughter DeAnne!

JAKE: Uh, actually, my daughter's name is Daria--

STEVE: (Waves Jake off, puts his arm around Jake's shoulder:) --Whatever, Jake! Anyhoo, I wanted to speak to you about a little business ad deal before you and your family go off to see your son! You're gonna love it--

JAKE: (Looks uneasily in the direction of the terminal, uncomfortable:) --Ah, can't this wait until I get back, uh, Steve? I'm kinda eager to check in with my family at the counter in the terminal. Maybe you can make an appointment--(makes like he wants to leave)

STEVE: (Practically ignores him, pulls a now miserable-looking Jake back:) Doooon't worry, Jake, old boy! You and your family will have plenty of time to catch your plane, I promise! (Looks off into space, widens eyes, makes a long, sweeping motion with his arm:) Picture this, Jake: An ad campaign about a dancing bear with a top hat, cane, and--

VOICE: (Off from the side, angry:) What-in-the-hell-is-this, Jake? What's he doing here with you? Is he trying to pull something?

Andrew Landon had arrived with a scowl on his face. He glared at Steve Taylor, who returned one equally in kind.

STEVE: What do you mean, "pull" something, Landon? Thanks to your constant meddling, I can't get anywhere near Morgendorffer, here! This was the only time I could talk to him!

ANDREW: (Walks up to Steve, gets in his face:) You're damn right I won't ,"Stevie"! I moved in on Jake first, and you're just jealous that I landed a claim on him! (Steve scowls deeply, while Andrew smirks) It wasn't my fault that you were out of town on a business trip when all what went down went down that night!

STEVE: (Takes his arm from around Jake's shoulder, does what Andrew did:) But it wasn't fair what you did, Andrew! I was more than willing to make it three-way partnership--

ANDREW: --With you as the "leader", and not m--uh, Jake! Oh, no, "Stevie", I'm not some sort of idiot to fall for that little stunt! (Gets a coy look:) Jake's my partner, do you hear? Find some other gold mine to exploit!

STEVE: (Snorts, bitter laugh:) Me? You're the one doing the "exploiting", Landon! I've heard all about the cock-eyed schemes you've had Jake Morgendorffer get into! (Sneers:) "Picture-hanging device"! What a load of bull! Well, we'll see what Jake has to say about this, Landon! There's no way in hell I'm going to allow you to monopolize his time! What do you think, Jake--(looks around with Andrew:) Jake? Hey, pal, where are you?

ANDREW: Yeah, that's what I'd like to know! (Looks around through the crowd:) Jake? Hey, Jake, my man! Where'd you go?

STEVE: (Follows Andrew:) Oh, no you don't, Landon! Where you go, I go!

Both men were about to leave to look for Jake, when suddenly another man ran up to them from the crowd, gasping for breath. He bent over, holding his knees. The man, heavyset with a grey beard and black-grayish thinning hair and dressed in a casual shirt and pants, spoke between gasps while Andrew rolled his eyes, and Steve looked between both men, curious.

MAN: Hold-it. I-want-to-talk-to-Jake (gasp) too! Where-is-he? Is-he-gone yet-with his family?

ANDREW: We were about to look for him in this crowd, Calvin. If you're still trying to sell him on that land deal, you'll have to get in line.

HOPKINS: (Now regaining his breath:) I'll-I'll-wait. I-think I can-offer-him-a-deal he-he can't refuse, getting his rich son in on the deal, too! If I can get that Appleton fellow involved financially, that prairie land can be developed, and we'll all be wealthy, I tell you!

ANDREW: (Now interested:) Damn! Are you sure about this, Calvin? I mean, you had some doubts the last time you came into Jake's office with this--

HOPKINS: (Straightens himself out, stands up:) --That was before the others in the deal knew about Darren Appleton and his money. They're salivating at the possiblities, I tell you!

STEVE: Waaaait a second...I thought you looked familiar. Aren't you Calvin Hopkins, Jake Morgendorffer's consultant rival?

HOPKINS: (Cocks an eyebrow, corrective tone:) Was. I was his rival, but no more, not after finding out his son was loaded. (Narrows his eyes:) Who are you?

STEVE: (Extends his hand, which causes Hopkins to look at it suspiciously for an intstant, then he cautiously takes it:) Steve Taylor, ad exec, and a future business partner of Jake Morgendorffer's. (Andrew glares at him while Steve smirks:) I couldn't help but to overhear something about a land deal--?

HOPKINS: (Reluctant:) Well, yes, but--

ANDREW: (Jumps in:) --Forget it, Taylor! This is our deal, and you're not invited! Why don't you go off and create an advertising campaign for vinyl siding, or something?

STEVE: (Raises eyebrows:) That crap? Are you nuts? It's blase'! I need something new! (Turns to Hopkins before Andrew can say anything else:) How about some ads for your land? Do you have anybody yet?

HOPKINS: (Looks up for a second:) Hmm--now that you mentioned it, no, but that's because we're still getting the necessary partners, and--

STEVE: --Say no more! I hereby offer my firm's services at a reasonable rate! C'mon, what do you have to lose?

ANDREW: (Frowns:) Now just a--

HOPKINS: (Chuckles:) --Calm down, Landon. There's no harm in merely listening to Taylor's pitch, is there? I can consult our other partners after we find Jake, and see what's what! We do need the publicity for the future golf developments and condos out there! I even heard that with that Darren fellow's money, we have a high probability of building some casinos! (Steve's eyes light up, mouth goes agape)

ANDREW: (Grumbles:) Hmph, blasted-- (Steve smirks, triumphant) very well, Hopkins, but only if Jake goes along with it, all right? Now, let's go find him! (Goes off, followed by both men)

**********

Jake had quietly slipped off and had given the cab drivers and baggage handlers their tips (and only after both had agreed to split the amount of bags each would move to the baggage carts to roll out to the private jet), then slipped behind another fully-loaded baggage cart, hiding, all the while watching for Andrew, Steve, and Calvin Hopkins. He sighed contentedly as he saw them all walk away from him in the opposite direction, calling his name. The sooner he and his family could be away from here, the better. As much as he liked the way his consulting firm was doing beyond well these days, Jake felt that he needed the rest and relaxation, too. Business could take a temporary back seat to the vacation and his family. He looked around the crowd, and spotted Quinn, who was surrounded by several boys (yes, the three J's among them), and a few girls, who wanted an autograph, which Quinn eagerly obliged to. Jake frowned slightly when he saw the boys, remembering that Helen had forbade Quinn to even interact with any for the rest of the summer on top of her other punishments, which even the normally-clueless Jake understood was nearly an impossible task to enforce. He sighed and decided to go over to get Quinn first, then to Helen, whom he saw speaking to someone that looked familiar, in fact the spitting image of Colonel Sanders. Was Helen planning to go into the chicken business, or something? Waitasec--that's the mayor... Jake took another quick look around through the crowd for Daria and Jane, spotting Jane surrounded in the same way as Quinn was, signing autographs as well. Where was Daria? He frowned in perplexity at this briefly as he made his way over to Quinn's group.

**********

(Scene changes to the terminal inside)

Daria had already checked herself in, being informed at the counter that the private jet was already waiting for them on the tarmac, and that Tiffany and Stacy were already in it, having apparently the proper "credentials", more than likely Darren had given the pilot the scanned pictures of the Fashion Club Quinn had asked Daria to send over Daria's new computer last week to Darren. Walking to the end of the corridor that would lead to the jet, Daria sat down in a chair in the middle of a row of seats to await her family, reading the newspaper she had kept with her, practically burying her face in it. Although she could have obviously gotten on the jet, Daria didn't want to wait on there with those two and possibly have her brain turned into mush by mindless fashion-inspired chatter from "Frick" and "Frack".

She smirked to herself, wondering about Sandi, and what sort of "spectacular" entrance she'd make to upstage Quinn, such as being "fashionably" late--pun intended. Daria's smirk then slowly vanished as she remembered about writing what had happened since that night at the warehouse in her diary(?), and Quinn's information about how Sandi had behaved afterwards. Now, Daria found herself curious as to see how Sandi really was, laying her eyes on her for the first time since then. A possibly nicer Sandi. Daria shuddered to herself over that thought. The world indeed would come to an end if that ever happened--the end of the world, that is. Out of chance, Daria slightly looked up and over from her paper as Sandi, who didn't notice Daria because of the paper covering Daria's face, walked by, with something of a nuetral look on her face, but it was what Sandi was wearing that made Daria cock an eyebrow, then frown in disgust as she lowered her paper and looked after Sandi. Several leering male pilots walking nearby whistled at Sandi as she walked to the jet. Sandi pointedly ignored them, hurriedly going out of sight.

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Daria, you idiotic fool, you. How dare you allow yourself to flirt with optimism like that? What were you thinking? Bad Daria, baaaad Daria! Oh well, I suppose some things will never change. So much for Sandi being "nicer". It's something more akin to "nastier" now--"Queen Sandi" is back in full force. Who in the hell does she think she's fooling with that outfit? If she thinks she's gonna "win" over my brother in that--I wonder if Jane, or dare I think, even Quinn, knows about this?)

Daria actually pondered for an instant whether or not to go and possibly confront Sandi, when Tom came up, clearly stunning her. Tom smirked at her expression, and spoke.

TOM: Ah, so here you are! Bet you didn't expect to see me, did you, "DeAnne"?

DARIA: (Regains her composure quickly, smirks, gets up:) Tom--so, you know about my sudden overnight clandestine name change, eh? (Pauses:) No, I didn't expect you, but I suspected you wouldn't let me--(turns red for an instant:) um, er, us get away without saying goodbye. (Adds quietly:) Thanks for coming.

TOM: (Quiet smile:) You suspected correctly, Daria, and you're welcome. What are you doing here all by yourself? Don't tell me you spurned away some more reporters? (Pauses, false gasp:) You--you couldn't possibly be that callous, could you?

DARIA: (Quick Mona Lisa smile:) If only, Tom, if only. Actually, I didn't have to use the 'ol "Spurn Tactic" this time. I used my "Hollow Woman" routine to slip by the horde to get here. They never spotted me, by gosh. I just wished it could work on whoever I wanted it to work on, like Quinn. (Gets a wry look:) Hmm--maybe I actually really do have that "invisibility secret" Kevin still seems to think Darren has. The "QB" called me a few days ago, begging me to contact my brother to get "in touch" with him, wanting to get in on Darren's "secret recipe" that made my bro "invisible", believing that was what made Darren the very wealthy person he is.

(Note to reader: "Hollow Woman" is Daria's pun on the movie "Hollow Man", about an invisible man)

TOM: (Chuckles, pats his stomach:) Mmm, yum! The one with "several secret herbs and spices"?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Heh, close. I told Kevin I'd get back to him after I talked to Darren, but for him to not get his hopes up. Those are some pretty tricky things, these herbs and spices.

TOM: (Nods, faux concerned look:) Yeah, you're right, Daria. We've got to be careful how we handle those herbs and spices. One can't just dole them out to anyone. (Pauses:) Say, that reminds me--I saw Mayor "Colonel Sanders" McChester out front giving your mom the key to the city as I was coming in.

DARIA: Undoubtedly to award her for distinguished service in bringing vital cash to our proud community so he can promptly embezzle it to line his pockets.

TOM: Undoubtedly.

DARIA: (Hesitates, changes tone:) Um, did you see Jane out front as well? You couldn't have missed her.

TOM: (After a moment:) Oh, ah, I saw her. She was doing quite a number on signing all those autographs from her "fans". I decided not to bother her. I also saw your sister signing some as well.

DARIA: Our dear Quinn has become a celebrity in her own mind. (Pauses, adds:)What little of it she has, of course. Did you happen to see my dad?

TOM: Actually, I did. He seemed to be hiding behind a luggage cart. (Smirks:) You don't think he's tired of all of the wonderful attention your family's getting, do you?

DARIA: Nah, probably of all of the wonderful work he's getting. My dad seemed to really want to get the hell out of Lawndale, not that I could blame him for that magnificent thought. (Deadpan:) Oh father, why do you flee your fame? Why do you not simply embrace your destiny?

TOM: (Grins:) Hm--sounds familiar. Shakespeare? Bacon? (Pauses:) Star Wars?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Nope, Morgendorffer.

TOM: Really? Write any plays yet?

DARIA: (Monotonic supreme deadpan:) None as of the moment, but give me some time, and I'll be on Broadway writing about my teenaged angst. It'll be a one-woman play called, "To Hell With The Whole Damn World, And Then Some", about an angry young woman fed up with society as a whole. I plan not only to write it, but to produce, direct, and star in it as well. (Tom laughs, then Daria adds:) I won't have to worry about any stage props, since all that I'll need is a single chair to spew out my bitter lines at the audience.

TOM: (Smirks:) I'll be looking forward to your acting, writing, producing, and directing debut, and I'll buy the first ticket.

Both then grew very quiet, and stared seriously at each other for a long moment. Tom then cleared his throat while looking down at Daria, and Daria turned slightly red, looking around everywhere quietly but at Tom. Tom then spoke.

TOM: Uh, tell Darren I said hello, and I wish for all of you to have a good time.

DARIA: (Regains her composure and sarcasm, smirks:) You do realize you're telling me this despite the fact that my family and the Fashion Club are coming along for the ride? It's been said that miracles are possible to those who believe, and so since I don't believe in miracles, I don't believe that I'll have a good time.

TOM: (Smiles:) Daria, you're much too hard on yourself, you know. Besides, you'll have Jane and Darren there with you, so it won't be a total loss. Make the most out of your stay.

DARIA: Hm--I guess it won't be so bad when you put it that way. (Pauses:) Um, speaking of my brother, I meant to ask you about something when you visited Darren in the hospital room, and I happened to be there at the time. Was it just me, or did you two seem to be a little cold towards each other for some reason, (adds:) or was it just my imagination? Did it have something to do with Jane?

Tom hesitated for a moment, bit his lower lip, then was about to answer, when Kevin and Brittany suddenly appeared, startling Daria and Tom, who mildly rolled their eyes as the two came up.

KEVIN: Hey, Daria! (Looks at Tom:) Uhhh--

TOM: (Sighs:) It's Tom, Kevin. That's T--

KEVIN: (Waves him off:) --I know how to spell "Tom", dude! It's uh, (looks up, long pause:) it's uh, wait, don't tell me--it's T-H-O-M, right?

(Note to reader: Blame Diane Long for the "h" thing!)

TOM: (After staring at Kevin for an instant:) Close enough.

BRITTANY: (In her "perky" voice:) Hi, Daria, Tommy!

DARIA & TOM: (Both deadpan, monotonic voice:) Hi, Kevin, Brittany. Hello.

KEVIN: Say, Daria, when'd you change your name to "DeAnne"? I think it's cool that you did! "Daria" was getting to be a boring name, anyway! (Daria sighs heavily while Tom chuckles)

BRITTANY: (Twirling a strand of hair around her finger:) Yeah! We can call you nicknames now, like, ummm, (looks up vacantly for an instant:) "Annie", or "Annette"!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Really? I was set on calling myself "defame". Perhaps something like "deface"? Maybe "destroy"?

TOM: (Gets into the act:) I was thinking "decline", no wait, "decompress", no, how about "decongestant"?

DARIA: (Smirks at Tom:) "Deduce"? "Declassify"? "Decoy"?

TOM: (Ditto to Daria:) "Decipher"? "Decriminalize"? "Declare"?

Kevin and Brittany became overwhelmed at the barrage of words directed at them from Daria and Tom, covering their ears, and closing their eyes for a moment, while shaking their heads frantically, then Kevin threw up his hand.

KEVIN: Awww, man, that's enough, okay? (Pauses:) On second thought, maybe you should keep your name just "Daria"! Right, babe?

BRITTANY: Right, Kevie! All of those nicknames would fill up my head so much, it would explode!

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Your head's so empty, Brittany, it would take a thousand supernovas of "nicknames" to "explode" it.) Okay, then, Daria it is. Now, on to business. Let me guess as to why both of you are here like the whole town to see me, my family, Jane, and the Fashion Club off. You, Kevin, want to make sure that I won't forget to tell Darren of the "invisibility secret", am I right?

KEVIN: (Nods his head eagerly:) Yeah! Man, I can't wait to get that stuff! I can be the "invisible QB" on the football field, and be invincible! I could go anywhere at anytime without anybody noticing me, and I can also look at naked gir--(Brittany frowns at him, and Kevin desperately tries to change his words, looking wide-eyed:) uh, I mean, look at naked--naked--girders! Right! Naked steel girders on my dad's construction jobs!

BRITTANY: (Not fooled for an instant:) Ooooh! You--you--PERVERT! (Smacks Kevin as Tom winces a bit, and Daria maintains her "expressionless expression". Brittany storms away, and Kevin races after her to back from where they came, begging for forgiveness)

TOM: (Thought v.o. as he and Daria watching the two leave: Now that brought back a rather nasty memory.:) (Sarcastic, shakes his head slowly:) There goes the perfect couple--

DARIA: (Ditto:) --Perfectly idiotic, you mean. (Tom laughs) Now, I remember asking a question about you and Darren--

The very next instant, Ms. Li appeared (dressed in what she wore in "Mart of Darkness"), in an estactic mood. Daria sighed slowly, wondering privately when the asinine rogue's gallery of characters would end, probably only after the jet would be in the air, whenever that would happen. Getting away from Lawndale soon wouldn't be "soon" enough in her opinion--other than the fact that Tom would still be here. Wait a second. Did I just think of Tom in that manner? She stole a quick glance at him, and he gave her a sympathetic look as Ms. Li spoke.

MS. LI: (Gives a quick glance at Tom, but ignores him:) Daaaaaria, I'm sooo glad I caught you before yooou and your family left us.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) If you throw me back into the water, I'll consider granting you a wish.

MS. LI: (Perplexed frown for a moment:) What? Oh, never mind. Now, I'd like to speak to you for a moment about your brother--

DARIA: (Smirks:) --Trying to get my bro to "donate" something to the school? (Ms. Li rolls her eyes) Need a new watchtower and searchlights to go along with that soon-to-be built barbed-wire electric fence that'll eventually surround our beloved Laaaawndale High, perhaps? (Tom chuckles)

MS. LI: (Indignant scowl:) Ms. Morgendorffer, that fence is not electric! (Pauses:) Anyway, this isn't about that! I'd like to ask you to speak to your brother about visiting our school when it's in session the next time he comes to Lawndale--

DARIA: (Interrupts her again:) --Where you can then work your cash-getting "pitch" for you--I mean, the school, unto him? (Ms. Li glares at Daria for a second) And why, pray tell, should I do something ludicrous like that?

MS. LI: (Scheming look, pauses, then:) If you do, I'll "excuse" you and Ms. Lane from any and alllll extracurricular activites for your senior year, meaning you'll both have exempt status. I will personally direct Jodie Landon to not ask either of you to do anything for Lawndale High. (Daria and Tom look slightly surprised) It will be the thing you've always wanted most from our school, am I correct? To be left alone?

DARIA: (After staring hard at Ms. Li for a moment:) You've really pulled out all the stops, haven't you? (Ms. Li quickly nods) It's certainly a tempting offer, (pauses, gets sarcastic:) but, gee, you know, I'm starting to find myself opening up to the world, now, becoming more receptive to people, and such. I don't know if I want to go back into my "shell", and it's not fair to the other students who have to (finger quote:) "volunteer" for your "activities". (Ms. Li's eyes grow large in shock) Besides, I can't speak for Jane, though I'm guessing she might want to come out of her "shell" like me, too. (Tom grins, steps back to watch, crosses his arms, amused by what's going on, while Ms. Li continues)

MS. LI: (Sounding slightly desperate:) Ms. Morgendorffer, I ask you this because our district school system is suffering from further budget cuts! I--er, we need the cash! (Narrows eyes, looks off:) I'd ask your mother, but as you well know, she and I aren't on the best of speaking terms, and outside of her, you're the only other person in your family that I can rely on to talk to your brother about a donation! Yooou have that capability!

(Note to reader: The hostility between Helen and Ms. Li started in "The Daria Hunter", and was on again in "Just Add Water")

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I should be flattered by all of this praise you're giving me, I really should be. (Pauses for effect:) I should, but for some reason, I'm not. (Shrugs:) Oh, I feel so awful about that.

Ms. Li clenched her teeth in frustration, slowly shut her eyes, and sighed loudly to herself. Daria gave a quick smirk to Tom, who gave a curt nod of his head in approval to Daria, smirking himself, and put a "thumb's up" to her out of Ms. Li's view. Ms. Li then spoke in a low, quiet, tone of voice, almost in a dangerous manner, which made Daria narrow her eyes slightly, prepared for an expected subliminal threat of some sort.

MS. LI: Then I have noooo other choice but to do this, Ms. Morgendorffer. Keep in mind that you only have yourself to blame for the connnsequences. (Looks quickly around, sees no one for the moment, suddenly gets down on her knees, squints her eyes tight, and clasps her hands, shocking Daria and Tom:) Please, PLEASE, reconsider, Daaaaria! I'm begging you for the good of Laaaawndale High! I adjure by all that is holy to talk to your brother! I'll do anything, I tell you, anything!

DARIA: (Glances at Tom, stunned, and vice versa, thought v.o.: Crap, of all the rotten, lowdown things she'd do to get to me, this is by far and away the lowest! Oh no you don't, conscience, you're not gonna torment me like this! I've got Ms. Li right where I want her, and she needs me, and--and--ah, hell...) (Sighs:) Ms. Li, get up, okay? Your pathetic begging has gotten to me. Let's talk. (Ms. Li stops immediately, opens up one eye in hope at Daria and slowly gets up, while Tom gives a little smile, which makes Daria give him a mock-glare in return)

**********

(Scene changes back to the front of the terminal)

Jake had gotten Quinn from her "admirers", and was pulling her gently by the arm towards Helen through the crowd. He had something of an urgent look on his face.

QUINN: (Annoyed tone of voice:) Da--ad! I was in the middle of signing those autographs! Why're you in such a hurry?

JAKE: (While in a hurried tone, looks around frantically:) The sooner we're outta here, sweetie, the better! We can't keep your brother waiting, now, can we? Once we get your mom and Jane, we can leave, okay? I heard from a baggage carrier before I came to get you that your sister DeAnne--I mean, Daria's already checked in, and is waiting for us near the jet Darren sent for us, and Sandi and your friends are waiting for us in the jet!

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows, gasps, shocked:) They are? Why didn't you say so? I'll go on and check in, then, okay? See you on th' jet! (Gets away from Jake, goes inside the terminal building)

**********

Mayor McChester looked worn down as Helen was still whispering "demands" on him as Jake came up through the crowd of people.

HELEN: --And that's for the Lawndale Chamber of Commerce meeting next month! Remember, I want you to make sure I have a prominent seat at the banquet, do you understand?

McCHESTER: (Sighs:) Yes, yes, ah understand, Helen--now, if there's nothin' else--(begins to leave)

HELEN: Actually, there is--(McChester moans) how about--

Jake suddenly broke through the crowd, coming up to Helen. He roughly grabbed her arm, and began to pull her towards the crowd that had surrounded Jane. Of course, Helen took a particular exception to what he was doing, looking at where he had his hands. Relieved greatly, the mayor quickly took advantage of the moment, and slipped through the crowd.

HELEN: (In a furious tone of voice:) JAKE, WHAT-IN-THE-HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE--(sees cameras whirr, softens her visage immediately, gets in a very syrupy tone of voice:) uh, oh, heh-heh, ah, what's going on, sweetie-pie, darling? (Thought v.o.: When we're out of sight of those reporters, Jake Morgendorffer...) I was just talking to the mayor, here, and (looks around:) oh dear, I seem to have lost him--

JAKE: (While still pulling her:) Honey, we gotta go, we're a runnin' late! Let's get Jane-o, take off, and leave, all right? Quinn's inside getting checked in, Daria's waiting for us near the jet, and Sandi Griffin and the others are already in the plane! (Linda, still talking to a reporter nearby, overhears this last bit of conversation, glares at her husband, who is looking up innocently, and is standing beside her) Can't we just get the hell on before we're bogged down, ("puppy dog" look:) please?

Helen always couldn't resist that "Look" from her husband. To her, it was so full of sincerity. She chuckled softly.

HELEN: All right, Jakey. We'll leave, okay? (Jake grins) Come on. (Starts to leave with him)

LINDA: (From the crowd:) Be sure to take care of my Sandi, Helen! I hold you and your family personally responsible for her welfare, do you understand that?! (Helen glares back at her while still being pushed gently ahead by Jake) Oh, and be sure to tell my future son-in-law I said hello, okay?! (As the cameras continue to whirr, Tom Griffin rolls his eyes, while a very angry Helen stops in her tracks, holds out her arms, stops Jake)

Just in front of Helen and Jake, Jane, having just about finished signing autographs nearby, had heard the same thing as Helen, and decided that enough was enough. To hell with brushing this off anymore, Jane. She frowned, absentmindingly shoved the last autograph into the chest of the man who had asked her for one, then stormed over towards Linda to give her a piece of her mind. At the same time, Andrew, Steve, and Calvin Hopkins spotted Jake, who saw them as well at the same time, and Jake panicked. The situation was getting out of hand, and even Jake knew it.

JAKE: (Wide-eyed:) GAH! (Spots ten large cops nearby who are controlling the crowd:) Uh, guys? (The cops see him) Er, those fellas (points in the direction of Andrew, Steve, and Calvin, who are coming through the crowd in his direction:) have been harassing me and my family since we got here! Is there any way you can stop 'em, and make a way for me, my wife, and Jane Lane there to be on our way?

COP: (A blonde-haired bearded one who apparently is the commanding officer:) Harassing you, you say? Sure, Mr. Morgendorffer! Me and my wife voted for your wife over that blowhard McChester, and my daughter is a fan of your daughter Quinn! Oh, and I also like that Lane girl's art stuff! We'd be delighted to help, right, guys?

OTHER COPS: Yessir! Sure! Of course! Move out, guys! (Moves with the other cops to intercept Andrew Landon and the other two, and to also make a way for Jake)

Three of the cops walked up to Andrew, Steve, and Hopkins (three others went to get Helen and Jane, while the remaining four started to clear a way through the crowd), and forcefully grabbed them, pushing them to the ground face-first and on their chests, stunning them. The reporters nearby immediately turned their cameras on the scene, while Jake gave a tiny smirk as he went into the terminal to check in. After a few hours in the "cooler", he'd call the police station from either the private jet, or possibly Darren's to say there was a "misunderstanding", and that he made a mistake, though technically he felt he was actually right for asking the police. Perhaps that would teach my "partners" not to bother me just before I go on vacation. Either way, Jake felt better about finally leaving with his family to see his son without anymore interruptions.

HOPKINS: (While struggling with his handcuffs:) What's-going-on? We didn't do anything! We just wanted to talk with Jake Morgendorffer!

COP: (Sneers while he handcuffs Hopkin's hand's behind his back:) Yeah, I'll just bet you did! We know you were trying to harass him!

STEVE: (While being handcuffed the same way as Hopkins and Andrew:) Harass him? That's preposterous! Ask Jake yourself!

COP: (Standing over Steve, grins:) We did. Why do you think we're arresting you all?

ANDREW: This is outrageous! I'm a law-abiding citizen, I tell you! (Pauses, sees Hopkins and Steve being pulled up first, frowns:) Oh, I seeee! "Get the White guys up first, then the Black guy", huh? Well, you'll get a visit from my lawyer, do you hear? (Gets pulled up)

COP: Yeah, yeah, sure. Move on. (Pulls Andrew along with the others to several waiting police cruisers)

**********

In the meantime, Jane and Helen had met each other on their way to confront Linda, and after exchanging a quick, knowing smirk, having discovered that they both had the same idea, immediately agreed to verbally lash-out big-time at her. Both were about to proceed, when several hands grabbed them, seemingly coming out from nowhere, and pulled them from Linda Griffin at the last moment. Linda was speaking yet again to another reporter about Sandi and Darren, having her back to both women, and unaware of what was transpiring behind her. Tom Griffin, though privately wanting to see his wife get her "just desserts" from both women over the bogus claims, allowed himself a very tiny sigh of relief as the police had grabbed Helen and Jane, and began clearing the crowd. There was more than enough trouble that had gone down already. Now was the time to for things to calm down, or at least Tom Griffin hoped that they would.

Helen was beyond incensed as she found herself and Jane being pulled towards the terminal. First Jake does this, and now the police. She spoke in a vicious tone.

HELEN: I demand to know just what do you think you're all doing? We haven't done anything illegal! (Adds, gives a dark look:) Do you know who I am, and what I do for a living? I can assure you, you're making a very big mistake!

JANE: (Frowns:) Yeah! What she said! (Glares at the officer beside her, looks down at her left arm he's holding:) Careful there, fella! That arm's attached to a painting and sculpturing hand--(pauses:) well, both of 'em are, actually!

COP: (Seemingly oblivious to both, smiles:) Don't worry, Mrs. Morgendorffer, Ms. Lane. We're not arresting either one of you. We're just doing what your husband asked us to do in getting you both on the plane with him and the rest of your family and friends as quickly as possible. (Gently pushes aside some people:) Please step aside, please step aside, thank you.

JANE: (Surprised:) Oh? Well, in that case, lead on, my good man! (Smirks as she waves to a fan in the excited crowd:) Boy, if Trent could see me now, he'd be envious! (Leans over to Helen, in a low voice:) It was always his dream to be escorted in by "The Man" when he became a famous musician! It would be a great irony, you understand.

HELEN: (Sighs:) Yes, I suppose it would be for your brother, wouldn't it? (Thought v.o.: First, annihilating Jake was off. Now, it's back on again--boy, is it back on again! How dare he scare us like that?)

Inside the terminal, Jake had checked in at the counter, while Quinn had just gone on ahead after she checked in as well. Helen cast a nasty glare at Jake as she and Jane came up to the counter beside him. The officers tipped their hats to the trio, and Jake thanked them for their help. He turned to his wife with the "puppy dog" look again, but Helen had turned her nose up at him, ignoring Jake, who hung his head dejectedly. Jane caught the cold scene, shuddered, and quickly turned to the woman at the counter.

JANE: Um, is everything in order, here? I'd like to go on, if that's okay with you.

WOMAN: (Pleasant smile and tone of voice:) Everything's okay here, Ms. Lane. You can go on to the jet. (Smirks:) Have a good time visiting your gorgeous boyfriend. (Jane and the others look at her, surprised for a moment, then Jane grins wickedly)

JANE: You bet your ass I will. (Looks at Helen and Jake:) See you guys on the jet. (Leaves)

JAKE: (Forces a grin:) Okay, Jane-o! We'll be right behind ya! Right, honey? (Helen continues to say nothing to him, addressing the woman at the counter instead, and Jake mutters:) Oh, crap.

**********

(Scene changes back to where Daria, Tom, and Ms. Li are, in the corridor)

Daria had just finished talking to Ms. Li, when Quinn came up.

QUINN: Daria, hurry up, and get ready to go, because mom and--(sees Ms. Li:) oh, um, hi, Ms. Li.

MS. LI: Hellooo, Quinn.

TOM: (Begins to pat and look himself over, faux concerned:) Daria, I think that "invisibility secret" Kevin Thompson wants from your brother has spilled onto me somehow. First, your high-school principal doesn't see me, then your sister. (Daria gives a small smile while Ms. Li scowls at him for an instant)

QUINN: Huh? Oh, sorry, Tom. Hi. See you on the plane, okay, Daria? (Leaves quickly)

DARIA: Okay, see you, Quinn. (Calls after her:) Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, sis--prepare yourself for an interesting surprise from your Fashion Club president!

QUINN: (Stops, looks back, slightly alarmed:) What do you mean, Daria? (Gasps:) Sandi's--Sandi's not dressed cuter than I am, is she?

DARIA: (Smirks:) That depends. If you're a regular client of a particular bordello, I'd say so. (Tom and Ms. Li look at her, shocked) See for yourself. (Quinn frowns at Daria for a second, perplexed, then leaves) That'll get Quinn's dandruff up.

TOM: Do I want to even know what that was all about, Daria? (Ms. Li nods in agreement)

DARIA: It's best if you put it out of your mind, Tom--(adds:) waaay out of your mind. (Changes tone:) Well, Ms. Li, that's my offer if you want to talk to my brother. Take it or leave it.

MS. LI: (After a long moment:) Yoooou drive a haaaard bargain, Ms. Morgendorffer, but I'll take it. When will I hear from you on this?

DARIA: After I talk to Jane and my brother, and I come back from vacation.

MS. LI: (Sighs:) Very well, then. Have a good trip. Goodbye. (Looks at Tom, holds out her hand, which he takes and shakes:) Goodbye to you as well, er--

TOM: Tom--Tom Sloane. Just "Tom" will do, thank you. (Ms. Li gives him a strange look, then leaves)

(Note to reader: Tom's last name was finally revealed in the movie "Is It Fall Yet?", which, ironically, as I've written, did not happen in "my" universe)

DARIA: See ya.

TOM: (Watches Li leave:) She was right, you know, Daria--you do drive a hard bargain. I just hope that I never get on your bad side, (catches himself as Daria smirks:) well, at least not as bad as when we first met.

(Note to reader: See "Jane's Addition" for how Daria treated Tom when they first met)

DARIA: Don't worry--in your case, it'll be far worse, since you know who I am, now.

TOM: (Grows quiet, gets a little closer:) Actually, I don't really know you, Daria. (Daria's eyes grow very wide, her face turns slightly red) Maybe if you let me in a little--?

**********

Jane walked quickly in a minor corridor from the counter that connected to a larger corridor that would lead to the private jet that Darren had sent for them all. She wondered briefly about where'd she sit on the plane since the Fashion Club were there first. Jane smirked at the thought, more than likely guessing that Quinn, Sandi Griffin, and her cohorts would be at the front, probably thinking that the private jet was like a commercial one, with first and second-class seats, and only the "best" passengers would sit at the front. If that's what they want to think, fine. If the plane went down on the way up to Darren's, they'd go first, Lane. As she walked to the end of the minor corridor, rounding the corner, she suddenly saw Daria and Tom standing very close to each other, looking in each other's eyes. Jane stopped, somewhat taken aback. Both were looking at each other so intently, that they had not noticed her. Jane hesitated, then slowly backed around the corner, all the while thinking.

Uh-huh. No doubt about it, now. Those two are into each other. Jane thought about the Pizza King several days earlier, when she had come into the restaurant after a tiring day of painting, and found Daria and Tom conversing in a booth. The looks on their faces when they saw Jane coming in were of guilt, at least to Jane it was, the same for that time at the hospital waiting area that night when Darren was fighting for his life, and Tom had given Daria his jacket to keep her from freezing in the hospital's air-conditioned air. Jane didn't think about it that much then for obvious reasons, but it was clear something was going on when she thought about it later while painting. Jane snorted to herself over her behavior when she accused Daria of going after Tom that time when Daria stayed over at the Lane's after Daria's house had fire damage--and she felt she was right to be suspicious, even though Daria, and perhaps Tom himself, didn't know that they were attracted to each other. The hair-dyeing incident a week later was obviously Jane's fault, and Jane knew it. Jane privately berated herself. How could she have even thought of accusing Daria of deliberately messing up her hair like that to make her look bad in front of Tom, especially since Jane was the one who coerced Daria into doing it in the first place? In reality, Jane had felt threatened by her "Partner-In-Crime" for Tom's affections, thinking that a "tiger-style" hair color would "keep" Tom from Daria.

But then, like when she heard the intelligent, and to her, rather jovial conversations Daria and Tom had had in her home when Daria stayed over, Jane felt she was justified in asking Daria point-blank about whether or not Daria was attracted to Tom then. For the briefest instant Jane wondered if Daria had denied it because she didn't know how to handle her blossoming feelings for Tom, having no experience with romantic relationships, and afraid she'd lose her best friend. Jane sighed--at the time, she thought she'd lose not only Daria, but Tom, too.

Jane then frowned to herself for an instant, perplexed. She and Tom did get back together following the hair-dyeing incident following a very long talk, and both agreeing to "try it one more time". Nothing more had happened, save for a few, small, petty arguments, until Tom had laughed at her painting of him in front of Daria in Jane's room a few weeks later, right after school had ended, and both had started to argue again, in front of Daria of all people--just before Jane left on that first vacation with her mom to Arizona. But then, Daria had tried to help both of them get back together, giving Tom the phone number out at the reservation, and vice-versa. It was then that Daria's thought-of-dead big brother Darren had come into the picture, saving Jane's life from that sinkhole the same morning Jane had returned, which led up to the kiss later that night at the Zen, which Tom and Daria witnessed. This facilitated Jane and Tom's break-up. The rest, as they say, was history. Tom and Daria had apparently and rapidly become an item, just as she and Darren were.

Jane should've been happy for Daria and Tom, but something seemed to nag at her for some reason, and she couldn't quite put her finger on it, but it was as if Jane thought she was missing something concerning Daria and Tom. Should she speak to either one about that "talk"? Maybe I'll speak to Daria about it later. She slowly took a quick peek around the corner to see if anything had happened between the two. Jane's eyes widened, and her mouth dropped in shock. Something was "happening", all right.

Daria and Tom were kissing each other. It was a light, somewhat reluctant kiss, but a kiss, nevertheless. Jane quickly went back around the corner, sweating, and her heart was beating like a jackhammer. She looked up at the ceiling, stunned. Yep, nooo doubt about it now, Lane. Those two are an item. Jane slowly looked around the corner again at the two, carefully concealing herself, and listening intently.

(Note to reader: As I've written, the fire and hair-dyeing incidents happened in the episodes "Fire!", and "Dye! Dye! My Darling", but with a slight twist, which I'll address later in the fic, and which you the reader should have just read a part of that twist!)

Daria quickly pulled back from Tom, red-faced, wide-eyed, and stunned. Tom looked a little red, but he clearly appeared to be far more confident of the moment, giving a small, contented, smile.

DARIA: I can't believe I just did that. What in the hell was I thinking?

TOM: That you wanted to kiss me? I know I was thinking that, and we did. (Pauses, hesitates:) Do you regret that we just did, Daria? I know I don't. (Jane smirks at this)

DARIA: (Very long pause, looks down:) I--no, I don't, Tom, but still, I feel kind of guilty as hell. Yeah, Jane's with my brother, and it shouldn't matter now, but after what almost happened after that night I came from her house, I think we should tell her what really went down, and why--(Tom rolls his eyes, while Jane cocks an intrigued eyebrow)

TOM: --Daria, we didn't do anything that night, remember? We just talked! I admit I wanted something to happen between us, but you didn't let anything happen, (pauses:) and now when I think about it, I'm glad you didn't! (Daria stares at Tom with a slight frown, while Jane narrows her eyes) No, I didn't mean it that way, okay? What I'm saying is, is that you cared too much to do anything to hurt Jane, like I eventually did! I thought about what almost happened, and what the consequences could've been if we had done it! (Jane's eyes get very wide now) But-we-didn't! Why worry her about nothing?

DARIA: (Frowns:) What do you mean, "nothing"? Damn it, Tom, I can't lie to her! I want to clear my conscience! (Jane frowns, perplexed, while Daria adds, eyes narrow:) Why don't you want to tell her, Tom? What are you afraid of?

TOM: (Sighs:) Daria, I'm not afraid of telling Jane, really. I just don't want to bring up any old memories, that's all. If you want me--us to tell her, then okay, we will. I'm sorry for trying to keep this a secret. It must be tearing you up inside. (Daria gets a relieved smile on her face, while Jane ponders what's up)

DARIA: Thanks, Tom, and it is. Look, I think Jane will understand after I tell her, and she won't hold it against either of us. Like you said, she's with Darren now. It's just not my nature to hide anything from her, even when I felt something for you all of this time, and I was in--(pauses:) denial. (Jane slowly nods knowingly)

TOM: (Quietly:) Yeah, I guess. (Changes tone:) Okay, now what?

DARIA: Well, I guess we find Jane, and--

Jane found herself startled by a sudden loud commotion behind her. She turned around, moving herself into the corridor where the sound was. Apparently, the sound was loud enough to also stop the conversation between Daria and Tom, for both looked at the source of the noise that came from Jane's direction. Of course, Jane wasn't there for them to see her.

Jane saw Helen and Jake coming towards her, with a frowning Helen stomping, moving with lightning speed. Jake was pleading to her to listen as to why he had asked the police to "escort" her and Jane, but Helen was having none of it. After taking a quick look behind her for Daria and Tom, Jane deliberately walked towards them.

JANE: (Little wave, sheepish:) Uh, hi, guys.

HELEN: (Surprised look:) Jane? What are you still doing here? Why aren't you on the jet with Daria and the others?

JANE: (Quickly looks around, gets an answer:) Um, I had to use the restroom before I got on the plane. You know, nature calls, and stuff. (Uneasy laugh)

Daria and Tom came around the corner and saw them. Jane looked at them with Helen and Jake. Daria immediately narrowed her eyes at Jane's uneasy look. Oh God, Jane knows. Tom slipped Daria a quick glance, then walked up to Jane, Helen and Jake, smiling.

TOM: Hi, everybody. Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer.

HELEN & JAKE: Hello, Tom! Hi ya, Big Guy! (Jake shakes Tom's hand, makes Tom slightly wince. Daria smirks, while Jane chuckles)

JANE: (Slight smirk:) Yo, Tom--did you enjoy the carnival sideshow outside?

TOM: (Smirks back:) Barely. I decided to bypass the sights and the sounds of the barkers and the popcorn, cotton candy, candied apples, and hot dogs. I was looking so forward to the rides. (Everyone chuckles) Anyway, I just wanted you all to have a good time, and to say hello to Darren for me.

HELEN: We will, Tom, and thank you for coming to see us off. (Daria turns a slight shade of red, while Jane tries not to laugh. Daria gives her a quick mock-glare)

JAKE: Yeah!

TOM: You're welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer. (Takes a deep breath:) Well, I'd better get going. I have to pick up my sister Elsie from her friend's house. (Adds, glances between Daria and Jane:) Uh, Daria, (ahem) about that talk with Jane--? (Jane gives a faux surprised look that says, "What?", while Daria rolls her eyes, and Helen and Jake look slightly confused)

DARIA: It's okay, Tom--I'll do it. (Cocks an eyebrow at Jane:) I have a feeling Jane knows something about it, anyway. (Tom sneaks a glance at Jane, who gives a tiny smirk to Tom, and Tom slightly looks pale, eyes grow wide)

HELEN: (Looks between Daria, Jane, and Tom, frowns, perplexed:) "Talk with Jane?" What "talk"?

DARIA: Um, it's nothing, Mom, just some minor teen-aged dribble.

JANE: (Gets into the "act", casual shrug:) Yeah, Mrs. Morgendorffer, I think I know what Daria wants to talk to me about. She's right--it's just something minor. No biggie.

JAKE: (Looks at his watch, eyes grow big, before Helen can say anything more:) Hey, we gotta go, everybody! The sooner we're gone, the better! Race ya to the jet! (Rushes past Helen and the others)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Dad's right, Mom. I'll feel much better when we're on our way to see Darren. The moment I see the soon-to-be-tiny speck of Lawndale beneath us, the better I'll feel. My only regret in leaving is that I wish I had a missile to fire at the town while we're up in the air. See ya, Tom. (Follows Jake)

TOM: (Ever-so-slight sounding sad tone, waves:) 'Bye again, Daria--(quickly adds:) uh, Jane, Mrs. Morgendorffer.

JANE & HELEN: Hasta lavista! Goodbye, Tom! (Both follow Daria)

As she was leaving, Daria sneaked a quick glance and Mona Lisa smile back towards Tom, who gave an equally quick smile in return. Jane noticed the exchange, and snickered to herself. Helen, suspecting something was amiss, had her suspicions confirmed as she too, caught what happened, then looked over at Jane, who tried to portray an "innocent" look. Helen slowly smirked in realization. It's about time those two got together. She decided not to say anything more about this "talk" between Daria and Jane, which she now suspected had to do something with Tom. Helen surmised that her middle daughter would eventually speak to her about it.

Daria slowed down and came beside Jane, while allowing Helen to go on ahead. Jane gave a wry smile to Daria, who mock-glared at her. Daria chimed in.

DARIA: (In a low voice:) Okay, Jane--what did you hear and see? (Adds:) As if I don't know already--?

JANE: (Ditto:) You mean, besides my witnessing the lip-locking sequence you two shared? (Daria turns red) Well, I also heard something about what you and Thomas didn't do one night you came from my house. When did this occur, and why didn't you say something about whatever it was to me then?

DARIA: (Hesitates:) Well, uh, it was a delicate thing at the time, Jane. I'll tell you after we're settled in at my brother's place. It's too much to go into right now, and it's a private thing.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Private, eh? Do tell. This should be an interesting talk, then.

DARIA: (Sighs:) You don't know the half of it. I also never got the chance to ask a follow-up question about what was up with the way Tom and Darren had behaved towards each other while Tom visited him in the hospital. (Jane cocks an eyebrow) Maybe I can inquire about that with Darren. (Adds:) Oh, and lest I forget, Ms. Li came by to make me an offer I couldn't refuse about getting Darren to give her, or rather, the school, a much-needed cash-infusion. (Jane chuckles) I'll fill you in on that while we're on the jet. (Changes tone, gets serious:) And Jane--I want to inform you to brace yourself about what I witnessed concerning our "esteemed" Sandi Griffin--(Jane narrows her eyes, listening intently)

**********

(Scene is on the jet plane)

Quinn and the rest of the Fashion Club members sat in the rear of the jet, chatting, and strapped in. The seats they were in consisted of tan leather upholstery, and were placed two on each side of a small, white table, the only four-seat configuration on the jet. The other seats, similar in look and style, were of one seat that was on each side of even smaller tables (two-seat configurations), and were located on both sides of the spacious cabin, a type of off-white in color, and was lined with ten windows on both sides, which allowed natural light to fill the cabin. The jet could comfortably seat ten people in capacity. A small curtain-hidden galley and entertainment center was located near the front of the jet, with a lavatory in the rear. The storage for the passenger's luggage was beyond the lavatory further back.

Quinn was trying to absorb the excited conversation, led primarily by Stacy of all people, who was telling everyone about what she wanted to do while at the Appleton mansion and in New York City. Tiffany was nodding and smiling in agreement, while Sandi had tried to seem like she was listening to Stacy, occasionally "weighing in" on her own opinions concerning what the club was going to do and wear while being there, but once again, Sandi had been mostly quiet, leaving Quinn and the others to dominate the talk. In fact, Sandi seemed to be mostly preoccupied by the book she had pulled out from her purse-bag, reading it intensely on the table. Quinn couldn't see what type of book Sandi was reading, other than it wasn't Waif magazine, and it had plenty of words, and few pictures.

Of course, Quinn immediately saw what her sister had meant by Sandi's "interesting surprise" when she first laid eyes on what outfit Sandi had worn when Quinn came onto the jet. Sandi quickly had pointed out to the inquiring other FC members that it was a Gicadi exclusive, not that Quinn didn't already know that, of course, but it was a provacatively-designed Gicadi, one of the Italian designer's more controversial creations, and it was sure to anger Jane when she saw it. It had raised Quinn's ire, too, more out of why Sandi had worn it, as opposed to Quinn herself wanting one like it. Did Sandi really think she could seduce Darren with that look? Not only that, but it looked as if Sandi had changed her mind about going after Darren now, which had confused Quinn about Sandi's motives. Didn't what happened in that warehouse that night have any meaning to Sandi? Was I wrong about her? Quinn had wanted to ask Sandi why Sandi would get such an outfit, but Stacy and Tiffany were right there. Quinn decided to wait until later to ask her about the outfit--unless Jane or Daria, or possibly even her mother asked about it first. Quinn gave a deep sigh as Stacy finished her talking.

STACY: (Squeals:) --It's gonna be a blast! What do you think, Sandi? (Sandi continues to read the book, the rest of the Fashion Club look at each other) Um, Sandi--?

After a moment, Sandi looked up at Stacy with deep frown on her face, annoyed.

SANDI: Staaaacy! I'm like, trying to read this book, okay? (Stacy cowers slightly) You've made me lose my place, an' I'll have to start reading this section all over again!

STACY: (Falls all over herself:) Eep! I'm sorry, Sandi, forgive me! (Quinn rolls her eyes, while Tiffany stares at Sandi with her vacant look)

SANDI: (Looks back into the book:) Hmmph!

TIFFANY: Sandi, what book... is that? It doesn't look...like Waif magazine.

SANDI: (Haughtily, looks up from the book:) If you must know, Tiffany, it's a book on the fashion-design field. (Quinn cocks an eyebrow) Unlike all of you, I'm going to be prepared to ask some questions of my own to Ms. Gunwald if she's able to interview us.

TIFFANY: Oh yeah...questions.

QUINN: (Ponders:) Hmm--I hadn't thought about that, Sandi. Maybe we should kinda be prepared. (Sandi looks at Quinn for an instant, surprised like yesterday at Quinn's agreeing with her, gives a curt nod)

STACY: (Wide-eyed, gasps, puts her hands to both sides of her head:) Oh, no! You're right, Sandi! I should've been ready for that! (Puts her head in her hands, elbows on the table, begins to cry:) Oh, God! What am I going to do?! I'm doomed!(Sandi and Quinn sigh, exasperated, while Tiffany continues her vacant stare, this time at Stacy)

SANDI: (Rolls her eyes:) God, Stacy, like, calm down, or something or another! We've still got a few days until we meet Ms. Gunwald! I'll let you borrow my book, and you can read it!

STACY: (Delighted:) I can?! Oh, thank you, Sandi! You're the best!

SANDI: (Looks back into her book:) Yeah, right, whatever.

Jake rushed up on the jet, out of breath. The FC members looked at him, with Quinn giving an "Oh God, he's gonna embarass me" look on her face. True to Quinn's fears, her father didn't disappoint her as he spoke in a rage.

JAKE: GAH! Ithoughtwe'dnevergetoutofthatdamnterminal! (Frowns:) Those bastards! I try to get the hell out of Lawndale, and this crap happens! It reminded me of my Old Man, and how he kept holding me back from my potential, and--

QUINN: (Red-faced, glances uneasily at the other FC members:) DA--AAD! Uh, can't we just like, relax? I mean, we're leaving now, right?

JAKE: (After a moment, grins:) Awww--you're right, sweetie-poooo! (Quinn winces, buries her head in her hands, while Stacy and Tiffany chuckle at the "cute" remark while looking at Quinn, but Sandi has gone back to reading her book. Jake then looks around, awed:) Wha-ho! This is some fancy jet, huh, girls? (Looks at the entertainment center:) Hey, is that a tv and vcr?

Before Quinn or the others could say anything, Helen (who still had her bag), Daria (who, along with her newspaper, had her book she had taken out from her duffel bag), and Jane (who had her anger) entered into the plane, and a smiling man from the front of the jet came in at the same time as well. He had silver hair and a mustache that matched it, and he was dressed in a pilot's uniform. He spoke in a calm, friendly tone as he shook each of their hands. Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy watched them, while Sandi still continued to read her book. The door to the plane suddenly shut behind them, slightly startling Daria and Jane.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) "Abandon hope, all ye that enter". It's far too late for anyone to escape now. (Jane chuckles, while Helen gives Daria a quick glare)

PILOT: Hello, I'm your pilot, Captain Covello. My co-pilot's name is Kem, spelled K-E-M, and she's up front going over the final flight checks. Welcome aboard. Since you're all here now, we can take off.

JANE: (Mutters under her breath in a very low tone while scowling at Sandi and what she's wearing:) I know I'm wanting to "take off" on somebody--their head, that is. (Cuts her eyes over:) Can you guess who, Daria?

DARIA: (Looks up, faux deep thinking, then looks around:) Hmmm--let's see--gee, it could be anyone around here, Jane, old girl. Other than me and you, no one else riding in this plane has anything in their head worth taking off. (Jane snorts) Wait, check that. We'll need the pilots to fly us up to Darren's, so an exception will be made in their case. What do you think we should use as a weapon to commence the removal of the cranial structures from the bodies of our companions?

JANE: How about your tactful dry wit, amiga? That's enough to blow anyone's mind and head off. (Daria smirks)

HELEN: Hello, Captain Covello. I'm Helen Morgendorffer, and this is my husband, (glares at him:) Jake Morgendorffer, my daughter Daria, and my son's girlfriend, Jane Lane. (At this, Sandi looks up, and sees an angry Jane frowning at her. Much to Jane's, Daria's, and even Quinn's surprise, Sandi suddenly looks at Jane wide-eyed and sheepish, then quickly goes back into her book)

JANE: (Leans over to Daria, low voice:) What in the hell what that all about? One would think that Sandi just looked embarassed, or something. (Adds:) Of course, I guess I'd be embarassed if I wore something as slutty-looking as that, too!

DARIA: (Ditto, assuring voice:) Sandi's grasping at straws, Jane, and that's it, remember that. Right now, try to ignore her, and concentrate on seeing Darren again.

JANE: (Sits down at one of the tables with and across from Daria, straps herself in:) Yeah, yeah, sure. I just hope Darren can ignore her, too. (Steals another glance and frown at Sandi, who catches it, and quickly looks back into her book)

JAKE: (While he and Helen do the same thing Daria and Jane had done:) Hey, Captain! I was just telling the others that this plane is something else! It's a business one, isn't it?

CAPTAIN COVELLO: (Grins:) Yessir. It's the Dessault Falcon 2000, one of the world's finest private luxury business jets. It's passenger capacity is ten, and her flying range is up to 3,187 statute miles. The top cruise speed on her is 528 miles per hour. (Jake whistles) Now, if any of you want anything to eat or something from our galley, our stewardess Morgan, who's preparing some food in there, will get you something to eat or drink if you all want when we reach a cruising altitude. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get us ready to go. (Leaves back towards the front)

HELEN: Thank you, Captain! (Looks around:) Oh, my! Darren's really pulled out all the stops for us, hasn't he?

JAKE: (Wild grin, ditto:) He sure has, honey!

HELEN: (Frowns at Jake, remembers:) I'm not talking to you yet, Jake! How dare you have the police treat me like a common criminal by having them drag me away from Linda Griffin like that?

JAKE: (Whines:) Aw, c'mon, honey! I didn't mean--

HELEN: (Pulls out her cell phone from her bag:) --Not now, Jake! I want to see if my phone is working yet! (Clicks it "on", listens to it, frowns:) Damn! What's the matter with this phone? I wonder if the battery is dead? (Jake turns pale) Surely the cell phone company's service still can't be out? (Flips over the phone, removes the battery cover:) The hell?

JAKE: (Sheepish chuckle:) Um, er, honey? About the battery--? (Helen scowls at him) Heh--a funny thing happened late last night after you all went to bed...

Jane continued to scowl at Sandi while Daria had pulled out the book Little Big Man, and had started to read it again.

JANE: (Wicked smirk:) I wonder what Sandi's flying range is, amiga? Perhaps I can find out after I take my fist and give her a mighty uppercut to her jaw? (Daria cocks a concerned eyebrow at Jane, puts down her book)

DARIA: (Sighs:) You can't let this go, can you? (Jane reluctantly shakes her head no) Then I suppose there's only one thing left for you to do, and to insure my reading this book in peace. (Pauses:) Go over to Sandi after we're safely in the air, call her bluff,and demand to know what's going the hell on.

JANE: (Stares at Daria for an instant:) Saaaaay, that might just work, Daria! I think I'll do that!

DARIA: (Sarcastic, smirks:) I'm so happy that you've reached this conclusion on your own, Jane. Now, if you don't mind, I'll lose myself in this book, and you can hopefully lose your worrying after you've spoken to Sandi--

JANE: --Or Sandi will lose her life, whichever comes first. (Daria rolls her eyes, goes back into her book)

The plane began to move. Tiffany looked over to Sandi, and spoke.

TIFFANY: Sandi, I hope you won't... get too scared...and throw up...while we're in...the air because...flying can be fun.

SANDI: (Looks up from her book, cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) Tiiiiffany, what are you talking about? (Quinn and Stacy look at each other, then at the ceiling innocently)

CAPT. COVELLO: (Over the intercom:) Attention, everyone. We've been cleared to take off. Please make sure that your seatbelts are fastened. Estimated time of arrival at the Maness, New York airport is one hour and twenty minutes. Thank you, and enjoy the flight.

JANE: (Narrows her eyes at Sandi, mutters:) Not bloody likely, bub. (Daria glances up from her book at Jane, now becoming slightly concerned at Jane's bitter tone)

The jet rolled unto the runway, then began to gather speed, and lifted up into the air, soon melting into the bright morning sky.

Go to Chapter 3