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Chapter 4-"New" Revelations

(Scene is in the family room)

Millie was about to speak as Daria, Jane, and Darren came in beside Curtis, who was now leaning back against a wall just inside the doorway with his arms crossed. Millie stood in front of a large fireplace flanked by huge, arched windows on both sides that stretched almost the entire height and length of the walls, and showed some of the outside grounds and woods of the Appleton estate, especially a spectacular view of the lake that the mansion overlooked. Above the fireplace was a portrait painting of a standing Arthur Appleton behind a sitting Lucille Appleton. The Fashion Club and Curtis' sisters sat on a large sofa that curved around the left corner of the room. Helen and Jake sat on another sofa, abeit far smaller, opposite of them. Edward stood off slightly to the right side of Millie, with his arms crossed. Jane cocked an appreciative eyebrow at the painting, and looked sideways and up at Darren with a slight smirk.

JANE: (Slight motion of her head, impressed whisper:) Whoa. That your's?

DARREN: (Quiet tone, slightly red-faced, in the same tone as Jane:) Well, uh, yes--

CURTIS: (Quiet chuckle, buts in, whispers, mocks:) --It sure is, Jane! Darren's just really timid about showing off his work! (Elbows him gently while Jane and Daria glance at each other curiously:) Go on, tell them you did it, you shy dog, you. (Darren rolls his eyes at Curtis while Daria and Jane smirk, and Millie begins)

MILLIE: The Appleton mansion was designed by a French architect named Leon Duvier for the original owners, the Keel family, who were in the construction industry, having acquired their wealth from the designing and building of many homes and businesses in the Northeastern United States. Grayford Keel took a trip to Paris in 1890, to study various French architectural structures, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon, the Church of the Madeleine, the Bourse, and the Opera House. While staying at the residence of a friend there, he became fasinated by the design of the mansion he was living in, and decided to build one of similar design for his family. He decided to choose Duvier because Keel himself was unfamiliar with the French design, but did provide the materials and money needed to build it per Duvier's specifications. Originally, the mansion, which had taken two years to be built, and finished in 1899, had been about 5,000 square feet, and was surrounded by 8,000 square acres of land, which over the years was donated by the Appleton family to the state of New York in small phases for park and recreational uses to the nearby town of Maness. In 1943, the Keels, through the then-recently widowed Edna Keel, sold the entire estate for $1,000,000 to my father, Darren's grandfather, Richard Appleton, and his wife, Sylvia, who had lived on Long Island. Richard Appleton wanted to get away from the increasingly crowded island, and after searching, found the old Keel estate perfect for he and his family, primarily because of its isolated location, but also because it was located in proximity to New York City, and our business. Now, we'll begin the tour, starting on the first floor. Please stay together. (Everyone follows Millie, with Daria, Jane, Darren, and Curtis bringing up the rear)

The group went down via the hallway a short ways from the family room into a small, low-lighted, wood wall-paneled open carpeted room that branched out from the hallway. Beyond the room, beside a medium, bar-style counter that contained a glass display of candy in the front of it, was another hallway located on the right side that was partially-covered by a red curtain. Above the counter, on a wall, was a lighted menu of various items of food and drink, such as hot dogs, ice cream, and deli sandwiches. Behind the counter was a soda fountain and an old-style popcorn-making machine. Lining the walls on all sides were framed, lighted old posters of famous movies. Immediately, Daria and Jane recognized what the room was and where the curtain-covered hallway must lead to, the same for everyone else (even Tiffany).

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Over the years, the Appleton estate has gone through numerous expansions, with the most recent being in 1995, when our home theatre was added. As you all can obviously see, it's a small duplicate of an actual old movie theatre, with a huge HDTV just added to our screening room, which also has stadium seating for up to 20 guests, a food concession lobby area, which you're standing in, (motions to the left to two doors with the "men" and "women" symbols on them:) and even separate mini-restrooms. You'd actually think you were in a real movie theatre! We have over 5000 movies of all types of genres on CD, DVD, and VHS we can use from our video library, which is located between and connected to our media room beside here, including the most up-to-date movies every month. It's been rumored that we have the best crop of videos in the area, even better than the local video stores. (Helen and Jake look awed, while Quinn and Stacy look around and giggle with delight, and Tiffany smiles slowly in a vacant way, doing the same. Sandi cocks an cool, impressed eyebrow, and Juanita and Laflita appear bored, having seen all of this before, obviously.) When you've all settled in, you can come back here, if you wish, to watch any movies of your choosing, or at any other time. Now, please follow me. (To which the others do)

(Note to reader: HDTV means high-definition television, the next generation of visual entertainment. It consists of a large rectangular screen, unlike conventional TV, which is on a square screen, and shows very clear pictures, so clear that one could almost reach in and seemingly touch the figures on the screen.)

DARIA: (Deadpan tone while walking, whispers:) Hooray. Now I can jump around and make as much noise as I want to during the movie, and not worry about being kicked out by the usher. (Pauses:) Maybe I should also walk in suddenly one day and yell "Fire!" in the middle of a movie, provided that Quinn and her friends are happening to be watching one, of course, and entertain myself at observing them all trying to get out in a panic. I can see it now--Quinn screams, (in a Quinn-type of voice:) "Me first, Sandi!", while Sandi screams, (in a Sandi-type of voice:) "No, me, Quh--inn! The president always goes first!" The fists fly, and the mascara runs along with the blood. (Smirks wickedly:) Prepare for my expected chaos, everyone. (Jane, Darren, and Curtis chuckle)

JANE: (Whispers, wicked smirk:) And Darren and I can make out while the movie plays.

DARREN: (Grins, same tone:) Sure, just not while any of the Star Wars trilogy is on. They rank among my favorite movies, save for the classic ones. (Jane mock pouts, crosses her arms)

DARIA: (Still whispering:) Oh? What classic movies do you watch, Darren?

DARREN: Well, movies like Citizen Kane, Spartacus, Ben Hur, Gaslight, Double Idemnity, Stagecoach, The Manchurian Candidate--

JANE: (Brightens up:) --You got Friday the 13th, all parts, Halloween, ditto, and I Know What You Did Last Summer? (Darren nods while smirking, and Jane gets a really big grin)

CURTIS: You like those types of movies, too, eh? (Jane nods) Jane's a woman after my own heart, Darren.

DARREN: Based on the movies Jane likes, you'd better hope that she won't literally do just that, Curtis.

JANE: (Smirks:) Don't worry, Curtis, I don't know you well enough to try that--yet. (Curtis laughs as Jane adds) Besides, I'd go for the liver myself. It's quite tasty with gravy and onions. (Darren chuckles)

DARIA: Dr. Hannial Lecter would be proud of you, Jane. (Adds:) You do have that movie, right, Darren?

DARREN: Yes, Daria, I do have Silence of the Lambs. You guys can look at it anytime you want, (pauses:) and anticipating your next question, I do have some really awful movies as well. I made sure to order ones like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Santa Claus Meets the Martians, Squirm--.

JANE: (Smirks:) Hey, don't knock Squirm. It was a really cool movie. I got a real big kick out of seeing all those worms getting together, attacking and eating people--(hugs herself, delightful satisfaction:) gave me the goosebumps, and made me feel all tingly inside.

DARIA: Sure that wasn't heartburn from all of that pizza we ate while watching it?

JANE: I'm sure, amiga. Too much pizza would've made me feel like something else inside-- (Daria smirks and begins to add something else, but Jane cuts her off:) and don't you dare go there, girl. (Darren and Curtis chuckle)

Millie continued to lead the group throughout the mansion's first floor, including the meditation room Darren used. It was immediately "EEEWed" at by the Fashion Club, which of course immediately meant that Daria and Jane promptly liked it, though Jane tried to suggest painting a mural to touch up the place, and Darren explained to her the reasons he did not want to, much to Jane's mild consternation. Privately, with a sinister smirk, Jane promised herself that she would work on "changing" Darren's mind about painting the room, thinking about the "ways" she could do so while she was here.

Millie also pointed out the locations of the intercom systems throught the huge mansion, and the numbers beside each of the intercoms to call the staff in case they needed anything. She showed them the kitchen, the dining and living rooms, and the huge gameroom, which contained an assortment of pinball and video games, a pool table, and a two-lane bowling alley, which Quinn and the Fashion Club immediately remarked that they wouldn't use because of the damage that would be done to their nails by merely holding the balls in the holes with their fingers. Naturally, Daria and Jane made a mental note to become very fond of the bowling alley. Daria cocked an appreciative eyebrow over seeing a Cyberkron II video game, and caught her brother's grin. He had apparently ordered it especially for her. Jane smirked wickledly at the Bloodly Gore video game, her personal favorite, and ordered by Darren as well, giving a thumbs up to him.

Millie then took them all to the large indoor pool, which delighted Quinn and the Fashion Club, who decided to go there in the mid-afternoon. (Juanita and Laflita decided that they needed to "prepare" for their meeting with the Fashion Club tomorrow, and had turned down the F.C.'s invitation) Jake absentmindingly and loudly remarked about taking a midnight skinny dip with a now red-faced and clearly embarassed Helen, and making Daria and Quinn shudder in terror at the mere thought of such a scene. Jane, Darren, Curtis, Millie, and Edward laughed at their reactions. The Fashion Club and Juanita and Laflita smirked at Quinn's reaction.

The group then came to the library study, which obviously now garnered Daria's attention. Millie ever-so-slightly glanced over at Darren reluctantly, who gave a bit of an aprehensive look for a moment, then quickly nodded, as if it was alright for her to let them all in. This was not lost on Jane and Helen, but Daria didn't notice because she had moved up to the front of the group beside Millie, eager to enter (though of course, she tried not to show it, this being Daria after all). Millie opened the double doors to the study and walked in, followed closely by Daria, who walked into the middle of the large room and took a slow, panoramic view as the others filtered in behind her. Millie began to talk about the library, but Daria wasn't really listening, because she was seemingly enthralled by the sheer volume of classic books sitting on the shelves before her eyes. Jane came up beside her, and after a moment of half-wondering if her friend was petrified, waved her hand in front of Daria's face. Daria did not notice her as she continued to look at the overpowering cascade of books, to her definitively far more than what she saw in the currently-closed Lawndale Library.

There were some of the hundreds of well-known author's names on these books, such as Congreve, Bulfinch, Dumas, Austen, Wells, Hawthorne, Rousseau, Twain, Wilde, Irving, Leibniz, Stannard, and Summers. There were some of the hundreds of well-known titles on these books, such as Faust:Parts I and II, Candide, Typee, The Aeneid, Lord Jim, Ethan Frome, The Pearl, Babbitt, Hedda Gabler, The Crucible, and A Doll's House. There were books upon books on the shelves, which lined the walls of--Wait, what's this? Just the lower level? Daria then noticed the upper level of even more shelved titles that dominated the opposite wall, which was fronted by a narrow, railed platform, and could be reached only by a tall roller step ladder. She gave a slow Mona Lisa smile as she continued to take in the delightful sight of the books.

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Damnit! I'm going to barricade myself in here, and never come out again! Naturally, I'll have to get a bedroll and sleep in here, and order my food to be sent in to me. I wonder if a bathroom is connected to here? There sure are hell of enough of them around here to use. Of course, Tom will have to visit me when he comes up here, and I won't need to worry about Quinn coming in to see me, though Darren has gotten her more interested in reading some books. I've found my heaven.)

Jane shrugged after waving her hand yet again in front of Daria's transfixed face, and went back beside Darren, who looked as if he were trying to keep himself under control as he looked up and around the library, but obviously with a certain look of slight fear on his face, closing his eyes and taking in some quiet, but deep breaths, something yet again noticed by Jane and Helen, who looked across the library at each other, concerned. Curtis quietly put his hand on his friend's shoulder, patting it and reassuring him, while Jane hooked her arm with Darren's, staring up at him with a very worried look on her face. Darren suddenly looked down at Jane, shaken out of his stupor. He sighed knowingly when he caught her look as Helen came over to him from beside an awed Jake, who had wondered over to a bookshelf after pulling Edward and Millie, who had just finished her talk about the study, along with him. Jake grabbed William Golding's Lord of the Flies, grinning like an idiot, and showing an uncomfortable-looking Edward and Millie the book, turning it over and over, and opening it.

Daria caught what Jake was doing, and glared for a second, as if her dad were handling something priceless he couldn't comprehend, like a gorilla playing with a pure gold bar in the middle of a jungle--either that, or Kevin trying to understand Einstein's theory of relativity. Daria then suddenly stopped that train of thought, shocked over thinking of her father in that manner, angry with herself. It was as if she had become so intoxicated with seeing so many books, she had allowed her judgment to become clouded. She saw her mother come up to Darren and Jane, and was about to go over to them, when Quinn suddenly appeared beside her, smirking.

QUINN: (In a mocking tone, looking around:) Ooooh, look at alll of these books, Daria. Too bad you won't be able to read them. I'll bet it's just killing you, huh?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Wrong-o. You'd lose the bet, Quinn. Mom's letting me have the run of the library while we're here. (Quinn gasps in shock, mouth agape) She figures that since you can get your little "power suit" for your visit to Circa Fashions, I can have my quiet time in here, save for one trip with Darren and Jane outside of the mansion, which I think will happen when I see this "Constance Waters" woman and that "Harold Pierpoint" guy. (Pauses:) Looks as if we both got what we want, though I'm sure it's killing you that you can't have the guys to see you in that suit, and admire you in it, huh? (Sneers while Quinn frowns, and suddenly looks at her watch:) Hey, isn't it almost time for your midday nap, "Baby Quinn?" After all, you don't want to be fidgety while you're being bottle-fed for your evening supper, do you?

QUINN: (Through clenched teeth:) Oh, just be quiet, Daria, and stay out of my way while we're here, do you understand? I don't want you to embarass me in front of Nuajita and Flalita.

DARIA: That's Juanita and Laflita.

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Whatever. (Leaves to go back to the Fashion Club in a corner of the library, where Tiffany is holding Charles Dickens' book Oliver Twist upside down, and Stacy is explaining to her that the title doesn't literally mean she could twist the book around. Sandi rolls her eyes at Tiffany, slightly annoyed, with her arms crossed, while Juanita and Laflita share more uneasy looks at each other, silently relieved that they decided to not take that mid-afternoon swim with the Fashion Club.)

Daria returned her attention to her brother, who seemed to her to be about to go under a "cross-examination" by Helen and Jane. Curtis stood nearby and watched quietly, wondering if his friend was going to tell them right then and there about why he was feeling like he was. Daria went over to them, while Millie noticed the three converging on her nephew, and slipped away from Jake and Edward, who looked as if he wanted to follow her, but Millie's sudden stern look quickly took care of that. Edward whimpered and sighed miserably as Jake continued to chatter away at him over his golf game as Jake put the book he had back on the shelf.

JANE: (Quiet tone:) Okay, Darren, what's going on? Was it just me, or did you kind of look like you were terrified to come in here for some reason?

HELEN: (Ditto:) Yes, son, I saw how you looked, too. What is it?

DARREN: (Takes another quick look around, uncomfortably:) If you two don't mind, I'd like to tell you all tonight in the media room with my aunt Millie, (hesitates, then adds while glancing over at the Fashion Club, Edward, and Jake, who now are watching and hearing him:) ah, minus Quinn's friends and Edward, of course. It's something of a really private nature. (Adds quickly to the F.C. and Edward:) No offense. (The F.C. and Edward nod slowly after looking at each other, as in gradually comprehending) Thanks for understanding. (Looks back to Jane and Helen:) All will be revealed then, I promise. Right now, if you're all ready, we can go upstairs. I'm sure you'd want to freshen up in your bedrooms. Excuse me while I go and make sure everything's okay. (Leaves quickly before Helen, Jane, or Daria can say anything)

Daria, Jane, and Helen looked at each other, stunned for an instant, then at Millie.

MILLIE: (Sighs, uneasy chuckle:) I'm sorry, everyone. As you can plainly see, Darren does not feel comfortable here in the study, and before you ask, yes, it does have something to do with what's happened to him and to us in the past few months. As he has said, you'll know why tonight. Now, if you'll all follow me, I'll take you to your bedrooms. (Leaves the study, followed by everyone)

Juanita and Laflita stopped in the foyer with the Fashion Club while the rest of the group continued on. Claude came up to the group.

JUANITA: Well, we'll see you guys tomorrow. Claude, we're leaving. Could you tell our brother, please?

CLAUDE: Very good, Miss Juanita, I'll do so. (Opens the door)

LAFLITA: (To the F.C.:) Yeah, we're going to itemize our clothing. (Sneers at Juanita:) I have more clothes to do that than she does, you know.

JUANITA: (Frowns:) You do not! We have the same number of clothes, and you know it! (Smirks, adds:) Well, until last week, that is. (Laflita immediately gets a concerned look) You see, daddy bought me that cucumber slit party dress we talked about while you were staying over at Wanda's house. He got it for me from Cashman's, you know, after I sweet-talked it out of him because he considers me his favorite. (Smug tone:) I now officially have one more article of clothing than you do.

LAFLITA: (Trembling with rage while the F.C. looks at each other:) You--you--you're lying! Daddy likes me better than you!

JUANITA: (Shrugs:) Hey, ask him yourself. You don't have to take my word for it.

LAFLITA: (Now storms out of the door:) Don't worry, I will, and I won't! How dare he do that behind my back? Just wait till we get home!

QUINN: (Just before Juanita starts to leave:) Uh, Juanita? (Juanita stops) Before you go, um, do ya know what's up with why Darren behaved in that study place like that? He seemed--scared for some reason. (The rest of the F.C. nod their heads in agreement, while Claude cocks an inquisitive eyebrow) I'm only asking 'cause you guys have been around here, and stuff--

JUANITA: (After a moment:) Um, sorry, Quinn, but my sister and I haven't noticed anything wrong with Darren since he's come back. (Pauses:) Of course, we haven't been around here much, either, having just come back from our vacation in Illinois visiting our grandparents on our dad's side of the family, while our brother went to Florida to visit our grandma on our mom's side, and his girlfriend Lena. Curtis hasn't said anything to us about what's happened, other than Darren telling him how excited he was about seeing your family and Jane.

QUINN: (Looks downcast a bit:) Oh. Well, thanks, anyway.

LAFLITA: (From outside:) Hurry up and c'mon, Juanita! (Pauses:) Hi, Tina!

TINA: (Also from outside, more distant:) Hey, Laflita. (In something of a sneering tone:) Going to take it again, huh?

LAFLITA: You didn't see this, right?

TINA: See what? (Comes into the foyer and walks by the F.C., Claude, and Juanita, snickering. Laflita is heard giggling, and a door, apparently of a car, is heard being slammed)

JUANITA: (To the outside, rolls her eyes, annoyed:) I'll be there, Laflita, so shut up, okay?! You're gonna be the one driving, anyway! (Turns back to Quinn, smiles:) You're welcome. See you guys tomorrow. Enjoy the mansion! (Leaves, and Claude shuts the door behind her, while the F.C. goes to catch up with the rest of the group, and Claude leaves with a distressed look)

TIFFANY: Who was that...girl dressed in...that coat and tie?

STACY: I think she was that security person, Tiffany.

TIFFANY: I think she needs...a new outfit and...a nose job. If you're going to...protect somebody, then...you should at least...look fashionable and good,...right...?

STACY: Yeah, like Charlie's Angels! (Squeals:) Oooh, I just loved those cute 70's outfits Farrah and the others always had on! I wonder when they'll come back into style?

Quinn looked as if she were about to say something to Stacy, but decided that it wasn't worth it. She had more important things to worry about, for a change, like what, if anything, was wrong with her brother. She looked over at Sandi, and saw that she, too, looked worried.


Daria and Jane came together to converse in a low tone while following Millie up the stairs.

JANE: (Worried:) What in the hell do you think is going on, Daria? The way Darren looked, it was as if he couldn't stand to be in that study if he could help it.

DARIA: (Ditto:) I don't know, but whatever the problem is with the study, Jane, he said that he'll let us know tonight. Maybe we shouldn't pressure him to say anything about it beforehand, and let him tell us then.

CURTIS: (From behind them, which startles both Daria and Jane a bit:) That's a good idea, Daria. Darren wanted to tell you all himself, and after you hear his story, I think you'll understand why he's like he is. (Both girls look at each other)


At the same time behind Curtis, Helen, Jake, and Edward followed wordlessly. Helen couldn't keep her sudden anxieties over her son's behavior to herself anymore, for she leaned back, and spoke to an equally-worried Jake in a low voice as well. Edward said nothing, but narrowed his eyes to listen the two.

HELEN: (Worried:) Oh, my poor baby! Jake, what do you think that study and what's happened to him and to us this past month or so have to do with Darren?

JAKE: (Frowns:) Beats the hell out of me, honey, but I'll be damned if I'll let my son go through this crap all by himself! I'm gonna let him know that his dad's there for him every step of the way, yessir! (Begins to get in a raging tone, shakes, eyes turn red, makes fists:) Not like my Old Man, who constantly left me on my own, not even allowing my mommy to comfort me when he was around! He said it would make me a sissy if she did that! (Edward begins to look at Jake nervously, while Helen rolls her eyes) Yeah, you can bet your ass that I'll be--

HELEN: Jake!

JAKE: (Suddenly grins, gives thumbs up:) I'm okay, honey!

EDWARD: (After a moment:) I do hope nothing's wrong with Darren as well. Millie didn't say anything to me about him while I stayed here earlier.

HELEN: Yes, Darren mentioned between calls to us that you came in a few days after he came back here from Lawndale, and stayed for several days to comfort Millie over losing her brother. Did you notice anything different about my son's behavior?

EDWARD: Only that he stayed around the mansion while I was here, never leaving the grounds. (Adds:) Oh, yes, I also remember seeing him meet a "Mike" fellow several times, and now when I think about it, it was in the study of all places. (Helen and Jake look at each other) Millie said it was just business meetings, but now, I'm beginning to wonder what really happened in there.

JAKE: (Becoming alarmed:) OH GOD! Honey, maybe we should ask him about--

HELEN: (Scowls:) --No, Jake. We were asked by our son to wait until tonight to find out what's going on, and that's exactly what we're going to do, do you understand? (After a moment, Jake reluctantly nods his head in agreement) Good. The least we can do is respect Darren's wishes and be patient until then. (Brightens up her tone:) I wonder how our rooms will look? Darren said that we'll be staying in a luxurious master one, which shouldn't surprise us, having seen this magnificent mansion, and...

Edward formed a very deep look of thought on his face as Helen droned on, frowning. He suddenly smirked slightly, as if he came up with an idea, then quickly looked around to see if anyone had caught his expression, became satisfied when no one did, and continued up the stairs behind Helen and Jake.


Bringing up the rear, Quinn and the Fashion Club began to walk up the grand stairs. All had concerned looks on their faces about Darren, particularly Quinn and Sandi. The quartet whispered to each other in a low tone of voice like the groups in front of them previously had done.

QUINN: I--I hope whatever's bothering my bro isn't too serious, even though I (pauses, glances over at Sandi:) um, we can understand how he'd be after everything that's happened to him and us recently. Why did he kinda act strange in the study like that?

SANDI: I, uh, guess you and your family and Joan, er, Jane will find out tonight in that--where is the meeting going to take place? Oh yeah, the media room, huh, Quinn?

QUINN: (Sighs:) Yeah, I guess.

STACY: (Puts a reassuring hand on Quinn's shoulder:) I'm sure everything will be okay with your brother, Quinn.


QUINN: (Smiles:) Thanks, you guys. I was planning on saying something to him on the side, but I guess I'll just have to wait until tonight to find out what's going on, and relax. I hope it's nothing serious.

SANDI: (Nods:) That is the fashionable thing to do, Quinn. We in the Fashion Club should not allow worry lines to damage our delicate skin, and such. (Thought v.o.: I've gotta find out what's going on in that media room tonight. But how will I--wait, that's it!) (Brightens up tone:) Hey, Stacy, Tiffany, I just had an idea. While Quinn's with her family, how about we go next door to that home theater and watch a movie or two? Quinn can join us afterwards.

STACY: (Gasps:) Why, that's a great idea, Sandi! What do you think, Tiffany?

TIFFANY: I...like it. What movies...can we get?

SANDI: Oh, they'll be plenty of time to decide what to get around the pool this afternoon. Quinn, do you agree?

QUINN: (Snaps out of her worry:) Huh? Oh, yeah, sure, Sandi. I'll join you guys tonight after Darren talks to us, and stuff.

SANDI: (Smirks:) Then it's agreed. Tonight, then. I like, can't wait to see our rooms. I do hope I have one that faces the east so that the rising sun can warm and revitalize my soft skin. (Tiffany and Stacy nod in agreement)

QUINN: Don't worry, Sandi. Darren told me that our rooms are in the east wing after I let him know what we required. (Thought v.o., smirks: And to me that they're in the opposite wing of Daria's.)

The Fashion Club came behind the rest of the group, which had converged in the hallway at the top of the stairs. The hallway went in two opposite directions, presumably to the sleeping quarters in both wings. Darren was talking to Fiona and Elenor when Millie came up with the others, with Curtis going over to Darren and the two maids. Jane cocked a quick, inquisitive eyebrow when she saw how Darren and Fiona conversed. To her, Darren suddenly seemed now completely at ease, as opposed to how he looked in the library, even grinning at Fiona. Jane also saw how really attractive Fiona looked. When Jane first came with Daria's family, she didn't take much notice of the petite brunette in the courtyard, but seeing her with Darren now made her feel a little--threatened. Jane shook her head quickly, as if to get rid of that thought, and smiled at Darren, who caught her look, and returned one of his own. Jane almost found herself melting at her beau's smile, and decided to not think that sort of thought--for now.

Glancing out of the corner of her eye, Daria had noticed her friend's uneasy look at the scene with Darren and this "Fiona", but decided to say nothing for the moment, particularly around her family and Quinn's "friends". There would be plenty of time to ask Jane about what seemed to Daria to be Jane's mild insecurity over Darren later, for she had to tell Jane her story about what happened the night she came back from Jane's house the same day of the disasterous hair-dye incident, and met Tom, something that Daria felt that simply couldn't wait any longer. Millie, after a quick little talk with Edward, then with Helen and Jake, went downstairs. Edward excused himself to his room. Darren and Curtis came over with Fiona and Elenor.

DARREN: Okay, everyone. I've been informed that your rooms are ready. Helen, Jake, your room is in the east wing with Quinn, Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy. My aunt also has her room in that wing, the same for Edward. Elenor and Fiona will show you which rooms you're all staying in. Elenor, Fiona? (Both maids give a quick curtsy, leave, and are followed) Daria, Jane, you'll stay in the west wing with me. This way, please. (Turns around, and is followed by the others)

JANE: (Smirks wickedly, rubs her hands in an evil way:) Excellent! I won't have to go too far to sneak into your room at night, eh? (Darren turns red and looks slightly embarassed for a moment, while Daria smirks, and Curtis laughs)

DARREN: (Recovers quickly, smirks:) Guess I'll have to sneak into your room before you can get to mine, Jane. (Stops in front of a door:) Here's Daria's room. (Pauses:) Prepare yourselves. (Opens door, and walks in with Curtis, while Daria and Jane glance at each other for a moment with inqusitive looks, then go in as well)

The moment Daria and Jane walked in and saw Daria's room, both immediately smirked, impressed, and with good reason. The room was padded and gray in color, similar to Daria's room at home, but obviously much bigger and roomier, almost twice the size, with a hardwood floor. There was a king-sized bed flanked by endtables with lamps and a cellphone in the middle of the room, and a dresser for clothing sat on the right side of the room, with a door beside the dresser, and a picture of a skeleton's head dripping in blood, with a snake coming out of the eye sockets. An entertainment center that consisted of a 30" remote color TV, a VCR, and a CD player was located on the left side, along with a computer that sat on a desk complete with a lamptop, and another button and numbered intercom. Beside the desk was another door. The ceiling, complete with a combination large fan and light, looked as it were freshly painted with a white coat of paint. The white curtained windows and double glass doors led to a balcony that faced the rear of the mansion, and had genuine steel bars on them, full ones, not the sawed-off ones in Daria's room back in Lawndale. Daria also saw that her belongings were neatly placed beside her bed. She looked up and sideways at her brother and gave a Mona Lisa smile, while Jane whistled in awe.

JANE: Damn. You've impressed the hell out of me, Darren. This rocks. (Smirks wickedly while looking at the painting of the skeleton head:) Did you paint that, too?

DARREN: (Grins a little uneasily:) Thanks, Jane, and uh, yes, actually I did. I--(pauses:) "found" the time to paint it a few days ago. (Quickly turns to Daria:) I take it that you like your room, sis?

DARIA: Nope. I love it. It's sick. Twisted. Totally unexpected. Completely and utterly knocked me off of my damn feet. Bro, you've outdone yourself, and then some. You shouldn't have, but I'm sure as hell am damn glad that you did. (Pauses, realizes:) Um, out of curiousity, how much did you spend to do all of this?

DARREN: Point blank? Oh, about $30,000 total for all of your rooms, (chuckles:) the new padding included. (Daria turns pale in shock, along with Jane) Daria, Jane, please don't feel embarassed by the money I spent. I wanted to do that, okay? (Adds quietly:) It's the least that I could do for you all after what happened in Lawndale. (Pauses, grins:) Besides, it's only money, and I can obviously afford it. Now shut up, and enjoy it. That's an order.

DARIA & JANE: (Daria gives a small smile while Jane snaps in mock salute:) Okay. Yessir, general! (Darren and Curtis chuckle)

CURTIS: Is it true that your bedroom is really like this where you live, Daria? To be honest with you, I couldn't believe it when Darren told me that it was.

DARIA: (Looking around:) Yeah, Curtis, but it's not as cool as this one. I gotta admit, Darren, I'm overwhelmed--

JANE: And coming from the "Great Stoneface" that is one Daria Morgendorffer, that is the supreme compliment, Darren. (Daria rolls her eyes, while Darren and Curtis smirk)

DARREN: (Bows slightly, mock tone:) Thank you, my dear Jane. Ah--(goes over to door beside the dresser, opens it, and Daria and Jane look in, eyes wide open in awe:) Daria, as you can see, this is a full bathroom complete with a shower/jacuzzi. (Closes door back:) The door beside the desk across the room goes to a large walk-in closet. You can call anywhere in the mansion for the staff if you need something. (Pauses:) Any questions or comments?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Only that Brittany Taylor would be envious of the jacuzzi you have, bro. She'd kill to get that one. (Darren and Curtis frown at Daria, perplexed, while Jane grins) Remind me to tell you two what I mean later.

(Note to reader: See, of course, the episode "The Invitation" for the jacuzzi in-joke)

JANE: (Suddenly hooks her arm with Darren's:) Okay, enough about Daria's living quarters. What about your's truly? (Begins to pull him out of the room)

DARIA: (As a-matter-of-fact tone:) Oh, didn't Darren tell you, Jane? (Jane stops with Darren to listen) You'll be living in a run-down shack on the edge of the estate, which Darren spent $9.99 to build especially for you. There's a well in the front for you to wash your clothes and an outhouse in the back to take care of business. If you hurry, you might be able to catch those hillbillies Snuffy and Loweezy Smith lying around the place, bumming out. Remember to take some pots for that leaky roof. (Darren and Curtis try not to laugh, while Jane mock glares at Daria, then smirks)

JANE: Why, suuuure, pard, but only if you agree to "shack-up" there with Tom when he visits you here while you go to Eastward. (Pauses, then in a folksy Southern voice:) Orrr--maybe we can get the parson to marry you two to make it "legitimate-like". (Daria grows wide-eyed for a moment, then turns red, and Darren cocks an amused eyebrow at this, and Curtis smirks) Now, c'mon, and lemee see my room, Darren. (Pulls Darren out)

Darren gently took the lead from Jane, and went across the hall directly across from Daria's room. He opened the door, and Jane eagerly rushed in, pulling him. Daria and Curtis followed them in.

Jane's room also had a balcony, hardwood floor, padded walls, was large like Daria's room (the same size in fact), and had steel bars on the windows, again like Daria's, only that the padding was all black. The walls, however, had no pictures, save for yet another intercom. It had basically the same amenitites as Daria's room (yes, a cell-phone, computer and a desk and chair as well, and even a jacuzzi in the full bathroom, too). Jane's belongings had also been neatly stacked beside her bed. Jane took in the scene with a gigantic satisfied grin, while Daria turned her mouth in mock-disgust, and frowned slightly, something that Darren noticed. He was about to ask Daria why she looked that way, when Jane spoke.

JANE: (Delighted tone:) This--is--BITCHING! I thought Daria had the coolest room I ever saw the first time I laid eyes on it in her home, and you did this for me, too? C'mere, you! (Suddenly grabs a surprised Darren on both sides of his head and kisses him full on the lips, which makes him swoon a bit, similar to what happened in the courtyard, though he recovers far quicker this go-around. Daria and Curtis smirk at this. Jane then looks at the walls, cocks an eyebrow:) Say, why aren't there any pictures on my padded walls, Darren? (Mock frowns at him:) You ain't playin' favorites with me and Daria, are ya?

DARREN: (Laughs:) Not on your life, Jane. It should be obvious to you, you know. I figured you'd want to hang up some of your own work there. (Adds:) After all, this is your room while you'll be staying here and attending the New York City Art School. I thought I'd leave it up to you to decide what to put in here.

JANE: (Shrugs:) Ah, I suppose that's cool, though I would like for at least one picture done from you to hang up in here, you know? (Darren nods reluctantly, then Jane grins:) Speaking of my staying here while I go to art school, when are you going to break the big news to Helen and Jake? I can't wait to see their faces when you tell them.

DARIA: (To Curtis:) That's Jane for you: she's always eager to see the expected fireworks come to full fruition.

JANE: (Grins wickedly:) What can I say, amiga? I'm a sick momma jomma, and I'm proud of it immensely!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Then I can truly say that you're right at home here in this room, my compadre. Feel free to bang your head on the walls till you drop dead. I've done it so many times in my room at home, it's second nature to me.

DARREN: (Laughs with Curtis:) Let's just say that I want to be--(pauses:) diplomatic about it when I tell them you'll be living here as well, Jane. I'm just waiting for the right time to do so. Aunt Millie says she has no problem with it at all, so I know she'll be on my side. (Cocks an eyebrow:) Daria, is there something wrong? You looked around Jane's room oddly for some reason.

DARIA: (Pauses:) Well, now that you mentioned it, there's one thing I noticed about Jane's room that my room doesn't have, though it's no big deal, or anything.

DARREN: Oh? What's that?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Jane's wall padding is black. I don't think you know this, bro, but that's my favorite color.

(Note to reader: This was found out in the episode "Lane Miserables".)

DARREN: (Pauses to consider what Daria has said, chuckles:) Why doesn't that surprise me for some reason? If you want, I could have your room's color changed immediately--

JANE: (Jumps in, smirks, hooks her arm with Darren's, playfully sneers:) --Because my dear, dear Daria, you are NOT going to get this room. (Pauses, adds:) Unless you kill me first.

DARIA: (Deadpan, small, evil smile, playfully waves her off dismissively:) Details, details. A mere technicality that can be easily addressed, Jane, I can assure you. (Pauses:) Seriously, like I said, it's no biggie, bro. I like my room very much, color, bars, and all.

CURTIS: (Grins:) Yep, Darren was right--you two are insane. (Both girls smirk) These rooms are perfect for the likes of you. The only thing missing are the straitjackets.

Darren was about to say something in jest, when Claude walked into the room, quickly glanced around, shuddered a bit, then went over to them.

CLAUDE: (Hesitates for a second, then:) Pardon me for interrupting, sir, but Miss Juanita and Miss Laflita wanted me to inform Master Curtis that they have immediately left the premises to go back to his home.

CURTIS: Thanks, Claude, I--(narrows eyes:) wait a minute. You say they immediately left?

CLAUDE: (Puzzled a bit with Daria and Jane, who look at each other, save for Darren, who begins to smirk knowingly:) Er, yes sir, I did. Is there something wrong--?

Without responding to Claude, Curtis rushed over to the barred window doors of Jane's room, and opened them, going outside on the balcony. He looked down at the courtyard driveway, developing a deep scowl on his face after staring for a few seconds, then came back into Jane's room, shutting the doors behind him, clearly looking PO'd. Claude glanced at Darren, who nodded his head curtly, signaling to Claude that that was all. Claude then left the room.

CURTIS: (Through clenched teeth, rolls his eyes:) Maaan, those two little sneaky twerps! They took my car!

DARREN: (Sighs:) Again? (Daria and Jane look at each other, eyebrows cocked) When are you going to learn that your sisters love to drive your red convertible VW, Curtis? You should've kept your keys in your pocket, and not have left them in the ignition.

CURTIS: (While coming back over:) Hey, I figured "Tank Girl Tina" and her "crack" security team would guard it! (Snorts:) Knowing her, she probably helped them take my car, even giving them an escort up to the gates! I can't wait for Juanita and Laflita to get their own cars and leave mine the hell alone! (Darren chuckles, which makes Curtis glare at him mock-disdainfully:) Go on, yuk it up. Mark my words, Darren: Having siblings goes both ways sometimes. (Adds, looks over:) No offense, Daria.

DARIA: (Smirks:) It's cool, Curtis. Believe me, I know it with Quinn. From what Darren told me over the phone, you have double the trouble with your sisters. (Adds:) My sincerest condolences. (Curtis chuckles)

JANE: (Smirks also:) Yeah, ditto. In my case, I had to withstand four siblings, and they me, though thanks to the big age differences, Penny, Summer, and Wind left the nest before I really got into the "troublesome" stage of sibling torment. (Frowns, mock frustration, snaps her fingers:) Dagnabbit. Poor, poor Trent had to endure the brunt of his baby sister "Crazy Jane" while everyone, including my parents, were gone most of the time. (Everyone laughs, then Jane gets into a quiet, serious tone:) And I was glad that he was there to take it. (Pauses:) Seriously.

Everyone in Jane's room grew silent, taking in what she said. Darren looked over at Daria and gave a quiet, appreciative smile to her, which Daria returned in kind.

The moment was broken in the next instance, for they all flinched at a familiar, horrified wail known to Daria, Darren, and Jane coming from Daria's room. Darren quickly led the group across the hall through the open door of Daria's room, where they saw a terrified Quinn looking around, wide-eyed.

DARREN: Quinn?! What is it? What's wrong?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Did you really have to ask that question, bro?

QUINN: (Dumbfounded:) I--I can't believe this! I thought I'd be safely away from all of this and stuff!

DARIA: (Smirks, mock tone:) Welcome to my new inner sanctum, Quinn. My, but this looks familiar, doesn't it? (Motions:) Don't you just love the painting our brother made for me? I think it adds a special touch to the room, don't you think?

QUINN: (Sees the painting for the first time, shudders:) EEEEWWW! You'd like something like that, wouldn't you, Daria? (Looks at Darren wide-eyed:) Darren, you really painted that? What in the heck were you thinking?

DARREN: (Pauses, sighs, gets in a quiet tone:) Call it one of the ways I was working out my "problem", Quinn. (Curtis looks knowingly at Darren without a word, while Daria and Jane stare at him and Curtis. Quinn drops a perplexed eyebrow at him, confused) Never mind that, now. How do you like your room?

QUINN: (Gets excited, walks over and hugs Darren:) Oh, it's fantastic, Darren! It's much bigger than my room at home, with a nice dresser and mirrors on one side of the wall, a jacuzzi in the bathroom, an intercom to call the maids and butlers if I needed anything, and I've got a balcony an' everything! Thanks for painting my room pink, (Daria and Jane shudder, the same for Curtis) and my walk-in closet is huge! I can put all my clothes in it, and have plenty of room to spare!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) If that's the case, why don't you put yourself in there for the rest of our stay? That way, I won't have to see your face.

QUINN: (Scowls:) Oh, ha-ha, Daria. Now that I've seen your (ugh) room, I'll even have more of a reason not to see your face much while we're here. (Smiles at Darren:) Anyway, thanks, Darren. I came over to tell you that Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy love their rooms, too. (Smirks:) Mine's much bigger than their's, you know, an' they don't have as much comforts and stuff as I do in my room, like that jacuzzi. (Giggles:) I can't wait to try it out tonight before I go to bed! (Sighs, looks up dreamily:) All those relaxing bubbles--

DARIA: Which will be perfect for a bubblehead such as yourself-- (Quinn scowls at her, while Jane smirks, Darren sighs, and gives Daria a mild, admonitory look, and Curtis chuckles to himself)

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Hey, I'm kind of surprised that Sandi didn't raise much of a fuss over you having a bigger room than her, Quinn, you know, with her being the president, and you being the vice-president, and all that.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: Hm, Jane has a point. Now when I think about it, Sandi didn't say anything about the way my room looked compared to hers, and stuff. I guess she's still kinda down about Darren and Jane.) (Waves Jane off:) Oh, Sandi's not like thaaat, Jane. We Fashion Club members are never really jealous of each other--

DARIA: (Sarcastic:) No, no, of course not. How could we even consider thinking of something so unbelievable as that? (In a mock-admonishment tone:) Jane, you should be ashamed of yourself!

JANE: (Playfully looks down shamefaced, in a Kevin-type of voice:) Sooorrry. (Darren and Curtis fight to not burst out laughing)

QUINN: (Not noticing Darren's and Curtis' reactions:) Exactly, Daria!

DARREN: Well, I'm happy that you all love your rooms, Quinn. I just hope Sandi and your friends will want to eat the scrumptious lunch Henri is preparing for us. Would you tell her and Tiffany and Stacy, please?

QUINN: Sure, Darren! See you later! (Hugs him again, then leaves past Helen and Jake, who are coming in at the same time) Hi, Mom, Dad! Excuse me!

JAKE: (Looking after her:) Hiya, sweetie!

HELEN: (Ditto:) Hello, Quinn. Daria, Jane, how do you like your ro--(becomes wide-eyed, mouths agape with Jake as they scan the room:) WHAT-IN-THE-WORLD?!

JAKE: Wow! How did you get your room up here ahead of us, Kiddo? (Helen glares and rolls her eyes at him, while Curtis stares at Jake with a stunned look on his face, mouth agape)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) A special moving company, Dad. I made arrangements for the Starship Enterprise to beam it up here and have it waiting for us. Darren has said that he'll foot the million dollar bill. (Darren and Curtis laugh, while Jane smirks, and Helen gives a long, exasperated sigh)

HELEN: Daria, that's enough. Jake, Daria's only being sarcastic. Darren, why did you do this to Daria's--

JANE: (Chimes in, grins while holding up her hand:) --And mine's, Mrs. M--

HELEN: (Turns pale, cocks an eyebrow, pauses:) --and er, Jane's room?

DARREN: (Chuckles:) I thought it would be a fun thing to do, Helen, that's all. I wanted for Daria and Jane to know that I do have a bit of a twisted sense of humor myself. Besides, they love their rooms, and I can always change them later if they want me to.

DARIA: He's right, Mom. (Smirks:) This is going to be my home away from home while at Eastward, you know. Just think of it: I'll always have something to remember my teen-age years by. (Mock tone and look of dreamy hope, puts her hands on both sides of her head:) Oh, the new memories that I'll have in here will be sooo special--(Helen glares at Daria for an instant, then sighs, exasperated)

HELEN: Yes, well--anyway, I wanted you to know that Jake and I love our bedroom, too. It's quite a large one, with a walk-in closet that's bigger than our bedroom at home, a jacuzzi--

JAKE: --And that huge fireplace is incredible! I love that big screen TV, and there's a spectacular view of the woods and stuff over our balcony, too! It must be the best bedroom in the place!

DARREN: (Small smile:) It should be, Jake. It used to be my (adopted) parent's room. (Everyone grows quiet)

HELEN: (Goes up to her son, searches for words:) Oh, Darren, we--we don't know what to say, I mean, that is, Jake and I--

DARREN: --What's there to say, Helen? The room hadn't been used since they died, and I decided that it was time to use it again, sort of as a symbol that life has to go on, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. (Smiles, brightens up:) Now, when do you all want to chow down? Henri's fixing lunch right about now. On the menu, the main dish will be chicken bella donna--

DARIA: (To Jane, whispers:) Perfect for the Fashion Club prima donnas--(Jane smirks)

DARREN: --with side dishes of calabash oyster stew, cauliflower soup, and caesar and blueberry salads. For dessert, he's made German apple cake.

JAKE: (Smacks his mouth:) MMM-YUM! Hey, son, do ya think ol' Henri will need some help with preparin' the meal? I could--

HELEN, DARIA, & DARREN: NO! (All three look at each other, surprised at their unanimous agreement, while Jane snickers, and Curtis frowns, perplexed. Jake looks down, heartbroken, which makes Helen quickly go up to him for reassurance)

HELEN: It's not that we don't think you are, a, that is a bad helper or cook in the kitchen, Jakey, it's just that, um--(motions to Daria and Darren out of the corner of her eye)

DARIA: --Er, just that you're here on vacation, Dad, and that you shouldn't worry about cooking anything. That's Henri's job, and uh--(motions to Darren)

DARREN: --And, ah, he's really sensitive to a stranger coming into his kitchen! Yes, that it! Henri's very sensitive to that sort of thing! You know how those chefs are! (Calms down slightly:) Don't worry about anything. Just relax, and let Henri do the cooking, okay?

JAKE: (After a long moment, then brightens up:) Weeeell, okay, if you say so, son, but don't hesitate to tell Henri to call your 'ol Dad if he needs someone to help him out, alright?

DARREN: (Faux grin:) Oh, uh, sure, Jake. You'll be the first on my list to call if Henri or his staff need any assistance. (Thought v.o.: Next to me, and a caterer, that is.) (Changes tone:) Hey, did you bring your golf clubs?

JAKE: (Beams:) Sure did, son!

DARREN: Good. We have a practice tee in the rear of the mansion. Why don't you finish packing, and then get one of the staff to show you where it's at, and practice for tomorrow after we finish lunch? I've been practicing myself the last few days, starting from the minute my doctor gave me permission to exercise my shoulder.

JAKE: Hey, that's a great idea, son! I'll do just that! Thanks! (Zooms out of the room while everyone save for Curtis breathes in a sigh of relief)

DARIA: Um, Darren that kind of reminds me--did you have a problem with Edward coming along for your golf match? I saw how you seemed surprised when you learned he was accompanying you and dad.

HELEN: (Cocks a worried eyebrow:) Oh, dear. (To Darren:) Sweetie, if you want, I can ask Jake not to--

DARREN: (Waves his hands:) --No, no, it's okay, Helen, really. I admit I was a bit surprised, but this is a vacation that I want Jake to really enjoy. He can have anyone he wants to play with us. In fact, I think it would be a good idea. Maybe those two will hit it off.

Snickering, Curtis leaned over to Jane, and whispered.

CURTIS: Something tells me that Jake's not quiiiite the "Master Gourmet", am I right?

JANE: (Whispers back:) You're oh so quiiite correct, Sir Curtis. Though Jake's not exactly the worst cook in the world, he's not the best, either. Still, I have to say at least he has the food on the table waiting for his family, edible or not. (Thought v.o.: Unlike my folks.)

HELEN: Thank you for the "help", Darren, Daria. (Looks uneasily at Curtis, tries to explain:) You see, my husband means well, and he's a wonderful cook, (adds quickly:) most of the time, but, well, he--

DARIA: --You see, there's a 50-50 chance that we'd die of food poisoning if we let him anywhere within a mile radius of the kitchen, here. (Curtis chuckles)

HELEN: (Gives her the "Look", gentle rebuking voice:) Stifle it, Daria. Jake and I will see you all at lunch, son. When do you want us to be ready?

DARREN: I don't know, that's a good question. Excuse me. (Goes to Daria's intercom, pushes a number, then the speaking button:) Hello, Henri?

HENRI: (From intercom:) Oui, Master Darren?

DARREN: Do you know when lunch will be ready?

HENRI: I would say about in another hour, Master Darren. You said you wanted a late lunch, since zey all ate breakfast on the way here, and may not be as hungry now.

DARREN: Yes, I did, and that's right. Good. Thanks, Henri.

HENRI: You are welcome, Master Darren, and oh, since you ave called, I wanted to know what you theenk about my choice of tonight's meal.

DARREN: Shoot, Henri.

HENRI: I was theenking of lasagna as the main course. (Darren's eyes grow huge, and his mouth drops, while Daria and Jane smirk, and Curtis looks between them all, amused. To him, it's clear that that particular food has touched a nerve in his friend and the others. Helen looks unfazed. She is used to this, after all.) Your opinion, sir?

DARREN: (After a very long moment, cuts his eyes at the still-smirking Daria and Jane, mock glares at them, adds quickly:) Ooooh noooo, I don't think so, Henri, hang on for a moment. (Pushes "hold" button:) Would you all like to eat something a little different, like, saaay, a dish called "meanderin' duck"? (Speaks in a salivating tone:) It's duck stuffed with apples and celery, and after it's cooked, is inundated with consomme and water in a baking dish. Add some sherry, and currant jelly, medium-heat it, and then serve it over some rice with sauce, topped with toasted almonds. It's delicious.

HELEN: Ummm, oh yes, dear, that sounds heavenly! I haven't had any duck in a long while, either! Girls?

JANE: Sounds okay to me. I haven't had "Howard", "Daffy", or "Donald" since I was around nine years old. It's cool.

DARIA: (Thought v.o., sarcastic: I wonder why you haven't had duck in a while, Mom? Could it be because your long working hours have forced the taste buds in your mouth to become acquainted to that oh-so-delicious-and easy-to-microwavable frozen blend of pasta, meat, and tomato sauce that me and the other members of my family have come to know and love so well?) Sure, Mom, I could go for that, though I was looking so forward to that lasagna--

DARREN: (Remembers Daria's ribbing of him when he endured all of the lasagna he could eat while he stayed at the Morgendorffer's, smirks:) --Hey, if you want lasagna so badly, sis, I'm sure I can get Henri to make a special dish for you. It would be no problem, really.

DARIA: (Narrows her eyes at him, smirks back, while Jane snickers, and Curtis continues to look between them all, bemused:) No, it's quite alright, bro, I don't want you to go to all of that trouble for little ol' me--

DARREN: (Enjoying this:) Nooo, no trouble at all, Daria. (Releases "hold" button:) Henri, Daria would like--

DARIA: (Cuts in, jumps in front of Darren:) --To punch my brother's light's out, Henri. That "meanderin' duck" can stop wondering, and go promptly into my stomach. No lasagna. (All laugh but Helen, who gives an admonishing look to Daria)

HENRI: (Confused tone:) Er, ah, oui, Master Darren, Miss Daria. (Signs off)

DARREN: Then it's settled. In the event that Quinn or her friends want something else for tonight, then Henri and his assistants can prepare it. Curtis, you're welcome to come--

CURTIS: --Naaah, I gotta take care of some final arrangements on getting the class that I want for the fall semester, bud. That's why I won't be able to go with you tomorrow morning to play golf. I want to make sure about my options by making some calls to my classmates if I can't get into my class.

DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Wha--? Classes start at Eastward in just three weeks. You're just now registering? I registered online three weeks ago, just after I came back.

CURTIS: (Smiles:) Heh, of course I already registered. You know Professor Mills, my Structual Materials III teacher? (Darren nods) Well, he's not going to come in until a week or two into the semester, due to a family emergency, or something. I was sent a notice in the mail that Eastward is scrambling to find somebody to warm his seat until then, but they won't let us register for that particular class until the day classes start so they'll be sure his teaching spot is filled, (snorts, adds:) and they can get our tuition safely in their pockets where we can't get back our refunds. (Daria smirks, along with Jane) It's the only class I have left that I have to register for. It's a royal pain cutting it close like this.

HELEN: (Falsetto voice:) Ooooh, what's your major, Curtis?

CURTIS: Architectural engineering, Mrs.--er, Helen. My dad is one in that field, too. I guess you can say I want to follow in his footsteps. (Sighs:) Well, I'd better get going--(starts to leave)

DARREN: Hey, why don't you hang around for lunch, Curtis? There's plenty of food, you know--

CURTIS: (Smiles:) Wish I could, really, but I'd better get started on the four-mile walk home and "deal" with my sisters. (Helen gives him a strange look) Besides, you need to spend some quality time with your folks (coy look at Jane, smirks, and she returns it in kind:) and Jane. I'll call you tomorrow sometime. You still have that same pager number?

DARREN: (Smirks:) Yeah, yeah. 555-8811. First, no dinner, then no lunch. Your turning down free food, especially twice in a row, is about as rare as Juanita or Laflita making peace with one another over just about anything. Don't be a stranger now, okay?

CURTIS: (Smirks back:) Gotcha. Besides, it's not my fault that Henri likes to cook for the entire realm of reality. You should tell him to just prepare enough for the whole planet. (Everyone chuckles) It's nice to finally meet you all. (Thought v.o.: Hoooboy, in more ways than one.) See you all later. (Leaves)

DARIA, JANE, & HELEN: Goodbye. Adios. Nice to meet you, Curtis.

HELEN: Well, Darren. I like your friend. He's such a nice young man. (Pauses:) What did he mean by "four-mile walk"?

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Oh, let's just say Curtis likes to take long walks, Helen, and thanks for the compliment about him. He's a great friend. Remind me to tell you how we first met.

DARIA: And we'll hold you to that, bro. Now, if you guys don't mind, I'm going to unpack.

JANE: Ditto, amiga. See you later, Darren. I want to see your art and your room later, too. I haven't forgotten that, either, you know. (Pecks him on the mouth, then leaves to her room)

HELEN: I'd better get started unpacking myself. (Rolls her eyes:) Lord only knows where your father will put our clothing if I leave it to him. See you both at lunch. (Leaves)

DARREN: See you later, Helen. (Pauses:) Daria. (Is about to leave)

DARIA: (Comes up to him, red-faced:) Um, Darren--?

DARREN: Hm? What's up?

DARIA: Uh, before you leave, well, (sighs:) ah, hell. (Looks around for a moment uneasily, then hugs him, this time a bit more longer than in the courtyard, in a low voice:) thanksforthelibraryandmyroom. (Lets him go quickly, but Darren is still gently holding her hands at arm's length)

DARREN: (Chuckles:) You're welcome, sis. (Adds playfully:) You know, I think Tom's going to have to be patient with you over the way you physically relate to people, especially to him. I feel a bit sorry for the guy.

DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile:) Yeah, I--(realizes, narrows her eyes:) hey, wait a minute. How'd you know about Tom?

DARREN: (Smirks:) Other than by Jane's little crack about him earlier with the "shack"? (Daria turns red again) Uh, well, he called me this morning after you guys left. I'm assuming he came to see you all off.

DARIA: (Grows pale:) Oh, God--then you know about his kiss to me at the airport?

DARREN: (Stunned, then delighted:) W-What?! Tom smooched you? This morning? He didn't tell me that! (Grins:) It's about time.

DARIA: Whoa, hold it. You didn't know about the kiss? (Adds:) And what do you mean, "It's about time"? (Pauses:) Okay, what in the hell's going on, Darren? Does this have anything to with what happened in the hospital room when Tom visited you, and I was there? I thought I suspected something wasn't quite right between you two.

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Something wasn't quite right"? What do you mean, Daria? The conversation we all had was pleasant enough.

DARIA: I mean, the subtle little looks you two gave to each other while we all talked. I got the feeling you guys wanted to say something to each other, but didn't because I was there, am I right? I thought about saying something, but I decided to keep quiet, figuring you two would work it out. (Narrows eyes:) Did you two talk later when I wasn't around? It wasn't nasty in nature over Jane, was it?

DARREN: (Surprised look:) Nasty over Jane? Oh no, not at all, Daria, Tom and I are way past that (Thought v.o.: In more ways than one.). I wanted to talk to you--well, to both Jane and you about this at some later time here, but now's as good a time as any, I suppose. (Pauses:) Yes, Tom and I did talk after you two left my room, and you were right--the "looks" he gave me were hints that he wanted to speak to me about something. You were partially correct on Jane, though, and at first I thought he was going to speak to me about her and what had happened at that warehouse. It was not anything bad about Jane, and he wanted to talk concerning you as well.

DARIA: (Raised eyebrow:) Huh? Me too? After we both left? Hints? What did he do, call you later, or something over the phone?

DARREN: No, he came right back after you had left, making sure you were gone. He wanted to talk to me alone, about you both, and his (hesitates:) "real" feelings. (Daria looks at her brother strangely, and he smirks) Yes, I know, I'm not making too much sense at the moment. Look, sis, if you don't mind, I'd like to have Jane in on this conversation, since she's a part of it. After you unpack, go over to Jane's room and wait with her there so we can all talk before lunch, okay? I'll be back in 15 minutes. I'm going to check on the lunchtime arrangements, and a few other things.

DARIA: (After a moment, considers:) Well, okay, Darren. Besides, I've got to talk to Jane about something else anyway, something that can't wait, and it concerns Tom too, on a certain night a while back before you came. I have to get it off my chest.

DARREN: (Narrows his eyes:) Tom, eh? A "certain" night a while back, huh? This wouldn't have anything to do with hair-dye, would it? (Daria looks stunned, which confirms his suspicion) I thought it did. Tom told me what happened that night as part of our little talk. I'd like to hear from your point of view on that. I'm kind of curious to see what Jane thinks herself.

DARIA: You knew about what had happened, and didn't say anything to us since? (Pauses:) The same for Tom?

DARREN: He told me that he'd tell the both of you, Daria, which he didn't. That's the reason as to why he called me this morning, to "warn" me, in addition to our little discussion about you two. As you've told me, it involved all three of you, and wasn't any of my business, since it was before I came into your lives.

DARIA: (Confused look, frowns:) This is really weird. What in the hell's going on?

DARREN: Uh, sis, Tom had his reasons (Thought v.o. and sigh: I just wished that he could have told you two what he did, and not have left it up to me.). I hope that you both don't jump to the wrongest possible conclusion, okay? Tom does like you, please remember that. (Pauses:) I'm going to go, now. See you and Jane in a few. (Leaves)

Daria stared at the doorway after Darren for a long moment, then went over to her bed, and wordlessly began to unzip and unpack her duffel bags, her mind full of questions.


(Scene changes to a room, downstairs, a minute later)

Millie found herself cornered, and listening to a worried-looking Elenor, Claude, and Tina in the staff's office, a small room off of the side entrance where assignments were given out every morning to the staff, interior and exterior. It was used in one form or another by all the staff's heads. Edward had gone back to his room, having informed Millie that he'd be ready for lunch. Millie wondered briefly as to why he didn't inquire about the way her nephew had been in the study, but guessed that Edward was respecting her wish not to say anything to him privately about Darren. She smiled to herself over the way he seemed to understand her, one of the increasing number of things she liked about him. Millie shook herself out of her thoughts as the three talked at the same time.

ELENOR: --Mistress Millie, is there something wrong with Master Darren? Claude told me that he overheard in the foyer about the way Master Darren behaved in the study. Tina here had overheard us when she had come from outside, and inquired as well. (Pauses:) Wasn't that where that "Mike" fellow had gone with Master Darren all of those times he visited here for those "business meetings"?

CLAUDE: Yes, Mistress Millie, is there a problem with Darren? I found myself half-tempting to ask him if everything was alright when I saw him in Miss Jane's, ah, "room".

TINA: Is it a security problem? (Scowls:) I knew something was shady about that "Mike" character, but he appeared to have the proper credentials. If he's done some sort of brainwashing to Darren to try and take his money, I'll--

MILLIE: (Rolls her eyes, sighs, puts up her hands:) --That's enough, all of you. I'll level with you up to a point. I'll give you what's on the surface, but that's it. First, Tina, "Mike" is not a "security risk". Second, it's true that he's here for something other than "business meetings". Third, I'd prefer that you not ask Darren, or say anything to him about what you heard, at least until he tells you first. He didn't want to alarm any of you because it's a personal matter.

ELENOR: (Hesitates, looks between her colleagues:) Does this--does this have something to do with what's happened to Darren in the past few weeks?

MILLIE: (At a loss for words:) I--well--that is--

DARREN: (From the doorway:) --Yes. (Everyone looks at him, startled)

MILLIE: (Alarmed, walks up to him:) Oh, Darren, I didn't--

DARREN: (Holds her, smiles:) --It's okay, Auntie. (Closes the door to the room that was opened, gets into a low voice:) It was inevitable that it was going to get out, anyway. I'm sorry for not saying anything to any of you. I'll tell you what's going on, but it doesn't leave this room, at least not until after I tell my family and Jane tonight, do you all understand? (The others nod) Good. I'll give you the quick version. Here's who that "Mike" guy really is--


(Scene changes to Sandi's room, a few minutes later)

Sandi had changed into the "decent" clothing that she had told Jane about on the jet, and had finished unpacking (Yes, dear reader, it's the outfit she wore in "Mart of Darkness". I might as well be consistant, here.). She plopped down on her bed, a queen-sized one, looked at her fashion designer book she was holding, rolled her eyes, then tossed the book aside. She had not quite finished the book, but she basically had the gist of what to ask Ms. Gunwald, and decided she had enough. Besides, she just didn't feel like reading anymore. Sandi sighed, looking around.

Her room was nowhere nearly as nice-looking as Quinn's (at least to Sandi it wasn't), though it certainly looked better color-wise than her's did at home, (it was a peach-like color as nearly as she could tell) and, had a spacious walk-in closet. Both were larger than what she had in her bedroom at her home, with a 20-inch remote color TV, a nice dresser with a large mirror, even a small balcony, and most impressively, a full bath (though no jacuzzi). She wouldn't have to worry about her brothers Sam and Chris fighting over it with her. There was even an intercom on the wall for her to use, too. So, in reality, Sandi really couldn't complain over her living arrangements.

And that was the problem. What was wrong with her? The old Sandi wouldn't have stood for this at all, least of all allowing Quinn to have a better room than her's. The old Sandi would've complained to no end, bitching and moaning to get things done, and actually getting them done, too, just like her mother did all the time at her job, or anywhere else in Lawndale.

Sandi frowned when she thought of her mother, Linda. It's all her fault I'm here in the first place. Damn her, she's always pushing me. Why can't I stand up to her? Well, I'm going to make something of myself up here, mother, then I can step out of your shadow. Sandi thought about why she didn't want to be around Darren anymore than she had to--seeing him reminded her of what she still felt for him, the way he was nice to her on their "date", and the way he seemed to challenge her on what she wanted for her future career, that and the fact that she saw him almost bleeding to death on that rainy night in the warehouse.

She shuddered over the nightmares she had of that night, and of them not going away. Something had changed in her after that night, and she had never been the same since. Sandi had wondered if anyone else was affected that night like she was. Could what was going on in the media room tonight have something to do with it? It was possible, and Sandi wanted to make sure. She had a hard enough time as it was dealing with her own reactions, and when she thought of it, her mother simply ignored her, even after Sandi had told her she had nightmares.

Sandi then found herself thinking of her father, Tom. He seemed to understand what she was going through, or at least had tried to to some extent, but Sandi would not let him in out of losing face with him, of letting him see her weak. When she considered that, what would wrong with letting down her guard against him, at least a little? He had offered to talk to her over her fears about coming to here the day before yesterday, then he had attempted to defend her against her mother this morning. Either he had become insane, or just stupid, or maybe--just maybe he was growing a spine. Her mother had ran the marriage after all of these years, but now, her dad seemed to be beginning to stand up for himself. Sandi remembered that he had shouted at her in a surprising (for her) rage in front of Darren after both came back from their "date", the first time she could ever remember that happening. She had told her mother what he had done (something she was starting to regret doing), and her dad had paid dearly for doing so, particularly after Sandi had informed Linda that she had suspected that Darren was "loaded", and that Sandi had discovered Quinn, Jane, and Quinn's sister, DeAnne, no wait, Daria had been observing them, "cheating" her out of the date (and of the kiss she wanted from Darren). Angered, Linda encouraged Sandi to seek retribution from Quinn, and after Sandi's threat to Quinn of kicking her out of the Fashion Club, "softened" by Darren's intervention, went with Quinn and Quinn's parents to what Sandi thought was a quick little side meeting of some sort, which led to what happened at the warehouse, and the horrors of being tied up and threatened with death by those kidnappers. There was no doubt in Sandi's mind that if they hadn't been rescued, they would've been killed. She shuddered again over that thought.

Sandi's thoughts were jarred by hearing two voices in the hallway. She got off her bed, and went to the door, slightly opening it, and peeked out. It was Quinn and Darren, who were walking up the hallway, and talking. Quinn had garnered Darren's attention when she saw him coming up the stairs while she had visited Helen and Jake in their room. Sandi narrowed her eyes, all the while listening to and watching them.

DARREN: --Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy as interns, too? I don't know, Quinn. Not just anyone can join Circa Fashions as one. You only were chosen because I had the connections to get you in. Candi Gunwald's very strict as to who's selected. You'll have to work really hard, and you can't play around. She has absolutely no patience whatsoever for slackers.

QUINN: (Hooks her arm's with Darren's, familiar whine and charm, stops both of them:) Pleeease, bro? I promised the Fashion Club that you'd get them in and stuff! I'm sure they'd be able to work real hard like I will, and will do whatever Ms. Gunwald would want them to do! Believe me, they're not slackers.

DARREN: (Sighs:) Alright, Quinn. I'll speak to Candi, but I'm not going to promise anything. (Sandi breaks out into a big grin while Darren cocks a stern eyebrow:) Though I'm sure I could pull rank and make her accept your friends, I won't. It's her decision, and her's alone, do you understand?

QUINN: (Estatic, hugs, kisses Darren on the cheek:) EEEE! Yeah, I understand! Thanks, Darren! Wait till I tell the Fashion Club! You are the best big brother on the planet! (Gets quiet:) I--I mean that, I really do. (Small smile)

DARREN: (Returns the same smile:) You're welcome, sis, and I'll take that as a compliment.

QUINN: (Giggles:) Just as it was meant to be, Darren.

DARREN: (After a moment:) Quinn, is it just me, or are you and Daria not getting along even more than usual? (Quinn now looks uncomfortable) I can't help but to shake this feeling that something's not quite right with you two. (Pauses:) Does this have a little something to do with your punishment over not being able to see guys (Sandi cocks a surprised eyebrow at this), or of Daria not being able to read much in the study?

QUINN: (Snorts:) Why don't you ask our sister? She's the one who started all of this. Besides, Daria's gonna be in that study reading her head off. Mom's lifted her indigo on Daria not being able to do that, and I'm guessing it happened while we were on the plane. (Rolls her eyes:) That "punishment" didn't last too long, I see, unlike mine with the guys. (Sighs, crosses her arms, pouts:) I told mom that it's not fair!

DARREN: (Smirks:) I think you meant "embargo", Quinn, not "indigo".

QUINN: Huh? Oh yeah--indigo's like, a color or something, isn't it? I think I remember it from that web fashion page on the Fashion Institute's website--

DARREN: --Uh, yes, a deep-reddish blue, or a deep blue, I think. Look, are the two punishments connected in some way? What happened exactly?

QUINN: (Looks embarassed a bit, red-faced:) Um, it's really no big deal, bro. Daria and I had a little disagreement over something at home, that's all. (Frowns:) All I'm gonna say from my end is that Daria doesn't trust me for some reason. If you want Daria's side, get it from her, okay? (Adds:) Just don't think badly of me, alright? Daria has this way of blowing things way out of (thinks, looks up:) proportion, yeah, that's it, proportion.

DARREN: (Stares at Quinn for a long moment, skeptical:) Oooookay. I'll respect your wishes, Quinn--for now. I'll get Daria's take on this later. (Glances out of the corner of his eye:) Hey, we're outside of Sandi's room. You can tell her the news about Circa. (Knocks gently)

Sandi, who had quietly closed her bedroom door as Darren and Quinn had stopped outside of her room, composed herself, shoving her giddiness over hearing about Circa aside, and after a second of smoothing out her clothing, opened the door cooly.

SANDI: (Feigns surprise:) Like, Quinn! Darren! What brings you two here?

QUINN: (Unable to contain her excitement, comes in, puts her hands on Sandi's shoulders:) Sandi, my brother's gonna speak to Mandi--

DARREN: (Chuckles, interrupts gently:) --That's Candi, Quinn--

QUINN: --oh, yeah, Candi Gunwald, and try and get you guys on as interns at Circa like me! Isn't that great?!

SANDI: (Faux shock:) You're kidding! Oh, this is sooo incredible! I--I--don't know what to say! Like, um, thanks, Darren! (Shakes his hand)

DARREN: Oh, ah, you're welcome, Sandi, but don't get too excited yet. Candi Gunwald is as tough as they come in the business, but she's fair. My (adopted) mother knew what she was doing when she made Candi the second-in-command. If, and I stress, IF she chooses you and Stacy and Tiffany, you're going to have to prove yourselves.

SANDI: (Smirks:) Oh, I'll be ready, Darren, I can promise you that.

QUINN: I gotta tell Stacy an' Tiffany! Sandi, lunch is in abooout (looks to Darren:) 45 minutes, bro? (Darren nods in affirmation) Okay, see you all then, byeeee! (Rushes off down the hall to Stacy's room, starts knocking frantically, and is let in by Stacy. A second later, delighted squeals are heard)

SANDI: (About to go into her room:) Well, um, I'll see you at lunch, Darren--

DARREN: Er, before you go, Sandi, I wanted to ask a quick question of you, (hesitates:) if you're okay with that.

SANDI: (Uneasy:) Err, sure, like, of course. What is it?

DARREN: (Narrows eyes:) Is everything okay with you? You seemed to be a bit rushed somehow when we first met in the foyer.

SANDI: (Uncomfortable look:) Ummm, I'm fine and everything, Darren. Why do you ask?

DARREN: (Pauses, then goes on:) Well, after everything that happened, you know, at that warehouse that night, you seem to be a bit different from the last time I saw you. You didn't come to see me at the hospital like your friends did, and I grew a bit worried about you. (Sandi's eyebrows raise in surprise) You didn't have any--(pauses:) psychological after-effects from what happened, did you? (Sandi's eyes slightly narrow) Because if you did, I'll offer to pay for all--

SANDI: (Cuts him off quickly:) --Like, I'm fine, Darren, okay? You don't have to worry about me, and stuff, though I do appreciate it, really. I don't need any shrinks or anything like that. (Looks at her watch:) Oooh, I'd better change for lunch! See you! (Quickly shuts the door)

Darren stared at Sandi's door for a long moment. It was obvious that something was wrong with her. He took note that she had already changed out of her previous outfit (Darren thought it looked like a Gicadi Original from his mother's pictures in her office he had seen several months ago), and into something else. Darren debated with himself on talking to Elenor, Claude, Fiona, or someone else on the staff to keep an eye on Sandi, but decided if Sandi wanted to talk about what happened that night in the warehouse, she'd do it on her own terms. He had enough problems on his mind about tonight, thinking about the other members of his birth family and Jane. Were any of them affected like him? Darren shrugged, and went down the hall to go to Jane's room in the west wing.

After Darren walked by Edward's room, Edward looked out of his door and watched him disappear around the corner, cocking an agitated eyebrow. Edward took a big sigh of relief, and started to talk back into his cell-phone while shutting the door.


(Scene is in Jane's room, the same time)

Daria had quickly finished unpacking (she didn't have much in her duffel bags if one remembers), and had went across the hallway to Jane's room, and had told her what Darren had said about his talk with Tom while sitting down on Jane's bed. Jane looked miffed as she put her easel up beside her bed, the final act in finishing her unpacking, then she took her chair and placed it beside Daria, then sat down. Daria had turned on Jane's TV, and was talking to her while it was on. The (in)famous eyeball appeared on the screen.

TV ANNOUNCER: (As a picture of a naked minister in the pulpit is preaching to a equally-naked congregation in a church building, positioned so as the viewer can't see certain private parts in the group:) Back to the days of Adam and Eve, church-style? The "naked truth" unleased, next, on Sick, Sad World! (Jane turns off the TV)

JANE: I wonder why Tom didn't say anything to us, Daria, you in particular? It couldn't have been that bad, (adds:) could it?

DARIA: I--I don't know, Jane. Darren told me that we shouldn't "jump to conclusions" about Tom, and why he didn't tell us after these past few weeks. I guess we'll have to wait for Darren to tell us.

JANE: Okay, then. Now about this other thing you wanted to discuss with me, something about what happened with you and Tom a particular night you came from my house, what I heard you guys talk about at the airport? What's the deal with that?

DARIA: Actually, Darren told me he and Tom talked about that, too. It was a part of their conversation about us. It was the night when--

Daria was interrupted by a knock on Jane's door.

JANE: (Smirks, raises voice at the door:) Enter at your own risk!

Darren came in, shutting the door behind him.

DARREN: (Comes over and sits beside Daria, smiles:) Hey, you two. Sorry I'm a bit late. Have you started yet, Daria?

DARIA: It's okay, bro. I was just about to go into it at full throttle. Since you said you knew about what, well, almost went down with me and Tom that night, but Jane doesn't, I'll start first.

JANE: (Rolls her eyes, smacks her mouth:) Enough lollygagging. Get to what you and Tom "almost" did the night you came from my house, girl, whenever that was.

DARIA: (Sighs:) It was the night when I came back from your house following our talk about the hair-dye incident, Jane. I told you I didn't have any interest in Tom then. (Pauses:) I lied. Big time lied. (Jane looks at Daria as if to say sarcastically, "Oh, really?", while Darren says nothing) I was lost in my thoughts walking, when I came up to my home, and what do you know, Tom was sitting in his rattle-trap Pinto waiting for me...


(Scene "dream waves" to the front of the Morgendorffer's in the flashback)

TOM: Hey.

DARIA: What are you doing here?

TOM: I wanted to talk to you. Your sister said you weren't home, so I figured I'd wait out here.

DARIA: Do you want to come in?

TOM: (Shudders slightly, waves his hand dismissively:) Nooo. There are these girls in there, rubbing stuff on each other's cheeks, and making animal noises. I got kind of scared.

DARIA: That's just the opening rights of the blush-a-thon. At least you got out before the rhythmic chanting.

TOM: (Slight smirk:) Oh yeah, I think I saw that on the Discovery Channel. (Pauses:) Why don't you get in the car?


DARIA: (Present v.o.:) For some reason, I decided not to get into Tom's car. I think you two can decipher what could've happened if I did, especially with what was about to happen, or almost happen. (Jane gets a wide, knowing smirk on her face, Daria frowns) Go to hell, Lane. (Daria continues while Darren chuckles)


DARIA: (Hesitates:) Um, no, I don't think that'll be a good idea, Tom. Why don't we just talk out here, okay?

TOM: (Stares up at her a second through the passenger-side window:) Uh, sure, okay, Daria. (Gets out of his car, comes around)

DARIA: Did you want to talk about Jane?

TOM: Nope.

DARIA: Oh? Then what?

TOM: About our situation.

DARIA: (Frowns, becomes a bit uncomfortable:) I don't know what you mean, we have no "situation". Leave me alone, I gotta go. (Begins to leave)


DARIA: (Present v.o.:) Of course, I knew full damn well what Tom was talking about when he said "situation", but I couldn't bring myself to actually address the "situation" to him. I kept thinking about you, Jane, and compared it to what I was starting to feel about Tom. I weighed the options, and decided that our friendship was too valuable to risk over something like this, though I was denying my true feelings.

JANE: (Present v.o.:) Ah, so that's what you were talking about with Tom when you told him you were in denial. What happened next?

DARIA: (Present v.o., sighs:) Well--


TOM: (Steps forward, hand up, which stops Daria:) Wait. Why is everyone so mad at me?

DARIA: (Turns to him, scowls, in an very impassioned tone for her:) Why? WHY? Because when I moved to this town, I knew immediately I'd be a total outcast, and in the one moment of good luck I've had in my entire life, I met another outcast with whom I could really be friends with, and not have to feel completely alone, and then you came along and screwed the whole thing up!

TOM: (Frowns, takes defensive, equally impassioned tone:) All I did was meet a girl I thought was cool, and I went out with her for awhile! We started to get bored with each other, it happens all of the time! It's nobody's fault!

DARIA: (Snarls:) Oh, yeah? Would you still be bored with her if I weren't around?!

TOM: Probably, and more to the point, she'd be bored with me. It's got nothing to do with you!

DARIA: Good! Because I'm not interested in you, and I'd be stabbing my friend in the back if I considered it!

TOM: Exactly, and what kind of of a jerk would that make me?

DARIA: (Slight nod in agreement:) Exactly.

TOM: (Ditto, but moving closer to Daria:) Alright, then.

DARIA: (Trying not to notice what Tom's about to do, but failing miserably:) Okay.


Daria paused, took a quick, deep, breath. Jane narrowed her eyes in anticipation, sensing that her friend was about to divulge what Jane suspected, the "Deed". Darren simply looked at his sister with no expression, wordlessly. Daria then continued.


DARIA: (Present v.o.:) Tom then leaned over to kiss me. But I--um--

JANE: (Present v.o., after a long moment, leans forward:) Well, what, Daria? What did you do?

DARIA: (Present v.o.:) I--(pauses:) smacked him in the face. It wasn't a hard smack, mind you, just one that was firm enough to get his attention. I then turned around and ran inside my house. (Jane cocks an eyebrow, while Darren continues to say nothing) I didn't see Tom's face of course, but I'm sure he was stunned over what I did because I didn't hear him say a word to call after me. I came in, and leaned back on the door, out of breath, and wondering what in the hell just happened out there. It was just my crappy bad luck that Quinn and her "fashion commandos" saw me while they were in the living room, facial paste and all. I quickly gathered my wits, and went upstairs to my room without giving any of them my witty retorts. (Pauses:) Quinn came up to my door a minute or two later, knocking.

DARREN: Quinn must've been concerned about you.

DARIA: (Smirks:) You'd think that, even though it would've been a minor miracle, wouldn't you? (Pauses:) Actually, she came in and wondered why I hadn't made any cracks about her and the Fashion Club's glob-smeared faces. I got her off my back by saying something to the effect that she and her fashion brood had scared me when I saw them.

DARREN: (Shrugs, slight smile, sarcastic:) Nice to know our sister cared for you so much then.

DARIA: (Sarcastic deadpan:) Yeah, wasn't it, though? Anyway, out of curiousity, I went over to the window to see if Tom were still in the front, and lo and behold, he wasn't. (Pauses:) I thought about calling you, Jane, but I--(hesitates:) couldn't. I--didn't want to. I was too ashamed. Damn it, I didn't want to cause anymore trouble between you guys than had already gone down, and Tom didn't kiss me, so I figured we didn't do anything wrong--

JANE: (Even tone, cuts her off:) --Though you did want to kiss him like hell, am I correct?

DARIA: (Looks down, red-faced:) I, uh--yes. (Looks back up at her, adds quickly:) But I didn't, Jane! That has to count for something--right?

JANE: (After a moment, sighs:) Yeah, yeah, I guess it does, Daria. (Pauses:) What happened next?

DARIA: I immediately got out of my clothes and went to bed, but obviously I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning for what must have been an hour or something. I only saw Tom's face in my mind, and what he--we almost did. My cell phone rang, and after about seven damnable rings, I answered it.

JANE: (Eager tone:) It was Tom, right?

DARIA: (Sighs, slightly annoyed:) --No, Jane, it was the sandman calling me, wanting to know if I needed some damn sand from him to help me get to sleep. (Darren chuckles while Jane smirks) Of course it was Tom.


(Flashback to Daria's room)

DARIA: (Shouts, annoyed while phone is ringing:) Quinn?! Phone! (Pauses:) Quinn?! (Thought v.o.: Great. Quinn and her gang must be out terrorizing the town with their facials, and mom and dad are still working late.) Ah, the hell with it. (Clicks phone on:) Hello?

TOM: (Very contrite tone:) Daria?

DARIA: (Turns pale, sits up:) Tom? Uhh--

TOM: --Please, wait, before you rightfully hang up on me, I'd like to say that I'm sorry for trying to kiss you tonight. It was idiotic, stupid, and just plain moronic to try and do such an asinine thing to you.

DARIA: (Pauses, frowns:) Wait a minute, what's that supposed to mean, Tom? Are you saying I'm not worth kissing, or something?

TOM: Huh? What are you talking about, Daria? I'm just saying--

DARIA: (Rubs her eyes with her fingers, sighs, gets her glasses off her dresser:) --Never mind, Tom, er, you woke me up out of sleeping, and I get, um, irascible when that happens.

TOM: Oh, I'm sorry for waking you, Daria. I didn't know you went to bed at (Pauses:) uh, 9:30?

DARIA: (Red-faced, embarrassed tone:) Oh, well, um, there wasn't anything on TV tonight, so I just decided to turn in early. Sick, Sad, World was preempted by a, uh, (hesitates:) boring little watermelon seed-spitting contest. (Tries to sound sarcastic:) Boy, one can't get enough of those flying, saliva-encased watermelon seeds going across the TV screen without going nuts. It was too much for my eyes, I tell you.

TOM: (Skeptical tone:) Uh-hmm. Sure it wasn't because of what I tried to do?

DARIA: (Pauses:) Um, yeah, I'm positive. In fact, I'm not thinking of that anymore. I was dreaming of dragging my sister on her "beautiful" face by a rope while riding the pony my parents will one day give to me after putting it off for so many years. (Tom laughs, while Daria grows serious:) Damn it, you're right, Tom. I was thinking about that. Look, I'm sorry for smacking you.

TOM: (Incredulous tone:) What are you apologizing to me for, Daria? You were right to do that! I am a jerk! I got the wrong impression that you were attracted to me because I discovered that we both shared the same common interests in classic books, films, and that-oh-so-special brand of cynicism about society at large, and we had fun in doing it! I misread what I thought were signals coming from you as something more than friendship. There was no reason for me to go behind Jane's back like that, none at all. (Pauses:) I know you like me just as a friend, and nothing more. (Daria looks down, pained) I guess I'll have to tell Jane now--

DARIA: (Wide-eyed:) --Uh, Tom? Maybe you shouldn't do that, okay? At least not right now, unless you plan to break up with her, at which point it won't matter. (Pauses:) Uh, now when I think about it, perhaps I gave you the impression that I was interested in you in all those subjects we shared, so in a way, I'm to blame, too. You told me that Jane was pretty PO'd earlier when you two talked on the phone last night, and, well, Jane and I talked to each other after the hair-dye incident just before you and I met tonight, and she asked me point-blank if I were (pauses:) interested in you, (adds quickly:) which I said I wasn't. What do you think will happen if you tell her what happened tonight?

TOM: (Long pause, considers:) Knowing Jane, she'll probably say we were seeing each other behind her back. It could possibly do permanent harm to your friendship with her, and I wouldn't want to be the catalyst in that. (Present: Darren looks at Jane, who stares at Daria with an unreadable look. Daria either doesn't notice, or pretends not to, for she continues)

DARIA: Exactly. She gets wind of this, and she'll get angry all over again. I don't want Jane to feel like she can't trust us if we were around her, wondering if anything was going on.

TOM: I haven't thought of it like that, but you have a point.

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Sooo, what's next? Are you um, going to break up with Jane? From our talk earlier, I gathered that was what you were going to do.

TOM: I--don't know now, Daria. (Daria looks stunned) I've been thinking about nothing else but what almost happened tonight since I came home, and what led up to it. I'm going to talk to Jane tomorrow, and see where we stand with each other once and for all. I'm leaning towards breaking up, but when I think about it some more, maybe I'm not being fair with Jane. Sure, she can be a bit--(pauses:) eccentric at times like you full well know, (Present: Jane smirks) but that was one of the reasons I found myself attracted to her in the first place. I'm wondering if we need to talk to each other more, you know, to open up the lines of communication. I think that was why we had so many arguments recently, like the gummi bears, the "Jane-cam", even over where we were supposed to meet in the homecoming parade. (Hesitates:) I do find myself still liking Jane, despite our recent differences.

DARIA: (Sheepish:) Oh. Well, in that case, if you two do stay together, it's doubly important that you say nothing about tonight. I want Jane to be happy. (Present: Jane gives Daria a "Aw, I'm flattered" look, while Daria frowns at her, and Darren smiles at the two) Good luck, and I mean that.

TOM: Thanks, Daria. I'm sure Jane will tell you about what we decided, then. (Pauses:) Once again, I'm really sorry for what I tried to do.

DARIA: (Smiles slightly, though also a touch of sadness comes through:) It's okay, Tom. No sweat. Goodbye.

TOM: 'Bye, Daria. (Hangs up)


Daria finished her story, and glanced at Jane, who looked at her quietly. Darren looked between the two wordlessly as well, wondering what would happen next. Jane took the initiative.

JANE: I take it that you didn't sleep a wink that night after you hung up. You looked like a zombie the next day at school, nearly dozing off several times in class. You told me you had stayed up most of the night working on an assignment.

DARIA: (Quiet tone, sighs:) I'm sorry for lying to you, Jane. I had stared at the damn ceiling all night, berating myself for not being honest with what I really felt about Tom, and not telling him about that--(pauses:) or you.

JANE: (Matches Daria's tone, small smile:) Hey, it's cool, really. (Pauses, then with a tiny bit of awe in her voice:) I still can't get over you doing that for me, to keep our friendship intact. (Faux sob and faux wiping of her eyes, which makes Darren chuckle:) You--you really do care for me, amiga. I'm so touched--

DARIA: (Glares at her, and glances at Darren:) --In the head, Jane. Enough with the sappy "buddy-buddy" crapola, okay? It happened and it's over. Gone. Done away with. It's time to move on. (Pauses:) You're not angry at Tom for holding back the talk we had when you guys met the next day at all?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Hey, I'm not mad at you at holding back what happened in front of your house that night, so why should I be at Tom? Besides, like you said, Tom and I talked the next day, and we decided to give it another shot. (Frowns:) Now when I think about it, that must have been hell for you to see us together.

DARIA: (Long pause:) Um, well, for a while it was, but I was determined to keep my feelings to myself. Tom asked if I was really okay on the side a couple of times when you weren't around, and I told him everything was fine, and to leave it alone. I--(pauses:) forced myself to accept you guys being together, and eventually, I got over it--or so I had thought.

JANE: Except that we were only fooling ourselves, Daria. I think Tom and I both knew deep down that it was over, but we didn't want to accept it for some reason, so we stayed together, and things started to deteriorate right up to the time Darren came along. (Narrows eyes:) In a way, that doesn't make any sense when you think about it. If things were over between us, why stay together? Why not just end it there? (Darren looks a little uncomfortable at this, but continues to say nothing, looks between the two)

DARIA: I don't know, Jane. Maybe like me, you guys were just in denial, like I was. The truth can really hurt sometimes, and thusly, I guess that cold, hard reality can suck.

JANE: Yeah, maybe that was it. Denial. Damn Egyptian river. (Daria smirks with Darren)

DARIA: (After a moment:) Uh, Jane--?

JANE: What, Daria?

DARIA: What, well, what would have you done if Tom and I had kissed?

JANE: (Considers:) I--I suppose it wouldn't have been a surprise to say that I would've been seriously PO'd with you guys, though in an ironic way, it would've probably been the perfect time to end my relationship with Tom then and there. Beyond that, I--(long pause:) I don't know, and I don't want to know. There is, however, one thing that I have got to know--

DARIA: Okay, uh, shoot.

JANE: Out of curiousity, when did you and Tom realize that you might have been, um, attracted to one another, (adds quickly as Daria cocks an eyebrow:) or you at least found out that he wasn't such a bad guy after all? (Pauses as Daria thinks:) Was it during the homecoming parade?

(Note to reader: See, of course, the now-classic[?] episode "I Loathe A Parade")

Daria looked completely stunned, her mouth slightly agape, speechless. Yet again, Darren said nothing while watching the two intently. Jane gave a slow smirk of realization.

JANE: Oh-ho! So it was during that parade! I thought as much.

DARIA: (Gathering back her wits:) How in the hell did you figure--

JANE: (Smug, cuts her off:) --Call it intuition, my dear Daria, that and the little glance I saw out of the corner of my eye that he gave back at you while we walked off and left you there wearing your (smirks:) "school colors". (Pauses:) Oh, and the way he carried on at the Pizza King with me about the little adventures you two had there. (Daria rolls her eyes) I chalked it up to my relief that you two were finally getting to be friends. (Pauses:) Too bad I didn't realize it was something more at the time.

DARIA: (Raised eyebrows:) Hey, whoa, Jane. At that time, it was nothing more than that, friendship--period. Like you said, I discovered that Tom was really a decent guy, and he started to become my--(pauses:) friend. (Jane grins, Daria glares at her, and Darren laughs)

DARREN: (Chimes in:) Actually, many relationships start off as friendships, Daria. Though with Stephanie and me, we kind of hit it off almost immediately.

DARIA: (Deadpan and sarcastic tone, smirks:) Really? With your looks? You don't say. What a stunning surprise. (Jane smirks as well)

Darren cocked a slightly surprised eyebrow, then formed a very serious look on his face, something that rapidly registered in a pointed way to both of the two young women, for they stopped smirking.

DARREN: (In a stern, but gentle tone:) With all due respect, Daria, that wasn't very funny. It's not as if I just snapped my fingers, and she came running to me because of my looks, like what most people seem to think I do to all women. We both got to know each other first, and became attracted to each other. It wasn't that different from how a lot of other relationships start. I told you both back in Lawndale that I didn't want to be a "lover boy", like your so-called "friend" Upchuck thinks he is. (Jane looks away quietly in thought, and Daria takes a quick note of her reaction) It would be too much trouble to have more than one girl. (Pauses, frowns in thought:) There's a reason for that, primarily because of something, or in this case, someone I didn't elaborate on in Lawndale, and for a good purpose. I'd rather prefer to tell you both later about that, if you don't mind.

DARIA: (Quietly and contritely:) Um, okay, Darren. Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make light of the way you and Stephanie Reardon first met.

JANE: (Ditto, leans over, puts her hand gently on his shoulder:) Yeah, I'm sorry too. Just clobber us upside our heads if we say something as stupid as that again.

DARREN: (Smirks after an instant:) I'll take that under advisement. It's alright, you two, and I want to apologize for sounding a bit snippy. Jane, like I said to you, Stephanie will always hold a small, special place in my heart. (Jane nods in an understanding manner) Let me explain. About two weeks ago, a tabloid newspaper was about to run some trashy reports, all lies, about her personal life. My lawyer Leonard Potter found out through some sources, told me, and I privately called the paper and told them to stop it, or I'd sue them into bankruptcy. Much to my surprise I must admit, they did. Leonard guessed that I still had the "sympathy" factor from the public, and they'd be just as angry at that paper if those lies got out. (Pauses:) I guess I'm still kind of--sensitive about her. (Adds after a moment:) Just like I'd be about you guys and the rest of my family if anyone in the media tried to say anything derogatory about you all. (Jane becomes wide-eyed for a second, blushes, while Daria does the same)

DARIA: (Recovers, smirks:) I appreciate the rather gallant attempts to defend my honor, Darren, but I really don't give a rat's ass about what people think of me, and never have, and never will. As for mom and dad, they're used to the attention by now, the same for our grandmas and aunts. Quinn has scared the hell out of the media by boring them to death with her opinions about fashions and boys, and her looks have cornered the guy's market, and the girl's market over her make up. The only negative things she'd hear about her character would come from her loving sister. (Darren shakes his head slowly and chuckles, while Jane snickers)

JANE: Yeah, Darren, me neither. Let 'em talk, I say. Gossip goes through one ear, and out the other when it comes to moi, the "art-geek weirdo". I'm used to it. Hell, we have it all the time at school, right, Daria?

DARIA: Yeah, so don't fret over it, Darren. Jane and I like to think of ourselves as the ultimate outcasts. Our fellow students usually avoid us like the plague, and we revel in it, it's second nature.

DARREN: (Pauses, shrugs:) Well, that's your business, but call on me if you change your minds, okay? (Daria and Jane smirk, then nod) Now then, you wish to hear what Tom said to me about you guys?

DARIA: You bet your ass we do, bro.

JANE: (Leans over towards him, narrows her eyes:) Out with it.

DARREN: (Sighs:) Here goes--as I told you Daria, Tom came back into the room after you had left--


(Scene "dream waves" to Darren's hospital room almost a month ago, a few days after the incident in the warehouse)

TOM: (Shuts door behind him:) I saw Daria off in the parking lot. I don't think she suspected I wanted to speak to you.

DARREN: (Still lying propped up in his bed, his left shoulder wrapped, smirks:) I'm lucky I caught your inference by all those little head and eye gestures you were giving to me. It's a miracle Daria didn't see them and half-wonder what was up. (Present v.o.: Daria gives a small smirk) Maybe you should have called before you came into the room unannounced, and found Daria in here with me.

TOM: Actually, I tried that, but the line to the hospital was busy. Apparently the attention the hospital's gotten because of you hasn't died down yet.

DARREN: (Snorts:) You've got that right, Tom. I've asked the staff here to not let anyone other than my adopted and birth family members, my friend Curtis, and a few select business associates to call me. Any other calls have to be screened. In fact, that reporter Meg Rosata is scheduled to interview me today.

TOM: (Narrows eyes:) Then I'd better get into what I want to talk to you about--Daria and Jane.

DARREN: (Uneasy look:) Uh, what about them? If this is about the lies I told them and all of Lawndale about who I really am, and the end results of what almost happened, I guess I can understand why'd you'd be upset. I mean, I did promise you that I'd take care of Jane--(Present: Jane gives a small, appreciative smirk, Daria rolls her eyes)

TOM: (Sighs:) --No, Darren, it's not that (smirks, puts up his index and thumb almost together:), though I have to admit I was a tinnny bit perturbed over what you did at first, but after Daria and Jane explained what happened, I can only admire you for what you did and went through to protect them and your family--

DARREN: (Frowns, looks away:) --Or so I had thought. (Changes tone while Tom cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) What about Daria and Jane?

TOM: (Hesitates:) I want to come clean with you on something about Daria first before I talk about Jane. I'm--

DARREN: (Interrupts, smirks:) --You're attracted to Daria, aren't you? (Tom looks stunned)

TOM: How'd--how'd you know?

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Daria talked to me yesterday about you coming by her house and getting your jacket you loaned to her the night I was shot. She had a happy look on her face when she told me that, sort of a small smile, and was blushing.


Daria's eyes widened, and she turned beet red. She glared at Jane, who had begun to laugh so hard, she fell out of her seat and hit the floor while holding her stomach. Daria had been sorely tempted to kick her, but decided it was too easy to try, crossed her arms, said nothing, and looked away indignantly, privately vowing revenge at a later date. Darren grinned at the scene while continuing his story as Jane climbed back into her chair, wiping her eyes.


TOM: (Looking surprised:) She DID? She--she DOES like me? (Darren nods) I thought there was something there that night I came to see her in the waiting room. At first, I only wanted to see how you were doing when I heard the news reports, but I have to admit I wanted see how Daria was handling this--(pauses, adds:) and Jane as well.

DARREN: (Pauses:) Say, uh, I just realized something. How long have you liked my sister, Tom? (Frowns, perplexed:) I mean, now when I think about it, you and Jane just broke up.

TOM: Oh, uh, yeah--that's kind of where Jane comes into the picture. Let me explain--


DARREN: (Present v.o.:) Tom told me about the feelings he was starting to have about you, Daria, even at the expense of--(looks at, hesitates:) Jane (Jane looks at Darren stoically). He talked to me of what you were becoming to him from your homecoming parade on, through the "gummi bear" incident, and all the way up to the night of the hair-dye situation you told us about, Daria, and of the phone call you two had later that night. Needless to say, I was angry--


DARREN: (Through clenched teeth, frowns:) You were about to kiss my sister while still seeing Jane, and Jane doesn't have any idea of what went down? Don't you think you ought to have told her by now?

TOM: (Frowns back:) Hey, I wanted to tell her, but Daria asked me not to say anything, remember? (Darren softens, but just a bit) Besides, Jane and I decided to give it another chance the next day, and Daria (pauses:) was okay with that, even after I asked her several times hence--at least she seemed to be, though I couldn't really be sure. I didn't see any indication that Jane knew what had almost happened, so it was forgotten, and we all resumed our lives. Of course, things only got worse and worse for me and Jane as we stayed together, and Daria was there on the side, dutifully being there with us, like she's almost always been since Jane and I first met. (Present: Daria shrugs as Jane smiles at her) God only knows Daria did everything and then some to help me and Jane stay together. (Pauses:) Daria's a remarkable person, Darren. (Present: Daria turns red again, looks uncomfortably at Darren and at Jane, who pats her shoulder in an assuring manner)

DARREN: You don't have to tell me that, Tom. (Pauses:) But for some reason I can't shake, I think you're leading up to something by telling me all this, am I correct?

TOM: (Sighs:) Oooooh yeah, I guess you can say I'm entering unchartered territory. It was the night I came back from my vacation, the same night you guys went to the Zen and the same day you first met Jane when you saved her life from that muddy sinkhole. (Pauses:) Did, er, Jane tell you about our talk in my home after I left following the--kiss?

DARREN: (Looks away, uncomfortable:) Well, Daria mentioned to me after she went over to Jane's about you two breaking up afterwards. Even after you tried to reassure me the following day that it wasn't mine or even Jane's fault, I still have some guilt about possibly being a catalyst in that--

TOM: (Firm tone, cuts him off:) --Don't be, I told you that, and meant it. (Takes a deep breath:) Speaking of guilt, I've been carrying some of my own since. (Long pause:) You see, I came to the Zen that night to break up with Jane because I still had those same feelings for Daria. (Present: Daria and Jane looked stunned, and at each other, but say nothing, and Darren goes on) I called Mrs. Lane to see if Jane was there, and found out she had gone with you guys to the Zen. (Snorts:) Kind of ironic, huh? It was where Jane and I had first met, and now it was there it was going to end, sort of like everything coming to full circle. I drove there even rehearsing what I'd say, and how Jane would react. Imagine my surprise when I saw the kiss, and Daria's reaction--she was as shocked as I was.

DARREN: Yes, I know that part, though at the time I was kind of "out" of it. (Tom smirks) Daria said you looked like Jane tore a part of your heart away, and you immediately left with Jane going after you to try and explain why with Trent.

TOM: (Raised eyebrows:) My heart was torn out? Daria must've gotten my surprised look mixed up with utter relief. I couldn't have been more delighted by the turn of events. (Darren looks shocked) (Present: Daria puts her hand up to stop Darren, and Jane leaps up, frowning)


DARIA: Waaaait a second--Tom was--

JANE: (Scowls, jumps in:) --DELIGHTED to see you and me kissing one another, Darren? If that's the case, why didn't he just stand there and clap his damn hands in approval? He didn't say anything to me about--

DARREN: (Sighs, puts up his hands:) --Calm down, Jane. I was as stunned as you and Daria were. Let me continue--(Jane slowly sits back down, still scowling)


DARREN: (Wide-eyed:) You--were--

TOM: (Nods his head slowly, still smirking:) --Uh-huh. Delighted. Estatic. Relieved. I felt as if a weight had been taken off my shouders, Darren. I didn't have to tell Jane I was going to break up with her, for she provided the perfect out for me.

DARREN: (Speechless:) Then--why--why did you leave the Zen?

TOM: I had to think. The moment I saw you two do that, the gears were starting to race in my mind. I turned around and left to rehearse a new speech to Jane while driving off, or at the least, ad-lib something when we talked. Of course, I knew that Jane would follow me, so I figured I'd have some time to "prepare" myself. I went into my house just as Jane came up with Trent.


DARREN: (Present v.o.:) He told me about the talk that you and he had when you came into his house, Jane, and your reasons for doing so--


TOM: --When Jane told me that you saved her life from that sinkhole, needless to say, I was stunned beyond belief, and it almost knocked me completely off stride finding out that she could've drowned, but I was determined to keep acting like the scorned party. I added that I thought I told her not to go near the sinkholes, though in reality, it was more of a suggestion than an "order". (Present: Jane sits back in her chair, dumbfounded, while Daria looks impassive)

DARREN: But--but why, Tom? Why didn't you just tell her that you wanted to break up then and there anyway, and that Jane had nothing to worry about?

TOM: (Looks away, quiet voice:) I saw how Jane kissed you, Darren. She wanted to very much, just as you wanted to kiss her back, because you told me that you had liked it the next day, remember? I--I thought if I had told Jane during our talk, she wouldn't have believed me. (Present: Jane and Daria cock an eyebrow) She probably would've thought that I was trying to protect her in lessening the guilt she had felt in kissing you at the time, and thinking she was the primary party in breaking up her relationship with me. In reality, I was doing it by behaving in a deliberately stupid and insensitive manner to drive her to you. (Darren's mouth drops) (Present: Jane jumps up again)


JANE: (Incredulous tone:) Lemee get this straight: Tom was trying to protect me from thinking I had screwed up our relationship when I kissed you by letting me believe he was an insensitive jerk, and basically putting me into your arms, while he would make a move to Daria? (Looks to Daria, holds out her arms:) Well, geez, Daria! Aren't you gonna say any damn thing? Aren't you PO'd?

DARIA: (After a moment, deadpan:) I must say Tom went to great lengths to be with me. (Pauses:) Sort of comparable to wanting to go to the moon, but taking a detour via Mars instead. It's quite twisted in a way when you think about it, Jane. (Jane glares at Daria)

JANE: Don't tell me that you admire what Tom had done, amiga? He flat-out lied to us! Holding back what he had done, and I had felt terrible during that talk with him! Now, I come to find out that it was all a damn ruse! Tom had lied to me--to you after all this time!

DARIA: (Frowns:) Hey, I'm not arguing with you on this, Jane. I think what Tom had done was wrong, but you have to admit, it was pretty shrewd, that's all. Tom saw in that kiss that you liked Darren, and he you, and Tom figured he could get you guys together while being with me later, after everything had "died" down.

DARREN: (Jumps in before Jane says something else:) Yes, Jane, Tom had lied, much like I had done, and Daria had done to you, remember? I'm not condoning what he said or even did to be right, either, but you and my family forgave me for my lies and what I had done, and you forgave Daria for her lies. Why not forgive Tom for his?

Jane looked between the two, blinked in surprise, then threw up her hands, exasperated.

JANE: (Sarcastic tone:) Fine, okay, sure! Why the hell not? I mean, hey, I'm with Darren, and Daria's with Tom! It worked out perfectly, huh? (Slumps back into her seat)

DARIA: (Smirks, deadpan:) That's the spirit, "Dollface". (Jane mock-glares at her while Darren chuckles) Besides, Tom's not completely off the hook. (Frowns, looks at Darren:) I don't like the way he dumped this on you because he was afraid how me and Jane would've reacted, Darren. Tom had more than enough opportunities to tell me before now, (sees Darren about to speak:) and don't you dare compare that to what you did and what I did to Jane, bro, you got that?

DARREN: (Puts his hands up in a reassuring manner:) Hey, whoa, I wouldn't even dream of doing that, sis. I was just going to finish telling of my talk with Tom.

JANE: (Does a sweeping gesture with her hands, mock-regal tone:) Then by all means, my good man, do go on.

DARREN: (Ditto with the tone, smirks:) How kind of you to allow me to continue, my dear Jane. (Gets serious:) Anyway, after I recovered enough from Tom's little bombshell, he continued--


TOM: I watched Jane leave with Trent, then started upstairs to my room. I felt content, having allowed Jane to think that we parted on good terms, and perhaps that she and you could be together free and clear, though I couldn't be sure either way. I then decided to visit Daria the next day and tell her my feelings about her. When I came to the Morgendorffer's, imagine my shock over seeing how fast you and Jane had gotten together. It became clear to me that this wasn't the right time to speak to Daria, so I held off, waiting to talk to her later. It was also a good time to finish my vacation, anyway.

DARREN: (Snorts:) Hmph. You had me fooled pretty good that day, Tom.

TOM: Hold it--I was quite serious when I told you that I wanted to thank Daria for what she had done to try and keep Jane and me together, and to you for saving Jane's life, and of taking care of Jane. (Pauses:) I still have some feelings for Jane, and I suppose I always will in a very limited capacity. It's just that we should've parted company a long while back. (Present: Jane nods slowly in acknowledgement)

DARREN: I see. (Pauses:) Well, at least I don't have to feel guilty anymore when it comes to thinking I had something to do with breaking you and Jane up. (Cocks an eyebrow:) May I assume that Daria or Jane know nothing about this, yet?

TOM: Nope, they don't. (Pauses:) If you don't mind, I'd like to tell them both myself--I promise.

DARREN: Sure, no problem. (Shakes hands with Tom, using his good arm, of course. The door opens, and a nurse appears:) Yes?

NURSE: Meg Rosata and a camera crew are here for your interview, Mr. Appleton. Should I let them in?

DARREN: Oh, sure. Thanks. (The nurse nods, and leaves)

TOM: That's my cue to take off. See you.

DARREN: Take it easy, Tom. Good luck with Daria. (Watches him leave)


(Scene goes back to Jane's room, the present)

DARREN: And there you have it. (Pauses:) Look, sis, just try and go easy on Tom when you see him next, okay? Like I said, he does like you.

DARIA: (Gets up:) I won't make any promises that I can't keep, bro. (Pauses:) Get it? Besides, who says that I'm even going to see him next? Excuse me. (Quickly leaves)

DARREN: (Sighs, stares after her, thought v.o.: So much for her going "easy" on him.:) She's going to call him, isn't she?

JANE: Yeeeep. (Stands up and pulls Darren, brightens up:) Ooookay, now it's time to see your paintings, m'boy! We've got a few minutes to check em' out, and I can see your room, too! Where to? (Hooks her arm with his, pulls him out)

DARREN: (Hesitant, uneasy chuckle:) Hey, uh, Jane? Maybe we should wait until we eat lunch, first? No need to rush on my account.

JANE: (Pulling him with a determined look on her face:) Rush, smush! They can start eating without us if worse comes to worse! Now where's your art, Art? (Darren shakes his head, grins, takes the lead)


(Scene changes to Daria's room)

Daria made a beeline straight to her cell phone, frowning. She'd decided to give Tom a piece of her mind for letting her brother do the dirty work. Holding back his real motives, which apparently were done to come closer to Daria, was one thing, but this was altogether different. If she hadn't just kissed him earlier at the airport (her first real kiss), she'd let him have the full brunt of the Daria Morgendorffer Word of Mouth Technique. As such, Tom would have to settle for the Half-Assed one. Daria flipped open the phone, and dialed Tom's number. It started to ring.


(Scene changes to the Sloane's, the living room)

The phone on the coffee table rang, and a short-haired brunette with a sweater tied around her neck answered it. This was Elsie, Tom's sister.

ELSIE: I got it, Mom! (Clicks on phone:) Sloane residence.

DARIA: Um, Elsie? Hey. This is Daria. Is Tom there?

ELSIE: Oh, hey, Daria. Tom's not here at the moment. He left a few minutes ago with my dad to help out at the office with some extra work. Gotta make that Monday to Friday money on a Saturday, and all that, he said. I can take a message for him to call you when he gets back. How was the plane ride up there? Is the Appleton mansion everything I heard it to be?

DARIA: The ride went well, and this place has everything and the kitchen sink, Elsie. (Pauses:) I'm kind of surprised that you'd sound eager to ask about it, since, well, uh--

ELSIE: (Smirks:) --I live in a little ol' castle myself? It's just that compared to our home, the Appleton estate is a small kingdom, and then some. (Sarcastic tone:) It's so nice to talk about someone else having more than us. It makes me feel like one of the little people. (A rare, low chuckle is heard from Daria)

DARIA: Funny you should say that. (Slightly annoyed tone:) Could you be sure to tell Tom about a "little" thing I want to talk to him about, Elsie? (Pauses:) He'll know what I mean.

ELSIE: (After a moment:) Uh, Daria, this isn't about what Tom did in not telling you and Jane on what happened that night in that "Zen" place, is it?

DARIA: (Surprised sound:) Huh? You know?

ELSIE: Um, yeah, I do. Tom told me about it after he talked to your brother in the hospital, and then he brought it up again this morning when he picked me up at my friend's house. (Pauses:) He was really worried about how you'd react, Daria, even moreso than Jane.

DARIA: (Sighs:) It's not his holding back what he did to me or Jane, Elsie, it's more over him putting my brother in the hot seat like that. Tom promised Darren that he'd be the one to tell us, and Tom didn't.

ELSIE: Daria, Tom did a stupid thing, period. I'm not going to defend that, but I know that he does care about you very much. You're the first girlfriend he's ever really gone on about. I didn't even know about Jane until he talked about you, and happened to mention her on the side. Not that I'm making any excuses for him, and I'll deny this like hell if you tell him what I said, but Tom has this tendency to sometimes not tell about what's on his mind, especially when it comes to dealing with females. He seems to be trying to settle down now. (Sighs:) Just promise me when you light into him, that you won't be too harsh, okay? He feels like a big enough heel as it is.


(Scene goes back to Daria's room, the Appleton mansion)

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: More damn promises to keep, and a hell of a lot of miles to go before I sleep.) Uh, well, okay, Elsie, I'll promise to give him the easy treatment. I, um (looks around:), do like Tom, too. Just tell him to call me, okay?

ELSIE: Sure, Daria. Have a good time with your nice-looking brother (pauses:) and the rest of your family, I add half-heartedly. (Daria smirks) Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My parents want to meet Darren the next time he comes to Lawndale. They were out of town, and he was gone before they could talk to him.

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Undoubtedly Mr. Sloane wants to bedazzle my brother with his business acumen, and Mrs. Sloane with her socially enlighting one.) I will, Elsie. My cellphone number here is (looks at the phone:) extension 23. Your brother called up here before, so just get him to call this number after punching in Darren's number, and it'll connect to here. Good bye. (Clicks off phone:) I can hold out for awhile on Thomas, I suppose. (Pauses:) Stop the talking to yourself out loud again, Daria, you've outgrown it. (Thought v.o.: Do it in your head, it's far more private. Might as well pass the little time that's remaining in seeing my brother's artwork, before lunch and the study. I wonder where it's at?) (Leaves)


(Scene is in a room with Darren and Jane, the same time)

Jane and Darren were in what Darren had termed jokingly as his "art sanctum", a fairly large, rectangular space, about ten feet by twenty feet. To Jane, it looked to be the classic art studio, with track lighting, and a rather large easel and paint tray, far larger than what she had, and a cabinet that housed a variety of paints and supplies, and a sink. There was a large picture window which took up an entire wall of the room, showing the lake and the forest that encircled it, providing yet another spectacular view of the estate's grounds. There were several paintings, some on the walls and on a paint-spattered table in the center of the room, including the one Jane had done of Darren she had given to him before he left Lawndale, as well as of some of the landscape that surrounded the mansion, and of his adopted parents (in far more casual clothing, as opposed to the more formal clothing they wore in the family room). There was one of Curtis, and an African-American young woman with an embroidered hairstyle of braids beside him, more than likely Lena, Jane surmised. Jane narrowed her eyes and surveyed all of the paintings carefully and wordlessly, while Darren folded his arms and looked at Jane with a look of nervousness.

JANE: (Whistles in awe:) Darren, these paintings are good--damn freakin' good. The paint strokes are of a light, soft variety. (Smirks:) Were you influenced by Monet and Renoir, by any chance? (Darren cocks an impressed eyebrow, gives a lazy smirk)

DARREN: (Sarcastic tone:) Surprise! You obviously know your artists. Yes, I was. I've always been "impressed" by the Impressionists. It's a type of art that I feel the most at ease with because if its "softness" and I need that after everything we've all gone through these past few weeks. It's a great therapeutic remedy.

JANE: (After a moment:) You mean, therapeutic as in that painting you did for Daria? It certainly wasn't Impressionist in nature.

DARREN: (Sighs:) No, it wasn't. It reflected what was on my mind at the time. I--woke up in the middle of the night and finished it in a few hours.

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Whoa. That fast? (Darren nods) (Pauses:) Does this have something to do with what you want to tell us tonight in the media room, (adds hastily:) um, not that I'm trying to pressure you to tell me before time, of course.

DARREN: Yes, actually it does, and I appreciate that you're not, Jane. (Changes subject, small smile, coy look:) So, ah, do you really like my work, or are you just being nice to me by not wanting to hurt my feelings?

JANE: (Chuckles:) Now, you know the word "nice" isn't in my book, Darren, so I have to be serious, here. (Pauses, raises eyebrows:) What, don't tell me you don't believe in your work? This should be hanging up in a gallery somewhere!

DARREN: (Puts his hands up:) Whoa, let's not get carried away, here, okay? I basically do this as a hobby, nothing more, nothing less, certainly not like you, where it's your life. You're sounding like Curtis, pressuring me like this!

JANE: (Impassioned tone:) Good, then Curtis and I are on the same wavelength, here! Hobby or not, this is terrific stuff! The world should see it! Why haven't you put it out?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) I just thought it wasn't good enough for anyone to see. (Frowns in thought, pauses:) I know my (adopted) parents loved my paintings, and continued to encourage me, but they never told me to put them out. I wonder if that was a part of keeping my life private?

JANE: (Puts her hands on her hips, frowns:) Well, I think it is! I wanna show Tess Donovan some of your work when I visit her later this week, okay? You can't keep this under wraps anymore, (looks up in his face:) and you might as well know I'm not taking "no" for an answer!

DARREN: (Backs up, wide-eyed, snickers:) Okay, alright! If you want to have this Tess Donovan get a good laugh at my expense, then be my guest and take a few pieces!

Jane was about to respond to this when Daria suddenly showed up, walking in with Fiona. Jane gave a slightly cool look when she saw Fiona, but said nothing as the two came up.

FIONA: Here's Darren's art studio, Miss Daria. It's a good thing I found you wondering around. (Jane smirks, while Darren chuckles in a low tone, and Daria slightly turns red) Please remember to use the intercom next time, and someone will direct you where you want to go.

DARIA: (Grumbles:) I'll be sure to mark that down, um, Fiona.

JANE: Dr. Morgendorffer, I presume? At last, you have found us after all these minutes! (In a taunting tone:) Whatsamatter, got lost in the maze of corridors here, and had to be led around by the hand? (Fiona giggles quietly, covering her mouth)

DARIA: (Glares:) This is a big-ass house, Lane. I'm sure there are plenty of places where no one can find a dead body, possibly for a few days. I'd suggest that you remember that. (Fiona still giggles, and Darren smirks)

JANE: And I'll take that under advisement, amiga--just consider yourself fortunate that it took Fiona here a few seconds to direct you to here.

DARIA: So noted. (Looks around:) Wow, this is some studio, Darren. That's your work, I presume?

DARREN: Thanks, Daria, and yes it is. Go on and check it out. (To which Daria does) I'll be over there in a sec.

JANE: (Grins:) Oh, Daria, did you reach Tom on the phone?

DARIA: (While looking at a painting:) Nope, Tom's been granted a reprieve--(pauses:) you know I tried to call him? (Jane nods, smirking) I hate you, Lane. Damn intimate friendship. (Goes back to viewing the painting, while Darren chuckles)

JANE: (To a confused Fiona:) I know her almost like a book, you see.

DARIA: (While still eyeing Darren's paintings, overhears:) But you still have to read the entire book, Jane, and there are quite a few chapters that remain. Given your track record in Mr. O'Neill's class on reading books in their entirety, I'm not too worried, here. (Darren snickers)

JANE: (Smirks:) Then, I guess I'll have to continue to collect the Cliff notes from you, eh?

DARIA: (Still eyeing the paintings:) Sure, but it'll keep costing you, Jane. You know the price: pizzas, our rebellions against the system of stupidity at school and in life, the now-classic putdowns of Quinn and her fellow Fashion Club minions, yadda, yadda, yadda--

FIONA: (Stares at the two for an instant, then:) Oh, uh--well, since I'm here, Master Darren, I wanted to know if you still wanted to paint that portrait of me week after next just before you go back to Eastward? (Jane cocks an eyebrow, and Daria looks in their direction from the background)

DARREN: (Smiles:) I haven't forgotten, Fiona. Our appointment is still on.

FIONA: Very good, sir. (Curtsys:) I'll excuse myself now. Henri says that lunch is just about ready. Miss Jane, Miss Daria. (Leaves)

JANE: (Watches her leave, then turns to Darren:) So, uh, you're gonna do a portrait of her, huh? (Daria comes up)

DARREN: That's what you heard her say, Jane. It's a series of paintings that I'm going to do of the staff, and hang them up throughout the mansion's hallways. Elenor and Claude are a bit gun-shy, but I'm working on them, while Henri is very eager for me to do his, insisting that I show him with some of his food in the background. (Daria and Jane look at him strangely) Don't ask. I told him that it would be at least a month down the road before I could start on him because of school. Tina considers it to be "beneath her dignity" to sit for hours still at a time, and is adamently fighting me on this.

DARIA: Tina--she's the head of security, right?

DARREN: Yes, you two didn't have a chance to meet her when you came in. She's left the mansion, and won't be back until Monday. I'll introduce you to her then.

JANE: Darren, do you mind if I move my art supplies and easel in here? (Pauses:) Maybe, um, I can help you with those portraits of the staff, starting with Fiona first? (Daria drops an eyebrow, but says nothing)

DARREN: I was wondering if you'd ever ask, Jane. Of course you can. I should've mentioned that while we talked on the phone. In fact, I'm hoping you guys and the rest of my family will be able to come here every other week most of the time from now on. I don't want us to be strangers, you know.

JANE: (Puts her arms around Darren's neck:) No chance of that happening, mister. (Kisses him, and vice versa)

DARIA: Before you two go completely mushy on me, do you mind if we finish the mini-tour of Darren's little art studio first? My personal itinerary is screaming "lunch" and then "library".

JANE: I didn't know itineraries could speak.

DARIA: In my mind they can.

DARREN: In that case, we'd better speed up the "tour", then. (Goes back to his paintings with the others)


Over the next hour or so, lunch came and went, with everyone giving Henri the highest grade of A+ (yes, even Daria and the gourmet Jake) on the exquisite taste of his chicken bella donna. Jake even asked for the recipe, to which Henri gladly gave to him, much to the personal consternation of Helen, Daria, and Quinn.

On the side, Daria and Jane informed Darren of Ms. Li's request for some private funding of Lawndale High School, and what Li would do in exchange for Darren's donation, explaining what Li does to "volunteer" students for various school activities, and what Li allegedly uses the money for, such as the acclaimed electric chair, drug-sniffing dogs, and the bulletproof skylights for the school's swimming pool. After he recovered from what they told him, a still-stunned Darren asked Daria and Jane if they wouldn't mind if he would get Woo to investigate Li and check out their stories, not that he didn't believe them, of course, but just to have iron-clad proof if the allegations were true when he spoke to Li on his next visit to Lawndale. Both girls shrugged and agreed, saying they had no problem with Darren's request. Daria then quickly excused herself to the library study for some serious reading. Darren and Jane went to the gameroom to do a quick game of bowling.


Helen went with Millie outside to tour the grounds, primarily to get a lay of the estate for her speedwalking routes. Helen noted that Millie seemed very subdued while talking, but guessed that she was tense about tonight's little meeting, whatever it was, about Helen's son. Helen decided to take in the sights and beauty of the surrounding forest without asking Millie about her demeanor, not wanting to possibly agitate her.

(Note to reader: Helen is known to exercise by speedwalking in the episode "Lane Miserables")


A secretly delighted Jake, after talking to and consoling an upset Andrew Landon over the phone about the "misunderstanding" concerning the arrests at the airport, went with Edward to the rear of the estate to continue to hit more practice balls for the golf outing tomorrow morning with Darren. Edward privately was becoming annoyed with Jake's constant bantering, but swallowed hard and said nothing as he continued to hit the golf balls, preparing in his mind for his clandestine listening meeting tonight in the media room.


The Fashion Club, after going through and consulting with each other over their vast wardrobe of swimsuits for about two hours, went to the indoor swimming pool. Of course, this being the Fashion Club, the girls lounged around the pool in chairs, opting to only talk about what movies to get to see for tonight, the pending meeting with Candi Gunwald, and of the latest fashions in the latest edition of Waif magazine, which they all had their own copies of. They did not come to swim, as that would be unfashionable and mess up their hair, preferring to get their swimming caps at Cashman's later to do any future swimming. Elenor came and gave them a tray of unsweetened iced tea. The girls mixed their sweetners into the tea.

QUINN: Thanks, Elenor. (Elenor gives a curtsy and leaves as Quinn drinks her tea with the others:) Okay, Tiffany, Stacy, I'm reading that fashion designer's book that Sandi's just finished with. I can go over the questions we should ask that Gunwald lady with you two. Stacy, thank you for changing your mind and letting me read it first.

STACY: (Shrugs:) It's okay, Quinn. I figured if you can get us on at Circa, then I should repay you. Besides, like you said, we can go over whatever questions we need to ask her together, right, Tiffany?

TIFFANY: (While reading:) Uhh-huhh...

SANDI: (Ditto:) Then everything's like, settled. (Looks up from her book, pauses:) Er, I'd like to propose that we give a special Fashion Club recognition to our vice-president, Quinn Morgendorffer, for her tactful persuasion in convincing her brother to allow the rest of us this golden opportunity to get our fashionably petite feet into the door of Circa Fashions. (Quinn looks at Sandi, stunned, while Stacy breaks out in a big grin, and Tiffany has her typical, vacant look, but manages to give a tiny smile) Quinn Morgendorffer will be allowed to dictate fashion for one whole month to the Fashion Club of her own choosing during the school year, (adds quickly:) following the strict fashion guidelines we have, of course. Like, this is the highest honor given to a Fashion Club member, as you all know. All who support this proposal say, "Aye".


QUINN: (Searches for words:) Gosh, guys--I--I don't know what to say. This is such a great honor--

STACY: (Estatic, squeals, reaches over and grabs, er, hugs her:) --You deserve it, Quinn! Congratulations!

TIFFANY: (Pats her on the arm lightly:) Yeah...congratulations.

QUINN: (Contrite:) Um, thanks, Sandi.

SANDI: (Looks back into her book uncomfortably:) Er, you're, like, welcome, Quinn. (Adds quickly to change the tone:) Oooh, white mink sandals! Page 45! (The rest of the F.C. quickly look in their magazines)


Jane decided that she wanted to go for a swim in the pool, and managed to get a marginally PO'd Daria out of the study to come along with her and Darren. Jane had done the deed herself, while Darren went to change into his trunks (a "convenient excuse" it seemed to Jane over not wanting to go in with her there), saying he'd meet them at the pool. Daria took her book, in this case, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, with her to read. Daria only came after she was guilt-tripped by Jane's private little overture to her about spending some time with her brother, noting that he looked a bit aprehensive about tonight's meeting, and would appreciate being with her and Quinn at the same time. Both had raided Quinn's bedroom and had chosen a modest white single-piece swimsuit for Daria (Jane had her own swimsuit packed--a solid black single-piece one), then going back to Daria's room to change. Daria's swimsuit fit her perfectly, accentuating her underrated figure. Both girls then left the room to go to the pool wearing their bathrobes and sandals.

DARIA: (Sighs:) The damn things you make me do, Jane--

JANE: (Smirks:) --Daria, you can change and go back into your precious study after we finish. All I'm asking for you to do is to relax with us around the pool. Besides, you have your book.

DARIA: Yeah, but I'll be (finger quote:) "relaxing" with Quinn and her fashion cronies there, too. It'll be sheer torture for me. The last thing I want to do is be around them.

JANE: Only if you allow Quinn and her buddies to get to you, girl, and hey, I'm there to swim, not to make fashion or boy conversation (gets a lustful look:), save for talking about and seeing my boy Darren. I wonder how his muscles look?

DARIA: Probably like the ones in your head. Jane, when you get down to it, Darren's like any other guy.

JANE: (Gently elbows her:) I wonder if you'd say the same thing about Young Thomas, my dear? Haven't you ever wanted to see him in the semi-nude?

DARIA: At the moment, I'm kind of wanting to see Tom grovel at my feet and begging for my forgiveness because he was too much of a chicken in leaving it up to my brother and your boyfriend to tell us what he should have done himself. I noticed he hasn't called me back yet.

JANE: Tom'll call, relax. Mr. Sloane's office usually buzzes around, even on a Saturday. (Pauses:) Yeah, I was angry at him too, but to be honest with you, Daria, I just wanna put it behind me. In the grand scheme of things, everybody, and I do mean everybody, did a lot of stupid things. None of us were honest with ourselves. We have to learn from it, and go on.

DARIA: That's a pretty deep statement, even for you.

JANE: That's because I'm thinking about the deep water I'm about to dive into, amiga. (Breaks out into a grin:) Now, are you sure this is the way to the pool? We don't want to get lost again, do we?

DARIA: (Deadpan, sarcastic tone, cuts her eyes over:) Oh, no, we certainly don't want that, seeing as I can drown you sooner than later. (Jane smirks)

The two were going by the media room, when Edward came out at the same time, almost running into them.

EDWARD: Oh, I'm sorry, pardon me, ladies! Are you two alright?

DARIA: (Looks over herself:) I'm not bleeding to death, so I think I'll live. You're Edward White, right? Millie Appleton's er, beau?

EDWARD: (Startles Daria by gently taking up and kissing the back of her hand, which makes her turn red, and Jane to smirk:) Indeed I am, miss, and you, I believe, are the charming Daria Morgendorffer, the sister of Darren. (Suddenly does the same with a startled Jane, who blushes as well, eliciting a return smirk from Daria:) And you, my dear, must be the lovely Jane Lane, the girlfriend of Darren.

JANE: (Squeaks with looking at the back of her hand:) Yes, I am! (Goes back to her normal voice, quickly jerks down her hand:) Er, I mean, yes, I am. (Adds:) Lovely, that is. (Daria gives her a mock-disdainful look) Oh, and I'm the girlfriend of Darren Appleton, I am, I am.

EDWARD: Please allow me to extend additional apologies for not meeting you two when you first came in, then. It was most uncouth of me. I see you're going swimming in the pool?

DARIA: (After a quick glare at Jane:) Not that I really wanted to, but yes, you can say that. (Pauses:) Um, so you were in the media room?

EDWARD: Oh, er, yes, I was. I was thinking about borrowing a VHS tape to watch in the home movie theater tonight, if any of you weren't. I--didn't really find any one that I wanted (Daria slightly narrows her eyes), so I'm planning to stay up in my room tonight to read a book, or something. I just came from practicing some golf swings with your father Jake Morgendorffer, a most--(pauses:) fasinating man. He's still out in the rear, practicing.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Well, my dad fasinates me everyday with the things that he does. Comedy Central could base a show on his daily antics. (Edward gives a low chuckle, and Jane smirks)

JANE: Well, I guess if you want to get a book, then you'll have an infinite choice to read in the study like Daria. We'll see you later. (Starts to leave:) Coming, Daria?

DARIA: Oh, yeah, sure. Nice to meet you, Edward. (Follows Jane)

EDWARD: Daria, Jane. (Watches them for a bit, then leaves)

As Daria and Jane continued to make their way towards the pool, Jane noticed her friend's slight frown.

JANE: Okay, you don't have that sort of look unless you're thinking about something that really puzzles you, amiga. What's up?

DARIA: I don't know, Jane. Call me a bit paranoid, but something seemed to be kind of not right about our friend, Edward. (Jane cocks an eyebrow) Don't you think it's a little weird that he couldn't find a tape of a movie to watch? Millie said they had over 5000 of them in the video library, all types. He couldn't find one damn movie at all?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Hey, maybe "Eddie" changed his mind at the last second, opting to read instead. Things happen at the last second and can change a person's plans, that's all.

DARIA: (Sighs, gives a pointedly annoyed look at Jane:) I can attest to that. (Jane snickers)

Both entered into the pool area, and immediately Quinn saw them, having looked up from her magazine. She frowned a little in disgust over their presence and reluctantly went back to her reading, but really scowled when she caught a glimpse of Daria wearing her swimsuit after Daria had removed her bathrobe and sat down in a lounging chair at the other end of the pool. After Daria gave a quick, enthusiastic wave and smirk to her, Daria started to read. Quinn thought about storming over to her older sister and berate her over borrowing her swimsuit without asking, but decided to not make a scene in front of her friends, preferring to wait until later, and going back to her book. Sandi looked up from her magazine and saw Jane, who gave her a neutral look as she removed her bathrobe, and dived into the water. Sandi shrugged, seeing that Jane didn't appear threatening, and went back to reading.

JANE: (Splashing around:) C'mon in, the water's fine, Daria!

DARIA: (Nose in book:) Give it a rest, Jane. I've dressed, came, and have now commenced to read, per your's and Darren's wishes. The swimming that will be done here will be by you and my brother.

JANE: Aw, you're no fun, pard!

DARIA: (Nose still in book:) I don't do fun, if you recall.

JANE: (Snorts, under her breath:) Tell me about it. (Looks over to the F.C.:) Say, do you notice the symbolism here relative to our current positions?

DARIA: (Ditto with her book:) Explain.

JANE: We're in the deep end of the pool, while your sister and her friends populate the shallow end.

DARIA: (Glances up:) Hm, you're right. Give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back. (Jane chuckles, backstrokes, while Daria goes back to reading)

Quinn looked up from her book at Daria and Jane, rolling her eyes.

QUINN: Of all the times for them to be here, why now?

STACY: (Stops reading her book, looks between them and Quinn:) Why, what's wrong, Quinn? They're just swimming and reading. (Quinn glares at her) Eep!

TIFFANY: (Ditto with her book:) Say, Quinn...isn't that your...swimsuit your sister's...wearing?

QUINN: (Snorts:) Yeah, it is, an' she didn't even ask me if she could wear it, and stuff! You'd think she could've at least done that!

SANDI: (Staring at Daria:) Hmm, like, I think your sister looks quite attractive in your suit, Quinn. (Quinn looks at Sandi like she's grown a second head) This is something I didn't notice until now. Perhaps with a facial, new hairstyle, and wardrobe, she could be quite fashionable.

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes, chuckles:) Sure, right, and I'll date Upchuck this year. If you wanna ask her to do that, be my guest. (Goes back to her book)

Darren suddenly walked into the pool area, wearing his bathrobe.

DARREN: Sorry I'm late. I was talking to my lawyer, Leonard Potter. Helen came in with my aunt Millie, and asked to speak to him. He's going to meet Monday with Helen and Jake to do a little legal talk. (Looks over to Daria, smiles:) Thanks, for coming, sis. Are you sure you don't want to swim with us, (adds, smirks:) even though you're wearing a swimsuit, too?

DARIA: (Glances up from her book:) This suit is only for show, Darren, and you're welcome. (Smirks at Jane:) Besides, I'm afraid I can't swim because I'm wearing my glasses, you see. I wouldn't be able to wear them in the water. (Pauses:) Jane seems to have forgotten that little detail. (Jane gets a look of realization on her face, snaps her wet fingers, mouthing "damn") (Smug thought v.o.: Check and mate, Jane.)

DARREN: (Disappointed look:) You didn't bring your contact lenses?

(Note to reader: See of course, the controversial[?] episode "Through A Lens Darkly")

DARIA: Nope. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) You know about those? (Darren nods) Who told you about--(Jane gives a sheepish look, cuts her eyes away) why am I not surprised? Well, anyway, I can't join you guys, sorry. Have fun in the pool. Be sure to tell me about it, okay? (Goes back to book)

DARREN: (Breaks out into a big smirk:) Don't worry, it's covered, sis. (Daria looks up at him as Darren suddenly digs in the pocket of his robe, pulls out a lens case and eye moistening solution:) Got some contact lenses right here. (Daria looks stunned as Jane breaks out in a laugh) Helen gave me your type of eye prescription while I talked to her on the phone last week, and I bought some just in case you needed them, which you obviously do, and they're the soft kind, which won't hurt your eyes. You can put them on at any time when you swim.

JANE: (Smirks wickedly:) Check and mate, Morgendorffer. (Daria gives Jane a mild scowl)

DARIA: (Flatly:) You've thought of everything, haven't you, brother dear?

DARREN: (Smiles:) I tried to sis, I really did. I'm determined to be sure that you have everything that you need while you're here. No need to thank me. (Walks over to her, puts case and solution beside her, goes back to pool, crosses arms and watches her while Jane snickers)

Daria sighed in defeat, removed her glasses, took the solution, and put a few drops into one lens, pausing for a second to prepare for the anticipated pain in her eye she had experienced previously with her contact lenses. She put one in, blinked her eye, and much to her surprise, felt no pain at all. Daria did the same with the other lens, again feeling no pain. In fact, the lens felt perfectly fine. She looked over at Darren, who looked satisfied at Daria's reaction.

DARREN: That's the world's best contact lenses and eye solution, Daria. It's made to ensure that the user feels no pain whatsoever. I know you prefer to wear your glasses, so please don't think this is an attempt to change your appearance, or anything like that. It's just for swimming only.

DARIA: (At a loss for words, quiet tone:) Um, er, sure, Darren, okay. (Thought v.o.: Damn it, these things feel fantastic on my eyes.) Ah, how much did you pay for these?

DARREN: (Pauses:) Er, enough, sis. Don't worry about it, okay?

JANE: (While paddling in the pool, grinning, cuts off Daria before she can say anything else:) Remove the damn robe, and get the hell in, Darren, time's a wastin'!

DARREN: (Returning the grin:) Ifff you insist. I'm going to work out my muscles for a minute, then dive in by the springboard. Be sure to get back when I do, or endure the wrath of my splash! (Removes bathrobe, begins stretching)

Jane gasped when she saw her beau for the first time without clothing, save for his swimming trunks. He wasn't a Charles Atlas, but he definitely had a body that wouldn't quit, just as she had suspected when she saw him without the mud during the first time they met each other. His pectoral and stomach muscles were firm and rigid, with an appearance of little to no body fat, and chest hair aplenty with those broad shoulders, save for a small square piece of waterproof dressing bandage on the front of his left shoulder, presumably a remnant from the gunshot he had gotten from the warehouse that night. His leg thighs and calf muscles were the same as his chest and stomach, firm and rigid. As she observed him stretching to work out his muscles, she found herself drooling. Embarassed, she wiped her mouth and quickly looked around to see if Daria or any of the Fashion Club members had seen her, then looked back at Darren.

Dismissing the cost of her eyewear for the time being, something she planned to ask her brother about again later, Daria casually looked up at her brother out of the corner of her eye from her book, and did a double-take, cocking a very arched eyebrow. She had seen him in a bathrobe and wet that time he was staying with them in Lawndale when the final results of the DNA tests came in that day, but she didn't think about how he looked at the time. Now, seeing him like this, she saw her brother as a very handsome fellow in the physical sense. When Mom and dad hit if off that night almost twenty years ago, it must've been the one time during a blue moon, and when the Greek god Adonis visited Earth riding his chariot, coming during his once-every hundred year visit. Darren happened to become the recipient of that rare blessing at the conception. I wonder how Tom-- Daria shook herself of that thought, red-faced, and quickly looked back in her book, embarassed.

Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy casually looked over, noticed Darren, and gawked when he removed his bathrobe, and began to stretch. All seemed transfixed while observing him. Quinn, however, didn't see her brother, for she was still immersed in the Waif magazine. She saw something that excited her, and gasped.

QUINN: Wow, Ricky Martin is hot in those glow green pants, guys! Page 95! (No response, looks up at and between the F.C.:) Um, guys? Guys? Hey, what's--(sees her brother, becomes wide-eyed and slack-jawed like the others:) oh--my--God. That's my--my--brother? (Glances at the picture, then at Darren, puts the magazine aside, and stares at Darren wordlessly like the others)

Daria fought to steal yet another glance at her brother stretching, preferring instead to look at Jane, who was observing Darren, red-faced, and mesmerized while treading water. Daria smirked at this, and looked over to the Fashion Club, also mesmerized by Darren's stretching--including Quinn.

DARIA: (Wicked smirk, thought v.o.: Oh, this is priceless. I really shouldn't do this to Quinn, but I am.) Hey, siiiiis!

QUINN: (Shaken out of her trance, frowns:) Huh? What do you want, Daria?

DARIA: Just to say this: BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! (Everyone looks strangely at Daria)

(Note to reader: You have to have read "Revelations" to understand what Daria's saying here, specifically near the end of Chapter Four, and at the beginning of Chapter Five. If you already understand, please, do go on. Thanks.)

QUINN: (Through clenched teeth, enraged at Daria's implied meaning:) SHUT UP, DARIA! (Snatches up her magazine, buries her nose in it, while the F.C. gives her a very peculiar look, Quinn looks up, uneasy laugh:) Um, I'm uh, allergic to bee stings, and Daria teases me about it every once in awhile. It kinda gets to me, and stuff. (Adds quickly, waves them off:) I know it's unfashionable to allow worry lines to creep in, and I'm working on controlling myself and everything. (Hastily goes back to her book while the F.C. looks at each other, shrug, then look at Darren again)

Darren looked between Daria and Quinn, then to Jane, puzzled.

DARREN: Do I even want to know?

JANE: (Snaps out of her "trance" while still treading water:) Hah? Oh, um, I should be asking you that question, (adds:) whatever it was.

Darren stared at Jane strangely for a moment, shrugged, then went up on the springboard, and dived into the pool, almost perfectly. Daria later actually ended up doing some swimming--after Jane had sneaked up behind her and "nudged" her into the pool, which resulted in Daria eventually holding her friend under the water long enough to drive home the point that Jane never do that again, much to Darren's amused delight. Even the Fashion Club decided to join in on the fun after Darren's coaxing (That and the fact Quinn had privately asked them to--she pointed out that they owed Darren for his help in getting them to work as possible interns at Circa, and much to her surprise, Sandi had backed her up. It may have also had to do with the fact that a gorgeous-looking guy like Darren just asked them in as well.). Sandi checked quickly to see Jane's reaction, to which Jane gave her a cool, but tepid look of approval, which signaled to Sandi that she could join them, but not to try anything "funny" with Darren in the water. Save for Daria and Jane's attempts to drag a terrified Quinn into the deep end of the pool, and to occasionally pull down the rest of the Fashion Club mercilessly underwater (which eventually made the F.C. leave the pool), there were no other major incidents. Try as she could not to consider it, Daria privately admitted to herself that she had the dreaded "f" word to her--fun. She'd hate herself in the morning, but for now, it was an--interesting change of pace, not that Daria would allow Jane or Darren to know, of course.


(Scene changes to the media room, several hours later)

The "meanderin' duck" Henri had prepared meandered no more as it and the other offerings of food had been consumed by everyone, and yet once again, Henri had been given the seal of approval, and yes, Jake wanted that recipe as well, and an enthusiastic Henri once again gave it to him, much again to the chagrin of Helen, Daria, and Quinn. After settling down in their rooms for awhile, Darren, Jane, Millie, and the Morgendorffers then went to the media room. Edward had once again excused himself to his room, explaining that he wanted to read.

Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany had been sitting for about 30 minutes in the nearly-darkened screening room of the mansion's home movie theater, which looked like the spitting image of an actual movie theater (like the lobby area, with the wall sconce lighting, stadium seating (cupholders and all), and the large HDTV screen with Dolby stereo sound speakers on either side of it. They were watching The English Patient while munching on salt and butter-free popcorn, and washing it down with diet soda. Sandi looked at her watch (a glow in the dark one) glanced over at her companions, then got up.

SANDI: (Thought v.o.: It's about time.) (Gets up:) Like, um, I'm going to see what other movies they have in the video library.

STACY: Huh? But we just got here, Sandi, and we've already been in there and checked out what they had.

TIFFANY: Yeah...

SANDI: (Gives Stacy the "Glare", which makes her cringe:) I'm like, bored with this movie, okay? Besides, you two can fill me in on what happens. (Pauses:) Er, don't expect me to be back for awhile. (Leaves, Stacy and Tiffany look at each other and shrug, then go back to watching the movie)

Sandi quietly slipped into the side door of the theater, which connected to the now much-darker video library. When she and the rest of the Fashion Club had come in here earlier, she made a careful mental note of how the video library was laid out. It was about 15 feet by 40 feet, with long and tall shelving that almost reached the ceiling, containing the Appleton's vast collection of movies on video and DVD. Sandi carefully made her way over to another door that had light coming out the corners of it. This was connected to the media room, where Darren, Millie, Jane, and the Morgendorffers were. She took a deep breath, and quietly opened the door just a tad, peeking in. The mood was festive as Millie was showing some videos of Darren playing as a child to the Morgendorffers and Jane on a huge TV screen. Darren, sitting between Quinn and Jane on a sofa, rolled his eyes in mock-disgust at the scene. Daria, Helen, Jake, and Millie sat opposite on another sofa.

MILLIE: (Beams:) --And this is Darren at three on the swings. He almost got into everything as a child.

HELEN: (Ditto:) He's adorable!

JAKE: (Yes, the same:) Awww--you're sooooo cuuuuute, son! (Darren slaps his forehead, shaking his head, red-faced, and Quinn giggles, while Jane snickers)

DARIA: (Enjoys this as revenge for his watching her's and Quinn's childhood videos, while in Lawndale, smirks:) You were quite the tyke, eh, bro? Did my brother have a nickname his parents called him, Millie? (Darren grows wide-eyed, frantically waves and mouths "no" to Millie)

MILLIE: (Smirks, deliberately ignores him:) Why, yes, Daria. His parents called him Darry. (Daria chuckles, while Jane laughs out loud, and Helen and Jake chuckle--in the video library, Sandi smirks)

DARREN: (Scowls at his aunt, Jane, and Daria, sarcastic tone:) Thank you very much, Auntie. Now, I'll be teased into the ground for that.

JANE: (Through her laughing:) "D-Darry"? (Snort) "D-DARRY"? T-That's so sweet!

QUINN: (Giggles, pats her brother on the shoulder:) Oh, bro, ignore Jane and Daria! I think it was a cool nickname! (Daria gives her a disdainful look)

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Talk about sucking up.:) You're one to talk, "Princess". (Quinn sticks her tounge out at Daria, and Sandi smirks yet again at this)

HELEN: (Gentle warning tone:) Quinn, Daria, that's quite enough.

DARREN: (A little sullen, placated slightly by Quinn, then smirks at Daria and Jane:) It's okay, Quinn. After all, I'm not still called that anymore--unlike some other people in this room, right, "Kiddo", and "Janey"? (Both girls stop, and glare at him, while Millie, Quinn and Jake smirk, but then Jake stops and turns pale when Daria gives him a dark scowl, since he still uses the nickname "Kiddo" sometimes to her)

JAKE: (Gives an uneasy chuckle to Daria, changes subject:) So, son, you said your, um--dad was in 'Nam?

DARREN: Yes, Jake. He fought in the army after he was drafted. He made the rank of lieutenant.

HELEN: (Hesitates, falsetto voice:) Sooo, Arthur Sr. didn't protest or anything when his draft number was called up? (Pauses:) Uh, Jake and I were against the war when we were teen-agers, even protesting on the grounds of the Pentagon once.

(Note to reader: See the episode "That Was Then, This is Dumb")

MILLIE: (Looks between Helen and Jake:) Er, yes, Darren told me you two did. Personally, I was against the Vietnam War myself, the same for Lucille, though we didn't protest against it like you and your husband did, Helen. Well, Arthur Sr. simply went when he was called. He did his duty, and came back after two years, being honorably discharged following a leg injury in a battle near Ho Chi Minh City, then Saigon. He didn't really talk too much about it with Lucille and Darren, preferring to simply go into the business. He came back early in the war, and didn't experience the scorn that his fellow compatriots later did.

DARIA: It just occurred to me, Darren: If you're "Arthur Darren Appleton Jr.", then how could've your, um, (looks at Jake, hesitates:) dad have the middle name "Walter", and not Darren? (Darren looks to Millie and vice-versa, both smirk)

DARREN: I'll explain, Auntie. You see, my dad had his life saved in Vietnam by a fellow name Walter Winchester, at the same time he had his leg injured. Both he and my father were patrolling a city street in Saigon when they were ambushed by the Vietcong. Winchester pushed him out of the way of machine gunfire, but my dad's leg was still hit. Winchester himself was hit five times in the process, and nearly died from the wounds, but didn't because my dad got him to a hospital after holding the enemy off with his gun until help arrived, and tending his wounds. They were both fortunate a unit was nearby to help them out. Of course, both received the Purple Heart as well, and the Medal of Valor for bravery. Anyway, they became the best of friends while in the hospital together. Winchcester was discharged a few days before my father, but he waited until my dad got out and they went back home together at the same time. My dad got him a job at Appleton as a research assistant in the technology department. About 15 years ago, Winchester died of a sudden heart attack, and dad was devestated. In honor of Winchester, he added "Walter" as part of his middle name, but I still had my dad's name. My dad officially became Arthur Walter Darren Appleton.

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Hey, I guess if George Herbert Walker Bush can have four names, your dad could've, too.

DARREN: Um-hm. (Pauses, in a quiet tone:) Say, Jake, Helen? Uh, you two don't have to answer this question if you don't want to, but I'm curious: If Turley hadn't taken me away from you and Helen that night I was born, what name did you plan to give me?

Everyone froze at Darren's question, and Helen and Jake looked at each other uneasily.

DARREN: (Thought v.o.: Nice going, you idiot.) I'm sorry, I shouldn't have--

HELEN & JAKE: (Waving their hands frantically:) No, no, son! It's okay, Big Guy!

JAKE: (Sighs:) Honey, let me tell him, okay? (Helen nods, smiles, and Jake gets a proud look on his face:) Son, you would've been named Jake Morgendorffer Jr..

DARREN: (Stares at him blankly for a moment, then thought v.o.: Dear God in heaven.) (Smiles instead:) Ohhh, I would've been a junior either way, huh?

JAKE: (Looks down sadly, sighs:) Yeah, son, either way, you would've been a junior. (Helen squeezes him reassuredly--in the video library, Sandi looks down and sighs quietly)

JANE: (After an uncomfortable pause along with everyone else, brightens up:) Well, uh, hey, Mr. M, your son will be spending some time with you on that 'ol golf course tomorrow, eh? You'll be looking forward to that, huh?

JAKE: (Brightens up as well:) Hey, yeah, Jane-o! (Smirks at Darren:) I'll have you to know, son, that I've gotten my swing down pat, so you'd better be ready to get scorched! (Darren grins) And remember, don't you hold back this time, got that? I want a fair match! (The others start to smile at this exchange, even Daria gives her Mona Lisa one)

DARREN: Don't worry, I won't, Jake! (Pauses:) And you remember that we also have a baseball game to go to in Yankee Stadium tomorrow night! Did you bring your glove?

JAKE: (Grins:) Yep! It's in my room! Starts at 7:30, right?

DARREN: (Thumbs up:) You've got it! (Leans over to Jane, low tone:) Thanks for cheering him up, Jane.

JANE: (Smirks:) Hey, all in a day's work, Darren.

DARREN: (Sighs, changes tone, gets up, and goes in the center of the room:) It's time to tell you all why I behaved like I did earlier today in the study. (Sandi narrows her eyes, and strains to listen as Darren pauses:) You see, I'm currently seeing a psychologist by the name of Dr. Mike Quinn...


(Scene changes to upstairs, Edward's room:)

Edward narrowed his eyes as he listened to Darren's talk via an audio receiver that transmitted the conversation through a bug he had placed in an inconspicuous place in the media room earlier in the day, just before he ran into Daria and Jane. He frantically began to scribble what Darren was saying down on a notepad.


(Scene changes to the media room, about 20 minutes later)

Darren was finishing explaining his recurring nightmares, and his treatment. Needless to say, the shock and disbelief were prevalent throughout the room, with even the normally placid Daria looking pale and concerned. Sandi was stunned--this seemed to be what she was going through as well.

DARREN: As far as the doctor could tell, in my nightmare, the study represented where the lies I told you all while in Lawndale that were created by me (Millie gives an "ahem"), uh, us and my uncle. My (adopted) parents, Stephanie, and uncle William represented death, since they were already dead when I saw them. My aunt Millie and Elenor represented life, since they were outside of the study, and were subsequently alive. Their eagerness for me to see what was inside represented my eagerness to face death. The bullet shots represented me being hit and shedding blood in that warehouse. I was the only live one in the study because the doctor told me I had felt guilty since I survived when I was shot, but the others had died, and I felt--(pauses:) I felt I should have died, too, for the lies I told you that could've led to you all being killed.

HELEN: (Suddenly jumps up with Jake and the others, and even Daria, worried:) But, son, we forgave you for what happened! You were trying to protect us!

JAKE: Yeah, Big Guy, we've all alive and kicking! You don't have to feel bad anymore!

QUINN: (Rushes up, hugs him:) Daddy's right, Darren! You gotta move on, and stuff! You saved us!

DARREN:(Small smile:) You all don't understand, it's not that easy to just let something like this go. That's what all of those sessions are for, you know. (Jane looks away in thought, and Daria gives her a knowing look) I nearly died, and I killed my uncle. (Puts his hand up to stop the others from speaking:) And yes, I did it to protect Jane and Daria from being killed, and I would have done it again if I had to, though I would've tried to find some other way first to stop him, if I could. The fact remains, however, that I killed him, and I have to face up to it--period.

HELEN: (Walks up to him, puts her hand gently on his chest, which makes Millie sigh wistfully to herself:) Son, I want you to know I saw some psychologists myself when I thought I had lost you in childbirth. (Sandi gasps quietly in shock, but is able to keep it to herself)

DARREN: Did you keep talking to them until you faced what happened head on, accepted it, and then continued on with your life?

HELEN: (Pauses:) Well, yes I did.

DARREN: Then I'm doing that as well. Until I can face up to what I did head on, I can't let go.

DARIA: Why did the doctor talk to you in the study of all places, Darren? That would seem to be the last place he'd want to take you.

DARREN: How else can I confront my fears, sis, if not take them on face to face? It took all of the good doctor's coaxing just to get me in there, and sit on the sofa. (Clenches his teeth, bitter tone:) Damn it, it's just a room, I shouldn't be afraid to go in there at all. (Snorts, gives an ironic chuckle:) Remarkable that it's the place where you cherish the most here, eh, sis? Don't you just appreciate the irony here? (Daria looks at a loss for words)

JANE: (Comes up to him:) Darren, believe me, I um, kind of know how you feel. You're not alone, always remember that. (Looks at Daria:) Remind me to tell you why later, okay? (Daria gives a tiny smile)

DARREN: Uh, sure, Jane. (Sighs:) At least I'm handling the nightmares better than when I first started to have them. (Pauses:) I'm expecting the next one to come sometime tonight. (Gets alarmed:) Uh, you don't have to come in my room and sit by my bed, Jake, okay? (Jake looks down, heartbroken) The doctor said I should deal with this by myself, and it is slowing working, like I said. I'm dealing with it through my meditation and painting, and with all of you being here.

QUINN: How much longer do you think your sessions are gonna be, Darren?

DARREN: I don't know, sis, possibly several months, maybe even longer. (Pauses, looks around:) Has any of you experienced any nightmares, or anything from what happened that night? (Sandi looks as if she wants to say something, out loud, but stops herself)

HELEN: Well, son, after a day or two, I didn't have any problems. Just seeing you alive might've done the trick for me.

JAKE: Yeah, Big Guy. I only cared about you being alive and well, too, and when you were, all my fears went away, though I have thought about what could have happened occasionally.

QUINN: (Pauses, looks down, about to cry:) I was--I was scared I was gonna lose you, bro. (Hugs him, and Helen and Jake smile, along with Jane, and Millie, while Daria looks at her quietly:) But I didn't. Yeah, I had a nightmare or two, but otherwise, I'm fine--really.

DARIA: (Sighs:) I'm okay, Darren. I'm just glad you're okay, too. (Pauses, smirks:) Someone's got to keep me and Quinn apart and at peace, and I'm glad it's you. (Everyone chuckles, including Quinn)

JANE: (Quiet tone:) My turn, huh? Well, Darren, I couldn't get that damn image of you bleeding out of my mind for awhile, so I put away all of my red paints for a couple of days. (Everyone looks shocked) Hey, I had other colors to use, you know.

DARIA: Hmm--now when I think about it, you didn't have any red in your paintings at that one art gallery show I went to. (Jane smirks)

DARREN: (Chuckles:) I wonder how you wore your red jacket all of that time?

JANE: (Walks up to him and pecks him on the mouth:) Who said that I ever did, bub? The fact remains that you're alive, and that's all that matters to me. (The others nod, agreeing)

DARREN: I'm relieved all of you are fine, but there's one other person we're forgetting here--Sandi. (Sandi looks alarmed) I think this has affected her in some way more than all of you. I tried to speak to her today when Quinn and I came by her room (Jane cocks an eyebrow), but she seemed to want to blow me off, claiming she had to change clothes when she already had done it. (Sandi curses herself for the slip) (Quinn looks as if she wants to say something) Quinn, what is it? Have you noticed something about her behavior?

QUINN: (After a moment:) Well, um, Sandi's been kinda different since that night, Darren. (Sandi narrows her eyes) She's been, like, subdued and stuff, keeping to herself. I'm kind of worried about her, really. I don't want something bad to happen to her, you know? (Sandi now looks stunned) She and I went through a lot that night, and in a way, because of it, we're getting along a lot better.

DARIA: (Wry look and smirk with Jane:) Oh-ho! So you admit that you two didn't get along before, sis? (Sandi listens intently)

QUINN: (Frowns:) Be quiet, Daria! Sandi and I always got along, it's just that we had our, uh, disagreements.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Quinn, the United States and the former Soviet Union had "disagreements" far better than you two have had. (Sandi now smirks) (Quinn smacks her mouth, rolls her eyes, while Jane chuckles)

HELEN: Quinn, had you spoken directly with Sandi on this?

QUINN: Well, Mom, I've kinda hinted at it, but she hasn't let on to me if anything's wrong. (Pauses, shrugs:) Maybe I'm reading too much into this, and everything, or something.

DARREN: Well, Quinn, would you keep an eye on her while she's up here, please? (Quinn nods) If she is going through something, and you find out, I want to know immediately, okay? (Pauses:) I'd hate to be the one responsible for the way she is right now because of the lies I told all of you and her. (Sandi looks down, pained expression) I have enough guilt as it is.

HELEN: (With Jake and Quinn, hug him:) Son, don't you dare think you're alone, okay? We're here, too. Spread it out, alright?

DARREN: (Chuckles:) That's similar to what aunt Millie's told me, too. (Looks in her direction:) Aunt Millie, what do--(sees her about to leave the media room:) Aunt Millie?

MILLIE: Darren, I'm going to--check on Edward before I turn in, alright? You have your family here with you. I'll see you all tomorrow, good night. (Quickly leaves, and everyone looks at each other, miffed, save for Darren, who sighs)

DARREN: She's just--tired, you know, that's all. (Looks at watch:) Hm, if we want to get a fresh start on that golf course tomorrow, Jake, we'd better get to bed.

JAKE: Hey, yeah, good idea, son! Comin', Helen?

HELEN: I'm right behind you, dear. Goodnight, everyone. (Leaves with Jake)

DARIA: Think I'll get some extra reading in the, er--

DARREN: (Smirks with Jane:) --It's okay, sis, you can say "study" if you want, I won't fall apart. (Daria smirks, then leaves)

JANE: (Hooks her arm with his:) Don't worry, amiga--I'll keep him together like glue.

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes, the same as Sandi:) I think I'm gonna gag, here. See you guys tomorrow. I'm going to the theater place. (Quinn starts to make her way to the door to the hallway, and Sandi prepares to leave herself)

DARREN: Quinn, you don't have to go that way, you know. Just cut through the video library, and you'll be there in no time flat. (Sandi now jumps away from the door, wide-eyed, and fumbles quickly around towards the home movie theater door)

QUINN: Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Thanks, bro. See you and Jane tomorrow. Goodnight. (Leaves toward the door to the video library)

Darren and Jane put their arms around each other's waists, and left the media room quietly, with Darren turning off the light. Both were worn out from the evening's events, and nothing more needed to be said for now.

Sandi frantically grabbed a video tape from the shelf, knocking a few others over and unto the floor, and made her way through to the home theater just as Quinn walked in from the other side. Quinn clicked on the light beside the door so she could see how to get across (it was a two-way switch--there was another one beside the door to the theater). She stopped and frowned at the bevy of tapes on the floor, annoyed that the Fashion Club could be so sloppy while choosing tapes. Quinn picked them up, and put them back in their proper places.

Sandi rushed to sit down beside a crying Stacy and Tiffany, with her tape. The movie's end credits were rolling, and the lights had came back on in the theater.

STACY: (Wiping her mascara-ruined eyes:) Oh, Sandi, it was so sad, and everything.

TIFFANY: It was so...tragic, too...

SANDI: (Now trying to calm down, getting back her breath:) Ohhh, that's just, like, too, too, horrible. (Pauses:) I had to find a, er, suitable tape and stuff, and it took me a very long time to locate another one for us all to view with Quinn. (Pauses, adds:) Say, um, would you guys, like not tell Quinn that I was in the video library for all that time? I had such a hard time in finding a movie for us to see behind this one, and I'd never hear the end of it from her, if you know what I mean. It would be soooo embarassing, and everything.

STACY: (Looks at Tiffany, shrugs:) Um, sure, Sandi, okay.

TIFFANY: (Ditto:) Yeah...sure.

SANDI: (Relieved:) Like, thanks.

Quinn came in from the side, and sat down with the rest of the F.C.

QUINN: Hi, guys. Sorry I took so long in getting here. It was a um--heavy time I had with my family. You can tell me about The English Patient later, or I'll see it myself. (Pauses, notices:) So, what movie did you get, Sandi? I see a tape in your hand.

SANDI: Huh? Oh, um, it's errr--(pauses, raised eyebrows as she sees the title:) Squirm?



(Scene changes to Daria's room, a few minutes later)

Daria came into her room to retrieve Faulkner's book, and take it back to the study to get another one. Her mind was wondering about what her brother was going through, when her phone rang. She picked it up, knowing who it would be.

DARIA: Hello?

TOM: (Uneasy tone:) Uh, hi, Daria.

DARIA: (Cool tone:) Hello, Tom. How kind of you to call so late. Any more later, and you would've woken me out of a sound sleep.

TOM: I'm sorry, Daria, but I just got in. (Daria cocks an eyebrow) My dad and I went out of town at the last second because of a business emergency--a client was PO'd because they had lost a lot of money, and wanted my father to show them how to get out of it by reinvesting some more someplace else. Bless his heart, he decided to drag me along so I could learn the ropes. Elsie told me an hour ago that you called while we were on our way back. (Pauses:) You know, don't you.

DARIA: (Frowns:) Uh-huh. I know that you left it up to him what you should've done your own damn self, Tom. That wasn't right.

TOM: (Long pause:) No, it wasn't. It was the act of a coward. I was scared that you might've thought I was using Jane to stay near you.

DARIA: Um, were you, Tom?

TOM: (Frantic:) No, that's crazy, Daria! I wasn't! I do--did like Jane, but we stayed together too long! I knew it, and she knew it! I just--I just was afraid, that's all. (Pauses:) I'm sorry.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Tom, look, I want to talk when I get back, okay? (Pauses:) I still do like you, but we're gonna have to work out a few things, capeesh?

TOM: Yes, I know, Daria. I'll be here. (Pauses:) How is everything up there? Elsie tells me you seem to have everything.

DARIA: "Everything" is an understatement, Tom. If I snap my fingers, what I want is here. If I speak, it's here. I'm afraid if I think of something, it'll arrive. It's too damn perfect. It's scary. (Pauses:) I may never want to leave. (Tom chuckles)

TOM: Then I won't be able to talk to you. (Pauses:) Look, I don't want to hold you back from going to that study you've been going on about, Daria. Goodnight, and thanks for giving me another chance.

DARIA: Yeah, you're welcome. Goodnight, Tom.

TOM: Goodnight, Daria, and tell everyone I said hello. (Hangs up)

Daria clicked off her phone, sighed, and took her book back to the study for some more reading. Privately, she hoped her brother would join her in there soon.

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